Time and time again, you’ve heard that 2014 was a great year for movies. And it was. But as I looked back at the about 150 films I saw released in 2014, I saw a pattern. There were, in fact, lots of great movies in 2014, and in the next few pages you’ll read about a bunch of them. But I honestly feel like when I picked my favorites, the films I felt were the best released this year, they all were on an even playing field. In a way, I could’ve just given you the ten best movies I’ve seen this year in alphabetical order and called it a day. But where’s the fun in that? The fun part is sitting down and making the hard decisions about what is truly the best. So, below, read my top ten movies of 2014.
There are some runners up, of course, and you’ll read about them next week. For now, onto the list.
10. The Raid 2
You often hear the expression “My jaw dropped to the floor.” It’s obviously not literal, but as close as you can get to literal is what happened to me when I saw Gareth Evans’ The Raid 2. Quite simply, it’s one of the best action films ever made. The scope and excitement of the already great original is exponentially turned up. Each action set piece is bigger and better than the last and none of them come close to anything you’ve seen before. The story is a bit too complicated for what the film wants to do but no matter, there’s simply too much awesome on the screen to really think about anything else.
Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Birdman is one of those movies a film fan dreams up but could never make a reality. “It’s a movie, it’s all in one shot, and it’s about a former superhero actor doing a stage play, but he still sees his superhero alter ego.” Even the cast is something out of fan ficton: Michael Keaton, Edward Norton, Emma Stone, etc. So the simple fact that a movie this audacious exists, is wonderful on its own. The fact the result is such a roller coaster ride of philosophy, tension, drama, emotion and more is even better. Birdman is one of those movies that you can’t believe you’re watching when you’re watching it. When it’s done, it lives in your head.
There’s something deceptively simply about Bong Joon-ho’s Snowpiercer. A group of people has to go from point A to point B, in a straight line. But the world the film is set in, the setting, and the mystery within that simplicity is what makes the film so memorable. You never know what’s coming behind the next door as Chris Evans and his crew move from the tail section to the engine of this train speeding around the world, holding the only life that remains on the planet. Sprinkle in some of the craziest supporting performances of the year (Tilda Swinton and Allison Pill for example) as well as some kinetic action, and you’ve got a truly great film.