50 Great Films You Should See From 2014

Fifteen Great Performances and Stories

Just because we’re not calling these next thirty films “essential” doesn’t mean you should sleep on them. This is, actually, just the beginning of what’s out there right now, but there’s something special in the thirty films that follow on the next two pages that make them particularly worth seeking out.

Wetlands

Wetlands (David Wnendt, Strand Releasing)

A troublesome adaptation of a hit German novel, Wetlands is a must-see for the lead performance from Carla Juri, who is one of the most magnetic screen presences we’ve seen all year.

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Fishing Without Nets

Fishing Without Nets (Cutter Hodierne, Vice)

See the story of Somali pirates from the other side, as Somali-born actors explore the conditions that lead men into piracy.

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Dear White People

Dear White People (Justin Simien, Roadside Attractions)

Writer/director Justin Simien stands out as a new comic voice and a strong visual director with this debut feature, which uses four central characters and an environment of campus unrest as an entry point to look at our so-called post-racial America.

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ping pong summer trailer

Ping Pong Summer (Michael Tully, Gravitas Ventures)

There’s a familiar sort of coming of age story at the center of Ping Pong Summer, but the reason the film stands out is its impeccably-researched and rebuilt ’80s environment. Many films go in for ’80s nostalgia, but almost none get the details right the way they’re seen here.

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Kurt-Russell-The-Battered-Bastards-of-Baseball

The Battered Bastards of Baseball (Chapman Way and Maclain Way, Netflix)

This baseball doc is a family affair, as it follows the minor league team founded and run by Kurt Russell’s father Bing Russell — Kurt is in the film, which is directed by Russell family cousins. The story here is a terrific and funny account of rebels making a last stand in an increasingly corporate-controlled world.

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Frank7

Frank (Lenny Abrahamson, Magnolia)

Michael Fassbender’s weird performance, delivered from beneath a giant fake head, is one reason to love Frank, but what really makes the movie special is the way it captures an invisible energy between musicians as they work together to build ideas from the ground up.

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Obvious Child

Obvious Child (Gillian Robespierre, A24)

Jenny Slate (Saturday Night Live, Parks and Recreation, House of Lies) stars as a stand-up comedian who deals with an unexpected pregnancy after a one-night stand. The film gives Slate the spotlight she deserves.

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one-i-love

The One I Love (Charlie McDowell, Radius-TWC)

This is a relationship comedy wrapped in a cocoon of sci-fi, but it’s really Elisabeth Moss’s movie from top to bottom. She’s excellent in a role that offers her opportunities to really explore two sides of a familiar character.

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Showrunners A Documentary - Joss Whedon

Showrunners (Des Doyle, Gravitas Ventures and Submarine Deluxe)

As audiences embrace developments in TV storytelling, the concept of the “showrunner” is a more familiar term, even if many people who use it don’t really know what the job entails. This doc makes use of access to many experienced showrunners to dig into what some of TV’s hardest-working producers and writers really do.

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Skeleton Twins

The Skeleton Twins (Craig Johnson, Roadside Attractions)

Estranged siblings reunite after a decade, and Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig bridge their comic work with more serious dramatic chops in this comic and pointed family story.

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Starred Up

Starred Up (David Mackenzie, Tribeca Film)

Jack O’Connell moved away from Skins and truly began his run towards almost inevitable stardom with this gritty prison drama, in which a violent young offender is transferred to a harsh adult prison.

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Comet Emmy Rossum Justin Long

Comet (Sam Esmail, IFC)

Justin Long and Emmy Rossum star in this love story that reveals a couple’s relationship by sliding between five stories from their life, with editing that connects and transforms the stories in unusual and unpredictable ways.

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locke-tom-hardy

Locke (Steven Knight, A24)

Tom Hardy has the spotlight in this one-man show that sees a concrete expert deserting a big job in order to fulfill a different responsibility in his life, and then watches as he deals with the fallout. Steven Knight impressively directs the film to maximize tension even though most of the action is Hardy’s character, in a car, talking on the phone.

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Supermensch

Supermench (Beth Aala and Mike Myers, Radius-TWC)

This doc takes a genial raconteur’s tone as it celebrates the life of Shep Gordon, a music industry stalwart who acted as talent manager for such acts as Alice Cooper, Blondie, Teddy Pendergrass, and (very briefly) Pink Floyd.

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a_most_wanted_man

A Most Wanted Man (Anton Corbijn, Lionsgate)

This features one of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s final performances, which is reason enough to see it. But that performance is particularly poignant, and his final scene here captures a very specific sort of rage and frustration.

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After the break, we’ll get to the incredible genre films that have hit screens this year.

Continue Reading 50 Indie and Foreign Films You Should See in 2014 >>

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