Cinelinx’s Favorite Films of 2014

Although 2015 has a number of eagerly awaited releases, 2014 ended up to be a pretty darn good year for movies. While the number of releases is down compared to years past, the quality of films for 2014 was outstanding. The big budget blockbusters released this year for the most part got great reviews and audiences responded to them well. There were a number of creative indie and smaller releases that both entertained and inspired us. Overall, as a movie lover you can’t complain too much about the films released in 2014. 

Since a lot of good and popular movies were released, that means that there wasn’t a clear-cut “best” film of 2014. In fact, with so many likable movies out there, it is very difficult to pick your favorite. As such, we thought we would have a discussion and share our opinions. Here are our selections for our favorite three films from 2014. Feel free to add your own picks and discuss our selections in the comments section below! 

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Garrett

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Wes Anderson’s films over the last few years have steadily grown better and more enjoyable. It was only a matter of time before he created one that really struck a chord with general audiences. The Grand Budapest Hotel may not be his best film, but it is definitely a lot of fun to watch and a truly creative and inspiring film. His unique perspective and devotion to that perspective makes his films an experience like no other. I applaud Anderson for the risks he takes and in Grand Budapest Hotel, those risks really pay off. 

Snowpiercer

Here is a film that takes our recent fascination with Dystopia and presents it to us in a new way. Snowpiercer may be too out there for some people, but it is a genius idea and nearly perfectly executed. Rarely are action films so thought-provoking and innovative in their presentation and idea. Snowpiercer is a worthy addition to the science fiction genre, and not just because it is a good film. It is a worthy addition because it pushes boundaries, both in terms of story and production. Snowpiercer is an interesting joint venture between American and Korean filmmaking teams. It shows us how movies that are made internationally can compete and exceed traditional domestic movie making methods. 

Birdman

Rarely does a film come along that does everything well. Furthermore, nearly never does a film come along and does everything well but in an original way. Birdman is that film. The struggling actor is a familiar topic in films and plays, yet here it is presented to us in a new way. The whole structure of the film is not only meaningful, but interesting, vivid, and exciting. Credit the excellent story, a power-house cast, an interesting soundtrack, and a daring director. 

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Jordan

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

I’ve always enjoyed the Planet of the Apes franchise and the deep rooted themes they espoused.  When Rise of the Planet of the Apes hit in 2011, I wasn’t sure what to expect and hoped this reboot would be worthy of the franchise.  It utterly blew me away and was an easy pick for my favorite film of that year.  After that, I gobbled up any and all news relating to Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, and I can safely say it was my most anticipated film of the year. 

It didn’t disappoint.  The film works on a variety of levels, from the central themes, to the emotional connection, and even the “wow” factor.  Everything about this movie was designed to elicit an emotion or thought from you.  While it works purely on a “blockbuster” level, if you’re willing to dig deeper there’s so much more for you to find and enjoy.  Every time I watch it, I find something else to love about it.   

Guardians of the Galaxy

Guardians was probably the BIGGEST surprise of the year for me.  I didn’t really care for the first teaser trailer we got for the film, and since I’d never read a Guardians of the Galaxy comic, I can’t say I was eager to see these characters brought to life.  While further marketing made me much more excited for the film, I went into the screening expecting your standard Marvel movie:  it’d be fun, energetic, but ultimately just a flashy movie without much reason to come back to it.

I was totally wrong about that, and I couldn’t be happier.  While Guardians of the Galaxy is a ridiculous amount of fun, it’s not all surface fluff.  It’s a great film to boot, with characters that you genuinely find yourself attached to and care for.  The story takes place on a galactic scale, but it manages to still be a more personal and intimate story than many of the other Marvel films.  As such it remains my favorite of theirs to date.    

 

Gone Girl

I wasn’t sure what to think about Gone Girl going into it.  I like David Fincher and all his work, and the trailers were very interesting, but on the whole, it was tough to know what to expect.  Frankly, I think that’s one of the best things about this movie.  Just when you think you know what’s going on, something big changes, and does so in the most interesting ways.  What’s better, is that even knowing the twists, the film retains it’s appeal on multiple viewings.  The story isn’t reliant solely on the twists and turns, but has strong enough characters and other plot points to keep you invested.  

Honorable MentionsGodzilla, The Lego Movie, Edge of TomorrowBig Hero 6

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Aaron

Inherent Vice

In a year full of strong character driven films Inherent Vice has the best ones, and the most masterful direction, and the best cinematography (Robert Elswit also did Nightcrawler), and the most memorable laughs, and even the best acting. It’s by P.T Anderson, a director who never settled on being conventional, and has now mastered the unconventional. 

Gone Girl 

I think this is Fincher’s greatest film, and yes that means better than Fight Club, better than Seven, better than The Social Network. He’s the manipulative king with material and scripts being thrown at his feet, and Gone Girl is the first of that material to match his calculation, his cold, and his sickness. This is a nearly perfect film. 

Birdman

Birdman’s love for film is too infectious for it to not rub off. It revels in the joy of cinema, it celebrates Godard, and it gives Michael Keaton the role he finally deserves. It’s also the first film since Hitchcock’s rope to churn out the illusion of one single very long take, and who but Emmanuel Lubezki to pull that off with beauty and bravura? Birdman is heartwarming, tragically sad, and hilarious all at once, and I’d be stricken to hear that you didn’t catch a case of it’s energy. 

(Honorable Mention) Nightcrawler

Nightcrawler offers no respite, and how refreshing that is. Jake Gyllenhaal’s Lou Bloom is a slithering creature that roams L.A at night, and you’d be wrong to anticipate some sort of sympathy in his brittle bones. At times you’re unsure if you should laugh, or be creeped out, but that uncertainty is the fuel to Nightcrawler’s best scenes. 

2014 despite what the majority may say, was a killer year for film. Though it may have had the most dry spots it also had the best David Fincher film, the best Alejandro Innaritu film, and my favorite Paul Thomas Anderson film.  Any of these films is enough to make any year a worthwhile year for film, and we got several of them, us cinephiles should be thankful. 

(More Honorable Mentions: 3 is a very difficult pick, The Tale Of Princess Kaguya, Interstellar, and The Grand Budapest Hotel are all on pretty equal grounds with the films I’ve mentioned above)

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Dustin

1 How To Train Your Dragon 2

To be honest, not only was this the best animated film in a year filled amazing animated movies, it was easily one of the best movies of the year too. It dove into a subject that is otherwise pretty much avoided or glossed over in animation. It made you feel a full rollercoaster of emotions, it brought to life an entire new world, and it never stopped your imagination from wondering what was next. This is what animation should be like! It was so appealing to me even as an adult, and kids in the theater were in absolute love with the film. This movie proved why animation deserves more respect in the movie world.

2 Guardians of the Galaxy

Who are the Guardians of the Galaxy? Before the movie came out, that’s all people asked. It was a gamble by Marvel…. And it worked gloriously! After the movie came out people were suddenly fans of the comics and wanted to know more. That’s for a good reason too. It broke a standard formula in the comic book world and it showed us that comic book movies could be “bigger” while still telling a smaller story. An absolutely fun ride!

3 The Hunger Games : Mocking Jay

I am a fan of the books, and these movies are so amazingly done. We finally get out of the “games” and we get to see the bigger story outside of it. The movie is filled with political themes and every single one of them is so well intertwined into the story that I was fascinated with how it was done. It wasn’t “dumbed down” like other movies that shove all this stuff in your face so you clearly see it. Instead it’s a movie you catch yourself thinking about days later and realizing all the little things they did correctly.

Honorable mentions: Neighbors, Fury, The Book of Life, and Amazing Spider-Man 2 (You know how hard it was no including Spider-Man on my list?!) 

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Nick

1.) Gone Girl

Usually, my favorite films of each year are some of the smaller releases that no one’s ever heard about, but if I’m being honest, between work and going back to school to get my master’s degree this year, I haven’t seen nearly as many movies as I normally do.  Gone Girl had a smaller movie feel to me since, in many ways, it broke out of any traditional hollywood mold.  With great acting, a unique plot, and some truly twisted surprises that kept me on the edge of my seat, I recommended Gone Girl to everyone and continue to do so.  It kept me thinking long after the credits rolled, and its one of the few films I saw this year with true merit beyond mere entertainment.

2.) Interstellar

While it lacked the impact that most of Christopher Nolan’s films have had on me, Interstellar still makes my list of the best movies of the year.  It’s gorgeously filmed, emotional, engaging, and Nolan attempted to do some things I haven’t seen movies do before.  I love seeing complex scientific theories broken down in ways the public can understand them, and the characters in Interstellar were truly human in ways Nolan’s characters often aren’t.  It’s no Dark Knight or Inception, but Interstellar is still a cinematic achievement and worthy of high praise.

3.) Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

I was tempted to make my third choice Guardians of the Galaxy just for the sheer amount of enjoyment I got out of it, but when I really think over which movies had the most impact on me this year, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes definitely won out.  It combined big budget blockbuster with deep introspection on the nature of war, and presented war in possibly the most realistic way I’ve ever seen it presented: war is a terrible thing for both sides.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen a big hollywood production that didn’t glorify one side or the other, and Dawn managed to walk that fine line while keeping the film thoroughly entertaining.  Throw in a strong cast and some amazing visuals, and this was hands down one of the top movies released this year.

Honorable Mentions: Guardians of the Galaxy, Boyhood, The Theory of Everything, Snowpiercer, How to Train Your Dragon 2, The Lego Movie


 

While 2015 looks to be packed with all of the films we’re looking forward to, we can’t say that 2014 was a slouch in the film department.  There were many movies that got us thinking and kept us talking.  You’ve seen our picks for the year, so now it’s time for you to tell us what your favorite movies of 2014 were! 

-The Cinelinx Team