2014 will be known as the year of the superhero. Of the Top 12 grossing films of the year, five of them belonged to the superhero genre with Guardians of the Galaxy running away with the crown for the top domestic grossing film of the year.
But the year had so much more to offer with films that helped stretch boundaries and challenged audiences to pay attention. Awards await many films now that the year is in the books and the self-congratulatory season begins.
We looked back on 2014 and compiled our list of the Top 10 films of the year. We screened just short of 700 films in the 365 years of 2014 including 86 trips to the theatre to catch the latest releases. Our Top 10 will include a few of the more popular titles of the year scattered around some smaller independent titles.
Our list starts here:
Actor Brendan Gleeson has always been fascinating to watch on screen. But he may not have been better than his role of Father James in this independent release that caught the eye of many critics in 2014. Small town characters fill the screen in a character driven study that is as absorbing as it is plain in its presentation.
- X-Men: Days of Future Past
This now 5th film in the X-Men franchise is easily the best of the bunch. Time travel, original X-Men and new all come tougher in a slick action packed adventure that went on to gross $750 million at the box office. Hugh Jackman is getting a little old in the tooth to play Wolverine, but he pulls it off at least one more time in a film that had the story to go equal the elaborate action sequences.
8. Force Majeure
This foreign film might not be the best date movie of 2014. The film surrounds how a particular couple reacts when faced with impending doom – in this instance, an avalanche. Audiences were aglow when the film premiered at Cannes and showed again at TIFF and is a forerunner to win Best Foreign Picture at this year’s Academy Awards.
- The Imitation Game
Labelled by most critics as the most serious contender during this year’s awards season, The Imitation Game tells yet another WWII story that has yet to be explored. Benedich Cumberbach is riveting portraying the real life mathematician that just may have won the allies the war thanks to his decoding machine.
One of the best reviewed films of the year, this character piece starring Michael Keaton and Edward Norton was a revelation in filmmaking. With the average shot being between 8 and 12 minutes, Birdman wows not only with its stellar acting (by a cast that also includes Emma Stone and Zack Galifinakis) but also in the complexity of the shots that run together seamlessly.
Jake Gyllenhaal continues to be one of the most interesting actors working today and continues to add to his impressive resume with this story about a wannabe news videographer that will go to any lengths to get violence, crime and its aftermath caught on film. Gyllenhaal is electrifying in the lead role commanding our attention as he films behind his camera and builds his one-man empire.
- Cold in July
Courtesy of Jim Mickle (Stakeland, We Are What We Are), Cold in July took our breath away with this suspenseful thriller that keeps the characters to a minimum and the story in the crosshairs.
3. Guardians of the Galaxy
The top grossing domestic film of 2014 is also one of the best. Writer/director James Gunn introduced most of the world to a group of superheroes we had never known existed in the comic universe. The films gave audiences plenty of action, science fiction, humor and a good story all wrapped into one extraordinary package.
Likely to be the biggest surprise on the list, this science fiction/time travel film featuring Ethan Hawke was shown largely on the festival circuit in 2014 with a release expected early next year. The story was complex, involving and wasn’t dumbed down for the pop-up-book remedial audience.
An easy pick as top film of 2014. This Sundance hit about a young drummer (Miles Teller) who gets the chance of a lifetime under an abusive but respected music instructor (J.K. Simmons). J.K. Simmons plays a role that is so mean spirited that he will undoubtedly go down in film history as one of the most evil villains of all time. The film’s bully is relentless and the evil is carried from the opening scene through the end credits. It was a triumphant film that is as hard to sit through as it is rewarding once the experience is over. Whiplash will stick with you and is by far the best film of the year.
Just missing the list: St. Vincent, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, 22 Jump Street, The Theory of Everything, The Grand Budapest Hotel