2014 may not have looked as vintage a year as 2013, but the quality and variety was more than there. It was a year where big blockbusters went up against smaller and more ambitious films and sometimes won. Honourable mentions go to Gone Girl, Transcendence, and Godzilla – all great films but not quite good enough. Disagree with our top 10? Post your own in the comments below.
10. Under the Skin
Jonathan Glazer’s third feature film was ambitious, distinct, and mostly brilliant. Shot in Glasgow, Glazer’s film managed a difficult juxtaposition, that of gritty realism and out of this world ideas, universality and alienation. Scarlett Johansson arguably gives her finest performance to date in a sci-fi horror that leaves you completely dumbfounded.
9. The Lego Movie
Where do you start with a film like The Lego Movie, it was just special. Uproariously funny and surreal it lived up to the likes of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and then some.
8. The Past
Was in my top 5 but has been shunted down a bit. It is also technically a 2013 film, but seeing as its general release came in 2014 it counts. The Past was a tightly crafted family drama that left you completely emotionally drained. Its central performance from Bernice Bejo was sheer perfection.
Films with female leads make money, and so do films that are intelligent: wise up Hollywood. Belle was interesting because it riffed on gender, racial and class themes not subliminally but in plain view. It was utterly compelling because it used a historical event to talk about issues that are still prevalent today. It was a romantic costume drama that goes right up there with some of the greats of the past few years. It was brilliant.
6. Maps to the Stars
Celebrity is often satirised, but not usually so well. David Cronenburg’s Maps to the Stars was appalling, trashy, and thrilling. Stunningly entertaining yet thought provoking and at times, moving. It was testament to the idea that perfect execution can sometimes be better than having the most original idea.
The sheer achievement that is Boyhood means it deserves a place on any top 10 film list, even if it does have a questionable final sequence. It is epic yet small, uplifting yet oddly melancholic. It is a film you love, an experience you take part in rather than watch. There is really nothing like it and cements Linklater as a very special director and guy.
4. Mr Turner
Mike Leigh’s stunning Turner biopic gave new breath for the genre: it was inventive, simple, beautifully shot but never showy. Spall’s performance was something to get excited about; I hope the great actor finally gets some mainstream awards interest. Oscar anyone?
This was my second favourite film at the half way point but has just been pipped to second place. Calvary reminded us that comedies can be as powerful as the most serious drama, and in some cases more so. The genius of Calvary was its dedication to making its audience feel uncomfortable and at times disturbed. The final scene is a masterclass in acting, directing, and not giving a shit about an audience.
Christopher Nolan surpassed Inception and arguably Memento with his dizzyingly ambitious space epic. For some it was schmaltzy, too long, or just plain confusing. But for me it was everything brilliant about sci-fi, a terrific ode to the cinema that inspired Nolan himself. It made me cry, laugh, gasp, and cry some more. Put it beside Gravity and you’ve got yourself a gut-wrenching movie marathon.
Interstellar and Calvary were close, but Frank was a quirky masterpiece. Part One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest part Bottle Rocket, Lenny Abrahamson’s semi-biopic played fast and loose with facts as well cinematic structure. Michael Fassbender is wonderful in the central role, emancipated from his usual intensity he lets rip and has a blast. The key to Frank is how it creeps up on you with an emotional punch to the stomach: going into the cinema you believe you’re going to watch a zany comedy about music, when in actual fact you are watching a film about the love and sometimes destructive passion that is bred by music as an art form. I love you all….