Here’s our ten best movies list of 2014. There are a lot like it. This one is ours. It’s one in which nobody will probably agree in full (including the staff here), but that’s kind of the nature of these ten best lists. We all have different opinions. This one, as best as possible, reflects the consensus opinion of the writers here. (If you are curious, however, here’s the top 10 lists of each of the participating individual staff writers).
Selma is not on it, because we haven’t reviewed it yet. American Sniper is not on it, because only one of us has seen it and she was not incredibly impressed. If your favorite movie of the year is not on this list, maybe it’s on our Ten Best Comfort Movies of the Year. If not, before you complain, hang out one more day, and it may arrive on our “Shit We Loved That No One Else Saw” list. This one is meant to sort of reflect our collective love of more mainstream-y genre and arthouse films because YOU CAN’T LABEL US, WARREN.
10. Edge of Tomorrow — I’ll cut to the chase: Edge of Tomorrow is the best science fiction film since District 9. In addition to that humor and action, the film nails the human element, with the growing relationship between Cage and Rita. It’s never forced, and is anything but a tacked on obligatory romance. It’s the slow growth of camaraderie as the day is relived repeatedly. And like Groundhog Day, there is the mounting hopelessness of actually managing to make a difference, of having only the illusion of free will as interminable fate grinds on for the thousandth time. — Steven Lloyd Wilson
9. Babadook — The Babadook is writer-director Jennifer Kent’s first feature-length film. And that’s absolutely insane. Her skill for film language, establishing set geography, developing tension, and creating complex characters is far beyond what you’d expect from a first-timer. The Babadook is damn-near perfect. And horror connoisseurs better take notice. — Kristy Puchko
8. Whiplash — So much in the movie marks it out for greatness — in particular the performances Chazelle has elicited from his cast. There is an unassumingly natural quality to the acting in the early stages, and Miles Teller embodies the young student very well, showing the merest trace of flint beneath his tentative demeanour. J.K. Simmons, looking like a Pete Postlethwaite action figure with his shaved head and all-black jazzer’s get-up, is commanding and captivating as Fletcher, delighting in his caustic barbs and abrupt changes of temper. As the film grows in tension, the performances become ever more muscular, with Teller and Simmons seemingly pushing each other to new heights in a way that mirrors their roles. — Caspar Salmon
7. Captain America 2: Winter’s Soldier — Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a huge, fun, deeply satisfying film, and not just because it’s a well-made comic book movie. It’s a well-made movie that tells a fairly impressive story about the dangers of absolute powers, about corruption and greed and betrayal. But it’s also about heroes, and it gets the audience behind its heroes without devolving into jingoistic bloviating or ham-handed, corny imagery. There’s no flag-waving, no ridiculous speeches or lectures on freedom and justice and all that. Those ideas are there, but they’re subtly woven into the script, made a part of the story (as they should be) so as to make him a better and more engaging character, but not used as a club to beat the viewer into submission. It’s a collection of capable performances and beautifully-rendered action sequences combined to build a well-crafted, energetic and interesting story, and is unquestionably one of the best in this increasingly-large and now far more complicated universe. — TK
6. Nightcrawler — Nightcrawler is a dark film, but it’s not punishing or bleak. It’s not the kind of movie you simply watch to appreciate for the themes and performances. It’s also an entertaining and riveting thriller with a certain popcorn quality. Above all, however, it’s Gyllenhaal’s film, and he delivers another incredible performance in a string of incredible performances. — Dustin Rowles
5. Gone Girl — Gone Girl is one of the most perfectly realized adaptations of a novel ever put to film. Everything you loved, everything you hated, and everything that you hated that you loved about Gillian Flynn’s novel is rendered onscreen as you imagined it, or in such an indelible way that it completely supplants your previous memories of the novel. Once you leave the theater, the cinematic interpretation of Gone Girl will be seared immutably into your brain with all of the devilish wonder of Fincher’s sleazy, slickly gory stylism. — DR
4. Snowpiercer — Readers, I see a lot of movies. Most of them are good. Some are great. A small number I love. And every once in a while I see a movie that leaves me vibrating with energy as I leave the theater, knowing that what I just saw will stick with me probably for the rest of my life, or at least until the inevitable robot overlords come and conquer the planet. Snowpiercer is one of those. — Rebecca Pahle
3. Guardians of the Galaxy — It took me approximately ten minutes to fall in love with James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy. After a brief flashback where we see how the human Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) was swept off of Earth as a young boy, we cut to the adult Quill — intrepid adventurer, outlaw, thief, and generally affable scumbag — dancing through the ruins of a blasted planet (literally dancing) as he listens to Redbone’s “Come And Get Your Love”, prancing and jumping and using small, sharp-toothed creatures as fake microphones so he can lip-synch his way through the track. It’s a perfect snapshot of the kind of gloriously weird, extremely funny charm that pervades every frame of the film, and does a note-perfect job of setting the tone for what ended up being one of the most enjoyable theater-going experiences of the year. TK
2. Birdman — How often do we criticize a movie by saying we could see what it was trying to do? That it was trying to be something great, and it was admirable, but ultimately it didn’t succeed. Well, you can very clearly see what Birdman was trying to be because it’s all there on the screen. It had high, grand hopes and every one of them landed right where it wanted. There is a crazy spirit here that is desperately lacking from film and art in general. Birdman is so ambitious and wild and fun, it makes for not just a great movie, but a great time. It’s what a roller coaster built by David Lynch, housed inside a Broadway theatre would feel like. It is intense, and over the top, and funny and scary and ambitious and passionate and perfect. — Vivian Kane
1. Boyhood — For a story as simple as this, let’s simplify this review: Boyhood is the best film I’ve seen this year. It may well be the best film I’ve seen in several years. Initially, I wondered if it affected me so strongly because of my newfound fatherhood, but it’s so much more than that. It’s a lovely film, so much so that even its flaws — mostly due to the inexperience of the young actors in their early years — are perfectly woven into the tapestry of the film itself. It makes them less like flaws and more like slight imperfections in the fabric, human touches that allow the audience to reflect on all of the work and effort and love that became a part of a truly wonderful film. — TK