I can’t remember having a tougher time trying to choose my top ten movies for the year. It’s rare to have a jaw drop moment in movies these days. Or literally be on the edge of your seat. This year was filled with those moments. As always, there’s a bunch of great movies that I haven’t seen-Boyhood, Selma, Inherent Vice, Only Lovers Left Alive, Force Majuere and probably a dozen more. I’ll get to them. And there are so many more that would have easily been on the list-Captain America: Winter Soldier, Snowpiercer, Calvary, A Most Wanted Man, The Babdook, Cold In July and Interstellar. Damn, what a great year for flicks.
2014 Top Ten
10. Grand Budapest Hotel – Wes Anderson went full, live-action cartoon to make one of the most joyously energetic movies of the year. It’s profane, beautiful and surprising at almost every turn with just the right tone of melancholy nostalgia.
9. The Raid 2: Berandal – The follow up moves away from the simplicity of the first Raid to a much more ambitious movie, like an Indonesian Goodfellas. No one does better fight scenes than Gareth Evans, and you’ve never scene martial arts like this.
8. The Lego Movie – Talk about a fine line, it’s a basically a commercial that manages to poke fun at consumption, consumerism and conformity while simultaneously basking in the joy of the greatest toy ever created. Will Arnett is my favorite Batman.
7. Guardians of the Galaxy – This movie was the best time I had in a theater, hands down. It was big, loud, weird and funny. Chris Pratt is the new Harrison Ford.
6. The Guest – The creators of You’re Next made a movie that pays homage to John Carpenter, The Terminator, John Woo and The Stepfather and set it to an amazing synth soundtrack. Please give them the Terminator franchise.
5. John Wick – I want Keanu Reeves to make nothing but John Wick sequels forever. This had great fight scenes and the best Gun Fu since John Woo’s heyday. Be warned, he’s avenging a dead puppy.
4. Nightcrawler – Jake Gyllenhaal’s portrayal of amoral sleaze, Lou Bloom, is my favorite performance of the year. It’s cynical, dark movie that manages to also be light on its feet. Seriously, Gyllenhaal is mesmerizing.
3. The Rover – This bleak, dystopian Australian thriller from the director of Animal Kingdom has Guy Pearce as a man who just wants his car back. He ends up with the dimwitted younger brother of one of the car thieves, played by Robert Pattinson in a performance that I really enjoyed. He almost goes full Gilbert Grape, but he manages to pull it back just enough. And the last scene is of the best cinematic punchlines I’ve ever seen. Damn, this movie is dark.
2. Blue Ruin – Most revenge movies show us a competent bad ass mowing down his enemies in an inevitable straight line. But what if our hero is just a poor schlub who’s been living in his car in the decade since his parents were murdered? This beautiful little thriller was my biggest surprise of the year.
1. Under the Skin – Scarlett Johanssson is an alien who seduces and traps men in the Scottish countryside. That simple, spare set up unfolds into one of the most amazing pieces of cinematic art I’ve seen in a long time. The score, the editing, the cinematography and the minimalist dialogue all come together in a way that just floored me. It’s less a science fiction movie than it is a meditation on body image, the objectification of women, what is to be human and maybe even dating in the modern world. Stunning.