A Year in Review: The Best of 2014

Posted: January 3, 2015 in Thoughts and Reflections

Another year has come and gone; and with it, a host of fantastic movies—–several expected hits, and even a few surprises. With the immortal Marvel Studios knocking their films out of the park with every swing, several non-Disney studios creating surprisingly genius animated films, and master film-makers Peter Jackson and Christopher Nolan doing what they do best, 2014 has proved to be a most fantastic year for the cinema.

#10 Unbroken

Jack O'Connell_Unbroken

I found this film to be just as emotionally hard-hitting and compelling as Fury (though, in both instances, neither one reach that Saving Private Ryan or Schindler’s List boldness). While both films deal with two very different aspects of World War II on opposite sides of the globe, Unbroken is an uber-motivational film about an incredible person who endured 50 times more than any single person should. Was it downplayed? A little bit, yes. Did it contain merely ¼ of Zamperini’s awe-inspiring story? Absolutely. But, as far as a movie goes, it was an intrepid experience. . . one that is not easily forgotten.

#9 The Lego Movie

Chris Pratt, Will Arnett, Elizabeth Banks_The Lego Movie

Upon first hearing of a full-length theater-released movie based on the popular building block toys, I thought, “cash grab!” I’m as big a kid as any when it comes to LEGOs, but I considered a movie to be a bit much. Then I saw it. And my oh my did I wrongly judge this film. Teeming with visual eye candy, witty one-liners, and a storyline that was almost as good as Toy Story (almost), The Lego Movie is a perfectly executed, romping adventure. It’s one of those rare gems that a 10-year-old and a 40-year-old can equally enjoy.


#8 Edge of Tomorrow

Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt_Edge of Tomorrow

This was the only bigger surprise than The Lego Movie. Despite its absurd trailer that depicted a completely different film and gave no incentive to watch, Edge of Tomorrow proved to be inventive and refreshingly original. As clichéd of an action star as Tom Cruise is, his role was surprisingly different, and Emily Blunt proved to be a worthy action star.

#7 Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Andy Serkis_Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

With the exceptional success of 2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes, this year’s ape escapade perfectly embellished the established storyline and inserted a well-balanced amount of rock-solid performances and gravitas. Drawing inspiration from such films as Dances With Wolves only ascended this film to new heights. With riveting drama and a well-orchestrated blend of fiction and stark reality, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes surpassed all doubt to become one of this year’s most engaging films.


#6 How To Train Your Dragon 2

Jay Baruchel_How To Train Your Dragon 2

With Disney creating consecutive instant hits within the past few years, it’s hard to imagine that at the end of the year Dreamworks would trump the almighty Disney Studios with the better animated film. While Big Hero 6 was by absolutely no means a failure, How To Train Your Dragon 2 simply had the ingredients for great cinema. With stunning work on not only a technological scale, but also narratively, it accomplishes exactly what a sequel ought to: give us a little more without overdoing it, keep the essence of the original intact, enhance the established characters, and just make it smart fun.


 #5 Guardians of the Galaxy

Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper_Guardians of the Galaxy

Let’s be honest, very few had that unwavering faith in Marvel when they announced a film adaptation of their obscure comic book series. It looked absurd but, in a completely positive way, it really was. It’s outlandish fun on a large scale that hearkens back to the age of classic sci-fi. With utterly loveable characters that interact with each other in a very non-conventional opposite-Avengers way, Guardians of the Galaxy is truly a perfectly executed movie that accomplishes exactly what a film of its genre should.


#4 X-Men: Days of Future Past 

Hugh Jackman, Jennifer Lawrence, Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart_X-Men: Days of Future Past

The X-Men films really have been hit-and-miss, but the previous two really were quite good. I don’t think most of us were expecting a film so impeccably on-target. With director Bryan Singer back in the director’s chair, the X-Men have never been in better form. When your 7th film creates as much enthusiasm as the 1st and 2nd did, you know you’ve done something right. X-Men: Days of Future Past exhibits excellent film-making skills where the ante is upped and the story is fresh and entrancing.


#3 Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Chris Evans, Scarlet Johannson, Samuel L. Jackson_Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Marvel’s other film of the year also proved to be an incredible film, especially considering it’s a sequel. Getting an entire film to see Steve Rogers adapting to the modern world is quite an interesting plot element. Creatively shot with great action sequences (a term you don’t say too often in this action-riddled modern age of film), The Winter Soldier is a poised-but-chaotic action flick with a great cast assembly, a film that truly feels like The Avengers in term of scale and narrative intricacy.

#2 The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

Ian McKellen, Luke Evans_The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

It really is disheartening to see so many film fans’ derision for this series, because the Hobbit films collectively really are quite special. Do they have issues? Sure. Are they as engrossing as The Lord of the Rings? Nada. But skim past the surface of big battles, CGI creatures, and Lord of the Rings tie-ins and you’ll find a warm, pleasant experience that honors both the book and  Peter Jackson’s original trilogy. The Battle of the Five Armies is a beautifully and articulately created near-masterpiece that wonderfully links the old with the new. And I’m sure that once the extended edition is released, we’ll have a fully-realized, comprehensive cinematic experience.


#1 Interstellar


Chris Nolan has done it again. With a masterful and rare knack for storytelling on a complex and grand scale, Nolan is the kind of director who can do no wrong. Interstellar explores limitless reaches as it tells a story of sacrifice, devotion, courage, and tenacity. With jaw-dropping visual splendor, Interstellar is a rare experience. Though it doesn’t quite compare to Inception nor the Dark Knight films, it’s still a fascinating journey to behold.




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