Another year gone, another top 10 list to do. I still haven’t seen a lot of 2014 films based on limited releases, and, admittedly, I’ve missed quite a few 2014 films. Overall, 2014 has been a weaker year for cinema, and I spent a lot of the year watching non-2014 films. For the purposes of this list, I’ve defined 2014 release by when it was first released here in North America – there are a few on this list that received 2013 releases in other parts of the world.
10. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Marvel consistently delivers quality films, and Captain America: The Winter Soldier plays out like a political thriller with superheroes. It was a risky concept, but it works perfectly, and Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) is the most intriguing villain Marvel has debuted since Loki (Tom Hiddleston).
9. The Imitation Game
Benedict Cumberbatch is incredible as Alan Turing, the man who designed the machine that cracked the Enigma code. Turing’s story is both heroic and devastating, and the film brilliantly draws the audience into the puzzle of Enigma.
8. Guardians of the Galaxy
Another Marvel home run. Guardians of the Galaxy is perhaps even riskier than Winter Soldier, in that it features lesser-known characters. But its runaway success was proof that Marvel is now a solidly trusted brand by audiences. Chris Pratt is excellent as Peter Quill, giving the film a ton of humour and heart.
Ida is a wonderful Polish film about religion, and family. Anna (Agata Trzebuchowska) grew up in a Catholic convent, and has trained to become a nun, but before she can take her vows, she is told she must meet her aunt (Agata Kulesza). She discovers she is actually Jewish and that her birth name is Ida. This film is subtle, thought-provoking and beautifully filmed in black and white. This is the film I want to win the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar.
6. The Face of an Angel
The Face of an Angel has not had a wide release yet; it had been playing at film festivals around the world last year, starting from its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, which I had the pleasure of attending. It will receive a wide release this year. Daniel Brühl plays Thomas, a once-respected film director who is in the midst of a career lull. He travels to Italy to make a film about a prominent murder case (a fictional case based on the real-life murder of Meredith Kercher). There he descends into his own personal hell. The film is structured like The Divine Comedy; a book that is also referenced throughout the novel. It’s definitely not a film for everyone, but the more I thought about it, the more I loved it.
Boyhood is the most ambitious film released this year. Director Richard Linklater shot this film over the course of many years. Through this technique, we get to watch the characters grow up naturally, without the use of make-up or different actors playing the same roles. It flows seamlessly, and is a remarkable artistic achievement.
While Boyhood was the most ambitious film of the year, Interstellar is also worth noting for its technical ambition. This film was remarkably beautiful, as a whole. The visual effects and the cinematography were gorgeous, and the soundtrack by Hans Zimmer is easily my favourite of the year. 169 minutes has never flown by so quickly.
3. Big Hero 6
Big Hero 6 is one of the most emotional films Disney has ever made, but you would never know it from the trailer. I went in expecting a fun superhero film, and found myself weeping several times throughout it. It’s a surprisingly mature and thoughtful examination of grief, loss, and friendship. Disney’s animated films have been making appearances in my top 10 for the last few years now, and, in fact, Frozen appeared in the very same spot on my 2013 list!
2. The Grand Budapest Hotel
Anchored by Ralph Fiennes’ remarkable performance (perhaps my favourite in a Wes Anderson film!), The Grand Budapest Hotel is a dark, humourous and moving film. It takes place in a fictionalized Europe during the interwar period, and tackles the realities of living in that time in a way only Anderson could.
Taking place entirely on a train traveling on a year-long rail track, Snowpiercer is a dark social satire. It’s highly stylized, features inventive and brilliant fight sequences, and is unrelentingly bleak. Tilda Swinton plays a character you love to hate in the most incredible fashion, and one that would simply be comic-relief in the hands of a lesser actress. She should be receiving an Oscar nomination for her work in the film, but won’t, because The Weinstein Company buried this film after director Joon-ho Bong refused to cut 20 minutes out of it. It would do my heart good to see it get a Best Picture nomination despite Weinstein’s attempts to bury it, but I have no expectation of that happening. Regardless, it’s the best film of the year, and one that everyone should watch.
I am so excited for the films of 2015 – bring them on!