Dallas Buyers Club: Alright, alright, alright. The movie that finally saw Matthew McConaughey get the recognition he deserves for his recent career renaissance, and also saw a best supporting actor award for Jared Leto.
Edge of Tomorrow: Tom Cruise followed up Oblivion with this surprisingly intelligent and incredibly well made sci fi action film with crossed Groundhog Day with Independence day
The Muppets Most Wanted: The Muppets were back again following their successful 2011 reboot and whilst this sequel wasn’t as warmly welcomed as its predecessor, it still provided the usual Muppet fare and there’s nothing wrong with that!
How to Train Your Dragon 2: The follow up to the 2009 dreamworks hit took the franchise down darker paths and contains some of the most stunning animation used on the big screen.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier : The last stop in phase two in the Avengers canon turned Captain America from the most boring character into one of the most exciting and complex.
22 Jump Street: Picking up where 21 Jump Street left off, 22 Jump Street was a self referential romp from start to finish and was the funniest movie of 2014 so far.
10: X-Men Days of Future Past
Bryan Singer was finally back in the driving seat for the sequel to X-Men First Class and the man who gave birth to the franchise over a decade ago has this time around managed to inject new life into it.
Following on from the critical and commercial success of First Class Days of Future Past brought together the cast of the original X-Men trilogy and their younger selves from First Class in what promised to be a mouth watering spectacle for fanboys everywhere.
The film surpassed expectations, earning one of the highest box office openings of the year and proving once again that there is life in the X-men franchise yet. Days of Future Past really showed that when X-Men is at the top of its game that it can be a real threat to Marvel.
9: Starred Up
Jack O Connell give a break out performance (excuse this pun) in this prison drama based around a father and son banged up in the same prison. Less prison and more oedipal tale, the film gave us a fresh take on prison life.
Whilst it didn’t stay away from the usual prison cliches, it handled them well enough for them to never become a distraction.
Two fine central performances, one from the aforementioned Jack O Connell, and the other from cinema’s go to sleaze ball Ben Mendhelson really propelled this movie above the usual fare, this, combined with some stunning cinematography and an excellent score made this one of 2014’s most interesting pictures so far.
8: The Lego Movie
Everything is awesome! Apologies if you’d just managed to get that song out of your head. The Lego Movie, directed by Chris Miller and Phil Lord has been the surprise hit of the year.
Lord and Miller have quickly established themselves as one of Hollywood’s go to duos; they have managed to carve themselves a successful career out of making movies that, quite frankly, shouldn’t be much good.
Like their hit Jump Street franchise, the thought of making a movie based around Lego seemed like nothing more than an opportunistic cash in, a 2 hour long advert if you will. However what they gave us was one of the most crisply animated, hilarious and heart warming movies of the year.
Like Jump Street, the movie employed postmodernist tactics to surprise its viewers, a wonderfully self aware parody of popular culture The Lego Movie really was awesome.
7: 12 Years a Slave
What is there to say about this movie that hasn’t already been said? Steve McQueen’s best picture winner 12 Years a Slave blew audiences away at the start of the year and will no doubt continue to grow in stature as time goes by.
Chiwetel Ejiofor gave a career defining performance as Solomon Northup, a free man kidnapped and forced into slavery for 12 years. Michael Fassbender and Lupita N’yongo also give phenomenal performances in supporting roles. This, combined with Steve McQueen’s unflinching direction made 12 Years a Slave a harrowing watch, but ultimately a very rewarding one.
6: The Raid 2
British director Gareth Evans arrived on our screens back in 2011 with the now cult hit The Raid. An Indonesian action/martial arts movie that re defined the genre for the 21st century. Three years later he brings us the sequel, The Raid 2: Berandal.
Whilst the original movie all took place within one tower block, creating a claustrophobic and intense feel to its fights, the sequel opened up the franchise- taking the fights out into the city and by doing so making them more epic in scale. The film features some of the finest action sequences to grace the big screen, including a mass brawl in a prison yard, an assassination in a night club and the best car chase sequence since The French connection.
Evans’ sequel was bigger, faster and more exciting than the original and chances are things will only get better when number 3 hits our screens.
Brendan Gleeson took centre stage in this modern day religious parable directed by John Michael McDonagh. McDonagh, like his brother has proven over the years that he has an incredible ear for dialogue and that was highlighted perfectly here in what is arguably the best script of the year thus far.
The film follows Gleeson’s Father James for a week after he is told by an anonymous assassin that he is going to be shot dead the following Sunday.
An interesting examination of religion and the place it has in modern day society and a wonderful critique of the Catholic church, Calvary was one of the most thought provoking movies of 2014.
4: Under the Skin
Hypnotic, profound, mesmerising, chilling- these are just a few of the words you could use to describe Jonathan Glazers Under the Skin, which certainly succeeded in getting under mine.
Starring Scarlett Johansson as an unnamed alien, the movie follows her as she roams around the streets of Glasgow picking up unsuspecting men who she then kills in the most chilling of ways to harvest their organs. Part hidden footage and part feature film, the movie creates a chilling tone the likes of which we haven’t seen in cinema for a long time, whilst its visual innovations evoke memories of Kubrick, tinged with a little Gaspar Noe’ and various other cinematic icons.
Johansson is mesmerising in the lead role, creating a character who is both haunting and sexy at the same time.
3: Inside Llewyn Davis
The Coen Brothers’ returned to our screen with their best movie since True Grit earlier this year. Inside Llewyn Davis follows the titular character, a struggling folk singer around Greenwich Village in the 1960’s.
Davis is, like many Coen characters, a man lost in time. He sits on the periphery of something fantastic, with the world just about to be introduced to the songs of Bob Dylan but his stubborn nature prevents him from making a breakthrough.
Like many Coen films the film focuses on the idea of an artist who can not be accepted and is perhaps most spiritually akin to their movie Barton Fink. With Lleywn Davis the Coens have once again managed to tread that fine line between the heart felt and the absurd. This is perhaps their finest movie to date. And that soundtrack, wow.
2: The Grand Budapest Hotel
Wes Anderson returned to our screens this year with what is perhaps his most accomplished work to date. The movie, like the hotel itself is an intricately designed and delicate work of art which champions artifice and the absurd.
Like all of Anderson’s great movies The Grand Budapest Hotel fills its world with zany but strangely endearing characters that fill the movie with a poignancy and emotional weight missing from many similar works.
The Grand Budapest Hotel is Anderson’s most financially successful film so far and it could be said that is perhaps it is his best. It is undeniably his most accomplished work, the film where he has found his voice and style like never before.
Then there is the small matter of the cast, and what a cast it is. Featuring Anderson regulars Bill Murray, Owen Wilson and Harvey Keitel to name a few the film also introduces names like Jude Law and Ralph Fiennes to the mix.
Last year Richard Linklater topped our film of the year list with the sublime Before Midnight and it certainly looks like he is going to achieve it again with Boyhood. Despite it only being half way through the year it would be a minor miracle if a film as good as this was released in the next six months.
The film, which began filming in 2002 follows the life of a young boy from the age of 6 in the first grade, to the age of 18 when he goes to college. In Boyhood, Linklater has given us one of the ambitious and incredible pieces of cinema in recent memory.
The movie took a total of 39 days to shoot the film over the 12 year period and the end product is nothing short of breathtaking. Watching Mason, played by Ellar Coltrane transform from a boy to a young man is one of modern cinema’s great achievement. Watching him grow as not only an actor but as a person, on screen, right in front of you is one of the most endearing experiences in cinematic history. This is a minor masterpiece.
And the rest….
Worst films of the year: I, Frankenstein, Transformers: Age of Extinction, Transcendence, 300: Rise of an Empire, Need for Speed, Brick Mansions
Best performance in a bad movie: Angelina Jolie, Maleficent
Best Comedy: 22 Jump Street
Biggest Letdown: Transcendence
Breakthrough performance: Ellar Coltrane
Guilty Pleasure: Pompei
Pleasant surprise: Edge of Tomorrow