If you thought last year’s movie list was insane, BUCKLE UP! Thanks to Fantastic Fest (and trusting far too many websites), my movie list for 2014 currently sits at about 235; I’ve seen 207. That means there’s still a possibility of movies making this list, but enough is enough. I did my Top 26 of 136 (or whatever) last year; proportionally speaking, a Top 40 of 207 is about right. Also, whatever. (Note: it’s hard to write 3,500+ words and not use the same descriptions over and over. I apologize for how many times I say the word “dark.”)
40 God Help the Girl
Ugh I love this movie and I’m not sure how it’s #39. I can’t get any of this music out of my head – I’m going to listen to the soundtrack forever and ever – just like Frank, which barely missed this list. But this is a better movie, with more heart, and an easier one to recommend. Plus Emily Browning is adorable, and it has Gilly from Game of Thrones!
39 We Are the Best!
TWO MUSIC MOVIES IN A ROW TO KICK THINGS OFF! This movie’s on Netflix, and everyone should watch it and love it. What’s not to like about three girls in Scandinavia starting a punk band? NOTHING! Also – spoiler alert – there’s more catchy music in this. HATE SPORT. HATE SPORT. HATE-HATE-HATE-HATE-HATE SPORT.
38 The Skeleton Twins
While this movie isn’t a musical, its best scene is all about music. The highlight of the movie – and the trailer, if I remember right – is Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig lip-syncing and dancing to “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us.” But this movie is so much more than that one scene. It’s heartbreaking and lovely and just plain great. Plus, seeing Luke Wilson reminds me how much I love and miss “Enlightened.”
37 The Congress
This might be cheating. I’m not sure if this movie came out last year or this year. I think it came out last year, but the Drafthouse showed it this year, so whatever. I didn’t see it until this year; wanna fight about it? But this movie is super weird, and super great. Robin Wright is too old, so they scan her into a computer to make movies with her likeness. It’s twisted and great. Then, halfway through the movie, it becomes animated. Why? Why not!
36 Inherent Vice
At the end of the day, I could have published this list on January 1 and not felt bad for leaving this off. I really enjoyed this movie, the performances are great, and it’s very, very funny. But, at #36, it’s not breaking down the doors to reach the top of my list. I want to finish re-reading the book (which I’m enjoying far more the second time through) and then go see the movie again. Then, it may move. I’m cool with it here, though. MOTO PANNUKAKKU.
35 The Grand Budapest Hotel
I want to re-watch this movie, and doing so may bump it up the list. I think it’s Wes Anderson’s best movie since Fantastic Mr. Fox, and light years ahead of the mediocre Moonrise Kingdom. It’s also just plain pretty to watch. If Wes Anderson keeps making movies like this, I’ll keep seeing them. This one was firing on all cylinders.
34 The Book of Life
I only saw this movie because I had nothing to do one afternoon, but it blew me away. The story is wonderful, the animation is great, and the soundtrack is amazing. This might just be one of those situations where the movie just blew away my uber-low expectations, but I really enjoyed it. It was my second-favorite animated movie this year. (Maybe third, eventually. We’ll get to that. STAY TUNED!)
33 Only Lovers Left Alive
I’ve seen very few Jim Jarmusch movies (maybe only Ghost Dog?), but I guess I should start watching more, because I loved this movie. It’s slow and sleepy and moody and dark and brooding and not for everyone. I mean, nothing really happens in this movie – it’s just a couple of vampires, doing their vampire thing, hanging out and being in love. And it’s great.
32 Tokyo Tribe
I can’t accurately put into words how weird this movie is. I saw it at Fantastic Fest, and I don’t know when it’s coming out in the US. It’s about a bunch of Japanese gangs getting ready to battle each other over a turf war, except it’s also a rap musical. It’s the best. It’s so stylized and great and unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. It’s totally normal – and totally weird – at the exact same time.
31 Mood Indigo
Sometimes, Michel Gondry’s weirdness turns into stuff that’s just okay (Be Kind Rewind). Sometimes, it turns into something that’s absolutely wonderful (Eternal Sunshine). This is somewhere in between. It’s a pretty standard love story, but it takes place in the mind of Michel Gondry, so everything is weird just because it can be weird. It’s super trippy and strange and fun.
30 Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
To be perfectly honest, I don’t remember a ton about this movie. I remember an ape riding a horse with machine guns in both hands, though, which means this movie is great. “Rise” was great, “Dawn” was even better. This movie is a “summer blockbuster,” but it’s a smart one. And it’s DARK! But yeah: that ape on a horse with guns. Great stuff.
Like The Book of Life, this movie may be on the list mostly because it so totally blew away the low expectations I’d laid out for it. I’ve seen a lot of weird hate thrown this movie’s way in the past month, and I don’t understand why. Whatever. All the food that’s cooked in this movie looks amazing – and is making me hungry thinking about it now. Also, I was super impressed that they got social media so right. So many movies do tech wrong, and Chef got it right. Points! (Plus, ScarJo and Olivia Wilde are in the movie, so, duh.)
28 Starry Eyes
This movie’s super dark and messed up and feels really David Lynchian. The underbelly and dark side of Hollywood and all that. Plus, the posters for this movie are super creepy and icky and great. This movie is so twisted and dark; I’m surprised it didn’t play at Fantastic Fest. (Maybe it did and I missed it? Or maybe in 2013?) Saying much more about this movie would give too much away, but it’s great. If you like dark, you’ll like this.
I don’t know what happened to David Ayer when he felt compelled to make the at-best-mediocre Sabotage earlier this year. End of Watch was amazing, then Sabotage was bad. But then Fury came out. And Fury was great! Every actor in this movie brings it. Anyone who thinks Shia LaBeouf can’t act needs to see this movie, then shut up. I was so looking forward to this movie, and it didn’t disappoint. I think it’s “better” than a lot of movies higher up on this list, but not as re-watchable. Definitely see it once, though.
26 X-Men: Days of Future Past
Like Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, I don’t remember a whole lot about this movie. I remember Evan Peters doing really cool things in slow-motion, and I remember a baseball stadium, and I remember lots of Very Important Events happening. But I also remember how good it was, and how it took what was great about First Class and made it even better. I also like how (spoiler) it erased X-Men III. That’s just funny. And weird. But mostly funny.
Unless you think watching a two-hour movie that’s all about jazz drumming sounds unbearable, you need to watch this movie. Miles Teller and JK Simmons are ON. POINT. in this. It’s just awesome (in the truest definition of the word, I think?) to watch them go at it. Everything else about this movie is set dressing, and doesn’t matter – it’s all about the two of them, that drum kit, and insanely fast jazz songs. “I’LL CUE YOU IN.”
24 Obvious Child
Jenny Slate is the cutest and I’m glad she finally got her starring role. This movie is so real and raw but also adorable and funny and great. I’m a little tired of seeing whats-her-face from Crystal Fairy and Girls in everything, but she works in this movie. Also, Gabe Liedman is great, because of course Jenny Slate was going to give him good stuff to work with and because of course he is.
If The Guest and Dogtooth had a baby, that baby would be Borgman. European movies get real weird, man. This movie follows a guy who’s living in the woods – because why not? – who shows up at a ritzy house and starts causing trouble. Like a lot of the other movies on this list, it’s twisted and weird and there’s no real rhyme or reason for why things happen. But it’s creepy and funny and worth checking out. Also: the movie poster is great.
22 I Origins
More so than most of the other movies on this list, I Origins is a real conversation starter. It’s spiritual and reflective (maybe the wrong word?) in a way that some of Brit Marling’s other best movies are. I want to talk to and hang out with everyone who actively seeks out this movie. I don’t know if any of the science in this movie is real – it sure seems real – but it’s a smart movie at a time when we need more smart movies.
21 Big Bad Wolves
This was Quentin Tarantino’s favorite movie from 2013, and with good reason. It’s an awesome tale of revenge. But it’s also really funny at times, which is great, otherwise it’d be incredibly bleak and depressing. This movie has some stuff in common with Prisoners (from last year), but it’s not two-and-a-half hours long, and it doesn’t make you want to kill yourself when it’s over. It’s on Netflix, so it’s easy to find.
There’s one scene near the end where Godzilla finally unveils his full, true powers, and it’s the most awesome thing I’ve seen all year. If you’ve seen the movie, you know what it is. I don’t want to say more, because it would ruin that truly amazing moment. Also: You can safely ignore anyone who says Godzilla isn’t in the movie enough. Whatever. When he’s on screen, it matters. That’s what counts. The trailers for this movie set the bar ridiculously high, and this movie cleared that bar.
18 The Raid 2: Berendal
I think this movie is too long, and I don’t think it’s as good as the first one. That said, its action is amazing. That fight in the kitchen is one of the best things ever. I will watch unlimited movies in this franchise, even if each gets slightly worse than the predecessor; their quality is that high. Plus, there’s just not enough awesome action like this marketed in America; the fact that major theater chains like AMC picked this up is a great, great thing.
17 The Babadook
“If it’s in a word, or it’s in a look, you can’t get rid of The Babadook.” I can’t get a lot of this movie out of my head, and I haven’t seen it since mid-September. This is a great genre film, great pure horror, and great psychological horror. Also, that kid is the worst in the movie, which makes him the best. There’s just this sense of creepiness that you can’t shake after you watch this movie, and I love that. Also: BA-BA-BA-DOOOK, DOOOOOK, DOOOOOOOOK.
16 Captain America: The Winter Soldier
This movie kicked off The Summer of Scarlett, and that alone should merit it a place on this list. Also: it gave us Falcon. I think The Winter Soldier’s place on this list is sort of indicative of my feelings about what Marvel’s doing – they’re really going all out in tossing all their chips in the air, and seeing where they fall. I think this is one of Marvel’s best movies in a whole bunch of ways, and it set the bar really high for Age of Ultron and others to come.
15 Big Hero 6
14 John Wick
I’m glad I didn’t watch the trailers for this movie before I saw it, because the trailers make this movie look dumb. Guess what? The movie’s not dumb! It’s really, really great. There’s crazy action in here – a whole lot of punching people with guns, and great gunplay, and more things that are gun-related – and everyone who loves action needs to see this. I’m glad Keanu is at the “I’m retired, leave me alone, you wouldn’t like me if I have to come out of retirement” stage of his career. Can we cast him instead of Liam Neeson in every action movie from here on out? Cool.
13 Goodnight Mommy
I have no idea when I’ll be able to see this again. This movie was the only secret screening at Fantastic Fest, which is a big reason why it’s so high on my list. There were rumors the secret screening would be a bunch of different movies, like Jupiter Ascending (<3) or Inherent Vice or Gone Girl. Instead, Tim League went on stage and said “I saw this movie at TIFF, and it was my favorite there, and I’m not going to tell you anything more.” And then the movie started. And it’s in German, and there’s not a lot of dialogue, and there’s no real title credit, and you just sort of sit there and watch and try to figure out what’s going on. And it’s insane, and twisted, and DARK, and terrifying. I’m so glad I saw this movie.
We’re in the heart of “I saw it at Fantastic Fest and loved it!” part of my list. I saw this at the U.S. premiere, and the writer/director was there, and everything about the night and the event and the movie were great. Jake Gyllenhaal is outstanding, and we should never forget how good he is. Even just thinking about this movie makes me want to re-watch Zodiac and End of Watch and Source Code. This movie is funny in the darkest ways imaginable, and Jake Gyllenhaal squeezes every ounce of ickyness from Lou Bloom. The fact that this is “only” #12 is bonkers. This movie is outstanding.
11 It Follows
I was so bummed to find out this isn’t hitting theaters until mid-May – but trust me: it’s worth the wait! We all fell in love with Maika Monroe in The Guest; now see a movie where she’s even better. If you want teenagers to stop having sex, show them this movie. (I mean, maybe. Who knows with #teens, amirite?) If you thought The Babadook was creepy, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet. I mean, Jesus; this movie is terrifying. Also: the soundtrack was done by Disasterpeace, who did the soundtrack for Fez. It’s perfection.
10 Under the Skin
SUMMER OF SCARLETT! This is one of the weirdest movies I saw all year, and it’s supremely uncomfortable to watch. I don’t know what the end really means, but I don’t know that it matters. Watching this movie made me want to go and hunt down everything else Jonathan Glazer has ever done. There’s this level of innovation and uniqueness and craziness with this movie that I need more of in my life. It’s based on a book, which I haven’t read, but I’m sure it’s super weird, too.
Snowpiercer is kind of like The Raid – there’s this long setup, building toward this confrontation that you think there’s no way it can pay off, except it does – and then some. To say much more than that is to ruin this movie, and I don’t want to do that. Forget Captain America; if there’s only one Chris Evans movie you watch from 2014, make it this one. (Also, did you hear Japan is building an actual Snowpiercer train? Japan, you’re so crazy.) RUMBLE RUMBLE, RATTLE RATTLE, WE WILL NEVER DIE!
8 Guardians of the Galaxy
When I re-watched this movie a couple weeks ago, I was happy to find out that it’s just as charming and lovely as I first remembered. James Gunn has been making great movies for years; I hope people go back and watch stuff like Super and Slither, because they’re amazing, too. Guardians is wonderful from start to finish, top to bottom. Rocket is the best, and we all know about (and love) Dancing Groot. I loved The Avengers a whole lot, but this has more heart. I’m so happy with where Marvel’s at right now.
This is one of the most cinematic movies I’ve seen all year, and it’s truly wonderful. I want to watch this movie again and again, in a way I don’t feel about The Dark Knight Rises or Inception. The fact that it’s three hours long, though, means I probably won’t. If it wasn’t for Gravity, this would be hands-down the best space movie ever. Even with Gravity, it may be the best space movie ever. Also: I love TARS.
6 22 Jump Street
After I saw this movie in theaters, I think I put it at #1 on my list. I re-evaluated, and dropped it a bit. But then I watched it again recently, and it turns out I was right – this movie is just as funny as I first thought. Sure, you may be put off by how overly self-referential it is, or how much of a critique on cinema it is. But that doesn’t matter; this movie has funny in its bones. (That’s a thing people say, right?) It’s not just funny, though – it’s a fun, enjoyable action movie, and I liked it way more than that other movie Lord and Miller made this year.
5 Cheap Thrills
Cheap Thrills is messed up in ways nothing else on this list is. I’m really glad I didn’t see the (terrible) movie Would You Rather? before I saw this, because their premises are awfully similar. Cheap Thrills has substance, though, and actual character development, and is better in every single way. All four main characters are fascinating in their own ways. I couldn’t look away from the screen while this was on. Ugh, this movie is great. I haven’t heard many people talking about it, which is a shame. See this movie.
Yes, it’s true that the trailers for this movie advertise a product vastly different from what the movie actually is. But it doesn’t matter. Birdman is still great, and it still lived up to the massive hype I built for it in my head. I don’t know what the ending means, exactly, but I know what I want it to mean, and that’s enough for me. Everything about this movie is so good. The score is so good. The performances are all so good. The cinematography is so good. The blocking is so good. It wasn’t the fun action-y romp the trailer made it look like it would be, but it turned out to be something even better than that.
3 Edge of Tomorrow
It’s a real shame this movie was such a box office flop, because it’s one of the best summer blockbusters I’ve ever seen. Its trailer was one of my favorites of the year, and I didn’t think there’d be any way that the final product would live up to its teasers. But it did, and it turned out it was even better. Haters gonna hate (hate hate hate hate), but Tom Cruise kills it in this movie, and Emily Blunt is even better. This movie is smart and awesome and exciting and great. (I will not call it Live. Die. Repeat., thankyouverymuch.)
I’m pretty sure no one will ever make another movie like Boyhood as long as cinema exists. And if they do, who cares? Richard Linklater did it first. This movie is so special in so many ways, and it deserves every accolade being heaped upon it. Yes, the movie is long, but it doesn’t matter, because it’s so real. It’d be interesting to know what people think about this movie if they don’t know its conceit (that Linklater filmed the same actors over a 12-year span), but I’m sure they’d wind up loving it, too. This is the best movie I saw all year, and maybe one of the best I’ve ever seen. I love seeing filmmakers do things that have never been done before, and Linklater absolutely did that with Boyhood.
1 The Guest
I loved You’re Next. My hype meter for The Guest was bonkers, and I didn’t think there was any way it would be able to live up to my standards. Guess what? IT DID. This is one of my 25 favorite movies of all-time, and I want to watch it over and over forever. I don’t know what my favorite part about this movie is. It might be the soundtrack, which is perfection. It might be how good Dan Stevens is. It might be how good Maika Monroe is. It might be how good everyone’s interactions with each other are. It might be how deeply funny it is. It might be the fact that we got free fireball shots (the drink, not the whiskey) when we saw it at Fantastic Fest. I loved this movie so much that I went back to see it the day after Fantastic Fest ended. Now that I have the Blu-ray, I can watch it forever, on repeat. ON. REPEAT.
0 The Interview
I don’t think it’s fair to put The Interview on my list. In fact, I have no idea where it’d fall, if I saw it in a completely neutral environment (probably in the #15-20 range). It’s at #0 because seeing it at the Drafthouse, on Christmas Day, with free American flags at every chair, Tim League in a red white & blue onesie, singing Lee Greenwood, with film crews around, and this overwhelming sense of patriotism, is a movie-going experience that may never be paralleled. The movie itself is very funny, but you probably know that by now. I don’t know why the internet is hating on it so bad, other than the possibility that people may be trying to compare it to the immense level of promotion and buildup it had around it, which will never, ever pan out. At the end of the day, one thing rings true: we now have “honeydicking” in our lexicon forever and ever.
There are still like 40 movies from last year that I want to see. I don’t know if any of them will make their way into my top 40, but… probably? If there are any Serious Movers And/Or Shakers, I will let you know. The Bat-signal will be in the air.
Here’s a look back at my most anticipated movies of 2014:
- Jupiter Ascending – womp
- Cheap Thrills – yay
- Sin City: A Dame to Kill For – meh
- Mockingjay, Part 1 – meh
- Interstellar – yay
- The Raid 2: Berendal – yay
- Godzilla – yay
- Noah – gross
- Guardians of the Galaxy – yay
- X-Men: Days of Future Past – yay
I’d say this was a pretty good success rate. (Maybe?) Six of the ten made my list. I absolutely hated one (HELLO, NOAH) and was pretty indifferent to two others (Sin City, Mockingjay). Then, there’s Jupiter Ascending. Don’t worry, Wachowskis, I’ll wait.
Here are the movies I’m most looking forward to in 2015.
- Jupiter Ascending
- Hateful Eight, The
- Avengers: Age of Ultron
- Star Wars: The Force Awakens
- Mockingjay, Part 2
- Mad Max Fury Road
- Furious 7
- Kingsman: The Secret Service
- Martian, The
- Inside Out
- Jurassic World
- Good Dinosaur
- That’s What I’m Talking About
- Sea of Trees
- Mission: Impossible 5
- Better You, A
- Get a Job
Yes. 2015 will be a great year for movies. CAN’T WAIT.