Monday’s Movie Musings: Top ten films of 2014

2014 has been one of the best years for cinema in recent memory. Not only has there been plenty on offer in terms of the more serious dramas, but this years blockbusters have also been considerably better too. Whilst this has certainly made my actual cinema-going a lot easier to bear, it has however done no favours for my end of year list of the best films of 2014. It has been tough whittling down all the great films of the year to just ten but I feel happy with the below list, with a decent balance between popcorn movies and the smaller films of the year.

On a separate note, I just want to once again thank everybody from all over the world who has taken the time to read this blog over the last year. It’s been the biggest year yet for The Melting Faces and hopefully next year will be even bigger. Anyway, without further or do, here’s my list of the top ten films of 2014.

10: We Are The Best!

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Not many films have charmed me this year quite as much as We Are The Best! Hailing from Sweden, director Lukas Moddysson adapts his wife’s graphic novel for the big screen. Set in 1980’s Stockholm, it tells the story of three young girls who decide to form a punk rock band. It’s a simple story that perfectly depicts the trails and tribulations of growing up, focusing on the friendship between the three girls that takes precedent over boys. With naturalistic performances and Moodysson’s laid back direction, it feels like a documentary at times and that helps draw you in into the film even more. An anarchic little joy, it’s well worth seeking out if you can.

9: Blue Ruin

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One of the most visceral cinematic experiences I’ve had all year, Blue Ruin’s comparisons with the early work of the Coen brothers is completely justified. Written and directed by Jeremy Saulnier, it is a story about the consequences of vengeance and the viscous cycle it can create. It’s darkly comic and extremely tense with some of the best cinematography I’ve seen all year from Saulnier himself.

8: Godzilla

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Godzilla just about beats Edge Of Tomorrow and makes it into my top ten list, mainly due to its longer lasting re-watchability factor. Successfully washing away the bad taste left by Roland Emmerich’s version, Monsters director Gareth Edwards makes a bold leap to large scale mayhem and proves himself to be one of the biggest new talents in film. Paying homage to Spielberg, it’s a refreshingly restrained action film that builds on its tension until the films final showdown between Godzilla and the MUTO’s. It looks great too and the halo jump sequence is amongst the most memorable of the year.

7: The Imitation Game

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I was surprised by just how much I enjoyed The Imitation Game, a British made drama about Alan Turing and the cracking of the enigma machine during WWII. What I think makes the film work as well as it does is the balance between character study and thriller, with a focus on the tragic and inspiring story of Turing being told in a way unlike ever before. Played superbly by Benedict Cumberbatch, Alan Turing is a historical figure of great importance not just though what he did during the war, but how his inventions and way of thinking ultimately shaped computers, the internet and in turn the way we live today. With his story firmly at the centre of The Imitation Game, it elevates the film from a generic thriller to a joyful and heartbreaking drama which will make you angry as to the way our country treated him.

6: How To Train Your Dragon 2

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I consider How To Train Your Dragon to be one of the greatest animated family films ever made, so I had high hopes for this years sequel. My expectations were not only matched but exceeded and How To Train Your Dragon 2 proved to be The Dark Knight of animation films. It’s bigger and bolder than the first film but still maintains all of the heart and charm of its predecessor. But what makes the film stand out more than its crisp and colourful visuals and fast paced action, is the amount of darkness that runs throughout it, with writer and director Dean Deblois making the brave decision to even kill off one of the characters. What irritates me is the sniffiness of some people who would simply dismiss at a kids film, when in actuality it has more drama, more spectacle and more heart than most other films released this year.

5: Pride

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Possibly this years biggest surprise, Pride is a joy of a film that uplifts and moves whilst telling an important, yet little known story. Set in the 80’s, it depicts the true story of the gay and lesbian community who came to the aid of striking miners after realising that they all shared a common enemy in the press, the police and the government. The best British film in years, it offers a snapshot into an interesting time in our culture when fears of homosexuality were rife and government rule was being challenged by the picket lines. It’s a celebratory culture clash that has an excellent cast, and that made me laugh and cry in equal measures.

4: Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes

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The best summer blockbuster of 2014, Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes transcends it’s popcorn fodder labelling by telling an intelligent story. Whilst the performance capture on show is at an all time high and the apes feel like living and breathing characters, it is the slow burning, character driven plot that makes the film work as well as it does. Like most of the films within the franchise, there’s a great political subtext to the drama as there is a race to arms between the apes and humans. The decision to slow down the action, with large portions of the film focusing on the characters, only increases the tension and raises the stakes considerably for the few action sequences featured. The performances from Andy Serkis and Toby Kebbell with the character of Koba proving to be one of this year’s most interesting and sympathetic to watch, whilst the direction by Matt Reeves is confident. A clever, exhilarating and technically wondrous success.

3: The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies

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Whilst granted that The Hobbit films are not quite as good as The Lord Of The Rings, I’ve really enjoyed Peter Jackson’s prequel trilogy. It is far from perfect but concluding chapter The Battle Of The Five Armies, is a satisfying ending that ties in neatly within the Middle Earth films. Problems that people have had with the other two films are rectified here; the pace is relentless, the action glorious and above all else the added material has a great payoff. What I love most about it though, is the focus on the relationship between Bilbo and Thorin, as well as Thorin’s descent into madness, which have always been my favourite part of the book. I may have issues with the over use of poor cgi, but that is a minor complaint in an otherwise outstanding film.

2: Boyhood

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Richard Linklater’s Boyhood is a grand and sweeping coming of age epic that is also an outstanding achievement in film. Shot over the course of twelve years with the same cast, it depicts the growing up of Mason as he deals with being part of a broken family. Whilst the title suggests a male target audience, it’s actually a film that will touch many people as it deals with fatherhood, motherhood and sisterhood. Whilst the physical transformation is remarkable when you take a step back from the film, when watching it you don’t feel that jarring change; it feels natural, so much so that Linklater uses pop culture references and music to signify the change of time. It’s a relatable, humanistic film that deals with family bonds and growing up in a rich and unique way. It’s sure to at least earn a few awards next years and rightly so; it’s a masterpiece.

1: Interstellar

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When Interstellar was released last month, it proved surprisingly divisive amongst audiences. Whilst there are a number of flaws and certainly isn’t Christopher Nolan’s best film; it earns the top spot in my list of the best films of 2014 because of what it and Nolan represent. It’s sci-fi at its best, taking us to new worlds and opening our imaginations to what could lie beyond our universe; but it’s also much more than that. Nolan has the confidence and appreciation of us as an audience to keep up with the Stephen Hawking type Science speak, never talking down to us at any point. With this in mind, Interstellar is a challenging watch but in a good way, something filmmakers have shied away from for a while now. The cinematography and other worldly imagery are stunning, the booming score from Hans Zimmer is thunderous and yet Nolan never loses sight of the very human story being told about a father and daughter trying to communicate with each other through space. For me, Interstellar represents the best in cinema; an intelligent, emotional and awe inducing film that expects more from us as an audience and in doing so challenges us to expect more from every filmmaker working today.

That’s my list of the best films of 2014, but what is yours? Do you agree with my choices or have I missed something out? Feel free to leave a comment below.

See you in the new year!!

Image credits to http://www.interstellar-movie.com, http://www.nytimes.com, http://www.hitflix.com, http://www.yahoo.com, http://www.dcm.co.uk, http://www.hdwallpapers.in, http://www.bfi.org.uk, http://www.filmguide.sundance.org, http://www.thenerdstreamera.blogspot.com and http://www.nypost.com

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3 comments

  1. I am glad “How to Train Your Dragon 2” is getting recognition in people’s top 10 best lists! My husband and I loved that one! Excellent list for sure. I don’t agree with your #1 pick, but I can see why you think that way and I appreciate your explanation! My #1 this year would either be “Birdman” or “Whiplash” because they were both so wonderfully done, excellently acted and brilliantly executed!

  2. I made an attempt to do a list like this a few days ago (http://hitchcocksworld.blogspot.ca/2014/12/best-movies-of-2014-that-i-saw.html). With hindsight I feel a bit silly for forgetting that I saw The LEGO Movie but I did make a pretty solid list. The trouble, at least in my case, was that I could only go on the movies I actually saw, which was limited. The funny thing about being a film student is it becomes hard to find any free time to watch movies, let alone keep up with all the new releases.

    I’ll agree that Interstellar was the best of the year. Boyhood was also really good, though I’m not sure if I’m impressed more with the fact that it was a well-done movie or that Richard Linklater was able to commit himself to it for twelve straight years and still found time to make other great movies (I’m convinced, based on this and his “Before” trilogy, that he is the most patient man in the world). There’s several on your list that I still haven’t seen. I haven’t even seen the original Planet of the Apes, and I really need to get on that.

    One film that didn’t make your list but I really enjoyed was Under the Skin. I loved how that film gets you into the mind of an alien, and ends up making her seem more human while the human characters seem alien. It was a film that really did so much with so little. It had no stars besides Scarlett Johansson (in fact, they literally picked up random men off the street and hid cameras in the van, the fact that Scarlett was able to improvise and still remain in character shows how talented she is).

    On a related note, I did do one list a few weeks ago that puts a unique spin on things. It’s the worst movies I reviewed in 2014 (had I done it more recently, The Rock probably would have made it on). I just thought you might enjoy the exercise of trying to figure out what was the worst movie you reviewed this year:

    http://hitchcocksworld.blogspot.ca/2014/12/retrospective-top-ten-worst-movies.html

  3. I totally agree with Interstellar. That was actually my favorite film of the year. Others were disappointed with it, and even found the film polarizing. But I got exactly what I wanted out of it. A heartfelt father-daughter story, breathtaking visuals, and yet another rousing score from Hans Zimmer. Interstellar made the best case for seeing films on the big screen, and I am glad I got to be a part of it.

    I also liked that you included Boyhood as well. Yet another standout in a strong year in film. Great list!

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