It's that time again! The year is over and it's time to gaze back fondly over movies past and decide which were the best of 2014.
So without further ado, here are my top ten films from the year!
Note: This is by no means meant to be a definitive list, it is just my opinion. I would love to hear yours! Comment below...or what about becoming a contributor and writing your own list to link to?
Noticeably Absent: The Hobbit
Now, before anyone gets all worked up about this, let me explain! I absolutely love the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies, and I wouldn't be surprised if this became my favorite movie of the year. The only problem is....I haven't seen it yet! The original plan was to watch it on Christmas Day, but life got in the way, and it is going to have to wait until January. However, I couldn't bear to leave it off this list entirely, which is why it gets something of an honorable mention at the start.
While many people tore a strip off this female-fronted action movie, I really loved it. ScarJo is, as usual, quite phenomenally badass and there are some incredible action scenes and hand-to-hand fights. I also enjoyed the premise - maybe it's some wish-fulfillment going on, but the idea of becoming the ultimate in human potential fascinates me, and I found the ending a great jumping off point for discussion about other ideas. It wasn't perfect, and "Limitless" (2011) was far better and essentially the same basic idea, but I still feel that Lucy deserved more praise than it got.
I feel like this was something of an overlooked movie this year, despite the presence of Johnny Depp as the title character. This story follows a professor looking into artificial intelligence and the ability to live forever through uploading oneself into a machine. It's a very tense and dark look at human nature and the thirst for power, told through his relationship with his wife and best friend. It's not always the easiest to watch, and like Lucy, it was a wonderful jumping off point for more philosophical conversation over the difference between when one can do something, and when one should.
Time for a little comedy, after all that deep thought! 22 Jump Street was the follow up to 21 Jump Street (2012), as Schmidt and Jenko leave high school (finally) and make their way to college. They go undercover to sniff out another drug ring, and hilarity ensues. This was very similar to the original in terms of the humor, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. It's light, funny, and has enough heart to qualify as a feel good comedy.
The next sequel on the list is this follow up to Frank Miller's Sin City (2005). While the plot and connected stories may not have been as phenomenal as the original, as far as I'm concerned, I would love it just for the visual appeal. It's got as much sex and violence as the first, with that same dark graphic appeal and some new additions to the character list. Being a huge fan of Eva Green doesn't hurt, either.
This was something of a year for sequels, apparently, with our next entry also being a follow-up. However, this is within the Marvel Universe, so it feels less like a re-hash and more like the next installment in a rapidly expanding world (which, y'know, it is). I loved seeing Black Widow join forces with Captain America, and obviously this movie has some serious implications for Marvel in both film and TV. The loss of SHIELD to HYDRA is enormous, and impacts pretty much the entire Marvelverse currently on screen. As well as the importance of the big reveal, the movie itself is so much fun to watch, and the hand-to-hand scenes between Cap and Bucky are some of the best of the year.
After being sorely disappointed by Moonrise Kingdom (2012), I was really pleased to see Wes Anderson back on form with this latest offering. Telling the history of a legendary concierge in a fabulous hotel (that is now fallen out of favor and stands largely empty), the narrative meanders past a cast of the usual Anderson-style oddballs and eccentrics. His attention to detail, delivery and (most recognizably) color are there from start to finish, but the element that I most enjoyed was the return of a slightly slapstick quality. It made the film lighter and more honestly enjoyable.
This beautiful new take on the old fairy tale appealed to me most because I have always had something of a soft spot for the villains; when everyone else finds them utterly despicable, my brain is working to see what has made them how they are, searching for a way to find them sympathetic. This film took the embodiment of pure evil (at least, in the old Sleeping Beauty stories, which weren't too big on hugely developed characters in the first place) and made her a beloved fairy - an incredible feat! Not to mention Angelina Jolie, and some of the most magical scenery I have seen in years. Maleficent was utterly enchanting, start to finish.
This one gets such a high placement as much for what it means for the franchise as for the actual film itself. Fox (thankfully) decided to do away with the ridiculousness of the original movies with this one, re-setting the timeline and effectively wiping out anything that happened prior to First Class. I'm not the only X-fan to have heaved a huge sigh of relief over that decision. The movie does stand on it's own merits as well, with an awesome new slate of mutants added, some incredible FX (dat Quicksilver sequence!) and a great storyline. I cannot wait to see where the series goes with Apocalypse in 2016.
Why? Because eeeeeverything is awesome! This movie isn't just sweet and catchy and funny, but it also introduced an incredible new format for storytelling. Since February, there have been countless trailers, music videos and shorts created entirely in Lego. It's more than just novelty - there is a sense of the amount of skill behind it that leaves me breathless, along with a dash of nostalgia for my Lego-playing days. And of course, this film provided me with my spirit animal: Unikitty.
Hands down, my favorite movie of the year had to be this Marvel masterpiece about a rag-tag group of criminals-turned-heroes. One of the best elements of the movie for me was also that of surprise - who would have thought that a film starring a raccoon and a tree would do so well? Guardians had the perfect balance of humor, action and heart-warming goodness, all set to some of the most amazing scenery I have seen in a long time. I was so happy to see a comic book/action film not set in a big Earth city - it's such a refreshing change. Finally, this is the movie that opened up the cinematic Marvel universe in a big way - perfect.