2014 has been a great year for film, rewarding cinephiles with more memorable cinematic experiences than they have been treated to in a good few years. This year has seen seasoned filmmakers like Wes Anderson and Jonathon Glazer produce some of their best work, while some of the years’ most impressive releases have come from exciting new directors such as Dan Gilroy and Jennifer Kent.
We’ve also witnessed an exciting change from the high-budget end of the cinematic spectrum. As we’ve come to understand, blockbuster selections aren’t usually spectacular works or even original to boot. Hollywood litters our multiplexes with big money remakes and sequels (Michael Bay once again being the worst offender with Transformers: Age of Extinction), and the usual 3 or 4 superhero movies. But this year has seen some of the smartest blockbusters Hollywood have released in a long time with Dawn of The Planet of The Apes, Interstellar and Edge of Tomorrow leading the pack. Below is a list, which, in my opinion, consists of the 10 best films of 2014 that were released in the UK between January and December. As always, film criticism is subjective, so feel free to comment at the bottom to suggest some gems we might have missed in our top 10 films of 2014 which you believe deserve an honorable mention.
Hayao Miyazaki purportedly ends his illustrious filmmaking career with the visually spectacular The Wind Rises. Miyazaki’s last feature is by far his most adult project; it also feels like the most personal film he has made, projecting himself into the lead role as a shortsighted dreamer whose imagination propels him above the rest. If this is truly to be Miyazaki’s last film, he has left us with a beautiful departing gift that is fitting for one of the most important figures in Japanese cinema.
This is the Dardenne brother’s first film since 2011 (The Kid with a Bike). It is an emotional story of a troubled woman facing the humiliation of begging her colleagues to vote for her in a ballot so she can keep her job. Keeping her job means the other workers will lose their bonus due to cutbacks. Anchored by an incredible central performance from Marion Cotillard, Two Days, One Night is possibly the most emotionally powerful piece of filmmaking the year has seen.
The horror genre has somewhat dwindled over the years with very few truly great horror films coming to the big screen. This generation of cinemagoers has become used to the style of horror that relies on a period of quiet followed by a jarring burst of energy. Few films scare the audience on a deeper level. However, this low budget Australian horror does something quite different. The film twists your expectations throughout before you realize what is actually at play.
A true atmospheric revenge thriller is what Jeremy Saulnier has managed to achieve with Blue Ruin. Saulnier proves to have a masterful touch when tackling the subject matter, making sure he doesn’t fall into the pitfalls of the genre. Glamorising violence is not what he wants to achieve. Instead, Saulnier looks at the consequences of the actions that are taken throughout the film, thus making his film one of the most responsible thrillers you are likely to see.
Jarmusch’s vampire romance is a film that oozes atmospheric moments, achieved by the brilliance of the editing, lighting and set design, which are all enhanced with the excellent electronic soundtrack. The dry humour here helps lighten some of the darker aspects of the film, while John Hurt, Mia Wasikowska, Tom Hiddleston, and, particularly, Tilda Swinton give incredibly stripped back performances in Jarmusch’s best film since Dead Man.
Wes Anderson’s eighth feature film is probably his most accessible to a mainstream audience whilst never turning away from what makes his films unique. The Grand Budapest Hotel is the funniest Anderson film to date, this is partly down to the superbly written script but also the most entertaining role Ralph Fiennes has embodied in his career. Fiennes’ character, M. Gustave, is a hero nobody will struggle to root for.
Dan Gilroy’s debut film as a director is a chilling look into the world of a psychopath, the media and a dark satire questioning our own moral responsibilities. Jake Gyllenhaal puts in a career-best performance as Lou Bloom, seemingly mixing traits from Robert De Niro’s Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver and Rupert Pupkin in The King of Comedy to horrifying effect. Nightcrawler is one of the most entertaining and deeply disturbing films you will see this year.
Coming off the impressive black comedy The Guard, McDonagh and Gleeson team up again for this dark and bitter film. Calvary follows a priest who continues to look after his flock even after he receives a death threat by one of his congregation. Gleeson dominates the screen with his emotionally provoking portrayal of a man of faith inhabiting a world where faith has been diminished.
Jonathan Glazer has produced a film that borders the line of masterpiece with his artistic sci-fi Under the Skin. The film centers on Scarlett Johansson, an alien whose true motives are an enigma (much like the rest of the film), she drives around Glasgow picking up men whilst struggling to understand the nature of the human soul. Johansson is spectacular in this stripped back role, proving to any doubters out there that she is much more than just an A-list celebrity. The uncertainty surrounding the story of Under the Skin only makes the film more fascinating. The film is uncomfortable viewing for most of the way; this feeling is helped along by one the most chilling scores in recent film history.
Richard Linklater’s 12 year project could have turned out to be a gimmicky piece of work that could have been a huge waste of time for its director. Instead, Boyhood proves to be a masterpiece that will stand the test of time as one of the most important films of the early 21st century. Linklater has the unique and overlooked ability to observe and realise the significance of the small events that make life as complicated as it is. The nostalgic element to Boyhood is its crowning glory, allowing the viewers to reflect on their own lives over the past 12 years. Boyhood is a triumph of cinema that gives us hope that truly great pieces of work are still being produced.
Got another suggestion for your top 10 films of 2014? Leave us a comment below.