These are my favourite movies of the year. As per usual, it’s based on what I’ve seen. So if a movie you liked isn’t on the list, I either haven’t seen it yet, or I didn’t think it was as good as you did. Note on the “Honourable Mentions” areas, those aren’t ranked. It just goes “This one guy was the best actor, but these other two turned out performances of note, too.”
TOP 10 FILMS OF THE YEAR:
Honourable mentions: The One I Love, Nightcrawler, Locke, Begin Again, This is Where I Leave You
- Birdman – There’s so much right with this film, that it’s so difficult to find something wrong with it. Michael Keaton gives a powerfully personal performance that’s as manic as it is brilliant. Alejandro González Iñárritu’s careful crafting of the film, with the help of his cinematographer, create a frantic atmosphere, even during the more intimate scenes.
- Gone Girl – I’ve long been a fan of David Fincher. There’s a quiet tension he builds, layer by layer, throughout the film that is right on the brink of boiling over, then explodes into another layer that keeps you right there with it. It’s one of the few films that made me utter an audible “Holy shit” once the credits rolled. Affleck’s renaissance has been a slower burn than the McConaughssance, but has been just as, if not more, fascinating.
- Whiplash – Despite aesthetic flaws and Damien Chazelle’s rookie mistakes behind the lens, his script delivers an engrossing film about passion and drive. Simmons and Teller each play to both of those notions, and are perfect counter points for each other. Highlighting the extremes different personalities will go to for what they love.
- Boyhood – Richard Linklater’s beautiful examination of growing up could have easily been overshadowed by the gimmick of shooting it over the course of 12 years, but it ends up working in the film’s favour. Because we get these short snippets each year, we’re given a whole story and wide scope of Mason’s journey from childhood to adulthood, but without the over-sentimentality that plagues coming-of-age dramas.
- Inherent Vice – Paul Thomas Anderson has such a meticulous eye and ear for characters that he fits everyone together like an intricate game of Tetris. The ensemble is magnificently anchored by Joaquin Phoenix, who brings a sense of reservation to an oddball character, which helps build the world of a 1940s film noir set in 1970, carefully bridging the worlds of the old-school squares and the new age hippies.
- The Theory of Everything – I was admittedly unimpressed with the trailer. It just looked like another stock bio-pic, not really offering much. But the film pleasantly surprised me with the strong performances from Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones, and the script deftly maneuvering between Hawking’s professional development and personal relationships, and how his fight with ALS affected both. And much like Boyhood, it narrowly dodges being overly saccharine in its depiction of the man’s life.
- How to Train Your Dragon 2 – 2010 was a turning point in animated films. It marked Pixar’s last year as the gold standard Toy Story 3. It was Disney’s return to greatness with Tangled. And it was the year that other studios finally started clearing that bar set by Pixar in animation. And no animated film was better that year than How to Train Your Dragon. HTTYD2 continues that grand tradition of being exquisitely animated and fully utilizing the capabilities of the technology by creating a fully engrossing and beautifully drawn world. The icing on the cake is an emotional, well written story that doesn’t pander to the audience.
- Chef – Where Michael Keaton was able to bring a personal touch to his performance in Birdman, Jon Favreau does the same as writer/director/star of Chef. While on its own, it’s an incredibly fun film that brings Favreau back to his small-scale roots after going big-budget studio for the first to Iron Man flicks, there’s a real sense of him working out his frustrations of being under a studio’s thumb. We as an audience are left with a film that’s a treat to watch and enjoy.
- Snowpiercer – A true rainbow coalition of production. A joint Korean/Czech production based on a French graphic novel with a predominantly American and British cast. It’s a well choreographed and shot action film that cuts deep into the post-apocalyptic sci-fi standard of last men standing. The contemplations on life after the world ends are quiet and thoughtful, mixed with explosive action sequences that make it a thoroughly enjoyable film.
- Guardians of the Galaxy – It’s just a tight, well done film. It has a lot of fun with its premise and characters, and James Gunn goes to town. Embracing the weirdness was this film’s strength, and everyone was on board. That’s the only way it was going to work. And it did. They fold you into the world they’ve created and you’re with the characters for the ride.
Best Action Films (non-comic/superhero):
- The Raid 2
- Edge of Tomorrow
- Guardians of the Galaxy
- Captain America: Winter Soldier
- X-Men: Days of Future Past
- The Grand Budapest Hotel
- St. Vincent
- Edge of Tomorrow
- Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
- How to Train Your Dragon 2
- The LEGO Movie
5 Worst Films of the Year (Absolute worst is #1)
- Trans4mers: Age of Extinction
- A Million Ways to Die in the West
- 300: Rise of an Empire
- Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit
Michael Keaton in Birdman
- Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything
- Tom Hardy in Locke
Rosamund Pike in Gone Girl
- Felicity Jones in The Theory of Everything
- Kristen Wiig in The Skeleton Twins
Best Supporting Actor:
JK Simmons in Whiplash
- Edward Norton in Birdman
- Ethan Hawke in Boyhood
Best Supporting Actress:
Emma Stone in Birdman
- Patricia Arquette in Boyhood
- Naomi Watts in St. Vincent
Best Ensemble Cast:
Guardians of the Galaxy
- The Grand Budapest Hotel
Alejandro González Iñárritu for Birdman
- David Fincher for Gone Girl
- Richard Linklater for Boyhood
Richard Linklater for Boyhood
- Alejandro González Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Armando Bo for Birdman
- Gillian Flynn for Gone Girl
Emmanuel Lubezki for Birdman
- Robert D. Yeoman for The Grand Budapest Hotel
- Kyung-pyo Hong for Snowpiercer
Jóhann Jóhannsson for The Theory of Everything
- Hans Zimmer for Interstellar
- Trent Reznor for Gone Girl
“Yellow Flicker Beat” by Lorde and Joel Little for Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1
- “Glory” by John Legend and Common for Selma
- “Everything Is AWESOME!!!” by Tegan & Sara, The Lonely Island and Mark Mothersbaugh for The LEGO Movie