Not unlike the last few, this year has been one marked by change: more films of every size and scope released on VOD, bigger movies (budget-wise) in theaters, and the somewhat-successful continuation of what feels like a countless numbers of franchises. And if the cinema of 2014 feels like a disappointing amount of “more of the same,” watch these films below to help remember how movies can, and should, be.
10. Edge of Tomorrow (Doug Liman)
In which Tom Cruise once again reminds us that he very well may be our last, great Hollywood movie star.
9. Force Majeure (Ruben Östlund)
The kind of comedy that Hollywood would never give any consideration or a second thought, Ruben Östlund’s biting breakdown of the family dynamic runs the tonal gamut to wondrous results.
8. Goodbye To Language (Jean-Luc Godard)
It feels like Jean-Luc Godard hasn’t had this much fun making movies in some time. Playing with 3D and digital, this auteur of auteurs announces he’s still one of the most innovative filmmakers around, even at the ripe age of 84.
7. Ida (Paweł Pawlikowski)
Paweł Pawlikowski’s film, currently streaming on Netflix, is beautifully composed and economically told. Running at just about 80 minutes, the writer-director does in, less than an hour-and-a-half, more than what most artists can do in a lifetime.
6. Locke (Steven Knight)
Tom Hardy in a car, staring down the double barrel of guilt and responsibility. Perhaps the best performance of the year.
5. Only Lovers Left Alive (Jim Jarmusch)
A Jim Jarmusch film in which Adam (Tom Hiddleston) and Eve (Tilda Swinton) are two vampires living out their laconic, intellectual days sometimes together but mostly apart, doing their best to ignore that big, bad question of immortality. In many ways it feels like the film Jarmusch was born to make.
4. Snowpiercer (Bong Joon-ho)
The best piece of entertainment this year, and with plenty of brains. A train races across the globe like a bullet, harboring the last of our species. Inside, the survivors are divided by socio-economic status: rich to the front, poor to the back. Chris Evans’ Curtis starts a revolution. We watch it unfold. Riveting. Unforgettable.
3. Boyhood (Richard Linklater)
Not much more needs to be said about Richard Linklater’s masterpiece. Shot over 12 years with the same cast, this film bottles that universal experience of adolescence without shoving anything down your throat. Featuring career-best performances from both Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke, the film once again reminds us that Linklater is one of the greatest American filmmakers working today.
2. Citizenfour (Laura Poitras)
Perhaps the most important film of the year, Laura Poitras’ documentary captures the immediate aftermath following Edward Snowden’s leak of top-secret NSA documents to the world. For the majority of its runtime, we are placed in a Hong Kong hotel room with Poitras, reporter Glenn Greenwald, and Snowden as they sift through as much information as they can while Snowden tells you that everything you feared about our government was (and is) very much true.
1. Under The Skin (Jonathan Glazer)
This magnificent sci-fi picture features a stunningly enigmatic performance from Scarlett Johansson, who plays an alien living (and hunting) on Earth. In only his third film, director Jonathan Glazer has elevated his game to a new level here, building something that’s both thought-provoking and emotionally devastating.