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Amanda Waltz’s Top 10 Films of 2014

Written by on December 31, 2014 

5. Guardians of the Galaxy (James Gunn)

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What’s so great about the big-screen adaptation of one of Marvel’s more obscure properties is that director James Gunn turned it into the kind of movie he wants to see. The often-hilarious space opera about a band of misfit heroes recalls the adventurous spirit of Lucas and Spielberg’s golden age, when Star Wars and Indiana Jones reigned supreme. Defined by thrilling battle sequences and pitch-perfect casting (see pro wrestler Dave Bautista‘s amusing turn as Drax), the work is definitely one of the most satisfying viewing experiences I’ve had in years.

4. The Babadook (Jennifer Kent)

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Filmmaker Jennifer Kent‘s scary surprise hit packs a hell of a punch with imaginative visuals and visceral sound design. It also features two powerhouse performers in Essie Davis and child actor Noah Wiseman, who bring a jarring intensity to their roles. (When Davis’s cornered single mother unleashes a primal scream, every hair on my body stood on end.) More importantly, it’s one of the most terrifying depictions of quiet desperation ever committed to film, and therefore a welcome addition to the realm of quality horror.

3. The Tale of the Princess Kaguya (Isao Takahata)

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As one of the latest (and possibly last) Studio Ghibli releases, Isao Takahata‘s vision of an ancient Japanese folktale adds to a long list of distinguished anime triumphs. While computer-generated animation strives to look real, the hand-drawn Kaguya feels alive with its minimalist sound design and painterly style, which makes it all the more affecting and beautiful.

2. Under the Skin (Jonathan Glazer)

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Scarlett Johansson positively nails her role in Jonathan Glazer‘s horrific sci-fi piece, which follows a comely predatory alien who suddenly becomes vulnerable in an unfamiliar human world. With a reliance on visuals instead of dialogue, each chilling, slow-burning scene speaks to universal fears of abandonment, loneliness, and death. The haunting portrait of isolation stands as one of the year’s most uncompromising films.

1. The Guest (Adam Wingard)

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I could say plenty about the latest collaboration from director Adam Wingard and writer Simon Barrett. I could explain its fresh, contemporary spin on testosterone-fueled 80s-era action thrillers. I could elaborate on its sexy visuals, its pulsating soundtrack, and its unrelentingly cool style. I could most certainly drool over Dan Stevens‘ transformation into a hot and dangerous super solider. But mostly I just want to say, “Holy shit, this movie!”

See our year-end features and more of the best of 2014.

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