As Oscar Sunday rolls around once again, it’s time for my annual list of the 25 best movies of the year. Part one of the list counts down from 25 to 11, and part two (to be posted shortly) encompasses my top ten. Lists like this are pretty arbitrary by their nature, so feel free to comment, to agree or disagree. Without furthur ado, here are the best movies of 2014.
25. Le Chef
This little French gem features Jean Reno as a famous Parisian chef who hires a protege (Michael Youn) incapable of taking direction. Light as a souffle but very entertaining. Read my original review here.
24. I Origins
Michael Pitt stars as a biologist who studies the evolutionary origins of eyes. It’s impossible to say more without getting into spoiler territory, but this indie deftly marries science and spiritualism in a beautiful love story.
23. Jodorowsky’s Dune
This documentary chronicles experimental filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky’s failed attempt to adapt Frank Herbert’s Dune in the 1970’s, a project so ambitious and surreal that no studio would touch it. A must for film geeks and sci-fi buffs alike, particularly the revelation that without this aborted project there would be no Alien or Star Wars.
22. Dom Hemingway
This British crime caper in the Guy Ritchie vein stars Jude Law as the titular character, a low level hood just out of prison. Law gives what may be the performance of his career; he is at turns hilarious, menacing, and brilliantly crass. Read my original review here.
21. The Lego Movie
Easily the most pleasant surprise of the year, The Lego Movie is that rare “kid movie” that entertains both adults and children alike. It’s funny, visually inventive, and doesn’t hit you over the head with its positive message.
20. The Babadook
This Australian import about a widow and her fragile, young son and the monster that invades their home in the pages of a book is the best horror movie I saw last year. Check out my original review here.
19. A Most Wanted Man
This spy thriller stars Philip Seymour Hoffman as a German operative in post-9/11 Hamburg. This John le Carre adaptation is as bleak as they come, but Hoffman is excellent in his last starring role.
With this backwoods thriller, David Gordon Green regains his credibility as a director and Nicolas Cage reminds us what a fantastic actor he can be when the material is worthy of his talent. Cage stars as Joe, an ex-con who befriends a teenager (Tye Sheridan) with a brutal, alcoholic father. Understated and poignant.
A movie with one visible actor, unfolding in real time, and taking place almost entirely inside a BMW sedan sounds like an insane stunt. It’s certainly that, but thanks in no small part to Tom Hardy’s performance, Locke has more suspense than most Hollywood thrillers.
David Ayer’s World War II flick is a visceral experience in every sense of the word. Brad Pitt and a supporting cast that includes Logan Lerman and Shia LaBeouf elevate what is essentially a throwback to the old “men on a mission” movies like The Dirty Dozen and Where Eagles Dare.
15. The Trip to Italy
Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon star as slightly skewed versions of themselves on a gastronomic tour of Italy. Come for the hilarious Michael Caine impersonations, stay for the poignant explorations of existential angst. Read my original review here.
14. Under the Skin
Under the Skin is one of the weirdest, most ambiguous and challenging science fiction films you’ll ever see, but definitely worth the effort; imagine Species as an art film. Scarlett Johansson’s performance as a beautiful but deadly alien is unlike anything she’s done.
13. The Theory of Everything
The Theory of Everything doesn’t stray too far from standard biopic territory, but the incredible performances by Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones as Stephen and Jane Hawking are worth the price of admission.
12. Guardians of the Galaxy
Popcorn doesn’t get much tastier than Marvel’s sci-fi comedy adventure about a band of intergalactic misfits fighting to save the universe. As Peter Quill aka Star-Lord, Chris Pratt announces himself as a bona fide movie star.
Christopher Nolan swings for the fences with this epic about man’s first hesitant steps into the cosmos. It falls a bit short of its ambitions, but stunning visuals and a great performance from Matthew McConaughey almost make it a classic. Almost. Read my original review here.
Stay tuned for the top ten movies of 2014.