Retrospective: Best Movies of 2014

Those of you who read me regularly know that I like to try to understand myself through introspection. That’s why I decided to do this.

I don’t think I had a record of what I thought were the best movies of 2014 in 2014 or 2015, so I don’t have a way to compare, but if I make this a yearly thing, I’ll catch up at some point and then I’ll see how much my thinking actually changes. I’m getting older, so 10 years might not be that much anymore, but I feel it is still enough.

This year was when MCU was at it’s peak. Avengers was two years old and the second Avengers movie was coming up next year. So, when the number one film for this year wasn’t actually an MCU film, but a Transformers sequel, which I’ve never seen, which also was the 10th biggest hit of all time at the time, but has since fallen to 34th place. This is kind of surprising here in 2024. Actually, even the final Hobbit movie made more money this year than the highest-grossing superhero movie. On the other hand, there was actually four superhero movies in the top ten, including the X-Men film that brought together the cast of the pseudo-reboot First Class and the original mainline series into Days of Future Past, the second Captain America movie (Winter Soldier) and The Amazing Spider-Man 2, that last one being a sign of oversaturation.

Other major releases included the Paul Thomas Anderson movie Inherent Vice, Interstellar, the second movie in the new(est) Planet of the Apes series (I learned yesterday that Burton’s version is still the biggest box office draw, when taking inflation into account, weirdly enough), Boyhood (which I still feel was just boring), John Wick found his way onto the screen for the first time, Tom Cruise starred in Edge of Tomorrow (which is getting a sequal apparently) and the beloved Paddington. Birdman won the Oscars and Lego Movie brought together generations to play again (I would like to think).

Other movies of note, meaning I would like to bring up, include Florence Pugh’s screen debut The Falling, It Follows (which is sort of number 11 here), What We Do in the Shadows, which gave us Taika Waititi, The Voices, which is the kind of movie that wouldn’t fit Ryan Reynolds’ current brand at all, a part of the Benson & Moorhead universe in the form of Spring, Song of the Sea from a great little animation studio you should look into, Frank (you know, Frank), Ryan Gosling’s widely panned, but actually pretty good attempt at directing (The Lost River), coincidentally Girlhood by Celine Sciamma, which is much better than the male version in my mind, Space Station 76, which most people will just get bored with, the sequel to Raid, a pretty good NZ horror comedy called Housebound, a Quentin Dupieux flick called Reality, Roy Andersson’s third movie after his return to directing called En duva satt på en gren och funderade på tillvaron, The Guest, first social media horror film, Unfriended, Boulevard, one of Robin Williams’ last starring roles, The Interview (if anyone still remembers that whole fiasco), and Starry Eyes.

… and then there were these movies (meaning I’m finally moving onto the actual list):

Ex Machina by Alex Garland

While Garland’s output since this directorial debut has not been as good as it was before, but this is, for me, one of the all-time great sci-fi movies (depending a little on how you define sci-fi, but it definitely up there with Children of Men, Akira, Metropolis and Fury Road). It’s one of those movies you can watch again and again, but the reason for this is that you’ll find new perspectives on feminism and AI (together and separately). Everyone should definitely take a look at the Shuan video on this topic.

Gone Girl by David Fincher

While I’m not as high on Fincher as I used to be, the movie still appeals to me. There’s something cathartic in the way bad people make their lives miserable both for themselves and for those around them.

Babadook by Jennifer Kent

Another great debut, but this time I do think her next movie is actually much better, even though this is definitely a modern classic. This has one of the all time great horror endings: You never fully get rid of your trauma. At best you can learn to live with it.

Nightcrawler by Dan Gilroy

Okay, so… was this just a particularly dark year for movies? Also, another directorial debut.

Anyhow, this is one of those things where “protagonist” does not equal “hero”. Nowhere close in fact. Our protagonist is just manipulative and completely without remorse. At the same time, how much of that is his fault and how much is the fault of the late-stage capitalism that forced Bloom into his current situation?

Plemya or The Tribe by Myroslav Slaboshpytskyi

A lesser known movie from Ukraine. It’s about a deaf teenager, who joins a school for deaf kids. Turns out, when these kids are left on their own without too much supervision, they get up to all sorts, so our hero needs to find his place among all the criminal gangs.

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night by Ana Lily Amirpour

Hey, another feature directorial debut. She also appears in the film as the stunt double in the skateboarding scenes, which was probably easy enough, as the only skateboarder is the female lead, who is fully covered as Iranian women generally are.

Vampires get lonely too. While the title of the movie implies some kind of vulnerability, she definitely isn’t that. Instead she’s kind of the protector of the weak. The movie in itself explores the concept of a vampire from a point of view of a small village in Iran (although it was shot in California for a budget of less than $60k, which you would never guess).

Pride by Matthew Warchus

Bill Nighy, one of my favorite actors, has stated that this is his favorite of all the movies he has acted in. It’s about a group of gay activists, who decide that they need to help the mining towns that are suffering under Thatcher’s policies. While there are obstacles, there’s a nice tag at the end of real-world footage of the miners marching at the front of a Pride parade some years later.

Relatos salvajes or Wild Tales by Damián Szifron

Another international film, this time from Argentine (although, admittedly, I’m kind of disappointed that so many of the films on this list are English language).

This is one of those few anthology movies that actually works. I mean, how many anthology movies are there in the IMDb top 250? I did not check, but can’t think of any other. To me, the black comedy just works.

The Duke of Burgundy by Peter Strickland

Because I’m not internally consistent, I’ve given this the highest rating of any Strickland movie I’ve seen, even though I like Flux Gourmet much more (yes, I could change the rating, but the problem is that I would like to see the dates of the ratings as well, so changing the rating will change the original date I saw the movie). Still, this is a great movie, although I tend to like Strickland’s movies much more than the public at large (although critics tend to agree with me).

It’s about a lesbian couple and the power-disparity in their relationship. It won the Weirdest Actress award at the Weirdcademy awards 2015.

Whiplash by Damien Chazelle

I was under the impression that this was yet another directorial debut, but that’s not true. Chazelle had made a movie five years prior, even if no-one actually saw it.

I know this is a widely beloved movie, but it does hit at home just a little bit, because I am a teacher. I do like to think that I’m much more understanding and encouraging then the teacher in this movie, but at the same time I have to remember that the things that might seem trivial to me can feel very important to the students (like grades, for example). There is a power imbalance I need to understand. So, I just vent my frustrations with the job upwards rather than downwards.

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