2014 was a great year for movies. There were some amazing films that will likely never be forgotten. However, please remember that, as a casual viewer, I haven't seen every movie that came out this year, and I missed out on a couple of good ones (Whiplash, Birdman, just to name a few). During 2014's final moments, let's begin with:
So, this movie was shot over the course of 12 years. A grand experiment in filmmaking, but that's not the reason why this movie is on this list. Yes, Ethan Hawke and the rest of the cast deliver splendid performances, but more importantly, this movie was the most realistic portrayal of life I have ever seen in film. By the end of this movie, Richard Linklater made me feel as if I had just absorbed memories of another person's life, and I was motivated to just start living. If you're a younger viewer, this movie was a glimpse into the future. If you're an adult, I'm sure this movie felt like reliving a life gone by, and that is the beauty of this film.
8. How to Train Your Dragon 2
Short disclaimer: Big Hero 6 is not on this list. I saw Big Hero 6, loved it, but didn't think it should be in the Top Ten. This movie, though? Holy crap. The visuals were simply stunning (Dude, that dragon totally just spun into a flaming wheel of death!) and the characters were as engaging as ever. The comedy in the film was also well placed, and the movie had its fair share of touching moments. All in all, this movie was bold, and enjoyable to boot.
7. Guardians of the Galaxy
In the words of Rocket Raccoon, "Oooooooh yeah". I was incredibly excited for this movie, and it did not disappoint. Great performances by entire cast, good action, and the most hilarious talking raccoon/tree duo to date. Sure, I wish Ronan could've been a more interesting villain, but that probably would've taken away from the time with the rest of the Guardians. How much did I love this movie? Well, I'm still listening to Awesome Mix, Vol. 1, so there.
6. The Imitation Game
I went into this movie expecting a great performance by Benedict Cumberbatch and a decently interesting biopic. What I got was the fascinating tale of Alan Turing, a person who I knew nothing about previously, and his struggle to crack a German code, but also to form relationships and survive in a society that made him an outcast in different ways. Keira Knightley had wonderful chemistry with Cumberbatch, and the rest of the codebreakers were all intriguing characters, especially Hugh. I had no idea what direction this film would go in, and boy was this movie a ride. Tense at some parts, clever at others, and sprinkled with emotion, this film is one that will have everyone Googling "Alan Turing".
Here's a film that caused quite a bit of controversy (especially over the ending). However, in my personal opinion, this film was fantastic. It might not have been as intriguing as The Prestige or The Dark Knight, but Christopher Nolan's bold steps and reverence for science are obvious. The visuals were simply astounding, as were the performances by McConaughey and Hathaway. The film had some incredibly emotional moments with regards to family, and the rest of the narrative is filled with tension. This movie worked for me on so many levels, combining my love for family themes and my curiosity towards astronomy and black holes. A great science fiction film with a lot of emphasis on the science, in my opinion.
4. X-Men: Days of Future Past
After watching this movie the first time, I actually went back and watched the first three X-Men movies and First Class. Of course, even though I hadn't seen any of the previous films, this movie by itself was simply astounding. What started off as an interesting premise also gave birth to a dramatic sequences with Xavier and Magneto, focused action scenes, and the unforgettable scene with Quicksilver. You know which one I'm talking about. Days of Future Past finally made me excited about the "other" MCU, and with a great film like this under its belt, I can only be that much more excited for Apocalypse.
3. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
APES. TOGETHER. STRONG. That quote may not have actually been in the movie (if it was, I think Koba said it), but it accurately sums up just how I felt about it. The CGI was incredibly realistic, and Matt Reeves definitely had some wonderfully creative action scenes (Dude, is that an ape, with machine guns, on a TANK?). More than that though, Andy Serkis gave an amazing performance as Caesar, and the entire movie was so tense and well constructed that I was on the edge of my seat, my spine electrified, the entire movie. This is, for sure, the Empire Strikes Back of the Apes franchise, and it's just as good.
2. Captain America; The Winter Soldier
Holy. Crap. Not only did this film flip the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe upside-down, but it had some of the greatest fight choreography I have ever seen. The scenes with Bucky and Cap were just so focused and well shot that I could not help but gasp. The film also had some great characters, including the new Anthony Mackie as Falcon, making it one of the best Marvel movies ever made. The plot had so much tension, likened to a political thriller, which made the film incredibly fun to watch. Also, me being a nerd, I couldn't help but love the introduction of Arnim Zola and THAT AFTER CREDITS SCENE.
Wait, there's a movie that topped Cap 2? Say what, you may ask. Well, this last one is more of a personal choice, and it has become my favorite movie of all time. The next one is:
1. The LEGO Movie
There are three things I absolutely love: smart humor, nerdy references, and LEGOs. I've played with LEGOs since I was a little kid and have never stopped since. Phil Lord and Chris Miller had so much reverence for the little plastic bricks (evident in the numbering used when the Master Builders build, or even when that one guy yelled "cheese slopes!"), and they brought with them a witty sense of humor. The movie also had a stellar cast, with Chris Pratt nailing the voice of Emmet and Will Arnett possibly being the greatest Batman in film history. Beyond the characters, visuals, and bricks though, this movie also had a very powerful message that everyone is truly special, a theme that resonated with me as I watched the unremarkable builder dude become the greatest Master Builder in history. Oh, and there's a spaceship. SPACESHIP!
That's my list, and right before 2014 ends, too. There are some highly anticipated films coming out next year, especially a little AWAKENING. J.J. Abrams, don't let me down now, buddy. Regardless, see you in the new year!