It’s that time of year again! I posted my worst of the year list yesterday so feel free to go and check that out. I’m going to repeat my criteria for what qualifies for this list here though. I’m not counting films that were re-released, only those that were in UK cinemas this year. So there may be one film that was technically released at the end of 2013, but I did not see it until 2014. Also, I haven’t seen every film that was released so I can only go by what I saw. I’m going to go through my list and then at the end I’ll talk about some of the films that narrowly missed out. I’ve reviewed all of these films too, so if you want to see a more in-depth discussion then you can go to my movie review page and check them out there.
#10 – Mandela: A Long Walk to Freedom
This is one that was released early on in the year and it just made the list, beating out a couple of other strong contenders. The thing that set it apart is that as well as being a good film it actually shed light on a period that I knew little about. I went with a friend, I’m in my late twenties and she’s in her early twenties. For both of us we’ve only known Mandela as the political leader, and although we’ve known about Apartheid it’s not something that has been explained in detail. I never knew about the role Winnie Mandela played, for example. So as well as being entertained by the film I was educated as well, and for that reason it made it on my list.
#9 – Nightcrawler
This is an absolutely absorbing film. I was engrossed from beginning to end. Gyllenhaal is captivating in his role and it’s one where at the beginning I sympathised with him and wanted him to succeed, but as the film progress I started to realize just how creepy and unhinged he is. It’s a very tense, gripping film that also leaves you feeling a little unsettled. In addition to this it had some commentary about how the news is presented to us and how the angle of the story can affect our perception of events.
#8 – Before I go to Sleep
When I saw the trailer I wasn’t too impressed. It seemed fairly standard and the trailer felt long, like it gave too much away. A couple of friends had read the book and urged me to go and see it, and I like Nicole Kidman and Colin Firth anyway so I figured I had nothing to lose, and I am glad I did because this film is great. At the time of writing I’ve seen just over 2700 films, and when you’ve seen that many you start to see certain patterns in films and things become easier to predict. This one took me by surprise and I honestly didn’t know what was going to happen. Incredibly tense, paced perfectly, the performances were pitch perfect and it’s just fantastic.
#7 – Fury
I’m a bit of a sucker for war films but this is one of the better ones of recent years. Tank warfare is something that hasn’t been explored too often so it had a different perspective than a typical war movie. The actors had good chemistry and the atmosphere was brutal. It was so good that I felt immersed in the film, almost as if I was right there with them. I felt like it captured the essence of all the best war films.
#6 – What If
Romantic comedies are a favourite genre of mine and I particularly enjoy those which play around with the usual formula a bit. In this one Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan had such great chemistry together, but I liked how she wasn’t just there to be something for him to try and get. Both of them felt like characters in their own right. I also appreciated how her boyfriend wasn’t made out to be a complete jerk, rather it was just that circumstances changed, which made the situation messier. It felt authentic and it’s just one of those films that just works.
#5 – Edge of Tomorrow
I’m a huge fan of Tom Cruise and I think when he does sci-fi it usually leads to an enjoyable film. This one felt inventive and I loved how it felt like a video game. Watching all the different ways to die was amusing but I liked the general concepts and the effects of the aliens, who really did feel alien. Hugely enjoyable film.
#4 – American Hustle
This was technically released in 2013 but I saw it in January of 2014 so I’m counting it as eligible. As soon as I finished watching it I declared that it was going to be in my top ten of the year, although I wasn’t prepared for just how many great films would come out. David O. Russell is becoming one of my favourite directors. I love the way he blends in different genres. His films flow beautifully and all of the cast were on top form. It was such a blast to watch.
#3 – Interstellar
The trailer for this was very misleading and didn’t help to sell the film. I was enraptured by it. My eyes were welling up at various parts of the movie and even though I found some of it to be predictable this felt like a love letter to humanity’s curiosity and need to explore. Spiritually it felt in the same vein as Star Trek and it struck all the right notes with me. I didn’t expect it to affect me so strongly but I felt my soul swell while watching this.
#2 – Captain America: The Winter Soldier
I love superheroes and of the current Marvel Cinematic Universe Captain America is my favourite. This one had everything, it kept the wholesome core of Captain America’s character but the whole movie had an edge to it. The twist took me completely by surprise and it had me and my friends talking for ages. The action sequences were dynamic and it was just an incredible move that took the MCU in a whole new direction. But even as a standalone movie it works really well and stays true to the character, which is an important thing I look for in my superhero movies.
#1 – X-Men: Days of Future Past
Yes, as soon as I finished watching this I pretty much knew it was going to be my favourite film of the year. I feel like X-Men have been lost in the shuffle and DOFP wasn’t talked about as much as Cap 2, Spider-Man or Guardians of the Galaxy. But I love this film so much. I love how the two timelines work together. The future looks dark and depressing, and we get to see them suffer brutal deaths, which is something that you don’t usually get to see in superhero films. It reminded me of the Order 66 montage in Revenge of the Sith but ramped up a few levels. Fassbender is amazing as Magneto. I just love watching him. And then you have Jackman, Lawrence, McAvoy, Hoult, Stewart…man, there’s so much talent packed into this film. Despite all of those people it’s probably Quicksilver who steals the show, and who could have predicted that?! It was such an ambitious film that could easily have fallen apart but it held together and made it to the top of the list.
Since my top two films were comic book movies you might be wondering why Guardians of the Galaxy didn’t make the list, especially because it beat out both of them in the box office. I did consider putting it on because I enjoyed it a lot and it was the toughest decision to leave it out but when I looked at it as a whole the two big flaws pulled it down. I didn’t like that the villain had little motivation, but the biggest one was the false tension at the climax. I hate it when films have a character do something dramatic when we all know that it’s not going to stick. It feels like it’s a manipulative effort to force an emotional reaction and it strips the moment of any drama or tension, so as much as I enjoyed it I couldn’t quite put it above the others, but it was very close.
Other films that came close were How To Train Your Dragon 2, The Fault in Our Stars, 22 Jump Street, and Paddington. It was a tough list to put together because I enjoy all of these films and overall I think it was a pretty good year for movies. I mentioned at the top that it was a blockbuster-heavy year but now I’m thinking about next year and that might be even more filled with big releases. We’ll have to wait and see whether they live up to the hype.
So those are my favourite films of the year. Agree? Disagree? Sound off in the comments!