Disclaimer: When I say 2014 I mean 2014. While there were a couple movies I saw in theatres in 2014 they only count toward 2013. These had to be released within this last year for them to qualify.
Disclaimer 2: I can only see so many movies in a single year. Please take this with a grain of salt as I likely didn't see a couple big names you were expecting or hoping to see here. At least not yet. That or I didn't like them as much as you did.
#5 - The Grand Budapest Hotel
Since first discovering the artsy brilliance of Wes Anderson through The Royal Tenenbaums and The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou I've been a fan. I still haven't seen all his movies but always enjoyed the ones I have. One would expect I would have been more excited for Grand Budapest to come out then but at first I wasn't very excited. Mostly because his movies tend to be samey. Good, but samey, which made me wonder if I would even enjoy it that much.
Well I should never doubt what Wes brings to the screen because I loved this movie so much it wound up here as one of my top choices of the year! The movie is undeniably charming with the always excellent performances seen in Wes Anderson movies. The setting is exotic, the story is exciting, classy, and delightfully filled with child-like wonder. But my favorite was toying around with the aspect ratios as it jumped from time period to time period.
My only complaint is they didn't spend enough time in the hotel itself... but I have a soft spot for old and fancy hotels so take it as you will.
#4 - Edge of Tomorrow
(Clover review here)
(Clover review here)
While not my favorite movie of the year, I would rank it as one of the biggest surprises of the year. I went to see this entirely on a whim regardless of it not catching my interest that much. I am thankful I went because this movie was definitely overlooked and is highly underrated.
I know it's been getting a little more attention now that it's on home video, but I cannot stress enough how cool, creative, and fun Edge of Tomorrow is. In an industry currently overrun by the same superhero movies and the same young adult novel adaptations, and where the go to sci-fi adventure is something like Guardians of the Galaxy, it's nice to see a fresh idea come to light.
While an adaptation in and of itself it comes from an obscure source material. Obviously you shouldn't let that stop you from seeing this. I'm not always into the most mainstream movies as you can see by this list. This is easily the most approachable and mainstream of anything in my top 5.
If you like action, wit, and having a good time with a creative plot and some nice twists then you absolutely need to see Edge of Tomorrow. Or as it's stupidly called on home video... Live/Die/Repeat... *sigh*
#3 - Interstellar
After falling in love with hard science/non fantasy Sci-Fi like 2001: A Space Odyssey and Tarkovsky's Solaris (not the 2002 remake with Clooney) it's hard to satisfy my want and need for similar films. So far Moon is the closest to equating to that experience. And Interstellar, while not satisfying me to the point I wished it would, still gave me one of the best experiences in theatres this year.
If you saw Interstellar in an IMAX theatre you'll know exactly what I mean. The visuals are brilliant in this epic adventure with a complex, yet comprehensible plot. The adventure is huge and has a lot of character. Despite some setbacks and silly plot choices it had me on the edge of my seat during the almost three hour run time. If anything I wanted it longer to flesh out some spots better. Still what I got was satisfactory.
I am looking forward to getting the blu-ray and cranking the volume to embrace the high def visuals and gorgeous soundtrack. Not everyone's cup of tea, but definitely worth a shot. An amazing experience none the less.
#2 - The Raid 2
When I saw the first Raid a couple years ago I was blown away. I instantly recognized it as one of the best actions movies ever made because of the level of constant excitement it invoked and the beauty in the action. So finding out there would be a Raid 2 I was leaps and bounds excited. Turns out this is the movie they director wanted to make in the first place. But due to lack of funds they made the first Raid on a smaller scale to set up the world and get support to make what eventually became The Raid 2.
Despite how great the first one was this doesn't come close to disappointing. It actually is an even better experience because of how fleshed out it is. It's a bigger story with more characters dealing with a bigger problem than a single raid in a single building on a single day. This is a big mafia story with action and excitement that goes beyond what the first did. Not as consistent in action due to the much longer time length, but exciting none the less.
By and large a foreign language action movie that kicked every American action movie's ass this year. That includes you, Marvel.
#1 - Boyhood
With all that said about those last four we come to one of the finest filmmaking achievements of this year and of this generation. Boyhood was shot over twelve years using all the same actors. The results are astounding, making it one of the most literal and accurate coming of age movies ever made.
Boyhood, while not able to relate to everyone, is incredibly relatable to most because it covers a lot of the problems that come with growing up. None of which is done in an overly sentimental way. It's all handled very well, brilliantly acted, and is definitely honest with how life goes in both the ups and down. I've read some reviews saying "there is no plot, it's about nothing" to which I respond by saying it's more accurate to real life because of that. Real life doesn't have a set plot, or necessarily a pay off we're all anticipating. And that's one of many reasons it's so great. Having pointless plot elements that never go anywhere mixed in with the intended story of growing up is a perfect example of it's realism.
Boyhood is an incredible rarity and was produced on a level no movie has ever done before. So much dedication to such a special project especially with the tiny, tiny budget it had. And, dammit, every minute pays off.
Honorable Mention: Foxcatcher
The reason this is an honorable mention section is because I saw it just last night and I want to let it sink in like the titles above have. Still... it could easily be a contender for one of the best films of the year.
This true story is about brother wrestlers Mark and Dave Schultz and their eccentric sponsor John du Pont training for the 1988 Olympics. From what I've heard this story delves into what happened leading up to John du Pont's arrest for murder, giving a back story otherwise only seen in the memoir Mark Schultz wrote, which was released around the same time of the film.
While the story itself will engage you, it's the characters that make you want event more. Mark Ruffalo is always fantastic so I wasn't too surprised by his performance. Steve Carell completely transforms into a bizarre and mysterious man of wealth and power. But Channing Tatum gives the most surprising performance, in the best role I've ever seen him play. He definitely steals the show even with how great his co-stars were.
I would easily watch this again and again, and coming from the same director as Capote and Moneyball, which are also great films, that should come as no surprise. It also has me interested in the original story outside of what was told here. Makes me want to pick up the book as well.