10. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Captain America has long been one of my favorite Marvel characters, and the cast assembled for this one was amazing on paper (from underrated character actor Frank Grillo to the legendary Robert Redford). However, what really carried this film was some of the most assured direction yet in the MCU from the Russo brothers.
Whiplash does for jazz what Black Swan did for ballet. Turn a film about a very niche art form into one of the most thrilling films you will ever see.
Neighbors was a fun film with a lot of laughs, but people often overlook that this is a film with something to say about marriage, growing up and gender roles.
7. Gone Girl
With an incredible script that has a lot on its mind from Gillian Flynn, Fincher delivers one of his best films yet as his direction brings out the best from a loaded ensemble.
6. Under the Skin
With a minimalist plot, Under the Skin had to standout in others areas, and wow did it do that. The film perfectly captures the beauty of the Scotland landscape, and Scarlett Johansson delivers a career best performance in this tale about human loneliness.
5. Guardians of the Galaxy
I forget the last time I laughed as much in a theater as I did with Guardians of the Galaxy. It was a perfect blockbuster. It was fun, had interesting new visuals, had a great set of characters (Rocket Raccoon! Groot!), and gave us a new star in Chris Pratt.
At first Locke may seem like a gimmick, but it overcomes that with a tense atmosphere and a truly impressive performance from Tom Hardy. In terms of theme it feels like it’s borrowing as much from Shakespeare as it is from George R.R. Martin, which is certainly an interesting mix.
I think we may have a new American classic on our hands in Foxcatcher despite the cold shoulder it has received in many areas over the past few months. Coming across as an allegory for American foreign policy, the film has a lot to say about America, and top-notch direction from Bennett Miller (quietly becoming one of the great voices in cinema today) makes sure it is all handled well. As a story of the American dream gone wrong it is certainly a more subtle and interesting effort than Nightcrawler.
2. Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
As a defense of the independent filmmaking process, Birdman makes an incredible case for why filmmakers should still take risks and try new things. The film has a “throw everything at the board and see what sticks” mindset, and, yet, the film mostly succeeds through this process. Crazy ideas such as having the film take place mostly inside one tracking shot or having a final act that comes straight out of a Kubrick or Malick film not only work but also enhance the film.
Boyhood is the crowning achievement of Richard Linklater’s career and is a true masterpiece. It combines his liking for an experimental style (the idea of shooting a narrative film over the course of twelve years is unprecedented) and his love for philosophizing on life (like everything else in the film it feels so naturally fit in) while delivering a truly one of a kind experience. Never has film felt so real.