My top 10 (or 12) films of 2014

Let me explain my title

Two of my top 10 films of 2014 were seen very early in the year, but had already been on wide release in just about every other country apart from the UK in 2013.  So by the time I saw them, they had already taken their plaudits, appeared on many published ‘Best of’ lists for 2013, and been Oscar nominated, so on that basis it feels like they don’t belong in my list.

However, technically, they do. Therefore I’m allowing myself a top 12 this year so that I can do justice to a couple of other films which shouldn’t be overlooked.

Click on the film title to see a longer opinion, and if you’re interested in all my 2014 films ranked in order, you’ll find the list here. The top 12 and bottom 5 are in order, but the stuff in between is more of a general reflection than anything precise.

Number 10 – ’71

Very impressive and tense story of a young soldier who gets left behind in a Catholic part of Belfast in 1971 when his battalion’s activity goes wrong. Jack O’Connell makes sure that we’re rooting for the young soldier with a convincing performance.

Number 9 – The Imitation Game

Suppressed and repressed Benedict Cumberbatch cracks the Enigma code and shortened the war. I know many feel this only scratches the surface of the complexities of Alan Turing (or maybe scratches the wrong surface), but this film finally made me realise what a talent Cumberbatch is.

Number 8 – Locke

A film about a man driving to London at night while discussing concrete shouldn’t be this good. But when that man is Tom Hardy, there is nothing to worry about.

Number 7 – Pride

Uplifting, sad, full of energy and nostalgia all at once, this really hit a spot – had me laughing and crying all at once.

Number 6 – Nightcrawler

Creepy, insincere and manipulative Jake Gyllenhaal goes to extraordinary lengths to record crime on LA’s streets and sell it to 24 hour news channels. Dark, tense and twisted, this is great viewing.

Number 5 – In Bloom

Two teenage girls find themselves growing up before their time in the civil-war affected Georgia of the 1990s – an absorbing watch.

= Number 4 – Who is Dayani Cristal?

Gael Garcia Bernal mixes the tireless work of a handful of Americans in identifying the hundreds of corpses of illegal migrants retrieved annually from the Arizona desert with Bernal himself, following the route of so many would-be migrants, starting from a village in Central America as they head north in search of meagre economic rewards.

= Number 4 – Her

One of my  ‘2013’ picks. Separated Man buys Operating System. Man and Operating System begin to form a deep relationship. No-one bats an eyelid. The near-future setting is close enough to reality to make it all seem eminently possible, and it’s not an oppressive future – it’s bright, friendly, and beautifully shot.

Number 3 – Frank

Even though Michael Fassbender spends most of this film with his own head stuck in a polystyrene one, this is a remarkable performance. A quite touching portrayal of mental illness, with a heartbreaking final scene which proves just how good Fassbender is.

Number 2 – Ida

You could freeze-frame at any point during this film and the result would be a beautiful photograph. Ida and Poland emerge from their past in stunning black & white.

= Number 1 – 12 Years a Slave

The second ‘2013’ film. Director Steve McQueen has taken this difficult story and made it work on-screen. The beauty of the photography contrasts with the ugliness of the behaviour, and we are compelled to watch brutal scenes because they matter.

= Number 1 – Under The Skin

Scarlett Johansson is an alien prowling the streets of Glasgow in a white transit van, and is totally mesmerising. Beautiful, strange and seductive, it made me look at people through the eyes of an alien as I left the cinema. Amazing soundtrack, too.

Agree or disagree? Let me know – would love to know your top films of the year! You can find the whole list of 2014 films I saw this year ranked here on Letterboxd.

My least favourite films of 2014

For the last few years, I’ve called this list ‘The Worst Films I’ve Seen’. But as I generally choose not to see things which I know will irritate me (eg anything with Jim Carrey) or genres such as horror, then the films below are usually more of a disappointment than anything. Usually.

Click the links to read immediate reactions.

Number 5 The Zero Theorem

Tried really hard to like this, but just left me feeling nothing at all.

Number 4 – Transcendence

Hugely anticipated – massively disappointing. Tells you the end at the very beginning, Johnny Depp bores, and Morgan Freeman plays Morgan Freeman.

Number 3 – The Wolf of Wall Street

Difficult to enjoy a film where the main character looks directly at you and dismisses your intelligence with “you wouldn’t understand”. After three hours of Leo, it’s McConnaughey’s short appearance that is the lasting memory.

Number 2 – Mistaken for Strangers

Self-indulgent and manipulative.  I had to watch this 75 minute film in two sittings as the characters were just unbearable.

Number 1 – Mrs. Brown’s Boys D’Movie

Rancho Notorious, you have a lot to answer for. You made me go. I wasted the price of a bottle of wine and an hour and half of my life on this. And I’m not sure I will ever, ever forgive you. Ever.

Yi dai zong shi – The Grandmaster

The version I saw was the shorter, edited-down version, which was the only cinema choice we have been offered in the UK (thanks, Mr Weinstein). While I enjoyed this film, (and perhaps the re-edited version does make it more accessible for someone like myself who has little knowledge of kung fu or Chinese history), I now want to see the original longer version to fully make my mind up.

But there’s no mistaking that it is ‘un film de Wong-Kar Wai’, with its beautifully choreographed martial arts scenes, the wonderful Tony Leung, and that constant sense of longing for something that’s missing.