End of Year Review – Part 3: The Top 20 Films of the Year (20-11)
Following on from our reviews of the best documentaries, and the worst films of the year, we move on to Part 3 of our year end review of 2014. We’ve compiled our list of the year’s best films and we’ll start by running down from 20-11 – there was a lot of competition this year, but ultimately these are what we’d regard as our favourites.
If you’d like to read our full reviews of any of these films, clicking on the titles will take you to them,
It’s a surprise to an extent that this Russian film about institutionalised corruption in Russia saw the light of day under Putin’s regime, but I’m glad that it did. Focusing on a corrupt mayor’s attempt to steal land through the legal system, this is a powerful David vs Goliath tale about a man crumbling under the weight of the systems around him. Winner of ‘Best Screenplay’ at Cannes, ‘Leviathan‘ is a stunning piece of cinema.
David Michod’s post-apocalyptic thriller is relentlessly grim as it imagines an Australia several years in the future after its economy has crashed. The stunning cinematography and terrific performances from Guy Pearce and Robert Pattinson (yes the very one) lead to a brilliant film about the dangers of a man with nothing left to lose.
One of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s final screen performances, ‘A Most Wanted Man’ is a tense thriller focusing on the intricate operations of ‘offbook’ spies stationed in Hamburg, Germany. The film uses detailed plotting and strong performances to build an absorbing and carefully measured thriller – a fine send off to Hoffman’s great career.
An ambitious epic from Christopher Nolan is always cause for excitement and with ‘Interstellar’, Nolan has crafted a magnificent piece of science fiction that successfully gets off the ground but doesn’t quite nail the landing. It falls down in the final 20 minutes as Nolan grasps for meaning that isn’t there, but it only distracts slightly from a terrific cinematic experience.
‘The Skeleton Twins’ is an American independent film about two twins who are reunited when they both attempt to commit suicide on the same day. From the morbid beginnings, this is an outstanding family drama that effectively balances comedy with the serious issues facing the characters. Keep an eye out for the terrific dance/singalong scene.
Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto won Oscar’s for their performances in this highly entertaining tale of the 1980’s aids battle, and its focus on Ron Woodruff (McConaughey), a hustler who started to fight back against the authorities and learned something about himself along the way.
Set in the Middle East, ‘Omar’ is a terrific film about a Palestinian freedom fighter tricked into collaborating with Israeli security forces. The film succeeds in showing the tensions on both sides , and provides a fascinating insight into the culture and politics of the region whilst showing the impact of the conflict on an individual level.
Likely to garner Benedict Cumberbatch his first Oscar nod, ‘The Imitation Game‘ is the story of wartime codebreaker Alan Turing, who cracked the Nazi enigma code before being prosecuted for being homosexual later in his life. The scenes at Bletchley during the war are terrific and whilst those set in childhood and after don’t resonate quite as powerfully, overall this is an excellent film about the efforts of a small group of people to save lives and end the war early.
Shot over a period of 12 years and capturing the journey of a 6 year old boy to an 18 year old teenager, ‘Boyhood’ is spectacularly made by director Richard Linklater (and his cast and crew). In my opinion, overpraised to an extent due to the process behind the film, but this is a minor complaint about a brilliantly moving film about the journey from child to adult that will resonate with all.
Following in the tradition of Great British working class movies such as ‘Brassed Off’ and ‘The Full Monty’, ‘Pride’ is an inspiring story about a group of LGBT activists who start to help a group of Welsh miners during the strikes in the 1980’s. Featuring a cast of excellent British thespians, ‘Pride’ is funny, moving and tells an important story, and it’s one of the year’s best.