2014 was an excellent year for moviegoers. There were a lot of great movies to see, movies that were actually worth seeing, and movies of substance. This was also a year of surprises; I didn’t expect to like some films that I did.
Here is my top ten list for this year.
Legendary Pictures / Warner Bros. Pictures
Writer: Max Borenstein (based on a story by David Callaham and the character by Toho, Ltd.)
Director: Gareth Edwards
I never liked any of the Godzilla movies. None. They were simply too fake to warrant any suspension of disbelief. I’ve never understood why these films were so popular.
Gareth Edwards and his crew have done a great job giving dramatic and literal weight to this seminal movie monster. As fantastical as it may seem, never does it not seem real. We see the gritty and horrifying trail of destruction these monsters leave in their wake.
9. The LEGO Movie
Warner Bros. Pictures / Village Roadshow Pictures
Writers: Phil Lord and Chris Miller (based on a story by Lord, Miller, Dan Hageman and Kevin Hageman, and inspired by LEGO Construction Toys)
Directors: Phil Lord and Chris Miller
Both fun and brilliant. The attention to detail given to the animation and the world-building was nothing short of astonishing. Simple things like the purposefully blocky movements of the characters and the use of LEGOs for explosions and other effects was not lost on me, and I ate up every bit of it.
The film’s clever script hides some great themes about order and chaos, fathers and sons, and even our relationship with God and the nature of Satan.
Writer: David Ayer
Director: David Ayer
This was one of the best war films I have seen in a while, probably ever. Fury explores a side of WWII that hasn’t really been seen. Ayer’s direction also gives us a look into the cramped, claustrophobic world of tank warfare. It also depicts the genuine realities of war, and its effects on the soldiers who fight it.
Because of the sin nature of men, war is one of the things we must contend with in this world. This film is a reminder that, as much as we would like to not have war, there will always be aggressors that must be fought. It may be a bit arrogant of us to judge these heroes 70-plus years after the fact, when the world would have been a much different place had they not fought these battles.
7. Guardians of the Galaxy
Writers: James Gunn and Nicole Perlman (based upon the comic book by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning)
Director: James Gunn
With Guardians, Marvel has made a successful transition from the more realistic, earth-bound stories of The Avengers to the outlandish cosmic universe.
This movie was one of the most fun Marvel movies made so far. Part Star Wars, part Beetlejuice, part Buck Rogers. All of these seemingly dissonant parts (including the director, whom I don’t usually care for) just worked, even with a talking raccoon.
6. Big Hero 6
Walt Disney Animation Studios
Writers: Jordan Roberts, Dan Gerson and Robert Baird (based on the comic by Man of Action)
Directors: Don Hall and Chris Williams
I was probably one of the only people on the planet who didn’t care for Frozen. However, redemption came just a year later with this awesome movie.
My favorite aspect of Big Hero 6 was the relationship between Hiro and Baymax. It was so real and quite funny. The film’s themes center on revenge and forgiveness, which I thoroughly enjoyed.
5. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
Warner Bros. / New Line Cinema / MGM
Writers: Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson and Guillermo Del Toro (based upon the book by J.R.R. Tolkien)
Director: Peter Jackson
A tremendous conclusion to The Hobbit trilogy. Despite what others have said, I really didn’t mind the length of these films, or the elements Peter Jackson and his crew added to the story. Middle-earth is a rich and wonderful place in which I want to spend time. These films are a fit companion to The Lord of the Rings trilogy.
What I appreciated the most was Jackson and company’s painstaking ability to fit this movie in the continuity of The Lord of the Rings. Even the title cards remained the same.
4. How to Train Your Dragon 2
DreamWorks Animation / 20th Century Fox
Writer: Dean DeBlois (based on the book series by Cressida Cowell)
Director: Dean DeBlois
I really didn’t expect to like this movie as much as I did. The first one was just okay. The animation was subpar and the story was a little preachy for my taste. However, this film took all of the bad things about the first, improved them, and then enhanced all of the good things.
How to Train Your Dragon 2 had a lot of emotional depth. There were family dynamics, themes about loyalty and leadership – excellent springboards for good conversation.
Universal Pictures / Legendary Pictures
Writers: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen, Richard LaGravenese and William Nicolson (based upon the book by Laura Hillenbrand)
Director: Angelina Jolie
I hail from Torrance, California, and the story of Louis Zamperini was instilled in me from a young age. I even heard him speak on many occasions during my basic education, and I never stopped enjoying it. Angelina Jolie beautifully captured the look, feel and emotion of this amazing story.
The only thing that kept this film from being absolutely wonderful (and probably higher on my list) was that it stopped in the middle of the story. Zamperini’s redemption through Jesus Christ was glossed over, which was a real disservice to the film’s themes of true survival and hope of forgiveness.
2. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
20th Century Fox
Writers: Mark Bomback, Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver (based on characters created by Jaffa and Silver, and on the book La Planete des Singes by Pierre Boulle)
Director: Matt Reeves
Simply brilliant. Thought-provoking science-fiction at its best. All of these characters were beautifully realized, especially the apes. It was emotionally-charged story that kept my attention from beginning to end.
This film had a great message; something important to say about the nature of man and sin. Please read my review of this film from earlier this year for more insight.
1. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Writers: Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeeley (based upon the comic book character by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby)
Directors: Anthony Russo and Joe Russo
My love for Captain America runs deep, so this is probably a biased placement. However, I don’t care. This film was brilliant on so many levels. It was a celebration of the character of Captain America and a dramatic and clever turn for the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
The Russo brothers proved themselves to be very capable action directors. The action sequences are worth the price of admission alone; very cleverly staged and shot using honest-to-goodness practical sets, for the most part. Moreover, there’s a genuine sense of menace and dread to these scenes.
In my review for The Winter Soldier, I outlined the clear spiritual parallels promoted by the themes of the film.
Here’s to an even better 2015. Based on the slate of movies coming in the next few months, it’s going to be a great year! I’m particularly looking forward to Disney/Pixar’s Inside Out and (of course) The Avengers: Age of Ultron.
What are you looking forward to in 2015?