Top 25 Films | The Best of 2014

Since we just missed the cutoff of launching the Bit Players at the end of last year, we wanted to post what we considered to be our year-end roundup of 2014 in film. There were tons of amazing films and performances to choose from, and it was hard to narrow down to a consensus, but we managed to do that by the end. Inside you will find the best films, best male performances, best female performances, best directors, most overrated films, most underrated films, worst films, and the best scenes of the year, as well as our individual ballots if you want to see where all of these selections came from. Enjoy, and we look forward to a great year of watching film together along with you in 2015.

Since we just missed the cutoff of launching the Bit Players at the end of last year, we wanted to post what we considered to be our year-end roundup of 2014 in film. There were tons of amazing films and performances to choose from, and it was hard to narrow down to a consensus, but we managed to do that by the end. Inside you will find the best films, best male performances, best female performances, best directors, most overrated films, most underrated films, worst films, and the best scenes of the year, as well as our individual ballots if you want to see where all of these selections came from. Enjoy, and we look forward to a great year of watching film together along with you in 2015.

The Theory of Everything
25. The Theory of Everything
Director
James Marsh
Stars
Eddie Redmayne
Felicity Jones
Tom Prior


I went from being unimpressed to very impressed with Eddie Redmayne when I watched this movie. His portrayal of the transformation of pre-ALS to current Stephen Hawking is incredible and heartbreaking. Combine that with a great love story, some cool physics, and a charming score from the least creatively-named person on the planet (Johann Johannsson), and you have a very affecting movie. – Anders Oster

22 Jump Street
24. 22 Jump Street
Directors
Phil Lord & Christopher Miller
Stars
Jonah Hill
Channing Tatum
Ice Cube


It was a pleasant surprise to find out this unwarranted sequel was not only better than the first, but one of the funniest movies in the last 10 years. – Clark Carmichael

Big Hero 6
23. Big Hero 6
Directors
Don Hall & Chris Williams
Stars
Ryan Potter
Scott Adsit
Jamie Chung


Where the LEGO Movie is non-stop fun, Big Hero 6 is one of those films that truly manages to capture all types of viewers while dealing with much heavier themes. The concept of loss in what would normally be deemed a “children’s movie” is pulled off so well here and gives those dealing with loss or who may know what it’s like to lose a sense of empowerment and hope in the way that Hiro and the rest of the Big Hero 6 (featuring fantastic vocal performances from the likes of the always hilarious T.J. Miller, Jamie Chung, and Damon Wayans, Jr.) manage to band together under unlikely circumstances and make the best of a horrible situation. There were some seriously emotional moments throughout, which is an accomplishment in this venue, and Baymax is the most adorable thing to appear on a screen all year. – Jeff Pearson

Gone Girl
22. Gone Girl
Director
David Fincher
Stars
Ben Affleck
Rosamund Pike
Neil Patrick Harris


Fincher succeeds again in adapting a best-selling mystery into a dark, gripping movie. It was polarizing amongst the Bit Players, but I loved every second. As with great novels, supporting characters add depth and dimension through the excellent Tyler Perry, Neil Patrick Harris, and Carrie Coon. – Jarryd Baxter

Coherence
21. Coherence
Director
James Ward Byrkit
Stars
Emily Baldoni
Maury Sterling
Nicholas Brendon


For any aspiring filmmaker looking for inspiration on how to get a great feature out there on a minimal budget, look no further than Coherence. This film hardly ventures out of the living room but manages to navigate some of the farthest, most complex regions of thought in the process. It’s one of those movies that constantly has you guessing just where it’s going to go, and always manages to skirt your expectations at the last possible second. I truly think this might go down as one of the greatest modern science-fiction films when all is said and done. – JP

The Skeleton Twins
20. The Skeleton Twins
Director
Craig Johnson
Stars
Kristen Wiig
Bill Hader
Luke Wilson


Definitely the biggest surprise of the year for me. I think when you see a bill of Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader before details of the Skeleton Twins were widely available, it makes sense to expect something light and airy, highlighting their excellent comedic teamwork and ability to shapeshift from one wild persona to the next. The second the Skeleton Twins starts it becomes plainly evident that this is not what you’re going to get, however, and I couldn’t be happier. This is a true coming-out party for both Wiig and Hader, who create characters so rich and believable that almost immediately you forget the iconography behind their comedic characters and wholly believe in Milo and Maggie Dean. The chemistry that the pair honed on Saturday Night Live is utilized to amazing and moving effect as the two siblings work together to keep on living. - JP

Two Days, One Night
19. Two Days, One Night
Directors
The Dardenne Brothers
Stars Marion Cotillard
Fabrizio Rongione
Catherine Salée


I Origins
18. I Origins
Director
Mike Cahill
Stars
Michael Pitt
Steven Yeun
Astrid Bergès-Frisbey


This was the best under the radar movie of the year. It is a beautiful story of human connection that challenges the scientific background of our protagonist, Michael Pitt. He is great in this movie, but Brit Marling is the best actress outside of the mainstream. - JB

The Imitation Game
17. The Imitation Game
Director
Morten Tyldum
Stars
Benedict Cumberbatch
Keira Knightley
Matthew Goode


I saw this movie as the first part of a triple feature at the movies along with Big Eyes and Into The Woods. This one stuck with me the most even though it was the first of the three I saw. Benedict Cumberbatch was amazing in this role and makes me wish I had traded Rooney Mara for him when I had the chance in our Oscar Fantasy League (Patent Pending). This movie is the incredible true story of Alan Turing, the man who broke the unbreakable Nazi Enigma Code by inventing a machine that is basically the beginning of modern computers. Amazing score by composer, Alexandre Desplat, who was nominated for an Oscar for two different movies last year. - AO

Nightcrawler
16. Nightcrawler
Director
Dan Gilroy
Stars
Jake Gyllenhaal
Rene Russo
Bill Paxton


Satire at its best. We’ve all seen and heard this critique of media, but Gilroy and Gyllenhaal bring a chilling nuance to old ideas. For a bonus, we’re graced with Bill Paxton’s second best supporting role of 2014. - JB

The Interview
15. The Interview
Directors
Evan Goldberg & Seth Rogen
Stars
James Franco
Seth Rogen
Randall Park


The LEGO Movie
14. The LEGO Movie
Directors
Phil Lord & Christopher Miller
Stars
Chris Pratt
Will Ferrell
Elizabeth Banks


Easily the best animated film of the year for me. Movies like The LEGO Movie remind me of what made me love film in the earliest part of my life, just on the edge of my seat with a huge smile on my face. The whole cast seems to be having such a blast with their voiceover parts and the way that Phil Lord and Christopher Miller blend the real world with the imaginary takes me back to the first time that Toy Story changed the way I thought about the imagination’s power to shape a new reality. I had my first glimpse of the Lego Movie while riding in the backseat with my infant cousin and the movie was playing in a seat-back TV screen; I think I was more glued to the screen than he was. - JP

What We Do in the Shadows
13. What We Do in the Shadows
Directors
Jemaine Clement & Taika Waititi
Stars
Jemaine Clement
Taika Waititi
Jonathan Brugh


Off the top of my head I can’t think of a movie that made me laugh more last year than this movie. If you are a fan of Flight of the Conchords, you have to see this movie. It is a mockumentary following the lives of three completely incompetent vampires with Australian accents (maybe New Zealand accents but you get the idea). They meet vampire hunters and werewolves along the way and it is hilarious. I don’t know what else to say... Werewolves before swearwolves. - AO

Snowpiercer
12. Snowpiercer
Director
Joon-Ho Bong
Stars
Chris Evans
Jamie Bell
Tilda Swinton


Captain America: Winter Soldier
11. Captain America: Winter Soldier
Directors
The Russo Brothers
Stars
Chris Evans
Samuel L. Jackson
Scarlett Johansson


Overshadowed by the success of Guardians, this is quietly the best movie Marvel released in 2014. - CC

Boyhood
10. Boyhood
Director
Richard Linklater
Stars
Ellar Coltrane
Ethan Hawke
Patricia Arquette


Richard Linklater’s labor of love Boyhood gets to the core of what can be truly beautiful about a film. The title is somewhat misleading in that, while the main character Mason (who is played by a subtle and understated first-through-twelfth-timer Ellar Coltrane) is certainly the center of the film, and his growth and development into an individual is very important, Boyhood is ultimately about family. Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke feel like real, flawed people stumbling through the world and trying to make the most out of situations of varying degrees of stability while keeping their family together, and their growth as parents is just as important than Mason’s. It’s more than slice of life. It is life. - JP

Edge of Tomorrow
9. Edge of Tomorrow
Director
Doug Liman
Stars
Tom Cruise
Emily Blunt
Bill Paxton


This was the surprise of the year. We all knew we would love this movie because of Tom Cruise. We didn’t know it would be smart, funny, well executed sci-fi. - JB

The Drop
8. The Drop
Director
Michaël R. Roskam
Stars
Tom Hardy
Noomi Rapace
James Gandolfini


The hidden gem from 2014. Worth watching just to see James Gandolfini absolutely crush it in the last movie before his death. - CC

The Babadook
7. The Babadook
Director
Jennifer Kent
Stars
Essie Davis
Noah Wiseman
Daniel Henshall


I do not like scary movies. At all. I do not enjoy being afraid. That being said, The Babadook is one of my favorite movies of the year. This movie nearly made me cry terror tears. But it redeemed itself with the relationship between the two main characters played by Essie Davis and Noah Wiseman, who were both completely incredible in the roles of a recently widowed mother and her son. By the end of the movie I went from terror tears to care-er tears. The writer and director Jennifer Kent did an amazing job of making you care about these characters and their relationship and I can’t wait to see her movies in the future. See this movie! - AO

X-Men: Days of Future Past
6. X-Men: Days of Future Past
Director
Bryan Singer
Stars
Patrick Stewart
Ian McKellen
Hugh Jackman


The Grand Budapest Hotel
5. The Grand Budapest Hotel
Director
Wes Anderson
Stars
Ralph Fiennes
F. Murray Abraham
Mathieu Amalric


From the very first frame The Grand Budapest Hotel is an absolute delight. Each time I’ve watched it, I think I had a smile plastered on my face for the entire duration. Not only is it Wes Anderson seemingly at his most realized, completely mastering his dollhouse vision of the worlds that he loves to create in his films, but this is among the most compelling stories he’s told on screen yet. He seems to really just now be hitting his stride, which is kind of an amazing thought; the early ability he exhibited in capturing a real essence of the human spirit and his later utter visual mastery are coming closer and closer together, and seem to come the closest in the Grand Budapest Hotel. It’s funny, touching, frightening, and sad, often all at once. - JP

Interstellar
4. Interstellar
Director
Christopher Nolan
Stars
Matthew McConaughey
Anne Hathaway
Jessica Chastain


This is Nolan’s most ambitious effort and finest achievement. This is what movies are about. - JB

Guardians of the Galaxy
3. Guardians of the Galaxy
Director
James Gunn
Stars
Chris Pratt
Vin Diesel
Bradley Cooper


When I heard Marvel was making a superhero film with a talking tree and a raccoon with a pistol as two of the main heroes, I thought they were finally reaching a bit beyond their grasp. Then the previews started coming out and it looked like it might not be so bad after all. The decision to cast Chris Pratt as Star Lord is one of the most ingenious choices I can remember, and James Gunn or whoever else was involved deserves an infinity stone. But Chris Pratt isn’t the only star of this movie. Vin Diesel, Zoe Saldana, Bradley Cooper, and Dave Bautista are all equally lovable characters, which is a truly amazing feat when you think about it. All you need to enjoy this movie are two free hours, a good sense of humor, and if you can find a guy to give you one, a prosthetic leg. - AO

The first time I saw it, I felt like I might have some idea of how people felt when they first saw Star Wars in theaters. Guardians is a movie that kids and parents can share for generations to come. - CC

Birdman
2. Birdman: Or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
Director
Alejandro González Iñárritu
Stars
Michael Keaton
Edward Norton
Emma Stone


Director Iñárritu has balls the size of tangerines and he likes to show them off. The combination of the hyper realistic entire-movie-is-one-long-tracking-shot and the outlandish surreal elements make for a very entertaining critique of actors, heroes, critics, the media, and possibly Edward Norton and Michael Keaton. - CC

Whiplash
1. Whiplash
Director
Damien Chazelle
Stars
Miles Teller
J.K. Simmons


This is the movie I recommend to friends and strangers. The story is simple. The characters are deep. The directing is top-notch. The ending is why I watch movies. - CC Great acting, directing, sound, and more. This is a technical and emotional achievement, as Chazelle examines poignant questions of mastery. - JB The most remarkable part about Whiplash, to me, is the sheer physical nature of the action on screen and how well Chazelle is able to bring that out in a visual medium. It's not easy to have the viewer practically feel everything that Andrew (Miles Teller) feels, from the cuts on his drumming hands opening up as he tries to speed up his double-time swing to the sweat pouring onto and then bouncing off of his snare's head. I think that's what makes this such an intense watch as your stomach is in your throat the for the film's tensest moments and the final scene brings such a beautiful musical release. - JP
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