Check out our countdown of the year's very best movies from superhero sequels to hit indie flicks
NME counts down the year’s very best movies. Our list includes superhero sequels, gross-out comedies, indie flicks, psychological thrillers and classy dramas, but can anything beat the critically-adored Boyhood to the Number One spot?
25. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1
NME’s Top 25 Films of 2014 countdown begins with the penultimate Hunger Games flick. Next year’s Mockingjay – Part 2 will have more action, but Part 1 had plenty to recommend it: intriguing political subtexts, strong performances from J-Law and Philip Seymour Hoffman, and of course Lorde’s superb soundtrack.
24. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
No backhanded compliment intended: the follow-up to 2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes was better than many of us expected. Led by another remarkable motion-capture performance from Andy Serkis as ape leader Caesar, the simian sequel was that rare thing: a summer blockbuster with emotional depth as well as incredible special effects.
23. Bad Neighbours
If you were looking for silly smutty giggles, this R-rated comedy about a young couple trying to bring up their baby daughter next door to a hard-partying frat house really delivered. Seth Rogen was as entertaining as ever, but who knew Zac Efron had such slick comic timing?
Even if you were dragged to the cinema by someone much younger than you, Paddington Bear’s hapless charm will have won you over (and left you craving marmalade). This classy kids’ film even managed to sign off with an unexpectedly touching message: in a big city filled with many different types of people, even a total outsider can find a way to fit in.
21. The Edge of Tomorrow
Though it performed respectably at the box office, this sci-fi thriller set in a time-loop deserved to be a bigger hit. Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt put in typically committed performances, and the script co-written by award-winning playwright Jez Butterworth delivered flashes of black humour as well as a clever, compelling narrative.
20. The Inbetweeners Movie 2
If this really is the end (and the cast keep insisting it is), at least they signed off in the manner to which we’ve become accustomed. This meant loads of gross-out jokes, “bants” aplenty, and cringe-inducing humiliation scenes including one in which Neil gets his balls licked by a dog while dressed as Hermione from Harry Potter.
19. The Guest
This slick and slightly tongue-in-check psychological thriller is a real underrated gem. Former Downton Abbey star Dan Stevens reinvented himself as a tough guy US soldier who turns up at the door of a slain comrade’s family – with motives that aren’t totally altruistic.
18. Palo Alto
The impressive directorial debut from Gia Coppola (niece of Sofia, granddaughter of Francis Ford) was among the year’s most acclaimed indie flicks. Based on James Franco’s short story collection, and starring Franco and Emma Roberts, it offered a hip but haunting portrait of teenage angst, longing and, well, just hanging around.
Angelina Jolie outlined her credentials as a serious director with this incredible true survival story. US Olympian Louis Zamperini clung to a life raft in the Pacific for 47 days during World War Two before being captured by the Japanese enemy and enduring two years of brutal abuse in PoW camps. A harrowing, haunting film that left you feeling grateful to be alive.
16. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
Director Peter Jackson bid farewell to Middle Earth with the tightest and most satisfying of his Hobbit films . This deft blend of emotional drama and spectacular CGI remained engrossing for 144 minutes of thrills, spills and touching interactions between Ian McKellen’s Gandalf and Martin Freeman’s Bilbo. They’ll be missed.
16. The Fault In Our Stars
This teen weepie followed the ill-fated love story between a terminal cancer patient (the fantastic Shailene Woodley) and a survivor who lost his leg to the disease (Ansel Elgort, also excellent). Sure, it was emotionally manipulative, but resistance was futile when the inevitable unhappy ending arrived.
Nicolas Cage gave his best performance in years as an angry ex-con who becomes an unlikely role model to an impressionable 15-year-old boy. Pineapple Express director David Gordon Green also excelled here, giving the film’s backwoods Texas setting a thick, murky atmosphere that lingered long after the credits rolled.
13. Night Moves
This thriller from Meek’s Cutoff director Kelly Reichardt follows three eco-warriors plotting to destroy a dam they think is harming the environment. Powered by fine performances from Jesse Eisenberg, Dakota Fanning and Peter Sarsgaard, Night Moves managed to be topical and thought-provoking while pushing us ever closer to the edge of the seat.
12. The Wolf of Wall Street
This brilliant film opened in the UK in January 2014, so just sneaks into our list. Based on the best-selling memoir of dodgy stockbroker Jordan Belfort, the fifth collaboration between Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio was a fast and funny insight into the ridiculously debauched world of insider trading – think sex, drugs and, erm, “dwarf-tossing”.
11. The Imitation Game
Benedict Cumberbatch shone in this beautifully-crafted biopic of Alan Turing, the socially awkward genius who played a key part in cracking the Enigma code that helped the Allies win World War Two, but was later prosecuted for homosexuality. Watch this classy British film rack up a handful of Oscar nominations when they’re announced on January 16.
10. X-Men: Days of Future Past
Because it united franchise veterans Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart with newcomers from hit reboot X-Men: First Class (Michael Fassbender, James McAvoy et al), this superhero sequel was always destined to end up, well, a bit of a hot mess. Thankfully, director Bryan Singer’s film was also smart, well-acted and supremely entertaining.
9. The Lego Movie
The computer-animated visuals were very impressive, but what really made The Lego Movie an unexpected delight was its script, which supplied a quality voice cast (Chris Pratt, Will Ferrell, Morgan Freeman and more) with a properly engaging story and lots of subtly subversive humour. The best animated film of 2014, no contest.
8. The Grand Budapest Hotel
The eighth film from writer-director Wes Anderson was a typically quirky murder mystery set in a whimsical fantasy world populated by his usual ensemble cast. The Grand Budapest Hotel was so visually delicious, it was almost like taking afternoon tea with Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton, Owen Wilson and the gang.
7. Under the Skin
This indie sci-fi hit starred Scarlett Johansson as an alien temptress scouring the Scottish Highlands for random men to pick up and kill. Sexy Beast director Jonathan Glazer’s first film in nearly a decade was ambiguous, unsettling and ultimately a brilliant mind-fuck.
6. Inside Llewyn Davis
The Coen Brothers’ fictional exploration of the ’60s NYC folk scene was a beautifully melancholy comedy-drama. Oscar Isaac delivered his breakthrough performance as the struggling singer at the film’s centre, while T Bone Burnett’s fine soundtrack featured new recordings of songs from the era performed by Isaac, co-star Justin Timberlake and Marcus Mumford.
5. Gone Girl
Did Ben Affleck’s Nick Dunne kill his wife or didn’t he? Director David Fincher’s stylish adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s best-selling novel was an unmissable thriller featuring more twists than a pair of tangled-up earphones and a sure-to-be-Oscar-nominated performance from Rosamund Pike as Nick’s missing wife, Amy.
4. Guardians of the Galaxy
Though it was based on one of Marvel’s lesser-known comic books, Guardians of the Galaxy was definitely the year’s most satisfying superhero film. Director James Gunn delivered a winning mix of thrills and lolz featuring an irresistible lead performance from Chris Pratt and fun voice turns from Vin Diesel and Bradley Cooper.
3. The Babadook
“If it’s in a word or it’s in a look, you can’t get rid of The Babadook…” With those words, six-year-old Sammy appears to summon a poltergeist that starts terrorising him and his mother, who’s still mourning her husband’s death. Aussie writer-director Jennifer Kent’s debut film is a genuinely terrifying low-budget gem that’s destined to become a horror classic.
Screenwriter Dan Gilroy made his directorial debut with this scintillating thriller driven by Jake Gyllenhaal’s brilliant performance as wannabe crime journo Lou Bloom. As Bloom’s hunger for the next big story takes him into very unethical territory, Gyllenhaal ensures we root for him even though we know we shouldn’t.
A coming-of-age drama like no other. Director Richard Linklater shot Boyhood in three or four day bursts over a period of 12 years, allowing him to track the lead character’s journey from child to teenager to young adult with total authenticity. The result was a completely unique film that managed to feel epic and intimate at the same time.