1. Boyhood Richard Linklater, U.S.


Richard Linklater’s movie connects the characters with the audience unlike any picture I’ve ever seen. While it was centered around Mason’s “boyhood,” I became just as interested in watching his parents and siblings grow up around him and how they impacted his life. The song “Hero” by the indie band Family of the Year made this film so innocent and personable, and you often find yourself holding back tears. I think one of the many reasons this picture is raved about is that every audience member can connect something Mason went through to their own personal life, and that really hits home.

Andrew K. Rawls, Charlotte, NC

Matchless and genuine.

Lindsay Riordan, Melrose, MA

So much more than just a unbelievably ambitious project of 12 years realized. It’s a deeply moving, profound film—and possibly more so than any movie to come before it—it is about life.

Gavin Miller, Overland Park, KS

2. The Grand Budapest Hotel Wes Anderson, U.S.

Grand Budapest Hotel

Wes Anderson made his most Wes Anderson–like film to date (which will excite many and cause others gripe) and unexpectedly created a masterpiece. Once again we are pulled down the rabbit hole into his beautifully quirky universe. The film is packed full of clever and oddball moments—the large man hosed down in the bathhouse between the Author and Mr. Moustafa’s chitchat, or the escape from prison using tiny pickaxes—never leaving us short of a good laugh. Ralph Fiennes graciously steals the show in what is one of his best, may I dare say best-ever, performances as the hotel’s extraordinarily dedicated concierge. On top of Anderson’s classic and charming style Grand Budapest adds a new level of complexity and profundity, which was never fully hashed out in his previous films. Zero and Monsieur Gustave H.’s endeavors are touching and heartfelt just as they are hilariously entertaining.

Laura Schwab, Brooklyn, NY

Wes Anderson’s colorful caricature, sets, and costumes have not always meshed cohesively with some of his darker themes, but the contrast works brilliantly in this film. This is one of the most sophisticated and grown-up movies Anderson has made since his masterpiece The Royal Tenenbaums, and never before has Anderson made a film that deals so explicitly with good and evil.

Aden Jordan, Los Angeles, CA

3. Under the Skin Jonathan Glazer, U.K.

Under the Skin

With the Internet flooded by fan adoration and scholarly analyses already shooting down the pipeline, I’ll confine myself to calling this a unique, and uniquely terrifying, cinematic vision in every way.

Maria San Filippo, Philadelphia, PA

I can’t honestly say that I enjoyed this movie, but I still admire it. Filming random encounters with heavily accented Scotsmen, Glazer manages to make the human race seem alien and unknowable.

David M. Hurwitz, San Diego, CA

4. Birdman or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance Alejandro G. Iñárritu, U.S.


I have seen this three times in the theater already, and am looking forward to more. Brilliant, lively, exceptional cast and script; stunning cinematography and editing. I get excited just seeing the previews. And what a score! The blend of drum kit and classical selections is surprising. And Emma Stone hits out of the park!

J.R. (John) Thelin, Buena Vista, VA

While I wasn’t head over heels for Birdman like most, I found the film incredibly entertaining and impeccably acted, but it isn’t quite as deep as it thinks it is. I must also confess I’ve never been an Iñárritu fan and haven’t liked a single one of his self-serious, miserable films. But, this is his best film by a country-mile. And how can you not like or root for Michael Keaton? It’s great to have him back here and at the very top of his game. But as great as Keaton is, the whole film is stolen by Edward Norton’s egotistical Method actor and Emmanuel Lubezki’s virtuoso cinematography.

Evan Coury, New Kensington, PA

5. Ida Pawel Pawlikowski, Poland


Beautifully structured film that captured the grittiness of post war Poland through an innocent and a damaged and weary soul. This rough but emerging landscape shows a war and then Communist-weary society as exemplified by Ida’s aunt and beautifully contrasted by Ida’s protected innocence and beauty. The well-written and -filmed story allows Ida to see this world and discover truth of family’s demise. This ultimately allows her to decide the path most fulfilling to her. The cinematography allows us to view her awakening from her perspective and draw us closer to her. Superlative filmmaking.

Tim Streb, San Francisco, CA

6. Only Lovers Left Alive Jim Jarmusch, U.S.

As a news cameraman in Detroit, I get to see a lot of that glorious ruin of a city. But Jim Jarmusch still managed to take me places I’d never been, and I now have a new favorite spot: the house that Adam the vampire calls home. It has since been purchased and is being restored, much like the city around it. The best line in any movie last year: “This place will rise again. There’s water here. When the cities in the South are burning, this place will bloom.” Kudos to Jarmusch for celebrating the immortality of great art, and for showcasing one of this country’s masterworks, the city of Detroit.

Jeff Jewel, Howell, MI

7. Inherent Vice Paul Thomas Anderson, U.S.

Inherent Vice

Three viewings and each one feels like I’ve seen a different film. Paul Thomas Anderson brings out some truly amazing performances from one of the best casts since Michael Mann’s Heat. Easily the funniest movie of the year yet also a picture that isn’t afraid to be hauntingly serious and slapstick crazy in the next scene.

Kevin Ringgenberg, Denver, CO

I am not sure what to make of Inherent Vice, as Paul Thomas Anderson, brilliant filmmaker that he is, has made three complicated films in a row, each of which takes a second viewing to fully or even to somewhat grasp. But this has made me sympathize with both the film’s admirers and the detractors. The answer to the proverbial “Who is right?” question will probably be determined in the year 2020, when I have hopefully seen this film for a third time.

Tilly Gokbudak, Salem, VA

8. Whiplash Damien Chazelle, U.S.

Hands-down some of the most riveting directing and editing in years. This isn’t a film about jazz, it’s a film about manipulation and control with a jazz-history backdrop as flawed as the characters’ psyches and motivations—which is fitting. Consistently surprising, and a testament to the filmmaker’s ability to make any subject a fascinating, white-knuckle experience without resorting to cheap thrills or standard tropes.

Stacey Davies, Pomona, CA

9. Gone Girl David Fincher, U.S.

Gone Girl

I got in a fight with my wife the night we saw Gone Girl (we had already bought the tickets) and I was a little dismayed to discover that while, under the direction of the great David Fincher, it was certainly a well-made film (the murder scene in particular was absolutely brilliant), the thing didn’t sting at all. At all. And I was in a position to get stung. The problems of these people do not resemble my problems in the slightest. The whole thing was a cartoon. Just a slickly made melodramatic potboiler not all that different from something like Double Jeopardy and just as easy to comfortably dismiss.

Alan Jackson, Roy, UT

I was at the world premiere of this at the New York Film Festival, and was part of the group of people in Alice Tully Hall that saw it before anyone else in the entire history of time—I was at the earliest showing that day. David Fincher, another master of cinema, makes one of my favorite films all time. A perfect film. I love this one so much.

Sam Garcia, Kerrville, TX

10. Nightcrawler Dan Gilroy, U.S.

A raw look at the underbelly associated with achieving the American Dream. And all too often, those who play dirty don’t get caught.

Shonda Lackey, Bronx, NY

11. Two Days, One Night Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne, Belgium/France

Two Days, One Night

The Dardennes by now have proven that they can work with both stars and nonprofessionals, and have them work together to form a believable world and situation. One word I always associate with the Dardennes is conviction, and Marion Cotillard’s performance has exactly that, conviction.

Carlo Pangalangan Labrador, Woodside, NY

Marion Cotillard’s understated realism makes this universal tale resonate, and anyone who’s been desperately out of work or trying to keep a job will connect at once. A kitchen-sink drama that feels more docu- than narrative, this film proves that you don’t need grand stories with multiple levels to deliver a cinematic experience that is poignant, emotional, and most of all, true.

Stacey Davies, Pomona, CA

12. Snowpiercer Bong Joon-ho, South Korea

A timely film highlighting the problems inherent to inequality, set in a futuristic world where climate change has threatened the entire human race. As a bonus, it’s one of the most violent films you’ll see and includes some of the year’s best action sequences.

Luke Melone, New York, NY

13. Goodbye to Language Jean-Luc Godard, France

Goodbye to Language

Godard has been reinventing numerous aspects of cinema for over 50 years but 2014 may have witnessed his most audacious cinematic reinvention to date when he challenged the abused format of 3-D. In the hands of nearly every other director, 3-D is nothing more than a gimmick to give audiences the illusion that movies have extra depth so that they can pay higher ticket prices. Godard uses 3-D to show film lovers that movies can visually communicate creativity and ideology in a more significant manner that spoken language. Whether it’s showing hands flipping through pages of a book or close-up shots of the human anatomy, every image of Goodbye to Language is a testament that Godard is light-years ahead of every other director in the imagination department. I would not be surprised if I do not see a better film during the remainder of this decade.

Juan Olmos, Houston, TX

14. Selma Ava DuVernay, U.S.

It’s a small miracle that a mostly unknown, modest underdog like Ava DuVernay would come to land the daunting filmmaking task of getting Martin Luther King Jr. and his politics right, and it’s a huge relief to see she’s succeeded in impressively resourceful ways. Her Selma is a prime example of how to make the most out of what little you’ve got, an undertaking that’s actually benefited from her position well outside of Hollywood access and without the rights to Dr. King’s iconic speeches. Wisely choosing this moment and locale allots equal attention to that time’s bounty of commemorated figures, and it ensures the film’s focus holds on the tension between a president’s executive reluctance, the organizational cunning of a clergyman, and most importantly the events and anger mobilizing the people of Selma. But the unequivocal talent responsible for bringing Dr. King back to life is David Oyelowo, this year’s greatest male performance that tilts the scale of biopic acting away from precision parroting and toward impassioned, unpredictable intimacy. DuVernay’s knack for intimacy with character and setting—made all the deeper by her continued collaboration with the incredible cinematographer Bradford Young—is her greatest gift as a storyteller, making Selma feel far less of a summary and more of present-tense history in the making.

Joaquin Villalobos, Denver, CO

15. The Immigrant James Gray, U.S.

The Immigrant

The themes of Catholic guilt, familial violence, and moody Northeastern settings that have dotted the James Gray cinematic landscape for years now gets cross-pollinated with 1920s New York. Marion Cotillard is splendid as Ewa. The Immigrant succeeds in developing the three main characters with depth and feeling. They are all flawed but acutely drawn people. Even the small roles of Ewa’s aunt and uncle, who make an uncompromising decision, resonate with honesty and moral ambiguity. Gray, so strong with each new passing effort, has crafted an intimate epic that not only gives Cotillard one astounding monologue in a confessional booth, but an ending that both devastates and uplifts its corresponding couple.

Joe Baker, McKinney, TX

16. Force Majeure Ruben Östlund, Sweden

Brings you face to face with one of the dark sides of human nature. The grandiose eerie setting echoes the theme brilliantly.

Sean Wehrli, Astoria, NY

17. Foxcatcher Bennett Miller, U.S.


A stranger-than-fiction web of ambition, mental illness, sport, and wealth is the basis for this true-crime drama by director Bennett Miller. The film is set apart by an unyielding atmosphere of unease, as well as its powerhouse cast, including star comic and former Daily Show cast member Steve Carell, disguised by a prosthetic proboscis as the menacing, shy, and, at last, inexplicable du Pont. His is an eerie and revelatory transformation.

David M. Holmes, California, MD

18. Mr. Turner Mike Leigh, U.K.

A story of someone who’s ahead of his time and doesn’t have—or care to have—the charisma to bring the world along with him. Set to beautiful cinematography and immersive acting. The best movie about art I’ve seen since Russian Ark.

Jacob Shamsian, Great Neck, NY

19. Interstellar Christopher Nolan, U.S.


The scope, the score, the webs of moving color, tidal waves as big as countries, an M.C. Escher–inspired Tesseract, and all of it grounded in an elemental story of father and daughter. You can feel the dust between each character’s fingers even when they’re a million miles from the farm.

Will Bareford, New York, NY

20. Stranger by the Lake Alain Guiraudie, France

My brother-in-law once met Lemmy Kilmister of Motorhead fame in a bar, and the two struck up a conversation. When they were done chatting, Lemmy shook his hand and said: “Sex and death forever” (or so the legend goes). Freud might approve of this notion intellectually, but Alain Guiraudie knows how to give it to us on an itchy and immediate street level. His post-cruising Cruising reminds us how easy it is to be the moth burned in the candle’s flame, and that maybe that’s the fate we’ve been looking for all along.

Brett Scieszka, Glendale, CA

The Tale of Princess Kaguya Isao Takahata, Japan

The Tale of Princess Kaguya

Seamlessly transports viewers to the realms of dreams and nightmares alike. Heartbreakingly concrete and magically distant, this animated movie from Studio Ghibli offered the most comprehensive cinematic experience of 2014.

Kat DeGuzman, Nashville, TN

Lucy Luc Besson, France


Action picture with woman as main character!!!

Barb Kundanis, Boulder, CO

Calvary John Michael McDonagh, Ireland/U.K.


It surprises me that this film is not on more lists or receiving much love during this award season. John Michael McDonagh’s words combined with Brendan Gleeson’s strength transform this film about a little Irish town into a big conversation on individuality, redemption, and religion. Providing one of the most talked-about endings, it boasts subtle, intelligent performances by Chris O’Dowd, Kelly Reilly, and Dylan Moran.

Andy Gyurisin, Winchester, VA

General Comments

Only Lovers Left Alive

Only Lovers Left Alive

To me, the worst thing that has happened this year is the proliferation of recliners and food service at many movie theaters out here in New Jersey. I can see this for the Met Opera and prize fights, but asking you to reserve seats online for morning bargain matinees is insane. People I know who only go to the movies on Saturday night or are very fat love this, but I hate it. And the food is pretty dreadful too, and if you don’t eat at least some overpriced snacks, they don’t want your business. And I would repeat the same thing I have said in the previous two years: I am seeing more and more films on DVD/Blu-ray and not in theaters. Will filmgoing soon be restricted to theaters in big cities and the small screen for the rest of us?

Regina Domeraski, Lyndhurst, NJ

A remarkable lack of écriture cinematographique, as Bresson called it. A lot of satisfactory films, a few good ones, and a couple of very good ones. But greatness? Future classics? I doubt it. And while I see Linklater’s Boyhood hailed as a masterpiece, I was intrigued and tickled reading about its existence. Left the theater feeling like Linklater had missed his own boat. A chance to really change the way films are made, to twist plot, structure, timeline, etc. Instead, we got a pretty predictable mainstream Hollywood family tale, just shot over 12 years, edited in a neat chronological order. Godard = a scandalous dud (other than the cool 3-D stuff). 

Yves Beauvais, New York, NY

What a year in film! Revelatory re-releases by William Friedkin, Alain Resnais, Wojciech Has and Chris Marker, some of the best of the repertory screenings taking place in Northwest Film Forum running of Scorsese’s “Masterpieces of Polish Cinema.” In contemporary cinema, Seattle International Film Festival presented the single screening of Aleksei German’s otherworldly journey into the distant past/future, like witnessing a Pieter Bruegel painting made real. Alejandro Iñárritu created a joyous, playful meta-narrative membrane that the viewer passed through, moving back and forth across the barrier between life and art. Other highlights included; Jonathan Glazer’s austere study on genuine Otherness, Jim Jarmusch’s love letter to human ingenuity through the eyes of eternal aesthetes, Ari Folman’s psychedelic Orwellian wonderworld, Hiroyuki Okiura’s touching and beautifully rendered tale of pre-adolescence, and Paul Thomas Anderson successfully doing the “unfilmable.” Just to name a few.

Jefferson W. Petrey, Seattle, WA