Weird and creepy and surreal and eerie and horrifying. Probably one of the most polarising films of the year, Scarlett Johansson book-ended her 2014 blockbuster Captain America: Winter Soldier with some truly interesting choices in Chef (cute), Her (weird), Lucy (tres weird) and Under The Skin (the weirdest). Jonathan Glazer channels Stanley Kubrick in this reworking of the femme fatale trope, which amongst all the gorgeous cinematography and surrealist sci-fi imagery features jarringly authentic interactions with Scar-Jo and ordinary Scottish lads (all actually filmed in real life with secret cameras). It’s a creeper.
10. The Fault In Our Stars
It’s *sniff* just an incredibly beautiful and affecting *wipes eyes* adaptation of John Green’s now classic *wheezes* ode to love and loss *breaks down into uncontrollable sobs*.
The American Psycho of this generation. Jack Gyllenhaal’s performance is just as menacing, hypnotic and career-defining as Christian Bale’s was 15-years ago. A tense, edge-of-your-seat and original piece of filmmaking that is one of the most faithful depictions of journalism (at least this particular brand) ever seen on screen.
8. 22 Jump Street
The first reboot had no right to be as brilliant and successful as it was. By that same thinking, the fact Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill were able to equal – if not surpass – the original is mind-boogling. Their onscreen chemistry and outrageously OTT brand of humour has turned the most unlikely pair into one of cinema’s great buddy cop duos.
Belle should have done for leading star Gugu Mbatha-Raw what 12 Years A Slave did for Lupita Nyong’o, but the film was underseen and underrated. It was also very, very, jaw-droppingly pretty which may have hindered its cinematic impact. Rest assured, Belle is as good as any British period drama. Better, even. On the outside it’s a corset-ripper yet on the inside it’s a poignant tale of civil rights and racism as the cogs begin to turn in England’s quest to abolish slavery.
A horror movie by any other name, Snowpiercer featured the second of two career-best performances by both Chris Evans and Tilda Swinton this year (the others in Captain America: Winter Soldier and Only Lovers Left Alive respectively). Bested only by Under the Skin in terms of unique vision, Snowpiercer managed to be what all great science fiction should be: entertaining, enlightening and emotional. Evans’ revelation at the film’s conclusion is one of the toughest things to watch on screen, ever, and not to mention extremely well-written.
5. Gone Girl
The weakest book of Gillian Flynn’s female centric crime trilogy became one of the best films of the year thanks to the steady hand of David Fincher. Featuring two superb against-type performances from Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike, it was also the work of a terrific ensemble in Carrie Coon, Kim Dickens and Neil Patrick Harris that brought this mind fuck of a film to life. Few directors could tell three stories simultaneously, yet no one is better suited to this dark material than Fincher. Amy’s ‘cool girl’ speech is the best on-screen monologue of 2014.
4. Live Die Repeat (Edge Of Tomorrow)
Tom Cruise has been a movie star for over 30-years, but while others in his realm (think Will Smith) have been struggling to maintain their relevance, Scientology’s poster child has been quietly plugging away making some of the finest work of his career (see Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, Jack Reacher, Oblivion). Nowhere is this clearer with arguably the biggest surprise of the year. Edge Of Tomorrow manages to take the overused Groundhog Day concept and do something truly original with it, while at the same time being as entertaining and palm-sweaty as you would expect from a Cruise blockbuster. As Bill Hader said, this film will be studied alongside Terminator and Alien as one of the greats of the genre.
3. Guardians Of The Galaxy
Yes, the final two films of this list are Marvel movies because so freakin’ help me no other studio is doing what they’re doing right now. Entertaining blockbusters so glossy you could lick them, but with unforgettable characters taken from beloved universes and made even better somehow. These aren’t merely superhero films, they’re commenting on political and social norms as well as leaping boundaries high-concept movies are so rarely able to. Guardians is undoubtedly the most loved movie of the year. Men, women, kids, people who hate comic book capers and even those who loathe science fiction fell in love with this movie as much as the fan girls and boys waiting patiently at the midnight screenings. Endlessly watchable, hilarious and sporting the best soundtrack of 2014, Marvel’s riskiest feature paid off… and then some. We, as it turns out, are Groot.
2. Captain America: Winter Soldier
One of the smartest films of the year came from a most unlikely place: Marvel Studios. That’s not to say their industry redefining films are dumb – anything but – but this complicated spy thriller proved without a doubt that Marvel are making the best films in the business, across all genres. As good as The Hunt For Red October or All The Presidents Men, Winter Soldier elevated superhero storytelling with its unexpected twists, action set pieces, roster of intriguing characters and universe repercussions. Now give Black Widow a solo movie all fucking ready.
1. Only Lovers Left Alive
Do not try and resist the Gothic charms of this romantic vampire tale, for it cannot be done. Whether it’s the idea of immortal beings fascinated with the childhood home of “baby Jack White” or the otherworldly score, Only Lovers Left Alive – like Live Die Repeat – manages to bring something wholly unique to an overused genre. A perfect film, beginning to end.
Honourable mentions: The Keeper Of Lost Causes, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Wolf Creek 2, If I Stay, What We Do In The Shadows and Afflicted
Guilty pleasure: Vampire Academy (I know, I know, shut up)
Most overrated: The Babadook (soz)
Maria Lewis - follow Maria on Twitter here: @moviemazz or on top-rating film podcast Pod Save Our Screen, available now on iTunes.