Going to the movies has been a favorite pastime of mine for a very long time. It’s partially entertainment, sure, but it’s also art. I see movies to be moved, challenged, and inspired. They take me out of my own little life and get me thinking about the Big Questions in a way no other medium does. Something I heard a lot when I was pregnant was, “Just wait until you have kids…” I found this rather annoying. Beyond the fact that it’s neither supportive nor loving, it is simply not true. Every person has the same amount of time in a day, and we choose how to spend it based on our individual priorities. Is my new child a priority? Of course. But so is my favorite hobby—and I schedule time for it. Some parents watch hours of TV. Others read piles of books. I watch a lot of movies.
Despite the late May arrival of my daughter and the end of my movie-watching life as I knew it, I saw 39 new flicks this year. To make my annual top ten, I keep a running ranked list and insert each title after I see it. At the end of the year (or, more accurately, before the Academy Awards, as so many great films are released late in the year and it takes time to hit them all), I make adjustments based on how strongly a title still resonates. So, without further adieu…
What I loved: The one-long-shot cinematography, the feverish pace, the freestyle drumming score, the blending of fantasy and reality, the deliciously whacky performances, and the winky-wink nod to Michael Keaton’s own acting career.
2. The Grand Budapest Hotel
What I loved: Wes Anderson’s films are like moving paintings, specifically dusty retro paintings you might find in your grandmother’s attic. In addition to the stunning sets and costumes, this crime caper is fast and funny and fabulous.
What I loved: This one is intense, and I wanted to join in smacking Miles Teller over the head a few times, hehe. But I really respected that it doesn’t take a moral/ethical stance on the pursuit of perfection. Artists’ internal and external motivations come in many forms—and greatness often rises from darkness.
4. The Theory of Everything / The Imitation Game
What I loved: So, I’m probably cheating a bit here, but these are practically the same movie. Biopic on a great (but awkward) mind, killer British cast, beautiful cinematography… I’m giving the edge to Theory because Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones were so, so good.
5. Edge of Tomorrow
What I loved: Action movies don’t often rank this high for me, but this Groundhog Day–esque concept was really fun and interesting, and the puzzle challenged me til the very end, which was very satisfying. Plus, who knew Emily Blunt could take on such a tough role?
What I loved: I read this book about a year ago, and I struggled with it. I just didn’t really care for the protagonist—and it’s a memoir! Seeing the movie, I was delighted by what Reese Witherspoon brought to the character. I felt empathy toward her and believed in the transformative power of her journey.
7. Guardians of the Galaxy
What I loved: The trailers for this movie were laughably bad. But I kept hearing good things and took a chance. So glad I did. I thought Guardians had the perfect balance of action, drama, and comedy. It didn’t take itself too seriously. And it was just a lot of fun.
What I loved: This movie was so, so powerful, as you’d hope a biopic on MLK would be. Credit, I think, goes to the supertight focus on this one event in the movement and the authentic performances. Personally, I think it’s insane that David Oyelowo isn’t up for a best actor Oscar.
9. American Sniper
What I loved: My husband points out that this is a rare war movie without politics. And it’s true: It’s the (true) story of one warrior, from childhood through four tours in Iraq to (spoiler alert, I suppose) his tragic and untimely death. It’s gritty and intense. I especially loved some of the small moments, like when Chris Kyle has to put down his gun and rub his shoulder after hours laying in a hideout.
What I loved: This was easily the most fun I had in the theater this year. The movie doesn’t break any new ground, but it’s a delightful father-son story with larger-than-life characters, a fun soundtrack, and lots of delectable food shots. The grilled-cheese making scene is whoa. Need that. Now.
Honorable mentions: Boyhood (for it’s Big Idea, even if it feels like a gimmick in light of zero plot), A Most Wanted Man (for a thrilling ride; also RIP Phillip Seymour Hoffman), Big Eyes (for Christoph Waltz in those courtroom scenes), The Skeleton Twins (for the lip-sync prowess of Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader), Laggies (for making me nostalgic for high school and slumber parties), Muscle Shoals (for a compelling slice of music history, even if it technically came out at the end of 2013…).
What I wish I hadn’t wasted time on: Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (zzzzzzzzz), Magic in the Moonlight (Woody Allen is so hit or miss, and this is a miss), and Snowpiercer (sorry, Entertainment Weekly hype machine, it wasn’t that good).
What I didn’t get around to seeing but wish I had: Calvary, Nightcrawler, and St. Vincent.
Now it’s your turn. What were your favorites? Please share them in the comments!
P.S. – I’ve been making movie-related top 10 and best-0f lists for a while. Here’s where you can find them for 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, and 2003. And, I also have a Top Movies of the Decade list, representing 2000 to 2010.