staff picks for BEST & WORST MOVIES OF 2014, plus overlooked films staff picks for BEST & WORST MOVIES OF 2014, plus overlooked films

2014 gave us a lot of interesting movies, including some of the better ones to hit theaters in recent years. We saw some unexpected hits with things like Marvel’s GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY (who would have ever thought that film would work?), and surprise missed too like THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY – Part 1 leaving a lot of people cold. At the end of every year we wrap up the films that stood out to us, highlighting the best and worst, and of course some of the surprises and overlooked movies as well. What I love about getting the staff picks is how one person can have a movie in their “worst” category that another has in their “best” column. That’s what is so great about movies, they’re completely subjective, so people may love something someone else thought was garbage. Check out the staff picks below, starting off with yours truly, Mark Walters. If you agree or disagree, sound off in the comments at the bottom of the page… just please keep it professional.


Mark Walters – Editor in Chief

The 20 Best Movies of 2014 (in order of theatrical release):

Lego Movie – I adored Legos as a kid. The film captures all their best qualities, and all ages will love it.
Jodorowsky’s Dune – fascinating documentary about a highly-ambitious Dune movie that was almost made.
The Grand Budapest Hotel – one of Wes Anderson’s best and most entertaining films to date. Lots of fun too.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier – a 1970s political thriller disguised as a superhero epic, and it’s great.
How To Train Your Dragon 2 – Dean DeBlois makes a terrific sequel that matches the original’s quality.
Life Itself – the documentary about Roger Ebert by Steve James is an incredible look at a brilliant man.
Boyhood – a stunning achievement. Filmed over 12 years, brilliantly performed, will stay with you for a while.
Guardians of the Galaxy – never should have worked, but this quirky sci-fi flick is one of Marvel’s best yet.
Calvary – Brendan Gleeson gives the performance of his career in a dark look at faith and small town neighbors.
The One I Love – a Twilight Zone-esque tale of lovers, masterfully acted out by Mark Duplass & Elisabeth Moss.
Gone Girl – David Fincher weaves a sinister tale of murder and blame, and the darkest sides of marriage.
Whiplash – J.K. Simmons is brilliantly evil as Miles Teller’s egotistical and manipulative band instructor.
Birdman – Michael Keaton “won” the Oscar, no matter how results come up. Iñárritu’s direction is wonderful.
Nightcrawler – Jake Gyllenhaal is phenomenal in his creepy take on the desperation of exploitative journalism.
Big Hero 6 – it’s easily the most enjoyable animated film of the year, and a great superhero story to boot.
Interstellar – Christopher Nolan’s space epic is overly ambitious in parts, but a true cinematic experience.
The Theory of Everything – Eddie Redmayne as Stephen Hawking is superb, Felicity Jones shines as Jane.
Foxcatcher – Bennett Miller’s haunting account is a slow burn, perfectly done by Tatum, Carell and Ruffalo.
The Imitation Game – Benedict Cumberbatch is rather great as Alan Turning in a very important WWII story.
Top Five – Chris Rock directs and stars in this personal tale that feels semi-autobiographical in the best ways.

15 Surprises of 2014 – these are films I wasn’t expecting to be as good as they were:

Joe – Nic Cage reminds us all how great he can be in this southern crime drama. Tye Sheridan is terrific too.
Maleficent – I anticipated a disaster, but Angelina Jolie is great and the film is actually quite entertaining.
The Fault In Our Stars – this effective tearjerker shows just how great Shailene Woodley can really be.
Snowpiercer – it’s a dark and at times comedic look at a future class war… on a train… and it’s awesome.
La Bare – this male strip club doc actually has a lot of heart and humor. I loved it, and wasn’t expecting to.
Edge of Tomorrow – sure, it’s a sci-fi Groundhog Day, but it’s done so well and is a lot of fun.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes – the rare sequel that improves on the first, it’s highly entertaining.
I, Origins – Mike Cahill’s scientific look at humanity will have you looking at the world with new eyes.
The Maze Runner – young adult adaptation feels more like an 80s action flick. Great start to a franchise.
John Wick – Keanu Reeves is fantastic in this violent revenge story, featuring stellar gun fights.
Fury – it’s a bleak look at battle in WWII, where no one was a hero and the violence was brutal.
Laggies – Lynn Shelton’s slice of life comedy about growing up may be her best and most relate-able yet.
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies – easily the best of the trilogy, and the most satisfying.
American Sniper – Bradley Cooper turns in the performance of his career, Eastwood wins as director too.
A Most Violent Year – Chandor’s crime drama captures 80s NYC so well it feels like he went back in time.

15 Overlooked Films of 2014:

Gimme Shelter – Vanessa Hudgens turns in a transformative performance in this strong human drama.
The Monuments Men – not many liked it, I thought it was a great ensemble piece about a great WWII story.
Mr. Peabody & Sherman – a really strong animated film that makes the most of classic cartoon characters.
Bad Words – Jason Bateman’s directorial debut is a dark comedy you’ll enjoy, even if you feel guilty doing so.
Cheap Thrills – money is the root of all evil in this darkest of comedies led by the awesome Pay Healy.
Dom Hemingway – Richard Shepard’s British-set comedy shows how good Jude Law can be playing it bad.
Fading Gigolo – John Turturro directs himself & Woody Allen in a look at Jewish traditions and love in NYC.
Locke – the entire movie is set in a car with Tom Hardy, and it’s a stunning and engrossing achievement.
Chef – Jon Favreau’s food-based dramedy feels like his most personal movie yet, and will make you hungry.
Trust Me – Clark Gregg directs and stars in this satire of Hollywood and making children into stars.
Anna – Mark Strong and Taissa Farmiga play head games in this brilliant thriller by Jorge Dorado.
Hellion – Kat Candler’s film is a deeply emotional look at childhood and brotherly love.
Kill The Messenger – Jeremy Renner stars in this true story known by few but so very important.
The Book of Life – a beautiful animated film that looks and feels like something truly special.
The Homesman – Tommy Lee Jones directs and stars with Hilary Swank. A sad but haunting western.

A Dozen of the Worst Movies of 2014:

Anchorman 2 – took forever to make the sequel, starts strong but fizzles out, and very self-indulgent.
Nymphomaniac Vol I and II – unattractive people having unattractive sex in an unattractive story.
Transcendence – Johnny Depp sleepwalks in Wally Pfister’s ambitious-but-boring directorial debut.
The Other Woman – Cameron Diaz’s first of three on this list. It’s got some cheap laughs but no heart.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 – like Raimi’s 3rd film, Marc Webb’s 2nd tries to do too much and implodes.
Blended – Adam Sandler & Drew Barrymore ruin their flawless chemistry in a lazy and unfunny attempt.
Transformers: Age of Extinction – these films just get worse, and this is the biggest mess of them all.
Sex Tape – there are funny moments, but it just feels shallow and pointless with no chemistry.
Dumb & Dumber To – another long-delayed sequel to a classic, that also starts strong but ends flat.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 – lacks all the action, charm and strength of the first two.
Inherent Vice – likely to be considered Paul Thomas Anderson’s biggest let down of a film, ever.
Annie – forget the gimmick of switching Annie’s race, this reboot tries too hard and it shows.



Ronnie Malik – Contributing Film Critic

Top Five Best Movies of 2014:

1. Boyhood
2. The Grand Budapest Hotel
3. The Imitation Game
4. Gone Girl
5. Nighcrawler

Top Five Worst Movies of 2014:

1. Legend of Hercules
2. A Winter’s Tale
3. A Million Ways to Die in the West
4. Transcendence
5. Lucy



Gary Murray – Contributing Film Critic

Top 10 Best Movies of 2014:

1. Whiplash — This is film that keeps coming back to haunt me over and over. I played in different bands for years when I was younger and have been around the driven people depicted in the film. Hollywood is a land of make-believe that tells universal truths. This is the truest experience of 2014.
2. Guardians of the Galaxy — Did you ever have as much fun as you did with this piece of cinematic candy? This is the film that turned Chris Pratt from a television star to the biggest box-office champ in decades. This film had every element one wants in an adventure flick.
3. Chef — Jon Faverau delivered his most personal film in a summer of rehashed clichés. It is a film about people and not CGI. Besides, have you ever wanted a grilled cheese sandwich more than after this film?
4. Boyhood — Richard Linklater has made his more personal and longest film. Years in the making, this production shows physical growth and emotional growth in a way that has never been seen on the big screen. It is a testament to determined film-making
5. How to Train Your Dragon 2 — In a summer of sequels, this was a true original separate adventure. The visuals were breathtaking and it was another high point of animation.
6. LEGO Movie — “Everything is awesome, Everything is cool when you are part of the team.” A super fun experience at the movies and an amazing technical achievement.
7. American Sniper — One of the few movies where I still knew the ending but found a tear in my eye at the close. The story of Chris Kyle is an American story of a man doing his job and saving his fellow servicemen.
8. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies — Yes this film is not The Lord of the Rings, but it is still a very successful and satisfying entry in the entire Middle Earth Saga. It’s just a giant battle but it is a heck of a melee.
9. Big Eyes – It is very hard to make art interesting on film but somehow Tim Burton found a way. The film does take a while to get going but the ending is a brilliant payoff. The two leads are perfect.
10. Unbroken — Angelina Jolie has the ability to become an A-list director. She shows much promise with about two-thirds of this film. She just needs to work on her action sequences. She nails the hardest part — three men surviving on a raft.

Nine Overlooked Films of 2014:

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
The Pirates (Korean version)
Edge of Tomorrow
The Theory of Everything
Captain American: Winter Soldier
The Imitation Game

Five Worst Films of 2014:

Exodus: Gods and Kings
Under the Skin
I, Frankenstein



Rahul Vedantam – Contributing Film Critic

Top Ten Best Movies of 2014:

1. Boyhood
2. Under the Skin
3. Birdman
4. Whiplash
5. The Grand Budapest Hotel
6. Gone Girl
7. Nightcrawler
8. The Immigrant
9. The Lego Movie
10. Inherent Vice
Honorable Mention: How to Train your Dragon 2

Top Five Overlooked Movies of 2014:

1. The Immigrant
2. Inherent Vice
3. Force Majeure
4. The Tale of Princess Kaguya
5. The Skeleton Twins

Top Five Worst Movies of 2014:

1. Blended
2. Winter’s Tale
3. A Million Ways to Die in the West
4. Left Behind
5. Transformers: Age of Extinction

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About the Author

Born and raised in Dallas, Mark has been a movie critic since 1994, with reviews featured in print, radio and National TV. In 2001 he started the Entertainment section of the Herorealm website, where he contributed film reviews and celebrity interviews until 2004. After three years of service there, he started, which has become one of the Dallas film community's leading information websites. Bigfanboy hosts several movie screenings in the Texas area, and works closely with film and TV studios and promotional partners to host exciting events and contests. The site also features a variety of rare celebrity and filmmaker interviews, and regularly covers the film festival circuit as well. In addition to Hollywood reporting, Mark has worked for many years as an advertising and sci-fi/comic book artist. Clients have included Lucasfilm Ltd., Topps Trading Cards, The Dallas Mavericks and The Dallas Stars. From 2002 until 2015 he managed the Dallas Comic Con, Sci-Fi Expo and Fan Days events in the DFW area. He currently catalogs rare comic books and movie memorabilia for Heritage Auctions, and runs the Dallas Comic Show conventions, but remains an avid moviegoer and cinema buff.