When making a Top 10 list, the first question that we tend to think about is "was it a good year?" For me, I've begun to realize that the answer depends on the pool of films you've been exposed to. Looking through my list, there are a number of surprise gems that I could have easily missed. Had it not been for my Foreign Circuit column or awards screeners, this list wouldn't have been nearly as diverse.
As usual, there is a mix of foreign language, documentary, animated, indie, arthouse and multiplex fare. Of note, it was a particularly strong year for "queer cinema", with a trio of LGBT-themed titles making my Top 15. In the end though, two special films from modern masters stood out from the rest of the pack.
One of the them is David Fincher's Gone Girl, which gave me my most enjoyable time at the cinema all year. Its brilliantly propulsive narrative structure is a screenwriting marvel and the titular performance from Rosamund Pike absolutely blew me away. I was so impressed that I prematurely decided that Gone Girl couldn't be unseated at the top. Then a few months later, I saw my eventual choice for #1 - Alejandro González Iñárritu's Birdman. This superbly acted film dazzled me with its explosion of creativity, a true tour de force in every aspect of its filmmaking. In my opinion, there was no better cast ensemble, direction, cinematography or editing in 2014. We all thought we'd figured out Iñárritu's MO (i.e. misery and despair), but with this comedy he's proven that he's willing to test himself with new tricks. It's an attitude that many other auteurs would do well to adopt.
With that preamble out of the way, here are my Top 15 Films of 2014 (in ranking order):
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
X-Men: Days of Future Past
Stranger by the Lake
Dear White People
Art and Craft
How To Train Your Dragon 2
22 Jump Street
N.B. - This list was finalized to make the deadline for The Awards Circuit Staff Top Tens of 2014.