14. The Grand Budapest Hotel: Beneath the elegant and upscale façade of director Wes Anderson’s latest triumph is a zany satire of a high society lacking in nobility. It’s like a cross between a Marx Brothers film and a pop-up book, a worthy combination if I do say so myself.
13. The Imitation Game: This is a film that is part World War II thriller and part LGBT drama with the latter trumping the former to bring about a heartbreaking account of cryptanalyst Alan Turing’s life. The film is primarily a success due to its interesting non-linear storyline and Benedict Cumberbatch’s unrelenting performance.
12. Happy Christmas: I love seeing filmmakers improve with each directorial effort, which is the case with Joe Swanberg. With Happy Christmas, Swanberg has created an intimate family drama that delves into the varying degrees of responsibility that age differences in siblinghood bring about.
11. Foxcatcher: It can sometimes be difficult for actors known primarily for their comedic roles to be taken seriously, but Steve Carell’s turn as the eerily psychotic John Eleuthère du Pont is one for the ages. I should also note that Mark Ruffalo delivers a fantastic performance as well.
10. Life Itself: Documentaries don’t often appear on these lists of mine, which just comes to show how much admiration I have for Steve James’ Roger Ebert biopic. Not only is Life Itself a jubilant tribute to one of the most important figures in film criticism, but it is also a detailed venture into why people read comments like the ones you are currently reading.
9. Gone Girl: With certain filmmakers, you know right off the bat that you are in for some sort of treat due to their recent track record. David Fincher is one of those filmmakers, and if you have been paying attention to film at any time during the last 20 years you can probably guess that Gone Girl is stocked up with a whole lot of dark intelligence. (Read full review)
8. Birdman: To be honest, I did not think this film was as great as most people have made it out to be. Perhaps I watched it too late into its release that I became tainted by the hype. Regardless, it is still an amusing cinematic experience that calls to mind John Cassavetes’ Opening Night.
7. A Most Violent Year: What happens when you put Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain in a 1980s period piece set in New York City? You get one of the most somberly aggressive crime dramas in recent years.
6. Selma: Historical films that deal with political issues can sometimes get a little preachy, but this is a film with such great acting that you get a true sense of empathy for those involved (then and now) with securing civil rights.
5. Interstellar: It wouldn't be a list without a Matthew McConaughey film making an appearance. While director Christopher Nolan received more criticism than usual with this film, I believe it to be one of his best efforts. It certainly sits between Moon and Looper as one of the best sci-fi films of the last decade.
4. Nightcrawler: Jake Gyllenhaal is electrifying in this thriller of psychopathic proportions. Just like McConaughey, Gyllenhaal has been unstoppable as of late and Nightcrawler is a prime example of what his acting abilities have to offer.
3. Boyhood: With all ambition and scope aside, this is a film that tackles human nature with full force. Its cinéma vérité storytelling captures the essence of what growing up in the third millennium means to people regardless of age.
2. Wild: When walking more than a thousand miles, you certainly have time to reevaluate your life... and get a handful of great tunes stuck in your head. Wild is a poetic portrayal of a life recovering from a downward spiral. It easily should have been nominated for Best Picture in place of American Sniper.
1. Whiplash: Perhaps one of the most intense films I have ever seen, Whiplash has a tempo that can induce sweating and rhythmic shaking in the hands (though, I was under the weather when viewing it). (Read full review)