Best of the Decade: 2014

With the decade having drawn to a close, One Large Popcorn, Please! is continuing to honour the greatest films of the past ten years. This week, the year 2014 is in focus.

In what will probably go down in history as the beginning of Cold War Two, 2014 saw relations between Russian President Vladimir Putin and the West reach a new low. The Obama administration placed tough economic sanctions on Russia, citing its alleged involvement in the Syrian and Ukrainian civil wars, as well as its authoritarian style of governance.

Strangely, characters living under repressive regimes was a common theme of 2014’s better films, as evidenced below. As for this author, his constant posting of film reviews was drawing insatiable interest from friends, family and strangers alike, providing him with even further encouragement to pursue film criticism as a profession. But he had to finish his university degree before that could become a reality.

In terms of cinema, Marvel Studios continued its dominance with Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy; Disney tried its hand at the superhero genre with Big Hero 6; and The Fault in Our Stars brought an entire generation to tears with its story of cancer-ridden teenagers. All proved popular with audiences, yet only the films below were able to truly win the heart of yours truly.


The Lego Movie


It was anticipated that cynics would be quick to label Phil Lord and Christopher Miller’s movie a cash-grabbing exercise; less expected was how quickly they would go back on their words. The relatively light premise of a construction worker being mistaken for an omnipotent figure proved far better than anybody realised, with the producers even taken aback at how popular, critically and commercially, their film became.

There is so much to appreciate about The Lego Movie, chief among which is the number of gags. Its sense of humour is quite broad, ranging from meta-comedy to quirkiness to slapstick, all of which tickles the funny-bone. Another quality to boast is the animation – rendered by Australia’s own Animal Logic – that looks so convincing one is convinced that every Lego brick is real; and then there’s the smart, heartfelt message at the story’s core.

Both reviewers and cinemagoers fell in love with The Lego Movie, ensuring its legacy as a cultural touchstone. According to Rotten Tomatoes, 96% of critics gave the film a positive rating, the second-highest score for a blockbuster in 2014. As for its box-office taking, it amassed $468 million during its theatrical run, enough to earn a direct sequel and two spin-offs centring on Lego Batman and the Ninjago franchise, respectively.


The Grand Budapest Hotel 

Grand Budapest posterWes Anderson has long been a favourite among cinephiles for his idiosyncratic style of writing and directing that has been mirrored and parodied by countless others, yet never bettered. The auteur didn’t gain wider recognition for his work until his eighth feature, which saw an old hotelier (F. Murray Abraham) recount the story of his past, younger self (Tony Revolori) in a fictitious, landlocked European country.

Aside from the technical quirks that usually inhabit Anderson’s filmography – think symmetrical framing, tracking shots and rapid panning – The Grand Budapest Hotel is made visually distinctive by the changing aspect ratios and use of bright colours, chiefly purple and pink. Yet what truly makes the picture special is the casting of Ralph Fiennes, who is nothing short of charming and loveable in the lead role of Mousier Gustave.

Unfortunately, Fiennes was robbed of an Oscar for his performance, but The Grand Budapest Hotel did receive nine other nominations at the 87th Academy Awards, winning for Best Original Score, Production Design, Costume Design, and Makeup and Hairstyling. The picture also won a Golden Globe for Best Comedy or Musical, and is the highest-ranked Wes Anderson film on IMDb, with an average rating of 8.1 out of 10.


X-Men: Days of Future Past

Days of Future Past poster

With Disney seeking (and eventually regaining) the film rights to the remaining Marvel properties, Fox needed to deliver if it were to keep the ­X-Men franchise going, and it did exactly that. Bringing together the cast of the “original” trilogy and ­X-Men: First Class, this instalment saw Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) time-traveling to 1973 in an effort to prevent a deadly, futuristic war from ever occurring.

The achievement of Days of Future Past cannot be understated. This blockbuster was, at the time, Fox’s most ambitious adaptation of the X-Men comics, yet the material was handled so deftly that even the most sceptical cinemagoer found themselves entertained. A combination of fantastic performances, smart editing, creative action sequences and an ever-increasing amount of tension all ensured the film of its success.

X-Men: Days of Future Past is widely regarded as one of the decade’s best superhero movies, with a 90% Approval Rating from Rotten Tomatoes; it was also a winner at the international box-office, being the sixth-highest earner of 2014 with approximately $747 million in revenue. In acknowledgement of its popularity, the film also earned a nomination in the Best Visual Effects category at the 87th Oscars ceremony.


Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Dawn of Apes poster

Not content with the success of the picture above, 20th Century Fox proved how resourceful and versatile the company was by releasing another hit blockbuster in 2014 which also proved a darling with critics. This picture too is of the action and science-fiction genres, but houses a different narrative: that of a simian tribe struggling to co-exist with humans in a dystopian future.

As with Rise of the Planet of the Apes from three years earlier, the animals in this sequel are created with the use of motion-capture technology, which looks amazing to this day. The script is equally impressive, containing nuanced antagonists and complex themes that are rarely found in this kind of film. And there’s an exceptional cast that includes Jason Clarke, Keri Russell, Gary Oldman, and Andy Serkis as a reference and voice for Caesar.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes eclipsed the success of its predecessor both critically and commercially. It’s the highest-earning film in the long-running Apes franchise, earning $710 million at the worldwide box-office, and on Rotten Tomatoes boasts a 91% Approval Rating. The picture was such a triumph for Fox that director Matt Reeves and screenwriter Mark Bomback were re-hired to work on another sequel, War for the Planet of the Apes.


Other notable releases: Coming-of-age drama Boyhood challenged the conventions of film-making with its twelve-year production length; Indonesian cinema garnered the world’s attention with martial-arts flick The Raid 2; DreamWorks impressed just about everybody with How to Train Your Dragon 2; director David Michod hoped to gain further international recognition with The Rover; Studio Ghibli showcased its lesser-known talent through When Marnie was There; future Oscar-winner Birdman had everybody talking with its unconventional techniques; men were left petrified by the events of David Fincher’s Gone Girl; and Paddington proved that family-friendly movies with CGI creatures could be charming.


Do you agree with this list? What films have been missed? Be sure to comment below with your thoughts!

One thought on “Best of the Decade: 2014

  1. My favorite was Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar. A marvelous yet ambitious take on science fiction. The science is hard to believe, but there is a visceral human story at the heart that carries you through, but great list though.


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