2014 was the first year I documented and ranked the movies I saw. I was admittedly not a true lover of movies until this year, and therefore, that is pretty much where the #CinemAce journey begins.
It is fitting then, that the number one movie of 2014 became one of my all-time favorites.
So let's go. 2014 was loaded.
1. Captain America: The Winter Soldier; A+
It is hard to believe that the sequel to the 2011 Captain America debut was once considered unnecessary and a waste of time, simply minding the gap in between Avengers vehicles. Little did we know we were in store for the best Marvel Studios (obviously an opinion) movie and a film that would completely change the comic book game.
In 2012, The Avengers shattered records, but solo outings for superheroes, outside of Christopher Nolan's latter two Batman movies and the third Sam Raimi Spider-Man film, had yet to make the financial splash that superhero movies now hit with ease today. Since Marvel Studios' debut feature Iron Man in 2008, fans and critics alike were pleased but not blown away by the Iron Man sequel or The Incredible Hulk, Thor and Captain America; The first Avenger.
Helmed by Anthony and Joe Russo, brothers who previously worked in television, the Russo's brought a slick style to Captain America, taking him from out-of-time and out-of-place goody two shoes to an absolute badass.
Taking heavy inspiration from comic book writer Ed Brubaker's Winter Soldier run (probably my favorite run of comic book goodness), the Russo's insert the titular Winter Soldier as one of the franchise's best villains and successfully worked a real-world narrative into a comic book film.
Portraying Cap on screen always ran the risk of making him too much of a boy scout. As he progressed into the modern age, he truly became a star and arguably the most popular comic book character after The Winter Soldier.
On top of that, the Russo's and Marvel Studios completely shake up the entire universe with the destruction of SHIELD, and pave the way for the future of the MCU, which the Russo's have their fingerprints all over, going on to direct my top 2016 movie Captain America: Civil War and more than very likely my top 2018 film, Avengers: Infinity War.
Also, that Henry Jackman soundtrack.
2. Guardians of the Galaxy; A+
After the success of The Winter Soldier, non-Avengers projects at Marvel definitely had people's attention. However, people were skeptical that even the behemoth that is Marvel Studios could turn their D-team into a box office success.
With The Avengers out of the box and the X-Men and Fantastic Four operated by Fox, the Guardians of the Galaxy became a reality. With an innovative, creative script from James Gunn and what has become an all-time soundtrack, the movie shattered August box office precedent and added another pillar to the résumé of Marvel.
Pinpoint casting, a forte of the studio, put together an incredibly likable title team. Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana and especially Dave Bautista highlight the Guardians, and made a winner of the film and fans of us all. The movie also fleshes out Thanos and the Infinity Stones, a tall task completed swiftly.
3. John Wick; A+
From the stunt masters behind The Matrix, a passion project with Keanu Reeves ended up becoming a cult classic and one of the best action movies in recent memory. John Wick is sexy, stylish and ruthless. You will be hard-pressed to find better hand-to-hand combat (although number one on this list does a damn fine job) and what the film's creators appropriately call "Gun Fu" is hard to take your eyes off of.
I understand Reeves has some detractors, but my emotional, probably romantic connection with every character he plays...from Neo, to Shane Falco to Mr. Wick...is undeniable.
4. The Amazing Spider-Man 2; A+
Maybe it is my ever-loving bias of the web slinger, my first cinematic love from 2002, but I actually loved the sequel to 2012's inexplicable reboot. Putting Paul Giamatti's eccentric, cartoonish Rhino on the back-burner, I thought that Electro was actually fine. Jamie Foxx ramps up the campiness a little too hard, but he's a good villain when he's feeling blue.
In the spirit of completely rebooting the franchise two years earlier, Sony decided to use Green Goblin yet again despite one of the most elaborate rogue galleries. Dane Dehaan's portrayal and design didn't have many fans, but it had one in me.
In an effort to shake up the usual superhero score, Hans Zimmer jumps from Batman to Spider-Man and teams up with Junkie XL, artist Pharrell and others to put together one of my absolute favorite movie soundtracks.
5. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes; A+
The most underrated movie trilogy in many years --not with critics but with fans and box office receipts-- the modern Planet of the Apes trilogy is damn near perfect. Dawn captures the middle of the journey leading up to the events in the 1968 classic. In between Caesar's creation and the war for humanity...and the planet of the apes...we have an attempt for peace.
The movie is all about the man, er, ape in charge. That is Caesar. Matt Reeves takes the helm from Rupert Wyatt and builds on everything he laid as groundwork. Historically breathtaking CGI and motion capture work, especially from star Andy Serkis, makes you feel like an ape yourself and creates one of the most admirable and powerful protagonists in film history.
6. Boyhood; A+
The thing about movies is that you ditch reality, suspend your disbelief and invest in something that usually couldn’t happen in the real world. However, with Boyhood, he really did spend years filming the developing life of a young boy. All of the problems a young kid has becoming a man are on genuine display in Richard Linklater’s literal coming-of-age film.
7. Nightcrawler; A+
Jake Gyllenhaal puts this movie on his back and plays a video journalist with huge aspirations and an insatiable desire for perfection. It's chilling, it's thrilling and it's very real. The movie never lets go, either. Up until the credits roll, you have no idea what to expect.
8. Big Hero 6; A+
With the live-action superhero genre now king, Marvel has all but discontinued their animated superhero films. However, Big Hero 6 is a little different. It's not a superhero movie, per say. It isn't about Spider-Man or Captain America. But it is about Marvel characters.
With Marvel now under the Disney umbrella, Disney was bound to take comic book characters and create an animated movie. Indeed that is what they did with Big Hero 6.
The film is smart, using a genuine base knowledge of science and inventions, and has the usual Disney heart at the center of it while avoiding being overly touchy or campy. All the characters are lovable and the slick action and recreated cityscape of "San Fransokyo" is impressive.
9. What We Do in the Shadows; A+
Taika Waititi’s self-mockumentary about the life of a vampire is absolutely one of the funniest movies I have ever seen. There’s something about the New Zealand charm, and the total anarchy in this script, that makes for non-stop (see #12!) laughs. An excellent supporting cast, as well.
10. Edge of Tomorrow; A+
Tom Cruise action movies are usually popcorn fun at their peak. Edge of Tomorrow, with the great tagline "Live, Die, Repeat," is filled with awesome action but also a coherent, incredible story that utilizes the creativity of the plot really well. Plus, Emily Blunt. And really cool aliens. And the end of the world is always fascinating.
11. Non-Stop; A+
Why is Liam Neeson such a badass? I seriously can't get enough of the Irish bastard. I didn't see the twist coming and am not the most fearless of planes. All that and a genuine thriller combine to give me, and hopefully you, one hell of a movie. Another thing, everywhere you turn here is a dramatic plot twist and an incredible actor.
12. The Equalizer; A+
Watch Denzel Washington kick ass when he's not reading in a coffee shop and molding the mind of Hit-Girl? Say no more. (So I won’t!)
13. X-Men: Days of Future Past; A+
X-Men films have been hit or miss. And the hits, in 2000 and 2002, were good for me. Not great. I think a big misstep for Fox was poor casting of many of the X-Men team members. Like Cyclops, or Rogue, or Mystique, or Nightcrawler, just to name a few.
Only two X-Men films to me have been great. Logan in 2017 and this one right here.
First Class is close. It rebooted things in 2011, cleaning the slate thanks to director Matthew Vaughn and the new duo of James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender as Professor X and Magneto, respectively. However, Fox wanted to revisit the Patrick Stewart-Ian McKellen pair, but also wanted to feature the new group, and wanted Hugh Jackman's Wolverine to be at the center of it.
A daring endeavor, and they brought back Bryan Singer, who spurned them in 2006 to direct Superman Returns, to do it. High aspirations were rewarded, and Days of Future Past is far and away the best X-Men movie for me. Unfortunately, it didn't last when Apocalypse fell flat in 2016. At least there's Deadpool.
14. A Walk Among the Tombstones; A+
Liam Neesons. I can understand why people run these all together as Taken sequels, I guess (2014 featured the third and final of those). But each is different, save for that man kicking some ass. Sometimes twice a year. Detective Dante Culpepper reporting for duty.
15. The Grand Budapest Hotel; A+
Wes Anderson’s films smell a little to me like one of my favorite directors, Edgar Wright. Quirky, unafraid to be ridiculous, and a whole lot of fun. Before he was a surprise choice as Flash Thompson, Tony Revolori flourished alongside the seasoned, witty mustache veteran Ralph Fiennes. Whenever I see a concierge now, I just assume they have a miraculous story.
16. Selma; A+
The unbelievable story of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Unbelievable as in “how did racism exist? How does it still? How did slavery?” The history of humans —and especially Americans— is dark and disappointing. The fact that the color of one’s skin is a reason for being different will always perplex me. Like Selma’s A+ grade, a cast that has stars like Cuba Gooding Jr., Oprah Winfrey and Dylan Baker in minor roles is reflective of the film’s impressive depth.
17. Whiplash; A+
The air kind of comes out of the proverbial balloon at the end, with some happenings that are far-fetched in a movie that otherwise deals with grounded events. J.K. Simmons is so relentless in this and I hope to never be at the brunt of such unconditional hatred.
18. Birdman; A+
One of those movies where you have to appreciate and really love the actor behind the main character. Here that happens to be Michael Keaton, caught in-between playing Batman and the Vulture, as well as the ruthless antagonizing of the Hulk Edward Norton.
19. Draft Day; A+
Sports movies, like Disney animated movies, flirt closely with being too sappy and taking you out of the experience. However, Draft Day, starring the undefeated Kevin Costner as general manager of the ill-fated Cleveland Browns, is so accurate to the real-life Browns that any sports fan will appreciate it.
The movie came out just before the actual NFL Draft, and the Browns seemed to be having themselves a miraculous "Draft Day" indeed, directly shadowing the movie. It was quite the experience until they picked Johnny Manziel.
20. Oculus; A
Another scary movie I really liked. On top of being scary, trippy and not pulling any punches, the movie did what all movies strive to do: connect you to the cast. Karen Gillan and Brenton Thwaites are fantastic and I am fearful for the brother and sister's safety from the moment I meet them. (Such a cool title, too.)
21. The Judge; A
Maybe I am way too big of a Robert Downey Jr. fan. Maybe I saw my own, recently passed grandfather in Robert Duvall's elder character. Whatever it is, this movie moved me pretty hard. Enough for me to forgive its weirdly ambitious multitude of subplots.
22. The Purge: Anarchy; A
2014 seemed to please me a lot more than most. The Purge movies are more popular in conversation than actually getting people to theaters. Jumping from the focused experience of Ethan Hawke's family in the first Purge, now we hit the streets and follow as Frank Grillo's character and a band of others try to get through the killing-sanctioned night. I enjoyed it immensely, and find Grillo an exceptional actor. Of the three Purge movies (with a fourth on the way), this is my favorite.
23. The Imitation Game; A
Benedict Cumberbatch has a weird face. It’s oddly compelling while I’m aware that it’s beautifully unique. As all humans should be. I love that incredibly talented man. He’s wonderful as Alan Turing and the true story behind this movie is worth retelling.
24. Chef; A
Jon Favreau took a quick respite from the blockbuster super hero and animated adventures to direct Chef. It’s got a small, focused scope, and though Favreau brings along some of his big name friends (Robert Downey Jr. and Scarlett Johansson), this one is all about the aspiring chef and his relationship with his son.
25. Interstellar; A
Christopher Nolan's IMAX-gasm is visually stunning, as expected. After nailing Leo DiCaprio for Inception, he gets an inspiring performance from another A-lister, this time from Matthew McConaughey.
26. Deliver Us from Evil; A
After Sinister and before Doctor Strange, Scott Derrickson made Deliver Us from Evil. Not sure what happened here, as the movie flopped, but I thought it was equally thrilling and also very smart and grounded Not a straight-up horror, which many seem to bank on.
27. As Above, So Below; A
The end blew my mind. It also blew my friend's mind. And if he didn't see it coming, I have faith you won't, either. He's a smart guy.
28. The Lego Movie; A
It's obviously catered to kids, but incredible voice acting and countless cameos and references make it a thrill ride for fans of all ages. It doesn't hurt that it is genuinely funny.
29. Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones; A-
The found footage darling fights on with a semi-sequel-prequel-Zenon the Zequel. Another ending that elevates a good film to very good in my eyes. For a movie many dismissed due to the fatigue on the franchise, I was very happy with what I saw.
30. Gone Girl; A-
A MOVIE BASED ON A BOOK! A MOVIE BASED ON A BOOK! A MOVIE BASED ON A BOOK! A MOVIE BASED ON A BOOK! A MOVIE BASED ON A BOOK!. #FreeBenAffleck
31. Annabelle; B+
Crazy enough, I prefer this 2014 Annabelle, which was shunned by critics, to the "certified fresh" Annabelle: Creation in 2017. I thought the 2014 version was scarier and made better use of that damn terrifying doll. Not that the 2017 edition didn't, because I still like that movie a lot, but the 2014 film legitimately terrified by soul.
32. Robocop; B
Before reboots dominated Hollywood and were hated for merely existing, Robocop snuck in there in 2014. Truthfully, it isn't very memorable and doesn't separate itself from the original, but is certifiable entertainment.
33. Godzilla; B
Gareth Edwards, before (mostly) helming Rogue One and after aptly directing 2010's Monsters, took on the biggest and baddest monster of them all. In fact, 2014's Godzilla launched Warner Bros.' "Monsterverse." (2017's Kong: Skull Island is the better of the two so far for me.)
The movie certainly builds up the appearance of its star and makes you wait to see the famous monster. When he does arrive, it is indeed something special. Unfortunately, the character beats leading up to what we all came for...are not what we came for.
34. 22 Jump Street; B-
Another sequel I much prefer to its predecessor, 21 Jump Street. Almost-Han Solo directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller, who also helmed The Lego Movie, deliver a successful comedy. The laughs are there, but the story makes it more than what it could have been.
35. Lucy; B-
Luc Besson was extremely ambitious with Lucy. Starring Scarlett Johansson, a drug deal gone wrong ends up giving her superpowers and sends her on a killing spree. Or something. I don't really remember. But I remember having enough fun.
36. The Gambler; C+
Sometimes, I just sit back and enjoy an actor do their work. The Gambler isn't groundbreaking cinema, but Mark Wahlberg is always worth the price of admission.
37. No Good Deed; C
Idris Elba, too.
38. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1; C
While I loathe Jennifer Lawrence, the Hunger Games novels are some of my very favorite literature and I have really enjoyed three of the four movies. Mockingjay was split into two parts, which would have been okay if it wasn't such an obvious cash grab. Everything from the third of three novels worth happening wait until Mockingjay Part 2 the following year. Part 1 was unnecessary, but still decent.
39. Divergent; C-
With Hunger Games coming to a close and Harry Potter years finished, the young adult novel movie genre was clinging to life. Then Divergent came along...and killed it for good.
40. Horrible Bosses 2; C-
A lot of dumb laughs, but enough good ones to justify a grade that isn't too horrible. Chris Pine is fun as a goof baddie.
41. Sin City: A Dame to Kill For; C-
I didn't know a lot about Sin City going in, so I am not in the least qualified to properly evaluate it. As for this movie alone, I had a good enough time watching but was also checking my phone too many times.
42. Fury; D+
Sometimes a movie tries way too hard to develop characters. I felt that way about Fury, which has nothing to do with the everyone's favorite one-eyed director. After this film, David Ayer went on to do Suicide Squad, which makes Fury look more like Mad Max or Gone With the Wind. That's a plus, I guess...a D+.
43. Neighbors; D
Dumb comedy isn't my kind of comedy. Wasn't crazy about Neighbors, but did chuckle here and there.
44. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles; D-
It's unfortunate that the filmmakers had no idea what kind of movie they wanted to make. The imbalance between camp and cartoon, grit and realism and a bizarre array of tone dooms the live-action heroes in a half shell.
Commercially, things actually went okay, and a sequel in 2016 was green-lit. That one was a little better, but a third TMNT is highly unlikely.
45. Ouija; D-
Mediocre scary movie, though the "sequel" in 2016 fared much better. I actually like this one better, and don't really like either.
46. Transformers: Age of Extinction; F
When I wasn't rolling my eyes, I was pretending to go to the bathroom. I struggle to figure out how so many people in a room can decide to produce something like this.