For me, 2014 was a distinctly average year, peppered with some great surprises – Guardians of the Galaxy, CITIZENFOUR – and some huge disappointments – Interstellar, Godzilla. I saw 76 movies in all (forty down on 2013) and while I tried to be more choosy, time and circumstance stopped me from seeing a variety of movies that (I suspect) would have made the following 10 Worst and 10 Best lists look a whole lot different. My apologies then to The Imitation Game, Jersey Boys, If I Stay, This Is Where I Leave You, Nightcrawler and Boyhood.
Perhaps the most dispiriting aspect of cinema going in 2014 was the box office returns of certain movies that, for me, show a complete disregard for their intended audience, and elevate the dumbest material to even dumber heights. The king of the worldwide box office for 2014 is Transformers: Age of Extinction, bringing in over a billion dollars and securing the eventual release of a fifth movie in the franchise (God help us). And even Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, possibly the most ill-considered and misbegotten movie of the year, still managed to amass nearly half a billion across the globe. As a triumph of marketing over content, the movie must be regarded as a success, but otherwise just shows that there are too many Turtles fans out there who don’t – or won’t – read reviews. So here are the top 10 movies at the box office for 2014:
1 Transformers: Age of Extinction – $1,087,404,499
2 Guardians of the Galaxy – $772,462,030
3 Maleficent – $757,752,378
4 X-Men: Days of Future Past – $746,045,700
5 Captain America: The Winter Soldier – $714,083,572
6 The Amazing Spider-Man 2 – $708,982,323
7 Dawn of the Planet of the Apes – $708,279,489
8 The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 – $669,719,406
9 Interstellar – $641,387,217
10 How to Train Your Dragon 2 – $618,909,935
Seeing Maleficent at number three is probably the biggest surprise on the list, and I suspect that, say, six months down the line, some of those positions will change – The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies has yet to finish its theatrical runs, and the same goes for Interstellar and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1. Seeing so many superhero movies in the list isn’t such a surprise, but the fact that what was for many the most intelligent and thought-provoking sci-fi movie of 2014 – sorry, Mr Nolan – reached number seven.
Actually visiting the cinema remained an exciting/frustrating experience, exciting because of seeing a movie on the big screen (that stuff never gets old), and frustrating because there’s still too many people who visit the cinema and treat it like they’re still at home: talking, texting, and rustling sweet wrappers and slurping drinks as if they were all by themselves. When I saw Magic in the Moonlight a woman’s mobile phone rang. Unfazed (or bothered) she answered it, told the person at the other end she was at the cinema, that she was seeing “that new Woody Allen movie”, and “so far, it’s okay”. And she was offended when the gentleman behind her asked her to switch it off.
Compiling the 10 Worst and 10 Best lists below was harder than expected. Of the worst – the number one movie aside – it was difficult to judge how bad each movie was from each other. Most are the cinematic equivalent of a car crash, bad ideas given money in the hope that things will improve somehow. One movie, Serena, was so difficult to place I thought about giving it its own category: The Movie That Gets Worse Every Time I Think About It. And the list shows that even stars of the calibre of Johnny Depp and George Clooney aren’t immune from making real clunkers from time to time.
THE 10 WORST MOVIES OF 2014
10 47 Ronin
7 The Face of an Angel
The 10 Best list was even harder to judge and assemble. The number one movie was in place from the moment I saw it, and The Grand Budapest Hotel was always going to be in the top three, but looking back over 2014, the number of strong, superbly crafted movies came as a bit of a shock. I could have stretched the list to fifteen* (and I did consider it for a while), but in the end it seemed like cheating, or making my choices easier. This list’s Serena was Rosewater, a movie I saw at the London Film Festival, and which was one of several 9/10 movies I saw there. It’s place on the list was assured, but again, just where was a problem I couldn’t figure out when I looked at the other movies on my list. Even now I’m not completely happy with where it is, but the decision’s been made, so that’s that.
THE 10 BEST MOVIES OF 2014
One last thought: when I first started writing this particular piece, I had an idea that the number one movie wouldn’t actually be a movie, but a TV series (weird, huh?). For me, the absolute best thing I saw in 2014 was Fargo. If you haven’t seen it for fear it will tarnish your memory of the original movie, or that it can’t possibly match it for wit and invention then have no fear, it’s the most sublime “movie” (albeit in ten parts) you’re likely to see for some time to come. And to everyone who has seen it, I’ll bet, like me, you can’t wait for the second series to come around later this year – “for sure”.