2014 was an entertaining year for film. Marvel experienced huge successes with Guardians of the Galaxy, Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Big Hero 6. We also saw a large influx of action/comedy films, with 22 Jump Street being the prime example of how well action and comedy can mix together.
Animated movies also had a good year. The critically acclaimed How to Train Your Dragon 2 and The Lego Movie hit screens along with the stop motion Laika film, The Boxtrolls. This year, animated films proved once again that good films are not exclusive to live-action cinema.
2014’s best films were difficult to narrow down, so I decided to break up the most notable into a couple of categories. Without further ado, here are the Best Action/Comedy Films and the Best Animated Films of the year!
Best Action/Comedy Films of 2014
5. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (Peter Jackson)
Peter Jackson’s final film is highly entertaining, even if it’s a bit sloppy in its post-production in terms of continuity; there were times when Sting should have been glowing but wasn’t, or blood was missing from wounds and weapons. However, the incredibly talented cast and Jackson’s touch were enough to create an overall entertaining experience.
While many thought the name change from There and Back Again to The Battle of the Five Armies did not bode while for the last installment, it perfectly wraps up both Bilbo Baggins’ and the fans’ journeys. The film is a fitting end to Jackson’s journey through Middle-earth.
4. 22 Jump Street (Michael Bacall)
It’s rare that sequels are as good as its predecessor, but Michael Bacall managed just that with 22 Jump Street. The film has strong direction with side-splitting performances from Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill. But cast and direction aside, 22 Jump Street‘s real strength comes from its self-aware script.
Characters blatantly discuss sequel tropes in front of the audience, including overblown sequel budgets and over reliance on the story from the first film. 22 Jump Street takes these ideas, acknowledges them and then subverts them, creating both an impressive sequel and standalone film.
Also: who didn’t love that extended credits sequence?
3. Captain America: The Winter Solider (Anthony and Joe Russo)
Yet another film that demonstrates not all sequels have to be terrible. This Captain America film changed the entire landscape of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, all while satisfying as an impressive and action-packed political thriller. The Winter Solider allows Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) and Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) to develop and, more importantly, shine along side their superhero protagonist. The outstanding Anthony Mackie also makes his introduction as Falcon, a character I hope to see reappear in future MCU films.
2. Edge of Tomorrow (Doug Liman)
There were few people who thought this Tom Cruise action film would be worth anyone’s time. But when Doug Liman, who directed Mr. and Mrs. Smith and The Bourne Identity, took the helm on Edge of Tomorrow, it was instantly clear that his action background was just the right fit. Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt) and William Cage (Tom Cruise) have impressive chemistry together, which adds to the movie’s already touching tone.
The best part of this film is that Cage is a bit different from the roles Crusie normally takes. Instead of the rugged, war-torn action hero (à la The Last Samurai), in this film he plays a coward who has never seen a battlefield. Not only does this represent a small shift for Cruise, but it also makes his character arc rather refreshing.
1. Guardians of the Galaxy (James Gunn)
My all-time favorite film this year goes to Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy. The film features a strong soundtrack and fantastic writing. The mixture of 80s nostalgia and space travel make for a compelling cocktail.
Writers James Gunn and Nicole Perlman skillfully balance the film’s five characters, giving them all a chance to take the spotlight. There’s no member of the team that seemed to lack screen time or character development. This worked to create a fantastic but relatable world, helped in no small part by the masterfully integrated CGI.
Best Animated Films of 2014
5. The Boxtrolls (Graham Annable and Anthony Stacchi)
Directed by Graham Annable and Anthony Stacchi, The Boxtrolls is a well-acted and exquisitely produced stop-motion animation film. Its one downfall lies in an unfortunately scattershot script. Yet amid the middling dialogue, Richard Ayoade’s lines manage to both generate big laughs and provoke thought – especially the after-credit sequence in which he ponders existentialism. The Boxtrolls is a great example of style over substance.
4. The Book of Life (Jorge Gutierrez)
The Book of Life‘s unique style is itself an ode to animation. The film’s director, Jorge Gutierrez, explained that he wanted the film to look exactly like the concept art for the movie. “My biggest heartbreak is that I see all this glorious art, and then the movie doesn’t look like that!” His desire paid off big time in what was one of the most visually beautiful films of the year. On top of that, the plot charms and intrigues viewers and features a soundtrack that, like Guardians of the Galaxy, utilizes many dated Top 100 hits.
3. How to Train Your Dragon 2 (Dean DeBlois)
This sequel marries a fresh story and with the unstoppable duo, Hiccup and Toothless. The new software used for the film lead to fast rendering time and sharper images that ultimately yielded the clearest, most detailed animated movie yet. This allowed us to see every hair on the characters’ heads and every muscle twitch as they moved.
But beyond that meticulous attention to detail, DreamWorks’ How to Train Your Dragon 2 is a prime example of what a well-paced animated movie should look like. The story doesn’t lag, nor do any scenes that feel extraneous. The entire movie is tight, which is rare in today’s landscapes of overlong, overwrought filmmaking.
2. Big Hero 6 (Don Hall and Chris Williams)
From the lovable “non-threatening” character Baymax to its universal theme of forgiveness, this Marvel animated film was an easy hit from day one. While Big Hero 6 does not follow its comic book source material particularly faithfully, directors Don Hall and Chris Williams created a unique story that easily captures the attention and imagination of both children and adults alike.
1. The Lego Movie (Phil Lord and Chris Miller)
The Lego Movie proved that mixing Legos, a clever script and a handful of comedians together creates the best animated movie of the year. Phil Lord and Chris Miller shocked everyone when they succeeded in producing a film that was both highly successful and critically acclaimed. It is no wonder The Lego Movie did so well. The film is intelligent, hilarious and surprisingly meta at times. Lord and Miller should be immensely proud of their film.
Best Animated Short
Feast (Patrick Osborne)
This short, attached to screenings of Disney’s Big Hero 6, is simply phenomenal.The main character is a homeless puppy who suddenly finds himself in a new home. Disney’s short films consistently evoke a myriad of emotions and Feast is no different.
Much like Paperman (2012) and Blue Umbrella (2013), the film is initially in black and white. As food begins to appear, the scenery takes on color. Within a span of 6 minutes, a tale unfolds that made me cry out of sadness and joy. Director and writer Patrick Osborne exemplifies short form storytelling with Feast.
Click here to see the other 2014 lists from Movie Fail!