Best Movies of 2014: 'Like Father, Like Son,' 'Nightcrawler,' And More

Best Drama: Like Father, Like Son | This gripping family drama deservedly swept last year’s Cannes. Phenomenal performances anchor this story about an urban couple who learn the son they’ve been raising was switched at birth. The patriarch must then decide whether to keep the boy he loves or claim his biological son.

Writer/Director Hirokazu Koreeda’s meditation on love and what it means to be a parent is dealt with in a subtle dexterity that is staggering in its breadth. While leading actor Masaharu Fukuyama’s performance as the agonized father and ambitious businessman was one of the most dynamic of the year, an astonishing portrayal of conflicted pathos.

Best Documentary: Print the Legend | This fascinating look into three colliding narratives in the expanding 3-D printing business, offers an engaging look into idealism, greed and tech minded hipsters. If there’s one documentary from 2014 geared for a theatrical interpretation, this is it. 

Best Biopic: The Theory of Everything | A restrained look at the life of Stephen Hawking and his first wife Jane. This biopic tended to provoke more questions about the lives of the Hawkings than provide answers. While it is unusual in that regard, it is a pertinent way to approach a subject whose life has been spent probing for theoretical answers. 

Best Courtroom Drama: The Judge | A father and son’s tumultuous relationship plays out amidst a courtroom battle that has Robert Duvall’s prickly Judge defending himself against a murder wrap. Most courtroom dramas feature a crucial aha moment on the stand and “The Judge” is no different.

What sets its big moment apart is that it’s not a moment about guilt or innocence; it’s about a realization between a father and his son. “The Judge” is one of the true character dramas of the year to get it right by not spilling into contrived emotion.
Best Performance of the Daring Variety: Jake Gyllenhaal, Nightcrawler | It would be easy for Gyllenhaal to become complacent, instead he’s turning out one of the most eclectic filmographies of any actor currently working and just when you think he can’t top himself, he ups the stakes with another daring turn. His top notch performance in this year’s indie thriller “Enemy” was the film's saving grace and the perfect preamble to his colorful portrayal of the preternatural Lou Bloom, which ranks as his greatest feat yet.

Best Critically Drubbed Film: Transcendence | It was not a fantastic film, by any means. Was it as awful as the critics maintained? No. There was a decent concept hiding underneath Wally Pfister’s half-hazard direction, a narrative on technology and its evolving impact on our lives and an engaging performance from Johnny Deep, definitely keeps it from being unsalvageable. Read Eclectic Pop's Review here

Best Single Location Drama: Locke | Writer/Director Steven Knight offers a voyeuristic glimpse through an SUV window and into the driver’s seat of one man’s life-altering car ride. A compelling drama that relies on the single visual performance of Tom Hardy, the terrific vocal performances of those calling in for a series of fateful phone conversations, only stacks the emotional consequence for Locke’s disintegrating life.

Best Dramatic Thriller: Nightcrawler | Tony Gilroy’s directorial debut is a twisty cinematic treat that’s lead character is as menacingly mesmeric as the title suggests. A character study, thriller and horror movie all rolled into one. Gilroy knocks it out of the park with an understated calm that speaks to his main character’s steely resolve.

Best Fantasy: Maleficent | Angelina Jolie made her on-screen comeback in one of the year’s surprise hits. Making her return in ravishing style as the titular misunderstood villainess in this bold reimagining of “Sleeping Beauty”, Jolie struck gold, managing to walk the fine line between malevolence and textured virtue with a flamboyant finesse. Read Eclectic Pop’s Review here

Best Sci-Fi Film: Edge of Tomorrow | This stellar and underseen slice of movie magic, marks Tom Cruise’s best starring vehicle in years and filmmaker Doug Liman’s best directorial effort since “Go”. Read Eclectic Pop’s Review here

Best Superhero Movie: X-Men: Days of Future Past | While Peter Dinklage didn’t get the screen time he deserved and way too much time was spent on Mystique, what made up for those shortcomings was a coherent enough time-travel storyline to pass muster and the performances of Dinklage, Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy. Read Eclectic Pop’s Review here

Best Indie Thriller: Come Back to Me | This conservatively budgeted psychological thriller is a highly original, slow burn that’s shocking denouement sticks with you, long after the credits roll.
Most Overlooked Film: The Best Offer | If there were any justice, Writer/Director Giuseppe Tornatore’s engrossingly mysterious drama would be a major player in 2014’s awards circuit with Geoffrey Rush circling his fifth Oscar nod. Rush stars as an eccentric art auctioneer who becomes smitten with a reclusive heiress while handling the sale of her vast collection of fine art. As he did with “Malena”, Tornatore’s arresting direction slips the emotional handcuffs on without one noticing, until it’s too late.

Best Post-Apocalyptic Movie: Divergent | Light, energetic and teeming with unbridled young adult passion, this adaption of Veronica Roth’s thought-provoking premise was splendidly rendered. While it might’ve drawn comparisons to that other dystopian franchise, there’s no contest. When it comes to having a likeable heroine, a dashing romantic lead and an engaging adventure, “Divergent” has it beat. Read Eclectic Pop’s Review here

Best Resurgent Performance: Nicolas Cage, Joe| Quiet, brooding and intrinsically captivating, Cage reminds viewers of his incredible range and acting prowess in this haunting indie from director David Gordon Green. Read Eclectic Pop’s Review here

Best Retread: Dracula Untold | The story of cinema’s most infamous bloodsucker was retooled in 2014 and thanks to a knockout performance from leading man Luke Evans, it hit its mark.

Best Sword-and-Sandal Epic: Hercules | Brett Ratner’s rousing adaptation of “Hercules” is a rarity in its field; perfectly cast, marvelously directed and with a script so slick, it’s as extraordinary as its eponymous character. Read Eclectic Pop’s Review here

Best Thriller: Non-Stop | This Liam Neeson starrer has gotten lost in the year-long shuffle, which is a shame given its gripping mystery and highly riveting execution. What it lacked in elaborate action sequences, it more than made up for in character driven intrigue. Read Eclectic Pop’s Review here

Best Comedy: And So It Goes… | Michael Douglas and Diane Keaton’s first movie together is a delightfully funny, lighthearted affair with loads of heartfelt moments. Instilled with the breezy cool personas of its leads, Rob Reiner’s comedy breathes with an undeniably springy exuberance. Read Eclectic Pop’s Review here

Best Crime Thriller: The Drop | James Gandolfini’s final film role came in this electrifying, slow boil crime thriller. An adorable dog, a robbery gone wrong and the curious case of an ordinary bartender made for one of the year’s most overlooked gritty treasures. Read Eclectic Pop’s Review here
Most Divisive Movie: Enemy | While there might be countless interpretations of Denis Villeneuve’s bizarre thriller, there has been a much narrower reaction to it by audiences. Simply put, you either loved it or hated it. Depending on those two general trains of thought, it was either a complex mystery that’s genius came from having no answers to its symbology or it was a pointless trek into the mindscape of a man who’s predicament wasn’t all that complicated. Due to this it's certainly a fun movie to debate. We might never know the answer to what the spiders mean but determining a popular consensus on the opinion of “Enemy” might prove its most enduring legacy. Read Eclectic Pop’s Review here

Most Surprisingly Decent Thriller: Freezer | Dylan McDermott’s straight to DVD thriller proved one of the most absorbing of the year. McDermott turns in a crucially charming performance as Robert, a guy being held hostage by gangsters in a meat freezer until he gives up what the Russian mob says he owes them. Struggling to survive the frosty conditions, he must find a way to survive and escape before it’s too late. Sharp and never meandering, “Freezer” is a movie that fails to leave one cold.

Best Chemistry: Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort, The Fault in Our Stars| Woodley and Elgort never quite exhibit the ostensive sensuality in their chemistry that last year’s winners did (Woodley and Miles Teller for “The Spectacular Now”). However they manage to make up for that by portraying a genuine bond forged through friendship. Read Eclectic Pop’s Review here

Best Consistent Presence: Morgan Freeman | Whether he was explaining the impossible science of “Lucy” or trying to handle anti-tech extremists in “Transcendence”, Freeman proved an invaluable asset to both films. One of the main downsides of “Transcendence” was that he wasn’t utilized more.

Most Heartbreaking Performance: Laura Dern, The Fault in Our Stars | Playing the mother of Shailene Woodley’s Hazel, Laura Dern delivered the movie’s most heart wrenching moments with a devastating rawness that showed viewers the depths of a mother’s unfathomable pain and her vigorous grasp on life’s fleeting joys. Read Eclectic Pop’s Review here

Most Overlooked Performance: Tom Hardy, Locke | The genius in Hardy’s performance is making you forget he’s giving one. Natural beyond belief, Hardy draws viewers inside the car of Ivan Locke and his predicament with an earnestness that is spellbinding.

Breakout Performance: Rohan Chand, Bad Words | The best kid performance of the year came from Rohan Chand in March's raunchy comedy as the wiz kid spelling master who faces down the ignorant Guy Trilby (Jason Bateman), mananging to win over even his blistery heart. Chand is a star in the making. Read Eclectic Pop’s Review here

Best Performance in a Not So Great Movie: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Mockingjay: Part 1 | Hoffman’s nuanced performance was the bright spot in this disastrous sequel. Read Eclectic Pop's Review here

Best Villainous Performance: Eva Green, 300: Rise of an Empire | In a year that saw Green make waves on the small screen with her terrifyingly dazzling performance on Showtime’s “Penny Dreadful”, she managed to turn in an equally formidable turn as the revenge bent Artemisia. Green’s zealous performance was so tremendous, it was hard not be swayed onto Artemisia’s side. Read EclecticPop’s Review here