Every year to start off July I look at my five favorite movies of the year so far. This year has been filled with surprises and a few unfortunate letdowns. What’s really taken me by surprise are the number of high-quality blockbusters. We have had some multimillion dollar stinkers, but there have been several big-budget movies that have been great. Obviously there are tons of movie still on the 2014 calendar so there is no promise that any of these films will make my end of the year ‘Best of’ list. But so far all of these have impressed me enough to be called my favorites of 2014 (so far).
#5 – “The Lego Movie”
I can’t believe I’m putting this ahead of “Edge of Tomorrow”, a movie I really loved. But what can I say? “The Lego Movie is…well AWESOME. Anyone who frequently reads my stuff knows that I am probably one of the pickiest people when it comes to animation. It takes a lot for an animated feature to win me over. “The Lego Movie” won me over big time. Not only is it the best animated film I’ve seen in the past few years, it is also one of the best comedies. The script from Phil Lord and Christopher Miller is smart, sweet, and downright hilarious at times. Then there is the entire look of the film. I was amazed at how incredible the characters and the landscapes looked. There is also tons of hidden humor, inside gags, and an emotional payoff that never felt lame or manipulative. This was a great film and all I can say is “Everything is Awesome”!
#4 – “X-Men: Days of Future Past”
I was excited for this film the moment I heard it was coming, but I was also a bit skeptical. The joining of all of the major X-Men cast members from the past series to the prequel-boot seemed a bit gimmicky and it had the potential to fall flat. I’m glad the returning Bryan Singer didn’t allow that to happen. In fact, “X-Men: Days of Future Past” is the best X-Men film since the first installment way back in 2000. A very smart and clever story anchor this time-jumping superhero film. It isn’t wall-to-wall action, but it builds upon some great character interactions and a compelling central hook. It also has a clear focus which kept it from being messy and convoluted. There are also some great performances particularly from McAvoy and Fassbender. For me this film reinvigorated the X-Men franchise and I hope the next film can do the same.
#3 – “Godzilla”
I think ‘nostalgia’ is going to play a big part in the remainder of this list. It is definitely one of the things that really sold me on “Godzilla”. I had absolutely no expectations for this film whatsoever, but what I found was a movie that beautifully hearkened back to the original Godzilla and so many of the other creature features of the 1950s. I liked how every character, regardless of the star who portrayed them, worked to serve the greater plot. I liked how the movie intentionally holds back and doesn’t take the modern day approach of barraging our senses. I liked how some of the characters are written as though they were plucked right out of the 1950s. There was so much about “Godzilla” that took me surprise. Many of the complaints some have shared I consider strengths, and I appreciate the approach from director Gareth Edwards. What a fun surprise.
#2 – “The Monuments Men”
I know I may receive some flack for this one but so be it. It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve went against the majority. I loved “The Monuments Men”. I understand that many didn’t go for what director George Clooney was doing. I thought it was fantastic. He took a truly remarkable story and told it in the style of the buddy war movies of the late 1960s and early 1970s. That nostalgic approach was easy for me to warm up to. Even the end credits and Alexandre Desplat’s score hearkens back to those old films. I’ve watched “The Monuments Men” twice and my enthusiasm for the film hasn’t waned. I know many people wanted a different movie than what Clooney crafted and I certainly respect that. But I loved the cast, loved the remarkable true story, and I loved how it took me back to movies from a different time.
#1 – “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”
Even with all of my excitement and incredibly high expectations for this film, I was still caught off guard by how much I love this movie. In fact I went back to watch it again expecting to see my enthusiasm tempered. It definitely was not. I thought this was fantastic from start to finish. It succeeded in capturing the characteristics and nuances of the comic book character blueprints while telling a story that opened up the characters, was filled with nostalgia, and brought back memories of old-school action films. Every detail, every performance, and every plot twist worked for me on some level. And the Winter Soldier himself couldn’t be any better. I’m a huge fan of the Captain America comics, but even with my critical eye I had an absolute blast.
I cannot believe that this list is so blockbuster heavy, but that is the kind of year it has been. The big budget pictures have really surprised. Now the question is how will they hold up against the rest of 2014’s movies we have ahead of us. Time will tell but it has been a surprising year so far.
Quite a list, Keith! I’ve seen four of your five, and loved them. You’ve got me curious of Monuments Men, now.
Most people really didn’t respond well to Monuments Men. I totally respect that but I loved the throwback feel combined with the great true story. I just gotta defend my love for it.
Nice list, those are all fun movies. I haven’t seen Monument’s Men yet because I was turned off by the bad reviews, but now I might have to check it out.
Thanks for commenting. I think The Monuments Men turned many people off because it wasn’t the type of film they wanted. There is a certain old school style to it that I truly enjoyed. It has a few shortcomings but nothing that killed my enjoyment of it. Hope you’ll give it a look soon.
No Grand Budapest Hotel? Mine would probably include Her and Edge of Tomorrow…don’t know yet which other two I’d include.
Grand Budapest was a disappointment for me. It was one of my most anticipated of the year but I didn’t find it as funny or as layered as Anderson’s other work. Not terrible by any means, but I was hoping for so much more.
By the way… which movie is Edge of Darkness? IMDB only showed a 2010 movie with that title….and some older ones…
Edge of Tomorrow
It’s a typo. I meant Edge of Tomorrow. There was an Edge if Darkness from around 2010. It was a Mel Gibson thriller.
Cool list man and good to see the Lego Movie in there! It’s hard to judge this kind of thing over here as stuff like 12 Years a Slave and American Hustle are technically 2014 movies for us! I wouldn’t have Monuments Men but I know you really dug it. I’d have Grand Budapest Hotel and Frank in my list for sure.
I hear you. 12 Years and Hustle both were 2013 flicks over here. It is odd how that works and I know that would have to effect many lists from over there.
I’ve seen four out of five of these movies and I must say I agree with most of this list 😀 Can’t wait to see what you come up with in the second half of the year
Thanks Angie! Which one have you not seen yet? And isn’t it amazing that the big blockbusters have been so strong this year. They have really surprised me.
Monuments Men. I’m waiting for it on video so I could catch up. I missed a couple of great movies because there were so many that came out in succession. 😀 Your list reminded me of that, thanks!
Monuments Men hasn’t found a lot of support out there but I truly enjoyed it. I hope you’ll tell me what you think of it once you see it.
Totally make my list too. I haven’t seen three of these though. I need to see them. So far, I’d put Enemy, LEGO Movie, Noah, Child’s Pose and The Grand Budapest Hotel at the top.
Ahh, so Noah would make your list? Interesting. I really didn’t care for it and I had such high hopes. I still need to see Enemy. Heard really good things about it.
Noah was certainly not what I was expecting, and I don’t agree with any of it really…but there is something very interesting about what Aronofsky created, and taken out of the context of ‘biblical epic’, I think it works really well.
I have a feeling that if it hadn’t been championed as the story of Noah, it would have received a richer response.
Enemy is exceptional.
Nice list, Keith. I’m in the corner with you regarding Monuments Men. The subject matter was enthralling and a story I knew very little about. Cate’s character was the more interesting of the ensemble and I will say the cast was a motley crew that didn’t work so well for me. However, I liked the fact it felt like a film from the 1950s or 60s and saving the art — yes, absolutely, do it!
Sooo glad to here from someone else who liked MM. I really went for it. I do understand how it may not work for others who expected something entirely different, but it worked for me on a number of levels. Really liked it.
Totally with you on Winter Soldier. Lego Movie feels like forever ago now! Only bone to pick would be Godzilla. I enjoyed it but wasn’t all that high on it. I’d be surprised if it’s in anyones top ten by the years end.
I loved Godzilla. It has such an old school vibe to it. I’ve watched so many of the creature features from the 50s and this film unashamedly hearkens back to those movies. I just ate that up.
Still need to see The Monuments Men. Got caught up in the negativity and never got around to it. But your glaring recommendation is going to change all that ;). Terrific list, Keith!
Thanks man. I’m definitely one of few to really champion Monuments Men but I really love it. It has a very different structure and vibe but that’s one of the things I loved about it.
Great list! I absolutely adored The LEGO Movie (it makes my top list as well). I have yet to see Monuments Men and Godzilla, but I definitely enjoyed X-Men and Captain America.
Awesome. It’s definitely been the year of the really good blockbuster. Now not all have been good (Transformers and Spider-Man come to mind), but these were really strong.
Thanks for reading!
Great idea to post your top 5 mid year, Keith, I just might do that soon later in July 😉
Well you already know how I feel about Monuments Men, Godzilla is just ok for me, not great. But I’m so w/ you about the rest of ’em, The LEGO Movie, Captain America 2 & the latest X-Men will probably make my top 10 of the year, we’ll see!
3 out of 5 ain’t bad, right? 🙂
I was so amazed at how much I love Winter Soldier. Such a great superhero movie that I cannot wait to see again.
I can’t wait to see that one again too, Keith. If only a lot of blockbusters had at least similar quality as that one, unlike you-know-what by the hack Michael Bay!
Very interesting to see Monuments Men on here. I haven’t seen it yet, but you’ve got me curious to check it out. I still need to check out Lego Movie and Captain America, too.
So many didn’t like The Monuments Men. I really liked its unique and nostalgic approach. I think a lot of people wanted a different kind of movie. I liked what they put together.
I haven’t seen much this year thus far, but I have enjoyed what I’ve watched (which would include Budapest, Tim’s Vermeer, and Godzilla). Nice list.
Thanks man. I really wanted to love Budapest. Instead I found myself disappointed. It’s not a bad movie just not as good as I hoped.
Always nice to see someone defend an unpopular choice, and I love your reasoning behind it. You’re right, this has been a pretty exceptional year for movies (read: blockbusters) so far; and if the pattern stays the same, boy are we in for quite a fall season!
My top five might be thus far (in no particular order):
3) Under the Skin
4) Days of Future Past
5) Ernest & Celestine.
Clearly a more indie-driven list, but I can’t help it. Some of these might very well survive to my DSB Awards Ceremony this December. They’re that good. 🙂
I definitely share your enthusiasm with Godzilla. I know it didn’t resonate with some but man I loved it. It’s one that I can’t wait to watch again.
You have a couple on your list I still need to see. I have to get on that.
🙂 May I suggest you prioritize Chef before the others, in that case.
Interesting. That’s the one I was most reluctant about. I’ll have to give it a shot.
Great post, Keith. And yes, Monuments Men was definitely underrated. I enjoyed it.
Soooo glad to hear from someone else who shares my enthusiasm for the film. For me it was certainly better than a lot of the press it has received.
Nice list keith. I really enjoyed The Lego Movie and Godzilla. My favourites from this year include The Grand Budapest Hotel, Locke and Under The Skin too. Monuments Men is an interesting choice – I recently enjoyed Tammy despite widespread criticism of it – so great to see you championing it.
Thanks so much. I really do like The Monuments Men even though I completely understand most didn’t care for it. Budapest was one of my most highly anticipated films of the year yet I left a bit disappointed. I’m a huge Wes Anderson fan but I felt this one was missing the magic that his other films possess. I’m anxious to give it another look though.
Sorry to hear you were disappointed by it Keith. Sometimes films are like that when you’ve been anticipating them so much. Hope you like it better second time around.
Not seen Godzilla yet, but great list overall!
Thank you very much. Godzilla was a huge surprise. To be honest, I didn’t originally plan on wasting a trip to the theater. I’m so glad I did. It’s very nostalgic and its structure and storytelling and some people found that to be a bit slow. I absolutely loved it. Give it a shot.
Wow, nice list, Keith! I’m in the process of making my list now, and I have three of your five definitely on it: X-Men: Days of Future Past, Captain America 2, and The Lego Movie! I am with you in that it just seems like there have been so many good blockbusters this year, but hey, it’s kind of nice when that happens!
Side note: I have missed going to your site, and when I came on, I was so impressed and blown away by how far you’ve come. I still remember your site in the beginning . . . must make you very proud to see how far you can come in a short period of time. I’m definitely impressed and excited to poke around on here and check out more posts! -Kristin
KRISTIN!!! My gosh it has been such a long time. SO glad to hear from you. I really appreciate the kind words. You absolutely were one of the first to ever frequent the site and it was quite encouraging. Don’t be a stranger! 🙂
Honestly I can’t believe how many good blockbusters there have been. That is almost never the case. But like you said, it is nice when that happens. They spend enough money so the movie should be good, right?
Aww, thanks for the kind words, Keith – I don’t plan to be a stranger! 🙂
I know, right? They spend more than enough money. It’s cool to actually be getting some great movies out of everything now! And not just one, but a few of them. I’m looking forward to being it a little more difficult to decide between what I like best and most this year.
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