Why 2014 Was A Surprisingly Great Year For Films

Tom Butler - do not use
·Senior UK Writer

This time last year, 2014 was looking like it would be a pretty average year at the cinema.

All the big movies – ‘Star Wars 7’, ‘Avengers 2’, ‘Batman v Superman’, ‘Jurassic World’ and ‘Bond 24’ – were all coming out in 2015, so it seemed like 2014 would just be a stopgap to be endured before the big one.

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How wrong those expectations turned out to be. Against all odds, 2014 ended up being a vintage year for cinema, as we saw with the amazing selection of films fighting it out for The Oscars.

Innovative film-making


It was also reassuring to see that a few genuinely innovative and exciting films will be duking it out for the tops honours.

There are no obvious heavy “Oscar-bait” contenders that look likely to dominate.

Instead Richard Linklater’s muted and emotional ‘Boyhood’, which was shot over 12 years competed with Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s technically astounding ‘Birdman’ (with the latter winning Best Picture), which plays out like it was shot in one continuous take.

[Watch Boyhood on Sky Movies]

Other films in contention were ‘Nightcrawler’, ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’, ‘Whiplash’ and ‘Foxcatcher’ alongside more traditional fare like ‘The Imitation Game’, ‘The Theory of Everything’.
Blockbusting boom


The summer line-up for 2014 looked fraught with risks and none of the major players looked like a safe bet, however there were no major let downs by the time autumn arrived.

The first ‘Captain America’ was solidly entertaining, but Steve Rogers is arguably the least-interesting Avenger, so little was expected of ‘The Winter Soldier’. The Russo brothers (best known for directing TV comedy) defied expectations and delivered a bombastic sequel with action sequences to rival ‘The Avengers’ and a plot that shook up the whole Marvel Cinematic Universe forever. Heck, they even made Captain America seem interesting.

Beset with production problems from the start, ‘Dawn of the Planet of the Apes’ looked like the blockbuster most likely to tank this summer, but Matt Reeves’ sombre action epic brought a touch of class to the box office this year, providing a bit of brain with its dazzling CGI brawn.

‘X-Men: Days of Future Past’ also looked a bit iffy. The plot sounded convoluted, there were too many characters to properly service, and Bryan Singer was looking like a director whose hit-making touch had deserted him (did anyone actually see ‘Jack The Giant Slayer’?). Thankfully then, ‘DOFP’ was actually pretty cool. Yes, its plot holes were numerous, but it was playful, quick-paced, and it featured the best action sequence of the year – Quicksilver in the kitchen.

Finally, ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ was often described as “Marvel’s riskiest film yet”, but in hindsight, it’s hard to see why people were concerned. James Gunn’s space opera turned out to be Marvel’s funniest film so far (and crucially, one of its most successful) opening up the cosmos for Marvel to explore in the future.

Summer of Surprises


Outside of the major franchises, the summer served up a few curveballs that took everyone by surprise.

Luc Besson’s ‘Lucy’ secured Scarlett Johansson’s place as the sci-fi star of the year. Having already wowed in ‘Her’ and ‘Under The Skin’, ScarJo proved that she has what it takes to lead an action film (Marvel, stop stalling on that Black Widow film), and Lucy was charmingly bats*** crazy.

Any film that features a slow-mo action sequence with a guy firing a bazooka while powersliding on his knees is a winner in our books.

Tom Cruise’s twisty action sci-fi ‘Edge of Tomorrow’ failed to find an audience at cinemas, but it definitely won us over. The trailers failed to explain its ‘Groundhog Day’ plot conceit and indecision in the film’s promotion effectively killed its chances at the box office which is a huge shame.

The marketing department changed its name from ‘All You Need Is Kill’ to ‘Edge of Tomorrow’, before opting for ‘Live. Die. Repeat’ on the DVD where it will hopefully find new life.

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Roland Emmerich’s 1998 ‘Godzilla’ was a 300ft walking turkey, but Gareth Edwards’ new take was smart, stylish, and reverential. A sequel was greenlit before it even stomped out of cinemas and Edwards landed a gig on the first ‘Star Wars’ spin-off, so he clearly knows what he’s doing.

Return of smart sci-fi

You can always rely on Christopher Nolan to raise the IQ of the multiplexes and his 2014 film ‘Interstellar’ was no exception. Audiences flocked to see Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway’s incredible voyage into deep space and the human soul and although the critical response was muted, it should be applauded for being one of the only original properties to crack the box office this year.


Jonathan Glazer’s innovative ‘Under The Skin’ proved you don’t need Nolan-level budgets to make thought-provoking sci-fi either. Shot on a shoestring, commando-style in Glasgow, this creepy unsettling thriller starring Scarlett Johansson was one of the most memorable films of the year thanks to its revelatory central performance and mind-bending soundtrack by Mica Levi.

Sci-fi is back in a big way.

Comedy crackers


Wes Anderson set the bar for comedy sky high in 2014 with ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’. Ralph Fiennes’ impeccable comedic turn as the devoted (and demented) concierge M. Gustave H won four Oscars - a fitting reward for Anderson’s best film to date.

Channing Tatum’s incredible run of form continued with the hilarious ’22 Jump Street’, a sequel-baiting sequel to the most meta-comedy franchise around. Rumours are the next film in the series will be a crossover with ‘Men In Black’ that sounds crazy enough to probably work. Let’s face it, if anyone can make it work, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller the directors of ’22 Jump Street’ can.

Their Midas touch struck twice in 2014 with ’22 Jump’ and our favourite animated film of the year ‘The LEGO Movie’.

Other comedies that had us chuckling in the aisles over the last twelve months include Seth Rogen and Zac Efron’s squabbling ‘Bad Neighbours’, ‘The Inbetweeners 2’, and ‘Dumb and Dumber To’.

Yes, 2015 is looking pretty tasty, but for now we’re pretty happy with how 2014 shaped up in the end.

What was your favourite film of the year? Let us know below.

Watch Boyhood and many more films on Sky Movies

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Image credits: Universal/Disney/Fox/Warner Bros.