Out of the 79 movies we've seen in theaters (at press time) we've picked 10 highlights that stuck with us long after those closing credits rolled. From an intimate coming-of-age drama to an action-packed space saga starring a charismatic leading man, 2014 delivered a wide range of gems that we can't wait to watch again.
1. Boyhood - What seemed like a filmmaking gimmick (shooting the same actors over a 12-year period) turns out to be a intimately epic chronicle of an American family that is as loving, flawed, and complicated as any brood out there in the country. Richard Linklater's personal and groundbreaking opus is a series of small moments that adds up to a timeless tale of fleeting youth and innocence.
2. Pride - Rousing. Inspiring. Unforgettable. Writer Stephen Beresford brilliantly chronicles the unlikely partnership of an LGBT activist group and the British miners who went on strike in the early 80s. Director Matthew Warchus manages to balance numerous characters and storylines, thanks to a powerhouse ensemble that includes Imelda Staunton, Bill Nighy, Paddy Considine, and Dominic West.
3. Gone Girl - Not only is Gillian Flynn's adaptation of her own novel a devious exercise in unexpected spot-on casting, it's a sly and sinister Fincherian satire tailor-made for our 21st century culture of hypocrisy, sexism, and tabloid-influenced tastes. SIDENOTE: Carrie Coon - let's see more of her.
4. Nightcrawler - What's being hailed as the Taxi Driver of the 21st century is really a deliciously dark and twisted journey of a man (a superb Jake Gyllenhaal) we know little about. All we do know is that his sociopathic tendencies fuel an ambition that takes him through the noirish streets of Los Angeles and down a disturbing road we never want to turn off. Like Gone Girl, it clearly states its stance on the sensationalistic nature of modern-day instajournalism.
5. Birdman - One could easily see Alejandro G. Inarritu's dynamic seriocomedy as a sly dissection of not only American theater -- and the current state of Hollywood -- but of the American actor, a species known for its insecurities, paranoia, and narcissism. But it's more than that. And Michael Keaton's performance, as well as Edward Norton's and Emma Stone's, keeps the fuse lit throughout the fantastically shot scenes.
6. Guardians of the Galaxy - The late 70s/early 80s soundtrack certainly helped and was a nice touch to this awesomely irreverent blast of sci-fi adventure. To state the obvious: Chris Pratt has arrived.
7. The Imitation Game - Benedict Cumberbatch enters the Oscar Race with a performance that drives this compelling and true tale about Britain's secret weapon during WWII: the brilliant mind of Alan Turing, a man who ironically becomes his own self-destructive weapon.
8. Love Is Strange - This achingly beautiful post-marriage-equality study, delicately directed by Ira Sachs, is full of nuanced performances from stars Alfred Molina and John Lithgow and beats with a loving, agenda-free heart throughout its tender scenes.
9. Bad Words - Jason Bateman is a foul-mouthed, kid-hating douchebag on a mission, infiltrating the National Spelling Bee, enabling a toxic relationship with a journalist (the lovely Kathryn Hahn), and forming an unlikely bond with a little Indian-American boy who isn't who he appears to be. Throw in some Allison Janney and Phillip Baker Hall, and you got yourself a wonderfully wicked tragicomedy.
10. The Skeleton Twins - Tender and darkly comedic with just the right amount of indie-flavored angst and ennui, Twins has shades of 2000's You Can Count On Me and delves into the tragic moments that hit us when we're young and keeps us scarred as adults. Who knew a pair of SNL vets could do drama so well? Also: Best. Lip sync scene. Ever.
HONORABLE MENTIONS: The One I Love (an engrossing, absurdist dramedy starring Elisabeth Moss and Mark Duplass), Neighbors (the best film about growing up), The LEGO Movie (a terrific toy story with a twist)