Top 20 Movies of the Year

20. Blackfish

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Blackfish is a transfixing documentary that largely focuses on one killer whale, Tilikum, an orca at SeaWorld Orlando, who was involved in the deaths of three individuals at the resort. Blackfish explores the blatant dangers of keeping the species in captivity, and it allows viewers an inside look into the true, horrible practices at such a resort, which have lead you to believe they have the animals interests at best.

Blackfish is not to be missed, especially if you have a semblance of care for animals of any sort, as it’s a perfect example of what a documentary should be; shocking, interesting and even persuasive. I’ve always been lead to believe that marine animals should not be used for human entertainment, and Blackfish further cements my stance on the subject. Go check it out, it is documentary filmmaking at its finest.

19. Don Jon

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Don Jon was Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s first directorial debut, and yet again he further proved his status as one of the most versatile actors working today. Not only did Gordon-Levitt direct Don Jon, but he also wrote the script and starred in the movie. The film focuses on Jon (Gordon-Levitt), whose obsession with pornography has morphed his expectations of relationships and intimacy. Of course, this habitual problem causes issues in his new relationship, and it’s up to Jon to find a new perspective on life.

Don Jon is essentially a story of one man’s moral lesson, and it ends a rather unconventional note. Its ending is sentimental, which a few reviewers were quick to dismiss the film over, but it’s a neat touch. All of the main leads are great, and of course Joseph Gordon-Levitt shines throughout. It’s smart, funny and thought-provoking. Here’s to JGL’s next movie.

18. Alpha Papa

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Alan Partridge finally took his leap onto the big screen this year with Alpha Papa, which is possibly one of the best British movies of the year. After being sacked, disgruntled Norwich DJ Pat Farrell takes it upon himself to take hostage his old co-workers at the radio station. To help prevent any ghastly incidents, the police use the assistance of the famous and ever cowardly, Alan Partridge.

It’s a hilarious movie, from Partridge’s amazing intro sequence and right to the end credits. It’s indefinitely classic Partridge, but just on the big screen. There are plenty of memorable moments throughout, and it has a cracking finish. It’ll be quoted for days after it’s been watched. “Sea…Gull…”

17. Saving Mr Banks

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Sure, Saving Mr Banks is undeniably melodramatic for the most part, but it’s a brilliant film that stars an Oscar-winning performance by Emma Thompson, who plays famous author P.L.Travers. The film is focused around Disney’s attempt at adapting Traver’s novel, Mary Poppins, and during the production Travers reflects on her childhood.

Tom Hanks gives a surprisingly convincing performance as Walt Disney, and Colin Farrel tries his best as the troubled father, portrayed in the flashback sequences. Admittedly, Farrel should stick to dark comedy, but all in all Saving Mr Banks was a wholly enjoyable movie, which is heart-warming and sure to be a tearjerker for some.

16. Side Effects

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Rooney Mara, Jude Law and Channing Tatum starred in one of this year’s best thrillers, directed by the great Steven Soderbergh. The story focuses on Mara’s character, Emily, who is dealing with severe depression and anxiety issues. After being prescribed a new treatment by a renowned psychiatrist Jonathan Banks (Jude Law), a terribly tragedy befalls her and her husband.

Side Effects was one of my favourite movies of the year, purely due to the fantastic script and Soderbergh’s eye for cinematography. It’s rife with Hitchcockian motifs throughout, and it’s one of the sexiest thrillers in years. For a longer review, check out the link here:

15. Blue Jasmine

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Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine boasts one of Cate Blanchett’s strongest performances to date, in a movie that tells the story of one rich New York socialite who loses almost everything. After being taken in by her sister, she attempts to pull herself together again.

Blue Jasmine is an exceptionally well made movie, and it’s one of the more resonant movies Allen’s directed for some while. The entire cast is phenomenal and it’s arguably one of the best dramas of the year. It’s a real pleasure seeing Louis CK in the movie, and Blue Jasmine goes on to prove that Bobby Cannavale needs to star in more movies.

14. About Time

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There’s no doubt about it, Richard Curtis is the greatest romantic comedy director of our time.

About Time is about a young adult named Tim (Domhnall Gleeson), who discovers he has the ability to travel in time. He can only ever travel back to the time has personally experienced though, and he ends up utilising this power to win the heart of Mary (Rachel McAdams).

Of course, things don’t go very smoothly for young Tim. It’s a heavily sentimental movie, which is both funny and genuinely moving. There’s great chemistry between Gleeson and McAdams, and you can’t really go wrong with Richard Curtis and Bill Nighy. Just get the tissues ready, because those tears are going to be flowing.

13. Monsters University

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Unless it’s a Toy Story sequel, you have to be a little wary of Pixar’s sequel offerings. It’s an unfortunate fact, but Cars 2 proves this point. Nonetheless, Dan Scanlon managed to direct a great sequel to the much-loved Monsters Inc., and it’s possibly even worthy to stand amongst Pixar’s bests.

The movie tells the story of Mike and Sulley’s time at Monsters University, as both students attempt to make it big in the Scaring Academy. As is the case with all Pixar and Disney movies, there’s a strong moral lesson which is taught during the film. However, Monsters University has a slightly unconventional ending, which really sets itself apart from other animated features. Monsters University is literally brimming with charm and humour, and since its release I’m now anticipating a whole slew of Art (Charlie Day) shorts. Any time now, right Pixar?

12. Filth

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Directed by Jon S. Baird, Filth is based on the novel of the same name, by renowned Trainspotting writer Irvine Welsh. The movie featured James McAvoy in the main role, as a corrupt and bigoted police officer in Scotland, who surrounds his life autoerotic asphyxiation, gallons of alcohol and mounds of cocaine.

Thankfully, the movie lived up to the name and book. It’s McAvoy’s best role to date, as viewers get to witness his character’s dark descent into madness. It’s a fantastically bleak movie, and not for the faint of heart but what do you expect when the original author of the book is Irvine Welsh? After viewing Filth, it’s evident that McAvoy needs to chase down more of these roles. Less of the X-Men, more of the Filth.

11. The Way Way Back

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Sure, coming-of-age indie movies have been done dozens of times, but The Way Way Back stands tall amongst them, with a finely tuned script, a great lead and a wonderful cast (which includes a dancing Sam Rockwell – always a good omen). 14 year-old Duncan (Liam James) is on holiday with mother (Toni Colette) and her overbearing partner Trent (Steve Carrell). Thankfully for Duncan, he finds solace during this holiday by working at a waterpark, owned by the effortlessly cool Owen (Sam Rockwell).

The Way Way Back further proves that Jim Rash (the Dean from Community, no less) needs to write more scripts. The same applies to Nat Faxon, the director of the movie and cowriter. If you’re after a relaxing way of spending your evening, then look no further than The Way Way Back. It’s a pure delight, from start to finish. It’s funny, irresistibly charming and touching, and it’ll live you feeling warm for hours.

10. Anchorman 2

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Now, upon watching Anchorman 2, it must be noted that the sequel never had a chance of reaching the cult status of the first movie. Having said that though, Will Ferrell and Adam McKay do a damn fine job of attempting to recapture that comedy magic, with a cast that back on top form and a script that boasts Brick one-liners which are just as good – if not better – than the first.

This time round, Ron Burgundy loses his job to Veronica Corningstone, and he has to pull himself together again, to star in 24-hour rolling news alongside his old news crew. It’s typically satirical of the times in the 70s, but it’s undoubtedly one of the funniest movies of the year. Anchorman 2 was a surprising relief for many, and I’d argue that it has some of the best cameos ever.

9. The Lone Ranger

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One of the biggest box-office disasters of the year, Gore Verbinksi’s The Lone Ranger ultimately deserves a place in the top 10. Yes, the movie opened to scathing reviews and empty audiences, but Verbinksi’s movie is pure popcorn entertainment, from start to finish.

It’s bizarre that a movie with Johnny Depp didn’t sell that many tickets, but to me it felt like The Lone Ranger was already dismissed even before it got a chance to showcase its humour, interesting themes of ambiguity and insane action sequences. Its good old fashioned escapism and I loved every minute of it. If you haven’t seen it yet, then don’t hesitate to do so. Most people I’ve talked to about the movie have been pleasantly surprised.

8. Django Unchained

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The release of Tarantino’s eagerly anticipated Western took too damn long in the UK. Nonetheless, the movie finally arrived in January and it turned out to be one of Tarantino’s finest offerings to date. Of course, he always has had a solid repertoire of movies, but Django Unchained ranks highly amongst them.

The movie is focused around slavery, and it features Jamie Foxx as Django, and Christoph Waltz as King Schultz. Leonardo DiCaprio was surprisingly cast as the villain for the movie, as Calvin Candie, and he turned out to be fantastic. Django Unchained is a masterpiece, and Foxx shines as the main lead. Of course, there’s plenty of gratuitous violence, but it wouldn’t be a Tarantino movie without it. It’s gorgeously shot, wonderfully acted by its main leads and it stands as being one of the best Westerns in years.

7. The World’s End

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The third film in Edgar Wright’s Cornetto trilogy had a lot to live up for, since Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz raised the bar so high. This time round, Pegg and Frost found themselves in Newtonhaven, back with three friends in an attempt to recreate the infamous pub crawl they never finished. Not everything is as it used to be though, which leads the five friends for a night out they’ll never forget.

The World’s End is a typical Wright creation; frenetic, funny and layered with some warming sentimentality. Pegg and Frost are on form here, and it was a pleasure to have the Cornetto trilogy end on such a high note. Disregarding Anchorman 2, this may be the most quotable movie of the year, “Smashy smashy egg-man,” and it may have encouraged many guys to sort their out their own golden mile…

6. Kings of Summer

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Directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts, Kings of Summer tells the story of three young teenagers who escape to the woods to build themselves their own piece of paradise. It premiered to rave reviews at Sundance, and upon watching the movie, there’s no surprise why. The movie boasts some wonderful performances from newcomers Nick Robinson, Gabriel Basso and especially Moises Arias, whose role as Biaggio was undeniably one of the kookiest characters in cinema this year.

Kings of Summer is full of poignancy and charm, and the cinematography is wonderful throughout. Sure, it’s another coming-of-age teenage comedy/drama, but it’s fresh, unique and Nick Offerman and Alison Brie star in it. That should be enough of a reason to watch this movie already. If this is Vogt-Roberts debut feature, I look forward to what’s next. It’s one of the most gorgeous movies of the year.

5. Pacific Rim

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What, this isn’t my favourite movie of the year?! Guillermo del Toro’s monster epic was my most anticipated movie of the year, and I enjoyed it so much I even wrote a big article on it. Starring Charlie Hunman, Riko Kikuchi and Idris Elba, Pacific Rim was about humanity’s fight for survival against the deadly, monstrous Kaiju.

Inspired by old Japanese Kaiju movies and anime, del Toro delivered cinemagoers a visual treat for the eyes, as trained pilots utilised their mechanic behemoths – called ‘Jaegers’ – to fight the Kaiju. It was pure popcorn entertainment throughout, and del Toro really achieved what he had set out to do; to make you feel like a kid again. Pacific Rim is not to be missed, especially if you’re fan of anime, big robots punching things or Idris Elba. It looks glorious in HD.

4. Captain Phillips

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Captain Phillips was one of the most engaging movies of the year, and that’s all thanks to director Paul Greengrass and amazing Tom Hanks. The movie is based on the real life 2009 hijacking of a US container ship by a crew of Somali pirates, and it’s up to Captain Phillips (T.Hanks) to resolve the situation.

It’s safe to say, this is Tom Hanks strongest performance since Castaway, and arguably Greengrass’ best movie yet. However, they shouldn’t get all the credit, as Barkhad Abdi – who played lead pirate Muse – was astounding in his scenes alongside Hanks. Captain Phillips keeps you on the edge of your seat from start to finish, and it ends with one of the most emotional moments in cinema this year.

3. Iron Man 3

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The third Iron Man movie from Marvel Studios was this year’s cinematic Marmite, as audience opinion was split right down the middle. Some people accused the film of being the worst thing they’ve ever seen, and others would simply declare it as the best Iron Man outing yet. For me, it was indefinitely the best Iron Man movie yet, and that’s all thanks to Shane Black and his sheer genius.

Iron Man 3 concerned itself with themes of terrorism, as the Mandarin became Tony Stark’s new nemesis, whose reach knew no bounds. After dealing with PTSD from the events of the Avengers, Tony Stark had to use all of his skills – in and out of the suit – to overcome the dangerous odds.

Disregarding the Avengers, Iron Man 3 turned out to be my favourite Marvel movie yet. Shane Black infused the third movie with some fantastic humour, the greatest reveal of the year, and some astounding set pieces. The plane sequence alone was one of the best action scenes of the year, alongside the scene that included all of his glorious armours. Sploosh.

2. Gravity

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One of the highest rated movies of the year, Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity was undoubtedly a masterpiece. Starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, Gravity is about two astronauts’ survival in the unforgiving realm of space. Using state of the art technology, Cuarón brought to cinemas one of the most enthralling movie experiences of my life.

It’s a testament really, to cinema. Whether or not Gravity will have the same effect on the small screen remains to be seen, but it cannot be denied that Gravity needs to be witnessed in 3D, on a big screen. It’s visually astounding, and truly unforgettable. Bullock and Clooney give it their all too, and it could be said that this is Bullock’s greatest achievement to date (apart from Miss Congeniality, of course).

If you didn’t get a chance to see Gravity in cinemas, then it’s a damn shame. Films like Gravity only ever come round so often in cinema, and its 90 minutes of pure spectacle. Heck, it even makes a good argument for 3D, which hasn’t been done since Jackass 3D. Cuarón has delivered us the best Harry Potter film to date, the great Children of Men and now this. Here’s to his next big thing.

1. Rush

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This might be a surprise to some, but Rush is my favourite movie of the year.

Brought to us by the great Ron Howard, Rush is based on the true story of James Hunt and Niki Lauda, two F1 drivers who had a bitter rivalry in the 1970s. The film showcases their attempt to win the Formula One championship, and it presents the glaring differences between both drivers.

It’s an exhilarating ride, and perhaps for the first time in cinema history, Formula One racing has been captured correctly in cinema. Biopics are always a nice treat when they’re done properly, and Rush is no exception. Somehow Ron Howard manages to tell these captivating stories and characters perfectly, and in doing so he creates one of the most exciting and enthralling movies of the year.

You don’t even have to be a Formula One aficionado to appreciate Rush. The movie doesn’t have you picking sides, which is thanks to the fantastic script. It’s compelling even when the racers aren’t on the tracks, and when they are you get a real sense of danger, as the engines roar loudly over the speakers.

Rush’s clear strength is that it’s one of the most enjoyable rides of the year. Hemsworth and Brühl are perfectly cast, and the racing scenes are some of the most dynamic sequences in an auto-sports movie to date. If you haven’t seen Rush yet, then do so. You’re in for a great thrill ride:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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