Movies of the Year

From a boy to a birdman, from a gone girl to the potently present talents of two women directors, 2014 hit hardest by going rogue

Ellar Coltrane attends the Los Angeles special screening of 'Boyhood' held at the ArcLight Theater in Hollywood California, on June 11th, 2014.( Credit: JB Lacroix/WireImage/Getty

1. Boyhood
The smallest, quietest, least pushy film of 2014 is also the year's best and biggest emo­tional powerhouse. For Boy­hood, writer-director Richard Linklater carved out shoot­ing time over 12 years to tell the story of a then-six-year-old Texas boy (stellar newcom­er Ellar Coltrane) growing up as the child of divorced par­ents, indelibly played by Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette. But what about the risk if the actors got sick or worse? Who does that? Linklater does that. Boyhood, sculpted from the highs and lows of his own life, is his landmark, his purest per­sonal expression.

2. Birdman
Nothing this year had the power to make us drunk on movies again like Birdman, Alejandro G. Inarritu's cine­matic roller coaster about a Hollywood superhero (Michael Keaton) trying to get respect on Broadway. Keaton gives the performance of the year in this whirling comic assault in which the laughs leave bruises.

3. Foxcatcher
This true story of wrestling, wealth, insanity and murder becomes a chilling work of art in the hands of filmmaker Bennett Miller, and performances from Steve Carell, Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo that mark high points in their careers.

4. Selma
Kudos to director Ava DuVernay, who blows the dust off history in Selma and cuts straight to its beating heart. It's a big subject: Martin Luther King Jr. (David Oyelowo) and his famed 1965 voting-rights march from Selma, Alabama, to Montgom­ery. Oyelowo is magnificent, and DuVernay makes every moment intimate and electric.

5. Gone Girl
Gillian Flynn's bestseller about a marriage gone lethally wrong becomes, in the hands of direc­tor David Fincher and Flynn's incisive script, a searing social satire about the lost art of mak­ing a relationship work. Rosamund Pike, in a fireball turn as Ben Affleck's cheated-on wife, takes us to hell and back.

6. Whiplash
In only his second film as a director, Damien Chazelle scores a breakout by dipping into his own musical educa­tion to show us a young jazz drummer (Miles Teller) damn near destroyed by an instruc­tor (an Oscar-bound J.K. Sim­mons) who's never happy un­less there's blood on the sticks.

7. The Grand Budapest Hotel
Wes Anderson doesn't make movies like other people. Bless him. Beneath the confection of The Grand Budapest Hotel, set in a luxury spa between the two world wars, is a deep mel­ancholy personified by a con­cierge, wonderfully played by Ralph Fiennes, who believes et­iquette helps define civilization.

8. Unbroken
Here's a stirring love letter from director Angelina Jolie to Louis Zamperini, an Olym­pic runner who found his cour­age sorely tested in a Japanese POW camp. Jack O'Connell as Louis and Miyavi as his sadis­tic guard are both superb, but it's Jolie who took a story Hol­lywood ignored for decades, got it done and made it resonate.

9. Under the Skin
This year brought many under-the-radar gems, includ­ing Snowpiercer, Locke, Love Is Strange, Nightcrawler, Force Majeure, Dear White People, Mr. Turner, A Most Violent Year, Leviathan and Citizen-four, but the one I can't get out of my head is Jonathan Glazers' Under the Skin, in which a nev­er-better Scarlett Johansson plays an alien cruising Scotland for men she can understand.

10. Interstellar
Christopher Nolan's space odyssey is the only epic on my list. His film is as concerned with a relationship between parent (Matthew McConaughey) and child (Jessica Chastain) as Boyhood is. Both films make perfect bookends for a movie year that got good when it got personal.