We're over halfway through the summer popcorn movie season, so we asked our readers to tell us their favorite films of the year to date. As it turns out, most people are in agreement with Peter Travers: From comic book flicks to quirky indies to sci-fi epics, every film that was voted onto this Top 10 received a rave review from the Rolling Stone critic.
What Peter Travers said: "If there is such a thing as a meta-sequel, then this flagrantly silly and self-aware follow-up to 2012's 21 Jump Street is it … It's great to see Hollywood's addiction to recycling get royally skewered. From the opening stunt on an 18-wheeler to a spring-break rager, everything is bloated to the max. They say you always hurt the thing you love. Thanks to this team of merry pranksters, 22 Jump Street hurts so good." Three stars.
Where Anchorman, The Hangover and Ace Ventura failed, 22 Jump Street succeeded: It's that ultra-rare comedy sequel that's on par with – and possibly even better than – its predecessor. Directed by up-and-coming duo Phil Lord and Christopher Miller – their Lego Movie will also pop up on this list – 22 cements Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum as the most lovable comedic pair since perhaps Wayne and Garth. It's still too early to anoint this film as the best comedy sequel ever, but it'll be in the conversation for years to come.
What Peter Travers said: Snowpiercer is everything Transformers: Age of Extinction wishes it could be: a slambam sci-fi thriller with a brain, a heart and an artful sense of purpose. You're in for a wild whoosh of a ride." Three-and-a-half stars.
This film was stuck in editing room purgatory when director Bong Joon-ho and distributor the Weinstein Company couldn't agree on a runtime. Thankfully, we'll eventually be able to see both cuts of this post-apocalyptic film adaptation of a graphic novel about the last remnants of civilization that’s stuck on a train in a world covered by ice.
What Peter Travers said: "If you don't get jazzed by The Raid and its sequel, The Raid 2, we are no longer talking … The Raid 2 lets its warriors rip for two and a half thrilling hours. With the precision of dance and the punch of a KO champion, Gareth Evans keeps the action coming like nobody's business. The wow factor is off the charts." Three-and-a-half stars.
2011's The Raid: Redemption was one of the most influential, kick-ass action films in years and a major shot of adrenaline for a genre too reliant on comic book adaptations and spitting out too many Die Hard sequels. Breaking free from the single-setting confines of the first film, Raid 2 is a non-stop assault of old ultra-violence. It's not just a big dumb action film; director Gareth Evans is a poet with pacing and composition, and everything from cinematography to editing is worthy of an art-house cinema.
What Peter Travers said: "Animated movies in 3-D are box-office bonanzas, and The Lego Movie is no exception … The fun is nonstop. The movie's irresistible theme song, by Tegan and Sara, is 'Everything Is Awesome.' In this movie, everything really is." Three-and-a-half stars.
This animated potpourri featuring DC comic book heroes, Star Wars characters and Shaquille O'Neal was loved both by parents and their kids, as well as the entire 18-35 demographic. There's something about the film's "anything goes" nature and brilliant comic sensibility that appeals to audiences of all ages. And don't forget Will Ferrell's amazing voice turn as the villain Lord Business.
What Peter Travers said: "It shouldn't work. A human-versus-aliens epic that keeps repeating the same scene over and over again as if the comic tilt of Groundhog Day had turned suddenly dangerous. But Edge of Tomorrow will keep you on edge. Guaranteed." Three-and-a-half stars.
We'll admit, they did a lousy job marketing this film. The commercials made Edge of Tomorrow seem a little too much like Oblivion, that forgettable Tom Cruise sci-fi film from 2013. Thankfully, great word-of-mouth and critical acclaim helped save it from the summer movie abyss, as Edge of Tomorrow was like Groundhog's Day meets Starship Troopers, director Doug Liman's best flick in years.
What Peter Travers said: "Visionary inventiveness is such a lost art in contemporary cinema that impatient audiences may bolt for the exits at Under the Skin. Those who stick it out and let Jonathan Glazer's film flood their senses are in for something extraordinary … The result is an amazement, a film of beauty and shocking gravity." Three-and-a-half stars.
Sure, it sounds a lot like Species, except with Scarlett Johansson: An insatiable alien cloaked as a hot female lures men with sex and then harvests their bodies. But while Species was softcore sci-fi schlock, Under the Skin is a beautifully shot, visceral, deep film that gives the audience an outsider's uncanny view of life and human emotion. Jonathan Glazer's haunting film, based on a Michel Faber novel, is like David Cronenberg directing Starman with a score provided by Micachu and the Shapes.
What Peter Travers said: "Chef is deliciously entertaining, comic, touching and often bitingly true, since Favreau is happily allergic to jokes without a character base. Chef is the perfect antidote to Hollywood junk food. Like the best meals and movies, this irresistible concoction feels good for the soul." Three-and-a-half stars.
Jon Favreau was the clown prince of Nineties indie after writing Swingers and directing Made, but then Hollywood came calling. After a decade-and-a-half spent directing big-budget blockbusters like Zathura and the first two Iron Man flicks, Favreau gets back to his roots with Chef, which he wrote and directed. Leading an all-star cast featuring his Marvel Universe buddies Scarlett Johansson and Robert Downey Jr., Favreau stars as a Los Angeles restaurateur who is seemingly transformed into an anti-celebrity chef overnight. In order to reconnect with his love of cooking and repair his reputation, Favreau's Carl starts from scratch with a food truck, and we happily ride along on his journey.
What Peter Travers said: "Captain America: The Winter Soldier is every rousing, whup-ass thing you want in an escapist adventure … Powered by a dynamite Chris Evans and a first-rate cast, this movie overcomes its plot holes and 3D too-muchness by making human frailty its primary focus. Talk about getting your priorities straight." Three stars.
While some moviegoers might consider this film a time-killer before Avengers: Age of Ultron, Captain America: The Winter Soldier managed to capture everything great about Seventies paranoia flicks like The Parallax View, The Anderson Tapes and Three Days of the Condor, right down to the casting of Robert Redford in a not-quite-what-he-seems role. With this one film, the entire Captain America franchise went from "I'll go see it just for the Marvel Universe end credits tease" to "I'll go see it because it will likely be a great film."
What Peter Travers said: "Step up, cynics, and see the summer 2014 blockbuster that gets damn near everything right. X-Men: Days of Future Past tries to stuff the whole X-Men universe – past, present and future – into one movie. The character overload may leave X-Men newbies dazed and confused, unless they're blissfully stoned. But fans are in for an exhilarating rush." Three-and-a-half stars.
On paper, the premise – merging the Y2K-era series and the recent reboot, with only the never-aging Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) and director Bryan Singer providing the link between the two franchises – is insane. On screen, it worked on many levels: Not only did Days of Future Past build on the promise of X-Men: First Class, it provided a fitting coda to the Stewart/McKellen/Halle Berry X series that was nearly derailed by the borderline non-canonical X-Men: The Last Stand. Plus, it made fans really, really excited for X-Men: Apocalypse in 2016.
What Peter Travers said: "It's a filigreed toy box of a movie, so delicious-looking you may want to lick the screen. It is also, in the Wes Anderson manner, shot through with humor, heartbreak and a bruised romantic's view of the past. It is also, not in the Anderson manner, a rollicking caper that mixes theft, murder, a prison break and pastry recipes into a rousing free-for-all that speeds by like a dervish." Three-and-a-half stars.
At this point, either you're a Wes Anderson fan or you're not. Judging by the results of this poll, there are a lot of Wes Anderson fans out there, along with a good handful of people whose love for the director's films was rekindled by this murder-mystery. Grand Budapest Hotel deviates slightly from the precociousness of Anderson's oeuvre and instead focuses on a complex plot, an incredible cast of quirky characters and the kind of laughs you'd find in an Ernst Lubistch film.