Why Top 7 films, instead of Top 5 or Top 10? Simple: I only saw six movies in theaters this year, plus another one on streaming. (I spent my free time becoming very familiar with every critically acclaimed TV show Netflix has to offer.) So, here is my list, ranked from Worst to Best:
7. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
I have read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, in addition to having seen every film in the relative franchises (except The Hobbit Part 1: Bilbo Packs.) I still had too much trouble following everything that was going on in the film. Halfway through the movie I turned to my brother, who was even more familiar with the series than me, to ask what was going on. He didn't know either.
6. X-Men: Days of Future Past
Whenever I watch a movie with time travel, I find it's usually easiest not to look for plot holes. (Looking at you, time turners.) I'm sure I could pick apart the time travel rules if I wanted to, but I thought it would be easiest to have some semi-mindless fun. I don't think I'd watch this movie again, but it wasn't the worst way to spend a few hours.
5. The Lego Movie
To be honest, movies 5 - 3 could be in any order. They're the sorts of movies I don't feel a need to revisit, but if they were on TV one afternoon I'd probably spend half an hour watching them. I think The Lego Movie was slightly overrated, but with good reason: this could have very easily been an insipid cash grab. Instead, it's well-cast, funny, and charming.
4. Captain America: The Winter Solider
This is how you do a blockbuster sequel. I'm not overly familiar with the Marvel universe, having only seen The Avengers and the first Iron Man movie. Still, I was able to thoroughly enjoy this movie, even if I didn't fully understand the significance of (SPOILER) Bucky's role. The big battle sequences fell a little flat, but the strength of this movie was in its smaller moments, like Scarlett's Natasha kissing Captain America in the mall to create a diversion. Seriously, why hasn't she gotten her own movie yet?
3. Mockingjay Part I
Honestly, this should have been number 4 or 5. It wasn't bad, but it was definitely a step down from Catching Fire and an obvious set-up to a much more action packed movie to come. Still, I can't let one of Philip Seymour Hoffman's last performances go unrewarded in my book. No matter how small his part, he was able to make every role matter. This would have certainly been easy enough to phone in, but he imbued Plutarch with an innate intelligence and understanding of the dynamics present in District 13. Also, I can't complain about a movie that features Julianne Moore and Elizabeth Banks.
2. The Grand Budapest Hotel
While I always appreciate the immense care that Wes Anderson puts into his movies, sometimes I feel like they can hold a little too much quirk for quirk's sake. This is my favorite Anderson film of the three I've seen: the set designs do much to create a beautiful world that has gone by, only preserved in memory. Although the world of the film appears to be in a universe of its own, it's not difficult to connect the plot to the real events of the 20th century and to even have a pretty relevant discussion about nationalism in the wake of WWII.
1. Gone Girl
I went into this movie having pretty high hopes: I loved the book, I think David Fincher is a great director, and I'm now pretty pro-Ben Affleck thanks to Argo. This movie completely lived up to my expectations, in no small part thanks to some unexpected but ultimately inspired casting (who know Tyler Perry could be so great?) Even the smaller characters felt fully realized - Carrie Coon's Go and Kim Dickens's Detective Boney are the first to come to mind. Still, Rosamund Pike made this movie into a well-deserved showcase for her immense talent. She's actually been around for quite a while (her first starring movie role was in 2002's Die Another Day) but her performance is so dominant that it feels like we're watching a brand-new star being born.
That having been said, there are plenty of movies from this year that I'm hoping to catch up on. In no particular order: What If, Dear White People, Boyhood, The One I Love, Into the Woods, The Theory of Everything...it's a long list.