HJW’s Top 20 Movies of 2014

Best 20 MOVIES of 2014 as voted by HJW

 We had some absolute crackers this year. A lot of sequels, remakes, films based on novels, and a few originals. Having gotten free movies all year and being a massive movie fan, I’ve been privileged enough to have seen the vast majority of theatrical released films in New Zealand.

In reverse order, here are my top 20 favourite films of 2014, rated using a complex emotional algorithm of enjoyment.

Please note, because I live in New Zealand, there are a number of fantastic films I haven’t seen this year due to them not being released here yet, like Birdman.

20 to 17 best films

20. Magic in the Moonlight

Director/Writer: Woody Allen
Starring Colin Firth, Emma Stone

Some people took the piss outta this one because of the age difference of the romantic leads. Granted, Woody Allen married his adopted daughter, so I kinda get where they’re coming from. But the film is charming. Colin Firth seems as if he’s trying his best to speak louder in every scene than anyone else, and Emma Stone, in my opinion, is at her most beautiful in this film. Cute, light, easy with enjoyable dialogue and an interesting pro-atheism undertone.

19. Predestination

Directors/Writers: Peter and Michael Spierig
Starring Ethan Hawke, Sarah Snook

I’m a sucker for time travel, and I loved the Spierig brothers last vampire film Daybreakers. This drama action thriller period piece sci-fi film dealing with chicken and egg time travel paradoxes was a breath of fresh air in terms of structure, having a forty minute dialogue scene drawing you in with a lax smugness. A sunny, stylish look with Australian actress Sarah Snook playing a convincing man. Ethan aswell, you’ll see him pop on the list again later…

18. Whiplash

Director/Writer: Damien Chazelle
Starring Miles Teller, J.K. Simmons

Many friends have this film in their top five. The tension, the music, the chemistry. It’s a great film. Developed through the Sundance program (like Taika Waititi’s Boy), Whiplash was a wonderful sidestep from the usual Hollywood paradigm.

17. The Trip to Italy

Director/Writer: Michael Winterbottom
Starring Steve Coogan, Rob Brydon

In their foray to Italy, it’s Rob Brydon who gets to fiddle with the locals, cheating on his loving wife. There’s something about older people’s constant search for happiness that I find intriguing and a great source for humour and pathos. Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon’s bromance really make the film, with their constant bickering and occasional genuine love for each other compliment the ambling plot.

16 to 13 best films

16. Mr. Peabody & Sherman

Director: Rob Minkoff
Writers: Craig Wright (screenplay), Jay Ward (original series)
Starring the voices of Ty Burrell, Max Charles

I laughed, learned, and teared up. There’s something really attractive about films made for a family audience. Something unapologetic. They ride out there, crossing the line of cheese, getting away with dialogue and plot twists that a more ‘mature’ film could never.

15. Gone Girl

Director: David Fincher
Writer: Gillian Flynn (novel and screenplay)
Starring Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike

I read Gone Girl when I learnt it was to be directed by David Fincher. I LOVED the book. There were constant twists and turns and the characterization is terrifying. People’s inherent desires are fucked. The film was really enjoyable to watch despite having all the substance of the story already given to me from the book.

14. Interstellar

Director: Christopher Nolan
Writer: Jonathan Nolan
Starring Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway

Oh man. What a ride. I saw this in the third biggest screen in the world, Melbourne’s SEVEN STORY HIGH IMAX. Good god I thought I was gonna have a panic attack in some scenes, it was glorious. There has been so much said about this film, so many different opinions, and the most common (and the one that I share) is that it was a beautiful mess. Overly emotional too quick, it had some incredible effects sequences and some pointless tension building, but was a helluva ride.

13. St. Vincent

Director/Writer: Theodore Melfi
Starring Bill Murray, Jaeden Leiberher

Another father son story. I’m a sucker for those. Like Mr. Peabody & Sherman, it just got to me. It’s the father son stuff. It was funny too. And it went to places I didn’t think it would go. An overlooked gem.

12 to 9 best films

12. The Interview

Directors: Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg
Writers: Dan Sterling (screenplay), Seth and Evan (story)
Starring Seth Rogen, James Franco

After all the hullaballoo, I wasn’t let down. This is an insensitive, offensive romp filled with sex jokes and poo jokes. Loved it. Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg are filmmakers. They know their craft. They’ve written hit after hit, and this second whack at directing proves they can craft killer sequences and pay offs. Not for everybody – definite not – but I’m the target demographic and I laughed a lot.

11. Nightcrawler

Director/Writer: Dan Gilroy
Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo

Oh man, I was not prepared for this film. It felt like the 2014 version of American Psycho, Jake Gyllenhaal’s gaunt, brooding, fiercely ambitious anti-hero serving as a much more entertaining watch than Christian Bale’s. The music, the editing, the tension, all of it made the film pack massive punch. Loved it.

10. Neighbours (Bad Neighbours)

Director: Nicholas Stoller
Writers: Andrew J. Cohen, Brendan O’Brien
Starring Seth Rogen, Zac Efron

With his second film in my top twenty, Seth Rogen is really impressing me this year. Last year his directorial debut This is The End blew me away with laughs and action, and this year he’s smacking it outta the park with juvenile humour that has a strange heart to it. Rose Byrne is one of the funniest and most loveable characters ever and Zac Efron topless gets a big thumbs up from me any day.

9. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Director: Matt Reevs
Writers: Mark Bomback, Rick Jaffa
Starring Andy Serkis, Jason Clarke

It’s not often I see blockbusters twice at the cinema where I have to pay, but Apes was worth seeing on the Embassy’s massive screen twice. Cranking music, awesome effects, genuine heart and an interesting play on the development of language and the issues of pack mentality, Caeser and his son’s story brought this one into the top ten for me.

8 to 5 best films

8. Pride

Director: Matthew Warchus
Writer: Stephen Beresford
Starring Ben Shnetzer, George MacKay

My favourite Uncle died of AIDS when I was twelve so this story hit me hard. I saw this with my mum and her husband and couldn’t help but be brought into the story by the charm and irresistible flamboyance of the characters. Also, it’s a true story which makes it more weighty emotionally.

7. X-Men: Days of Future Past

Director: Bryan Singer
Writers: Simon Kinberg (screenplay), Jane Goldman (story)
Starring Hugh Jackman, James MacAvoy

Hugh Jackman is huge. Even though Wolverine has the most screen time and the most plot, he’s also the character with the least development and lacks an arc, but that’s okay coz his muscles are massive. Great to float back to the 70s, see James MacAvoy rocking out some tears again, and bring back so many well-loved characters. The only thing that let me down was the music. I miss Henry Jackman’s themes he set up so well in First Class.

6. The Equalizer

Director: Antoine Fuqua
Writers: Richard Wenk, Michael Sloan (original TV series)
Starring Denzel Washington, Chloe Grace Moretz

Violent, loud, over the top – the perfect movie to see with friends. It’s a remake of a TV show, but really it’s a simple premise. Denzel kicks arse. Chloe’s barely in the movie, which was fine by me. Ever since rewatching Man on Fire and Deja Vu, and seeing as Tony Scott has left a gigantic hole in action movie production over the last few years, I was looking forward to this and wasn’t disappointed. Big loud fun.

5. 22 Jump Street

Directors: Phil Lord, Christopher Miller
Writers: Michael Bacall, Oren Uziel, Rodney Rothman
Starring Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum

These directors know what they’re doing. They seem to love films and enjoy playing with cliches, foreshadowing, MacGuffin’s, Red Herrings, and other plot devices which the cop action genre lends itself to so well. With a bigger budget comes bigger scope and Jonah Hill’s performance is more fun to watch than the action. Had to see this twice at the movies and rewatch at home too.

4 to 1 best films

4. How to Train Your Dragon 2

Director: Dean DeBlois
Writers: Dean DeBlois, Cressida Cowell (book)
Starring the voices of Jay Baruchel, Cate Blanchett

Since seeing this a second time, I realized I’ve put it this high up on the list largely based on nostalgia. John Powell’s incredible themes is half the reason I love these films so much, and the Kid and his Pet story harks back to films I loved as a kid like Free Willy and E.T. Every frame could be a painting and every sequence could be a carnival ride, the only thing marring this film (in my opinion) was the fact the family dog kills the father. It’s kinda full on.

3. Edge of Tomorrow

Director: Doug Liman
Writers: Christopher McQuarrie, Jez Butterworth, John-Henry Butterworth, Hiroshi Sikurazaka (novel)
Starring Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt

Mission Impossible III is my favourite action film (big call) so I was very disappointed and saddened by the Tom Cruise backlash of recent years. However, he really brought things back with MI4 and now, after Edge of Tomorrow, you can almost physically feel the public opinion of the Cruise sway back into his favour. This film is smart, exciting, and had a lot of people scratching their heads and being forced to use their brains. Always a good thing.

2. The Grand Budapest Hotel

Director: Wes Anderson
Writers: Wes Anderson, Hugo Guinness (story), Stefan Zweig (inspired by the writings of)
Starring Ralph Fiennes, Tony Revolori

It’s almost as if all Wes Anderson’s previous films have been leading up to this one. The score is perfect, the production design is perfectly fit, the acting, dialogue and story are really firing on all cylinders, making this film the most well crafted piece of art of the year. Ralph Fiennes had me in hysterics with his love of old women and sporadic outbursts of anger, and the sweet relationship between his character and his protege made the film climb to number 2 on my most enjoyed films of the year list.

1. Boyhood

Director/Writer: Richard Linklater
Starring Ellar Coltrane, Ethan Hawke

Everything I can say about this film can be summed up in my review I wrote after seeing it. What a deep ride from such a committed and enthralling filmmaking team. My favourite film of the year, Boyhood.


honourable mention



Begin AgainBest Indie Vibe Film

Mark Ruffalo and Keira Knightley are secondary stars to the music in this film, and it’s message about how an audience respects and will appreciate genuine heart in a product over money-making ideals inspired me. Also, any film where you’ve got a scruffy haired scoundrel waking up in New York apartment with an empty bottle beside the bed and smoking a cigarette on their balcony gets points for effort.


Teenage Mutant Ninja TurtlesMost Fun Film

The turtles had character and made me genuinely laugh. The sequence at the end where they come out and tell each other how they really feel made me tear up, and Megan Fox was in the movie too, however overshadowed she was by the masterful visual effects sequences.


Housebound and The Dark Horse | Best Kiwi Films

Wow. What a year from New Zealand films. These two are already slated as kiwi classics in my mind. Hilarious micro budget horror comedy Housebound and dark dramatic true story biopic The Dark Horse.


Reading back and remembering all the joy filled hours I had sitting a darkened room with light splayed on a white screen, I feel very fortunate to be in a world where such entertaining stories are created.

I came out of each of these films with a wide smile and something roaring inside me; a yearning to be part of that world. The world of movies. This year, 2015, I’m joining that world with my no budget feature. Please subscribe and follow my journey at HJWBTS.


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