So I know I am a little late, but I wanted some time to think about the movies that have come out in the past 365 days. It has been a good year full of a lot of great movies that will surely go down as classics as the years go by. As far as a the #1 spot goes, I have always had trouble deciding which movie truly stands above the rest, so, this list is going to be in a random order. It isn’t easy compiling a list of ten great movies in a year, because there are always more than that. So I apologize if you’re favorite movie isn’t on the list.

This year has brought a lot to the table, from the special effects of Gravity, to a masterpiece in the taboo area of slavery in 12 Years a Slave, to the one man show in All is Lost. There were also numerous sequels, spinoffs, reboots, remakes, and the return of some great filmmakers.

One thing in particular I noticed throughout this year is the idea of survival. We had Robert Redford trying to survive at sea, Sandra Bullock in Space, Katniss in Catching Fire, Chiwetel Ejifor surviving as a slave, the soldiers in Lone Survivor, the human’s on earth trying to get by in Elysium, heck; even This is the End featured celebrities trying to survive the apocalypse.

There have been some truly great performances this year, some that will live on as their respective actors greatest. This award season is going to be extremely interesting, there are numerous ways the awards can play out. There are going to be a number of people who are going to be unhappy, probably more so than any other year.

There is something in psychology called the primacy and latency effect. We remember the things that came first and what came last. That isn’t to say that all of the movies that come out in the middle of the year aren’t bad; it’s just that people are more concerned about listing the Oscar nominations on either side of the year, and well, they usually make for better movies, but that isn’t always the case.

But without further ado, my top ten list:

  1. The Spectacular Now

This is one of those films that sneaks up on you, for me it actually came out of nowhere. One night over the summer, a friend of mine wanted to see a movie. I pushed for The World’s End, but the times weren’t going to work. He suggested this movie. I had seen posters for it on the internet and at the theater, and it advertised a loving relationship between two high school students; this was confirmed by the IMDB synopsis. But boy was this movie so much more.

The movie is about two high school seniors, the boy, played by Miles Teller, is the popular party animal. He is an alcoholic who believes in the “now”, never worrying about his future. The girl, played by Shailene Woodley (most famous for The Descendants and Secret Life), is the nerdy and lonely girl who has never had a boyfriend.

Secret Life), is the lonely, shy, nerdy girl.  What starts as a way for him to improve her street cred, turns into a relationship where their chemistry is so exuberant, that you think you are actually watching two people in love. The movie is completely devastating at times; I had not been affected so much by any other movie this year. It is heartbreaking at times, but it is a beautiful look at a teenage relationship. I walked out of the theater so stunned by what I had seen. Needless to I say, I loved this movie.

2. Her

For those who have already read my review, you know how I feel about this movie. For those who haven’t, you can check it out here:

Her speaks so much to our world today and also gives us a start reminder that we are heading where the film is. Our lives, already absorbed by technology, will only find more ways to be attached to technology, whether it is beneficial or not. The acting is phenomenal, the cinematography and set designs are top-notch, and it is a masterpiece from Spike Jonze. If you haven’t seen this movie yet, then you should already be out the door heading for the theater.

3. The Wolf of Wall Street

Martin Scorsese needed this movie. He had already had some great movies (Hugo and Shutter Island) between his Oscar winning The Departed, but they never quite had the Scorsese style. This one brings him back into the game. The fast-paced editing, the hilarious and dark humor, DiCaprio’s excellent acting; it all came together in this movie. It is a movie about getting to the top, and the long fall down. It is filled with drugs, nudity, and money. When you add those things together things get messy, and boy do they in this movie. It is a return to form, but most importantly it is a masterpiece from a director who has been around for nearly 40 years. The hits still keep coming. Check out the full review here:

4. Gravity

Alfonso Cuaron returned after 7 years with one of the most technologically advancing movies in years.  It is an astounding movie with special effects that change the game. The story is simple; Sandra Bullock and George Clooney are astronauts who are sent adrift in space after debris from a satellite destroys their shuttle. It is an exhilarating hour-and-a-half, with a great performance by Bullock. With homage’s to 2001: A Space Odyssey, it is clear that this movie will be the new standard for how to make a movie set in space. So if you haven’t seen it, go check it out.

5. Saving Mr. Banks

I didn’t really know what to expect going into this movie. I thought it would be a whole lot of Tom Hanks being a whimsical Walt Disney and Emma Thompson being a bitter old bat. I was delightfully wrong. It is a tale of how the past influences everything we do and that it is always present. The performances are all fantastic. Tom Hanks always steals the scene but never becomes overbearing, while Emma Thompson owns the rest of the movie. The supporting cast is also excellent, with Paul Giamatti as the amiable limo driver, Colin Farrell as the gregarious father to Emma Thompson’s character as a child. Everything about this movie will warm your heart and make you happy. Check out my full review here:

6. 12 Years a Slave

Slavery is a tough subject to film. We got glimpses of it last year in Django Unchained, but this time we get a real in-depth look at the way it affected those back in the 19th century. Chiwetel Ejiofor gives his best performance yet as Solomon Northup, a man who is abducted from the north and placed into slavery. It is not an easy movie to watch, some scenes are very intense for the average viewer. But it isn’t about what was done; it is about the performance and the hope of freedom that keeps the movie going. Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Giamatti, Brad Pitt, Michael Fassbender, and Lupita Nyong’o all give excellent performances, with the standouts being Fassbender and Nyong’o. Steve McQueen handles the taboo subject with enough care and precision to make it not out to be a huge exploitation of slavery, but instead focuses more on the people involved, reminding us that not everyone was as bad as the textbooks say.  My full review is here:

7. To the Wonder

Terrence Malick is increasing his output of movies. To the Wonder is his latest film following the much polarizing Tree of Life. His directing and narrative structuring are not very accessible to the average moviegoer, it is like going to a museum and looking at paintings without knowing what they mean, but you can still find beauty in them. He is poetic, relying on cinematography, introspective voiceovers, and physical acting in order to convey the depth of his mind. His films are meditative, requiring the viewer to reflect on their own lives instead of trying to analyze the plots of his films. To the Wonder is no different. It is a beautiful and somber film. Ben Affleck and Olga Kurylenko are a couple new to love, and after moving to Oklahoma, their honeymoon phase of the relationship ends and things begin to break down. There is also a side plot concerning Javier Bardem as a pastor who is having a crisis about his faith, much akin to something Bergman would do. Rachel McAdams also appears as an old flame of Affleck’s, further adding to his problems. This is not an “entertaining” movie, but it doesn’t have to be. It is beautiful and haunting, another work of art from a truly great artist.

8. Inside Llweyn Davis

The Coen Brothers returned to their true form of focusing on losers who just keep losing. The characters are so tragically funny, we root for them but laugh at them all at the same time. Oscar Isaac is truly a star on the rise; showcasing his musical talents as well as his dramatic and comedic chops, he is excellent as the titular character. The movie follows Llewyn Davis over a week in his life in Greenwich Village in 1961. He is a folk singer down on his luck, trying to make a big break into the music scene. Nothing ever seems to go his way; it’s as if he is destined to always be kicked back down by whatever it is above him. The movie has some wonderful performances. Isaac is supported by a great cast featuring Carey Mulligan, Justin Timberlake, and John Goodman. To hear more about what I thought, click this link:

9. Nebraska

Bruce Dern is all the reason you would need to see this movie. His performance is so grand and refined, that it alone could carry the film, but luckily for the viewer, there is much much more to be seen. Bruce Dern is Woody Grant, an aged alcoholic who believes he has won a million dollar sweepstakes, and he must get to Nebraska in order to receive his award. After a failed attempt at walking, his son, played by Will Forte, decides to drive him there. This begins their journey through old relatives, past feuds, and new understandings of one another. Alexander Payne directed this in black and white, which isn’t exactly a norm anymore, but it works. It is a funny and true movie about how families stick together, how sometimes people change when they need or want something from you, and how the journey is often more important than the destination. Check out my full review here:

10. The Way Way Back

Another movie I was pleasantly surprised by this last summer, The Way Way Back is a coming of age story about a young teen who, with his mother and her new boyfriend and his daughter, go on summer vacation to his house on the coast. Liam James, a somewhat newcomer, plays Duncan, a lonely and shy boy who is so awkward, all we can do is cringe. His mom, played by Toni Collette, encourages this behavior by always dragging him along. Steve Carell plays her boyfriend in what is a far cry from his other roles. He is a jerk and treats everyone around him with a passive-aggressive attitude that makes you want to punch him in his face. He plays so against his regular type that you wish he was just joking around. Duncan finds friendship in Owen, played by Sam Rockwell, the manager of a local water park, who takes him under his wing and gets him out of his shell. It is a great movie that is really well acted, but it also deals with the idea that as kids we think we know everything about what it is to be an adult, and how we are sometimes clouded by our teenage arrogance at seeing why adults make wrong choices instead of right. The movie has already been released on DVD so go check it out.