The Best Films of 2014: A Midyear Report

2014 has been an uncommonly good year for the movies. Let me rephrase that: 2014 has been an uncommonly good year to live in Chicago and see the local premieres of great films from around the globe (some of which premiered elsewhere last year). Now that the year is exactly half-way over, I thought it might be interesting to post a mid-year movie report card — taking stock of my favorite films of 2014 thus far. This list of my top 10 favorite new movies from the past six months is more impressive than a lot of the lists I’ve made of my 10 favorite films from entire calendar years in the recent past (and keep in mind that I’m disqualifying films that recently received their first theatrical run here — like Stranger By the Lake and The Immigrant — that I caught at festivals last year). Each title is accompanied by a still and a quote from my original review, as well as a link to said review where applicable. Enjoy!

10. Pretty Butterflies (Mereu, Italy) – European Union Film Festival. Rating: 8.3


“By focusing on pre-adolescent characters who have had to grow up too fast, Mereu illustrates how the world can be a terrible and scary place; and yet, because the friendship between Cate and Luna is so tight, and because they seem so indomitable as characters, this movie is also gratifyingly full of unexpected humor and warmth”:

9. The Grand Budapest Hotel (Anderson, USA/Germany) – Wide Release. Rating: 8.4


“This moral-clarity-in-the-midst-of-screwball-chaos is finally what makes The Grand Budapest Hotel a worthy heir to the films of the great Ernst Lubitsch, its most important cinematic precedents”:

8. Gloria (Lelio, Chile) – Landmark. Rating: 8.5


“Like Cassavetes, Lelio trains a patient camera eye on his lead character and audaciously resists taking easy emotional shortcuts”:

7. Journey to the West (Tsai, France/Taiwan) – Streaming. Rating: 8.6


“Regardless of how you interpret it, what’s not in dispute is the film’s extreme formal beauty (the shot of the monk, surrounded by what looks like a red halo created by his robe, walking down a flight of subway stairs is astonishing), as well as its unexpected, ineffable sense of humor”:

6. Jimmy P. (Desplechin, France/USA) – Facets. Rating: 8.7


Jimmy P. is a genuinely optimistic movie that never resorts to sentimentality and that’s a very rare thing indeed”:

5./4. Nymphomaniac Vol. 1/Vol. 2 (Von Trier, Denmark/Germany/UK) – Landmark. Rating: 9.0


“Among its many virtues, intellectual as well as visceral, Nymphomaniac is frequently hilarious”:

3. A Spell to Ward Off the Darkness (Rivers/Russell, Estonia) – European Union Film Festival. Rating: 9.1


“The viewer’s immersion in the music during this climactic scene is total — to witness it is to feel that one has jumped into the abyss”:

2. The Strange Little Cat (Zurcher, Germany) – European Union Film Festival. Rating: 9.4


“Like a miniature version of Jacques Tati’s Playtime, however, this movie is really about space and time, order and chaos, images and sounds, and the relationships between people and objects:”

1. Under the Skin (Glazer, UK) – Landmark. Rating: 9.6


“It’s a visionary work of art in its own right that doesn’t look or sound like anything other than a ‘Jonathan Glazer movie,’ and that should be higher praise than comparing it to motion pictures by great directors from the past”:


11. The Rover (Michod, Australia, 2014) – Century 12. Rating: 8.2
12. Metalhead (Bragason, Iceland, 2013) – Chicago International Movies and Music Fest. Rating: 8.0
13. The Longest Distance (Pinto, Venezuela, 2013) – 8.0
14. The World of Goopi and Bagha (Ranade, India, 2013) – 7.9
15. Anina (Soderguit, Uruguay, 2013) – Chicago Latino Film Festival. Rating: 7.9
16. All the Women (Barrioso, Spain) – Chicago Latino Film Festival. Rating: 7.8
17. Only Lovers Left Alive (Jarmusch, USA, 2013) – Century 12. Rating: 7.7
18. Beneath the Harvest Sky (Gaudet/Pullapilly, USA, 2013) Rating: 7.6
19. What Now? Remind Me (Pinto, Portugal) – European Union Film Festival. Rating: 7.5
20. Those Happy Years (Luchetti, Italy) – European Union Film Festival. Rating: 7.5

Special mention for a short: Kevin B. Lee’s Transformers: The Premake, a pounding and vibrant 25-minute essay film, is available to watch in its entirety here.

About michaelgloversmith

Filmmaker, author and Film Studies instructor. View all posts by michaelgloversmith

7 responses to “The Best Films of 2014: A Midyear Report

  • adillathehun

    Have you seen Like Father, Like Son? Didn’t see a mention.

  • John Charet

    As usual, I will start this reply with “I am going to leave two replies.” 🙂 Now that we got that out of the way, I will now comment on the list. As you know, I have seen numbers 1,4,5 and 8 and 9. I gave numbers 1,4,5 and 8 * * * 1/2 out of * * * * stars and number 9 * * * * out of * * * *
    stars. As far as runners up go, I have seen The Rover and Only Lovers Left Alive. I gave The Rover * * * 1/2 out of * * * * stars and Only Lovers Left Alive * * * out of * * * * stars. As far as Only Lovers Left Alive goes, I feel that it (along with Coffee and Cigarettes) ranks as one of Jarmusch’s minor films. He has directed better films in the past (on my site, I have an entry about his best films).

  • John Charet

    Speaking of minor films by great directors. I saw Jersey Boys a week ago and while I gave it * * * out of * * * * stars, I still think that it is a very far cry from Clint Eastwood’s best films as a director. In fact, like many of his die-hard fans of him as a filmmaker, I can’t help but wonder what attracted him to this project when one takes into account that jazz music seems to his preferred taste (Bird for instance) and jazz also seems to play a major role as background music in his films. The reason I do not think he chose it as a studio assignment is because back in the late sixties, he reached the point where he had earned enough fame to double as a producer (he would become a filmmaker a decade later) that he co-founded Malpaso productions which co-distributes almost all of his directorial films. In many ways and to this day, he remains one of the most successful independents (not of indie filmmaking) but Hollywood filmmaking. Clint Eastwood never really seemed to have enthusiasm vintage pop music, which in this case would be the subject of band The Four Seasons. In the end, the people who will be the most pleased with this film are fans of Broadway or the off Broadway musical of the same name. Regards:)

  • John Charet

    P.S. I do not know If you have seen this documentary yet, but I gave it my highest which is * * * * out of * * * * stars and that documentary is entitled Jodorowsky’s Dune about Alejandro Jodorowsky’s ill-fated attempt at getting his dream project off the ground which is an adaptation of Frank Herbert’s science-fiction novel of the same name. I know you are busy but I would love to hear an answer to all of these replies I left only because I find your opinions really fascinating:) Keep up the great work as always:)

  • The Best Films of 2015: A Midyear Report | White City Cinema

    […] I did last year, I’m offering a list of “the best films of the year so far” now that we’ve […]

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