We've decided to make any film that released in the United Kingdom after January 1 eligible for selection on our little list. That means films like The Wolf of Wall Street, American Hustle and Dallas Buyers Club are up for selection, despite the fact that they were nominated for Oscars in 2013.
It makes sense to do this. We live in Britain, so we only got access to these films this year. So, we're going to need you to stop hyperventilating, get comfy in your swivelly laptop chair, and have a wee read of what we reckon were the best cinema releases offered up in the past year in Britain.
Without further ado...
5. Guardians of the Galaxy
Before I went to see Guardians of the Galaxy, a bunch of over-zealous companions had described it as the ‘best Marvel film released yet’. This meant my expectations were sky-high and subsequently a little disappointed, but that doesn’t mean the film is not a wonderful watch. It certainly is.
The movie is well balanced between action and comedy, Chris Pratt is spot on in the lead role, the soundtrack is absolutely terrific, and the fact that Vin Diesel was hired just to say ‘I am Groot’ a bunch of times is a wonderful talking point.
A great film, but there’s better from Marvel in my personal view...
4. Gone Girl
Wow. Now this is one seriously f*cked up film. The opening thirty seconds of Gone Girl set up the rollercoaster plot amazingly, and perfect performances from Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike make sure the intensity and obscurity of the drama remains full force throughout.
The intricate plot does drag at times, but excitement far outweighs endurance in the grand scheme for the watcher. The final result is one of the creepiest, most uncomfortable films of the year, and it features the most powerful yet delicate ending that I’ve seen in some time.
David Fincher at his creepiest, Rosamund Pike at her best, and modern day cinema at its most unnerving.
3. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part I
I will brand anyone a liar who claims to have watched the latest in the Hunger Games series without having raised three fingers in the air and whistled the mockingjay song in the days that followed. And that sums up this film well – it’s a gripping form of escapism.
Obviously Jennifer Lawrence is epic as Katniss Everdeen. The film is stylishly made, it features a whole lot of drama and it’s pretty freakin’ forceful at times too. Like any decent franchise film, it drags you into the world and leaves you drooling for the final instalment. A good job by Lawrence and the Hunger Games team!
2. X-Men: Days of Future Past
Earlier I mentioned that I don’t believe Guardians of the Galaxy was the best Marvel film yet, and actually, I don’t even think it was the best Marvel release of the year. That accolade has to go to X-Men: Days of Future Past.
The sequel was based around mutant-murdering sentinel robots in an apocalyptic future. A bit Matrix-y? Maybe. But also a great launch pad for a badass trip back to the 1970s, where James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender are exceptional as Charles Xavier and Magneto respectively.
Original, packed with amazing action and also featuring a great performance from Jennifer Lawrence. Which is always a bonus.
1. The Wolf of Wall Street
Right from the release of the trailer for this Hollywood powerhouse it was clear that The Wolf of Wall Street was going to be epic.
It feels almost cheating to include it in a list of the best films of 2014, but the Jan 17 release date in the UK makes it eligible. And we can hardly just ignore it if it fits the bill...
Leonardo Di Caprio was a joy to behold in the lead, Jonah Hill was amazing as support, and the film provided more memorable one-liners than a Muhammad Ali Show reel all in all.
Absolutely hilarious, absolutely hypnotic and absolutely worthy of being at the top of this list.
Honourable mentions: Interstellar, The Hobbit, The Imitation Game, Nightcrawler, Fury, American Hustle and 22 Jump Street (which may have even made it into the top five had it not been for all of this ‘My name’s Jeff’ nonsense on social media).
5. American Hustle
An all star cast of Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Louis C.K and of course the lovely Jennifer Lawrence come together to create a funny, energetic film that was thrilling to watch.
You could fault it for not sticking to one genre but if you just take it as it comes (and listen to the great soundtrack) you’re bound to be entertained. Besides, the world can’t get enough Jennifer Lawrence at the moment.
4. Starred Up
We’re used to seeing a vast variety of US prison dramas, many of which have become true legends - so when I heard that Jack O’Connell was going to be starring in one I knew it would be good.
Hard hitting, clever and a little bit sickening at points, this is truly a great drama, well directed and showcasing some fantastic actors.
3. X-Men: Days of Future Past
X-Men films have been going for years and with Hugh Jackman raking in the dough playing Wolverine, I’m certain we’ll see more of his stand alone films in the future.
But enough of that, the latest film and sequel to First Class really does stand out as a fantastic film. Easily beating the previous incarnation of the X-Men franchise, the reboot stays on course with its sequel and delivers fast paced action with solid acting performances. James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender have done a great job of classing up the acting in the film and the writers have removed just enough of the clichés to make the film thoroughly enjoyable.
2. Gone Girl
This is probably my favourite Ben Affleck role to date, which is saying something looking at the man’s filmography. A missing persons thriller that really disturbed me, I actually questioned the plot line continuously as it unfolded because I couldn’t believe it would be as messed up as it is.
Fantastic twists and even the smaller roles from Neil Patrick Harris and Tyler Perry are brilliantly written as well as portrayed. This is a definite must see.
1. The Wolf of Wall Street
Well where to start with this. The masterful Scorsese returns to tell the truly fascinating and unbelievable story of Jordan Belfort.
Sexy, funny and extravagant, it is fantastic from start to finish - although with a runtime of three hours it can feel pretty intense.
Another (although slightly less) star studded cast featuring Leonardo DiCaprio as the lead and the unlikely Jonah Hill supporting brilliantly. Rumour has it Jonah accepted just $60,000 for the role as he was desperate to work with Scorsese and I think you can see he gave it his all.
5. American Hustle
This film ties the record for the most Oscar nominations without a single victory. Not a record you want to hold, but to be honest, twelve nominations was perhaps a little generous.
The film is bold, charismatic and ambitious, but does seem to fall a little short at times. The story simply isn't as brilliantly complex as it seems it will be, and no amount of great acting and visually stunning filming can quite make up for that. The acting really is brilliant though, and this film is just another example of Christian Bale's dedication.
4. The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies
This is surely the last instalment of Middle-Earth based fantasy from Peter Jackson. The last instalment of true cinematic glory, and it is a sad moment. The six films have certainly earned a place among the greatest of movie series, and yet I have to admit that the final film would not reach the hall of fame on its own.
Whilst it is a great film, and certainly deserves a place on this list by its own merits - cinematography and music in particular - it is the series, and the whole narrative which makes it moving and fantastic. The film should really be viewed as one section of a six part (18+ hour) epic.
3. Monuments Men
An old-school war film in many ways - an all-star cast, great score, and a basis in historical fact - this film is stirring, funny and well worth a watch.
It depicts an attempt to salvage some of the art that was stolen from Nazi occupied territory throughout the 1930s and early 1940s.
Not only is this a cause close to our hearts at JFC, this film tells the story of a mission which was vital to much of Europe's culture. Even if you don't care about art, you'll have a laugh, and choke back tears if you're anything like me.
2. Gone Girl
Tense, taught and thrilling. This film changes direction beautifully, with Ben Affleck's character first seeming the victim, then criminal, with his arrest for murder seeming to be an imminent threat throughout.
Admittedly, I've always thought he looks a little suspicious anyway, and he does deserve some punishment for his role as Daredevil. He's thoroughly convincing here though, as is Neil Patrick Harris in an unusually serious role - he's creepy, and brilliant in equal measures. In addition, this film has the best non-horror sociopath since 'Seven'.
1. The Wolf of Wall Street
This Scorsese epic glorifies the crime, immorality and hedonism of 1990s Wall Street, and does it in style! Together with a DiCaprio performance to remember, this feeling makes this film a modern classic already.
Yes, it does force you to feel uncomfortably sympathetic towards a criminal, but it captures the swagger of the era and drags you along in its rip-roaring wake. We assume that the Illuminati must have something against DiCaprio, since even this role didn't earn him that golden statue, and challenge anyone to watch this film and not feel for his character, despite everything he does.