The 20 best films of 2014

The best films of the year – the overground, the underground, the widely released and the still emerging, from oldtimers and first-timers – as chosen by 112 of our international contributors and colleagues.

See also:

☞ all the votes and comments in browsable form

☞ our January 2015 issue with reflections on the past year in action, horror, mainstream adult drama and silent cinema

Sight & Sound contributors

1. Boyhood

Richard Linklater, USA

Richard Linklater’s film hinges on the tension between past, present and future and wears its long production and philosophical heft lightly. It feels as effortless as breathing. Precious little happens, yet everything does.

— Ryan Gilbey

Read Ashley Clark’s review

Watch kogonada’s video essay The long conversation: Richard Linklater on cinema and time


2. Goodbye to Language 3D

(Adieu au langage) Jean-Luc Godard, France

Godard’s retina-invigorating ciné-poem… the densest but also the most cinema-bending film on the Riviera, one which made the entire audience squint, blink and panic in unison.

— Isabel Stevens, S&S July 2014

☞ Read Nick Pinkerton’s review

☞ Read Nick Roddick’s Cannes blog post
 Ah Dieu, puns Jean-Luc Dogard


=3. Leviathan

Andrey Zvyagintsev, Russia

Balances the universality the director has always striven for with a brilliantly etched microcosm of the lawlessness that grips Russia today, where patronage, profiteering and power are intertwined.

— Ian Christie, S&S December 2014

☞ Read Ryan Gilbey’s review

☞ Read Geoff Andrew’s Cannes blog post Big fish to fry


=3. Horse Money

(Cavalo Dinheiro) Pedro Costa, Portugal

Brazen when it comes to bending cinema’s usual rules about the time and space(s) that characters occupy… a collision between cinematic history and authentic stories of suffering.

— Jason Anderson, S&S December 2014


5. Under the Skin

Jonathan Glazer, United Kingdom/USA/Switzerland

I’ve been waiting most of my life for a film that combined the sensibilities of Tarkovsky and Norman J. Warren. Under the Skin was worth the wait. It still haunts me, and I suspect it always will.

— Matthew Sweet

☞ Read Samuel Wigley’s review

☞ Read Away from the picture: Mica Levi on her Under the Skin soundtrack


6. The Grand Budapest Hotel

Wes Anderson, USA/Germany

Anderson’s most complete fabrication yet, a fanatically
and fantastically detailed, sugar-iced, calorie-stuffed, gleefully overripe Sachertorte of a film.

— Philip Kemp, S&S March 2014

☞ Read Philip Kemp’s review


7. Winter Sleep

(Kis uykusu) Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Turkey/France/Germany

Without doubt a formidably achieved, intellectually substantial drama… when Winter Sleep comes alive, it is as
powerful and suggestive as any Ceylan film.

— Jonathan Romney, S&S December 2014

☞ Read Jonathan Romney’s review


8. The Tribe

(Plemya) Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy, Ukraine

Set in a school for deaf teenagers, it reimagines the language of sight and sound (or the absence of sound) in cinema to startlingly original effect; you watch and listen in a way that’s entirely fresh and unfamiliar.

— Jonathan Romney


=9. Ida

Pawel Pawlikowski, Poland/Denmark/France/United Kingdom

A spare, haunting piece of minimalism… crafted with deceptive simplicity, riven with uncertainty… its indelible images are a stark reminder of Bazin’s dictum that film itself is a kind of miracle.

— Catherine Wheatley, S&S October 2014

☞ Read Catherine Wheatley’s review


=9. Jauja

Lisandro Alonso, Argentina/Denmark/USA

Jauja is such a marvellous experience: it shows that film is a medium that can lock up a history (or memories or dreams or nightmares) inside it, then release it in all the splendour of Patagonian skies.

— Kong Rithdee

☞ Read Adrian Martin’s review

☞ Read Thirza Wakefield’s London Film Festival blog post Viggo goes west


=11. Mr. Turner

Mike Leigh, France/United Kingdom/Germany

☞ Read Isabel Stevens’ Cannes blog post Savouring Mr. Turner


=11. National Gallery

Frederick Wiseman, France/USA

☞ Read Michael Atkinson’s review

☞ Read Isabel Stevens’ Cannes blog post Behind the scenes at the museum


=11. The Wolf of Wall Street

Martin Scorsese, USA

☞ Read Nick Pinkerton’s review



=11. Whiplash

Damien Chazelle, USA

☞ Read Calum Marsh’s review



15. The Duke of Burgundy

Peter Strickland, United Kingdom/Hungary

☞ Read Kim Newman’s review



=16. Birdman

Alejandro G. Iñárritu, USA



=16. Two Days, One Night

Jean-Pierre Dardenne & Luc Dardenne, Belgium/France/Italy/The Netherlands

☞ Read Tony Rayns’s review


=18. Citizenfour

Laura Poitras, USA/South Africa/United Kingdom/Germany

☞ Read Nick Bradshaw’s review


=18. The Look of Silence

Joshua Oppenheimer, Denmark / Finland / UK / Indonesia / Norway

☞ Read Nick James’s Venice blog post Hearts and minds and mumblings

☞ Read Robert Greene’s interview Unacknowledged scripts: Joshua Oppenheimer on The Look of Silence


=18. The Wind Rises

Miyazaki Hayao, Japan

☞ Read Andrew Osmond’s review

☞ See The landscape art of The Wind Rises

  • Sight & Sound: the January 2015 issue

    Sight & Sound: the January 2015 issue

    Wong Kar Wai on The Grandmaster, plus Birdman and the resurrection of Michael Keaton, John Berger on Charlie Chaplin and 112 critics on the best...

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