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The 20 best movie scenes of 2014

Action, romance, horror, drama and ScarJo as an alien: It’s all in our list of the best movie moments of 2014

1/20

X-Men: Days of Future Past – The high-speed Pentagon heist

What’s going on?
Dumped back in 1973 on a mission to track down shapeshifting mutant Mystique, Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) knows he needs to recruit the villainous Magneto (Michael Fassbender) to his cause. The problem? Old metal-head is buried under a thousand feet of concrete below the world’s most heavily fortified building.

Why our jaws dropped...
Help arrives in the form of Peter Maximoff a.k.a. Quicksilver (Evan Peters), a proto-Goth teenager who happens to have the ability to slow time. So when security shows up and Wolverine’s life is threatened, he springs into action with a bravura display of bullet-dodging hyperspeed action. (Jim Croce's "Time in a Bottle" adds immeasurably.)

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2/20

Mr. Turner – Turner strapped to the mast of a ship

What’s going on?
Mike Leigh’s drama about the painter J.M.W. Turner takes great interest in the painter’s quasispiritual relationship with the landscapes he depicted. Here, Leigh recounts a perhaps mythical story about Turner: that he tied himself to the mast of a ship during a storm in order to find inspiration for the to-be-famous painting “Snow Storm—Steam-Boat off a Harbour’s Mouth.”

Why our jaws dropped...
This event may never have happened—and we don’t recommend trying it at home either—but the sight of Timothy Spall’s Turner being lashed by rain, snow and wind is a great symbol of this artist’s bold independence and feverish dedication.

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3/20

Captain America: The Winter Soldier – Elevator beatdown

What’s going on?
In this feisty conspiracy action flick, square-jawed icon Captain America (Chris Evans) comes to understand that all’s not well in the highest echelons of power, and that the S.H.I.E.L.D. organization has become a front for some very shady folks. Realizing they’ll be coming for him next, he catches the elevator down to the ground floor with trusted sidekick Brock (Frank Grillo) and a handful of fellow operatives.

Why our jaws dropped...
As the tiny elevator fills up with increasingly muscular and crazy-eyed thugs, the shoe finally drops—for poor Cap as much as for the audience. After the Captain's courteous one-liner (“Before we get started, does anyone want to get out?”), we’re treated to a wild, slap-happy cavalcade of close-quarters combat.

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4/20

Nightcrawler – Jake Gyllenhaal hires a sidekick

What’s going on?
As the orders flood in for his grisly video footage, budding news cameraman and bug-eyed psycho Lou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) decides to hire someone to watch the car while he goes ambulance chasing. But the poor sucker who answers his ad—cash-strapped innocent Rick (Riz Ahmed)—really doesn’t know what he’s getting himself into.

Why our jaws dropped...
We already know that Lou is a desperately deluded lunatic, but the madcap self-improvement spiel he lays on poor Rick still comes as a shock. As the enthusiastic youngster’s eyes grow ever larger, we just want to shout at him to run away, now, before it’s too late.

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5/20

Leviathan – A shooting party attacks portraits of Russian presidents

What’s going on?
This moody, booze-soaked Russian film is set in a remote coastal fishing village, far from Moscow. It tells of the weight of corruption and terrible fate coming to bear on the shoulders of one man, Kolya. Here, he goes on a shooting trip with his pals, armed with vodka, guns and big portraits of 20th-century Russian presidents (not including Putin or Yeltsin).

Why our jaws dropped...
As the vodka flows, the men start firing their guns at these political portraits. Amazingly, Russia has submitted Leviathan as its official entry for the Academy Awards in 2015—it's that good.

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6/20

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes – Drunk ape with an uzi

What’s going on?
An uneasy truce is declared between the intelligent apes of the forest and the human survivors in postapocalyptic San Francisco, to the chagrin of man-hating chimp Koba. When he learns that the humans have a secret stockpile of weapons, Koba hatches a plan to raid their armory.

Why our jaws dropped...
The special effects are outstanding as the completely photorealistic Koba sidles up to the guards and launches into a goofy, lovable circus routine and clowns around with a bottle of whisky. Then someone makes the mistake of letting him get his hairy mitts on a machine gun and things get really messed up.

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7/20

Interstellar – Matthew McConaughey picks up his voicemail

What’s going on?
McConaughey’s farmer-turned-astronaut Cooper has been leading a mission into deep space for years when he finally receives a series of video messages from his young daughter—who's grown up to be Jessica Chastain while he was flying to the stars to save humanity.

Why our jaws dropped...
We only hear Chastain’s voice and see McConaughey in close-up as he views these messages: His face crumples as he realizes everything he’s left behind and what’s been going on in his absence. A good reminder that Oscar-winner McConaughey packs some serious acting chops.

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8/20

Citizenfour – An unexpected phone call for Edward Snowden

What’s going on?
In a hotel room in Hong Kong, documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras and journalist Glenn Greenwald are meeting for the first time with a young man, Edward Snowden, who claims to have stolen thousands of U.S. intelligence files. All three are on edge as the interview begins, and the scale and bravery of Snowden’s actions becomes clear.

Why our jaws dropped...
Poitras’s documentary isn’t just ripped-from-the-headlines gripping, it’s also brilliantly edited and scored for maximum tension. So when the hotel phone suddenly rings and all three protagonists freeze in fear, the effect feels as electric as a turning point in a Bourne movie. (It ends up being room service, in case you’re worried.)

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9/20

The Skeleton Twins – Nothing’s gonna stop them now

What’s going on?
He’s recovering from a recent suicide attempt, she’s having an affair with her swimming teacher under the nose of her fiance: It’s safe to say that estranged siblings Milo (Bill Hader) and Maggie (Kristen Wiig) are making a mess of their lives. But following a drunken evening of reminiscence and reparation, Milo has the bright idea of throwing on that old Starship CD.

Why our jaws dropped...
Wiig and Hader are classic Saturday Night Live compadres, and the comic chemistry between them as they perform a word perfect lip-synch to the heart-on-sleeve power ballad “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” is the high point of the movie—a gloriously upbeat scene in a sweet but hardly groundbreaking indie melodrama.

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10/20

The Raid 2 – A prison riot gets muddy and bloody

What’s going on?
Having high-kicked his way through an army of bad guys in the first Raid flick, decent cop Rama (Iko Uwais) joins a secret task force to take on corruption in the city of Jakarta. He goes undercover in a local prison, keeping a surreptitious eye on junior mobster Uco (Arifin Putra). When the place explodes into violence during a relentless rainstorm, Rama’s only mission is to keep the thug safe.

Why our jaws dropped...
Because Gareth Evans directs action like no one else: The bone-crunching blows and limb-snapping sound effects rain down with such visceral regularity that the audience itself emerges bruised and battered. In a slightly-too-chatty sequel, this was what the audience had paid to see.

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11/20

Calvary – Dylan Moran’s cliffside breakdown

What’s going on?
Father James (Brendan Gleeson) is living with a death sentence: One of his parishioners has threatened to gun him down as revenge for the abuse he suffered as a young altar boy. As he walks to his fateful assignation, the priest comes across local bigwig businessman Michael (Dylan Moran) staring down the crashing waves.

Why our jaws dropped...
Michael has been set up as a hate figure by John Michael McDonagh’s angry script, one of those money-grubbing bankers who almost drove Ireland into the ground. But here we see another side of him: a desperately lonely man trying to find a way back to the light. It’s a moment of agonizing soul-searching at the heart of a relentlessly sad film.

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12/20

Pride – Andrew Scott visits his long-estranged mom

What’s going on?
This lovely British film about a group of gay activists who assist striking miners in the 1980s provoked ample laughs and tears wherever it played. Andrew Scott plays one of the activists, Gethin, who in one of the film's more powerful scenes, visits the mother he hasn’t seen in years.

Why our jaws dropped...
Gethin’s work helping the miners and his trip back to Wales, where he comes from, inspire him to mend bridges closer to home. Weeping is understandable, also unavoidable.

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13/20

Two Days, One Night – A football player has a change of heart

What’s going on?
The Dardenne brothers’ latest quiet masterpiece saw them creating maximum drama from a simple situation, as wife and mother Sandra (Marion Cotillard) is forced to visit each of her factory colleagues and beg them to help her keep her job. Following a series of setbacks, she’s on the verge of giving up when she approaches Timur (Timur Magomedgadzhiev) at soccer practice.

Why our jaws dropped...
Finally, someone is glad to see Sandra. He admits that he’d been hoping she’d come to see him so he could apologize personally for all she’s been going through. Timur bursts into tears on the field. It’s a moment of unadorned emotion, subtle but powerful.

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14/20

The Grand Budapest Hotel – The prison break

What’s going on?
Beset on all sides by the forces of aristocratic intrigue, maître 'd Gustave (Ralph Fiennes) is arrested for the murder of his elderly lover. Luckily, his protégé Zero (Tony Revolori) rallies to his master’s aid, sneaking a number of cakes stuffed with stoneworking tools into the jail.

Why our jaws dropped...
In a film crammed with giddy asides and moments of wonderfully unexpected comedy, this was still a highlight: Accompanied by fellow convict Ludwig (Harvey Keitel), Gustave escapes his cell only to stand in the courtyard espousing his theory of prison etiquette (“In a place like this, you must never be a candy-ass”) as search dogs howl in the night.

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15/20

Enemy – The final few seconds

What’s going on?
In this arty, not-entirely-convincing Canadian experimental drama, Jake Gyllenhaal plays teacher Anthony, who discovers that there’s a bit-part actor out there who looks exactly like him. Anthony meets his double, Adam, and it all gets creepy in a chin-stroking sort of way. Until the very final moments of the film…

Why our jaws dropped...
MAJOR SPOILER ALERT! Things seem to be building towards a resolution: Adam has died in a car wreck, and Anthony has shacked up with his doppelganger’s wife. He follows her into the bedroom, only to discover that she’s been transformed into (or consumed by) a room-sized tarantula, scuttling and scraping against the wall. The audience gasps. Cut to black.

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16/20

The LEGO Movie – Everything is awesome!

What’s going on?
It’s the opening of The LEGO Movie, and we’ve just been introduced to our hero Emmet Brickowski, a largely brainless construction worker who just loves fitting in. On the way to work, inspired by a sign ordering him to “Enjoy Popular Music!,” Emmett clicks on his car radio.

Why our jaws dropped...
We’re smacked in the face with the most uplifting, punch-the-air satirical hit since “America, Fuck Yeah!,” a slice of pop so voraciously ear-wormy that it threatens to eat the audience’s brains from the inside. Meanwhile, Emmet launches into the conformist drone’s equivalent of the “Choose Life” speech from Trainspotting: “Support your local sports team! Go sports team!”

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17/20

Only Lovers Left Alive – Vampires on the dance floor

What’s going on?
After decades apart, vampire lovers Eve (Tilda Swinton) and Adam (Tom Hiddleston) are finally reunited in his grubby, hipster-ish Detroit flat. Late one night, Eve steps up to the record player and drops the needle.

Why our jaws dropped...
This isn’t one of those spectacular, punch-in-the-gut emotional scenes, but simply a quiet moment of intimacy with a great song on the soundtrack (Denise LaSalle’s rare soul number “Trapped By a Thing Called Love”). As Adam hauls himself off the sofa to wrap his arms around Eve’s waist, we feel the weary centuries drop away in Jim Jarmusch's vampy drama.

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18/20

Nymphomaniac: Vol. 1 – Uma Thurman gets very, very angry

What’s going on?
Lars Von Trier’s two-part drama-cum-comedy about a sex-addicted woman goes through some wildly different tones. In this scene, our narrator Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg) recalls how her younger self (Stacy Martin) caused the break-up of a marriage. The alienated wife in question is played by Uma Thurman.

Why our jaws dropped...
Thurman’s Mrs. H isn’t going quietly as she gathers up her stuff and kids to leave Mr. H (Hugo Speer) to his younger lover. She lets rip a volley of anger that will have all but the most cold-hearted viewers punching the air in support. Go Uma!

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19/20

Starred Up – Jack O’Connell bites a prison guard in an awkward spot

What’s going on?
Young offender Eric Love (Jack O’Connell) has been “starred up” (promoted) to the adult prison thanks to his unhinged nature and extreme behavior. When the guards try to calm him down during a therapy session, Eric takes a unique approach to self-defense.

Why our jaws dropped...
Lunging like a dog, Eric chomps down on the poor guy's crotch, clamps his manhood between his teeth and holds it there for what feels like an eternity. Meanwhile, every male audience member holds his breath and crosses his legs.

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20/20

Under the Skin – The baby on the beach

What’s going on?
As Scarlett Johansson’s voracious, nameless alien-in-female-form stalks Glasgow looking for fresh meat, she comes across a real unfolding tragedy: As a storm blows in, a couple struggling to rescue their pet dog is washed away in the sea. But that’s not the worst part.

Why our jaws dropped...
We never expect Scarlett to lift a finger to help the drowning couple, she’s far too remote a figure for that. But when she also abandons their wailing, helpless toddler on the freezing shore, it’s truly shocking.

“When we filmed that scene, the crew looked at me like I was fucking poison,” writer-director Jonathan Glazer told us earlier this year. “But that was the scene. We feel empathy because we’re humans. But how does she see it? Not as we do.” Sparking sympathy and outrage in equal measure—and saying a lot about how we deal with horror in the real world—this was the most disturbing, impossible-to-forget image of 2014.

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If you don’t have time to catch up with all the best movies of 2014, simply fast-forward to these key scenes and get all your cinematic sustenance in handy, bite-sized chunks. From boozy apes to dudes in capes, these were our favorite movie moments in 2014.

RECOMMENDED: Best of 2014

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