First, a brief remembrance before we get into the year's best movies: The film world said its heartbroken goodbyes to Mike Nichols in November, an occasion for returning to the director’s seismic The Graduate, along with four decades of subsequent work, much of it brilliant. Within that career, you can see echoes of this year’s knockouts: euphoric comedies of awkward maturation (Lukas Moodysson’s We Are the Best!), vicious marital showdowns (David Fincher’s darkly funny Gone Girl) and the quiet anxieties of New Yorkers (Ira Sachs’s Love Is Strange), a subset Nichols knew well. It was a year in which top-flight American filmmakers dug deeper, as did Britain’s Jonathan Glazer, extending his utterly uncompromising trajectory with the aching alien drama Under the Skin. There were real-world documentary triumphs (Particle Fever) and fantastic visions of a dark future (Snowpiercer). All in all, 2014 gave us much to love—and much to argue about. Just as it should be.
RECOMMENDED: Complete list of the best of 2014