The Best Films of 2014

At the end of every year, the assembling and organizing of a best-of list becomes an exercise in incongruity; it seems like we spent all of our time complaining about blockbusters and avoiding dystopian YA adaptations, and yet, when you look at the sum total of a year of cinema, there are enough great films for not only this list of 25 (27, really), but two supplementary ones. And yes, the environment for intelligent, mature, original movies may be hostile (and the future looks even bleaker), but ingenious filmmakers continue to find a way, whether it’s making the best of low budgets, smuggling subversion into commercial enterprises, or enlisting movie stars to open doors. Some film writers (particularly Oscar bloggers) have taken this year’s shortage of clear-cut “favorites” as the sign of a weak year. I say just the opposite: the wide swath of quality releases, from personal indies to whip-smart genre flicks to thoughtful documentaries, tells the story of an uncommonly rich and rewarding 12 months of movie-making.

Stills from "Only Lovers Left Alive" and "A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night"

25. Only Lovers Left Alive / A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night

Sure, it’s a cheat, using a tie to smash in more movies, but these two films of quite opposite origin — one the latest from an American indie icon, the other the debut of a Iranian-American novice — are, to these eyes, inextricably bound by their commonalities: their patient tempo, their ultra-cool style, the limitless invention of their marriages of music to image. And of course, both are vampire films, yet miles away from Twilight or even Dracula; they run none of the usual plays, fascinated as they are by the mood of a vampire’s moments, less interested in sucking blood than in hanging out.