15. The Guest
Dan Stephens stars as an army veteran who visits the family of a fallen comrade but when a series of accidental deaths surround his arrival, they begin to question his true identity. One of the most intense and exciting thrillers of the year, The Guest has all the hallmarks of a cult classic in the making, with its synth-driven 80's soundtrack being my most played album of the year.
Starring in two of the films in my list, Jack O'Connell has made the leap to the big time this year, and his performance in '71 demonstrates just how far he has come since his breakout roles in Eden Lake and Skins. As a British soldier accidentally left behind in Belfast during a riot, Hook is forced to make his way back to safety in this unrelenting chase thriller. From the shocking moment Hook is separated from his unit to the gripping finale, '71 will inevitably leave your pulse racing and your heart pounding.
Christopher Nolan's space odyssey combines awe-inspiring spectacle with powerful human drama to create an unforgettable cinematic experience. To read more about its influences and the evolution of space exploration in film, have a look at this feature I put together for Showfilmfirst: http://www.showfilmfirst.com/journey-space/
Favouring cerebral Science-fiction over spectacle, this is a satisfying exploration of parallel universes that deserves to be seen by a wider audience. Coherence may leave you scratching your head far more than the events in Interstellar but rewards repeat viewings as the pieces of the puzzle slowly begin to fit together. Low-budget but thought-provoking science-fiction is rarely done this well, and the sinister turns that affect a seemingly innocuous gathering are both inventive and wholly convincing thanks to the engaging cast.
11. Gone Girl
That one of David Fincher's finest hours doesn't quite make my top ten shows just how strong a year 2014 has been, with Trent Reznor's intense soundtrack providing the perfect backdrop to this exceptionally well-made graphic thriller about a man who is accused for the disappearance of his wife. Cold and clinical throughout, Fincher's adaptation of Gillian Flynn's successful novel is a tour de force for Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike who play the accused husband and missing wife but for me it is Neil Patrick Harris who steals the show as an obsessive former lover of Nick Dunne's missing wife.
Richard Linklater's incredible project was filmed over a period of 12 years, allowing the audience to witness the growth of the young star at the helm (Ellar Coltrane) from a five year-old boy into a young man, encapsulating key moments in his adolescence. That Linklater worked these scenes into a compelling story just adds to the impact of his masterpiece, and those who grew up over the same period of time will undoubtedly feel kindred spirits to Coltrane's instantly likeable Mason. This is unmissable, life-affirming film-making.
9. X-Men: Days Of Future Past
When X-Men: The Last Stand nearly acted as the final nail in the mutant's coffin, it was down to Matthew Vaughan's reboot to save the franchise, and First Class did just that, as well as being the perfect springboard for director Bryan Singer's return to form with the epic Days of Future Past. Utilising time travel as the perfect tool to unite the cast from the original franchise along with the newcomers in First Class, Singer had the unenviable task of juggling dozens of characters but all feel fully realised in one of the best X-Men outings to date.
8. Starred Up
Once again Jack O'Connell delivers a blistering performance in this brutal prison drama alongside Ben Mendelsohn who shot to prominence after his appearance in Animal Kingdom. Playing a troubled youngster relocated from a juvenile prison and his inmate father that runs the wing he is moved to, O'Connell and Mendelsohn's volatile characters are utterly fascinating to watch as they jostle for supremacy against the guards, violent inmates and each other.
7. The Wolf of Wall Street
Fifteen years ago no-one would have dared to suggest that Scorsese would ever form a partnership as prolific as that of his and Robert De Niro, but his work with Leonardo DiCaprio is coming very close to matching it. The Wolf of Wall Street showcases just how well this partnership can work, with Scorsese's riotously funny adaptation of Jordan Belfort's true rise to success as a drug-addled stock-broker garnering five Oscar nominations including a nod for both leading actor and director.
6. What We Do In The Shadows
From the team behind The Flight Of The Conchords, What We Do In The Shadows is essentially This is Spinal Tap for vampires, and is one of the funniest mockumentaries I have ever seen. Its send up of the horror genre offers a hilarious insight into the lives of three New Zealand vampires who flat-share together, and their encounters with the local werewolves that inevitably lead to trouble. For more on the film, check out the feature I wrote for ShowFilmFirst: http://www.showfilmfirst.com/vampire-vex/
Part three of my countdown can be found here