1. The Grand Budapest Hotel
Anderson proves himself both an adept miniaturist (sometimes literally; check out those hotel exteriors) and maximalist in this, an epic fake history lesson told as farce and then, finally, as offhand tragedy. The movie’s losses reverberate through its timelines, resulting in an emotional kick that feels like a surprise, even though it shouldn’t; Anderson often chases some of his biggest laughs (of which this movie has many) with a lump in the throat.
2. God Help the Girl and 3. We Are the Best!
Stuart Murdoch and Lukas Moodysson
Two great movies about forming a band, and what that means, both personally artistically, at two very particular ages. We Are the Best! filters adolescent angst through punk rock with such sweetness that it becomes triumphant, while God Help the Girl goes full-on musical for the early-twenties set. They’re both uncommonly joyful experiences.
4. Muppets Most Wanted
Speaking of joyful: This Muppets sequel didn’t need Jason Segel in order to keep pace with its predecessor’s joke-craft and inspired silliness, or to become the flat-out funniest movie of the year.
5. Under the Skin
Scarlett Johansson, playing an alien in beautiful disguise, wanders Scottish streets and countryside. She’s looking for men to prey on, until she’s not. It’s a simple set-up with a hypnotizing, unsettling execution.
Is Boyhood Linklater’s best movie? Hard to say, but it certainly encompasses his career in handy, sometimes head-spinning ways. The adolescent wanderings of Dazed and Confused, the time passage of the Before series, the experimentalism of Slacker—they’re all here as Linklater follows a kid from age six to age eighteen.
Jazz drumming becomes a titanic battle of wills in a movie that pushes so hard that it feels weirdly exhilarating and hilarious regardless (or because) of its moral ambiguity.
8. Edge of Tomorrow and 9. Interstellar
Doug Liman and Christopher Nolan
Hollywood sci-fi movies can still offer sequel-proof surprises; witness Liman bouncing back with the playful Edge of Tomorrow and Nolan jerking tears during the big space adventure of Interstellar. Both movies deal with forms of time travel: Tom Cruise jumps back to the same morning again and again, like a sci-fi Groundhog Day while Matthew McConaughey’s chilling prophecy about staying the same age comes true when he lands on a planet near a black hole in Interstellar. And both supplement their spectacular visuals with real human longing: Cruise continuing to fall in love with Emily Blunt while her feelings reset back to indifference every day; regret overtaking McConaughey as he realizes how much time in his children’s lives he’s just accidentally missed.
David Gordon Green
Once every five or six shitty thrillers, Nicolas Cage will casually redeem himself, as he does here in Green’s typically funny, sad, and lyrical bit of American Gothic.