Picking the year’s most worthwhile films is always a challenge. Here is a list of ten from a range of genres, with something for everyone.
Director: Michaël R. Roskam
Cast: Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace, James Gandolfini
USA, 106 minutes
Hollywood hasn’t exhausted the gangster genre, it seems. This entertaining film about murderous thugs in Brooklyn, with a great plot twist at the end, will keep your brain fully engaged. It was the last screen performance by James Gandolfini, the star of The Sopranos.
Guardians of the Galaxy
Director: James Gunn
Cast: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Lee Pace, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Djimon Hounsou, John C. Reilly, Glenn Close, Benicio del Toro
USA, 122 minutes
This CGI-saturated spin-off from the Marvel comics universe is deliriously silly. What other film have you seen whose main star is a raccoon? (Do not call him a rodent. Ever.) With its attractive cast of super-hero misfits, this is easily the best of the Marvel franchise.
Director: Christopher Nolan
Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Bill Irwin, Ellen Burstyn, Michael Caine
USA, 169 minutes
Like all of Christopher Nolan’s films, Interstellar is a cerebral and visual treat. With global warming turning Earth into a desert, a team of astronauts is launched into space through a wormhole to discover a new world where mankind can seek refuge.
The LEGO Movie
Directors: Phil Lord and Christopher Miller
Cast: Chris Pratt, Will Ferrell, Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett, Nick Offerman, Alison Brie, Charlie Day, Liam Neeson, Morgan Freeman
Animated, 100 minutes
Emmet is an ordinary, rules-following, perfectly-average LEGO guy who is mistakenly identified as a superhero. He is drafted on an epic quest to stop an evil tyrant, a journey for which he is hopelessly and hilariously underprepared. Hilarious, satirical and ingenious.
Like Father, Like Son (Soshite Chichi ni Naru)
Director: Hirokazu Koreeda
Cast: Masaharu Fukuyama, Yōko Maki, Jun Kunimura, Machiko Ono, Kirin Kiki, Isao Natsuyagi
Japan, sub-titles, 120 minutes
Ryota is a workaholic Tokyo architect who has neglected his wife Midori and his six-year-old son Keita. When a blood test reveals that Keita and another boy were switched at birth, two very different families are thrown together and forced to make a difficult decision while Ryota finally learns what it means to be a father.
Director: Steven Knight
Cast: Tom Hardy
Britain, 84 minutes
This is a tour de force of acting and cinematography: all the action takes place inside a BMW X5 on the M4 highway to London and all the dialog is over the mobile. Locke is the foreman of a huge construction site who learns that a woman with whom he had a one-night stand seven months before is going into labour. He jumps into his car as 218 cement trucks queue up for a massive pour. On the road to London he takes one crisis call after another. A very interesting film about fatherhood, responsibility, work and work-life balance.
Director: Ritesh Batra
Cast: Irrfan Khan, Nimrat Kaur andNawazuddin Siddiqui
India, 105 minutes
A mistaken delivery in Mumbai’s famously efficient lunchbox delivery system connects a young housewife to an old man in the dusk of his life as they build a fantasy world together through notes in the lunchbox. Gradually this fantasy threatens to overwhelm their reality. A charming romantic comedy.
Next Goal Wins
Directors: Mike Brett and Steve Jamison
Featuring: Thomas Rongen, Jaiyah Saelua, Nicky Salapu
Documentary, Britain, 97 minutes
This fabulous documentary chronicles the comeback of American Samoa’s soccer team as they try to recover from a 31-0 loss to Australia, the biggest margin in history, and try to qualify for the 2014 FIFA World Cup. (They didn’t.) “Shamelessly heart-warming,” in the words of one critic.
Le Passé (The Past)
Director: Asghar Farhadi
Cast: Starring Bérénice Bejo, Tahar Rahim, Ali Mosaffa
Iran-France, subtitles, 130 minutes
This film is so realistic that it is almost too painful to watch. An Iranian man reunites with his estranged wife in Paris to finalize their divorce, so that she can marry her third lover. But her plans are upset by a shocking revelation from her teenage daughter from her first relationship. A deeply humane and moral examination of modern marriage.
The Wind Rises
Director: Directed by Hayao Miyazaki
Cast: Hideaki Anno, Miori Takimoto, Hidetoshi Nishijima, Masahiko Nishimura, Steve Alpert, Morio Kazama
Japan, sub-titles, 126 minutes
This splendid animation is a fictionalized biopic of Jiro Horikoshi (1903–1982), designer of the Mitsubishi A5M fighter aircraft and its successor, the Mitsubishi A6M Zero, Japan’s World War II fighters. One critic described it as “Perhaps the greatest animated film ever made”.
Director: Nuri Bilge Ceylan
Cast: Haluk Bilginer, Demet Akbag, Melisa Sözen, Tamer Levent, Nejat Isler
Turkey, sub-titles, 196 minutes
Slow, but engrossing, Winter Sleep could be your first Turkish film. It examines difficult issues like the gap between the intellectual and working classes, older men and younger women, and believers and non-believers.
And for something truly awful, check this out!
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Director: Jonathan Liebesman
Cast: Megan Fox, Alan Ritchson, Jeremy Howard, Pete Ploszek, Noel Fisher, Will Arnett
USA, 101 minutes
I couldn’t resist including this repackaging of the 30-year-old cartoon. It is arguably the worst movie of the entire year and contains all the key performance indicators for a truly awful entertainment. But on a budget of $125 million, it has grossed about $500 million, so who cares?
Michael Cook is editor of MercatorNet.