We announce our top films of 2014, ranging from romance to thriller and back again…
By all accounts, it hasn’t been a fantastic year for film worldwide. The Golden Globe nominations proved watery and dull across the board and the Oscars…well, we’re still scratching our heads over what on earth will be nominated there.

However, when 2014 was good, it was very good indeed. So if you’re stuck for something to watch over Christmas, let the Ents crew at Campus.ie fill you in on what we thought were the top picks of 2014.
 
Her (January)
Dir. Spike Jonze.Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Scarlett Johansson and Amy Adams
 
I will admit that this is something of a cheat, as it premiered at Sundance in 2013 and snuck into this year by a mere ten days. However, it is my film of the year but such a lengthy margin that it’s worth cheating! Her stars Joaquin Phoenix as Theodore, a sad, hipster little man who falls in love with his sultry-voiced operating system (Johansson). What should be an unnerving look at the relationship between man and machine is actually rendered quite a sweet love story by director Spike Jonze. Samantha (Johannson) never strays to a one dimensional love interest and Phoenix’s performance is stunning, as is the cinematography (think futuristic light and colour) and the score performed by Arcade Fire.
 
Frank (July)
Dir. Lenny Abrahamson. Starring: Michael Fassbender, Domhnall Gleeson and Maggie Gyllenhaal
 
Oh Lenny, can you do anything wrong? After 2012’s hard-hitting 'What Richard Did', Irish audiences were treated to the wonderfully bizarre Frank. Based loosely on the life of Frank Sidebottom, a  mysterious performer from the 1970’s, the film follows a wannabe musician, Jon, who finds himself drawn to the enigmatic frontman of the Soronprfbs, played by Michael Fassbender under a giant paper-maché head. Things escalate from here, tackling social media’s role in music, the mysterious frontman figure and treating the viewer to some utterly madcap moments along the way. The performances are all dead on, the score (including a song performed by the Soronprfbs) is perfect, and while the film is a little overlong, it’s nonetheless original enough to gain a place on my list. 
 
Nightcrawler (October)
Dir. Dan Gilroy. Stars: Jake Gyllenhaal 
 
This tightly wound thriller is Pyscho meets reality TV. Jake Gyllenhaal’s Lou discovers the murky world of nightcrawling journalism by chance and quickly becomes obsessed, stopping at nothing to grab grotesque footage of night crime. The film is influenced massively by the noir time period, but also has time to satirise late-night “news” journalism and the power hungry men and women who work there. It’s horrifying to any aspiring journo and an absolute powerhouse of a performance from Jake Gyllenhaal - probably a career best. You will never look at manbuns the same way, though. Not one for a cuddly Christmas night – it’s pretty grim – but definitely worth a look in the new year. 
 
Calvary (April)
Dir. John Michael McDonagh, Stars: Brendan Gleeson, Dylan Moran, Chris O’Dowd
 
You might think from the list of stars this would have been the best Irish comedy of the year – even the trailer made it out to be a bit of a laugh. Not so much; but what you will get is one of the most thought-provoking and brave films about Irish society that’s ever been made. The story of small-town priest Fr. James (Gleeson) is told in confession that he has seven days to live by an unidentified parishioner. The film holds up an unflinching mirror to the Irish people and pulls no punches when it comes to the tough questions. Brendan Gleeson has never been better as the troubled priest, and big comedy names like Moran, O’Dowd, and even Brendan’s own son Domhnall (who starred in “Frank” and  RTÉ’s sketch show ‘Your Bad Self’ a few years back) really show their acting chops in fantastically varied parts. Many people didn’t get Calvary (to my utter disbelief), but I would encourage absolutely everyone to give it a watch, as it’s not only one of my best of 2014, it’s one of the best Irish films ever. 
 
Gone Girl (October)
Dir. David Fincher, Stars: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris
 
Pretty much a no-brainer for the list, this one. Based on Gillian Flynn’s massively successful novel, Gone Girl takes us through a psychological minefield in which Nick Dunne (Affleck) returns home on his wedding anniversary to find his wife (Pike) missing. With a complete frenzy of police and media attention surrounding him, Nick’s picture-perfect life unravels for all to see, quickly making him the main suspect for his wife’s murder. This was THE film of 2014, although I did have to listen to a chorus of, “that film proves that all women are psychos,” from all the guys I know that saw it. (Talk about missing the point.) What’s great about it is that there’s no perfect character – no one is the quintessential flawless protagonist. You never know what’s going to happen next or what twists the plot will take, and it will leave you screaming out at the screen by the end. Apparently, it’s even better than the book (which we all know is hardly ever the case) so that’s reason enough to go watch it if you haven’t already. 
 
Guardians of the Galaxy (August)
Dir. James Gunn, Stars: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Bradley Cooper
 
In a decidedly different vein to other picks for the year, but it can’t be left out. Think you’re not the comic book type? Think again. Not just the same old fight scenes and ridiculously unrealistic dialogue that come with the Marvel territory, Guardians is smarter and sweeter. It’s a film to make you cry with laughter, to have you bopping along in your seat and make you genuinely happy throughout the whole thing. The movie follows human Peter Quill (Pratt) who gets on bad terms with intergalactic villain Ronan the Accuser. To fight Ronan and save the galaxy from his evil power, Quill rounds up a team of space’s finest, who become the Guardians of the Galaxy. Absolutely every character in this is brilliant, from Rocket the Racoon (Cooper) to the hilariously literal Drax (played by Dave Bautista) and of course, the star of the show Groot (played by Vin Diesel) who steals the spotlight despite only having one repeated line. What’s amazing about this movie is it feels like watching a childhood favourite again in the cinema – it has such a nostalgic 80’s and 90’s feel to it that you can’t help but love it, right down to the soundtrack. I'll be much more open to Marvel films in future. Highly recommend it at this time of year, it's too cute and cheery to pass up.