As I sat down to go through all the cinema releases I saw in 2014 I felt a sense of trepidation. After all 2013 was such a strong year, I feared that this top 10 cannot match one with gems such as Nebraska and Amour. But I needn't have worried, as it looks to have been an amazing 12 months for cinemagoers.
Looking at some of the pictures which didn't make it into my top 10: Dallas Buyers Club, Starred Up (with a terrific lead performance from Jack O'Connell), Wolf of Wall Street, Nightcrawler...I could go on... I realised how good a year it was.
Here we go then, my 2014 movie top 10:
A black and white Polish film probably isn't everyone's cup of tea. But this movie has gained a huge popularity not just among critics but audiences too, as well as gathering awards at festivals across the world. And rightly so. Featuring an astonishing performance from Agata Trzebuchowska as Ida, this is a film about finding your identity, not just that of the main characters but of Poland as a country. The cinematography is striking, as is the lack of soundtrack. This is old-fashioned cinema at its best.
2. Blue Ruin
How often does a movie truly surprise you, not just with the way it is shot or directed, but most importantly with its plot? When was the last time your reaction to a scene in a movie was a loud WTF??!! This film delivers on all those fronts. Starting with completely dialogue free first few minutes or so, it grips you and doesn't let go until the very last scene. Want a thriller that will truly take your breath away? Look no further.
3. Under The Skin
Scarlett Johansson must be very pleased with how 2014 has gone for her, with three big movies proving popular with audiences and critics alike. This is one which has been the most divisive. I absolutely loved how it dealt with gender politics, the issues of love, sexual desire and trust. It also looks beautiful. A true arthouse classic.
Christopher Nolan is probably my favourite director at the moment. Frankly, I don't think there is another one out there right now who could have made this film and with such a big commercial success. It's a beautiful movie, not just visually but in terms of the messages it carries. Nolan ponders the meaning of love and life and frankly nobody does it better. Interstellar needs to be seen on the biggest screen possible. Make sure you take a pack of tissues with you and be prepared to have your heart strings pulled.
5. The Wind Rises
Another of my favourite directors, Hayao Miyazaki, bows out in the best way possible for this movie should be considered among his best. It may not be as ground breaking as Spirited Away, but packs an even bigger emotional punch and the animation is just as stunning. As ever the Japanese maestro looks to inspire his audience, telling us all to stick to our dreams despite all the setbacks that may come. He also gives a very strong political commentary on some of the biggest historical events of the past century. I shall sorely miss his films.
The most bizarre of films and yet the most enchanting and heartwarming of them all. Frank can't really be described, it needs to be seen and felt and listened to.
Tom Hardy should be applauded for taking on this role. Not sure how many other established actors would have been prepared to remain on camera and carry a film for 90% of its duration. Hardy relishes in the challenge and delivers what is probably the most striking performance of 2014.
Scarlett Johansson's second entry and it is fully deserved. She may not appear on screen but her voice is enough to pull us all in. Coupled with the brilliant Joaquin Phoenix they deliver the most unusual of love stories. This movie will remind you of the power of love and all the emotions associated with it. How it can make and break a person. It will make you want to fall in love time and again.
9. The Lego Movie
Three words - Everything is Awesome!!
10. Grand Budapest Hotel
Wes Anderson with another huge dose of quirky and it is bloody brilliant. This must be one of the best screenplays of the past year. I laughed from start to finish. It's completely bonkers and audacious and I love it for that.