29 Unforgettable Movie Moments From 2K14

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Wintertime is the best time to wrap yourself into a blanket burrito and catch up on the year's best movies. It can be an overwhelming task, but we're here to offer some quality advice. We did some serious movie-watching to prepare this comprehensive list. There are breakthrough performances, hot new directors, and niche flicks you might have overlooked but should definitely check out. And, we also have a few quick tips on the most shamelessly bad movies of the year, so you can avoid those, too.
So, grab some popcorn and get caught up in time for award season. With this primer as your guide, there’s a good chance you’ll win that Oscar pool come February. Or, at least show up all your friends with your extensive movie knowledge. The good news is, you won’t even have to leave your couch for most of them.
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Ahead, the most notable movie moments of 2014.
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Photo: BEImages/Jim Smeal.
Jared Leto's Oscar Acceptance Speech

Jared Leto won a slew of awards for his role as Rayon in Dallas Buyers Club, effectively rebooting his acting career with his devastating performance as a trans woman with HIV. Leto's acceptance speech for Best Supporting Actor Oscar paid tribute to his single mom and big brother, the DBC team, and most importantly "the 36 million people who have lost the battle to AIDS and to those of you out there who have ever felt injustice because of who you are or who you love." Hey, is someone cutting onions in here?
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Photo: Courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures.
Onscreen Chameleon: Tilda Swinton

Swinton killed it in four wildly different films this year, and each called for a total transformation that only she could pull off with such aplomb. The dreamy androgyne donned a fancy frock and rococo wig for a small but pivotal role in The Grand Budapest Hotel. Then she stalked the streets of Detroit and Tangier in Jim Jarmusch's super cool Only Lovers Left Alive, opposite Tom Hiddleston, who is the perfect yin to her yang. Swinton channeled a weird future as an AI shrink in Zero Theorem and sank a mouth full of awesome dentures as a future fascist in Snowpiercer.
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Photo: Courtesy of A24.
Scarlett Johansson Mixes Things Up & Surprises Us All

There won't be a Black Widow stand-alone movie any time soon, but if that means that Johansson gets more time to do off-the-wall stuff like Under the Skin or blockbuster butt-kicking in movies like Lucy, that's good enough for us. For Under the Skin the actress tootled around the Scottish countryside in costume, picking up hitchhikers who had no idea what was going on or who she was. It's a cool story, even if you're not into the disturbing and possibly confusing subject matter.
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Photo: Courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures.
Summer's Word-of-Mouth Winner: Belle

Amma Asante's lush period piece boasts all the bells and whistles of a Jane Austen romance, but the story of Dido Elizabeth Belle (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) is bursting at the seams with class, race, and gender commentary. Word of mouth and social media did just as much, if not more, than the studio's marketing to keep Belle earning money in theaters for weeks during a busy summer season, with Asante interacting via Twitter with filmgoers around the world, as well as more famous fans like Oprah, Shonda Rhimes, and Ava DuVernay.
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Photo: Courtesy of Soloban.
The Best Time-Traveling Film: Ida

It's hard to believe Ida was made in the 21st century. This dreamlike, black and white Polish film doesn't sound like a whole lot of fun at first glance, but it's mesmerizing. A young woman who was raised in a nunnery is sent to meet her last remaining family member before taking her vows; her long lost aunt holds the key to her family’s tragic history. It's beautiful and spare, and the cinematography makes it feel like it takes place in another century, even though it’s set in the ‘60s. One of the best of the year.
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Photo: Courtesy of Disney.
Disney's Most Subversive Movie Yet: Maleficent

Anyone who watched this dark fairy tale couldn't help but cringe when Maleficent wakes up to find she’d been drugged by her friend Stefan, who cut off her glorious wings while she slept. It seemed impossible not to read it as a metaphor for sexual assault, but Disney isn’t exactly known for its progressive views. As it turns out, that’s exactly what Jolie and writer Linda Woolverton had in mind. Jolie told BBC Radio, "We were very conscious, the writer [Linda Woolverton] and I, that it was a metaphor for rape."
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Photo: Courtesy of Alcove Entertainment.
Best Quirky Film: The Double

Forget The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Double is a weird, wonderful adaptation of a Dostoyevsky novella about a man with a doppelganger who begins to take over his life — and no one notices. Richard Ayoade, better known to some as Moss on The IT Crowd, did double duty as writer and director, managing to clone Jesse Eisenberg with nary a green screen in sight. Worth noting: Mia Wasikowska's character Hannah, a no-BS type of broad, isn't in the original text, but was written by Ayoade for the project. Anglophiles will have extra fun spotting of the random British actors, like Sally Hawkins, Noah Taylor, Craig Roberts from Submarine, and Chris O'Dowd, for starters.
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Photo: Courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.
Cutest Punks: We Are the Best!

Stockholm in the ‘80s doesn’t seem like the best time to be a young punk girl, but Bobo (Mira Barkhammar) and Klara (Mira Grosin) are doing okay. They discover how much fun it is to play in a band — the chorus of their best song is “Abort the sport!” — but they need a third member. They recruit fellow misfit Hedvig (Liv LeMoyne), a shy, church-going musician, to join their band in a quest to make the most noise possible. Punk’s not dead, playing music isn’t just for boys, and despite what everyone in their stupid school says, they are definitely the best! This sweet Swedish film is directed by Lukas Moodysson (Show Me Love) based on the autobiographical graphic novel Never Goodnight by his wife, artist Coco Moodysson.
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Photo: Courtesy of A24.
Best BFF Movie: Obvious Child

The elevator pitch is that Obvious Child is a romantic comedy about abortion, but it's so much more than that. Jenny Slate's breakthrough performance as a struggling stand-up comedian in Brooklyn who screwed up, so to speak, offers an awesome way to open up the conversation about a typically taboo topic. It's as wickedly funny as it is immensely touching. Plus, Gaby Hoffmann rules as the clog-wearing best friend.
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Photo: Courtesy of IFC Films.
Best Surprise: Boyhood

It seems like it would be impossible to keep the production of a film a secret, especially one that was filmed over the span of 12 years, but Richard Linklater managed to keep this one under his hat until it was announced at Sundance. And, the end result is unlike any movie ever made. Patricia Arquette is drumming up award-season buzz for her role as the mom, alongside Ethan Hawke as the dad, and Linklater's daughter Lorelei as the sister. Plus, well, Ellar Coltrane, whose boyhood we experience firsthand, grows up to be pretty cute. We're just saying.
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Photo: Courtesy of Radius TWC.
The Sci-fi Romance You Didn't Know You Needed: The One I Love

The One I Love stars Mark Duplass and Elisabeth Moss as a couple in crisis, or maybe they're just falling out of love reallllly slowly. In any case, their therapist (Ted Danson) prescribes a weekend away in a scenic cottage as a restorative for their relationship. Then things get weird, and to say more would be to spoil the fun.
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Photo: Courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.
Weirdest Michael Fassbender Movie: Frank

Fassbender showed everything in Shame, but he spends almost the entirety of Frank, an indy flick about an eccentric musician, wearing a giant fake head. Frank also stars Domhnall Gleeson as a shaggy-haired keyboard player who doesn't know what he's in for when he joins the band, and Maggie Gyllenhaal as a sort-of-Theremin-playing Maude Lebowski hipster.
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Photo: Courtesy of Lionsgate.
The Most Deserving Flop: The Expendables 3

The studio would like us all to think that The Expendables 3 flopped because it was leaked online three weeks before it opened. Isn't it possible that everyone is as tired of this aging action star shtick as its stars seem to be?
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Photo: Courtesy of Strand Releasing.
The Raunchiest Heroine, Ever: Wetlands

Based on the controversial German book by Charlotte Roche Wetlands stars Carla Juri as Helen, a teen who's obsessed with sex and bodily fluids. Helen has a tragic (anal) shaving accident that lands her in the hospital; she uses that time to flirt with her hot male nurse, contemplate her varied sexual history, and scheme to get her parents back together. This German arthouse film is definitely not for the faint of heart or stomach — we're talking homemade tampons here, y'all — but it is funny, weird, and very human.
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Photo: Courtesy of Roadside Attractions.
The Saddest/Sweetest Lip-Sync: The Skeleton Twins

Don't be fooled by the trailer or the names attached: The Skeleton Twins is no joke. This lip-sync scene with Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig, who costar as estranged twins with some really dark secrets, captures the sweet, sad vibe of this dramedy. Definitely Wiig's best serious role to date.
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Photo: Courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures.
The Year Of The Wild Women

It's been a good year for stubborn, willful women. Mia Wasikowska plays the real-life writer and adventurer Robyn Davidson in Tracks, which follows Davidson's trek across Western Australia in 1977; Davidson made the trip with four camels, one dog, and an occasional visit from a National Geographic photographer. Reese Witherspoon shepherded Cheryl Strayed's excellent memoir, Wild, to the big screen, and stars as the determined hiker who is most definitely not a hobo, thank you. Hilary Swank dons a bonnet to play Mary Bee Cuddy, a Pioneer-era spinster (read: 31-year-old woman) who is "bossy" and "plain as an old tin pail," according to various dumb guys. Cuddy enlists an outlaw (Tommy Lee Jones) to help her transport three nearly catatonic, occasionally violent women by wagon. Jones also directed this astonishing and spare drama.
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Photo: Courtesy of Drafthouse Films.
The Coolest Documentary: 20,000 Days on Earth

As much fiction as fact, 20,000 Days on Earth follows Nick Cave around as he's interviewed by a shrink, drives around his hometown with former bandmate Blixa Bargeld and other associates, helps curate the Museum of Important Shit, and makes music with fellow Bad Seed Warren Ellis. Beautifully shot and edited, this doc is more interested in exploring the way we create ourselves and our own mythologies than in being a straight-up bio of the eccentric multi-hyphenate. A must-see for Caveheads.
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Photo: Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.
Best Breakout Dude Star: Miles Teller in Whiplash

Teller has been around for a while — check out his small part in the heartbreaking Rabbit Hole or his turn as a heartbreaker in the coming-of-age drama The Spectacular Now — but it's quickly becoming clear he's the most interesting young actor out there. In Whiplash, he plays the drums until he cries and bleeds and nearly kills himself, all while being screamed at by his bonkers music teacher. He's also in a little film you might have heard of called Divergent.
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Photo: Courtesy of Sailor Bear Productions.
Best/Worst Example of Brooklyn Man-Boy Writer Syndrome: Listen Up Philip

Listen Up Philip is reminiscent of the best-selling novel The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P., but luckily we get a break from the incredibly aggravating protagonist Philip (Jason Schwartzman) when the narrative switches to show how his ex-girlfriend Ashley (Elisabeth Moss) is creating a new life without him. Alternately, Philip's hero Ike (Jonathan Pryce) seems to be a good example of what happens when you continue acting like a selfish jerkface, no matter how talented you are.
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Photo: Courtesy of Radius TWC.
Most Thrilling Documentary We Wish Wasn't Real Life: Citizenfour

Director Laura Poitras was one of the journalists Edward Snowden tapped for his explosive revelations about the NSA and its nearly global reach, and Citizenfour is mostly comprised of the footage from Snowden's initial meetings with Glenn Greenwald and other journalists. Although Snowden isn't interested in being the story, it's horribly fascinating to watch this all unfold in real time. Footage and interviews with other security experts lend background to the story. Unfortunately for our freedom, Citizenfour ends with one hell of a cliffhanger.
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Photo: Courtesy of Relativity Media.
Best Old-Fashioned Hollywood Romance: Beyond the Lights

Gina Prince-Bythewood, who gave us Love & Basketball, brings us this audience-pleasing romance about a purple-haired pop star who hates her life and the cop who helps her find her way back. Gugu Mbatha-Raw (whom Prince-Bythewood cast in the role way before the success of Belle) is sizzling as Noni, a biracial British singer with a fierce momager (Minnie Driver) who will do just about anything for her daughter's career. Noni's saved from her own suicidal tendencies by Kaz (Nate Parker), a police officer who's doing security for the night. Prince-Bythewood was uncompromising in her vision for Beyond the Lights, from casting to the script and production, and the result is old-fashioned, Hollywood fun.
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Photo: Courtesy of SpectreVision.
Hot New Horror Directors Who Happen to Be Women

Horror isn't exactly a genre dominated by female filmmakers, so this year's offerings feel like an embarrassment of riches. Jennifer Kent's The Babadook is a claustrophobic tale of a children's book boogeyman who haunts a widowed mother (Essie Davis) and her troubled child (Noah Wiseman). On the flip side of the horror universe, Ana Lily Amirpour concocted an uber-cool, visually stunning black-and-white vampire film that's entirely in Persian and peppered with references to filmmakers from around the world.
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Photo: Courtesy of Tribeca.
The Israeli Army Female Buddy Comedy: Zero Motivation

Zero Motivation shows that being a young woman is pretty much the same everywhere, even if you're doing your government-mandated tour of duty in the IDF. A gaggle of dysfunctional female soldiers are stationed in the middle of nowhere, and they're mostly busy trying to goof off, get laid, or get transferred. Israeli writer/director Talya Lavie won the Nora Ephron prize at the Tribeca Film Festival for the film.
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Photo: Courtesy of 20th Century Fox.
Most Extreme Case Of Hollywood White-Washing: Exodus: Gods and Kings

Ridley Scott must have spent a fortune on bronzer for his very, very white cast of actors playing Moses, Ramses, and other Biblical heroes. Ridley Scott said, "I can't mount a film of this budget, where I have to rely on tax rebates in Spain, and say that my lead actor is Mohammad so-and-so from such-and-such… I'm just not going to get it financed. So the question doesn't even come up." Instead, Australian Joel Edgerton plays an Egyptian pharaoh alongside Welsh actor Christian Bale as the leader of the Jews. Yikes.
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Photo: Courtesy of Paramount Pictures.
The Breakthrough We've Been Waiting For: Ava DuVernay for Selma

Ava DuVernay won best director at Sundance for Middle of Nowhere in 2012, which isn't even available on DVD or streaming online, and now she's behind what's indubitably one of the best movies of the year. Selma chronicles the months leading up to the incredible march from Selma to Montgomery, and the signing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The huge ensemble cast includes David Oyelowo as Martin Luther King Jr., Carmen Ejogo as Coretta Scott King, Tom Wilkinson as LBJ, and Oprah Winfrey as Annie Lee Cooper. More than a biopic, Selma is the story of a movement and the people who made it. Crucial viewing.
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Photo: Courtesy of Hollywood Records.
The Coolest Soundtracks

Anyone who enjoys grooving to oldies like Blue Swede's "Hooked on a Feeling" will want to snatch up Guardians of the Galaxy: Awesome Mix Vol. 1. If you feel like a girl on fire, you can tune in to Lorde's carefully curated soundtrack for The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1, which includes her single "Yellow Flicker Beat." The soundtrack for The Fault in Our Stars is the 21st century equivalent of Garden State, with a single by Charli XCX and a score from some of the dudes in Bright Eyes. If you're a too-cool-for-school California kid with a dark streak, Dev Hynes' soundtrack for Palo Alto is the perfect thing to listen to while you brood and chain-smoke.
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Photo: Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures.
So Many Spooky Flops

This year was thankfully free of any Paranormal Activity, but that doesn't mean there weren't plenty of lame horror films that quietly appeared in theaters, and just as quickly disappeared. Annabelle, Ouija, The Quiet Ones, The Pyramid, As Above, So Below — they're all shamefully bad genre films that try to cash in on bargain-basement scares.
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Photo: REX USA/David Fisher/Rex.
Angelina Jolie Finally Gets Her Due

Jolie kicked off her career behind the camera with In The Land of Blood and Honey, a grim drama about the Bosnian War, but that didn't get too far. Unbroken (out December 25) might not wow critics (it's schmaltzy, too long, and just a touch too self-important) but it's one of those big WWII films that would normally get a ton of award season attention. Plus, Jolie's got some respected people on board, like composer Alexandre Desplat and Roger Deakins as the DP. If we swapped out her name for, say, Spielberg or Eastwood, would anyone notice?
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Photo: Courtesy of Lionsgate.
The Queens of YA

Shailene Woodley and Jennifer Lawrence are interesting, outspoken, and intelligent, and they're box office gold. Studio execs are swimming in gold doubloons like Scrooge McDuck because of them, which is nothing but good news for audiences. They can do it all: from weepies to fierce action to Oscar bait. Woodley had a banner year with TFiOS, Divergent, and Gregg Araki's White Bird in a Blizzard, and she's not slowing down anytime soon. Meanwhile, J Lawr takes the occasional break between franchises to pop over and do the occasional Serious Film with, oh, David O. Russell or whomever. NBD.
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