First, the movies that almost made the cut... I was a little reluctant to lose Starred Up, but there was another Jack O'Connell vehicle in the list, and it has the edge. (Just.) And David Ayer's Sabotage deserves recognition for its furious, ruthless darkness of tone and uncompromising blood-thirstiness. But there's another Ayer film, very near the top of this year's honours...
Then The Purge: Anarchy missed out because there is an even better low budget American thriller high on my list. Guardians of the Galaxy was sheer oddball pleasure and in a weaker field would have received recognition. And mention must be made of Peter Jackson's last two Hobbit movies (Smaug and, especially, Five Armies)...
Okay, so on to the list proper. We will begin at the bottom of the ladder and work our way to the top spot. Let's start with a really unlikely nomination at number 14. Robocop. Yes, I loved the original, but this remake has virtues all its own. Veronica Mars had to be included due to my sheer love of the TV show. It also helped that Rob Thomas and Diane Ruggerio did a great job. I seem to be alone in recognising the brilliance of Aronofsky's Noah, but brilliant it is.
'71 by Burke and Demange was the other Jack O'Connell picture which, despite some flaws, demands recognition. Then comes a real surprise, The Judge was a family drama and courtroom thriller with a strong line of comedy, beautifully played by Robert Downey and Robert Duvall. It vanished without a trace, but I loved it despite a weak ending. Co-written by Nick Schenk, who also worked on Gran Torino.
Then we have Charlie Countryman, a beautiful, touching, oddball little movie which also happens to be a great comedy and a gripping thriller with an outstanding cast. And David Cronenberg (who had bored me beyond belief with Cosmopolis) surprised and gratified me with a terrific left-field entry, the savage Hollywood satire Maps to the Stars written by Bruce Wagner.
Now we come to my real favourites. Edge of Tomorrow. Who would have thought a Tom Cruise SF shoot-em-up could be so wonderful? And then the James Brown biopic Get On Up which had a script by the Butterworth brothers, who also worked on Edge of Tomorrow.
From this point on, we are looking at strong candidates for the number one spot. Hovering just under that top honour are David Fincher and Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl (based on Flynn's novel); the dark and delightful nightmare-thriller The Guest by Barrett and Wingard (which eclipsed The Purge: Anarchy) and David Ayer's hellishly majestic war movie Fury, which knocked his Sabotage into the long grass. I'd put all this trio together in a very honourable third place — but if I had to chose my favourite among them, it would be Gone Girl.
In at number 2, and closely contending for the very top honour, is a real dark horse, a low budget one-man movie called Locke, starring the superb Tom Hardy and written and directed by Steven Knight.
But the best film of 2014, by a country mile, was Wolf of Wall Street. A magnificent return to form by Scorsese this movie, written by Terence Winter (who also created Boardwalk Empire) was unhinged, sulphurous, brilliant, hilarious and sexy. Just writing about it makes me want to see it again.
(Image credits: the posters are from Ace Show Biz, except The Guest, which is from The Consulting Detective.)