Favorite and Least Favorite Films of 2014

January 20th, 2015 by Max Allan Collins

Here’s just what nobody was waiting for – my (sometimes) annual listing of my favorite and least favorite movies, this time for 2014. Among my least favorites are Academy-Awards “Best Picture” nominees, BOYHOOD and SELMA, both of which rate my Emperor’s New Clothes Awards, the former because it’s a gimmick in search of a narrative and the latter because it transforms compelling history into a smeary slow-motion bore. The fuss over the lack of Best Director and various acting nominations for SELMA should be replaced with outrage that it got a politically correct nomination.

The black actor who deserved a nomination – in my opinion, the actor period who deserves to win the Best Actor Oscar – is Chadwick Boseman for his spellbinding portrayal of James Brown in GET ON UP. And Brandon Smith’s snapshot of Little Richard in that same film is easily worthy of a Best Supporting Actor nomination.

Keeping in mind that I prefer to praise filmmakers and films than condemn them – having some experience in just how terribly hard making a movie is – I am nonetheless sharing the names of the films that made my frequent movie-going a blessing and those that made it curse.


1. GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL – Wes Anderson hitting on all eccentric cylinders. Nothing else I saw last year came close.
2. EDGE OF TOMORROW – Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt are first-rate in this wonderful s-f spin on GROUNDHOG DAY.
3. THE RAID 2 – A mindblowing sequel to a mindblowing action film.
4. THE IMITATION GAME – Intellectual thriller both life-affirming and tragic. Benedict Cumberbatch deserves his Oscar nomination and probably should win (but won’t).
5. INTO THE WOODS – Surprisingly good if slightly watered-down film version of Sondheim’s daringly dark take on fairy tales. Haunting music and genius lyrics.
6. THE INTERVIEW – Boldly tasteless but genuinely biting satirical comedy, with both Seth Rogen and James Franco fearlessly self-mocking.
7. GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY – Worst trailer for a comic-book movie shockingly turns out to belong to the best comic-book movie of recent years; funny and exciting.
8. 22 JUMP STREET – Inspired self-aware sequel.
9. VERONICA MARS – It exists and therefore appears here. You see, a long time ago we used to be friends.
10. THE JUDGE – Traditional Hollywood storytelling at its old-fashioned best. Critics hate that.

Honorable mention in no special order: HORRIBLE BOSSES 2; THE EQUALIZER; JOHN WICK; DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES; EXPENDABLES 3 (surprisingly); NEED FOR SPEED (in 3-D on imported blu-ray); NEIGHBORS; GET ON UP; BIG HERO 6.


1. BOYHOOD – A stunt that does not hold together; no story, flimsy to nonexistent characterization, rife with meandering non-scenes – an endurance test for all but the easily fooled.
2. NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM: SECRET OF THE TOMB* – Shoddy sequel with (despite a co-scripting credit) no indication of the work of Thomas Lennon and Robert Ben Garant, the gifted RENO 911 boys who created the franchise. Shameful, but the place to go for seeing a monkey piss on Ben Stiller.
3. SELMA* – Slow, self-important, unevenly acted, incompetently shot (I suggest a crossing-the-axis drinking game), full of speeches (though none written by MLK). It earns a 99% rating on Rotten Tomatoes…for liberal guilt.
4. DIVERGENT* – A laughable imitation of THE HUNGER GAMES, itself a laughable imitation of the great BATTLE ROYALE.
5. HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2* – Slow, irritating, politically correct sequel to a much better film.
6. BOXTROLLS – Unfunny and unpleasant; makes one long for the elegance of the Garbage Pail Kids.
7. A HAUNTED HOUSE 2 – The original kinda funny spoof of found-footage horror films gives birth to this painfully laugh-free sequel.
8. SEX TAPE – Jason Segel, whose work I usually at least like (he’s a FREAKS & GEEKS cast member, after all), joins a particularly irritating Cameron Diaz in an embarrassing shambles of a supposed comedy; an idea for a movie, not a movie.
9. GONE GIRL – Spoiler alert: the victim is the audience and the culprit is the book author’s interminable screenplay.
10. ANNABELLE – A prequel to the much better THE CONJURING, lacking the leads of that picture…and its chills.

* = means that Barb and I walked out. We always gave the movie at least forty-five minutes and sometimes an hour or more. Also, full disclosure: we walked out of BOYHOOD, two-and-a-half hours in. It felt like we’d seen the whole thing. Twice.

FOR THE RECORD: I have not yet seen BIRDMAN, AMERICAN SNIPER, FOXCATCHER and several other Academy Award-nominated films that might have made one of these lists.

Also, for those of you who are going to write in to point out how wrong I am about this film or that one, you are absolutely invited and even encouraged to do so – but do remember this is not a “best” and “worst” list, but a “favorites” and “least favorites” list.

– – –

Here’s a terrific and very smart review of QUARRY’S CHOICE, with some interesting reader comments.

It’s always cool to receive a good review from the UK for something as inherently American as QUARRY’S CHOICE.

Finally, that first-rate writer Ron Fortier likes QUARRY’S CHOICE. Check it out.


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13 Responses to “Favorite and Least Favorite Films of 2014”

  1. Ryan says:

    I feel like if I don’t like Selma when I see it, I’ll be thrown every sort of insult people can hurl at me, so I don’t think I’ll bother seeing it. But if I do, I just won’t tell anyone.

    And I’m sad to see you didn’t enjoy Boyhood. Honestly, I think it’s more reflective to people around my age, and there were a lot of things where I thought Linklater really got it.

  2. Max Allan Collins says:

    I was with BOYHOOD for a while, but it wore me down. It was poorly paced — scenes went nowhere and were repetitious — and not properly planned out. Narrative is not Linklater’s strong suit. DAZED AND CONFUSED is a lot of fun, and its plotlessness works on that smaller scale. The only time he was really good at narrative was BERNIE, which was based on a true-crime article. Both the kid actor and the story were better when he was young. For me, the older the kid got, the less interesting he — and his meanderingly related experiences — were.

    In what I believe was the second-to-last segment, the kid (now college age) was talking to a girl in a restaurant. Barb slipped out to use the restroom. When she came back, they were still talking. And she asked if we could go. We went.

  3. Gerard says:

    Thomas Lennon and Robert Ben Garant Also seen with Weird Al.


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  5. jesse mills says:

    I like these reviews, although many of of these I haven`t seen yet. I haven`t seen Boyhood, but I`m surprised to see it get such a drubbing here. I`m certainly a big fan of non-linear, non-narrative films- like some of Terrence Malick`s work (maybe this isn`t anything like a Malick film, I`m just guessing) but Linklater`s movies in general have been letting me down for years. Since “A Scanner Darkly”, more or less. And that was years ago. His recent-ish “Bernie” movie was a very good, small, black murder comedy, but still, a pretty forgettable film in the afterglow.

    One film on this list that I DIDN`T like was Rise of The Planet of the Apes. Matt Reeves is a better director than that, the film needed more story than that (what was it about again?), and I feel like with this movie and it`s predeccesor, we`re getting a snail`s pace of a story in search of a plot…Something that a 60`s Apes film would have covered in the first 30 minutes of film on its way to a memorable concept. And the 60`s films had BIG CONCEPT, story structure, O. Henry/Serling cul-de-sacs….I wouldn`t know how to desribe these films to anyone except to say “Part one: James Franco tries to cures Alzheimers but makes super monkey.”, and “Part two: Humans try to turn the power on”. The plot is moving by inches. It`s LOST on CGI quaaludes. The worst & most groany bit of all is the scene at the end, of the two CGI boss apes duking it out on flying construction girders that makes the climactic scene at the end of your average Dolph Lundgren Canon VHS seem fresh and new.

    Oh….And I`d like to mention that, although I`ve never read the novels, the QUARRY series on Cinemax sounds cool as hell. Other than being a big fan of both Batman and Dick Tracy in 1989 (I was thirteen), the only book of yours I`ve read was the Lindbergh baby one in the Nathan Heller series. (I loved it.) But 1970`s? Crime drama? Cinemax? I`m there.

  6. jesse mills says:

    PS- You are SO right about Budapest Hotel.

  7. Mike Dennis says:

    Max, you left WHIPLASH out of your “best” category. To me, that was easily the best film of 2014, confronting the nature of individual greatness and what one has to do when everyone tells him he doesn’t have it.

  8. Max Allan Collins says:

    Mike, it’s not a “best”/”worst” list. It’s my favorites and least favorites. I didn’t see WHIPLASH so it’s not on either — it didn’t play around here. I’m sure I’ll take it in at some point.

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