2014 was another mediocre year at the movies. The last exceptional year was 2007, and the last one before that was 1972. Perhaps the exceptional years come in 35-year intervals. The exceptions over the last decade have been children’s movies, particularly those from Pixar. They have been consistently superb.

The most unforgettable performance in 2014 was J.K. Simmons (Whiplash). Not far behind was costar Miles Teller. Tom Hardy must be mentioned (Locke). It’s hard to spend two hours acting in a car and still capture attention. He does more than capture. He mesmerizes.

The biopic American Sniper was the most courageous movie of the year, and Bradley Cooper was a pleasant surprise. Clearly Clint Eastwood doesn’t care anymore about what Hollywood or the film critics think about him. He’s earned enough kudos and cash to make any movie he wants to make.

The strangest major movie of the year was Snowpiercer, and the creepiest performance was by Jake Gyllenhaal (Nightcrawler)

Blue Ruin and Cold in July were indie keepers.

Philip Seymour Hoffman (A Most Wanted Man) showed why he was arguably the greatest character actor of his generation. He will be greatly missed. He paid the steep, tragic price for his long-lived enslaving addiction.

Finally: Can Christopher Nolan make a bad movie?

On to the list (and by the way, “favorite” doesn’t imply endorsement of all the sins that occur in movies; the Bible records lots of sins, too):

  1. Whiplash
  1. Interstellar
  1. Locke
  1. American Sniper
  1. Blue Ruin
  1. The Equalizer
  1. Snowpiercer
  1. Nightcrawler
  1. Guardians of the Galaxy
  1. Cold in July
  1. A Most Wanted Man
  1. X-Men: Days of Future Past
  1. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
  1. Two Faces of January

Honorable Mention: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Draft Day, Gone Girl, The Lego Movie, John Wick