So I saw 397 films in 2014, 156 of them in the cinema. Of those films, 148 were released in the UK in 2014 and thus would be eligible for a list of the best films of 2014. And 2014 was a year of really rather interesting films. Films, unlike music and to a lesser degree comics, are released up until the very end of the year and the vagaries of what is known as award season means that there are films released in the very last week of the year which should potentially be considered for a best of list. There is also the fact that films from the 2014 award season pretty much all came out over here in 2014. This means that sometimes a list of the best of the year will feel a little disjointed, didn’t we say everything we had to say about Dallas Buyers Club in March? Well we did so I shall say no more about it.

Anyway this leads to a list. I didn’t do a poll. I’ve never done a movie poll because on the whole on FT people are less interested in films. If there is a clamour, I’ll do a poll next year. But in the meantime I am going to run through my own personal top twenty(-one – it will make sense) over the next week or so.

So here are the foothills of my favourite films of 2014 number 20-16 (sorry Calvary at 21, I love the Boxtrolls more than you…)

20. The Boxtrolls

The Boxtrolls Dutch PosterIt is increasingly clear that there is generally a direct correlation between how interesting the animation is in a kids film and the overall invention in the film. Laika are to me the pre-eminent stop-motion studio at the moment (sorry Aardman, I never liked Morph either) and pack their films with no end of personality. The Boxtrolls feels like it could be crushed by all sorts of messy parallels between it and other films, there is a Roald Dahl; Charlie and the Cheese Factory vibe, with self aware Shrekesque henchmen and not to mention the Borrower-like Boxtrolls themselves. But it is a grimy, messy, physical world which is ideal for stop motion, full of grotesque silliness and a real beating heart of a story. Really, really good fun.

19. Pride

Pride_posterPride is a big, lovely, socialist, issues picture which frankly was tooled for big, lovely socialists like me. By now the propaganda war for the miners strike has been resolutely won – albeit by ballet dancers, brass bands and finally an LGB support group, and despite all of the hokeyness that comes with this type of picture it is still lovely to watch a gay issues film coincide accurately correctly with a bit of socialist history. And it manages to do the hardest thing in a miners strike movie, which is find a suitably triumphant ending to play its Billy Bragg and Pete Seeger tracks over.

18. Blue Ruin

7j668XNxYjc,wgyw,L,INR0A_A taut revenge thriller which is a masterclass in building a near perfect cinematic three act structure. Sticking firmly to the canonical “revenge just makes things worse” template, it still makes it more than clear why your sympathies are with Dwight, the lead we are introduced to grimly living in his car. As the lead in this modern family feud movie, which is almost a western, Dwight is marked by both his single minded determination, and his general inability to do anything all that successfully, which in helps build suspense – he is as likely to be undone by his own incompetence as his enemies.

17. Gone Girl

gone-girl-posterAt the other end of the budget spectrum from Blue Ruin this is a perfectly designed thriller, which plays to Fincher’s strengths as a visual film-maker and also is a wonderful showcase for its two leads. A caustic media satire, psychological thriller, and a look at relationship disappointment it creates perhaps one of the best psychological screen villains since Hannibal Lecter and on the face of it is a pretty depressing movie about terrible people doing terrible things to each other. But being with an audience as this puzzle unfolded itself was a joy, people laughed (a lot), gasped and it genuinely thrilled.

16. Maps To The Stars

maps-stars-68541And you thought Gone Girl was dark. Cronenberg returns to a really odd bit of form here, throwing much of his recent Hollywood classicism out of the window for a dark twisted tale of Tinstletown tits. This is partially the acting satire that Birdman wants to be, stuffed with unpleasantly funny narcissists, the worst child stars in the world and grasping ageing actresses desperate to be relevant (I like Birdman but found it exhausting by the end). Julianne Moore and Mia Wasikowska (who had a great year) are terrific at the heart of this twisted story, and if you thought there was blood in Gone Girl, this gives Cronenberg a bloodbath like the good old days.

15 – 11 to follow…