Total Recall

Best Movies Off the Radar 2014

RT staffers pick the little-seen gems from 2014 that deserve another look.

by | December 30, 2014 | Comments

As Birdman and Boyhood continue to rack up accolades en route to what is increasingly looking like an Oscar showdown in the making, it’s important to remember there were a ton of films this year that aren’t getting anywhere near the same kind of awards season buzz (and probably won’t), but still deserve a fair amount of love. With that in mind, we’ve put together a list of RT staff favorites that have either been largely forgotten or will pass through awards season with little to no fanfare. Read on for our off-the-radar recommendations of 2014!


Alan Partridge 86%

Alex Vo, Editor

Self-absorbed and misanthropic radio DJ Alan Partridge is Steve Coogan’s most popular creation in his home country and virtually unknown in the United States. This fact makes an Alan Partridge movie a tough sell here, especially since the character has been around for well over 20 years. For example, how much awareness of the character does one need coming into the movie? Fortunately, none! Alan Partridge more than stands on its own, with a barrage of hilarious jokes and scenarios rising out of the absurd “radio station gets held hostage” plot. Great tunes pepper the soundtrack, too, culminating with a memorable tribute to Sparks’ 1979 disco track, “#1 Song in Heaven.”

 


The Babadook 98%

Jeff Giles, Associate Editor

If you’ve heard anything about The Babadook, you’ve probably heard that it’s one of the scarier horror films of the year, and for good reason. Debuting writer-director Jennifer Kent envelops the viewer in a steadily encroaching atmosphere of cold, isolating dread, ratcheting up the tension so effectively that — as with many of the best entries in the genre — the movie’s titular villain hardly needs any screen time to establish his malevolent presence. But The Babadook isn’t just scary; in fact, it works just as effectively as a wrenchingly honest (and, in the end, almost sweet) examination of the ways in which unprocessed grief can draw us into darkness. Watch it for the icy chills, but don’t be surprised if The Babadook lingers long after you’ve stopped looking over your shoulder at night — and definitely be on the lookout for more from Kent.

 


Blue Ruin 96%

Grae Drake, Senior Editor

The idea of the revenge flick has been around for a loooong time. I imagine that the first one came out right after the Lumiere Brothers’ The Arrival of a Train, and featured a disgruntled passenger who had missed the train at the last stop. So now, in a cinematic landscape overflowing with recycled ideas, the revenge flick has to travel far from the beaten path to make a splash. Blue Ruin, directed and written by newcomer Jeremy Saulnier, is just such a film. Quiet and frantic, Blue Ruin slowly reveals the story of Dwight, who appears to be a lonely drifter with nothing but garbage dinners to keep him shuffling through life. Beneath the surface, however, lies a warrior who has suffered a great loss, and whose only desire in life is to restore balance through violence. One of the many problems Dwight has is that he is completely incompetent as an assassin, but where there’s a will, there’s a (messy) way. Dwight is the kind of samurai that I think I would be — full of enthusiasm and righteousness, but lacking in actual skill or know-how. Saulnier’s film never strays into slapstick territory, as the subject matter and Dwight’s life is too bleak to allow for lightheartedness. Somehow this movie manages to be poignant without being heavy-handed, and brutal without being judgmental.

 


A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night 96%

Tim Ryan, Senior Editor

Plenty of movies can be described as “more style than substance.” A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night, on the other hand, is something else altogether: a movie whose style is so striking that it becomes the substance. Describing the plot of A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night makes it sound utterly generic (lovelorn vampire seeks companionship) and its unofficial tagline (“It’s the best Iranian feminist vampire Western ever made!”) makes it seem like some kind of campy stunt. But A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night emits a weird vibe that’s hard to shake, from its haunting black-and-white cinematography to its pulsing soundtrack. Every once in a while, I’ll see something that feels so unique and fresh that I want to tell everyone I know to see it now! This year, A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night was that movie.

 


Rob the Mob 81%

Kerr Lordygan, Review Aggregator

The true story of small-time crooks Tommy and Rosie Uva is a pretty incredible one, and it’s brought to vivid life in the little-seen Rob the Mob. Written by Jonathan Fernandez and directed by Raymond De Felitta (City Island, Booker’s Place: A Mississippi Story), the film is funny in its portrayal of a couple with enough chutzpah to steal from the mafia, but it’s touching, too; Tommy (Michael Pitt) and Rosie (Nina Arianda) love each other so much, they’ll do whatever is necessary to keep their passion alive. Struggling to pay the bills, they pull mini-heists to stay afloat, but after Tommy serves a stint in prison, he decides to try robbing private clubs owned by the Mafia, and Rosie is forced to go along for the ride. With a cast that includes solid pros like Ray Romano, Andy Garcia, and Griffin Dunne, the film is sure to entertain while pushing a few buttons. And tickling your funny bone. The actors are spot-on, commanding an unlikely empathy through their performances and making this modern day Bonnie and Clyde story worth more than just a glance.

 


The Skeleton Twins 86%

Beki Lane, Editorial Coordinator

A surprisingly heartfelt drama starring well-known comedians Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig, The Skeleton Twins is a soft-spoken success. I was amazed to find such simple and clear acting by two people who are usually known for over-the-top comedic performances. This story of estranged twins is easy to relate to and you get the distinct impression that you are peeking in on everyday lives in progress. It is also a study of depression, and the struggle of those who fight to live in the face of it. The Skeleton Twins is Certified Fresh at 87% on the Tomatometer, and is worthy of diving into.

 


Snowpiercer 94%

Catherine Pricci, Review Aggregator

Considering it came in at number two on our Summer Movie Scorecard — Certified Fresh at 95 percent, no less — it’s hard to believe so few people have heard of Snowpiercer, let alone seen it. Imagine a frozen, post-apocalyptic Earth whose only survivors are living on a train that perpetually circles the globe, and all of the train’s inhabitants are divided by class. Curtis (Chris Evans) and a ragtag bunch of his fellow
proletarians are fed up and plan a forward assault to the front of the train in an attempt to secure better living conditions. As they progress through each car, they discover increasingly shocking things. There are extremely dark tones in this film that will resonate with most and the morals they live by. Snowpiercer is a rock-solid action film, but it’s hard to miss its allegorical concerns, especially at a time when economic hardship is a reality for so many of us.

 


Teenage 77%

Marya E. Gates, Social Media Specialist

Writer/Director Matt Wolf’s documentary adaptation of Jon Savage’s book, Teenage: The Prehistory of Youth Culture: 1875-1945, is more of a visual collage than a traditional documentary. Certified Fresh at 74 percent, Teenage uses archival footage and filmed recreations to tell the true story of four teenagers in the years building up to World War II. Narrators (including Ben Whishaw and Jena Malone) read excerpts from Savage’s book — much of which was taken from diaries and newspaper articles — to bring these four examples to life. A haunting musical score by Atlas Sound ties everything together, and the film ends with a montage of archival footage from post-1945 that celebrates the exuberance, despair, passion, and hope that comes during those tumultuous teenage years. While Teenage might not be for everyone, it’s definitely not like any other documentary you’re going to see this year.

 


Under the Skin 84%

Sarah Ricard, TV Editor

At the same time that she was kicking supervillain ass as Black Widow in Marvel’s blockbuster Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Scarlett Johansson was also quietly burrowing her way into the gloomy outskirts of Glasgow, Scotland as a mysterious, beautiful, and dangerous stranger in Jonathan Glazer’s Under the Skin. Laura, whose name is easy to miss, drives a van through town seducing male strangers into coming home with her. While the men can’t believe their luck, they ought to remember that some things are too good to be true. Going home with a gorgeous woman, only to find that her apartment is actually an infinite quagmire of black goo, should be something of a real red flag. Under the Skin may frustrate many on account of its equally gooey pace and almost-too-subtle plot, but Johansson’s performance is at once beguiling and creepy, leaving you with two questions by this mesmerizing and shocking film’s end: What the heck did I just see? And when can I see it again?

 


We Are the Best! 96%

Ryan Fujitani, Editor

Coming-of-age films are a dime a dozen these days, but the vast majority of them — even the comedies — seem intent on filtering adolescence through the adult lens of wistful, melancholy nostalgia. This is one of the reasons why Lukas Moodysson’s We Are the Best! feels so refreshing, even as its themes ring familiar. Set in the early 1980s but never cloyingly era-specific, the film follows a trio of outcast middle-school girls in Stockholm who come together to form a punk band, and it never devolves into the dire melodrama or awkward sexual awakenings of its genre kin. Instead, We Are the Best! embraces the joyful, devil-may-care rebellion of youth in all its ephemeral glory, best illustrated by the scene when the girls panhandle for change to pay for a new guitar, only to spend all their money on a candy and ice cream binge. There are some ups and downs in the movie, to be sure, but Moodysson’s affection for raucous Klara, sheepish Bobo, and demure Hedvig is so clearly on display that I’m inclined to declare you heartless if you don’t at least crack a smile when the girls finally break out into the titular chant.

 


Whiplash 94%

Matt Atchity, Editor in Chief

It’s easy to understand why Whiplash got a little bit lost when it was released in October; it was a small film overshadowed by wider releases, and its leads (Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons) aren’t exactly box office draws on their own. But this film absolutely deserves all of the accolades its received so far, including the Grand Jury Award at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival. Miles Teller plays a talented drummer studying at a New York music conservatory who falls under the sway of a tyrannical bandleader, played by J.K. Simmons. The movie explores artistic achievement and obsession in a way that will have you on the edge of your seat, as Simmons and Teller repeatedly face off on the bandstand. The movie features an especially chilling performance from Simmons, balancing charm and abuse in equal measure. Sure, the movie takes a bit of license with jazz history, but the tense and thrilling climax will stick with you long after the film is over.

 

  • Justin Morse

    Whiplash was incredible.

  • GibsonGirl99

    Snowpiercer perfectly illustrates why Chris Evans does not want to be trapped by Captain America.
    Incredible film, and a banging cast all round.

  • Davin MacGlashan

    Babadook is about a mentally ill parent abusing her child. While mental illness can be frightening, it’s not a good watch.

Tag Cloud

American Society of Cinematographers deadpool Grammys disaster Summer FX nature Mudbound E3 Hallmark Christmas movies war 2021 thriller Red Carpet witnail Music animated quibi Amazon Prime Apple TV Plus obituary singing competition robots TruTV Discovery Channel Infographic Starz king kong blockbusters rom-coms live action screen actors guild toronto TLC TV TV movies Sundance Now Writers Guild of America The Walt Disney Company LGBT Hallmark Lifetime Valentine's Day aliens DirecTV cinemax Dark Horse Comics sitcom Lucasfilm kong Trivia elevated horror anthology Sundance TV facebook movie Election natural history IFC Films Broadway Fall TV Funimation Winners Hear Us Out dragons Binge Guide FX on Hulu godzilla crime drama werewolf The Academy ratings strong female leads Kids & Family Tomatazos dark hist Country 20th Century Fox laika Exclusive Video ghosts HBO Max indie ID TCA Awards directors DC Comics FOX television President Rocketman die hard Film 2020 rt archives talk show toy story green book ViacomCBS franchise japanese Baby Yoda YA CBS All Access pirates of the caribbean Fox Searchlight TBS Black History Month Television Academy unscripted Character Guide BAFTA CW Seed First Reviews DC Universe book twilight venice Holiday VICE BBC America Drama emmy awards Image Comics Food Network award winner hollywood boxing Warner Bros. saw Sundance OWN news AMC 2017 YouTube Crunchyroll Arrowverse scorecard ITV superman telelvision worst hispanic Super Bowl Legendary name the review Pacific Islander adaptation international Showtime SDCC comic books vampires Interview technology travel Martial Arts The Arrangement Alien The Purge canceled TV shows BET Awards PlayStation ABC Signature Black Mirror APB TCM documentary GLAAD canceled Adult Swim Britbox 99% foreign Comedy Central Captain marvel nbcuniversal Emmy Nominations space crime thriller Sneak Peek Spike anime FXX period drama Turner cancelled TV series justice league mockumentary Action stoner Amazon 007 Paramount monster movies Rocky RT History Walt Disney Pictures Certified Fresh TNT A24 scary movies HBO YouTube Red Star Wars WGN best dogs Brie Larson Logo Classic Film Peacock Ghostbusters Shondaland WarnerMedia Pride Month parents mission: impossible Tubi Netflix Christmas movies joker ESPN The Witch revenge critics Epix concert french ABC Family Biopics tv talk sag awards marvel cinematic universe sequel Countdown politics high school cops festivals Star Trek Photos heist movie TCA Winter 2020 independent comics BBC One TV One Amazon Studios archives razzies Ellie Kemper italian jurassic park Syfy Best and Worst versus YouTube Premium Box Office docudrama mutant jamie lee curtis GIFs See It Skip It new york hidden camera lord of the rings game show HBO Go free movies reviews spanish Columbia Pictures women MCU game of thrones Bravo cancelled Mystery doctor who aapi series The CW LGBTQ historical drama 2019 Spectrum Originals Women's History Month golden globe awards Superheroes Turner Classic Movies romance Disney Plus Paramount Network Quiz National Geographic binge Creative Arts Emmys GoT boxoffice MSNBC transformers fast and furious Anna Paquin Chilling Adventures of Sabrina 24 frames Nat Geo golden globes Esquire TCA 2017 TIFF supernatural USA spider-man discovery new star wars movies Calendar streaming Chernobyl Film Festival spinoff First Look The Walking Dead Stephen King Song of Ice and Fire OneApp screenings stop motion Pop TV BET Disney+ Disney Plus Winter TV scene in color based on movie serial killer child's play 93rd Oscars south america spanish language diversity james bond Acorn TV Comic Book Polls and Games Sony Pictures romantic comedy TV renewals Animation Nominations Marathons spy thriller Trophy Talk Christmas DC streaming service SundanceTV Disney Watching Series casting Sci-Fi Television Critics Association Oscars TV Land composers CNN Thanksgiving Endgame Fantasy slashers universal monsters know your critic Disney Channel Universal Vudu Opinion Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt SXSW E! kaiju miniseries DGA Set visit black Marvel Tarantino Premiere Dates NBC stand-up comedy Family social media Pop Shudder El Rey Teen indiana jones Paramount Plus Cannes crossover zombie Trailer Year in Review renewed TV shows cancelled TV shows teaser Awards Tour adventure 4/20 Video Games 71st Emmy Awards all-time Lifetime Christmas movies criterion trailers crime video on demand cats Hulu Fox News 21st Century Fox halloween tv RT21 remakes streaming movies medical drama Elton John Cosplay Pirates australia zero dark thirty Disney streaming service Podcast Lionsgate political drama documentaries fresh theme song video films Marvel Television Comedy PaleyFest Pixar cooking 2018 Toys zombies police drama what to watch rotten movies we love breaking bad chucky Schedule Comics on TV Apple TV+ superhero 2016 Avengers Cartoon Network BBC true crime target asian-american biography Mary Tyler Moore movies richard e. Grant 2015 popular spain IFC Extras comic Mary Poppins Returns San Diego Comic-Con 45 science fiction cults satire Tumblr Rock psychological thriller finale Heroines Netflix cartoon docuseries children's TV CBS VOD Mindy Kaling blaxploitation classics festival dramedy comedies Masterpiece 72 Emmy Awards A&E X-Men sports Nickelodeon a nightmare on elm street dc latino Superheroe ABC Western Mary poppins batman 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards NYCC CMT VH1 Horror Reality Competition Apple psycho new zealand Marvel Studios Crackle Ovation PBS Awards Academy Awards Rom-Com halloween dceu Holidays prank Spring TV Musicals New York Comic Con Pet Sematary Emmys Amazon Prime Video Musical sequels Reality MTV cancelled television USA Network cars kids Travel Channel worst movies christmas movies harry potter football rotten History comiccon Freeform reboot book adaptation nfl TCA blockbuster