Now that the final slew of movies have arrived for the Christmas Holiday, we here at Screen Rant can look back over the year 2014 in movies and offer you our Top 10 Movie Moments of the Year.
NOTE: It’s important to remember that what we’re counting here are the best moments in 2014 films. That means even an otherwise terrible movie could make our list if it had a particularly great moment; conversely, you will find some of what people consider the year’s best movies do NOT appear on the list, if we didn’t think a particular moment from that film stood out as worthy of distinction. Just something to keep in mind as you read.
WARNING – MAJOR SPOILERS FOLLOW FOR ALL MOVIES!!!!!
10. Clocktower Death Drop – Amazing Spider-Man 2
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was a major disappointment for a lot of fans, due to mishandling of a multi-pronged storyline that was supposed to result in the formation of a larger Spider-Man movie universe. But if there was one thing the rebooted franchise had going for it, it was the casting of Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone as Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy. The chemistry between the actors pretty much carried the first film, and in the sequel that chemistry was even stronger, given that Garfield and Stone had became a real-life romantic couple between installments.
However, there was one big elephant in the room: Gwen Stacy’s iconic death. Most of Amazing Spider-Man 2‘s runtime came with a “will she die or won’t she?” subtext for Gwen – and when that fateful moment finally did come, it was pretty hard-hitting.
As Gwen fell from a treacherous height during Spidey and The Goblin’s clocktower battle, it was heartbreakingly gorgeous watching the sequence play out in 3D slow-motion. The poetic visual of a webline’s reaching tendrils just missing Gwen only drove home the tragedy that Peter Parker was about to experience – and the sound of Gwen’s head making fatal impact with the floor echoed throughout a solemnly silent theaters. A fitting ode to Spider-Man’s greatest heartbreak.
9. Koba, Learn, Gun – Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
In Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Caesar’s top lieutenant and friend, Koba (Toby Kebbell), developed into the best kind of villain – not quite evil as much as sorely misguided, thanks to a life of cruelty being experimented on by human scientists.
When the Apes learned of a human settlement nearby, the (literally and figuratively) scarred Koba took it upon himself to investigate. That two-part recon assignment culminated in a truly chilling sequence where Koba re-approached two human guards he previously fooled into thinking he was a dumb circus ape, only to trick them out of their guns and murder them in cold blood.
Aside from the sequence showcasing Kebbell’s range as an actor (a man pretending to be a cunning ape, who is pretending to be a dumber kind of ape), the sequence balances humor and horror perfectly, with the iconic image of an ape learning the deadly operation of a firearm, a sight that speaks to the underlying themes of the entire Planet of the Apes franchise. It was such a good moment in fact, they decided it was worth ruining in the film’s trailer and TV commercials. If it had been saved as a surprise for the actual theatrical experience, we probably would’ve ranked it higher.
8. Real Life Reveal – The LEGO Movie
When The LEGO Movie was first announced people were skeptical – as they tend to be about any movie based on a popular toy line. After all, we were all wondering: What the heck could a LEGO movie possibly be about? When geek-fave directors Chris Miller and Phil Lord (21 Jump Street reboot) got attached, it was clear the LEGO Movie would have a burst of creative spirit behind it – but few could guess just how well the pair would do with the material.
Not only did Miller and Lord find a great hook for approaching the film (an entire LEGO world and master builder mythos), they actually managed to work in relevant themes for both kids and adults (creative freedom and artistic expression vs. conformity and greed), which is enough to elevate a good animated film to great heights. But oh, Miller and Lord did not stop there.
In the final act of The LEGO Movie, we discover that all of the movie’s events and themes are actually metaphors for the real-world struggle between a father (Will Ferrell) and his son, over whether or not the son can play with the uptight father’s carefully designed LEGO sets pieces. That twist – grounding an animated fantasy in real-life events and emotions – was a bit of genius that made the message behind The LEGO Movie more serious, touching, and insightful than anyone expected.
7. Atlas Didn’t Shrug – Unbroken
Unbroken is pretty much a roller-coaster ride of emotion, with a story that includes Olympic sports triumph, amazing survivalist thrills and harrowing prisoner of war drama. So it’s even more impressive that director Angelina Jolie could still find a way to cap it all off in proper grandeur.
WWII serviceman (and former Olympian) Louis Zamperini had already been through hell, only to have to suffer twice under the cruelty of one of the Japanese army’s worst POW camp wardens, “The Bird.” With a special place in his heart for hurting an American Olympian, The Bird tried everything he could to break Louis’ spirit. If you can’t guess from the title of the film, he failed.
In a scene of symbolic climax, The Bird orders an exhausted Zamperini to hold a heavy wooden beam over his head; if he drops it, he will be shot and killed. With nothing but his spirit fueling him, Louis (Jack O’Connell) holds that beam beyond all conceivable limits, eventually stopping the entire POW camp with his feat of strength. Eventually it is The Bird who cracks, losing his composure and beating Louis mercilessly.
Sure, on a physical plane it was another bad day for Louis Zamperini – but on the plane of the human soul, he had proven that he was every bit a champion, and (like America on his shoulders) he would never give up. Cue cheers from the audience.
6. Coop & Murph Future Reunion – Interstellar
Some critics accuse Chris Nolan’s directorial style to be too cold and cerebral for the very emotion-driven story of Interstellar, but it’s hard to deny that part of film’s finale really tugs at the heartstrings.
After crossing vast spans of space and making it back from the depths of a black hole (and the 5D future human constructs therein), Coop (Matthew McConaughey) found himself rescued and on an orbital colony decades in the future, facing one big last step on his journey to save humanity: reconnecting with his estranged daughter, Murph.
The sight of Coop finally meeting an elderly version of Murph (Ellen Burstyn) on her deathbed, surrounded by loving kin, was enough to make parents everywhere choke up from the sheer enormity of that anachronistic event. It was hard for anyone not to get teary-eyed when Murph demonstrated her own evolution from child to parent, telling Coop she no longer needed him, and that an entire life was waiting for him beyond her, out there in the stars.
It was sad, poetic, beautiful and moving all in one small moment. And it demonstrated that Mr. Nolan definitely has a heart behind that brilliant filmmaking mind.
5. Cap vs. GSP – Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Marvel fans expected a lot of improvements between Captain America: The First Avenger and Captain America: The Winter Solider – especially since the character had not really gotten his due as a badass warrior in either First Avenger or The Avengers team-up film.
After providing fans with some of their trademark sitcom-style comedy (“On your left,”) directors The Russo Brothers went right in, crafting an epic first-act action set piece in which Cap, Black Widow and a team of S.H.I.E.L.D. assets have to retake an ocean freighter from mercenary thug, George Batroc.
The sequence was a great showcase for why Captain America (Chris Evans) is one of the most dangerous warriors on the planet (tactical brains to go with all that brawn) but the proverbial “big boss battle” on the freighter was something special indeed, as Evans’ Cap threw down with Batroc himself, played by real-life MMA star, Georges St-Pierre.
Needless to say, by the time Cap was flip-kick finishing the fight like Guile from Street Fighter, the crowd was hardcore invested; Cap was no longer the weak-link in the Avengers roster; Batroc was no longer a walking joke (as in Marvel Comics); and the Russos had made a clear declaration that they were going to give Marvel fans a style of superhero action they had never seen before in the MCU. And that’s exactly what they did for the rest of the film.
4. Atomic Breath Fatality – Godzilla
Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla reboot split a lot viewers; some thought the movie was too slow with not enough payoff, while others thought the climax was worth the slow-burn build. One thing that is hardly debated, however, is how epically the King of Monster finished the fight.
Godzilla already had his hands full taking on two Mutos (big monsters) who were trying to mate and spawn all kinds of monster babies – and the fight certainly did not go easily or smoothly for the big G. But as always, Godzilla found a way to win, unleashing pure atomic savagery all over the outclassed Mutos.
The female proved to be more formidable (naturally), and when her male counterpart got impaled on a building, she came at Godzilla like a hellcat, looking for payback. But the God-Z wasn’t having it, and when he pried her jaws open, many expected a King Kong-style jawbreaker move. Instead, TWIST ENDING! Godzilla shot atomic breath down that Muto’s throat and literally blew her head off.
Audiences in theaters everywhere were cheering, as Godzilla was officially BACK.
3. The Literal Drax – Guardians of the Galaxy
It was a moment born of the unique mind of James Gunn: as Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) tried to talk rage-fueled Drax (Dave Bautista) out of killing Gamora (Zoe Saldana), he cracked a few jokes to lighten the moment. The only problem: Drax comes from a race of beings who have no knowledge of metaphor.
Whether it was offbeat banter about the meaning behind the old finger slice across the neck gesture, or Drax’s insistence that no joke could possibly get overhead of his cat-like reflexes, in that moment viewers were fully turned on to Gunn’s Tarantino-esque version of the Marvel Cosmic universe, and former wrestler Bautista solidified his worthiness as part of the Guardians cast.
2. Quicksilver Justified – X-Men: Days of Future Past
Leading up to X-Men: Days of Future Past there was a lot of confusion about the character of Quicksilver; Marvel Studios has their own version of the character appearing in The Avengers: Age of Ultron, while Fox had a separate version to introduce in DoFP. And neither of them was all that accurate to the comic version.
When the first images of Evan Peters (American Horror Story) as Quicksilver appeared online‘, the fanbase had a kinipshit. Looking like some loiterer at an ’80s video arcade, the DoFP promo images of Pietro (or “Peter”) were pretty much panned by anyone who ever read an X-Men comic. That is… until Quicksilver had his moment to shine in the movie.
Set to the awesome and on-the-nose tune of Jim Croce’s “Time In a Bottle”, Quicksilver topped his own witty banter and suave bravado with a sequence shot in super-high-frame rate 3D, in which he saves Magneto, Charles Xavier and Wolverine in literal bullet time.
From 0 to 100 (real quick), Fox’s version of Quicksilver went from being the butt of the joke to a fan-favorite character with a potential big future in the X-Men movie franchise. Not too shabby.
1. We Are Baby Groot Dance – Guardians of the Galaxy
Guardians of the Galaxy was a pretty rousing good time for most people who saw it, and it managed to pack the fun into the some of the very last frames – including a delightful mid-credits sequence.
Groot in many ways became the heart of the film, which is why his noble sacrifice protecting the team hit such a strong emotional cord. As the Guardians finished the battle with Ronan in Groot’s name, we were all anxious to see if the lovable tree alien would rise like an oak from his broken splinters – and rise he did.
As if hearing the collective thoughts of the audience ahead of time, director James Gunn crafted a great mid-credits sequence featuring the odd-pairing of murderous Drax and lovable Groot. Even better, our monosyllabic tree was cuter than ever in sapling form, getting down in his pot of soil to some classic jams.
If there was one moment that had viewers leaving the theater on a feel-good note, this was it. And for Marvel (as well as a lot of third-party vendors), it was a perfect moment to use in later merchandising opportunity.
- Machine Gun Fire Ape – DotPotA: We didn’t put this in the main list for the reason that it walks a tightrope between awesome and ridiculous – but for everyone who thought that an ape riding a horse through fire holding two machine guns WAS awesome? This mention is for you.
- Car Attack to Restaurant Fight – The Raid 2: The stunt work alone is crazy, but it’s even crazier to think that this scene (star Iko Uwais in the backseat of a car, dodging knives being stabbed at him through every window) is just a preamble to the larger restaurant fight sequence that follows.
- Dead in 16 seconds – The Equalizer: Denzel Washington was pretty badass in The Equalizer, and a scene with him dispatching a room full of Russian gangsters was the height of that badassery.
- Meet Baymax – Big Hero 6: Disney’s Big Hero 6 made something decidedly different out of the Marvel Comics source material that inspired it, and one of the biggest differences was the character of Baymax. His introduction alone endeared him to viewers – and made another merchandising cash-cow for Disney to go along with Groot and Rocket.
- John Wick’s Gung-Fu Home Defense – John Wick: John Wick made the bold move of murdering a cute puppy to elicit audience sympathy, but it was effective. When a Russian mob hit squad showed up to John Wick’s house to get him before he got them, the audience was practically screaming for John to take them out – as he did, with brutal grace. Keanu Reeves has still got it.
- Moment of Prayer – Selma: A lot of people may not have seen it yet, but a certain scene on a bridge between Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a crowd of people from all walks of life, and the big man in the sky, will certainly be remembered for the quiet power it has – the peaceful calm we wish could be brought to the real life racial turmoil of today.
Those are our picks for the Top 10 Movies Moments of 2014. Do you agree with our list? Are there any picks you would add? Let us know in the comments!