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Best Indie Movies of 2014 So Far: Nearly 100 Top-Rated 2014 Releases

Photo of Steve Greene By Steve Greene | Indiewire June 20, 2014 at 10:38AM

"Mr. Turner," "Wild" and "Winter Sleep" are among the latest additions.
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Mr. Turner

Throughout 2014, members of Indiewire's Criticwire Network -- comprised of nearly 500 critics from around the world -- have been adding their grades and reviews to our database of film pages. Below is a collection of those films released in theaters during that time that have a) received 15 or more reviews and b) maintained a grade average of "B+" or higher. We'll update this list as new additions surface and as fresh waves of feedback arrive. Averages and totals are subject to change (grade totals listed in italics below have changed since the last update), but for now, these are the titles that many members of the Criticwire Network suggest you should watch.


Recent voting for our annual year-end critics poll (the full results of which you can find here) meant a large influx of grades and reviews for the year's best films. For this continuous list of the best-reviewed films of 2014, that also led to 10 new films joining the ranks of the year's top titles.

A pair of these films both played at Cannes back in May and open in theaters this week. "Mr. Turner," Mike Leigh's biopic of the enigmatic painter J.M.W. Turner, featured some top finishers in the aforementioned poll: Dick Pope's camerawork was a runner-up in the Best Cinematography category, while Timothy Spall's lead role placed him fourth among actors. Nuri Bilge Ceylan's Palme-D'Or-winning "Winter Sleep" also opens today and holds a similar "A-" average. 

Two vastly different films that nevertheless feature vast, expansive natural landscapes, "Wild" and "A Spell to Ward Off the Darkness," both debut on the list with "B+" averages. 2014 Tribeca winner "Zero Motivation" also becomes the first film to debut at this year's festival to appear on this list.

Paul Thomas Anderson's follow-up to "The Master," "Inherent Vice," now appears on the 2014 list after Criticwire Network members named it the Best Film at this year's New York Film Festival.

Three different documentaries make their way onto the list: Tom Berninger's tale of brothers in music "Mistaken for Strangers," Rory Kennedy's account of the "Last Days in Vietnam" and Robert Greene's genre-straddling look at identity and performance, "Actress." Jim Mickle's "Cold in July" makes a return to the list after a few months' absence, sliding back in between fellow Sundance 2014 titles "The Skeleton Twins" and "The One I Love."

For the better part of the last six months, Richard Linklater's "Boyhood" has been the sole film on this list with an "A" average. Now, two other films join that upper echelon: Pawel Pawlikowski's "Ida" and Lav Diaz's "Norte, the End of History."

With the close of 2014 less than two weeks away, this list is just three films away from cracking 100. The treasure trove of quality cinema from the past year is gathered below.

For more insight into conversations from the critical landscape, turn to our Criticwire blog. Those looking for a more focused look at the year's best can turn to our separate list of the year's best-reviewed documentaries and best-reviewed foreign language features. As for the best from all genres, you can find them all below:

The Top-Rated Films of 2014

1. Boyhood (Film Page), directed by Richard Linklater (2014 Sundance Film Festival; July 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: A (106 grades)

2. Ida (Film Page), directed by Pawel Pawlikowski (2013 Telluride Film Festival; May 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: A (60 grades)

3. Norte, the End of History (Film Page), directed by Lav Diaz (2013 Hong Kong International Film Festival; June 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: A (22 grades)

4. The Grand Budapest Hotel (Film Page), directed by Wes Anderson (2014 Berlin International Film Festival; March 2014 theatrical release) 
Average Criticwire Rating: A- (97 grades)

5. Only Lovers Left Alive (Film Page), directed by Jim Jarmusch (2013 Cannes Film Festival; April 2014 theatrical release) 
Average Criticwire Rating: A- (90 grades)

6. Under the Skin (Film Page), directed by Jonathan Glazer (2013 Telluride Film Festival; April 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: A- (87 grades)

7. Whiplash (Film Page), directed by Damien Chazelle (2014 Sundance Film Festival; October 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: A- (84 grades)

8. Birdman (Film Page), directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu (2014 Venice Film Festival; October 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: A- (80 grades)

9. Gone Girl (Film Page), directed by David Fincher (2014 New York Film Festival; October 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: A- (70 grades)

10. Blue Ruin (Film Page), directed by Jeremy Saulnier (2013 Cannes Film Festival; April 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: A- (67 grades)

11. Nightcrawler (Film Page), directed by Dan Gilroy (2014 Toronto International Film Festival; October 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: A- (65 grades)

11. Snowpiercer (Film Page), directed by Bong Joon-ho (2013 Korean premiere; June 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: A- (65 grades)

13. Life Itself (Film Page), directed by Steve James (2014 Sundance Film Festival; July 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: A- (63 grades)

14. The Wind Rises (Film Page), directed by Hayao Miyazaki (2013 Venice Film Festival; February 2014 theatrical release) 
Average Criticwire Rating: A- (58 grades)

15. Stranger by the Lake (Film Page), directed by Alain Guiraudie (2013 Cannes Film Festival; January 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: A- (55 grades)

16. The Babadook (Film Page), directed by Jennifer Kent (2014 Sundance Film Festival; November 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: A- (52 grades)

16. Force Majeure (Film Page), directed by Ruben Östlund (2014 Cannes Film Festival; October 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: A- (52 grades)

18. Jodorowsky's Dune (Film Page), directed by Frank Pavich (2013 Cannes Film Festival; March 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: A- (50 grades)

19. Nymphomaniac: Vol. I (Film Page), directed by Lars von Trier (2014 Berlin International Film Festival; March 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: A- (49 grades)

20. Citizenfour (Film Page), directed by Laura Poitras (2014 New York Film Festival; October 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: A- (47 grades)

21. Mr. Turner (Film Page), directed by Mike Leigh (2014 Cannes Film Festival; December 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: A- (45 grades)

22. Gloria (Film Page), directed by Sebastián Lelio (2013 Berlin International Film Festival; January 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: A- (44 grades)

23. Like Father, Like Son (Film Page), directed by Hirokazu Kore-eda (2013 Cannes Film Festival; January 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: A- (43 grades)

24. Tim's Vermeer (Film Page), directed by Teller (2013 Toronto International Film Festival; January 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: A- (42 grades)

25. Love is Strange (Film Page), directed by Ira Sachs (2014 Sundance Film Festival; August 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: A- (40 grades)

26. Goodbye to Language (Film Page), directed by Jean-Luc Godard (2014 Cannes Film Festival; October 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: A- (38 grades)

26. The Overnighters (Film Page), directed by Jesse Moss (2014 Sundance Film Festival; October 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: A- (38 grades)

28. We are the Best! (Film Page), directed by Lukas Moodysson (2013 Toronto International Film Festival; May 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: A- (36 grades)

29. The Missing Picture (Film Page), directed by Rithy Panh (2013 Cannes Film Festival; March 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: A- (35 grades)

30. Closed Curtain (Film Page), directed by Jafar Panahi & Kambuzia Partovi (2013 Berlin International Film Festival; July 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: A- (32 grades)

30. Manakamana (Film Page), directed by Stephanie Spray and Pacho Velez (2013 Locarno Film Festival; April 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: A- (32 grades)

32. Stray Dogs (Film Page), directed by Tsai Ming-liang (2013 Venice Film Festival; September 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: A- (31 grades)

33. Finding Vivian Maier (Film Page), directed by John Maloof and Charlie Siskel (2013 Toronto International Film Festival; March 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: A- (29 grades)

33. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (Film Page), directed by Ana Lily Amirpour (2014 Sundance Film Festival; November 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: A- (29 grades)

35. Starred Up (Film Page), directed by David Mackenzie (2013 Toronto International Film Festival; August 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: A- (28 grades)

35. Winter Sleep (Film Page), directed by Nuri Bilge Ceylan (2014 Cannes Film Festival; December 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: A- (28 grades)

37. The Tale of Princess Kaguya (Film Page), directed by Isao Takahata (2014 Cannes Film Festival/2013 Japanese theatrical release; October 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: A- (27 grades)

38. The Last of the Unjust (Film Page), directed by Claude Lanzmann (2013 Cannes Film Festival; February 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: A- (26 grades)

39. 20,000 Days on Earth (Film Page), directed by Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard (2014 Sundance Film Festival; September 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: A- (25 grades)

39. Ernest and Celestine (Film Page), directed by Stéphane Aubier, Vincent Patar and Benjamin Renner (2012 Cannes Film Festival; February 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: A- (25 grades)

41. The Strange Little Cat (Film Page), directed by Ramon Zürcher (2013 Berlin International Film Festival; August 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: A- (23 grades)

42. Rich Hill (Film Page), directed by Andrew Droz Palermo & Tracy Droz Tragos (2014 Sundance Film Festival; August 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: A- (22 grades)

43. Actress (Film Page), directed by Robert Greene (Art of the Real 2014; November 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: A- (21 grades)

44. Last Days in Vietnam (Film Page), directed by Rory Kennedy (2014 Sundance Film Festival; September 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: A- (19 grades)

45. Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me (Film Page), directed by Chiemi Karasawa (2013 Tribeca Film Festival; February 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: A- (18 grades)

45. The Kill Team (Film Page), directed by Dan Krauss (2013 Tribeca Film Festival; July 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: A- (18 grades)

47. WHITEY: United States of America v. James J. Bulger (Film Page), directed by Joe Berlinger (2014 Sundance Film Festival; June 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: A- (17 grades)

48. Why Don't You Play in Hell? (Film Page), directed by Sion Sono (2013 Venice Film Festival; November 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: A- (16 grades)

49. Foxcatcher (Film Page), directed by Bennett Miller (2014 Cannes Film Festival; November 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: B+ (68 grades)

49. The Immigrant (Film Page), directed by James Gray (2013 Cannes Film Festival; May 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: B+ (68 grades)

51. Listen Up Philip (Film Page), directed by Alex Ross Perry (2014 Sundance Film Festival; October 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: B+ (61 grades)

52. Inherent Vice (Film Page), directed by Paul Thomas Anderson (2014 New York Film Festival; December 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: B+ (55 grades)

53. Calvary (Film Page), directed by John Michael McDonagh (2014 Sundance Film Festival; August 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: B+ (48 grades)

53. The Raid 2: Berandal (Film Page), directed by Gareth Evans (2014 Sundance Film Festival; March 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: B+ (48 grades)

55. Locke (Film Page), directed by Steven Knight (2013 Venice Film Festival; April 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: B+ (47 grades)

56. The Double (Film Page), directed by Richard Ayoade (2013 Toronto International Film Festival; May 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: B+ (46 grades)

56. Obvious Child (Film Page), directed by Gillian Robespierre (2014 Sundance Film Festival; June 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: B+ (46 grades)

58. The Imitation Game (Film Page), directed by Morten Tyldum (2014 Telluride Film Festival; November 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: B+ (45 grades)

59. Dear White People (Film Page), directed by Justin Simien (2014 Sundance Film Festival; October 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: B+ (44 grades)

59. A Most Wanted Man (Film Page), directed by Anton Corbijn (2014 Sundance Film Festival; July 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: B+ (44 grades)

61. Joe (Film Page), directed by David Gordon Green (2013 Venice Film Festival; April 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: B+ (41 grades)

62. Enemy (Film Page), directed by Denis Villeneuve (2013 Toronto International Film Festival; March 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: B+ (40 grades)

62. The Unknown Known: The Life and Times of Donald Rumsfeld (Film Page), directed by Errol Morris (2013 Telluride Film Festival; April 2014 release date)
Average Criticwire Rating: B+ (40 grades)

64. The Skeleton Twins (Film Page), directed by Craig Johnson (2014 Sundance Film Festival; September 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: B+ (39 grades)

65. Cold in July (Film Page), directed by Jim Mickle (2014 Sundance Film Festival; May 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: B+ (38 grades)

65. The One I Love (Film Page), directed by Charlie McDowell (2014 Sundance Film Festival; August 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: B+ (38 grades)

67. Chef (Film Page), directed by Jon Favreau (2014 SXSW Film Festival; May 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: B+ (37 grades)

67. Le Week-End (Film Page), directed by Roger Michell (2013 Toronto International Film Festival; March 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: B+ (37 grades)

67. Wild (Film Page), directed by Jean-Marc Vallée (2014 Telluride Film Festival; December 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: B+ (37 grades)

70. Cheap Thrills (Film Page), directed by E.L. Katz (2013 SXSW Film Festival; March 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: B+ (33 grades)

70. The Guest (Film Page), directed by Adam Wingard (2014 Sundance Film Festival; September 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: B+ (33 grades)


70. The Trip to Italy (Film Page), directed by Michael Winterbottom (2014 Sundance Film Festival; August 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: B+ (33 grades)

73. Omar (Film Page), directed by Hany Abu-Assad (2013 Cannes Film Festival; February 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: B+ (32 grades)

74. The Congress (Film Page), directed by Ari Folman (2013 Cannes Film Festival; August 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: B+ (31 grades)

75. The Lunchbox (Film Page), directed by Ritesh Batra (2013 Cannes Film Festival; February 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: B+ (30 grades)

76. Tracks (Film Page), directed by John Curran (2013 Toronto International Film Festival; September 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: B+ (29 grades)

77. Abuse of Weakness (Film Page), directed by Catherine Breillat (2013 Toronto International Film Festival; August 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: B+ (27 grades)

77. John Wick (Film Page), directed by David Leitch & Chad Stahelski (2014 Fantastic Fest; October 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: B+ (27 grades)

79. It Felt Like Love (Film Page), directed by Eliza Hittman (2013 Sundance Film Festival; March 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: B+ (26 grades)

80. The Blue Room (Film Page), directed by Mathieu Amalric (2014 Cannes Film Festival; October 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: B+ (25 grades)

80. Child's Pose (Film Page), directed by Calin Peter Netzer (2013 Berlin International Film Festival; February 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: B+ (25 grades)

80. The Internet's Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz (Film Page), directed by Brian Knappenberger (2014 Sundance Film Festival; June 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: B+ (25 grades)

83. Vic + Flo Saw a Bear (Film Page), directed by Denis Côté (2013 Berlin International Film Festival; February 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: B+ (24 grades)

84. Coherence (Film Page), directed by James Ward Byrkit (2013 Fantastic Fest; June 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: B+ (22 grades)

84. The Dance of Reality (Film Page), directed by Alejandro Jodorowsky (2013 Cannes Film Festival; May 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: B+ (22 grades)

86. The Dog (Film Page), directed by Allison Berg & Frank Keraudren (2013 Toronto International Film Festival; August 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: B+ (20 grades)

87. Big Bad Wolves (Film Page), directed by Aharon Keshales & Navot Papushado (2013 Tribeca Film Festival; January 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: B+ (19 grades)

88. 12 O'Clock Boys (Film Page), directed by Lotfy Nathan (2013 SXSW Film Festival; January 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: B+ (18 grades)

88. Wetlands (Film Page), directed by David Wnendt (2013 Locarno Film Festival; September 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: B+ (18 grades)

90. Bethlehem (Film Page), directed by Yuval Adler (2013 Venice Film Festival; March 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: B+ (16 grades)

90. Hide Your Smiling Faces (Film Page), directed by Daniel Patrick Carbone (2013 Berlin International Film Festival; March 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: B+ (16 grades)

90. Pride (Film Page), directed by Matthew Warchus (2014 Cannes Film Festival; September 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: B+ (16 grades)

90. Zero Motivation (Film Page), directed by Talya Lavie (2014 Tribeca Film Festival; December 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: B+ (16 grades)

94. Jealousy (Film Page), directed by Philippe Garrel (2013 Venice Film Festival; August 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: B+ (15 grades)

94. Lilting (Film Page), directed by Hong Khaou (2014 Sundance Film Festival; September 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: B+ (15 grades)

94. Mistaken for Strangers (Film Page), directed by Tom Berninger (2013 Tribeca Film Festival; March 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: B+ (15 grades)

94. A Spell to Ward Off the Darkness (Film Page), directed by Ben Rivers & Ben Russell (2013 Locarno Film Festival; December 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: B+ (15 grades)

READ MORE: The Best-Reviewed Documentaries of 2014

This article is related to: Cheap Thrills, Child's Pose, Ernest et Celestine, Gloria, It Felt Like Love, Jodorowsky's Dune, Le Week-End, Like Father, Like Son, Nymphomaniac: Volume I, Omar, Stranger by the Lake, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Last of the Unjust, The Missing Picture, The Raid 2: Berandal, The Wind Rises, Tim's Vermeer, Vic and Flo Saw a Bear, The Unknown Known: The Life and Times of Donald Rumsfeld, Under the Skin, The Best Indie Movies of 2014 , Only Lovers Left Alive, Joe, Blue Ruin, Manakamana, The Lunchbox, Ida, The Double (2013), Enemy, Chef, The Immigrant, Cold in July, We are the Best!, Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me, A Most Wanted Man, Calvary, The Strange Little Cat, Belle, The Internet's Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz, Abuse of Weakness, 12 O’Clock Boys, Rich Hill, Bethlehem, The One I Love, The Trip to Italy, Love Is Strange, Frank, Starred Up, Stray Dogs, The Skeleton Twins, Tracks, The Guest, 20,000 Days on Earth, Wetlands, The Kill Team, Gone Girl, The Congress, Whiplash, The Overnighters







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