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The Best Indie Movies of 2014 So Far, According to Criticwire: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Joe Swanberg and Elaine Stritch

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

Our list of 2014's best now includes over 40 different films from across the genres and across the world. This week's new additions: a simple family story from one of the industry's most prolific filmmakers and a documentary about a late legend of stage and screen.
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"Happy Christmas"

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.

For more insight into conversations from the critical landscape, turn to our Criticwire blog.

Joe Swanberg's films aren't for everybody, but there's a lot to pick through. The filmmaker has directed five movies movies in the past two years (if you count his contribution to the anthology horror movie "V/H/S"), culminating with "Happy Christmas," available in select theaters today (and also on VOD). Swanberg's latest is a low-key affair with a talented ensemble, including Anna Kendrick, Melanie Lynskey, Mark Webber, Lena Dunham and the director's infant son Jude (who was one of the top scene-stealers of Sundance 2014). Kendrick also appeared in Swanberg's previous film "Drinking Buddies," which was a staple of our running list of 2013's best-reviewed films. "Happy Christmas" currently has a B+ average from the Criticwire Network.

The passing of Elaine Stritch earlier this month inspired a number of heartfelt remembrances, including one at Press Play. Documentary fans got their own tribute last spring at the Tribeca Film Festival, when Chiemi Karasawa's "Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me," a look at the career and later life of the legendary stage and screen performer debuted to positive reviews. The film opened in select theaters earlier this year and is now available to stream on Netflix. (In the wake of Stritch's passing, the film is still playing at one theater apiece in both New York and Los Angeles, and now has an A- average.)

Today sees the release of another film featuring one of the final appearances of an iconic performer. "A Most Wanted Man," directed by Anton Corbijn and based on a John le Carré novel, features the final lead performance from Philip Seymour Hoffman. Our Eric Kohn explained that this particular role might stand as one of Hoffman's best. Kohn's review closes with this sentiment: "Hoffman imbues his character with an elegant quality that goes beyond topicality to suggest the timeless empathy within us all. That's the essential quality that made his career such an outstanding run, and more than anything else, why he'll always be missed." The film itself is the second big-screen adaptation of a John le Carré novel this decade, following 2011's also-well-reviewed "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy."

"A Most Wanted Man" currently has a B+ average on Criticwire.

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 (59 grades)

2. Ida (Film Page), directed by Pawel Pawlikowski (2013 Telluride Film Festival; May 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: A (30 grades)

3. Only Lovers Left Alive (Film Page), directed by Jim Jarmusch (2013 Cannes Film Festival; April 2014 theatrical release) 
Average Criticwire Rating: A- (71 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- (64 grades)

5. Under the Skin (Film Page), directed by Jonathan Glazer (2013 Telluride Film Festival; April 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: A- (63 grades)

6. Blue Ruin (Film Page), directed by Jeremy Saulnier (2013 Cannes Film Festival; April 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: A- (51 grades)

6. The Wind Rises (Film Page), directed by Hayao Miyazaki (2013 Venice Film Festival; February 2014 theatrical release) 
Average Criticwire Rating: A- (51 grades)

8. Stranger by the Lake (Film Page), directed by Alain Guiraudie (2013 Cannes Film Festival; January 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: A- (46 grades)

9. Life Itself (Film Page), directed by Steve James (2014 Sundance Film Festival; July 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: A- (42 grades)

9. Nymphomaniac, Vol. 1 (Film Page), directed by Lars von Trier (2014 Berlin International Film Festival; March 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: A- (42 grades)

11. Gloria (Film Page), directed by Sebastián Lelio (2013 Berlin International Film Festival; January 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: A- (38 grades)

11. Like Father, Like Son (Film Page), directed by Hirokazu Kore-eda (2013 Cannes Film Festival; January 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: A- (38 grades)

13. Tim's Vermeer (Film Page), directed by Teller (2013 Toronto International Film Festival; January 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: A- (33 grades)

14. Obvious Child (Film Page), directed by Gillian Robespierre (2014 Sundance Film Festival; June 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: A- (31 grades)

15. Closed Curtain (Film Page), directed by Jafar Panahi & Kambuzia Partovi (2013 Berlin International Film Festival; July 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: A- (26 grades)

16. Cheap Thrills (Film Page), directed by E.L. Katz (2013 SXSW Film Festival; March 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: A- (24 grades)

17. We are the Best! (Film Page), directed by Lukas Moodysson (2013 Toronto International Film Festival; May 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: A- (23 grades)

18. 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- (22 grades)

19. Manakamana (Film Page), directed by Stephanie Spray and Pacho Velez (2013 Locarno Film Festival; April 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: A- (21 grades)

20. The Missing Picture (Film Page), directed by Rithy Panh (2013 Cannes Film Festival; March 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: A- (19 grades)

21. 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- (18 grades)

22. The Last of the Unjust (Film Page), directed by Claude Lanzmann (2013 Cannes Film Festival; February 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: A- (17 grades)

23. Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me (Film Page), directed by Chiemi Karasawa (2013 Tribeca Film Festival; February 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: A- (15 grades)

24. The Immigrant (Film Page), directed by James Gray (2013 Cannes Film Festival; May 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: B+ (46 grades)

25. The Raid 2: Berandal (Film Page), directed by Gareth Evans (2014 Sundance Film Festival; March 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: B+ (39 grades)

26. Snowpiercer (Film Page), directed by Bong Joon-ho (2013 Korean premiere; June 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: B+ (38 grades)

27. The Double (Film Page), directed by Richard Ayoade (2013 Toronto International Film Festival; May 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: B+ (37 grades)

28. Jodorowsky's Dune (Film Page), directed by Frank Pavich (2013 Cannes Film Festival; March 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: B+ (32 grades)

29. Cold in July (Film Page), directed by Jim Mickle (2014 Sundance Film Festival; May 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: B+ (31 grades)

29. 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+ (31 grades)

31. Enemy (Film Page), directed by Denis Villeneuve (2013 Toronto International Film Festival; March 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: B+ (29 grades)

31. Joe (Film Page), directed by David Gordon Green (2013 Venice Film Festival; April 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: B+ (29 grades)

31. Locke (Film Page), directed by Steven Knight (2013 Venice Film Festival; April 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: B+ (29 grades)

31. Omar (Film Page), directed by Hany Abu-Assad (2013 Cannes Film Festival; February 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: B+ (29 grades)

35. The Lunchbox (Film Page), directed by Ritesh Batra (2013 Cannes Film Festival; February 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: B+ (25 grades)

36. Happy Christmas (Film Page), directed by Joe Swanberg (2014 Sundance Film Festival; July 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: B+ (24 grades)

37. Chef (Film Page), directed by Jon Favreau (2014 SXSW Film Festival; May 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: B+ (23 grades)

37. Le Week-End (Film Page), directed by Roger Michell (2013 Toronto International Film Festival; March 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: B+ (23 grades)

37. Vic + Flo Saw a Bear (Film Page), directed by Denis Côté (2013 Berlin International Film Festival; February 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: B+ (23 grades)

40. Child's Pose (Film Page), directed by Calin Peter Netzer (2013 Berlin International Film Festival; February 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: B+ (20 grades)

41. A Most Wanted Man (Film Page), directed by Anton Corbijn (2014 Sundance Film Festival; July 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: B+ (18 grades)

41. It Felt Like Love (Film Page), directed by Eliza Hittman (2013 Sundance Film Festival; March 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: B+ (18 grades)

43. The Dance of Reality (Film Page), directed by Alejandro Jodorowsky (2013 Cannes Film Festival; May 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: B+ (17 grades)

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!, Happy Christmas, Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me