18 Best Movies & Shows Released in 2014 On Kanopy

Staff & contributors

Find the best movies and show to watch from the year 2014. These handpicked recommendations are highly-rated by viewers and critics.

An absolutely beautiful film about superficiality, arrogance, and heartbreak. It focuses on the life of Aydin, a retired actor who now lives very comfortably managing a small hotel and a number of other small properties. Throughout the film Aydin's image shifts as he tackles the problems of his rather typical life. Having said this, there is nothing else typical about this film. It captures human relationships with an almost frightening precision. It almost feels as though you have an inside view into someone's actual life as Aydin battles it out with his sister Necla and his young wife Nihal. To me this is easily one of the best dramas of the decade, and if you so much as like movies that focus on humans and their interactions, it will be that for you too.  Nuri Bilge Ceylan will make 3 hours pass more quickly than they ever have before.

This incredible documentary is about the elusive Iranian artist Bahman Mohassess, whose work has the uniqueness of a Picasso or a Salvador Dalí.

But unlike his European counterparts, most of Mohassess’ work has been destroyed. Some in the aftermath of the Islamic Revolution in Iran but most, interestingly, by the artist himself.

After the revolution, he went into exile. For 40 years his whereabouts remained unknown — until an Iranian filmmaker based in Paris tracked him in a hotel in Rome.

Very early in the film, director Mitra Farahani points out that Mohassess died half an hour after one of their filming sessions.

The urgency of their conversations, the genius of Mohassess and his relationship to his art, and the uniqueness of the untold story of his life, all make this more than just another documentary. It’s a work of immeasurable historic value.

This teenage crime drama contains enough grit to stand on its own, but The Tribe’s real hook is in the way it’s told: entirely in Ukrainian sign language, without subtitles. Set in a boarding school for deaf students, new arrival Sergei must contend with an institution that’s run like a gang. His journey through the ranks is extremely violent and graphic, including unflinching depictions of rape and a back-alley abortion that lingers long in the mind.

Its unpleasantness will be a barrier for some, but for the curious, it’s an oddly balletic film. Among the misery, actors communicate the entire story via body language. Emphatic dialogue delivery conveys the mood of each scene (which often changes for the worse), and the characters’ actions speak loud and clear. Narratively it breaks little ground, and its darkness can’t be overstated, but there’s grace to its reliance on everything but words to tell its story. A film you won’t stop thinking about.

Jessica Chastain and Oscar Isaac star in this slow-burning but impeccable crime thriller.

Abel Morales (Isaac) owns a fuel distribution company in 1980s New York. His competitors are violent and corrupt, and the feds are after him. The temptation to resort to unlawful methods is high, especially that his wife (Chastain) is the daughter of a mobster.

A Most Violent Year is about how this temptation of corruption unfolds and whether Abel will surrender to it or not.

This movie originally caught my eye for all the attention it got at the Cannes festival, but I assure you, all of the hype is more than warranted. Two Days, One Night takes you on an emotional journey with Sandra, recovering from depression and ready to get back to work, when she discovers that her co-workers, having to choose between receiving a bonus and Sandra keeping her job, hold her fate in their hands. And thus, barely convinced herself and with her husband as her only support, she sets out on an unlikely mission to convince the people to vote against the bonus so that she still has a salary. This movie will strike a chord for anyone who has encountered depression or even simply tried to understand the abstract concept that it is. Marion Cotillard flawlessly portrays through Sandra the desperate struggle of having to put up a fight despite the utter hopelessness that she finds herself drowning in. At strife with herself, watching her try even though every cell in her body has given up, is gut-wrenching and awe-inspiring at the same time. Before long Sandra's fight on the lay-off and on her own hopelessness seem to blur together. Whether she wins, is what keeps you hooked to the very end.
The film for which Kristen Stewart became the first American actress to win the César Award. The Twilight star turned indie prodigy plays next to another award favorite, Juliette Binoche, as her assistant. When rehearsing for the play that launched her career many years earlier, Binoche's character, Maria, blurs the line between fiction and reality, her old age and her assistant's young demeanor, and the romance story portrayed in the play and her own life. The movie itself is stylized as a play, adding another interesting layer of artistic creativity to the complex plot line. A film for film lovers.
In an age where recent horror films mostly use the jump-scare as a crutch to make their CGI-spawned (not to mention generic) creatures seem scary, The Babadook portrays real scares, relatable characters and a moving story. Jennifer Kent (director and writer) sets this on the backdrop of heavily Lars von Trier-inspired cinematography, elevating The Babadook from a shot at an amazing horror to a resemblance of an art house film. The unease felt during this film only increases as it creeps towards its conclusion. Whenever the Babadook (the monster of the film) is seen lurking in the peripherals of the camera, appearing in television sets and the shadows to create a sense of omnipresence that disturbs the viewer on a deeper, more primal level than that of so many recent horror films could even hope to reach. It leaves the audience with the sensation that they are being lowered onto a lit candle, spine-first. In short; the seamless acting, the beautiful shots, the slow-burning terror together creates a masterpiece that strides past any horror film of the past decade (maybe even further) and stands toe-to-toe with the greats without even breaking a sweat.

I always seek out Icelandic films; something about the quality of light and quirky sensibility that appeal to me. Having developed a fondness for sheep on a recent Welsh trek, "Rams" had a double attraction. A tale of brothers divided by life but ultimately united in and by their deep, tender, inspiring love of their rams. Close to perfection. Sigurdur Sigurdurjonsson is luminous in the lead role.

Kilo Two Bravo (Originally named Kajaki) is a must-watch for anyone who likes war dramas. It tells the true story of British soldiers in the Afghanistan war who find themselves trapped in a minefield during a mission, with their rescue team coming in a helicopter that might set off mines if it lands. It's a slow, dialogue driven film that is interested in taking you to the war zone more than it cares about entertaining you. Ultimately, it becomes an essay on the horrors of war, and an anti-war war film. Because of this and given the blood and gore, this movie is definitely not for those who would feel nauseated at sight of blood. Great setting, good cinematography, realistic acting and script all do justice to the true story. It's a film that will grip your senses and keep you at the edge of the seat throughout.

This movie is pretty much in every regard a Norwegian Kill Bill. It’s a dark gory comedy where, naturally, the substitute for Uma Thurman doing damage is an emotionless Stellan Skarsgård. After his son is killed by a drug gang, Skarsgård’s character, fresh off a win of a “citizen of the year” award, embarks on a ruthless journey to track and kill the murderers. This takes place in one of the most remote areas in Norway, where the main character works as a snowplow driver. You guessed it, some people will get snowplowed. Seems familiar? That’s because this year it was turned into a horribly sub-par American movie called Cold Pursuit, with, ugh, Liam Neeson.
A seemingly well-adjusted Scandinavian Family vacationing in the French Alps experiences a frightening avalanche scare near the beginning of Force Majeure, thereby unleashing a cacophony of mistrust and anxiety as their dynamic is shaken to the core. This pitch black comedy from Sweden charts the steady disintegration of the family unit and the father’s psyche in particular, as his reaction to impending death leaves his family deeply questioning his masculinity and prioritization of their well-being. The stages of blame and negotiation play out with painful honesty, holding back very little in a manner that leaves the viewer supremely uncomfortable, as if eavesdropping on a neighbor's personal affairs. The effect is unsettling yet stunningly honest and often laugh-quietly-on-the-inside worthy in its depiction of human vulnerability. Unlike many narrative films, the “climax” comes at the beginning of Force Majeure, with the remainder of the film acting as an extended denouement in the form of a measured, Kubrickian character study.

This is a revelation of a movie for its simplicity in handling a pretty serious and dark subject. It's the story of a generally immature and newly unemployed stand-up comic in New York and her unplanned pregnancy with a man that was supposed to be a fling, and it's surprisingly funny and yet rather touching. I can't think of many actresses who would've fit the bill quite like Jenny Slate. Not only is she hilarious, but her treatment of a generally sensitive issue from the honest, crass point of view of a down-on-life, New York-er leaves you drowning in empathy for her. I recommend this for anyone looking to cuddle up, have a few little clever laughs and feel all tingly in the chest-al area.

This documentary is about the life of New York rapper Nas around the time of the release of his first album, Illmatic.

It spans a quick and summarized 74 minutes and, while embellished by the direction of street artist One9, it remains a great snippet of recent American history. Nas’s album was a reflection of many realities that characterized his upbringing, while the movie serves to further explore those very realities.

This documentary is about filmmaker Lacey Schwartz, who stands out from her devout New York Jewish family with her darker skin tone. For most of her life, the family attributed this to genes from a distant Sicilian ancestor.

But suspicions have always been there, what a family member calls “the 500-pound elephant in the room”. Schwartz embarks on a journey of untangling family secrets, self-discovery, with fascinating questions on race and identity. If you like family history documentaries like Stories We Tell, you will love this.

Though it starts off somewhat slow, I was delightfully surprised at how much I loved this movie. A 28-year-old man ventures through Europe with a buddy, ending in Copenhagen, where he hopes to contact the last of his family. There he enlists a local girl to help him. An interesting relationship unfolds as they take a captivating journey through Copenhagen in search of William’s grandfather. The tag line of the movie is “When the girl of your dreams is half your age, it’s time to grow up” and William really does have to grow up when he’s faced with his own personal tumult. The girl is played by Frederikke Dahl Hansen, who gives an exceptional natural performance, which adds even more to the abundance of charm in this film.