The 11 Best Films of the 2014 New York Film Festival

By  · Published on October 13th, 2014

Sony Pictures Classics

The end of yet another film festival is behind us – does it feel like we’ve been fest-ing for weeks on end now? we have! – with the close of Gotham’s own New York Film Festival. As has become the festival’s standard, this year’s NYFF included a compelling mix of festival favorites, undiscovered gems and a few world premieres that have already upended the end-of-the-year cinematic landscape. The festival may be over, but we’ve got a feeling that these eleven films will continue to linger long after the curtains fall (and, hell, you can even see some of these right now in a theater near you, how’s that for service?).

Are these the best films of NYFF? We certainly think so.

Gone Girl

David Fincher’s crafty, creepy and dead funny take on Gillian Flynn’s bestselling novel of the same name gets under your skin and doesn’t ever make its way out. On the surface, the film is a thriller and a mystery – and that’s certainly how the film’s first act presents itself – but things soon switch up, unleashing a torrent of surprises and twists that keep everyone’s jaws firmly on the floor. Also? Great cat acting. (Our review here.) -Kate Erbland

Mr. Turner

From the very moment it arrives on screen, Mr. Turner promises to be beautiful. Mike Leigh and cinematographer Dick Pope capture the breathtaking quality of J.M.W. Turner’s paintings through genius use of color and light, including seascapes that seem almost impossible. The additional surprise is how funny it is, grunting comedy delivered by Timothy Spall, Marion Bailey and Dorothy Atkinson in between moments of quiet pathos. (Our Cannes review here.) –Daniel Walber


What is the price of ambition? If this true life story is to be believed, well, everything. But Bennett Miller’s finely wrought drama isn’t just about ambition, it’s also about acceptance and illness and love and the kind of misunderstandings that have horrific consequences. Beautifully and hauntingly acted, this is this year’s big contender. (Our Cannes review here.) -KE

The Look of Silence

Once again, following the success of The Act of Killing, Joshua Oppenheimer has crafted a film that delves into the deepest parts of the human soul. The Look of Silence is something of a reversal and a response to last year’s Oscar nominee, focusing on the perspective of the victims of the Indonesian killings of 1965–66. With brutally complex moments and stunningly evocative close-ups, it seeks emotional truth in a thoroughly unique way. (Our review here.) –DW


Soon enough, we’ll all know that Jack O’Connell is a star (he’ll next star in Angelina Jolie’s Unbroken), but even fifteen minutes of this historical thriller make it obvious that the kid has what it takes. A relentlessly engaging and heart pounding action drama, ’71 isn’t the kind of film you watch if you’ve got a heart condition, but damn if it doesn’t feel good at the end. (Our review here.) -KE

Saint Laurent

This luxurious glimpse into the life of Yves Saint-Laurent is an epic of style, sex and ambition. It also takes apart the boring cliches of the biopic, replacing them with a flexible, unexpected structure. Gaspard Ulliel’s performance is extraordinary, making his way through a glamorous world of his own invention only to get lost in the excessive, sensuous moments crafted by director Bertrand Bonello and production designer Katia Wyszkop. (Our review here.) -DW


Michael Keaton is back, baby, in a film that may or may not (but probably does not) reflect his views on the world of superhero movies. Energetically filmed to approximate a continuous shot, this thing just moves, and it takes its audience for one damn fine ride. An excellent cast and a compelling setting (by the film’s end, you’ll feel as if you could navigate your way around any Broadway theater) only add to its glory. (Our review here.) -KE

Silvered Water, Syria Self-Portrait

Like a Chris Marker film about the end of humanity, Silvered Water, Syria Self-Portrait is an overwhelming assembly of images taken from the Syrian Uprising and Civil War. As a document of a broken nation gripped by violence it is stunning, honest and horrifying. As an essay film about the nature of survival and survivor’s guilt, language and cinema it is a nuanced work of troubling power. -DW


It’s very much our tempo. (Our review here.) -KE

The Princess of France

Warm, eloquent and charmingly tangled, The Princess of France is another Shakespeare-inspired comedy of intrigue and romance from Matías Piñeiro. His talented troop of fast-talking actors play yet another troop of fast-talking actors, bouncing about the artistic spaces of Buenos Aires with classical grace and bohemian charm. All is bent by Piñeiro with a conspiratorial camera and a balletic, spinning approach to narrative structure and editing. (Our review here.) -DW


A late addition to the festival, Laura Poitras’ jaw-dropping documentary about Edward Snowden is both intimate and informational, the kind of film that changes perspectives forever. Bold and brave, this is filmmaking at its most powerful. Sure, there might be some questions left unanswered, but doesn’t that mean we’re due for a sequel? (Our review here.) -KE

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