14 must-see films of 2014

From 12 Years a Slave to The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Veronica Mars to Gone Girl, these are the movies we're beside ourselves with excitement to see


12 Years a Slave (UK release: 10 January)


Director: Steve McQueen

Starring: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch, Lupita Nyong’o, Paul Giamatti, Brad Pitt, Alfre Woodard, Paul Dano

Based on the life of Solomon Northup – a free black man sold back into slavery – this 19th century historical epic has already enjoyed two months in American cinemas and made its leading man the prime contender for this year’s best actor Oscar. Come 2014, cinema goers in Chiwetel Ejiofor’s native England will witness his masterful turn in Steve McQueen’s critically-acclaimed retelling of Northup’s 1853 autobiography. The film boasts a star-studded cast including McQueen’s long-term collaborator, Michael Fassbender, and has already collected its fair share of silverware, but all eyes will be on Ejiofor as we near the business end of 2014’s awards season.

The Wolf of Wall Street (UK release: 17 January)

Director: Martin Scorsese

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie, Matthew McConaughey, Jean Dujardin, Jon Favreau, Joanna Lumley

Scorsese’s three-hour raucous biopic of real-life Wall Street “wolf” Jordan Belfort was in a race against time to make the awards season deadline and a good job it did, with an eye-catching headline performance from Leonardo DiCaprio in a role that fits him like a glove. Jonah Hill brings the comic touch as his dorky sidekick Donnie while rising star Margot Robbie sizzles as DiCaprio’s on-screen wife in some wincingly raunchy scenes. This isn’t one to see with the parents. 

The Monuments Men (UK release: 21 February)

Director: George Clooney

Starring: George Clooney, Matt Damon, Cate Blanchett, Bill Murray, Jean Dujardin, Hugh Bonneville, John Goodman

George Clooney has already proved his aptitude behind the camera in Good Night and Good Luck and Confessions of a Dangerous Mind. Here he uncovers the little-known Second World War story of a crack unit of American soldiers sent behind enemy lines by President Roosevelt to recover artistic masterpieces commandeered by the Nazis. The cast speaks for itself, and while the film’s postponed release date to give Clooney more time rules it out of awards season, the early trailers suggest it will deliver on its stellar credentials. 

The Grand Budapest Hotel (UK release: 7 March)

Director: Wes Anderson

Starring: Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton, Edward Norton, Jude Law, Ralph Fiennes, Owen Wilson, Saoirse Ronan, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Tom Wilkinson

Fresh from the critical success of last year’s Moonrise Kingdom, Anderson is back with his cast of regulars – Bill Murray, Adrien Brody, Owen Wilson, Jason Schwartzman – to tell the story of Gustave H (Ralph Fiennes), a legendary concierge at a renowned European hotel between the two World Wars. The trailer boasts famous faces left, right and centre, as Anderson recounts the theft and recovery of a priceless Renaissance painting and the battle for a family fortune in his trademark offbeat style.

Grace of Monaco (UK release: 14 March)

Director: Oliver Dahan

Starring: Nicole Kidman, Tim Roth, Frank Langella, Derek Jacobi, Paz Vega, Parker Posey

Another film whose delay rules it out of the Oscars race, Grace of Monaco was once tipped by many to emerge as a player during awards season. Nicole Kidman stars as the Hollywood starlet-turned-princess during her pivotal role in negotiations with French president Charles de Gaulle during a political crisis in 1962. Coming on the tail end of last year’s epic flop Diana, this effort bears some unfortunate similarities – Australian actress taking on royal icon – but the Weinstein Company’s involvement gives it some serious clout. Having said that, its postponed release date prompted a public spat between Harvey Weinstein and director Oliver Dahan who claimed the studio boss’s re-edit was a “pile of s**t”. Ooh-er. 

Veronica Mars (US release: 14 March, UK release yet to be confirmed)

Director: Rob Thomas

Starring: Kristen Bell, Tina Majorino, Chris Lowell, Jason Dohring, Enrico Colantoni, Percy Daggs III, Max Greenfield

If you hadn’t heard of Kickstarter before the Veronica Mars pitch, you certainly have now – with 91,000 bidders, the movie version of hit US series Veronica Mars raised a whopping $5.7m in total from the crowd-funding site, nearly three times its original target. The phenomenon blazed a trail for future projects after proving this teen detective series could still tap into its loyal fan base. All the old favourites are returning for the big screen treatment – Kristen Bell, Jason Dohring, Chris Lowell – which sees Veronica (Bell) now a high-flying New York attorney called back to Neptune by ex-boyfriend Logan (Dohring) after he’s charged with murder. The case unfortunately coincides with her 10-year high school reunion which reintroduces a raft of familiar faces. 

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (UK release: 28 March)

Director: Anthony and Joe Russo

Starring: Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Redford, Dominic Cooper, Hayley Atwell, Toby Jones

Marvel’s follow-up to 2011’s Captain America: The First Avenger has landed Robert Redford as the head of S.H.I.E.L.D – a casting likely to attract even those who aren’t au fait with this particular gaggle of superheroes. Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow gets a beefed up role this time around as she and Captain America (Chris Evans) unite to stop a covert enemy hiding out in Washington DC. With coveted TV veterans the Russos brothers (Arrested Development and Community) behind the camera, there will no doubt be a dash of humour added to proceedings. 

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (UK release: 18 April)

Director: Marc Webb

Starring: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Jamie Foxx, Sally Field, Paul Giamatti, Dane DeHaan, Felicity Jones

After a two-year hiatus, Spider-Man is back in cinemas with a follow-up to the 2012 action flick which earned back the respect of those who’d fallen out of love with Sam Raimi’s faltering franchise. Jamie Foxx and Dane DeHaan join the cast this time around as luminous villain Electro and Peter Parker’s best pal, Harry Osborn, with Andrew Garfield pulling the lycra back on to play the web-slinging superhero. With a script from Star Trek screenwriters Alex Kurtzeman and Roberto Orci, this has all the goods to deliver another spidery blockbuster hit.  

X-Men: Days of Future Past (UK release: 22 May)

Director: Bryan Singer

Starring: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Michael Fassbender, James McAvoy, Jennifer Lawrence, Ellen Page, Halle Berry, Nicholas Hoult, Peter Dinklage, Anna Paquin

With Bryan Singer back in the director’s chair, the excited chatter ahead of the latest X-Men instalment has stepped up another gear. His adaptation of the 1981 comic book brings the cast of the original franchise and new series together for what promises to be one epic movie. With two separate epochs combined, we have both James McAvoy and Patrick Stewart playing Professor X, while Michael Fassbender and Ian McKellen combine as Magneto. Throw Jennifer Lawrence, Ian McKellen, Hugh Jackman and Halle Berry into the mix – plus Game of Thrones star Peter Dinklage – and you have a mouthwatering set-up which, judging from its first trailer, will more than live up to the hype.

Maleficent (UK release: 30 May)

Director: Robert Stromberg

Starring: Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning, Imelda Staunton, Juno Temple, Sam Riley, Leslie Manville

Early glimpses of Angelina Jolie’s take on the classic fairytale villain will no doubt bring back childhood nightmares for many as her horned head and glinting green eyes taunt a young Aurora (played by Elle Fanning). Told from the point of view of the self-proclaimed “Mistress Of All Evil”, the upcoming flick focuses on the events that hardened Maleficent’s heart, leading her to curse baby Aurora. Jolie certainly looks the part with her sharpened features expertly channelled into playing this iconic sorceress, but will the film live up to its hype?  

Jupiter Ascending (UK release: 25 July)

Director: Andy and Lana Wachowski

Starring: Channing Tatum, Mila Kunis, Sean Bean, Eddie Redmayne, Douglas Booth, Terry Gilliam, James D’Arcy

From the team behind The Matrix and last year’s Cloud Atlas, the Wachowski’s latest offering is bound to generate a fair deal of attention. Continuing in their familiar genre of science fiction, Jupiter Ascending sees Mila Kunis play Russian toilet cleaner Jupiter Jones whose perfect DNA make-up threatens the reign of the mysterious Queen of the Universe. Caine (Channing Tatum) – a half wolf/half human warrior – is sent to kill her, but instead informs her she could be the next leader. Jupiter Ascending may look and sound about as baffling as Cloud Atlas, but stunning visuals and a talented young cast give it bags of promise. 

Gone Girl (US release: October, UK release yet to be confirmed)

Director: David Fincher

Starring: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris, Tyler Perry

One of 2012’s best-selling books, it was only a matter of time before Gone Girl made the transfer to the big screen. Its first coup was to land House of Cards director David Fincher, with novelist Gillian Flynn on board to pen the screenplay. Fincher took the controversial decision to cast Ben Affleck in the role of Nick Dunne (although the backlash was nowhere near the levels of the Batman/Superman fallout), with Brit actress Rosamund Pike beating out competition from a slew of Hollywood stars to land the plum role of Nick’s wife, Amy. 

Dumb and Dumber To (US release: 14 November, UK release yet to be confirmed)

Director:  Bobby and Peter Farrelly

Starring: Jim Carrey, Jeff Daniels, Kathleen Turner, Laurie Holden, Jennifer Lawrence

It’s been 20 long years since Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels first sported their dorky hairstyles in cult classic Dumb and Dumber. Now they’re back for a sequel – with a guest spot from mega-fan Jennifer Lawrence – as Lloyd and Harry go on the hunt for one of the latter’s children in the hope of getting one of her kidneys. Two decades in the making, Daniels has already promised “there are things we’re going to do in Dumb and Dumber To that make that toilet scene [seem] lame.” We. Can’t. Wait.

Interstellar (UK release: November)

Director: Christopher Nolan

Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Michael Caine, Jessica Chastain, David Oyelowo, Casey Affleck, Topher Grace, Wes Bentley

With its release date still a way off and its director known for keeping his plots fiercely under wraps, the first teaser for Christopher Nolan’s upcoming feature gets away with being suitably cryptic. Matthew McConaughey has been chalking up award-worthy roles for a while now (many are expecting an Academy nod for his gaunt performance in Dallas Buyers Club), but will Nolan be the man to take him up that extra notch? He stars as Cooper in a script penned by Nolan with his brother, Jonathan, believed to be about a group of scientists who voyage through wormholes into another dimension. The plot details may be scant, but the expectations are huge.