Last January I posted an article about the ten movies coming out in 2014 that I couldn’t wait to see. I enjoyed most of them, while a few left me disappointed. (Although no movie disappointed me nearly as much as Man of Steel in 2013.) Most of the movies I was looking forward to made it into the list of top ten highest grossing movies for 2014. Here’s a rundown of the biggest movies of 2014, along with how they compared to my expectations (exceeded, met or below), and how they fared at the box office.

1. Captain America: The Winter Soldier

  • Exceeded Expectations
  • #3 (for 2014) at the Box Office

Captain America: The Winter Soldier was the action movie to beat in 2014. Cap’ raised the bar not only for the year, but also for the Marvel universe. Steve Rogers was back from the dead, and had obviously added some moves to his training. We saw all kinds of tech and weaponry that added military heft to the power of Hydra. But with the fall of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the revelation of the Winter Soldier’s identity, Rogers’ world will look less black and white in Avengers: Age of Ultron, coming this May.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier was full of great fights, funny punchlines and endearing moments, such as the scene between Steve and his girl Peggy, who now resides in the dementia ward. Cap’ knocked it out of the park and I couldn’t have been more thrilled. Captain America: The Winter Soldier was my favorite movie of 2014 and lives on my iPhone for those times I need to watch someone kick some ass.

See also: 10 Funniest Scenes in Captain America: The Winter Soldier

2. X-Men: Days of Future Past

  • Below Expectations
  • #7 at the Box Office

I know there are a lot of mutants in the world of X-Men. That doesn’t mean they all need to be in a movie together. X-Men: Days of Future Past introduced so many new mutants (for those of us who only see the movies and don’t read the comics) that little time was spent on the characters I loved in X-Men: First Class. Plus, the plot was so lofty that it was hard to care about the outcome. Make the stakes personal if you want me to invest in a story. And time travel requires a strong suspension of disbelief, but even I (who will believe nearly everything movies and TV spoon feed me) had trouble going along for the ride. Even using the ever-popular Hugh Jackman (Wolverine) to tie the story together wasn’t enough.

Sure, X-Men: Days of Future Past was better than most movies in general, but it wasn’t nearly as riveting or thought-provoking as X-Men: First ClassX-Men or X2.

See also: Wish List for X-Men: Days of Future Past

Jennifer Lawrence stars as ‘Katniss Everdeen’ in THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY – PART 1. Photo Credit: Murray Close

THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY – PART 1. Photo Credit: Murray Close


3. Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1

  • Exceeded Expectations
  • #2 at the Box Office

The Hunger Games movies continue to surpass my expectations. I keep waiting for a stumble, because I’ve been trained to expect less from a movie than a book. However, the Hunger Games movies seem to do a better job of telling the story of Panem, because we see what’s happening from a bystander’s perspective, rather than from only Katniss’s.

Mockingjay – Part 1 covered a lot of ground in two hours and set us up for the big finale. No scene felt frivolous (I’m looking at you Battle of Five Armies!) or unnecessary. The action scenes had purpose; they weren’t stand alone set pieces or filler. Each character’s development progressed by facing obstacles and hard truths. And, not least of all, the casts’ performances were grounded, believable and sorrowful.

4. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

  • Below Expectations
  • #14 (Released December 17)

Oh, Peter Jackson. I know you much you love The HobbitThe Lord of the Rings and all of J.R.R. Tolkien’s work. But you needn’t be so indulgent with your movies.

Here’s my theory. When Peter Jackson, wrote, produced and directed the Lord of the Rings movies, New Line had him on a pretty tight budget, because fantasy movies weren’t terribly popular (hard to imagine). The studio worried about making their money back. When a director doesn’t have a lot of money to throw around, he tends to think hard about his choices, making sure the script and shots are tight, meaningful. As we know, the Lord of the Rings movies were a success with critics and at the box office.

This time around, with The Hobbit movies, Jackson was given much bigger budgets, so he didn’t have to be frugal with money, time or the script. The Battle of the Five Armies has a handful of poignant scenes, demonstrating the horror of war and the loyalty of friendship. Beyond that, too many scenes were indulgent, bloated and redundant. Too many scenes just made no sense. (Why not call Thorin’s affliction what it is — greed? Dragon sickness? Why wouldn’t they all catch it? And why would Thorin simply stand on the ice watching Azog float by? It made the outcome far less important than it should have been.)

I enjoyed The Battle of the Five Armies, but it certainly will not hold a dear spot in my heart like the Lord of the Rings movies do.

5. Divergent

  • Below Expectations
  • #18 at the Box Office

Divergent was terribly disappointing. Unlike the Hunger Games movies, this movie did a poor job of explaining its dystopian world, and what is driving Tris, Four and everyone else. Divergent was such a page-turner, so powerful, that watching the movie was an empty, disjointed experience.

Read my full review of 9 Things Wrong with Divergent for more explanations as to why this movie failed to meet my expectations.

Jason Dohring as Logan Echolls and Kristen Bell as Veronica Mars in "Veronica Mars."

“Veronica Mars” / Warner Bros. Digital Distribution


6. Veronica Mars

  • Met Expectations (not exceeds, because they were already so high)
  • Box Office N/A, mainly released VOD

Dear Kristen Bell, I know you have two children and you’re super famous, thanks to Frozen. But you and Rob Thomas need to find a way to continue making Veronica Mars episodes, movies, anything. Sure, the spin-off web series at CWSeed.comPlay It Again, Dick, stars one of the funniest cast members from the show, Ryan Hansen. But those quick episodes (which you guest star in) do nothing to ease the pain that was freshly wrought when I watched Veronica Mars, the movie. I was reminded how much I loved your sleuthing ways and sharp wit. If only Kickstarter could kickstart a network who’s willing to back Veronica Mars, the TV show, again.

See also: I Left My Heart in Neptune, CA: Veronica Mars Review

7. Maleficent

  • Met Expectations
  • #6 at the Box Office

There are few movie stars who can make a thin movie enjoyable to watch, but Angelina Jolie is one of them. Maleficent had more story than I was expecting, but not enough, really, to make it a great movie. However, Angelina Jolie is so bewitching to watch onscreen, that Maleficent was more entertaining than it deserved to be. The production design was gorgeous, which also helped to keep my eyes glued to the screen. The biggest stumble in Maleficent was the performance by Sharlto Copley, who played Stefan, the king whom Maleficent hated. He was bland and uninteresting.

My expectations weren’t high for this movie, so they were easily met. Maleficent reminded me that Angelina Jolie is famous for reasons better than tabloid rumors.

See also: Angelina Jolie Drives Maleficent

8. Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

  • Expectations N/A
  • #61 at the Box Office

I’m sorry, Chris Pine. The bad reviews and snowmageddon kept me from seeing your movie in theaters. Apathy has kept me from watching it at home. Does it help if I tell you that your singing was a pleasant surprise in Into the Woods?

Guardians of the Galaxy / Marvel

Guardians of the Galaxy / Marvel


9. Guardians of the Galaxy

  • Met Expectations
  • #1 at the Box Office

I thoroughly enjoyed Guardians of the Galaxy. It was a fun ride. But I didn’t love it the way, seemingly, millions of people did. Guardians hit all the right action and humor beats just right, but it was easily forgettable. Guardians just didn’t leave much of an impression on me. It’s not a movie I’m dying to see again, like I was with The Winter Soldier or even Avengers, although if someone else wanted to, I’d be up for it.

10. The Lego Movie

  • Exceeded Expectations
  • #4 at the Box Office

Everything was awesome! The Lego Movie was so funny, so clever, so interesting to watch that I’ve seen it many times since it debuted last February. The story was unique. The animation was gorgeous, and unique. The voiceover performances were wonderful and nuanced. I enjoyed Chris Pratt’s performance as Emmett more than his perforamce as Star-Lord. Those Lego people can apparently do no wrong, turning out top-notch TV cartoons, video games, and now this movie. I knew it was going to be good, but not that good.

The most ringing endorsement I can give The Lego Movie is that it was the only movie of 2014 that made my husband, a tough critic, laugh out loud.

What was your favorite movie of 2014? Tell us in the comments!

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