12/24/2014 05:00 EST | Updated 02/22/2015 05:59 EST

Top 5 films of 2014

The holidays are a special time for movie lovers. Not because time off allows for a few more hours in the cinema (though, that's nice), but because it offers a chance to debate the best movies of the year.

Our own film fanatic, Eli Glasner, has spent the past week fretting and fuming over which films to include on our Top 5 list.

Here is his (much agonized over) list of the best movies of 2014:

5. Guardians of the Galaxy

Guardians of the Galaxy is the superhero film that broke all the rules and made it work. Director James Gunn delivered a candy-coloured space opera with a high-flying spirit that fits the team featuring a raging raccoon and living tree. Chris Pratt became a star by stepping into the rocket boots of Starlord, but it was the all-too human dynamics of this group of misfits that saved the day. 

4. What If (The F Word)

- On mobile? Watch the official trailer for What If here

Leave it to Canadian director Michael Dowse to show Hollywood how to make a romantic comedy with extra smarts, hold the sap. Set in Toronto and featuring Daniel Radcliffe with his own accent and a hilarious self-deprecating charm, What If is a film that's easy to fall for. 

3. Under the Skin 

- On mobile? Watch the official trailer for Under the Skin here

Cinema vérité meets sci-fi strange. Mixing real footage with a story of an alien explorer, this film by Jonathan Glazer cements ScarlettJohansson's reputation as a fearless performer using her star power to fearsome effect. 

2. Whiplash

From the rat-a-tat-tat rhythms of Birdman to Chadwick Boseman's electric performance as James Brown in Get On Up, 2014 was great year for music in movies. But nothing came close to Whiplash. A ticking bomb of a battle between student and teacher featuring the most satisfying climax of the year. J.K. Simmons and Miles Teller give themselves, body and soul, to this psychological battle of wills set to a finger-snapping soundtrack. For a movie about genius, the unsung hero here is editor Tom Cross.

1. Boyhood 

- On mobile? Watch the official trailer for Boyhood here

Number 1 of 2014 is Boyhood. A movie so singular, so unique, it's almost unfair to compare it to others. A film of subtle pleasures, this mild masterpiece shows the power of patience. Forget Interstellar. If you want time travel, give Boyhood a few hours of your life. Director Richard Linklater followed his cast for 12 years. In this film, it's not the spaceships or superheroes that stand out. It's the journey of a young man, it's the bumps, the detours along the way. Life happens. The camera catches it. Remarkable.

The Best of the Rest 

And then, there were the other films. It was a fine year for movies that poked and prodded us. Here are honourable mentions to catch up on over the holidays:

Blue Ruin – A revenge film on the paleo diet. Cut out the fat and sugar, pour on the blood. As stunning as it is spare.

Dear White People – A scathing look at race relations in the age of Obama and the revelation of Tessa White as the radio host hiding behind her caustic attitude.

The Double – A quietly comic masterwork. It feels like Buster Keaton trapped in George Orwell's 1984, but funnier and more sinister at the same time.

Godzilla – No giant monster movie has the right to be this smart or beautiful. (full review)

Gone Girl – A beautifully made movie built to tease and terrify you in David Fincher's bile-soaked love letter to marriage. (full review)

The Grand Budapest Hotel – A Russian nesting doll of a film, with a story of love and loss at its centre. Director Wes Anderson is as inventive and archaic as ever, his zaniness tempered by the weight of action set in a country on the cusp of war. (full review)

John Wick – Whoa indeed, Keanu Reeves shows why you should never get between a man and his dog.

Locke – The definition of a tour de force, Tom Hardy will hold your attention while driving a car for 85 minutes. We must then wait for next summer's Mad Max movie for more. (full review)

The Lego Movie – If only all product placement was this subversive (and fun!) (full review)

Leviathan – Director Andrey Zvyagintsev seems to shy away from positioning this film as a parable for Mother Russia, but it's impossible to ignore the echos in this tale of small town people eking out a living in a country riddled by corruption.

The Lunchbox – Best food movie since Big Night and one that captures the rhythms of Mumbai with fresh eyes. (full review)

Obvious People – See this film to understand why Jenny Slate is one of this year's most exciting discoveries.

Only Lovers Left Alive – Sing me a song of eternal love, bohemian vampires and humanity teetering on the edge, saved only by art, beautiful art. (full review)

The Overnighters – Documentary director Jesse Moss picked Pastor Jay Reinke to tell the story of a small North Dakota city affected by the oil boom. But he never realized how riveting his subject would become.

Nightcrawler – Not only for Jake Gyllenhaal's bug-eyed performance as Lou Bloom, but a muscle car of a movie that leaves skid marks on your psyche.

Song of the Sea – The best new animated movie you haven't seen yet. 

We Are the Best – The spirit of punk is alive and well in Stockholm.

Wild – Who knew it would be Elle Woods (Reese Witherspoon) to get Montreal director Jean-Marc Vallée back to his rock 'n' roll roots with this vibrant film about a woman in recovery who is nobody's victim. (full review)