The ten best films of 2014 so far

From the mad Dane's sex-addict epic to bellboy hijinks à la Wes, here are the films that got us excited this year

Tony Revolori and Saoirse Ronan in The Grand Budap
Tony Revolori and Saoirse Ronan in The Grand Budapest Hotel Fox UK

STRANGER BY THE LAKE

After it steamed up Cannes last year we were so anticipating this one – and it more than delivered. As psychologically complex as it is explicit, Alain Giraudie’s French arthouse thriller about an amiable cruising-spot regular (Pierre de Ladonchamps) who falls for his murderous hook-up (Christophe Paou) is one of the most daringly original takes on desire and risk we’ve seen in a good while. Read our interview with the director here.

NYMPHOMANIAC

Another release high on sauce factor, which was surprisingly better than its shock-tactic marketing (creepy Shia LaBeouf in an elevator, anyone?) let on, is this irreverent sex-addict epic from Danish tsar of dysfunction Lars Von Trier. Charlotte Gainsbourg plays nymphomaniac Joe, who catalogues her life’s carnal encounters to the man who’s helped her off the cobbles after a beating (Stellan Skarsgard). Brimming with sly humour and bold philosophising, this is the notorious director at his impishly transgressive best. Revisit Stacy Martin’s Dazed takeover here.

THE DOUBLE

The plot of Fyodor Dostoevsky's 19th-Century Russian novella The Double is pretty much your worst office-job nightmare. A government clerk goes mad after his doppelganger takes over his life - a guy who looks exactly like him but is the charming extrovert to his doormat vibe. English director Richard Ayoade does a brilliant job adapting the classic tale. Jesse Eisenberg and Mia Wasikowska star in the atmospheric, pitch-black comedy, which while shot in London with stylish contemporary flair still keeps a foot in old-world majestic gloom. Read our interview with Jesse Eisenberg (the real one).

UNDER THE SKIN

After nailing it as the voice of a sultry advanced-operating system in Spike Jonze's near-future mind-bender Her, actress Scarlett Johansson took sci-fi darker with this enigmatic, haunting slice of strangeness edged with bleak naturalism from master of atmosphere Jonathan Glazer. As a femme fatale alien who drives a van round the Scottish Highlands luring men to their deaths, her motives are unfathomable, and her methods extreme. Read our longread interview with the actress here.

Under the Skin is available on DVD on July 14.

EXHIBITION

Taking eeriness to the domestic realm, Joanna Hogg delivered another of the freshest Brit offerings we've seen this year. Idiosyncratic and darkly witty, it centres on an artist couple in a relationship crisis who are trying to sell their stark modernist home. The building is shot as a haunting presence in this playful experiment of urban psychological horror. It stars Viv Albertine, of '70s punk band The Slits, whose ace, brutally honest new memoir Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys makes us doubly excited about this film.

THE PUNK SINGER

Another punk frontwoman – Bikini Kills singer and all-round force of nature Kathleen Hanna – is the focus of an electrifying recent doc, by director Sini Anderson. It looks back on Hanna's role spearheading the riot grrrl movement and commandeering a place for women in punk as well as her influence on other bands (she famously coined Nirvana song title "Smells Like Teen Spirit"), and her battle with Lyme disease. Her hubby Adam Horovitz of the Beastie Boys and Sonic Youth's Kim Gordon are among many other musicians interviewed. Revisit riot grrrl with Dazed's best ofs.

A TOUCH OF SIN

Maverick director Jia Zhangke’s explosive, bloody latest A Touch of Sin has been the talk of festivals – and now we can see why. A daring take on modern China and its unbridled plunge into capitalism executed with the hard-ass flair of wuxia vigilante tales, the film dramatises four recent real-life incidents in which people cornered by corruption and desperation violently snapped. Downplayed by the mainstream news, these stories had circulated on microblogging site Weibo. Jia Zhangke gave us the lowdown on how the film came together last month.

WE ARE THE BEST!

Swedish director Lukas Moodysson has abandoned the film-to-ruin-your-day vibe of his soul-destroyingly bleak Lilya 4-Ever (2002), instead giving us a film that's as sweet as it is irreverent and hilarious. Based on the comic by his wife Coco Moodysson, it follows three girls in '80s Stockholm (Bobo, Klara and their new friend Hedvig - the outcast Christian they determine to convert to punk) as they form a band, penning songs for school angst like "Hate the Sport". The director spoke to Dazed about going punk in April – read it here.

THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL

No-one does pure whimsical pleasure like Wes Anderson – and he outdid himself with this creation of an utterly immersive world of lost grandeur and production design porn. Meticulously crafted, it transported us to a famed eastern European hotel of the 20s, where respected hotel concierge Gustav H. (Ralph Fiennes) enlists bellboy Zero Moustafa (Tony Revolori) to help him hide the invaluable painting he’s been bequeathed by a lover (Tilda Swinton), as her relatives target the spoils like crows. Read how it all came to vibrant life in our behind-the-scenes Grand Budapest Hotel Day takeover.

FRANK

Michael Fassbender stars in this very dark, very funny and genuinely weird film about an indie band who go into seclusion to record an album – wearing a giant papier-mache head for most of it. Directed by Lenny Abrahamson, it’s inspired by 80s television and radio persona Frank Sidebottom (co-writer Jon Ronson was part of Sidebottom’s band). We loved its wry, satirical take on music world cliches and I’m-so-weird-man posturing. Not least Maggie Gyllenhaal as an aggressive theremin player. Creep yourself out all over again with our Frank day takeover.

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