3. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Who knew one of the most affecting, human movies of 2014 would revolve around super-smart motion-captured apes? For the first few moments, as Caesar (Andy Serkis) and his ape cronies swing through the Northern California Redwoods, you’re stunned by how incredible the special effects are. To their credit, in a true testament to their quality, a few minutes later you forget about them entirely. While the human side of Matt Reeves’ Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is woefully underdeveloped, the film more than makes up for it with the dynamic between the apes. Themes of family, friendship, sacrificing for the greater good, making hard choices, and intolerance run through the narrative, and almost every element comes together to form something greater than the sum of its parts. No matter how much they try, two characters, one on each side, can’t stem the tide of the inevitable coming conflict, and Dawn remains a haunting film that sticks with you long after the credits roll.