Best Lesser-Known Movies from 2014

The Best of 2014! Check out these great lesser-known films, and forgive me for the inclusion of a small number of bigger indie releases.

#1 Night Moves

Dark and gripping atmosphere filled with guilt and paranoia permeate this tale of activism.

Josh (Jesse Eisenberg) and Dena (Dakota Fanning) are two young environmentalists. They’re activists who want to change the world with one big plan. But “Night Moves” presents that big plan in a small way, focusing entirely on the characters and their actions and becomes so much bigger than an “environmental movie.” This is more universal than being about eco-terrorists. This is about anybody who commits a crime and thinks they’re righteous. 2013

Directed by: Kelly Reichardt

Screenplay by: Jon Raymond, Kelly Reichardt

Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Dakota Fanning and Peter Sarsgaard
See full review of Night Moves

#2 About Alex

About an ensemble that gives a new generation a film to call their own.

“About Alex” is advertised as “The Big Chill” (1984) for Millennials or Gen Yers, but in an effort to not sell this film short, it’s for anybody who was too young to be able to call “The Big Chill” their own. The main actors are all over 30 and the social media references weren’t over-done. It also boasts an indie cast to die for. I’m a big fan of pretty much all of them and they are cast perfectly for their skills. 2014

Directed by: Jesse Zwick

Screenplay by: Jesse Zwick

Starring: Jason Ritter, Nate Parker, Aubrey Plaza, Max Greenfield and Maggie Grace
See full review of About Alex

#3 Murder of a Cat


A deceptively clever and very funny murder mystery.
Fran Kranz is Clinton - a young man who lives in his mother's basement, wears a robe all day long, has his mother drive him around town, laughs at “Who's the Boss” re-runs, and refers to his cat Mouser as his best friend. The comedy angle is clear and it works. Kranz's ability to portray a comedic every-man lends Clinton a perfect amount of familiarity but mixed with an over-the-top ridiculousness that allows the film to take us wherever it wants to go. 2014

Directed by: Gillian Greene

Screenplay by: Christian Magalhaes, Robert Snow

Starring: Fran Kranz, J.K. Simmons, Greg Kinnear and Nikki Reed
See full review of Murder of a Cat

#4 Devil's Knot


An affecting film of injustice, corruption and hopelessness in Arkansas 1993 (or Salem 1693).
“Devil’s Knot” is the story of the West Memphis Three. Three young boys murdered in West Memphis, Arkansas, and the three teenage “devil worshippers” hung out to dry, oh, I’m sorry, I mean accused of the crime. It’s an unfortunate story and an odd movie and one that doesn’t let go until you’re convinced that the world is going to hell in a handbasket. 2013

Directed by: Atom Egoyan

Screenplay by: Paul Harris Boardman, and Scott Derrickson
Based on book by Mara Leveritt

Starring: Colin Firth, Reese Witherspoon
See full review of Devil's Knot

#5 They Came Together


Skewers romantic comedies without insulting its fans leading to a very funny comedy.
“They Came Together” is a comedy, but not a romantic comedy. That distinction should be made very clear because as the former, it works very well, but as the latter it really doesn’t work at all. It is of course a satire of romantic comedies and begins with Joel (Paul Rudd) and Molly (Amy Poehler) telling the story of how they met and fell in love, which of course fits the plot of a movie perfectly! 2014

Directed by: David Wain

Screenplay by: Michael Showalter, and David Wain

Starring: Paul Rudd, Amy Poehler
See full review of They Came Together

#6 The One I Love


One part reality, one part mystery, one part love.
“The One I Love” stars Mark Duplass and Elisabeth Moss as a married couple desperately trying to recapture the spark, magic and love of their marriage. Their therapist suggests a weekend away is all they need. A house, a gardened backyard, a pool and a guest house is theirs to make use of as they will. While both are willing to try, I would venture that both are looking outside. 2014

Directed by: Charlie McDowell

Screenplay by: Justin Lader

Starring: Mark Duplass, Elisabeth Moss
See full review of The One I Love

#7 Authors Anonymous

A clever, documentary-styled addition to the romantic comedy genre.

“Authors Anonymous” presents a group of writers desperate for the next great idea and their moment of success; either order would be fine with them. It’s a comedy presented in documentary style, but it’s not really a mockumentary because it doesn’t parody the genre—it parodies the characters. These characters are all selfish, stupid or stubborn, or all of the above. 2014

Directed by: Ellie Kanner

Screenplay by: David Congalton

Starring: Kaley Cuoco and Chris Klein
See full review of Authors Anonymous

#8 Life After Beth


Life, death, Beth and funny zombies.
Some films blur the lines between good and evil, right and wrong, or friends and lovers. “Life After Beth” blurs the line between life and death. Even Beth herself explains that there’s alive and then there’s dead, and you can’t be both. If you could be both, things would get pretty bad, and weird. Especially weird. 2014

Directed by: Jeff Baena

Screenplay by: Jeff Baena

Starring: Dane DeHaan, Aubrey Plaza
See full review of Life After Beth

#9 Happy Christmas


A look at the line between immaturity and maturity with charming characters.
“Happy Christmas” is an oddly mature look at immature people as they approach a happy time in people’s lives – Christmas. Kelly (Melanie Lynskey) and Jeff (Joe Swanberg) is a happily married couple with a young baby. Jeff’s younger sister, Jenny (Anna Kendrick), just went through a break-up and is coming to stay with them in Chicago. She isn’t particularly happy, but she does have a certain happy-go-lucky nature to her. 2014

Directed by: Joe Swanberg

Screenplay by: Joe Swanberg

Starring: Anna Kendrick, Melanie Lynskey
See full review of Happy Christmas

#10 The Pretty One

An uneven beginning gives way to a cute and sweet story of love and finding yourself.

“The Pretty One” is the story of identical twins Laurel and Audrey (Zoe Kazan), except Laurel is told she should look more like Audrey. Following the death of their mother, Audrey moved to the city and Laurel retreated farther into herself. This leaves one twin more rejuvenated looking hot and modern while the other is just a mess. Audrey wants Laurel to change, Laurel doesn’t know what she wants. 2013

Directed by: Jenée LaMarque

Screenplay by: Jenée LaMarque

Starring: Zoe Kazan, Jake M. Johnson
See full review of The Pretty One

#11 Better Living Through Chemistry

An amusing full-circle story that detours through many different genres.

Advertised as a comedy, “Better Living Through Chemistry” might seem like the next “The Wolf of Wall Street” with Sam Rockwell having an affair and a joyride involving sex and drugs, lots of drugs. But curiously, the idyllic small-town opening and Rockwell’s depressed, every-man Doug Varney suggests that the movie is actually about a mid-life crisis taking place in a superficial suburban community. 2014

Directed by: Geoff Moore, David Posamentier

Screenplay by: Geoff Moore, David Posamentier

Starring: Sam Rockwell, Olivia Wilde, Michelle Monaghan and Ken Howard
See full review of Better Living Through Chemistry

#12 Date and Switch


A "bro" and "dude" take on a familiar story making it sweet and funny with a simple originality.
“Date and Switch” stars Nicholas Braun and Hunter Cope as best friends Michael and Matty who have made a pact that they’re going to lose their virginity before their high school prom. What sounds like the gazillionth film in a long line of “American Pie” rip-offs luckily has a refreshing twist when Matty comes out and tells his best friend that he’s gay. 2014

Directed by: Chris Nelson

Screenplay by: Alan Yang

Starring: Nicholas Braun and Hunter Cope
See full review of Date and Switch

#13 Barefoot

Takes the road trip farther than it should, but stays together with charm, wit and great dialogue.

“Barefoot”, also released as “The Wedding Guest”, is about (fittingly enough) a barefooted wedding guest. Well, that’s a plot point. As with a lot of indie romantic comedies, it’s about two mis-matched people (or two people not well suited for life in general) who find each other and figure out what love is. Better than that premise, the film has clever lines, funny moments, and great production. 2014

Directed by: Andrew Fleming

Screenplay by: Stephen Zotnowski

Starring: Scott Speedman, Evan Rachel Wood
See full review of Barefoot

#14 Take Care

Taking their sweet time to get to a charming romantic comedy.

Leslie Bibb stars as Frannie, a young woman immobilized by a car accident and finds that independent living is significantly more difficult without the ability to walk around. Her friends and family abandon her in her time of need, so Frannie decides to turn to her ex-boyfriend Devon (Thomas Sadoski) for help. “Take Care” is indeed a romantic comedy; sometimes light on the comedy, sometimes light on the romance, but it all comes together in the end. 2014

Directed by: Liz Tuccillo

Screenplay by: Liz Tuccillo

Starring: Leslie Bibb, Thomas Sadoski
See full review of Take Care

#15 Camp Takota

Go back to camp and find three funny and entertaining women.

“Camp Takota” starts in the city where Elise (Grace Helbig) has a handsome fiancée and is dutifully working in the publishing industry before she finds success as a writer. Then that all comes crashing down and through a series of drunken phone calls, finds herself returning to work at the all-girls camp she used to attend as a kid. The opening is surprisingly very funny and Elise’s flaws are front-and-center, making her likable and entertaining. 2014

Directed by: Chris Riedell, Nick Riedell

Screenplay by: Lydia Genner, Mamrie Hart and Michael Goldfine

Starring: Grace Helbig, Hannah Hart and Mamrie Hart
See full review of Camp Takota

#16 Audrey

Funny girl, annoying girl, Audrey will make you smile.

Audrey (Sybil Darrow) is the title character of the indie comedy “Audrey.” It’s also her show as she’s the only main character in a movie with only one main setting. The premise is simple: Audrey is waiting for a date that is late. This is not simple for Audrey. The restaurant is filled with people who are going to judge her, she is going to judge herself, and then she'll judge other people too. 2014

Directed by: Dean Pollack

Screenplay by: Sybil Darrow, Dean Pollack

Starring: Sybil Darrow
See full review of Audrey

#17 #Stuck

Stuck with characters, dialogue and comedy that all work.

“#Stuck” starts the morning after a one night stand for Guy (Joel David Moore) and Holly (Madeline Zima), and as one of the lines in the film points out, it’s called the morning after for a reason. Holly is stuck without a car, Guy graciously agrees to drive her back to the bar where they met, and on the way there they get stuck in traffic. The film is about their non-relationship as they are forced to spend approximately one hour in Guy’s car in LA traffic. 2014

Directed by: Stuart Acher

Screenplay by: Stuart Acher

Starring: Madeline Zima, Joel David Moore
See full review of #Stuck

#18 Claire


Themes of popularity and friendship are beautifully played up as Jack evolves and Claire is dead.
Jack (Aidan Bristow) is the popular guy at school; the football quarterback. Claire (Jennifer Baute) is a nice, pretty, shy girl. A football injury leaves Jack in a cast and on crutches; soon thereafter, following a drunk-driving accident, Claire is dead. The problem as Jack sees it is that he didn’t know her, but everybody else seemed to. And he starts looking into Claire’s past and her death. 2013

Directed by: Dan Ast

Screenplay by: Dan Ast

Starring: Aidan Bristow, Cory Driscoll
See full review of Claire

#19 The Angriest Man in Brooklyn


The angry routine is dropped along with the comedy in favour of a heartfelt character drama.
Robin Williams is “The Angriest Man in Brooklyn” and for a dark comedy that casting does seem to be perfection, but Williams’ comedic rant routine is not the highlight of the film. What starts as a dark comedy becomes a drama and most viewers who are expecting to laugh won’t be ready for the dramatic shift in tone. The premise is Dr. Sharon Gill is living the worst day of her life and accidentally tells Henry Altmann that he’s living the last 90 minutes of his life. 2014

Directed by: Phil Alden Robinson

Screenplay by: Daniel Taplitz
Based on film by Assi Dayan

Starring: Robin Williams, Mila Kunis
See full review of The Angriest Man in Brooklyn

#20 Are You Here


Here, there, life is everywhere.
“Are You Here” is a light-hearted drama about some of life’s heavier themes – death, love, friendship, moving on and what it all means, and then offers some interesting laughs at the strangest times. Whatever you thought this film was supposed to be, it’s not that. It is a comedy, but hardly the road trip comedy it's advertised as. It's funny and clever, and it most certainly is a very odd look at life after loss. 2013

Directed by: Matthew Weiner

Screenplay by: Matthew Weiner

Starring: Zach Galifianakis, Owen Wilson
See full review of Are You Here

#21 Favor


Well-written characters debating success, friendship and murder.
Friends help friends get rid of dead bodies, right? Or, so asks the film “Favor”. Kip (Blayne Weaver) is a successful, happily married man (or at least a married man) who has been seeing a waitress and after a disagreement, he accidentally kills her. Kip calls on his old friend Marvin (Patrick Day) to help him out. Things don’t go very well, but that’s mostly based on the characteristics of these two men. 2013

Directed by: Paul Osborne

Screenplay by: Paul Osborne

Starring: Blayne Weaver, Patrick Day
See full review of Favor

#22 Lullaby

Thoughtful questions and ideas give way to a simple family drama.

Patriarch Robert Lowenstein (Richard Jenkins) is dying. However, as his son Jonathan (Garrett Hedlund) informs us, he always says he’s dying and who knows if it’s going to stick this time. Suggesting that he could be dying or he could be lying, or his son is lying, and somebody is being insensitive, and somebody is going to have to figure out their place in life sooner rather than later. And thus begins a rather interesting angle for a grieving family drama. 2014

Directed by: Andrew Levitas

Screenplay by: Andrew Levitas

Starring: Garrett Hedlund, Richard Jenkins, Amy Adams and Jessica Brown Findlay
See full review of Lullaby