Matthew McConaughey (foreground) and Woody Harrelson in HBO's True Detective (Photo: HBO)

1. The Grand Budapest Hotel


We begin each new year on a hopeful note by cataloging our most anticipated pop culture of the next 12 months. But before we look ahead to 2015, it’s time to see how our most anticipated entertainment of 2014 panned out. Wes Anderson’s latest film kicked off our Inventory of hopes and dreams in January, and The Grand Budapest Hotel didn’t let us down: Film editor A.A. Dowd called it a delightfully madcap caper.

2. Veronica Mars

The Kickstarted movie turned out well for marshmallows, though new fans might have been a little overwhelmed and confused. And, bonus, we also got a Veronica Mars book from Rob Thomas as well as a web-only spin-off about Ryan Hansen’s Dick Casablancas.


3. Game Of Thrones season four

HBO’s fantasy drama continued to delight our critics, even if it did rely more heavily on big moments.

4. Shows coming back for second seasons

No sophomore slumps here—returning shows like Nathan For You, The Americans, Hannibal, Orange Is The New Black, and Rectify continued to impress our critics.


5. Damon Albarn’s first solo record

To quote Pete Campbell, “Not great, Bob.” Albarn’s Everyday Robots was sleepy at best and absolutely boring at worst.

6. Better Call Saul

The first no-show on the list, Better Call Saul is now set to premiere February 8, 2015.


7. Inherent Vice

Critic Ben Kenigsberg admired the mix of tenderness and uncertainty in Paul Thomas Anderson’s adaptation of Thomas Pynchon’s book.


8. The Kitten Bowl

It was like the Puppy Bowl, you see, but with cats instead.

9. The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon
10. Late Night With Seth Meyers

Fallon’s debut was pretty good, and we liked the lip-sync battles in which Emma Stone “demolished” Fallon and Paul Rudd “absolutely destroyed” him, apparently. Late Night With Seth Meyers also became a late-night show that now airs on television.


11. David Mitchell, The Bone Clocks

A.V. Club critic Noah Cruickshank loved Mitchell’s novel, calling it both a “fast-paced thriller” and a “meditation on humanity.”

12. Goodbye To Language 3D

Jean-Luc Godard’s 3-D film reinvented a new medium, according to Ignatiy Vishnevetsky.


13. The new record from Cloud Nothings

Here And Nowhere Else, the Cleveland group’s fourth LP, was solid, even landing eighth on our Best Albums Of 2014 list.

14. Nymphomaniac

The first part was deemed a “must-see,” and the second was a worthwhile digression.


15. Review With Forrest MacNeil

Under a simplified title—just Review—Andy Daly finally got the star vehicle he deserves.


16. “Upperclassman” returning shows

A.V. Club readers will surely be stunned to learn that we still loved returning favorites like Mad Men, New Girl, and Bob’s Burgers. We also celebrated Community’s return to consistency after original showrunner Dan Harmon was restored to his post.

17. Sin City: A Dame To Kill For

Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez collaborated once again on Dame, but the result was a hollow shell of the original Sin City.


18. Wye Oak, TBA

Erik Adams praised Wye Oak’s 2014 album, Shriek, as a “dreamy reinvention” of the group’s sound, but the left turn didn’t find across-the-board love the way the band’s prior album did.

19. Downton Abbey season four

The ever-more-outlandish storytelling has its flaws, but Sonia Saraiya was still devoted to the aristocratic soap.


20. Sunn O))) & Ulver, Terrestrials

The first of Sunn O)))’s two collaboration albums this year, Terrestrials saw the band returning to the restrained sounds it first tapped into on White1. The duo’s accessible side is on full display here, but it can’t help but feel like a warm-up for the album it crafted with Scott Walker, the monolithic Soused.

21. True Detective

Knowing almost nothing, we were cautious with our anticipation, but of course True Detective turned out to be one of the best (and most talked about) series of 2014. “Expect lots of desperate men taking desperate measures,” we predicted, which turned out to be at least sort of true.


22. Whatever network TV puts on in the fall

Highlights included Black-ish, Jane The Virgin, and The Affair. Lowlights included Scorpion and Stalker.

23. Broad City


We loved the heart and humor of Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson’s Comedy Central series so much that we made it our No. 2 show of the year, an honor that “doo-doo ninja” Ilana would surely appreciate.

24. St. Vincent, St. Vincent

St. Vincent generally delivers, and St. Vincent is no exception. The stellar LP came in third on our Best Albums Of 2014 list and marked Annie Clark’s ascension to rock god. Clark was also one of the more active touring acts of 2014, putting on one of the more creative and artistic rock shows we’ve seen in a while.


25. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay—Part 1

More of an appetizer than a main course, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay—Part 1 set the stage for the end of the movie quartet and book trilogy but didn’t do much more. It was bleak and dramatic, yet it failed to give anxious audiences any sort of cathartic conclusion.

26. Actress, Ghettoville

Sean O’Neal enjoyed Actress’ melancholy, thoughtful electronic tracks enough to make this album a Hear This pick back in January.


27. Four Fists LP

The collaboration album between P.O.S. and Astronautalis never materialized in 2014, due in part to the rappers recording and releasing albums with their other projects. Four Fists continues to play shows, building anticipation for an album that’s apparently still in the works.

28. Helix

This sci-fi series intrigued Sonia Saraiya, at least until its dire first-season finale.


29. Gone Girl

Ignatiy Vishnevetsky hailed this adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s bestseller as “a trick only David Fincher could pull off.”


30. Moebius

This castration tale from Kim Ki-duk, “South Korea’s foremost purveyor of symbological horseshit,” didn’t have the inspiration to match its provocation.

31. The Magician’s Land

Novelist Lev Grossman concluded his Magicians trilogy, often described as “Harry Potter for grownups,” on a satisfying note.


32. Battle Creek

The other new series from Breaking Bad’s Vince Gilligan (besides Better Call Saul) didn’t make it to air in 2014, but it’s scheduled for a March 1, 2015 debut.

33. The Monuments Men

An enticing cast that included Bill Murray and George Clooney (who also directed) couldn’t save this forgettable World War II film.


34. The Fault In Our Stars

The weepy teen drama lost a little of its magic in its transition from book to film, but we were still pleased with the results.

35. Interstellar


Our critic considered Interstellar a decent but uneven space odyssey, and it proved to be one of the year’s most divisive films, both at A.V. Club offices and among our readers.

36. B.J. Novak, One More Thing: Stories And Other Stories

We didn’t end up reviewing this one, but A.V. Club staffers who read it found the Office veteran’s story collection thin and somewhat dull.


37. Godzilla

A.A. Dowd said that this time, Hollywood finally got the Japanese mega-monster right.

38. The Immigrant

Strong performances from Marion Cotillard and Joaquin Phoenix helped make The Immigrant an “American masterpiece.”


39. Girls season three

Jessa self-destructed in rehab, Marnie humiliated herself on stage, and Hannah’s narcissism grew ever deeper—as did our love for this HBO comedy.


40. Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings, Give The People What They Want

True to its title, Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings’ Give The People What They Want did just that—provided that the people wanted solid party soul laid down against a wall of groovy sound. The record was a sonic step up for the group as well, with the Dap-Kings sounding more refined and slicker through smart production.

41. Lydia Davis, Can’t And Won’t

We didn’t end up reviewing this collection of stories; the critical reception elsewhere was mixed but overall positive, with critics generally casting the book as uneven but worthwhile.


42. Watch Dogs

Watch Dogs’ developers would eventually go on record explaining that the game’s six-month development delay happened because, before the push, it was repetitive and boring. Turns out, six months wasn’t enough time to fix that.


43. Locke & Key: Alpha & Omega

No surprise here: We welcomed the full graphic-novel release of a book that made our list of 2013’s best comics in its serialized form.

44. New Braid album

In July, the reunited emo band Braid released No Coast, its first album in 15 years. All that waiting was worth it, as the band’s work is just as inspired as it was in its heyday.


45. Sense8

You’d need extra-sensory perception to have an opinion on Sense8 at this point, as Netflix pushed the Wachowskis’ sci-fi drama series to 2015.

46. Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra, Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light On Everything

We didn’t review it, and we can’t even remember who on the staff was excited about it, but the critics seemed to like Fuck Off all right.


47. Noah

A.A. Dowd thought this biblical Russell Crowe vehicle was a passable mix of silliness and profundity.

48. Enlisted

TV critic Les Chappell couldn’t get enough of Fox’s military comedy, but alas, Fox canceled it, and despite a rumor that Yahoo was interested in picking up the show, the site ultimately elected to pass.


49. Transistor

The sophomore effort from Supergiant didn’t quite live up to its debut, Bastion, but despite a bothersome coyness, critic Joe Keiser said it’s worth the time investment.

50. The Strain


Although it showed some midseason promise, LaToya Ferguson ended up disappointed with this horror series, created by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan (and based on their book trilogy by the same name).

51. Beck, Morning Phase

Another album that made our Best Of Music 2014 list, Morning Phase pleased most hardcore Beck fans—including the ones that nominated it for Album Of The Year at the 2015 Grammy Awards.


52. The Red Road

Brandon Nowalk found that The Red Road fit in with other Sundance dramas like Top Of The Lake and Rectify, but it didn’t measure up to their standard.

53. Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes

Andy Serkis contributes another great motion-capture performance to Dawn, but the film suffered from the inevitable predictability of a prequel. The result was a reasonably entertaining summer blockbuster.


54. Listen Up Philip

Jason Schwartzman and Elisabeth Moss didn’t let us down in this black comedy that, in Ignatiy Vishnevetsky’s words, establishes director Alex Ross Perry as a major talent.


55. Sherlock

The increasing self-involvement of the Benedict Cumberbatch detective series led to a fair but uneven season.

56. Tina Fey’s new shows

Neither of Fey’s new TV projects made it to air in 2014, but it was a good news/bad news situation: Fox declined to pick up Cabot College, a fish-out-of-water comedy about an all-women’s college that goes co-ed, but Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt jumped from NBC to Netflix and got a second season in the process. Schmidt, which stars Ellie Kemper as a cult member who’s starting over in New York, is slated to premiere in March.


57. The Witness

Braid creator Jonathan Blow isn’t done with his gorgeous-looking, Myst-like puzzle game yet. Maybe next year.

58. Self Defense Family, Try Me

The first of Self Defense Family’s many releases in 2014, Try Me remains a harrowing listen due both to its length and subject matter. It’s an engaging piece of work in spite of its flaws, though the band’s best release in 2014 wouldn’t come until much later in the year.


59. Warpaint, Warpaint

The second album from the indie rock band starts off strong but loses its focus toward the end. We still thought it was worth a listen.

60. Stuart Dybek, Ecstatic Cahoots and Paper Lantern

Noah Cruickshank said that these two short story collections were among the best things he read in the first half of 2014.


61. Pompeii

Burdened by a lifeless first act, this movie wasn’t as much of a blast as we had hoped.


62. Kelis, Food

The singer’s first new record since 2010’s Flesh Tone, Food was okay, not great. Kelis did get her own cooking show out of it, though.

63. X-Men: Days Of Future Past

Our critic praised Days as “the first Marvel movie to truly embrace comics-style storytelling,” and readers approved overall, too.


64. Justin Cronin, The City Of Mirrors

The third book of Cronin’s trilogy of vampire novels is now due out next year.

65. Mulaney

We had unreasonably high hopes for Mulaney, and we still find John Mulaney sharp and funny. His show probably should’ve remained unseen.


66. Dark Souls II

Dark Souls II might have been slightly less punishing than its revered predecessor, but it was an exchange worth making. The minimal kindness that this sequel grants to players constitutes an invitation to trek even deeper into its mysterious world—and it does little to soften its blows.


67. The Giver

The film version of this young adult classic tried too hard to ape the conventions of other YA hits; mediocrity ensued.

68. Elbow’s sixth album

Well, it came out, and it was great, but Elbow still can’t make a dent in America’s mainstream—the British band might just be a bit too moody, and British. Still, The Take Off And Landing Of Everything debuted atop the British charts and hit a respectable No. 83 in the U.S.


69. Titanfall

In January, we wondered whether this shooter might serve as a training tool for a violent future full of giant weaponized robot suits. It’s still hard to make a call on that, but this game from the ousted creators of Call Of Duty did prove to be a valuable tool for invigorating the tried-and-true formula of its ancestors.