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1. THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING
In a star-making turn, Eddie Redmayne brought complexity and humor to his portrayal of physicist and bestselling author Stephen Hawking. Diagnosed with ALS in 1963, Hawking transcended disability with irrepressible genius – and the strength of his first wife, Jane (the luminous Felicity Jones). A tender story of a difficult marriage, Everything was a brainy movie with real heart.
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Part crackling backstage black comedy, part soulful rumination on acting, family and fame, Birdman let Michael Keaton soar again.
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5. GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY
As big, broad and openhearted as its lovable star Chris Pratt, this good-natured matinee movie's best special effect was its charm.
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This biopic made the great Martin Luther King Jr. (David Oyelowo) human – showing the poignant self-doubts of a man changing history.
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It started with a simple but brilliantly ambitious plan by director Richard Linklater: Film a coming-of-age story in real time, as its lead actor aged from 7 to 18. The resulting story about an ordinary boy's journey was sensitively, engrossingly told. But Boyhood's real achievement is the way it made you think about your own life, and maybe your children's – how keenly kids feel everything; how fast they grow up; how joyful, painful and, especially, how fleeting life can be.
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9. THE IMITATION GAME
Benedict Cumberbatch triumphed as WWII code breaker Alan Turing, who helped defeat Nazism and bring on the computer age but was persecuted for being gay.
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