Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Best Movies of 2014

Here’s the headline regarding movies in 2014—most of the big-budget, Hollywood films were either just OK or really bad.  However, the good news embedded in that headline is that there was a revival of smaller, independent films, some of which were outstanding and many of which are already available via pay-per-view and/or streaming video providers.

Before I get started listing the movies I liked, I should point out that I did not see “Two Days, One Night” and “Wild Tales,”  which might still make the list, once I get to see them.  If you know me and/or have read my list before, you probably know a few things about my movie preferences:
·  My favorite movies have both a good plot and well-developed characters.
·  I don’t like movies about nasty people doing awful things to each other.
·  I enjoy movies that either entertain me and/or in some way uplift me.
·  I don’t watch a lot of animated films.
·  I don’t include documentaries on my list.
·  I tend to like films where the script is fresh and interesting.
·  I’m not invited to free movie screenings, nor do I get to meet the casts or directors.

So, with that, here is my list of the Best Movies of 2014, in inverse order:

33.    “The Fault in Our Stars”

Directed by Josh Boone, this is a story about teenagers with cancer.  I know what you’re thinking—I said I like movies that entertain or uplift me—but this movie actually is uplifting in many ways, without being schmaltzy.  That’s due to an outstanding book by John Green, a great screenplay by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, and outstanding performances by Shailene Woodley (who is great in everything), Ansel Elgort, Nat Wolff, Laura Dern (who should get a special award for playing a mom in both this and “Wild”), and Willem Dafoe.  The movie is surprising in its lack of cancer-genre clichés.

32.    “The Babadook”

This low-budget Australian horror film is suspenseful less because of its villain (the title character, who first appears in a children’s book) than because of its heroine (played by Essie Davis), who is the scariest character in the movie.  As a result, you’re not sure whether what you are seeing is real or imagined.  I would have rated it higher if the director (Jennifer Kent)  hadn’t telegraphed much of the story early in the film.  But it was still riveting to watch, and the ending is equally confounding.

31.    “Obvious Child”

The brainchild (pun intended) of writer-director Gillian Robespierre, this movie stars Jenny Slate as a raunchy, Jewish comedian who has a relationship with a WASPy Midwesterner (played by Jake Lacy) that leads to her getting pregnant.  She then has to determine what to do about both the relationship and the pregnancy, and the film is neither preachy or cliché in exploring those choices.  With fine supporting performances by Gaby Hoffmann and Polly Draper, this movie defies convention.

30.    “The Theory of Everything

This is one of those movies where the acting is the reason to watch it.  While there are some good lines in the script, the direction by James Marsh is uneven and repetitive, and the focus is on Stephen Hawking and the relationship with his wife, Jane Wild, but it barely addresses the period of Hawking's life after Jane, during which he has done much of his most memorable work.  Nevertheless, the acting by Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones is superb, and well worth the price of admission.

29.    “Only Lovers Left Alive”

Writer-director Jim Jarmusch makes movies that are not for everyone (half the time, they’re not for me).  Add in his selection of Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston—two actors who require little or no makeup to look like vampires, and you have the most intelligent vampire movie in a long time.  After all, it includes musical references ranging from Schubert to Eddie Cochran to Jack White, and literary references that include phony passports in the names of Daisy Buchanan and Stephen Dedalus.  The film even includes John Hurt playing Christopher Marlowe as a centuries-old vampire (I guess he’s not buried in that unmarked grave after all).  The plot centers around a married vampire couple whose immortal lives are getting stale until the entrance of her sister (played by Mia Wasikowska) who shakes things up a bit.  This movie is stylish to a fault, but it works.

28.    “The Immigrant”

It’s not a stretch to say that Marion Cotillard is one of the world’s best screen actresses, and this film supports that assertion, as she plays a Polish woman named Ewa who arrives at Ellis Island in 1921 to watch her sister taken and quarantined with tuberculosis.  Ewa spends the rest of the movie doing everything she can to survive and reunite with her sister.  In that process, she enters into a very questionable and unconventional relationship with a Jewish showman/pimp named Bruno, played by Joaquin Phoenix.  Directed by James Gray and written by Gray and Ric Menello, this film also features a scene-stealing performance by Jeremy Renner.  Overall, it paints a painfully realistic picture of life and respect in a time and place where both are undervalued.

27.    “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1”

In the third installment of this excellent series, Jennifer Lawrence reprises her role as Katniss Everdeen, who has been become the symbolic leader of the revolution.  The cast is the American equivalent of the Harry Potter movies, with recurring parts played by Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Donald Sutherland, Elizabeth Banks, Stanley Tucci, Jeffrey Wright, and the late, great Philip Seymour Hoffman.  Add in Julianne Moore, Patina Miller, and Natalie Dormer (just to name a few), and you can understand why this film, directed by Francis Lawrence, is so intriguing.  The screenplay by Peter Craig and Danny Strong, from the book by Suzanne Collins, provides ample opportunity for courage and resilience while exploring the power of love.

26.    “We Are the Best”

A Swedish film written and directed by Lukas Moodysson and starring Mira Barkhammar, Mira Grosin, and Liv LeMoyne as three 13-year-old girls who don’t fit in and, after being humiliated in gym class, decide to form a punk rock band.  Of course, only one of the girls actually knows how to play an instrument, so this isn’t one of those movies where they go on to achieve greatness or win a big competition.  Instead, the film just explores the uncomfortable and exuberant nature of being a young teenage girl, and all the insecurities that come with it.  Each parent is very different but very real—not the cartoon characters so often depicted in teen movies.  What I liked about this movie is seeing the world through the eyes of these very smart but somewhat confused young minds and the joy they take from each experience.

25.    “Beyond the Lights”

It's been a breakout year for British actress Gugu Mbatha-Raw, who starred in both "Belle" and this movie, about a young singer trying to handle the trappings of fame while dealing with her mother (played excellently by Minnie Driver) and love interest (played by Nate Parker).  The movie starts out somewhat formulaic, but eventually finds itself through the excellent direction of Gina Prince-Blythewood.  While not perfect, it is definitely worth watching and firmly establishes that Mbatha-Raw has the chops to be a fixture in the film world for years to come.

24.    “The Grand Budapest Hotel”

Intellectually, I loved this movie’s humor, absurdity, and performances by a star-studded cast that includes Ralph Fiennes, F. Murray Abraham, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, and Bill Murray, just to name a few.  However, viscerally, I was left slightly underwhelmed by the inherent glibness that director Wes Anderson displayed in the movie (as he often does).  That direction and the script by Stefan Zweig lacked the sweetness and character development of Anderson’s last film, “Moonrise Kingdom,” so I ranked this lower than did most movie critics.  Even with those caveats, it is still a very good film that displays Anderson’s unusual take on the world.

23.    “Selma”
Written by Paul Webb and directed by Ava DuVernay, this is a powerful film that centers around the Civil Rights struggle, specifically the events that occurred in Selma, Alabama in 1964 and 1965.  There are excellent performances by David Oleyowo (as Dr. Martin Luther King), Carmen Ejogo (as Corretta Scott King), Oprah Winfrey, Tom Wilkinson (as Lyndon Johnson), and Tim Roth (as George Wallace), and there are some breathtaking moments of both cruelty and inspiration.  What hurt this movie was that first-time director DuVernay tried to include too much of the overall story while neglecting to focus on some of the really interesting characters directly involved in the Selma events.  Nevertheless, it's a story that deserves to be told and a movie that should be watched.
22.    “Locke”

Talk about a unique movie, this one features one man, in a car, talking to several characters (we only hear their voices) on a mobile phone (with Bluetooth, of course), shown in real time (everything takes place in the 90-minute length of the movie).   It doesn’t hurt that the man—Ivan Locke—is played by Tom Hardy (who had quite the year as an actor), or that the movie is excellently written and directed by Steven Knight.  It also matters that some of the voices are supplied by such fine British actors as Ruth Wilson, Olivia Colman, Andrew Scott, and Ben Daniels.  But the beauty of this movie is its immediacy—a life in turmoil is happening as you are watching it, and you feel for the lead character as much as the faceless characters on the multiple calls.  By the end, I was almost as exhausted as Ivan Locke assuredly was.

21.    “Under the Skin”

The award for “Absolutely Weirdest Movie of the Year” goes to this film, directed by Jonathan Glazer and written by Glazer and Walter Campbell from a book by Michael Faber.  Set in Scotland, it’s about a woman, played by Scarlett Johansson,  finding odd men and seducing them.  Right from the beginning, the filmmaking is very strange, but the really weird part comes as we find out who (and what) this woman really is.  I’m not sure why I was so riveted to (and by) this movie; maybe it was the eerie nature of every encounter, or maybe it was watching Johansson explore her completely naked body in a mirror for several minutes (it is Scarlett Johansson after all).  Whatever, it’s a film that plays in your head for several days after it’s over.

20.    “The Good Lie”

Another actor who had a really good year was Reese Witherspoon, who in this movie plays an employment agency counselor who has to find jobs for three men from Sudan, played by Arnold Oceng, Ger Duany, and Emmanuel Jal, who were among the “Lost Boys of Sudan.”  If you don’t know about this horrific story, I urge you to google it, so you get a better idea of what happened in Sudan from 1983 to 2005.  Adding to this film’s credibility is that actors Duany and Jal were actually among those Lost Boys.  Director Philippe Falardeau and writer Margaret Nagle exercise the good sense to make this movie about the Africans, rather than focusing much on the white people (played by Witherspoon, Cory Stoll, and Sarah Baker) who helped them settle in Kansas City.  In fact, the first part of the movie focuses on the boys and their sister, as they try to survive in Africa.  This is a good movie about a story that should be told.

19.    “The Lunchbox”

First released in 2013 but not available in the US until early in 2014, the premise of this movie revolves around a lunch delivery system in Mumbai in which someone at home prepares a lunch and puts it into a series of metal tins that become a larger “lunchbox.”  Those lunchboxes are then given to delivery men who transport them via bicycle to the office workers for whom they are intended.  The system is famously efficient, except in this rare case, when the wrong man starts receiving lunch from a woman he doesn’t know.  Soon, they start including notes and letters with those lunches, and the movie goes from there.  Written and directed by Ritesh Batra, and starring Irrfan Khan (recognizable from many other roles), Nimrat Kaur, and Nawazuddin Siddiqui (as Khan’s younger protégé), this is an excellently tender movie that reaffirms the beauty of emotions expressed in writing.

18.    “Dear White People”

Written and directed by newcomer Justin Simien, this film was incorrectly marketed as a comedy.  While there are some funny lines, it is squarely a movie about racism in many of its forms.  It starts out with characters that seem one-dimensional, but as it moves along, you start to see the other sides of many of those characters—some for the better and others for the worse, but mostly just interesting.  Tessa Thompson is outstanding in the lead role, and she is supported by good performances from an ensemble including Tyler James Williams, Teyonah Parris, Brandon Bell, and Justin Dobies.  While the film suffers from low-budget editing and a few missteps from a first-time director, it is nevertheless successful in pointing out that although there’s color in the White House, racism still exists throughout society, even in the world of academia.

17.    “The Drop”

James Gandolfini’s last role is a beauty, befitting his immense talent for expressing multiple emotions simultaneously.  He is joined here by Tom Hardy and Noomi Rapace in a movie that stayed under the radar this year but is really good.  Directed by Michaël R. Roskam from a story and script by Dennis Lehane, it explores Brooklyn’s seedy underworld, including the influence of Chechen mobsters.  But it’s more about three people whose lives have suffered through various twists and turns until they arrive at this moment, which culminates at the film’s climax on Super Bowl Sunday.  It’s just what happens when really good actors inhabit well-written characters.

16.    “Birdman”

Alejandro González Iñárritu’s unusual comedy is about the insecurities that actors face on a regular basis, and it is illuminated by outstanding performances by Michael Keaton, Naomi Watts, Edward Norton, Andrea Riseborough, Emma Stone, and Zach Galifianakis (surprisingly playing the least outrageous character in the film).  It is something of a meta-movie in that Michael Keaton (who played “Batman” earlier in his career) is playing a character who starred as “Birdman” in several movies earlier in his career.  There are scenes in this film that are absolutely brilliant at depicting the difficult and unpredictable lives of stage actors, but those scenes are often followed by ponderousness that failed to keep my interest.  As such, I ranked it lower than some other reviewers.  Nevertheless, this is still a very good film, loaded with wonderful performances.

15.    “Ida”

This is the film that surprised me the most in 2014.  Released in Europe in 2013 and in the US this year, it is set in post-WWII, socialist Poland (with English subtitles), and it’s about a beautiful young woman named Anna (played by Agata Trzebuchowska) who grew up in a convent and is about to take her vows as a nun.  However, before that occurs, the mother superior tells her she has an aunt who would like to meet her and suggests that Anna spend some time with this aunt immediately.  Upon meeting the aunt (played by Polish film icon Agata Kulesza), Anna learns that her family was Jewish, and the two women set out on a journey to learn what happened to that family.  Shot in black and white by director Pawel Pawlikowski and written by Pawlikowski and Rebecca Lenkiewicz, this is a stunningly engrossing film about loss and self-discovery, and it deserves to be seen.

14.    “Chef”

OK, I’ll be honest…I enjoy an occasional feel-good movie, and there are two on my list, including this one.  Written, directed by, and starring Jon Favreau as a well-known chef who embarrasses himself in a public spat with a restaurant critic (played by Oliver Platt), he sets out to redeem himself through the unlikely venue of a food truck.  He brings his son (played excellently by Emjay Anthony) along on the trip, which also serves as a bonding experience for them.  Favreau assembled a bunch of his friends to costar in this movie, including John Leguizamo, Bobby Cannavale, Scarlett Johansson, Robert Downey, Jr., and Dustin Hoffman.  The result is an enjoyable experience that leaves you smiling (and hungry).

13.    “Edge of Tomorrow”

One of the few big-budget films on my list, this one is like a futuristic “Groundhog Day” meets “Saving Private Ryan.”  Directed by Christopher McQuarrie and written by Jez Butterworth and John Henry Butterworth from a book by Hiroshi Sakurazaka, it stars Tom Cruise as a reluctant soldier, fighting an alien enemy, who gets splattered by an alien’s remains before he is killed.  After that, he keeps dying and waking up in the same military camp, before having to fight the same battle.  Eventually, he enlists the help of a seasoned warrior, played by Emily Blunt, and they go about trying to win the war, even though each time he dies, he has to find Blunt again and restart the process.  This is an intelligent, sci-fi, war movie that is not bogged down by typical romantic entanglements, and it’s Cruise’s best movie in years.

12.    “Nightcrawler”

Jake Gyllenhaal is at his best when there’s a creepiness beneath that movie star exterior, and here he’s at his creepy best as a disturbed young man who becomes a freelance news videographer.  Written and directed by Dan Gilroy and costarring Rene Russo and Bill Paxton, this film explores the depths of what those who produce a TV news broadcast might be willing to do for improved ratings.  Enabled by their thirst for gory news footage, the lead character starts to become a player in his own stories.  This all leads to a disturbing albeit believable conclusion.

11.    “Nymphomaniac, Volumes 1 and 2”

This X-rated examination of sexual excitement and depravity is not for the kids.  Written and directed in two volumes (each full-length features) by Lars Von Trier, it begins with Stellan Skarsgård’s character finding Charlotte Gainsbourg’s character (oddly named Joe) bruised and beaten on the street.  He takes her back to his home, where she describes her life as a nymphomaniac and he likens her activities to fly fishing (I didn’t say this is a normal set of films).  Her endeavors are shown in flashbacks first featuring Stacy Martin as young Joe and later by Gainsbourg.  They are shown in graphic detail and include segments with characters played by Shia LeBeouf, Hugo Speer, and Willem Dafoe.  Also in supporting roles are Christian Slater as Joe’s father and Uma Thurman, in a movie-stealing performance as the wife of one of Joe’s lovers.  The second volume is more disturbing than the first and includes Joe’s exploration of sadomasochism with a character played by Jamie Bell.  This is essentially a porn film, but I’m recommending it for its interesting story, well-developed characters, and well-written dialogue.

10.      “Begin Again”

As I’m sure you know, I like music, and so does this movie.  Written and directed by John Carney, it stars Keira Knightly and Mark Ruffalo (who both had good years), and it’s about a young singer-songwriter who meets a down-on-his-luck recording company executive and, after discovering some common bonds, they set out to record an album that incorporates the ambient sounds of New York City.  What I love about this film is that the relationship is not about romance; it’s about creative expression and rebirth, and the movie features fine supporting performances by Adam Levine, James Corden, Hailee Steinfeld, Catherine Keener, and Mos Def.

9.      “Whiplash”

It’s a coincidence that my Number 9 and Number 8 movies are both about music, because they couldn’t be more different.  In this film, Miles Teller plays a drumming student named Andrew, at a music conservatory, who starts playing in the school’s prestigious jazz band, led by an instructor named Fletcher, played by J.K. Simmons.  While it first seems like Fletcher is trying to coach the best out of his students, his techniques begin to appear more and more abusive.  Written and directed by Damien Chazelle, the beauty of this film lies in the performances, especially that of Simmons, who has always been a good actor but never such an Oscar-worthy one (even though the Golden Globes considered him a "supporting actor").   This is one of those roles like Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter, Marlon Brando as Vito Corleone, or Dustin Hoffman as Raymond Babbitt.  I know I’ll never forget it.

8.      “Snowpiercer”

And now for something completely different, imagine a failed climate change experiment which leaves the Earth as a frozen wasteland, incapable of supporting life.  Then, imagine that as this was happening, a few hundred people boarded a train that now travels around the globe, and that these are the only people left on Earth, but they have established a class system in which the lowest class inhabits the rear sections of the train.  This is the story behind director Joon-ho Bong’s surprisingly affective movie, starring Chris Evans, Ed Harris, John Hurt, Jamie Bell, and Tilda Swinton (who always inhabits her roles with aplomb).  I can’t say much more about it without giving away the story, but it is a very good action movie with intelligence and heart.

7.      “Pride”

This is the best feel-good movie of 2014.  It tells the true story of how, in 1984, the coal miners were on strike, and Margaret Thatcher’s government sent British police to help break it up and demoralize the miners.  A group of gay and lesbian advocates, who also felt repressed by British police, decided to start raising money to support the miners, and the result was an unlikely, and at first uncomfortable partnership between the two disparate groups.  That partnership eventually developed into friendship between a small group calling themselves “Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners” (LGSM) and most of the residents of a small, Welsh mining town.  Directed by Matthew Warchus from a script by Stephen Beresford, the film features an outstanding cast that includes Ben Schnetzer, Dominic West, Andrew Scott, Paddy Considine, Imelda Staunton, Bill Nighy, and George MacKay.  If Frank Capra were alive today, he would have liked this film, which features characters in turmoil who lift each other, and themselves, to success.

6.      “St. Vincent”

Written and directed by Theodore Melfi, this film stars Bill Murray as a drunken gambler who, through a series of circumstances, finds himself babysitting for the boy (played by Jaeden Lieberher) who lives next door.  The relationship grows as you learn the stories of both characters, as well as that of the boy's mother, played expertly by Melissa McCarthy in her most nuanced role.  Add in a pregnant Russian prostitute (played by Naomi Watts), a reasonably nice loan shark (played by Terrence Howard), and a Catholic school teacher, played by Chris O'Dowd, and you have a great cast of characters who are interesting, believable, and very entertaining in a tale of loss and redemption.

5.      “Belle”

A British film from 2013 that was not released widely in the US until early in 2014, this is written by Misan Sagay, directed by Amma Assante, and stars Gugu Mbatha-Raw—one of the few films I know of that was written, directed, and starring three different women of color.  In it, the character of Dido Elizabeth Belle (played as a young girl by Lauren-Julien Box) is the mixed-race daughter of a Royal Navy Captain (played by Matthew Goode).  When her mother dies, she goes to live with his aristocratic parents, played by Tom Wilkinson and Emily Watson.  While her lineage provides her with certain benefits, her skin color restricts her socially, and that dichotomy is explored throughout the movie.  All this is also occurring while there is a movement afoot to end slavery in England, and the eventual decision may have to be made by Wilkinson’s character, who is the Lord Chief Justice.  Rather than being a stuffy, British, period piece, this is an exciting and rewarding film.

4.      “Wild”

Cheryl Strayed’s memoir of a broken woman who finds redemption by hiking 1100 miles is brought to life beautifully by screenwriter Nick Hornby, director Jean-Marc Vallée, and star Reese Witherspoon.  This could have been a really boring movie, but instead it captures your interest in the opening scene and holds it until the quietly triumphant conclusion.  Aided by outstanding performances by Laura Dern and Thomas Sadoski, the viewer feels everything that Cheryl felt after the loss of her mother and her subsequent descent into addiction and promiscuity, and how her reawakening came along the Pacific Coast Trail.  Witherspoon’s Oscar-worthy performance is her best to date, and she was completely believable in the role, even in carrying the same, 70-pound backpack that Strayed had carried.  The cinematography by Yves Bélanger is often breathtaking, and this is a film worth seeing.

3.      “Boyhood”

This brings new meaning to the concept of commitment to a film project.  Every year, for twelve years, writer-director Richard Linklater assembled the same cast for two weeks to film scenes for this movie.  The result is the ability to watch the same actor (Ellar Coltrane) playing the same character (Mason), starting at the age of 6 and concluding when he is 18.  Playing his parents over the same period are Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette, and both are brilliant in those roles.  The director had his own daughter, Lorelei Linklater, play Mason’s sister, Samantha.  In the hands of a lesser director, this movie could have been gimmicky, but Linklater also has experience developing long-term characters in the “Before” movies (“Before Sunrise,” “Before Sunset,” and “Before Midnight”), and he (and Ethan Hawke) drew on that experience to make a movie in which the characters lead interesting lives, without so much happening as to seem unreal.  By the end of the 2 hours, 45 minutes it took to watch this movie, I really felt like I knew these characters, and their strengths and faults, much better than in typical movies, which simulate the passage of time.

2.      “Interstellar”

Director Christopher Nolan combined visual elements of Spielberg and Kubrick with his own sensitive script (co-written with his brother Jonathan) and modern filming techniques to explore themes first described by Einstein and Hawking while making them accessible to the common moviegoer.  That’s no small accomplishment, and this is a fine movie that examines the relationships between time and space as well as the relationships between characters played by Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, John Lithgow, Michael Caine, Casey Affleck, Matt Damon, and a slew of other, talented actors.  The film explores how our own humanity can both positively and negatively affect our environment and our endeavors to improve that environment.  The convoluted plot has to do with the Earth dying and a plan to travel through a wormhole to find a planet capable of supporting life.  But that plot is secondary to the development of the characters while the secrets of time and space are revealed.  This is a well-written movie that is visually arresting and emotionally fulfilling, and I strongly recommend it.

1.      “The Imitation Game”

When Alan Turing and his team eventually built the first electromechanical machine designed to break complex codes, what they were doing essentially was inventing the first prototype of what we now call a computer.  This movie is a fictionalized account of that invention, and how it was driven by the necessity to break the code the Nazis used with their Enigma machine to convey messages to their troops and ships.  But this movie, directed by Morten Tyldum and written by Graham Moore from a book by Andrew Hodges, does much more than that.  It examines the inner mind of a genius who was also a homosexual—something not tolerated in 1940s England.   Played brilliantly by Benedict Cumberbatch, Turing had to live in a world in which he was different from most other people in terms of his intellectualism, his views of societal norms, and his sexual preference.  The film also explores the restricted views of women in society and how Joan Clarke (an actual person played in the movie by Keira Knightly) had to deal with those views while trying to forge a role as a female mathematician.   With additional, excellent supporting performances by Matthew Goode, Rory Kinnear, Charles Dance, Alan Leech, Matthew Beard, and Tom Goodman-Hill, the film has layers of complexity and addresses difficult issues without seeming preachy.  By the end, I felt exhilarated that I had witnessed a historical milestone while despondent that 60 years later, even the most progressive nations are still slow in accepting and respecting our differences.  The film accomplishes all of that while still being entertaining and well-constructed.  As such, it is clearly the best movie of 2014.



  1. For future reference:
    Actors of fully Jewish background: -Logan Lerman, Natalie Portman, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Mila Kunis, Bar Refaeli, James Wolk, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Julian Morris, Adam Brody, Esti Ginzburg, Kat Dennings, Gabriel Macht, Erin Heatherton, Odeya Rush, Anton Yelchin, Paul Rudd, Scott Mechlowicz, Lisa Kudrow, Lizzy Caplan, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Gal Gadot, Debra Messing, Robert Kazinsky, Melanie Laurent, Shiri Appleby, Justin Bartha, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Margarita Levieva, Elizabeth Berkley, Halston Sage, Seth Gabel, Skylar Astin, Mia Kirshner, Alden Ehrenreich, Eric Balfour, Jason Isaacs, Jon Bernthal.

    Actors with Jewish mothers and non-Jewish fathers -Jake Gyllenhaal, Dave Franco, James Franco, Scarlett Johansson, Daniel Day-Lewis, Daniel Radcliffe, Alison Brie, Eva Green, Emmy Rossum, Rashida Jones, Jennifer Connelly, Nora Arnezeder, Goldie Hawn, Ginnifer Goodwin, Amanda Peet, Eric Dane, Jeremy Jordan, Joel Kinnaman, Ben Barnes, Patricia Arquette, Kyra Sedgwick, Dave Annable.

    Actors with Jewish fathers and non-Jewish mothers, who themselves were either raised as Jews and/or identify as Jews: -Andrew Garfield, Ezra Miller, Gwyneth Paltrow, Alexa Davalos, Nat Wolff, Nicola Peltz, James Maslow, Josh Bowman, Winona Ryder, Ben Foster, Nikki Reed, Zac Efron, Jonathan Keltz.

    Oh, and Ansel Elgort’s father is Jewish, though I don’t know how Ansel was raised.

    Actors with one Jewish-born parent and one parent who converted to Judaism -Dianna Agron, Sara Paxton (whose father converted, not her mother), Alicia Silverstone, Jamie-Lynn Sigler.

    1. While this is interesting, I don't recall mentioning the religious background of any actors.