Depending on the list, voters rank top movies of 2014 by ticket sales, DVD sales, rentals, critics' consensus or degree of recognition in terms of awards. Such lists are entirely subjective, and each compiler seldom reveals his methods or criteria.
There are exceptions, such as the American Film Institute, which honors the best movies each year. Inevitably, the list of winners translates into other lists of top movies published in the press and on social media.
Unlike media outlets, AFI does elucidate precisely the criteria it considers to determine the top films and its award winners. A film must best advance the art of the moving image, make a mark on American society, inspire both artists and audiences and enhance America's cinematic cultural heritage.
Media outlets, such as Slate.com, MoviePilot.com and The New York Times often choose top movies through reader's votes. In 2015, Slate.com asked the children of staff members to choose their favorite animated Pixar movies. The resulting list favored sequels.
Several lists in The New York Times of the top 2014 movies reflect personal preference and no criteria besides. One such list champions small, independent, obscure, critically acclaimed movies, such as "Boyhood," over commercial blockbusters that everyone else paid to see. Other lists of top movies shine a light on 2014 films featuring women and minorities.