Oscar predictions are usually a piece of cake (or garbage, depending on how you look at them), at least in the big categories. A Best Picture front runner is often helmed by the Best Director favorite who, in turn, worked with the Best Actor or Best Actress. Though this structure is by no means rigid, the public knows who is supposed to win. If the identified favorites don't, it's a surprise; if they do, it's deserved.

But this year there's hardly a straightforward narrative to speak of. While there were plenty of great performances (and more than a few great films) during 2014, often those two things didn't seem to happen in the same movie. It's a trend the goes beyond the actual Oscar nominations: Jennifer Aniston was a revelation in Cake, a not-so-good drama that would have otherwise been forgotten; Jake Gyllenhaal blew people away in Nightcrawler, and the Michael Mann rip-off would have been dead in the water without him.

While some of the following movies are better than others, 2014 may be remembered as the year actors made the movie, rather than the other way around. Here are 10 examples from 2014 where actors transcended the movies around them.