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Serial podcast, Lego movie, Beyonce rule Best of iTunes 2014

Which have been the year's best apps, songs, movies, TV shows and books on iTunes? Apple chimes in with its favorites, and it won't surprise those hooked on Serial.

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Screenshot by Lance Whitney/CNET

Apple has given kudos to what it considers the year's best in apps, songs, movies and other content via its Best of iTunes for 2014.

An annual tradition, Apple uses the list to not only highlight the winners but obviously to call attention to the wealth of material available on iTunes. Breaking down the top picks by apps, music, movies and more, Apple's invites people to scour iTunes for content they may want themselves or to potentially give as a holiday gift to someone else.

So what were Apple's top picks among the different categories?

iPhone Apps:

  • App of the Year - Elevate - Brain Training
  • Game of the Year - Threes
  • Runners-up - Instagram's Hyperlapse and Leo's Fortune

iPad Apps:

  • App of the Year - Pixelmator
  • Game of the Year - Monument Valley
  • Runners-up - Storehour - Visual Storytelling and Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft

Music:

  • Best Artist - Beyonce
  • Best Album: "1989" by Taylor Swift
  • Best Song: "Fancy" (feat. Charli XCX) by Iggy Azalea
  • Best New Artist: Sam Smith for "In the Lonely Hour" (Deluxe Version)

Movies:

  • Best Blockbuster: "Guardians of the Galaxy"
  • Best Family Movie: "The LEGO Movie"
  • Best Director: Richard Linklater for "Boyhood"
  • Best Discovery: "Obvious Child"

TV Shows:

  • TV Show of the Year: "Fargo"
  • Best Performances: "True Detective"
  • Best Discovery: "The Honorable Woman"
  • Best Breakthrough: "Key & Peele, Vol. 4"

Books:

  • Favorite Fiction: "All the Light We Cannot See" by Anthony Doerr
  • Favorite Nonfiction: "The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace" by Jeff Hobbs

Podcasts:

  • Best Classic Podcast: Dan Carlin's Hardcore History
  • Best New Podcast: Serial by This American Life

Apple has also given a nod to iTunes U where you can find a wealth of educational content by highlighting the best overall courses, science collections, history collections, and more.

Each list expands Apple's selections by drilling down into specific categories. For example, in the Music category, "Pain Killer" by Little Big Town is the top pick among Country albums, while "Lazaretto" by Jack White is the best Rock album. In the Movies category, such films as "Birdman," "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes," and "The Grand Budapest Hotel" are featured as more of the year's best. And under TV shows, "Arrow," "The Big Bang Theory" and "Sherlock" are highlighted as top picks.

How do you access Apple's Best of iTunes 2014 content? Simply fire up iTunes on your computer or mobile iOS device. Click or tap a specific area, such as apps, music, or podcasts. The top of the screen will display a banner that says "Best of 2014." Tap the banner, and you'll see the entire list of Apple's picks.