2015 has been an astounding year for film, so much so that compiling my favourite ten movies from the last twelve-months has proven more difficult than I can remember in recent years – there’s just been too much to choose from.
There are some fantastic films that haven’t made the list, but were very close to doing so. Asif Kapadia’s Amy, Xavier Dolan’s Mommy, Noah Baumbach’s Mistress America and Tomm Moore’s Song of the Sea all deserve honourable mentions.
There are, of course, some films that I haven’t had a chance to see either. Brooklyn, Carol, Crimson Peak and Beasts of No Nation are the ones I’m particularly gutted to have missed, which could have possibly made this list too. I’m hoping I’ll catch up with those in the coming months.
Regardless, here are the ten films which I consider to be the best of 2015…
Despite being a box office flop, The Walk was easily my best cinematic experience of 2015. I saw it on a Sunday morning, in an IMAX theatre to myself, and was totally immersed for the length of the film.
Out of the films released this year, this was the one which deserved to be seen on the biggest screen possible. The 3D is used by director Robert Zemeckis not as a gimmick, but rather as a way to tell the story. So in The Walk’s climatic sequence, which sees Joseph Gordan Levitt’s Phillipe Petit walk a tightrope between the very top of the World Trade Centre buildings, we’re put right right up there with him – it’s an absolutely terrifying and thrilling feeling.
What I like most about The Walk, however, is that, despite the fact that the twin towers immediately draws to mind the horrific images that have been imbedded in our mind forever, it still has an overwhelming sense of optimism and hope about it.
The performances are great, the cinematography is beautiful and Zemeckis is at the very top of his game. I honestly believe that if it had a better timed release, it would have proving a lot more popular with audiences, and I hope that its popularity will grow over the coming years.
9 – Mad Max: Fury Road
At a time where superheroes dominate the summer blockbuster season, the long gestating Mad Max: Fury Road was a much needed change of pace, and proved that audiences were ready for something different.
Different is just one adjective I could use to describe the film, which is well and truly bonkers – and all the better for it, I might add.
George Miller’s vision of a terrifying dystopian future is detailed, immersive and fully realised; but, more than anything, Fury Road is most memorable for its spectacular action that literally runs from beginning to end – seriously, not a single second is wasted in this movie.
As well as featuring one of this year’s strongest female characters in Charlize Theron’s Furiosa, Mad Max: Fury Road is a blistering edge of your seat thrill ride in the purest sense; made all the more better due to its practical stunts and effects.
8 – The Tale of The Princess Kaguya
This year, we’ve had some of the best animated features that have been released in a long time. The revival of the genre was really kicked off with Studio Ghibli’s The Tale of The Princess Kaguya, which was a sensational sensory treat.
The visuals, which stray away from computers to literally take animation back to the drawing board, are stunning and timeless. What almost look like rough sketches of beautiful landscapes, are so beautiful that they’ll make your eyes dart around the screen in an attempt to take it all in. Having watched it a couple of times already, the artistry still blows me away.
The Tale of The Princess Kaguya is much more than its images though. Its bittersweet story is one filled with humour, heartbreak and a desperate longing for the innocence and simplicity of the natural world.
With a lovely soundtrack on top of all this, it’s truly a film that is good for the ears, eyes and soul. Studio Ghibli at their finest.
7 – Steve Jobs
Since seeing Steve Jobs last month, the more I’ve thought about it, the more I’ve grown to love it. Like The Walk, it hasn’t exactly been a hit, and with the amount of talent involved, as well as a lot of award buzz, a lot of people have been left questioning why that’s the case.
Michael Fassbender, one of the best actors working today, is electric as the titular character and is supported by a strong cast which includes Kate Winslet, as well as a revelatory Seth Rogen.
Danny Boyle does a solid job of directing, but Steve Jobs is first and foremost an Aaron Sorkin film. His script, which is made up of three clearly defined acts, is a masterclass in writing; punchey, sharp and full of character development in the least likely of places.
There’s a theatricality to the whole thing, which, when accompanied by a fabulous soundtrack from Daniel Pemberton, plays out like an opera. More than anything, Steve Jobs proves that cinema can be just as tense and exciting without visual effects and big set pieces. Who knew a bunch of actors arguing in some rooms for two hours could be so utterly thrilling?
6 – The Look of Silence
Whilst The Act of Killing offered a terrifying glimpse into the minds of a group of murderers involved in the Indonesian massacres of 1965-1966, this follow-up allows Adi Rukun, whose brother was murdered during the killings, the opportunity to confront the people responsible for his death.
The result proves to be something truly remarkable and unexpected, as Adi approaches these criminals with all the calm and patience of a saint. Whether this is through fear of retribution or through something much closer to forgiveness, we don’t know; but, one thing that is clear throughout is Adi’s overwhelmingly humble and honourable nature.
What’s particularly impressive about The Look of Silence, is the way in which Oppenheimer tells a huge story, which is sadly still as relevant today, but on a personal level. It’s a story that deals with politics and one which reveals the true horror that mankind is capable of, yet, at the same time it’s a story about a family still coming to terms with a major tragedy in their lives.
Through all the pain and the heartbreak that lives within the eyes of Adi, there is hope, kindness and love. And that’s a beautiful thing. The Look of Silence is one of this year’s most essential and unforgettable experiences.
5 – White God
Having missed White God in its initial, albeit brief theatrical run, I was forced to wait until home release before finally catching up with it. It definitely ended up being worth the wait, but far from what I had expected which in itself is one of the reasons I ended up loving it as much as I did.
Equally one of the best and worst films I’ve seen in 2015, this Hungarian film broke my heart and left me devastated for days after. It’s every dog lover’s worst nightmare; a story about a girl and her dog who are separated, which brutally depicts the abuse of said dog – although no animals were harmed in the process.
White God is so brutal in fact, that I had to watch it over two sittings after my fiancée couldn’t bear the nastiness any longer. I’m glad I stuck it out though, because what I ended up with was a stunning, ambitious and deeply touching experience.
An extended metaphor for the various forms of oppression and revolution, Kornél Mundruczó’s film is a masterpiece that collides harrowing realism and pure, imaginative joy. It’s not the easiest of watches and just thinking about it even now makes me want to cry, but it is well worth the commitment and fortitude.
It’s one of the best films I’ll never watch again.
4 – Inside Out
Inside Out is Pixar’s masterpiece, which is saying something for the studio that has brought us the Toy Story films, Up, Finding Nemo and Monsters, Inc.
Arguably their most ‘grown-up’ feature to date – although there’s still plenty for children to enjoy too – Inside Out takes a complex idea which explores the metaphysical, as well as the human condition, and turns it into something that feels incredibly simple to grasp.
Through their usual unique brand of storytelling, Pete Docter and his co-writers create a fully realised world, complete with rules, which is vividly brought to life by the bright and beautiful visuals – I recently rewatched it on Blu-Ray and the visuals are truly jaw-dropping.
However, what’s most impressive about Inside Out is that manages to unify the human race to the point where I wouldn’t be surprised if you started looking at people differently afterwards. It’s textured with witty and relatable jokes about the way in which our mind works, and has a genuinely touching and important message at its core.
For a film about emotions, it should come as no surprise that I laughed and I cried from beginning to end, and left the cinema an emotional wreck. Bing Bong still gets me everytime.
3 – The Martian
A return to form for Ridley Scott, The Martian was one of 2015’s biggest surprises for me. Based on the novel by Andy Weir – one which I haven’t read, but have it on good authority that it’s excellent – it was this year’s Interstellar; an intelligent and spectacular sci-fi that feels completely original.
A combination of the aforementioned Christopher Nolan film and Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity, this took the best of each, resulting in a film that was both scientifically sound – or at least felt that way – and thrilling at the same time; to the point where even the youngest of audience members at my screening, were completely and utterly fascinated.
What I wasn’t expecting from The Martian, was its great sense of humour. Thanks to an air-tight script from Drew Goddard – which seriously deserves to win some awards in the new year – what could have quite easily have been something overly serious to the point of dullness, ends up being a lot of fun. I wasn’t expecting to laugh as much as I did throughout, but was pleased to find that was the case – in fact, it’s funnier than some of the supposed comedies I’ve seen this year.
Matt Damon is at his most likeable in the titular role and carries the film on his shoulders, with considerable ease. With flawless special effects, eye-widening cinematography and a funky disco-soundtrack, The Martian was truly a joy to watch. I think it’s a film that will age really well over the years.
2 – Star Wars: The Force Awakens
2015 has been a year of nostalgia at the pictures. In the summer we had Jurassic World, which broke all kinds of records mainly because the kids who were taken to see the original Jurassic Park, were now old enough to take their kids to see the sequel. However, nothing could quite top the feeling of Star Wars return to the big screen.
If you have fond memories of watching the original films growing up, and the not so fond memories of having to sit through the prequels at the cinema, of course a new Star Wars film is going to have a drug-like effect on you; especially when it’s as good as this.
And it is, fortunately, really THAT good – to the point where the prequels are a distant memory of a bad dream. Hearing that legendary John Williams score as you read that yellow crawl is enough to give you goosebumps, but this instalment keeps piling on the references and familiar faces until your body can’t tingle with excitement any longer.
The cast themselves are all excellent, with Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Adam Driver and Oscar Isaac proving to have some considerable chemistry. Seeing this new generation of talent essentially ‘blossom’ is just one of the many joys of the film.
Director J.J. Abrams and writer Lawrence Kasdan expertly maintain the heart and soul of of the franchise, but refresh and rejuvenate it at the same time; appealing to a whole new audience altogether.
Sat in a packed out audience full of old and young alike, there’s something special about seeing the shared reactions of people from seven to seventy, who laugh and look on in amazement at what their seeing on screen. Star Wars has given me that experience twice so far, and that’s a wonderful thing.
1 – Whiplash
I recently revisited Whiplash before finialising this list, and I’m so glad that I did. Released way back in January, I was worried that since viewing it a couple of times on release, it wouldn’t be quite as good as I remembered. I was pleased to find, however, that it was every bit as glorious as I’d remembered.
Of all the award season contenders of 2015, Whiplash was the one which stood out most for me; yet, it was largely overlooked due to the likes of The Theory of Everything and Birdman.
Written and directed by Damian Chazelle, it could be best described as Rocky, but with drums. It’s a story that blurs the line between passion and obsession, with two fascinating central characters in freshman musical student, Andrew Neiman, and his tempermental teacher, Terence Fletcher.
Miles Teller puts in his best performance to date as Neiman, but it’s J.K. Simmons’ turn as the unpredictable Fletcher – one that earned him a supporting actor award at both the BAFTAS and Oscars – that steals the show. It’s the electric chemistry between the two leads, as well as the flawless script from Chazelle that not only makes Whiplash best film I’ve seen this year, but rather one of the best films I’ve seen in recent years.
It’s the type of film that reveals new surprises each viewing and, strangely, improves with each viewing. The cinematography is stunning and the Jazz soundtrack gives it a feel of a classic 1970’s movie. It’s exciting, it’s funny, it’s mysterious, and, above all else, it manages to turn a drum solo into an edge of your seat moment. When I left the cinema on my first viewing, I was absolutely buzzing and it still has that effect on me now. Totally my tempo, Whiplash is my favourite film of 2015.
So there you have it. Those were my favourite films of the year, but what were yours? What have I missed? Feel free to leave your comments below. A huge thank you to anybody who has taken the time to read my blog over the last year, and here’s to an amazing 2016.