So, 2015 is at an end, and 2016 is on the horizon. Despite ludicrous claims from Dustin Hoffman that cinema is at its worst, my recollection of the year is quite the opposite. 2015 was a spectacular year for film…
There was homegrown British films standing out like Sunset Song and The Falling, whilst the blockbuster was offering up special gems like Ant-Man. Even the animation category was strong with wonderful entries like Shaun the Sheep the Movie and Song of the Sea. Stinkers aside (Fantastic Four, Seventh Son), 2015 was a true golden age for cinema in general. There were loads of great films to choose from and here is my Top 10.
10. Sicario (Villeneuve)
Intense, relentless, gripping and disturbing, Sicario is a stark and bleak examination about the cost to pay in a Cartel-infested locale and its merciless brutality. Through the powerful performances, particularly by Emily Blunt, Benicio del Toro and Josh Brolin, we understand the cost of a person’s humanity – physical and psychological. Its themes and morals about what’s right and wrong is brilliantly Nietzschean in its execution, Denis Villeneuve’s direction is solid, Roger Deakins’ cinematography masterful and Jóhann Jóhannsson’s score darkly foreboding. You would be feeling the need for a strong drink and a shower after seeing this film.
9. Spectre (Mendes)
If Casino Royale felt like a fresh beginning for both Bond movies and the action genre in general, then Spectre definitely has a sense of finality. Sam Mendes brilliantly ties up the loose ends of the Daniel Craig saga and brings everything together for a spectacular possible finale to the Craig era. This has also proven to be one of the most divisive Bond films to date, and whilst it is true that this isn’t Skyfall, what is? If this is in fact both Mendes and Craig’s last Bond outing, then they’ll have left the series on a high note, as Spectre is an outstanding film on almost every level. | The Top 10 Films review round-up: James Bond Takes On “SPECTRE” In A Film That Will Divide Audiences
8. Mad Max: Fury Road (Miller)
Taking the action genre to spectacular peaks, Mad Max: Fury Road is the biggest film in the series to date, not just with its vast locales, but also in its scale, scope and wide variety of iconic characters. Tom Hardy lives up to the legacy of Mad Max that was laid down by Mel Gibson before him, yet it is Charlize Theron that steals the film from under everyone’s noses as the empowering Imperator Furiosa. A symphonic ballet of peddle-to-the-metal carnage and destruction, this latest offering from George Miller demonstrates that a 30-year-old franchise can never get stale. | The Top 10 Films review: George Miller Triumphantly Returns To Mad Max With “Fury Road”
7. A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night (Amirpour)
Billed as “the first Iranian vampire western”, Ana Lilly Amirpour’s debut is so much more than that as it is truly a work of beauty; an exceptional and seamless amalgamation of many genres and themes, including horror, noir, silent-cinema, and Gothicism all wrapped up in a stunning monochrome aesthetic. Its urban surroundings are brilliantly authentic, and the film focuses on the common themes of loneliness and existentialism, the inner turmoil within the characters, and the sometimes-unlikely companionship between humans and vamps, whilst adding a cultural layer to these key ingredients.
6. Inside Out (Docter/Carmen)
The concept may sound like The Numbskulls, but yet it really isn’t. Not only is Inside Out funny, engrossing, moving and emotional to watch, but it also perfectly captures the struggles of both childhood and adolescence, and seeing how moving away affects someone of that age and the emotions within. The emotions themselves, particularly with both Joy and Sadness, are brilliantly realised and are as fully fleshed-out as the girl they are inhabiting. The visuals are incredible and creative in their execution, and the film itself is a rollercoaster of emotional peaks and troughs, which is something Pixar is an expert at. A true return to form, and one of their best movies to date.
5. Brooklyn (Crowley)
Simple, elegant and emotionally honest, Brooklyn is a beautiful old-fashioned adaptation of Colm Tóibín’s novel that harks back to the time of 30s/40s cinema and the era of “women’s pictures”. It’s a sweeping romance that brilliantly tackles with the difficulties of leaving your loved ones behind and starting a new life in a different country, which might sound fairly standard, but Nick Hornby’s screenplay makes it so much more than that. At the centre is Saoirse Ronan who gives a magnificent performance, delivering real dedicated emotion into every scene she’s in, and demonstrating why she’s one of the most intelligent and compelling screen presences of her generation. | The Top 10 Films review: “Brooklyn”, Like Its Star Saoirse Ronan, Is An Absolute Sensation
4. Carol (Haynes)
One of the best romances you’ll see this year, Carol is a proper love story that is eloquently told thanks to filmmaking maestro Todd Haynes. His bravura adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s acclaimed novel is a beautiful and truthful depiction of what it’s like to be in love, and despite being set during the 50s, it seems to exist entirely in the present where there’s still that electric, heart-stopping/heart-racing desire for romantic longing and yearning. Both Rooney Mara and Cate Blanchett give raw and real performances that deserve Oscar recognition, and the film stands firmly as one of Haynes’ best works to date.
3. The Martian (Scott)
The feel-good movie of the year, The Martian is Ridley Scott’s best work in years, and that’s all thanks to Drew Goddard, whose witty screenplay provides a sterling adaptation of Andy Weir’s universally loved novel. It’s a rollicking sci-fi adventure that brilliantly displays a David and Goliath-style battle of a man against the forces of nature. It makes science sexy, the females are given proper jobs, and Matt Damon gives one of his best performances. It’s a film that contains everlasting universal appeal to all audiences, and rightfully joins the ranks of both Gravity and Interstellar as one of the most ambitious sci-fi films to date. | Read Ryan’s full review of The Martian here
2. Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Abrams)
Having always been a confessed Star Wars sceptic, The Force Awakens achieves the victory of making me one with the force and fully capturing my imagination. That is all down to J.J. Abrams, who has successfully created an exciting, engaging, dramatic, tragic and dazzling thrillride, having real physical heft (which was sorely lacking with the Lucas prequel trilogy), great comedic touches, powerful emotional weight and real solid character development. Even the performances were solid all round with John Boyega being brilliant as the tormented Finn and Daisy Ridley simply phenomenal as the iconic Rey. It’ll be interesting to see where the franchise goes from here, but for me, this was without a doubt the best Star Wars film. | The Top 10 Films review: “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” Is A Very Special Kind Of Entertainment
1. Ex Machina (Garland)
An astonishing debut for Alex Garland, Ex Machina was one of the real cinematic surprises of 2015. The idea of artificial intelligence struggling to attain humanity is as old as sci-fi itself, yet this is a wonderfully stylish and evocative experience that works on every single level. It’s the kind of film that gets under your skin within the first half hour, and long after the credits roll, you might find it hard to shake off. Both Gleeson and Isaac give solid performances, but Alicia Vikander is undeniably the true standout, giving a wonderfully mercurial, yet hypnotic, performance as the sophisticated, self-aware humanoid robot AI Ava. Ex Machina is a sci-fi classic that’s completely plausible, capable of both thinking big and providing genuine pulpy thrills. | The Top 10 Films review: “Ex Machina” Thinks Big & Delivers Handsomely
Written and compiled by Ryan Pollard
What did you think? Do you agree with the list? What were your favourite films of the year? Bring on 2016!