10. Avengers: Age of Ultron – Yes I know that a lot of people were disappointed by this film but I’m firmly in the camp of people who thinks that Age of Ultron is the superior film. The action beats are more interesting, the villain is incredibly compelling, the performances are top notch but it’s the greater thematic depth to this film and especially the relation between the thematic depth and the character development that pushes it over The Avengers in my mind.
9. Bridge of Spies – Sometimes there are films where you know exactly what to expect when you go in, Bridge of Spies is one of those films. As soon as I heard this was a Cold War thriller co-written by the Coen Brothers and directed by Steven Spielberg, I knew what film I was going to get, and it was incredible. An amazing story focusing on the nature of morality during the Cold War, with excellent performances from Tom Hanks and especially Mark Rylance, this was the right kind of old fashioned film-making, one that shows the continued narrative weight these films can show.
8. Star Wars: The Force Awakens – The expectations for this film were almost impossible to meet and the fact that The Force Awakens came so close to meeting them is strong enough praise. This film does right everything that the prequels did wrong. The characters were incredibly compelling, in particular Kylo Ren who is one of the best characters of the year, the story was a great reintroduction to the world of Star Wars and it had the sense of fun and humour that the prequels lacked. If this is the standard we will see for the other upcoming Star Wars films, then consider myself hyped.
7. Girlhood – Going from some of the biggest blockbusters of the year to one of the most underseen films of the year, Girlhood is an incredible look at life for black teenagers living in the Parisian suburbs. The changes that the character of Marieme goes through are very engaging to watch, highlighting the poor prospects for people like her in Paris, the friendship that develops in the film feels really natural due to the strong chemistry the actresses share and the way in which it shows that the crimes that the characters commit are both some of the only prospects on offer and a strong release for their emotions makes the overall experience simultaneously beautiful and heartbreaking. If you get the chance, watch Girlhood (if you’re in America I believe it’s on Netflix).
6. The Martian – After a string of terrible films from Robin Hood onwards, Ridley Scott makes a triumphant return to form with The Martian. I’d say that this is 2015’s equivalent of Pride, a film showing the importance of solidarity and the desire to work together for the common good, along with doing a great job to show the importance of NASA in an age where they are seeing their funding slashed. The light-hearted nature of the film adds to this overall vibe, aided by excellent performances, in particular Matt Damon and Chiwetel Ejiofor (although I still believe Irrfan Khan would have been perfect for the character), whilst not forgetting to boost the tension in the scenes where it matters, creating one of the most engaging packages of the year.
5. Whiplash – I didn’t think that a film about jazz drumming would be as intense as it ended up being but I was dead wrong. The tension between the characters throughout the film, made possible by a great script and incredible performances from Miles Teller and JK Simmons, is electrifying and had me on the edge of my seat throughout, the grey morality throughout the whole thing, mainly over whether Fletcher’s methods were justified, was incredibly compelling and the direction was top-notch, making a 10 minute long drum solo one of the most cinematic, tense scenes of the year.
4. Taxi Tehran – Another criminally underseen film, since I saw This Is Not A Film, I’ve become a massive fan of Jafar Panahi. I’ve found his work incredibly compelling and his spirit, not giving up his love of film in spite of a 20 year ban on directing, inspirational. With Taxi Tehran, Panahi makes his most complex film since This Is Not A Film. The overall tension over whether Panahi will be caught, especially at the end of the film, creates this sense of dread throughout the whole thing, but at its heart it’s a black comedy. There are numerous laugh out loud moments in the film, mainly focusing on the absurdities of life in Iran and this, along with the tension, makes being in a taxi for an hour and a half some of the most engaging cinema of the year.
3. Inside Out – This was an incredible year for animation. Any other year, Song of the Sea and The Tale of the Princess Kaguya would have been in this position but this year, the honour of the best animated film goes to Pixar with Inside Out, which is one of their best. The way the film explores the nature of emotions inside the mind of a young girl in one of the most tumultuous times in her life so far, and the different levels the film explores aspects of the mind, are engaging to watch but it’s the characters that make this so compelling, Joy, Sadness and Bing Bong being the best, with the decision for Joy to be the closest thing the film has to a villain being a stroke of genius, showing the harm in always being happy and how it stunts emotional growth and prevents true emotional stability and true joy from being experienced. This is a film that will be talked about for years to come and it deserves every piece of attention it gets.
2. Steve Jobs – This was a film tailor made for me to love (directed by Danny Boyle, written by Aaron Sorkin, starring Michael Fassbender, Kate Winslet, Seth Rogen, Jeff Daniels etc) and it did not disappoint. Sorkin’s script is easily the best of the year, brilliant showing the changes as well as the symmetry behind all of the product launches the film depicts. The relationships between the characters are incredibly compelling, with Kate Winslet as Joanna Hoffman being the highlight alongside Fassbender as Jobs, the structure of the film gives it a very unique feel, allowing it to say everything it needs to about Jobs and the changing nature of technology, the interweaving of the characters and the technology creating some of the most compelling characters of the year, most notably with Jobs and how closed he is to other people, unwilling to give anyone except himself credit, an aspect that Fassbender portrays brilliantly.
1. Mad Max: Fury Road – Could it have been any other film. Since I first saw this I knew it would be my top film of 2015. The action scenes are some of the most gloriously insane of the year, the combination of practical effects and CG, along with the incredible framing, editing and cinematography, creating one of the most beautiful films of the year. It’s with the themes that Fury Road really shines though, showing the dangers of patriarchy, the damage that devotion to classic male ideas is doing to the world and to people (best seen through Nux) and the importance of women to have control in the world. I never thought that a Mad Max film would be one of the most powerful, important films to advance feminism in the cinematic world but there we have it.
So now that my top 10 films are out of the way, here are my rankings of the other films I saw in 2015.
11. Song of the Sea – One of the most beautiful animated films made. The 2D animation is gorgeous and perfectly fits the story reflecting all the emotion of the characters. This is aided by the strong voice acting and amazing music. The film also does a great job bringing in elements of Irish folklore which helps add to the emotional weight of the film, especially in relation to the dual casting of actors to show thematic and emotional connections which helps the film work.
13. Electric Boogaloo: The Wild Untold Story of Cannon Films – a really entertaining documentary going through the history of one of the studios with the worst track records for film distribution. The interviews are all really interesting and seeing everything that happened at Cannon films is really interesting
15. Ex Machina
16. Slow West
17. The Tale of the Princess Kaguya – One of the most beautiful animated films ever made, the watercolour art style fits perfectly with this timeless tale, with its message of royalty and the pleasures of Earth being just as relevant today as when the story was first told in the 11th Century. I watched the English dub of the film and the cast in that version fit the characters brilliantly, especially Chloe Grace Moretz as the titular Kaguya and James Caan as the Bamboo Cutter.
23. It Follows – One of the most effective horror films I’ve seen recently and one of the few to genuinely scare me. The whole premise is incredibly unnerving, making every extra in the film a potential threat which amplifies the scares, aided by a great performance by Maika Monroe, great direction and a great script by David Robert Mitchell and a very creepy, effective score.
24. Mr Holmes
26. Big Hero 6
28. Crimson Peak
30. Rosewater – A great directorial debut from Jon Stewart’s, showing a great visual style and inan incredibly compelling story about the fear that the camera puts in the hearts of tyrannical regimes and the extent opposition is discouraged, along with the absurdity of the arrest of political opponents in Iran (mainly the excuses given to show their decadent nature), capped off by a great central performance from Gael Garcia Bernal and a downplayed, almost resigned and bored (in a way that fits the character) performance from Kim Bodina.
31. The Look of Silence – A brilliant look at the system that perpetrates genocide and a great look at the whole nature of morality, aided by an incredibly compelling central figure with Adi. However, it lacks the raw, visceral power of The Act of Killing and as such, I feel it is the weaker film of the two.
34. Clouds of Sils Maria – A great look at how actresses are treated in the film industry as they age, along with how out of touch they feel, with Juliette Binoche giving a great performance showing these aspects, with an equally excellent performance by Kristen Stewart as her assistant, with the scenes between then effectively blurring the line between the play they are rehearsing and real life. The future of film is represented effectively, with Chloe Grace Moretz’ character personifying the worst aspects of modern celebrity culture and the way people mould their image to fit pre-conceived perceptions of them. Not all of the film works as well and some of the characters feel underwritten but the film as a whole works really well.
37. The DUFF – Whilst some of the characters, in particular Bella Thorne’s feel very one-dimensional, the rest of the film works due to great performances, mainly from Mae Whitman and Robbie Ammel, who have great chemistry with each other, a well handled friendship between the main characters, and a very effective message that feels very relevant to today’s youth audience and one I related to. Plus, it’s one of the few times I haven’t found Ken Jeong to be completely insufferable. Although, the film doesn’t have any close to the amount of Allison Janney it should, although all films could do with more Allison Janney.
38. The Water Diviner – Aside from a pretty tacked on love story element and a few plot developments that feel rushed, Russell Crowe delivers a brilliant directorial debut, making a story that is both heartwarming and harrowing, brilliantly showing the scale of death at Galipoli and the guilt felt by survivors, with Crowe delivering one of his best performances as a father looking for his sons. Plus, Crowe does something I thought was impossible and gets Jai Courtney to deliver a good performance.
42. Big Game – A brilliantly silly film, knowingly tongue-in-cheek, with a very interesting idea of big game hunters going after the president. Samuel L Jackson is a lot of fun as the President and has great chemistry with Onni Tommila and Jim Broadbent is having fun with a brilliantly bad American accent. The action scenes are really well directed but it’s let down by the ending when it turns into a rehash of White House Down.
43. The Emperor’s New Clothes – A very effective documentary in the Michael Moore vein, Russell Brand is a great choice to lead, with the overall message on wealth inequality and how the poor were punished for the crimes of the rich being especially important considering the attacks on the poor by the Conservative Government when they could make triple the money clamping down on tax evasion as they do with their welfare cuts. However, some of the bits don’t work quite as well as others, the classroom scenes go on a bit too long and it does feel more of a rip-off of Michael Moore, especially of Capitalism: A Love Story.
46. John Wick
48. Cop Car – Well directed by Jon Watts, creating a very tense atmosphere, and featuring a strong performance by Kevin Bacon, but the two kids are incredibly annoying and the overall pacing felt a bit off to me in the first half, mainly in the scenes with the cop car, the scenes with Bacon are the highlight of the film.
49. The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water – whilst the scenes underwater are fun, especially when it goes into the insane time travel stuff and Antonio Banderas is enjoyably over the top, when it gets above water, the jokes don’t land that well and it becomes really predictable. The plot itself fells like it is trying to emulate the classic episodes of Spongebob. Especially the episode F.U.N with the Spongebob/Plankton team up but misses what worked about those episode so.
50. Second Coming – Strong performances from Idris Elba and Nadine Marshall and pretty well directed but the story didn’t grab my attention and the character of JJ was really annoying. When the film delves more into the supernatural then it gets really interesting but for the most part it didn’t grab my attention.
51. Jurassic World
52. Kumiko: The Treasure Hunter -A great story, visually excellent direction and an incredible central performance by Rinko Kikuchi make this film stand out but the first half of the film drags on quite a bit and the films feels a bit too cruel towards the main character.
53. Focus – Will Smith and Margot Robbie are a lot of fun to watch (honestly I’m surprised it took this long for Will Smith to be in a con film) and the first half is a lot of fun, but the second half of the film became a very worn out, melodramatic and bland and the twists at the end of the film fall on the negative side of suspension of disbelief.
54. The Interview – A few really funny moments, great chemistry between Seth Rogen and James Franco, a scene-stealing performance from Randall Park and a great message about the American reliance on assassination rather than actually fixing the problems of a country, especially when it comes to a cult of personality, along with a message about how the population can be easily swayed. But, there is always the feeling of ‘is that it’ with this film, some scenes drag on a bit too long and aren’t as funny as they think they are, along with a bit too heavy a reliance on gross-out humour means that this would have been just another average comedy if it wasn’t for the diplomatic incident it nearly caused.
56. Cinderella – Whilst the direction and production design are strong, aided by a really game cast, in particular Cate Blanchett hamming it up and the incredibly charming Lily James and Richard Madden, the plot didn’t really work for me, the love story felt really rushed and some of the changes made don’t really work in the grand scheme of things (the changes in the first half to the characters work, the ones in the second half don’t) and the CG is terrible across the board.
57. The Voices – Well directed by Marjane Satrapi and a great performance by Ryan Reynolds but the film doesn’t fully work. The black comedy and violence mixed with the bright colour scheme doesn’t really work, Gemma Arterton and Anna Kendrick are pretty forgetable, not helped by their characters not being well written and the ending feels really rushed.
58. The Duke of Burgundy – Essentially Fifty Shades of Grey by someone with a brain who understands BDSM, this film works because of how well the central relationship is portrayed, along with brilliantly showing what happens if one partner in a BDSM relationship goes too far and the other isn’t able to cope (with the one not being able to cope being the dominant). However, there are too many moments that feel pretentious, something that is common with Peter Strickland.
59. Jupiter Ascending – I wanted this film to be a big, silly, over-the-top ride and I have to say I was disappointed. Aside from an interesting universe, a few really entertaining scenes and a so-bad-it’s-brilliant performance from Eddie Redmayne it feels like the true vision of the Wakowski’s was compromised by Warner Bros, with way too many action scenes, a plot that feels really edited down for time with many repeated elements and a terrible lead performance from Mila Kunis. Somewhere, there exists the true, batshit insane version of this film, but we didn’t get it.
61. Unfriended – The whole idea of presenting the film as a laptop screen works incredibly well and shows great understanding of internet culture and there are some moments that do elicit some jumps but the main characters are so unlikable that I couldn’t get invested in any of them. What’s more, the way some of the film was shot breaks the illusion of it taking place in Skype calls (such as how the characters hold the camera, which confirms that they aren’t using laptops). There are also some scenes that go on a bit too long and feel a lot like padding to get this up to length for a theatrical release. I will always think though that this should not have received a cinema release, the film works best watching it on a laptop so I think it should have been a Netflix exclusive film
62. Chappie – What could have been a great, family friendly sci-fi film in the vein of ET is instead turned into a gritty, violent film with one of the most inconsistent tones in any film this year. Whilst the character of Chappie himself is great, due to a combination of great CG and an excellent performance from Sharlto Copley, the rest of the film doesn’t hold up. The characters are some of the stupidest in any film this year, the script needed another pass, mainly for scenes where what the characters say doesn’t match what they do at all and the plot points that come out of nowhere at the end are contradicted by earlier scenes in the film. Dev Patel is pretty good, Hugh Jackman is a really bland villain whose motivation makes no sense, an attempt to do the ED-209 story from RoboCop without understanding why that story worked, Sigourney Weaver is given nothing to do and Die Antwoord are incredibly annoying and a lot of the character beats were lost on me (and I guess a lot of other people) as I had no idea who Die Antwoord were before the film. The action scenes are pretty well directed though, even if the over reliance on slow motion gets a bit grating.
63. The Bad Education Movie – Another lazy attempt to cash in on the success of The Inbetweeners Movie. This one starts out as a straight retread of The Inbetweeners but turns into Braveheart halfway through and this tonal shift does not work at all (despite Iain Glen giving it his all in this half). The characters are incredibly annoying, the character development doesn’t work, some of the plot points make no sense (how is Alfie shocked that his class is leaving when it is their GCSE year and they logically would be leaving for sixth form, work etc) and the jokes are not funny, at some points being incredibly insensitive (such as the opening in the Anne Frank House, along with all the jokes about the people of Cornwall). Any film which has a POV shot of Jack Whitehall’s balls is not a film I’d recommend.
64. Pitch Perfect 2
65. Smosh: The Movie – one of the most inept movies I’ve seen. Combine a story that makes absolutely no sense with no internal logic behind anything, atrocious acting, non-existent humour, a tone at complete odds with the content of the film, a very transphobic final line and deep rooted misogyny (this is a film that says that if a woman is blocking harassment, she’s just playing hard to get and is really in love with you, fuck this movie) you get a film that will please no one. And before you say that it’s excused from looking cheap because it’s a YouTube film, Ashens and the Quest for the Game Child looked a thousand times better despite having a tenth of the budget and was distributed for free on YouTube. Hell, the Channel Awesome films look better and they were usually filmed in less than a week with no budget.
66. The Ridiculous 6 – Absolute garbage. I didn’t laugh once during this supposed comedy, it is incredibly offensive towards Native Americans and Mexicans, there are too many dark moments for it to really work as a comedy, the cast are uniformly awful, in particular an incredibly irritating Taylor Lautner, the gross-out humour is unneeded, there are so many characters and plot threads that went nowhere and could have been cut out to save time and it is way too long at 2 hours, just a few minutes shorter than The Magnificent Seven, just save yourself pain and watch that instead.
So that’s 2015, overall a pretty good year for film, some really good films came out, some that will be remembered as classics for years to come. This year however was best on a personal level for me with film. I’ve become more involved with the LAMB, been on a few episodes of the LAMBcast and one of the best experiences I had this year was when I went down to London to meet up with my fellow LAMB members, got on really well with everyone, it was just a great experience overall and a weekend I will always remember. So that’s 2015 done, looking forward to 2016.