2015 will forever be known as the year of the reboot/sequel. Not only did these films primarily dominate the box office (including two separate world records being set) the stony hearts of critics were chipped away at while the blockbusters were also praised for their attitudes towards feminism in cinema. It wasn’t all about the franchises though as this year saw strong offerings from indie filmmakers utilising their lesser budgets.
Some sacrifices had to be made in constructing this list so a special mention goes out to Sicario, The Woods Movie, Everest, John Wick and Furious 7. I loved you all.
10. Slow West
The prospect of Michael Fassbender and Ben Mendelhson squaring off against each other in a Western is sure to whet the appetite. John Maclean’s directorial debut offers an arthouse spin on the genre however it works best when it embraces its Western themes and plays it straight. A slow burner, it gradually builds to a bloody climax.
9. Kill Your Friends
Offensive, brash, sexist and vulgar. What of its bad qualities? This dark British comedy aims for the lowest dredges of the human soul and will evoke many guilty laughs. It’s not big nor clever and despite Nicholas Hoult playing a despicable bastard, you can’t help but agree with nihilistic view on the state of the music industry. Not one to take Granny to.
8. Kingsman: The Secret Service
Matthew Vaughan returns to the world of the comic book movie by adapting another of Mark Millar’s works. Partnering again with Jane Goldman, Kingsman is an ultra-violent spy flick that makes James Bond look like a Government office temp. Uncompromising and brutal, it has an alluring charm and a killer wit.
7. The Gift
This creepy revenge story is a slow burning thriller that gently builds towards an absurd and ruthless outcome. Joel Edgerton stars, directs and writes this twisted tale while Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall are puppets in this vile play. A few twists and turns towards the end highlight the moral ambiguity of the characters.
6. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
What can be said about, arguably, the most anticipated movie of all time? Well, for one, it didn’t disappoint. J.J. Abrams hit all the right beats as he delivered the Star Wars movie audiences have been begging for 30 years. Yes, the homages are overplayed, but this is more than a mere nostalgia trip as fans now look forward to the future of the franchise.
5. Mad Max Fury Road
Another reboot/sequel makes the list as George Miller returns to the post-apocalyptic Australian landscape for Mad Max Fury Road. Tom Hardy replaces Mel Gibson in the iconic leathers but the focus was justifiably reserved for Charlize Theron’s Imperator Furiosa. An adrenaline fueled maelstrom of carnage, Fury Road is a thrilling roller-coaster of full on vehicular warfare. Accept no substitutes.
I’d almost given up on this film before the opening credits finished. Something about the score was off putting and I was worried Birdman would quickly disappear up its own arse. Instead it was a hilarious parody of celebrity culture with Michael Keaton and Ed Norton delivering their best performances in years. Surreal and compelling, Birdman is never dull.
3. Ex Machina
2015 was a good year for first time directors, in this instance acclaimed screenwriter Alex Garland sat behind the camera. Ex Machina is a low key sci-fi drama that quickly turns into a disturbing horror with many relative themes. Oscar Issac is brilliant as the reclusive scientist while Alicia Vikander is captivating and gently seductive as AI creation. The minimalist set design creates a sense of claustrophobia which leaves you unsettled throughout.
2. Inside Out
The geniuses behind Pixar return with their best film in years. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll feel every emotion that’s projected onto the script tugs at the heartstrings throughout. The characters are adorable and the animation stunning but it’s the beautiful simplicity of the story that ensures that it will connect with audiences. An exquisite film.
Despite being initially released in the US at the beginning of 2014, Whiplash got its UK release exactly a year later. It was more than worth the wait. A disturbingly dark tale of mentorship and the pressures that come with pushing yourself to be the best, Whiplash is a masterful story that builds the tension to a blistering crescendo resulting in an outstanding pay-off that will leave you dangling from the edge or your seat. Utterly sublime, Damien Chazelle presents an outstanding piece of filmmaking.