2015 was a fantastic year in film. Although many critics have shared their lists already, there were quite a few films that I didn’t get a chance to watch hence why this is so late. I am pretty confident that I can now share my best films of last year and have been quite ruthless in what makes the list. As usual, 2015 followed the trend of a lot of the films that I had never heard of or had low expectations of ended up surprising me and featuring here.
There were so many fantastic films last year. I would normally stick to a Top Ten list but there are more than 25 films that are worthy so I have decided to expand this to 20 films.
Here I rank numbers 20 to 11. The Top Ten will be detailed in a separate post.
I am following the UK release date calendar from January 1st to December 31st hence why a lot of the Awards films do not feature here and why there are some from last year.
These films didn’t quite make it into the Top Twenty but I feel that they should still deserve a mention:
A very solid film by Clint Eastwood with a strong central performance by a beefed-up Bradley Cooper, ‘American Sniper’ is thoughtful and extremely tense even though it isn’t the most original and does get overly-patriotic at times. Oh, and don’t forget the awful baby prop!
A very interesting film with a fantastic performance from Tom Hardy and also from Emily Browning. It features many outstanding sequences but the reason it can’t quite make it in to the Top 20 is it’s a bit of a tonal jumble and director Brian Helgeland does seem grapple with the material a little bit. It would have been even better if it was a little more ‘British’ as Helgeland, an American director can’t quite find the right tone probably because of his nationality.
This was the closest film to get in to the Top 20 as I think Del Toro has created another thoughtful film with some excellent performances and production design that has unfortunately been a misunderstood by critics and audiences alike. Tom Hiddleston, in particular, is fantastic in this and the score by Fernando Velazquez is endlessly haunting.
It’s a perfect film and would have got into the Top 5 even if it ditched the Shakespearean dialogue which I personally struggled with a lot during the film. That said, the direction by Justin Kurzel is very assured here as are the performances by Michael Fassbender who is sensational here. Hats off also to composer Jed Kurzel and cinematographer Adam Arkapaw. (Full Review here)
A film that I watched pretty close to writing this, ‘The Walk’ is at times enthralling and visually, is superb. However, Joseph Gordon Levitt’s performance is very wonky in places and the film does feel a little pantomime-like in parts.
Now onto my top 20:
I watched ‘Suffragette’ pretty close to writing this and thought it was a really solid film. Although its story should not be taken for granted (there are a lot of fictionalised characters), it’s still good entertainment and does hit on some important messages. The cast are very strong here too and the score by Alexandre Desplat is very fitting.
The only comic book film to make my list from 2015 is ‘Ant-Man’ which is an excellent and entertaining character-driven film that has a warm heart and innovative action sequences. Wright’s input is incredibly obvious and is all for the better and the casting is near perfect. The storyline is fun and the pacing is spot-on as well. However, one cannot stop themselves from unpacking the film when watching it to distinguish all of Edgar Wright’s directorial traits in it and ultimately ponder what Wright’s finished film would have been like. However what has remained is very, very promising and Marvel have another series to their name and rightly so. It’s just a shame that ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’ was the opposite end of the spectrum – one of Marvel’s very worst films to date. (Full Review here)
An extremely different film to ‘Skyfall’, ‘Spectre’ is very dark and has some excellent action sequences but it’s also a lot more playful in tone and harkens back to the days of Sean Connery and Roger Moore. The performances are excellent and the locations and cinematography are mesmerising. ‘Spectre’ is not without its flaws – it has a slow middle section in its lengthy 148 minute run time and the ending is extremely predictable. It’s refreshing to see that Mendes hasn’t just tried to rehash ‘Skyfall’ – one can tell that both cast and crew have complete trust in him and everyone has settled into their roles which makes for a very entertaining and thrilling film. (Full Review here)
17) The Theory of Everything
Despite feeling a little too ‘Oscar-bait’ at times, ‘The Theory of Everything’ is still a very solid film with some fantastic performances particularly by its two leading stars, Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones and the viewer goes through a very emotional yet heartfelt journey. It managed to get #8 on my Mid-Year Ranking but it’s a film that has got a lot better with subsequent viewings.
Alex Garland’s debut is a tense, slow-burning yet a very philosophical watch and the film makes for a great character study. The performances in this film are brilliant with Oscar Isaac being the standout and this film has proven to be the gateway for Domhnall Gleeson and Alicia Vikander to go on to do great things and Vikander ultimately received a Golden Globe nomination for her role here and an Oscar win for her role in ‘The Danish Girl’. ‘Ex_Machina’ also has one of the best climaxes of the year and it’s worth all the waiting the audience do in the slow-burning build-up.
15) The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2
‘The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2′ is a marked improvement on its predecessor and it very nearly scales the heights of the first two films in the series. It is a heartfelt and satisfying conclusion that makes Part 1 completely redundant and there are many social and political messages embedded throughout. At a time when ISIS terrorises the West, this film couldn’t come at a more ironic time and there are many uncomfortable similarities that both the fictional world created by Suzanne Collins and reality share which culminate in an even more heartfelt watch. (Full Review here)
‘CHAPPiE’ may be quirky and a bit of an oddball, but this film is elevated with its tremendous, refreshing warm heart and again, Blomkamp really does get the audience to think with a lot of thought-provoking questions. It is very entertaining and the cast seem to be having a lot of fun here, and even the rave rap duo of Die Antwoord aren’t too bad! The film is supplemented by a completely bombastic, yet memorable score by Hans Zimmer which really fits the film. I was very surprised when it was released last March to fairly negative reviews – perhaps critics misunderstood it? (Full Review here)
13) John Wick
I was really looking forward to watching this, especially as the UK release for this film was so late – April 2015 as opposed to pretty much the rest of the world getting this in Autumn 2014. The film was definitely worth the wait – it’s an extremely well crafted film and is endlessly entertaining albeit silly. Keanu Reeves is the best that he has been in years and he is well supported by the rest of the cast which includes talents such as Michael Nyqvist, Willem Dafoe, Ian McShane and John Leguizamo. A sequel has already been greenlit and it will be impressive if it can match or surpass this. It’s just a shame that Reeves’ other film this year, Eli Roth’s, ‘Knock Knock’ was so very disappointing.
12) A Most Violent Year
Although the film is a little patchy in places, in terms of ideas and performances, ‘A Most Violent Year’ is incredible in places and it gets better on every rewatch. Oscar Isaac gives a career-best performance with strong parallels to characters in ‘The Godfather’ and the supporting cast also give tremendous performances, most notably Albert Brooks. There is a fantastic 100 minute-or-so film here without the excess baggage and for ideas and craft, this film deserves to be commended. A very good effort.
‘Everest’ is an awe-inspiring film that features incredible visual effects and some fantastic performances from its star-studded cast. It also manages to pack an emotional punch and character development is solid for a film of this genre. The tone of the second half of the film is extremely unnerving and upsetting and the film’s ending is perfect. Not only is it Kormákur’s best film, it is the best disaster film that I have seen in a long while. The reasons why this doesn’t get full marks are because it is a little hard to distinguish characters in some places (mainly because they’re dressed in tons of layers!) and the film cannot quite get rid of all the clichés associated with the genre but it is a very admirable attempt. The film also would have benefitted from having a 15 rating to make the film look even more realistic by showing more of the degradation of the characters. (Full Review here)
So there we go, numbers 20 down to 11. Stay tuned for the Top Ten in a separate post…
What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments or tweet @TheFilmMeister