2015 End of Year Review – Part 4: The Top 20 Films of the Year (10-1)
We conclude our series of year end reviews of 2015 in cinema with our 10 favourite films of the year – let us know if you agree in the comments!
Thanks for reading and we’ll be back with more reviews in 2016!
There’s not been many films with a title as literal as ‘Me and Earl and the Dying Girl’ at outlining what it’s all about, but this coming of age hit from Sundance manages to avoid the pitfalls of overt quirkiness to tell a charming story that had me laughing and crying in equal measure. The script is smart and witty, with a series of clever pop culture references scattered throughout and the likable lead performances make this a really enjoyable movie.
‘Wild Tales’ is a raucous collection of 6 short films from Argentina, directed by Damian Szifron and produced by Pedro Almodovar, centred around the themes of violence and vengeance. ‘Wild Tales’ manages to mesh all of these tales together into a wider story about the laws that govern us, revenge, violence and the class system to create a darkly humorous treat, and the end result is one of the year’s best films.
More of a breathtaking cinematic experience than a traditional movie, ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ is a stunning combination of pulsating action, superb special effects and a crushing soundtrack. The 30 year gap since the last ‘Mad Max’ outing seems to have reinvigorated George Miller, and ‘Fury Road’ is as exciting, fresh and original as they come.
This tender and moving biopic about legendary Beach Boy Brian Wilson is a terrific film that focuses on two distinct periods in Wilson’s life, at the peak of his musical powers in the 60s, and at his lowest point in the 80s whilst suffering with mental illness. Played by Paul Dano and John Cusack in the different time periods, this is a film with outstanding performances and a clear love for the material and Wilson’s musical genius that comes through superbly throughout.
Focusing on the bizarre events at a wrestling training camp ran by billionaire John Du Pont in the early 90s, ‘Foxcatcher’ is a suffocatingly tense character study led by mesmerising turns from Steve Carell, Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo. Very much a character piece, ‘Foxcatcher’ is a slow burn that creeps under your skin with a mesmerising portrayal of psychopathy and I was fully engrossed by it.
A return to form for Ridley Scott, ‘The Martian’ is a superb adaptation of Mark Watney’s bestselling novel about an astronaut stranded on Mars by the rest of his crew. Impeccably produced with a terrific central performance from Matt Damon, ‘The Martian’ primarily succeeds through its outstanding script, which is at different times funny, emotional and deeply compelling.
‘Brooklyn’ is a real gem of a film, featuring sparkling performances and brimming with warmth and personality. The film tells the story of Eilis Lacey (Saoirse Ronan), a young Irish girl who emigrates to America after her sister arranged for an Irish priest in New York to sponsor her. The film is a moving meditation on the life of an immigrant and it superbly portrays the challenges Eilis faces as she’s torn between her life back in Ireland and the new life she has created in New York. From such a simple set up, ‘Brooklyn’ achieves so much and it’s one of the best films I’ve seen this year.
’99 Homes’ is absolutely thrilling filmmaking from Ramin Bahrani, taking an emotive topic and delivering a stunning riposte about the way the US effectively abandoned many of its citizens after the events of the financial crisis in 2008. Outstanding lead performances from Michael Shannon and Andrew Garfield help to drive the powerful narrative, and this is one of the absolute best films of the year. A must see.
A resounding return to form for Pixar is our second favourite film of the year, with ‘Inside Out’ more than delivering on its terrific premise. Set inside an 11 year old girl’s head as she moves to a new city, the film focuses on her core emotions as they try to navigate the turbulent territory of a child growing up and having to cope with the changes in her life. Pixar have always excelled at tapping into our emotions, whether it’s through a lonely robot (‘Wall-E’), toys that come to life (‘Toy Story’) or an old man reflecting on his life (‘Up’), and ‘Inside Out’ builds on the themes developed in those films to really dive inside our heads to tell a thoroughly rich, compelling and emotional story about growing up and developing new memories. I can’t state highly enough just how good ‘Inside Out’ is and it is absolute must-see cinema for all ages.
When I saw ‘Whiplash’ back in January I knew it was going to take something special to top it as my favourite film of 2015. Starring two of the best performances you’ll see this year, ‘Whiplash’ is a phenomenal exercise in intensity in the unlikely environment of jazz music, and it more than deserved the plaudits and awards that came its way. You literally feel every blood, sweat and tear with each drumbeat and I came out feeling exhausted, thrilled and truly exhilarated. If you’ve not got round to seeing this yet then do so!
That’s all for this year! We’ll be back in 2016 with more reviews of the latest releases and some more classic reviews. Thanks for reading!