Why is making an end of year list so agonising? While some years are certainly stronger than others, by the time I start putting my list together, it’s always tough. This year I’ve gone for a top 25, but it could have easily been 40.
There are less foreign films than usual – I am not sure if it’s because I’ve seen less of them, or they just haven’t been as memorable. There are also more blockbuster/wide appeal films, which is awesome. While it’s not on my list, I had a heap of fun with The Force Awakens.
My list is composed of new films I saw for the first time in 2015. There are a mix of 2016 & 2015 titles, as well as some festival only films. Some popular 2015 titles I saw in 2014, check out my 2014 list to see which.
As always there are titles you miss. Some of the films I didn’t round to seeing this year include: Southpaw, Gett: The Trial of Vivian Amsalem, Black Mass, Son of Saul, Theeb, Junun, Holding the Man, The Hateful Eight, Grandma, Sherpa, Horse Money, Timbuktu, By the Sea, The Look of Silence, and The Good Dinosaur.
While these didn’t make my 25, they’re all great and deserve a shout out. Honourable mentions go to: A Most Violent Year, The Big Short, Knight of Cups, The Lobster, Lost River, Necktie Youth, and Tehran Taxi.
Good old fashioned journalism. No bells, no whistles, just hard work and good instincts. Sharp screenplay & fantastic ensemble cast.
24. INSIDE OUT
It’s okay to be sad – in fact, sadness is an essential part of our make-up. A film that explores emotions at a level kids can understand is quite the achievement.
23. A PERFECT DAY
‘A Perfect Day’ or ‘We Just Want To Find A Rope, Why Is It So Damn Difficult’? A setting not often explored. Great humour mixed with utter despair. Tim Robbins’ best role in forever.
Shit son. Talk about baggage and history. Powerful film, both in terms of story and the actual filmmaking. Incredible tracking shots! Tempered with nostalgia but not ruled by it.
Perhaps the most beautiful looking film of the year. Love in glances. Love in words. Love in pure physical attraction. Is Blanchett a goddess? Yes.
20. MAGIC MIKE XXL
One of the most inclusive, non judgmental, and body positive films. This isn’t bros before hoes. It’s all about loving, and everybody deserves it. Pepsi anyone?
Exquisite. Divine. Astounding. Adjectives that describe both the film and the talented Nina Hoss. Does this film has the best ending of the year? Yes, it does. It’s perfect.
18. INHERENT VICE
Was there anything funnier this year than Josh Brolin eating a chocolate coated Banana while Joaquin Phoenix watched on in horror? I think not. A fun, sleazy LA mystery.
17. RICKI AND THE FLASH
A look may say a thousand words, but a look while singing a song says a thousand more. This made my heart soar. The best Meryl Streep performance in ages. The underrated gem of 2015? I think so.
16. MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – ROGUE NATION
Tom Cruise hung off the outside of an airplane for our viewing pleasure. How many actors give their all like that? The best action film of 2015. That opera scene! Astounding. A ridiculously fun cinema experience.
15. 45 YEARS
My heart is still healing. How can you make peace with the murky past when you don’t quite know the extent of how it has impacted your life? A masterclass in understated, but powerful acting.
14. FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD
This film is luscious and vibrant, adjectives not often used to describe period dramas. Be still my beating heart because I don’t know who I loved more – those handsome men or the leading woman who held her ground, no matter what.
13. THE END OF THE TOUR
How can one film both inspire and crush you? What a screenplay. What wonderful wordplay and intelligent, interesting conversations.
I can still hear the intense score. It makes my spine tingle. A familiar topic, but a fresh approach. Our lead is strong, but in the dark. The relationships are dynamic and uncertain. Deakins is a master craftsman.
Important. Shocking. We have even less power and freedom than we could possibly imagine. Incredible, risky documentary filmmaking – being there as the story unfolded gave such amazing insight. A worthy Oscar winner.
10. CORN ISLAND
I don’t understand how this film was made. A real technical and artist feat. Shot on 35mm at a very challenging location. Hardly any dialogue. Such a simple concept, such a powerful result. Images still burned into my brain.
A film about Icelandic sheep farmers is in my top 10. It’s dark and deeply amusing, but also rather sad. I loved spending time with these characters, completely immersed is a world utterly foreign to me.
Simple elegance. An immigrant’s story. There are millions just like it and that’s part of the reason this film is so special. Not overly dramatic, but rich in many small moments. Funniest dinner table conversations. Ronan astounds.
7. WELCOME TO LEITH
What would you do if Neo Nazis wanted to create a settlement in your rural community? This shit is cray cray. Unbelievably balanced doco, with footage from both sides. Heart-in-the-mouth, white knuckle sort of viewing.
6. EX MACHINA
Ah, the old man vs. machine/AI vs. human intelligence question. It’s explored in such a fascinating space here. Production design and score are extremely compelling. Oscar Isaac dancing became the GIF of the year.
5. SONG OF THE SEA
This film was like having Grandpa Gleeson tuck you in to bed and read you the most heart-swelling Irish folktale. Comforting, yet exhilarating. The animation is so interesting, so rich and layered. The story is so moving. I cried.
I was on the verge of tears for over half of this film. Such an important part of history – so sad to see how many inequalities still prevail today. Compelling and commanding. Magnificent performances from the entire cast.
3. THE REVENANT
Relentless suffering. Life on the frontier was tough, greed and men being bastards mad it even worse. Stunning cinematography put me in the film and I experienced hell. Visceral. Hard to breath, couldn’t look away. Leo, dude…
2. THE MARTIAN
The most fun I had in the cinema x 2 this year. The film came out of nowhere for me and I was entertained the hell out of. Great humour. Competence porn! The screenplay is one of the year’s best.
The best scene of 2015. I am not sure I breathed once. Single shot isn’t a gimmick – the technique made me feel like the unnamed 6th member of the gang. I was there for the ride and shit, what a ride.
By Sam McCosh