2015 has been a tremendous year for cinema. There’s been something for everyone; nail-biting drama, indie treats, explosive action and a massive return for one of film’s biggest franchises of all time. It’s been quite a year, so without further ado, here at the top 25 films of 2015, based on UK theatrical release alone.
After the rather disappointing Age of Ultron this year, Marvel’s Ant-Man was a welcome change of pace. Despite Edgar Wright’s unfortunate departure, director Peyton Reed and Marvel Studios still managed to produce an entertaining film on a much smaller scale. The film boasted some marvellous special effects, and Paul Rudd’s casting was an inspired choice. The final sequence alone might just be one of Marvel Studios funniest scenes to date.
A return to form from Judd Apatow, Trainwreck was a refreshing take on the romantic comedy. Starring Amy Schumer and Bill Hader, the film focuses on Amy, a successful journalist who doesn’t believe in monogamy. Drinking too much and partying too hard, Amy’s outlook on relationships is changed when she is assigned a piece on a sports doctor, Aaron Conners (Hader).
Trainwreck succeeds where so many other romantic comedies have failed because Schumer brings a realistic character onto the screen. She’s a strong, unconventional female lead, and Trainwreck included some truly hilarious scenes, with one specific bedroom sequence featuring WWE wrestler and entertainer, John Cena.
23: The Walk
Philippe Petit’s miraculous tightrope walk across the Twin Towers was documented brilliantly in Man On Wire, so when Robert Zemeckis announced that he was directing a dramatized version of the events, the news was met with cynicism. Once Joseph Gordon-Levitt was cast as Petit, it felt like the tired Hollywood cliché of adapting foreign characters with American actors.
Surprisingly, despite the concern, Zemeckis’ The Walk managed to impress this year, with striking visuals and tense drama, all aided by a great cast. Gordon-Levitt somehow channelled Petit perfectly, down to his accent and mannerisms. The Walk fully realised the potential of cinema, by apparently causing vertigo amongst several cinemagoers. It was a wonderful blend of human emotion and powerful moments, capturing the breath-taking event in all of its glory.
22: John Wick
Unforgivably released a full 7 months after its US opening, John Wick was a surprising treat in the form of a neo-noir, gun-toting action movie. Featuring Keanu Reeves as Wick, the film took its inspiration from anime, martial arts films and Hong Kong action cinema. It is a b-movie in its purest form, with a unique setup; a retired hitman seeking revenge for the death of his dog.
John Wick is relentless, and it’s a welcome return from Reeves who has been sorely missed in the past few years (47 Ronin didn’t happen). John Wick made such an impact this past year that a sequel is now in the works. Hopefully, no pets are harmed next time.
21: Song of the Sea
One of the most beautiful animations of the year, Song of the Sea is a story about family and loss. Young Ben and little sister Saoirse go an adventure to free the Faeries and help send them home, but they encounter dangerous obstacles on their path. It’s a wondrous tale which is visually stunning, and suitable for all ages. Taking heavy inspiration from Irish folklore, Song of the Sea stands as being the best animation of 2015.
20: Jurassic World
Set 22 years after the events of Jurassic Park, this fourth instalment in the much-loved franchise turned out to be a pleasant return to form. After missing the mark with The Lost World and Jurassic Park 3, new director Colin Treverrow helped take elements from Crichton’s first book, and then produced a film that fully realised John Hammond’s original vision.
Utilising one of the hottest actors of this year and past, Chris Pratt, Jurassic World successfully managed to further the franchise whilst appeasing fans of the original. It was essentially a love letter to Spielberg’s film, but it still managed to be completely entertaining on its own level. Also, the raptor chase sequence was one of this year’s highlights.
19: Love and Mercy
Featuring both Paul Dano and John Cusack as the talented musician Brian Wilson, Love and Mercy is a biopic about Wilson’s battle with psychosis whilst attempting to craft his next masterpiece. A touching drama played brilliantly by both Dano and Cusack, the film also stars Elizabeth Banks as Melinda, an essential part of Wilson’s life.
It’s brilliantly put together, with the potential of having at least four Oscar award-winning performances from the cast. Unlike many other musical biopics, Love and Mercy touches upon the problems the creative mind can be faced with, especially in regards to Wilson’s emotional battle with his father, his own mind and his future. A superb bit of cinema, which really makes viewers appreciate the musical talents of both Wilson and The Beach Boys.
18: The Overnight
Pushing the limits of American sex comedy, The Overnight stars Adam Scott, Taylor Schilling, Jason Schwartzman and Judith Godrèche in a film which is hysterical, unpredictable and full of wit. Newcomers to the city, Alex (Adam Scott) and Emily (Taylor Schilling) are invited by an eccentric pair for dinner. However, once the kids are put to sleep, the night takes a surprising turn.
The Overnight is a shocking comedy, which tackles its subject with tact. It’s a ballsy film which is not to be missed, as it features one of Adam Scott’s best performances to date. Sporting one of the best soundtracks of the year too, The Overnight is not to be missed.
Featuring an all-star cast of Emily Blunt, Benicio del Toro, and Josh Brolin, Sicario is a nail-biting, heart-pounding thriller. Sicario tells the story of how promising FBI agent Kate Mercer (Emily Blunt) is enlisted to help take down the Mexican drug cartel. An unforgiving look into the drug trade in Mexico, Sicario’s story is gruelling, dark and twisted.
Whilst Blunt’s character is the main focus of Sicario, del Toro’s performance is simply captivating and a big hook for the film. Sicario provides some beautiful cinematography, providing a swift punch to the gut during its second half. It’s simply stunning, stylish and unforgivably raw.
16: Inherent Vice
Full of delightful performances all round, Paul Thomas Anderson’s stoner 70s mystery film may not be appreciated by some audiences. Running at 149 minutes, Inherent Vice is never truly coherent. However, it is still wholly enjoyable and it has all the right makings of a cult film.
The film follows Joaquin Phoenix as ‘Doc’, who investigates 3 different cases at the same time. Whilst doing so, Doc ends up embroiled in the criminal underworld. Adapted by the book of the same name, Anderson’s film is a true testament to the director’s skills. Maybe in a few years, Inherent Vice will be truly recognised for its magnificence.
15: Kingsman: The Secret Service
Super stylish and action-packed, Kingsman: The Secret Service tells the story of how one troublesome youth is turned into one of Britain’s finest secret agents. Yet another adaptation from Mark Millar’s comic books, Kingsman: The Secret Service was superbly directed by Matthew Vaughn and supported by Jane Goldman’s great scriptwriting.
Starring Colin Firth like never before, Kingsman: The Secret Service also helped boost Taron Egerton’s star power. It revels in its ridiculousness, with quick cuts, insane scenes and crude humour that ultimately makes for one hell of a ride.
14: A Most Violent Year
2015 was the year for Oscar Isaac, who kicked off the year with this superbly shot and nerve-wracking drama. The story revolves around Abel, a fuel supplier whose moral compass is tried during attacks on his company. Starring alongside the great Oscar Isaac is Jessica Chastain, who plays Abel’s troubled wife Anna.
It’s an absorbing drama, which brilliantly portrays Abel’s inner battle with himself and his challenge to stay true to his beliefs. A Most Violent Year is a gripping story, told wonderfully with some outstanding performances from both Chastain and Isaac.
13: Me, Earl and the Dying Girl
Similar in theme to last years The Fault in Our Stars, Alfonso Gomez-Rejon’s film about teenagers dealing with cancer is a charming, emotional journey which will resonate with this generation. Me, Earl and the Dying Girl presents realistic teens, who can be awkward, self-loathing but ultimately kind-hearted.
Unfortunately, the film failed to deliver in cinemas, taking a paltry $6.2 mil compared to The Fault in Our Stars’ $124.9 mil, which is disappointing considering Me, Earl and the Dying Girl feels more human than any other cancer drama in recent years. It’s passionate about its subject, without the need to have too much emotional weight.
12: Still Alice
A harrowing tale of one woman’s struggle with early-onset Alzheimer’s, Still Alice was a heartfelt drama which gave an honest look into the horrible disease. Julianne Moore played Alice, a linguistics professor in her most understated and best role to date. Alec Baldwin and Kristen Stewart also give their all as Alice’s loving family members, as they perfectly portray people dealing with someone else’s illness.
Julianne Moore won the Oscar award of Best Actress for Still Alice, which comes as no surprise. Delicately approached, Still Alice is a touching drama that will affect many who have encountered the horrible disease.
11: The Martian
Directed by Ridley Scott, The Martian was a superb sci-fi drama which focused on Matt Damon’s character Mark Watney, an astronaut who is stranded on Mars. Being mistaken for dead, it’s up to NASA to find a way of retrieving their man, whilst he attempts to survive on the red planet.
Perhaps Ridley Scott’s best film in a long while, The Martian has a great balance of drama, humour and emotion. It feels like the first proper sci-fi film about Mars exploration, without the need to rely on aliens. Ridley Scott was even assisted by NASA concerning its scientific accuracy, helping turn The Martian into one of the most realistic, and enjoyable sci-fi romps in recent time.
10: MI: Rogue Nation
The fifth instalment in the franchise and arguably the strongest addition yet, MI: Rogue Nation was directed by Christopher McQuarrie, who mixed elements of previous films into one incredible package. MI: Rogue Nation had Ethan Hunt now on the run from the CIA, as he tries to prove the existence of a secret evil organisation.
MI: Rogue Nation was simply terrific, and McQuarrie helped further the use of strong female characters in action movies. Chock full of breath-taking sequences, the latest Mission Impossible has really set the bar high for future sequels, as it also proved that Tom Cruise is still an excellent leading man.
The second Bond film directed by Sam Mendes, Spectre was the 24th film in the series and Daniel Craig’s finest outing yet. Quite similar in regards to MI: Rogue Nation, Bond finds himself as a rogue spy against an evil corporation, named SPECTRE. Starring Christoph Waltz as Blofield, and Léa Seydoux as Dr. Madeleine Swann, Spectre was undeniably a greatest hits selection of past James Bond films.
Despite mixed reviews upon its release, Spectre is an enjoyable, action-packed picture. Christoph Waltz was the perfect Blofield, and the plot was an interesting allegory about the state of surveillance in the UK. It had stunning cinematography, tense car chases and Dave Bautista as the muscle. It had all the right makings of a Bond film, making Mendes’ two films some of the best in Bond history.
Directed by the great Alejandro González Iñárritu, Birdman tells the story of how Michael Keaton’s character Riggan Thompson, is struggling to put together a Broadway play. Mostly recognised for his work as the iconic superhero Birdman, Riggan is looking to recover his career and family, whilst fighting with his own ego.
It’s a fascinating critique of the superhero genre and blockbusters as a whole, and it’s Michael Keaton at his very best. It was one of the most ambitious films of the year, especially in regards to its technical prowess. Taking home 4 Oscar awards earlier this year, Birdman was truly a work of art.
7: Star Wars: The Force Awakens
On its way to becoming the biggest film of all time, J.J. Abrams Star Wars sequel thankfully managed to appease the hordes of fans whilst managing to be a great family film in its own right. With returning cast members from the original trilogy, The Force Awakens introduces three new characters, Rey (Daisy Ridley), Finn (John Boyega) and Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) into the franchise.
The Force Awakens successfully establishes a whole new generation of fans, as it’s the quintessential sci-fi blockbuster. Finding a brilliant balance between comedy and action, Boyega’s Finn and the loveable droid BB-8 are the main comic relief during the film. Adam Driver, who stars as Kylo Ren, also manages to accomplish what Hayden Christensen failed to do so in two films; provide the audience with a tormented, believable character.
The action sequences are wonderfully composed, with dogfights and lightsaber duels feeling real. Star Wars: The Force Awakens could’ve gone so wrong, but thankfully Disney and Abrams steered Star Wars into the right direction again. Here’s to the next film, and the countless spin-offs.
6: Slow West
A Western that fell under the radar for many, John Maclean’s directorial debut was a visually stunning, beautiful piece of work. The film follows Kodi Smit-McPhee as Jay Cavendish, who is on the search for his Scottish lover, who now resides in the American West. On his travels, he meets a bounty hunter named Silas, played by the great Michael Fassbender.
For fans of the Coens and Wes Anderson, Slow West is not to be missed. It’s a unique Western that easily exchanges from comedy to violence at a moment’s notice. Visually striking, oddly dark and accompanied by a wonderful soundtrack, Slow West is a phenomenal journey that it is worth seeking out.
5: Ex Machina
Written and directed by Alex Garland, Ex Machina had tremendous performances from Domhnall Gleeson, Alicia Vikander and Oscar Isaac. The film begins with Caleb (Gleeson), being handpicked to take part in a Turing test with artificial life, in the form of Ava, an android.
Ex Machina slowly descends into darkness, exploring the themes of AI brilliantly. Garland may be one of the best scriptwriters in the industry, and his directorial debut is a shining example of his talents. Eerie, mysterious and suspenseful – Ex Machina is a provocative sci-fi film, with an exemplary cast, and fascinating story.
4: It Follows
An astonishing entry in the horror genre this year, It Follows turned out to be one of the most original and smart films of the year. After having sex with her partner, 19 year old Jay is tormented by an unknown force which will stop at nothing to kill her. To prevent her death, Jay must pass on the curse by having sex with another person.
It’s a bizarre and twisted idea, with a heavy basis on STDs. Featuring a solid synth soundtrack, the film plays with typical genre conventions and tweaks them, therefore providing chills down the spine even after the film has finished. David Robert Mitchell’s It Follows is the best horror film of 2015, complemented by the finest soundtrack of the year too. Here’s to Robert Mitchell’s next ingenious idea.
One of the most dramatic and intense films of the year, Whiplash should provide towels due to the exertion and sweat that occurs during the film. Starring Miles Teller and J. K. Simmons, Whiplash depicts the relationship between a promising drummer named Andrew (Teller), and his abusive teacher, Terence Fletcher (Simmons).
It’s a compelling character piece, which takes the viewer through an exhausting journey, where Terence’s volatile personality deeply affects Andrew. It’s an intense ride from start to finish, featuring one of the most exhilarating endings of this year.
2: The Lobster
Perhaps the most thought-provoking film of the year, The Lobster stars Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, and Léa Seydoux. Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos, The Lobster has a truly unique setup; single people are given 45 days to find love, or they’ll be turned into an animal of their choice.
It’s dark, twisted and never has a film this year left viewers questioning their own lifestyle. Truly astonishing film-making, The Lobster is also unlike any other film that has been made. Its dark humour might not be for everyone, but its absurdist themes make for an exceptional piece of work. It didn’t have a huge release this year in cinemas, so do make sure to track down The Lobster and give it the love it deserves.
1: Mad Max: Fury Road
Unsurprisingly, George Miller’s explosive blockbuster is the best film of 2015. Featuring Tom Hardy as Max, and Charlize Theron as the dominant Furiosa, Mad Max: Fury Road presented forth a truly fiery, rampant and extreme action blockbuster like none other. The film follows Furiosa, who flees from a cult leader whilst holding valuable cargo. As she attempts to escape, she’s unwillingly joined by Max.
Utilising practical effects and an extensive use of pyro, Mad Max: Fury Road had some absolutely jaw-dropping action sequences, as cars would explode into balls of flame and bodies would be flung across the barren wasteland. A whole range of different methods were used to accomplish the visuals throughout, providing the unique look that Fury Road displays.
The most praise for the film goes towards the character of Furiosa, who completely abolishes the archetype of women in action movies. Not only is she on the same level of Max, but she might just be the main star of the entire movie. Charlize Theron absolutely kills it as the most badass woman of the year.
Fury Road’s soundtrack really upped the tempo of most scenes, with Junkie XL providing thunderous beats, ripping guitars and bellowing horns. It perfectly encapsulates the feel of the film which Miller was going for.
George Miller’s carefully crafted piece of work now holds its place as one of the best action movies of all time. No small feat, Mad Max: Fury Road blazes through its post-apocalyptic wasteland in stunning fashion, from start to finish. It has it all; remarkable cinematography, a simple but effective storyline, a kicking soundtrack, strong female lead and the best action scenes in years.