2015 has been an interesting year for film. It feels like every second week we have been handed another huge blockbuster, set to make more money than God. While some have been great just as many have failed. Even more importantly, independent cinema continues to show it is just as good as the big budget stuff, with great films coming from all manner of sources. With that in mind, here are my top ten films of the year.
It’s back and it is good. I’m not alone in being delighted about that. The Force Awakens is what a Star Wars film needed to be in 2015. It looks back to the past while at the same time setting up the future. New characters like Daisy Ridley’s Rey and John Boyega’s Finn are set to establish themselves as heroes to a whole new generation of Star Wars fans. There is another good Star Wars film folks, the dream is real.
A stop-motion film about a group of sheep who don’t speak a single word but get themselves into all manner of high jinks. On paper, Shaun the Sheep is unlikely to make it into a 23-year-old man’s film of the year list. Yet, here it is. Because in fact Shaun the Sheep is a brilliant ode to silent cinema, sprinkled with that trademark Aardman devotion to perfection. Whether you are five years old or 90 there is plenty to love in this film and you’d have to have something seriously wrong with you to not laugh through this cracking film.
Grandma could have been a controversial film. In fact, it probably is to some people. The story of a lesbian women helping her granddaughter raise the money for an abortion, there is a certain section of society that will hate it. Yet, what makes Grandma is the fact that it never feels like a film about these subjects. It is a film about people, some of whom are gay and some of whom need an abortion. What it really is a story about family and love. A fantastic performance by Lily Tomlin seals the deal and makes this one of this year’s great overlooked films.
The less you know about The Gift going into it the better. Joel Edgerton’s directorial debut is a creepy and tense thriller which leaves you guessing all the way through it. Edgerton himself is unsettling as the mysterious Gordo, who comes back into the life of Jason Bateman’s Simon and his wife, Robyn. Bateman meanwhile plays against character, ditching his comic roots and doing a cracking job while doing so. It is an unsettling film and one which leaves you with as many questions coming out as you had going in.
Coming of age films are always tough to pull off. Dropping into soppy melodrama is easy, particularly when they centre around a young girl with cancer. Thankfully, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl does nothing of the sort. Instead, it finds humour in this horrible situation. It is also a film that loves cinema. With the titular me (Greg) and Earl spending their spare time putting together spoofs of classic movies. This is a touching story which never forgets to be fun and it is as good at making you laugh as it is at making you cry.
Ridley Scott has made a good film. That alone makes the world a slightly better place. The fact The Martian is quite a bit better than just good makes it all the more special. The story of Matt Damon being stuck on Mars may not be the harrowing tale that it could have been but it is wonderfully good fun. Damon brings his everyman charm to the central role and it turns into a film about the spirit of human endurance. It’s a timely reminder that when working from a good script, Scott is one of the best.
Yet another science fiction film, but one done on a much smaller platform than the others on this list. Ex Machina, is in essence, a three piece film, with Oscar Isaac, Dohmnall Gleeson and Alicia Vikander living in a mansion in the hill sas they try to crack the secret to AI. Vikander is the AI in question and her unsettling performance is central to what makes this film stick in the head. Beautifully put together by Alex Garland this may well be the best film from three actors who have had very exciting years.
No film about jazz drumming should be this exciting and yet here we are. JK Simmons rightfully won an Oscar for his performance as chair throwing Jazz teacher Terence Fletcher but just as important was Miles Teller’s Andrew. The two of them play off each other perfectly and their student teacher relationship is both fascinating and terrifying. This is a film that asks you how much you should be willing to sacrifice in order to reach perfection and does a damn good job of doing so.
What can be said about Mad Max that hasn’t been said a million times already? A breathless riot of a film, Fury Road saw a 70 odd-year-old George Miller return to the action genre and kick the arse of anyone that believed that they deserved to be on the same road as him. Tom Hardy’s titular Max was all brooding menace but it is Charlize Theron that steals the show as Imperator Furiosa. This film is set to go down as an all-time classic and in any other year would take number spot on this list.
Any other year wouldn’t include Inside Out, the film that reminded us all just how good Pixar are. The story of the emotions that live inside our head, this film grasped complicated subject matter and made it understandable in a way that a million so-called adult films have failed to do. Pixar created a story that on one hand is a simple adventure, which small children will watch and love, and on the other hand, is a complex explanation as to how we feel and the importance of both happiness and grief. Much like Pixar classics such as Toy Story, Inside Out is a film that will stick with us for years to come and it is worthy of that right.