One of the ironies of writing about films is that you simply can’t cover them all on your own. Dedicated websites with a team of writers are able to cover a lot more films than one man and as such there may be some omissions here. While it is true that I have not seen some of the bigger releases in 2015 I will not to be deterred and I have compiled a list of the films from 2015 which I believe are some of the best the year had to offer.
Krampus‘ mix of dark humour and Christmas themed horror marks Michael Daugherty’s film as one of the best Christmas films since the golden age of the 80’s. While being very much a mix of Home Alone and Gremlins, Krampus mixes various genres to create a creepy delight that is the perfect antidote to all the light and breezy films that are now associated with the festive sub-genre. Like the next film on the list, Krampus didn’t get the audience it deserved and will hopefully be picked up as a cult classic when it arrives on DVD.
9. Slow West
One of the genuine surprises of 2015 was John MaClean’s wonderful Slow West. A bizarre and beautiful western with stand out performances from Michael Fassbender and Kodi Smit-McPhee mixed with a simple story and some genuinely funny moments resulted in a film that was largely overlooked on its cinematic release. Admittedly I only caught the film on its DVD release, but Slow West deserves to be seen and gives the Western genre a much needed kick in the rear.
While it was never likely to recapture the magic of the magnificent Skyfall, Spectre is still one of the best Bond films of the modern era and manages to keep things sombre while adding the odd dash of Roger Moore style humour. Daniel Craig cements his position as one of the best, if not the best, James Bond and Sam Mendes keeps the films moving in the right direction. It should not be forgotten that the opening Day of the Dead scene is one of 2015’s best and must surely be a contender for best opening to a Bond film.
7. Inside Out
In a rarity for Pixar, the animation studio released two films within the same year, one was The Good Dinosaur while the other was the excellent Inside Out. While the film did not hit all the notes of some of Pixar’s classics and was perhaps more of a hit with adults than youngsters, Inside Out remains a remarkable effort. Seeing the varied reactions of the emotions that play out in a young girls mind provided the kind of laughs and emotional resonance that a thousand other films would never manage.
While I will rarely judge a film before I have seen it, I must admit to having some reservations concerning Ant-Man. Marvel’s big film of the year, Age of Ultron, had been and gone and now we had a film about a guy who calls himself Ant-Man and truth be told; I wasn’t convinced. As with Guardians of the Galaxy, Ant-Man was a truly unexpected delight. Packed with humour, action and Paul Rudd being the best Paul Rudd can be, Ant-Man zipped along at an incredible pace and benefited from feeling greatly apart from the other films in Marvel’s cinematic universe. We can only hope that it’s sequel plays upon the first films strong points and gives another superhero film that is just a lot of fun and doesn’t get bogged down by playing too big a part in Marvel’s overbearing politics and interconnected stories.
5. Jurassic World
Jurassic World was one of two films released this year that gave me the biggest smile I’ve had upon leaving the cinema since Jurassic Park. There’s an unbridled joy in seeing a film be so much fun, that any faults it has simply do not register. Yes, I am aware that not everyone liked Jurassic World, and if I hear another word about wearing heels in a crisis I am going to kill someone, but it was a wondrous cinematic experience that was the best the franchise has offered viewers since we first set foot in the park. Arguably it doesn’t have many places to go with the proposed sequels, but nothing can take away the sheer joy that Jurassic World brought with it, and in any other year it would likely have been number one on the list.
4. Ex Machina
Ex Machina continued a run of form at the start of the year with each month churning out quality film after quality film. Granted, that is a personal opinion and only represents the films I caught at the beginning of 2015. Without any doubt, Ex Machina was one of the best science fiction films of the year and marked what would become a great year for all involved. Alex Garland made his directorial debut, while the film also provided three standout performaces from Domhall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac and Alicia Vikander. What Ex Machina did so well was to take a simply story and fill it with fear, paranoia and claustrophobia while also being supremely intelligent.
3. It Follows
One of the best films of the year was also one I did not fit in the time to review. 2015 was a pretty poor year for horror films and its fans, yet It Follows truly stood out. It’s set-up about a young girl being followed by a supernatural force which is passed on after having sex with her boyfriend was a very modern premise, yet It Follows felt like a throwback to a time when horror films were terrifying and had some great ideas floating around. Maika Monroe was excellent in the lead role and marked the real reason why horror films are scary; when the audience fears for the characters rather than ourselves.
2. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
This list has been somewhat awkward for me. I don’t like to over analyse what should make the list, and the general rule I apply is not just how good they are but also how likely I am to watch them again. I also feel slightly awkward in regards to The Force Awakens, as I feel I enjoyed this for the same reasons I enjoyed Jurassic World, and perhaps they should be closer on the list, but something had to separate the two. With The Force Awakens it had to be the weight of expectation bearing down on its shoulders. Jurassic World didn’t quite have the same sense of anticipation as Star Wars did, and simply put this just had to work. The Force Awakens was a return to form for a franchise that had stalled with the prequel trilogy and finally felt like a director was at the helm who had learnt from previous mistakes and knew exactly what to do here.
1. Mad Max: Fury Road
An absolutely unrelenting chase film, Mad Max: Fury Road was the film George Miller had been threatening to make all his career. From the off, Fury Road did not let up and felt like the greatest rock concert you have ever been to. Tom Hardy grunts his way through a film that is positively bonkers but feels consistently fresh, and it would be fair to say that no other film has felt like this in a long time. It was also refreshing to have a film not bogged down in back story and exposition, or feel like it was a part of something much bigger with this being the first part of an elaborate puzzle that would never end. Saying that, George Miller has already been linked to several superhero films and a sequel is reportedly in the works with Tom Hardy signing on for several films. Come what may in the future, Fury Road was a bona-fide rock and roll ride that had action, a true call for great female characters and a flaming guitar. 2015 never got better than this.
Notable mentions: The Voices, Big Hero 6, A Most Violent Year, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Mission : Impossible Rogue Nation and John Wick.