It’s that time of year once again, when websites offend their readers by putting together a list of their favourite moments of the year. Though none of these picks have been made out of badness (yes, I actually really enjoyed Ant-Man, more than I thought I was going to), it’s always nice to see the reactions and the messages of “you’re wrong” that these lists get.
So, to the keyboard warriors, here are my top 10 films of 2015.
1. Mad Max: Fury Road
The best thing about Fury Road was just how much it played on your expectations and surpassed them in bizarre post-apocalyptic style. We don’t get big budget action films like this very much anymore, with charm and visuals and a need to tell an action-packed story, without sacrificing powerful characters and performances.
A lot has been said about the portrayal of the strong female leads in this film, and I’m sure a lot more will be noted by the time it’s all said and done. Don’t worry, this isn’t spinning off into some pro/anti feminist rant (nor should it, this is just a Mad Max movie after all), besides, I’d much rather talk about how fresh and gripping a story you can tell when the entire premise revolves around someone turning left when they should have gone straight.
Charlize Theron puts in a powerful performance, one of the best of the year, and this is all while playing a character that’s a little bit ridiculous, and could have been played a lot more cartoony. And amidst the terrifying part-man, part-machine warlords, the fanatical white-skinned war boys and that crazy nutter with the flaming guitar, Tom Hardy’s stripped back grunting and butt-kicking turn as Max seems to be the least important thing in this movie.
It was bold, smart and in your face. Witness it, at once.
2. Ex Machina
In a world overflowing with sci-fi stories that tell you how messed up the world could become thanks to technology, there were none more foreboding or fresh in 2015 than Ex Machina. Its story, though minimal, gave the possibilities room to breath, as your suspicions grow, and the claustrophobic feel that the film imposes on you grows tighter and tighter.
With striking performances from leads Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac and Alicia Vikander, this slow-building descent into the horrors of what it means to be human is much better watched the less you know about it. All you need to know is that it’s essential viewing.
3. It Follows
Taking the basic idea from the possession and haunting films that we’ve been oversaturated with the last few years and shaking it up, this is a fantastic, freshly tense take on the horror genre that will leave you very worried about that stranger walking silently towards you.
David Robert Mitchell’s ghost story has a lot to say on teen lifestyle, much like A Nightmare On Elm Street did upon its original release. In fact, one could make a few strong connections between the two. Strong heroines, a different kind of haunting and a story to keep you guessing where it’s all going next.
Maika Monroe shines as a leading lady, much like she did in The Guest. Being followed by a ghost that is passed on to you is one thing, but knowing that you can only pass it on, never getting rid of it is the most haunting thing of all.
4. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
What can I say about Star Wars that hasn’t already been said? On this site alone, the praise has been deservingly high. It was like calling round to an old friend’s house for dinner; although you haven’t seen them in an age, you pick up right where you left off, loving every minute of it.
Thus was the case with The Force Awakens. With enough nods (sometimes a tad excessive for my liking) and returns from its predecessors, the focus still managed to be heavily on the new characters and driving their story forward. It’s no secret that I cheer the bad guys, and Kylo Ren is the strongest, most well-developed villain the franchise has ever given us. Rey, Finn and Poe are such fantastic leads as well (there’s Oscar Isaac turning up again) and the fanboy worrying can end: Star Wars is back on top, right where it should be.
So, technically this isn’t cheating, because IMDB has this listen as being released in the UK on the 1st January. Take that, technicality!
Possibly the most seen arthouse film of the year, Birdman turned a lot of heads, and rightfully so. With its continuous-looking style and career-best performances from the likes of Michael Keaton, Emma Stone and, surprisingly, Zach Galifianakis, it’s a mind-melting downward spiral from reality to WTF that saw Alejandro González Iñárritu direct the strangest, most satisfying take on superheroes, acting and relationships that you could possibly hope for. Just don’t start a conversation about the ending.
Neill Blomkamp feels like he’s falling fate to the old rock and roll cliches. He had his sensational debut with District 9, a sci-fi masterclass that is still hard to beat. His difficult second album Elysium wasn’t as well received, but still holds a lot of his magic within. Chappie was a bit overlooked by audiences, maybe because of the lukewarm reception of its predecessor, maybe because it’s kind of a difficult film to pitch.
But if you committed, what a treat it was. Giving a heart to a robot character much like Wall E or Short Circuit once did, Sharlto Copley shines once again in his teaming up with Blomkamp. It, much like his other work, has a lot to say on the state of the world, and isn’t shy about how it addresses it.
There are laughs and manly tears to be had, thanks to a director not afraid to be a little bit different.
When hearing the news that Michael Fassbender would star in a big screen adaptation of Macbeth, there was many a spectator that responded by saying “oh… why?” It was a little bit of a surprise, let’s be honest. But if you haven’t seen the epic, darkened take on the tale that was teased in the trailers, then you’ve no idea just what it was you were missing out on.
An unsurprisingly faithful adaptation, with sharp, striking visuals showing off the eye for detail that director Justin Kurzel has. There’s a lot of power behind Fassbender’s performance, but even he is outshone by Marion Cotillard. Her gripping portrayal of Lady Macbeth is like watching a true descent into madness, performed and executed to sheer mesmerising perfection.
8. Jurassic World
I’m gonna get in trouble for this one, aren’t I? Star Wars only fourth and Jurassic World in the top 10? Be kind and send any complaints to Marc, please and thank you.
An eyebrow can be – and sometimes rightfully should be – raised at the term reboot. With Mad Max, you’re carrying on a legacy without overburdening the audiences with throwbacks. The Force Awakens, while technically a sequel, was at times overloaded with nods to its predecessors, but had enough new blood to see it through. Jurassic World finds itself down the list because it gets a little lost, unsure whether it wants to constantly reference the films that came before, remake the original, or start afresh on its own path. Luckily, it’s fun enough to stand as a proud edition on this end of year list.
And that’s the point, this one was just straight-up fun.
Though some may argue, Chris Pratt makes a fantastic leading man, a jokey likeable raptor expert similar in style to the roles a certain younger Harrison Ford was given. The dinosaurs are back on top form, after the sub-standard Jurassic Park 3. The introduction of the Indominus Rex as a proper monster of science is fun (sometimes things camouflage, get over it) and the reuse of having two kid leads is a solid homage to the 1993 original.
It’s fun, some people just need to get over that.
9. Big Hero 6
I see Inside Out appearing on a lot of Best Of lists this year, and that’s fine. I thought it was decent, just nothing too spectacular. The real crime would be to rank it above Big Hero 6, a much more heartwarming, fun adventure that tells a much clearer, better thought out story.
It’s a beautiful blend of action scenes, laced with touching family drama; a perfect response from Disney on how to do something a little bit different within the superhero genre.
Baymax is unsurprisingly the stand out here, a character capable of delivering a side-splitting one-liner as much as a heart-warming insight into what’s going on with main character Hiro. Even after his introductory scene, it’s only the heartless that wouldn’t want their very own Baymax.
Marvel had a shaky time of it this year. After Age of Ultron was only alright, ultimately un-impressing movie goers, maybe a gamble on a character as unknown and as, let’s be honest, silly a concept as Ant-Man wasn’t going to be the best idea. I’m sure studio executives were getting worried. But the gamble payed off. Not on the level of Guardians of the Galaxy, but this is certainly a fun take on the character, and one of the most creative heist films you’ll see this year.
Whether it’s Paul Rudd finally getting to do what he does at his sarcastic best in a Marvel movie, a rejuvenated Michael Douglas or Corey Stoll getting to be the maniacal super villain Cross, this is a fun film full of great performances and laughs.
And hey, now that the origin story is out of the way, we can get super excited for Ant-Man and The Wasp in… 2018? Dammit.