From revived beloved franchises and blockbuster sequels to upstart indie hits and terrifying new horror flicks, 2015 has definitely been a vintage year for film. Here, we count down the best 20 movies of the year…
Trick ‘r’ Treat director Michael Dougherty chose to spread festive fear rather than cheer this Christmas with his tale of the titular terror who’s more concerned with the naughty rather than the nice. Genuinely terrifying and amusing in all the right places, it has definitely earned its place on your yuletide must-watch pile. Read our review here.
19) Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials
The Maze Runner was a hit-and-mis affair, but you couldn’t help but be ensnared by the dynamic between the young leads. Scorch Trials gives them room to develop even further, taking the stakes of the previous film and raising them even higher as the Gladers trade a boiling hot frying pan for one that’s positively scalding. With a suitably dramatic ending, we can’t wait for finale The Death Cure. Read our review here.
Short Circuit minus the casual racism and with Die Antwoord duo Ninja and Yolandi, Neill Blomkamp’s Chappie banished the memory of the disappointing Elysium with a far more fun story of Sharlto Copley’s groundbreaking AI teaming up with his creator (Dev Patel) to evade the borderline psychotic Vincent (Hugh Jackman). By shades heartwarming, heartbreaking and hopeful, there was a lot to love about this film. Read our review here.
17) The Lobster
It says a lot about the strangeness of director Yorgos Lanthimos’s previous work that despite being set in a world where singles are encouraged to either find love or be turned into animals, The Lobster is easily his most accessible work to date. The likes of Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, Lea Seydoux, John C Reilly and Ben Whishaw all give brilliantly game performances in what basically becomes a life-sized, nightmarish version of Tinder. Read our review here.
16) The Falling
Carol Morley follows up the heartbreaking Dreams Of A Life with the equally memorable The Falling, in which the pupils of an all-girls school gradually succumb to a mysterious illness. The nature of said epidemic is never revealed, but its mystique makes it all the better as a result, with the inexplicable goings-on serving as a mirror for Lydia (Maisie Williams)’s own confusion. Read our review here.
15) Tale Of The Princess Kaguya
The studio’s first film after Hayao Miyazaki’s departure may not be top-drawer Ghibli, but it still contains the studio’s hallmarks: stunningly beautiful hand-drawn animation, a tender love story, and innocence being shattered with startling brutality. It’s more straightforward a story than we’re used to seeing from Ghibli, but that doesn’t diminish its impact one iota. Read our review here.
14) The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2
Following on from the shocking ending of Part 1, the finale had it all to do. Luckily, the final Mockingjay instalment brought the Games to an end in style, putting the survivors through the mill as they faced their toughest challenges yet. There was death, betrayal and shocks aplenty, and not everyone – and not the ones you might have thought – walked out of it unscathed. Still, it was a fitting end to the series that made a star out of Jennifer Lawrence. Read our review here.
13) It Follows
We can think of few films that captured the imagination this year like David Robert Mitchell’s acclaimed indie horror It Follows. Following teenage Jay (Maika Monroe) as she is relentlessly stalked by an unseen presence, it interrogates and reinvents the rules of horror to such an extent that we’d be surprised if this didn’t become a cult classic in years to come. It even landed on Quentin Tarantino’s radar, who said it didn’t go far enough. We respectfully disagree. Read our review here.
12) A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night
Marketed as ‘the first Israeli vampire horror Western’ Ana Lily Amirpour’s debut film is a lesson in slow-building tension and character study. Containing shot after perfect shot of cinematic gold and wilfully keeping secret where the next scares are coming from, A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night is one that you will want to watch again and again. Read our review here.
11) Jurassic World
If there was any doubt over whether Colin Trevorrow could recapture the Amblin magic for the fourth Jurassic Park then it was immediately dispelled – both by its incredible box-office performance, and by the winningly authentic charm. A welcome throwback to a time when movie blockbusters seemed more thoughtful yet simultaneously simpler, it was good to see dinosaurs back on the big screen. Read our review here.
Arguably Marvel’s riskiest proposition to date rode the wave of what seemed like a troubled production to be one of its most fun films in a while. Scott Lang seems like the role Paul Rudd was made for, Evangeline Lilly and Michael Douglas give great support, and we think we might have found a new favourite actor in Michael Pena. RIP Anthony. Read our review here.
9) Crimson Peak
It’s great when our favourite directors get to do their passion projects, and this was clearly the case with Guillermo del Toro’s Crimson Peak, which sees him go full Lovecraft-in-a-haunted-mansion territory. Full of blood – it’s literally coming out of the walls – betrayal and gothic overtones, as well as a series of game performances (most notably from a chillingly unhinged Jessica Chastain), this one easily exceeded expectations. Read our review here.
8) Avengers: Age Of Ultron
Could Joss Whedon follow-up the mega-grossing and oh-so-fun Avengers Assemble? As Age Of Ultron proved, the answer was emphatically yes. Giving new characters much-need new layers (especially Hawkeye and Banner) and some perfectly Whedonesque comedy gold (the Mjolnir-lifting contest is still one of the year’s funniest scenes), it proved itself as a more than worthy sequel. Read our review here.
7) The Voices
Ryan Reynolds has been best known to date for being the best thing about often poor-quality films, but ahead of 2016’s Deadpool he gets to flex his creepy acting muscles as ‘loveable’ serial killer Jerry, who spends his time talk to his pets while chatting up the local ladies. By turns hilarious and horrifying, The Voices is one of the most tonally jarring films we’ve ever seen, but somehow this is one of its main strengths. Read our review here.
6) Big Hero 6
Yes, Age Of Ultron and Ant-Man were not the best Marvel films of the year. The little-known House of Ideas property was given a makeover by Disney’s animation department, the result being a feature easily capable of standing toe to toe with anything created by Pixar or Dreamworks. Baymax is second only to BB-8 as the year’s most loveable creation, and the rest of the story it Disney at its finest. Read our review here.
Remembered most the ever-so-slightly metatextual casting of Michael Keaton as a suspiciously Batman-looking superhero, there as so much more that makes this one of the best films of the year. Emma Stone, Edward Norton, Naomi Watts and more are all on great film, Keaton is at once empathetic and pathetic as the washed-up lead, and its musings on fame are some of the most poignant we’ve seen. Saying that, it’s loud-and-proud fun first and foremost, and all the better for it. Read our review here.
4) Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Well, possibly the most eagerly anticipated film of all time is here, and it definitely didn’t disappoint. Containing all the familiar story beats of the classic originals – plus a few new inventions of its own – The Force Awakens doesn’t so much reinvent the Star Wars wheel as it does give it a shiny new sheen, but would you really want it to? More importantly, the saga has its mojo back, and we couldn’t be happier for it. Read our review here.
3) The Martian
Adapting a book comprising almost solely the perspective of one man sounds like an impossible task. Luckily, with the joint talents of Ridley Scott and Drew Goddard involved, it proved to not only be attainable; it was brilliant as well. Admittedly, Matt Damon is one of the few actors around who could hope to carry a film like this by themselves, but the combination of inspired supporting casting, gallows humour and disco music proved to be a winning formula. Read our review here.
2) Ex Machina
The ridiculously talented Alex Garland can now add ‘acclaimed director’ to his belt in this tale of AI versus humanity. Oscar Isaac is the reclusive genius, Alicia Vikandar his creation and Domhnall Gleeson the curious outsider as humanity’s tendency to over-reach inevitably bites itself in the arse. Beautifully shot, with with an always-present sinister undercurrent, we can’t wait to see what Garland does yet. Read our review here.
1) Mad Max: Fury Road
There were times when we thought we’d never see George Miller’s return to the series that made his name, but we’re glad we did, as Mad Max: Fury Road is nothing short of brilliant. A rip-roaring slice of anarchic automobile-based carnage, Tom Hardy rarely communicates in anything more than a grunt, but he’s still utterly transfixing as the lead, despite nearly having the film stolen from under him by co-star Charlize Theron. Essentially one-long action sequence, and shorn (mostly) of special effects, we don’t know how the hell this got made, but we’re so, so glad it did. Read our review here.