Since today is New Year’s Eve, it seemed like a good time to count down my favourite movies released in 2015. I still have lots to watch (Hateful Eight, you’re next!) so I don’t pretend this list is comprehensive, but it’s a damn good start.
10. What We Do in the Shadows
What We Do in the Shadows is such a crazy, bizarre comedy that I had to love it. It’s irresistible. There are so many great characters on display, a bizarre mix of humans, vampires, and werewolves, and their interactions with one another killed me. With laughter. From start to finish, What We Do in the Shadows gave me scene after scene of amusement, from a bat fight to a werewolf showdown to one of the most awkward town dances imaginable.
9. The Martian
The Martian occupied a strange position for me. I absolutely loved the book, to the point I was worried the movie would fall short and disappoint, but I still felt optimistic that Ridley Scott and crew would pull it off. Well, there’s no doubt now – they pulled it off and then some. The Martian is a fantastic piece of film that captured the book even better than I hoped. It’s got a little of everything (comedy, drama, scifi, thrilller, even a hint of romance) in perfect balance, in a film that is so beautiful to watch it makes you want to visit Mars even after all that happens to poor Mark Watney.
Paul Feig and Melissa McCarthy always make good stuff together, and Spy is their best to date. As great as McCarthy is, Spy is not just about her, and the great performances from the entire ensemble are what makes Spy one of my favourite movies of 2015. McCarthy owns the screen when needed but steps back in order to give everyone their moment to shine, from Rose Byrne to Jude Law to Miranda Hart, and Jason Statham is especially memorable as the boneheaded spy who wants to use every action movie cliche in the book, to hilarious results.
Creed brought back Rocky, one of my most beloved franchises, in the best possible way. It’s a fresh start with a new boxer, Michael B. Jordan, carrying the torch. But at the same time, it forges strong connections to the existing franchise, with Jordan playing Apollo Creed’s son and Rocky being brought in to train the son of his best friend and biggest rival. The atmosphere was perfect, the nods to the past were wonderful, and the story made us cheer again for a new underdog, feeling familiar while also opening up a whole new world of possibilities.
6. Kingsman: The Secret Service
In a year where Marvel released two more superhero movies (and Fox gave us one that we are desperately trying to forget), Kingsman: The Secret Service is my favourite comic book adaptation of 2015. Who knew that Colin Firth could be such an action hero? His character’s last stand at a Kentucky church is one of the best action scenes in recent memory, and the symphony of exploding heads at the end is absolutely masterful. Style and excess abound in Kingsman and I’m looking forward to more of the same in 2017, when the sequel is released!
5. Bridge of Spies
Is it just me or did Bridge of Spies fly WAY under the radar? I heard almost nothing about this movie from anyone, which is shocking for a movie directed by Steven Spielberg, starring Tom Hanks, or written by the Coen Brothers (and Bridge of Spies is all three)! And this is not just any movie. It’s incredible. I was captivated from start to finish by this cold war story that eschews stereotypes and in doing so gives us a much richer experience than I ever could have expected. Nothing is black and white, everything is a shade of grey, especially the Russian spy being bartered (Mark Rylance), who is one of the most upstanding individuals you will ever see on film (especially when in any other movie he’d be the bad guy)!
4. Mad Max: Fury Road
I’m glad to see Mad Max: Fury Road getting so much love, both upon release and as we all reflect on the best of 2015. Mad Max is my favourite action movie of the year by far. Mad Max gave us something so original, frenetic, and crazy that it almost blew my mind. Visually, Mad Max was spectacular but the story and characters were what lifted this movie above the pack. Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron give particularly memorable leading performances, while Nicholas Hoult and Hugh Keays-Byrne both give us bizarre yet believable supporting turns that increase the crazy factor immensely. Mad Max never stops, not even for a second, and it’s a hell of a ride!
3. The Revenant
Speaking of non-stop treks through desolate wastelands, The Revenant is next on my list of favourites. But I would not call The Revenant an action movie – it’s more of a slow burn revenge story as bear attack survivor Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) chases his son’s killer (Tom Hardy, who’s awesome again, this time in a supporting role). And while the midwest winter is harsh, Hugh Glass’ surroundings are absolutely beautiful. For my money, director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki gave us the most visually stunning movie of 2015, and that’s high praise given the next two on the list are also brilliant in that regard.
2. Ex Machina
As is probably evident, 2015 gave us a wide variety of excellent movies, and my favourites were all unique in some way. And “unique” is the best way I can think to describe Ex Machina. It’s a seemingly serene, beautifully shot meditation on what it is to be alive for much of the movie, and yet the whole time your brain is waiting for things to turn ugly. Because it’s inevitable that they will, and yes, they do. Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac and Alicia Vikander all deliver incredible performances, playing so well off each other that it’s easy to suspend any disbelief we may otherwise have had. Ex Machina is spectacular from beginning to end, and most importantly, it puts very difficult questions to us, through the protagonists, that we will ultimately have to answer.
Unique in every way, Anomalisa is head and shoulders above the rest of the movies I saw this year, and without question my favourite of 2015. Everything in Anomalisa serves a purpose, everything has meaning, everything is a potential clue to our struggling protagonist of the hidden problems that he’s facing. Charlie Kaufman’s writing is sharper than ever and Duke Johnson’s animation is stunning and absolutely essential to the story. Anomalisa is pure cinematic brilliance, and I hope all of you are able to experience it for yourselves (as it’s open in select theatres, expanding to a wider release in January). Of all the movies I saw this year, Anomalisa is the one that still sticks with me months later, and I don’t expect to shake it anytime soon.
Happy New Year, and please let me know in the comments what your favourites were in 2015!