In a few hours The Golden Globes will take place and in four days the Academy Awards nominations will be announced, so we figured it's good timing to present our annual Films Of The Year list, which as usual comes a bit late and concludes our End Of Year coverage, being the last 2015 list to drop.
Fun fact: 8 out of the 30 entries on the list are based on real life events. Maybe a sign that fiction has already started running out of ideas...
30. It Follows
David Robert Mitchell's supernatural horror flick caused a stir in the world of cinema that maybe could be described as an overreaction and that the film has been a bit overrated, yet one has to appreciate It Follows for its originality and freshness, and for being a breath of fresh air for the genre which lately has been quite stale.
Fans of the Neil Hamburger persona, as well as those who enjoyed Rick Alverson's previous films, approach this one with caution because it's one of the toughest movies of the year. It's not a comedy, it's not even a drama, but an almost incoherent take on experimental cinema that will crush your soul and feelings to the ground. Gregg Turkington (aka Neil Hamburger) is phenomenal, leaving the impression that throughout the whole film, his act is 100% natural.
24 Bonds later and the world still hasn't learned how to handle a new Bond movie. As usual Spectre has been beaten by critics and praised as the best Bond ever by some of the fans, though the truth is somewhere in the middle; the film is a much enjoyable action flick, combining classic and modern 007, with a convincing villain, a solid plot and a cool protagonist who at his fourth take on the character looks right at home. Too bad Craig is leaving Bond, because right now he seems to be the one and that nobody else does it better.
If you like trains, werewolves and claustrophobic scenarios that include a bunch of diverse characters, Howl is the movie for you. Howl is a little horror film that despite its low budget, it is tremendously well made, well written and fun to watch. Makes you wonder how much better would it have been with a higher budget.
Everest is not an action film like some would have expected, but a movie based on the real life tragedy that took place on the mountain in 1996. Icelandic director Baltamar Kormákur does an incredible job putting the facts together in an artistic manner and the made-of-stars cast delivers some great performances. Like most of the films that are based on real events, Everest is flawed too, but it's a stunning film to look at and a good excuse for those who didn't catch the story in the news, to make themselves familiar with what happened up there.
25. Ex Machina
Alex Garland's directorial debut is a flawed sci-fi flick, built on the complexity of its few characters and playing with the idea of artificial intelligence and the dangers it comes with. Domhnall Gleeson is once again the one to watch; including Ex Machina, the man was in four huge movies in 2015 and he didn't disappoint in any of them.
88 is a violent action movie directed by April Mullen and starring Ginger Snaps' Katharine Isabelle, that went under the radar but it's definitely worth a mention among the best of the year. The action in this never stops and although it isn't Kill Bill, the movie features some strong, over the top performances, mainly from Isabelle and also a much welcome comeback by Christopher Lloyd.
23. Bridge Of Spies
Tom Hanks delivers an excellent performance as James Donovan, in a Cold War film based on true events that has Spielberg written all over it. Despite the director's signature sugar coated elements, which in Bridge Of Spies are plenty, the film ultimately succeeds to pass as a convincing melodrama of espionage, with great visuals and accurate depiction of the era's mood and aesthetics.
22. The Final Girls
The Final Girls is basically a love letter to the slasher flicks of the eighties, incredibly well-made by someone who has obvious admiration for and deep knowledge about the genre. Taissa Farmiga and Malin Akerman lead the fun cast, every member of which looks like they're enjoying being a part of this film. The Final Girls is the movie that puts Todd Strauss-Schulson on the map as a noteworthy director who knows how to put together a horror comedy.
21. Clouds Of Sils Maria
With a French director, a French protagonist and a Swiss backdrop, Clouds Of Sils Maria feels like a European movie of a time gone by and features some well written and perfectly acted dialogue, mainly between Juliette Binoche and Kristen Stewart, who as actress and her assistant rehearse play lines, balancing between reality and art, clouding the borders of what's real and what's not, reminding us how life and art blend together and often imitate one another. It's an artistic film with stunning photography and cinematography and experienced actors that know well how to carry such a film.
20. Heaven Knows What
Heaven Knows What is the closest fictional cinema can get to realism and possibly the rawest, most disturbing drama of the last few years. The movie tells the true story of protagonist Arielle Holmes' life as a junkie in the streets of New York, as written by her in her book, Mad Love In New York City, and it feels as real as if looking at the young girl's life through a peephole; so disturbingly real, it comes to a point where it becomes almost unwatchable, yet a unique cinematic experience.
Reed Morano's directorial debut is a memorable film about loss and its consequences on one's mentality. Both Olivia Wilde and Luke Wilson deliver great dramatic performances, supported by equally accomplishing acting by Giovanni Ribisi and some very interesting musical selections, varying from Burzum to Kid Cudi.
Like most stories penned by Nick Hornby, Brooklyn is a simple story, a dramatic journey of a young woman, between two different places she both calls “home”, Ireland and New York. The movie is beautifully set and shot, with the cinematography and the costumes depicting New York in the 1950s being Oscar-worthy and Saoirse Ronan hitting one homerun after the other, making it clear she has the potential to be one of the top actresses in the industry.
17. The End Of The Tour
Another story based on real events, The End Of The Tour chronicles the five-day interview between Rolling Stone's David Lipsky and acclaimed author David Foster Wallace, that happened on the last days of his promotional tour for his book, Infinite Jest. Jesse Eisenberg as Lipsky is once again the quirky character he is in almost every film of his, but Jason Siegel as the late author delivers a really impressive performance and as one would expect since the film is based on a really long interview, its greatest weapon is the incredibly sharp dialogue.
16. Turbo Kid
In a Mad Max-like, depraved of water, dystopian future, that is 1997, the Kid, a young comic book fan and hero wannabe, goes on a journey to save his weird new friend, Apple, from the hands of Zeus, the one-eyed dictator of the Wasteland. The retro eighties homage works fine without over-stylizing the whole project. The amazing costumes and designs don't take it too far, on the contrary, its gory violence does, strangely while the movie somehow manages to maintain a light, fun tone for most of its time. Ultimately the bittersweet conclusion seems appropriate for such an extravagant, yet full of respect film for a genre and style that will still look cool in a million years.
In one of the weirdest films of the year, paranoid small-time scam artist, Marty Jackitansky, is struggling to go through with a forgery scam that would earn him two thousand dollars. Except from his smarty-ass intelligence, he is only armed with a Freddy Krueger-like customized Power Glove, some extreme metal on his headphones and the forced support of his dorky work-friend, Derek. Apart for those scenes where the action seems quite stale, Buzzard is a simple movie that grabs the viewer's attention from the start and even makes a dishonest anti-hero like Marty almost likeable.
14. Dark Places
Following last year's successful Gone Girl, Dark Places is another movie based on a Gillian Flynn novel. Directed by Gilles Paquet-Brenner, Dark Places is a mystery thriller that justifies its title. The film features some powerful performances from the cast, a thick plot and a tension building pace, elements which may not comprise a film destined to be a hit, but it doesn't disappoint either. In fact, one of the movie's strongest aspects is a bit such films often fail at: the narration between the two different timeframes of the story and the flashbacks, which help the storytelling flow and unravel. Those who enjoy the “whodunit” type of movies, would surely appreciate Dark Places for its great effort.
13. The Martian
The main problem with The Martian is that it didn't take itself very seriously. Ridley Scott preferred to make it a lighthearted feelgood movie instead of the claustrophobic space drama that it could have been, however the film still deserves a place among the year's best, mostly because of the incredibly accurate depiction of the Martian landscape, its beautiful cinematography and Matt Damon's charisma in the starring role.
12. Mad Max: Fury Road
If you are among those who (not unfairly) roll their eyes with every money-grabbing reboot and remake of older stuff that keep popping up, the new Mad Max will have you think again. Fury Road is an edge of the seat action movie with good looking visuals and stunning costumes and which if it wasn't for the obvious, over the top CGI explosions, would have been much higher on our list.
11. The Stanford Prison Experiment
The Stanford Prison Experiment tells the true story of the experiment that took place in the Stanford University basement in August 1971, conducted by the acclaimed psychologist Philip Zimbardo, portrayed here by Billy Crudup, as accurately as every other performance in the film. The young college students' spot on acting as the subjects of this extreme study feels almost as viewing the actual events, making the overall experience of the film even more horrifying.
10. American Ultra
Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart pair up for the first time after 2009's Adventureland, this time in a very different movie that went slightly under the radar. American Ultra is a stylish, comic book-like action/comedy flick, a sort of a gorier, more violent answer to Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. Surely, it's not the cleverest movie of the year, but it's absolutely entertaining and much fun to be absorbed into for an hour and a half.
Creed was the wittiest and most unbiased way to revive the Rocky franchise. The chemistry between the now older, wiser, still badass character played by Stallone for so long and the youthful and very energetic Adonis Creed, brilliantly portrayed by Michael B. Jordan is palpable and though Creed basically feels like a remake of the original Rocky, the film captures perfectly the modernity of contemporary tough life in Philadelphia, ultimately being the best feelgood movie of the year and a quality blockbuster like they did them in the old days.
Denis Villeneuve seems to be on a roll with his last three films, looking unstoppable at being one of the best contemporary directors in Hollywood at the moment. Sicario is his most Oscar bait attempt so far, a solid thriller featuring an all star cast and some amazing cinematography, courtesy of Roger Deakins. Villeneuve, in his most action packed film to date, shows off his skills and talent in what he does and justifies one's curiosity about what he could do in that long talked about and even longer awaited Blade Runner sequel.
7. Queen Of Earth
Queen Of Earth is the type of film you go into indifferently and leave impressed, with a broken heart and much to think about. Elisabeth Moss' memorable portrayal of a woman on her descent into madness, the movie's stunning photography, its incredibly clever, lively dialogue that often feels like improvisation, its tension building pace and its horror-like score, comprise a mesmerizing, unsettling work of art that is quite tough to swallow, not intended for the mainstream audience and an overall fascinating watch.
6. The Stranger
Eli Roth had a very interesting year in 2015, mostly because of the release of his own films, but also for the TV works and other movies he produced, one of which was Guillermo Amoedo's The Stranger, a film that received reviews that varied from indifferent to nasty. As the movie is all the way a Chilean film, with almost all actors being Chilean, everybody seemed to freak out with the overdubbed English dialogue, an element that can easily be perceived as a nostalgic nod to the foreign (Italian, Spanish, Mexican etc) b-movie flicks of the seventies and eighties. The Stranger is a supernatural horror movie, presented as a drama and it's not flawless, but it's definitely underrated, pleasantly gritty and despite its slow pace, it can keep you at the edge of your seat. Its amazing dark cinematography and the raw, uneasy performances of Cristobal Tapia Montt and Luis Gnecco, combined with Amoedo's excellent direction, comprise an exceptional thriller that has the potential to become a future cult classic.
5. The Green Inferno
Only half an hour into the film, you won't have to wonder anymore why The Green Inferno didn't get any distribution for almost two years after its production. Eli Roth doesn't hide behind his finger; this film is a straight homage to the cannibal genre made famous by Ruggero Deodato and Umberto Lenzi in the late seventies/early eighties and it feels like one from start to finish. The film was beaten to the ground by almost everyone who saw it, maybe under thoughts that Roth is either a bad filmmaker or a troll, whose only intention is to disturb audience and critics with each film. Even so, The Green Inferno is the film Roth wanted it to be and it's a success, particularly regarding the departments of photography, costumes and special effects; the latter done by legendary FX artist, Greg Nicotero. If you have to call one of the two Eli Roth-directed films released this year a miss, The Green Inferno shouldn't be the one.
4. The Revenant
Only a year after the massive success of Birdman, Alejandro González Iñárritu returns with a visually stunning film of a simple survival story. As usual, Leo delivers a jaw dropping gritty performance, carrying the two and a half hours of the film almost exclusively by himself, supported by some great acting from the rest of the cast, particularly Tom Hardy and Domhnall Gleeson. Still trying maybe too hard to create something highly artistic, Iñárritu's film again isn't the impeccable work of art he'd wanted it to be, but it is certainly about to receive many awards and nominations, maybe even that Oscar denied to DiCaprio for a long while now.
Spotlight tells the true story of how in the early 2000's the Boston Globe went after the local Catholic Archdiocese to uncover a child molestation scandal, and it clearly is Tom McCarthy's best film so far as a director. Among the cast comprised of all star actors who all deliver excellent performances, Mark Ruffalo stands out right from the start, possibly marking with his name all over it, this year's Supporting Actor Academy Award.
2. The Hateful Eight
Brilliantly penned dialogue, impressive cinematography, memorable characters, raw violence, an imposing score, wise-ass Samuel Jackson rants and everything else you would expect from another Tarantino western are all present in The Hateful Eight, a nostalgic love letter to the westerns of the fifties and the sixties, with a brilliant, fun cast. Never losing any part of his witty style, Tarantino again approaches a genre he loves with respect and comes up with a phenomenal western/theatrical murder mystery film that slowly unravels and builds suspense, legitimizing the director's spot among the best of his time, or even all time.
1. Straight Outta Compton
The most remarkable thing about Straight Outta Compton is not only that it is the best music related biopic we've seen in years, but that it can easily appeal to non-rap fans too. F. Gary Gray proved that he was the right choice for the film's direction and the whole cast, on top of everyone's uncanny resemblances to the real people they portray, blends like a single unit, delivering amazing performances, but if you had to pick one, Jason Mitchell as the late Easy-E is the one who stands out. Straight Outta Compton, the story of the legendary NWA, filled with drama, larger than life characters and of course brilliants beats and rhymes, honors the story it narrates and everyone involved.