Lists, lists… nothing but bloody lists. It’s that time of the year again, and a chance to look back at the films that have thrilled, moved or excited me during the last year. And then some of the turkeys of the movie season. While some of these were released in 2014, they only reached my eyes in the cinema during 2015, so they count.
As always, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so you might not agree with my choices, but that’s the joy of cinema. And with the benefit of hindsight, some which I rated very highly have slipped in my estimation, while some have stayed in my mind all year and as such deserve a place on the list.
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So, here they are, in best countdown tradition in reverse order. (For each film I have also picked my favourite picture/comedy caption combination!). And if you want to see my choice of the festive turkeys of the year, you can find that here.
#10 – Bridge of Spies
Spielberg back on top form with a cold-war tale of spy exchanges in an atmospheric and beautifully recreated Berlin. With Mark Rylance acting the socks off everyone else in the film.
#9 – Max Mad – Fury Road
George Miller’s insane 2 hours of adrenaline powered mayhem that makes you leave the auditorium feeling like you are smelling of petrol. Very little plot, almost incomprehensible dialogue, but it just works.
#8 – Carol
A gorgeously recreated America in the 50’s and a lesbian love story that truly touches the soul. Both Rooney Mara and Cate Blanchett should get Oscar nominations for this, with Mara winning.
Extremely watchable (unless you are a sheep). A superb retelling of the Thomas Hardy classic in a bucolically photogenic Dorset. I take my (Golden) Cap off to it.
#6 – Birdman
Surreal, quirky, extraordinary. This WAS a Marmite movie, that some loved and some hated. But I was in the former camp. Emma Stone giving a manic and memorable performance. And I could watch Keaton and Norton’s rehearsal scene – a masterclass in acting about a masterclass in acting – over and over again.
Probably not a film that is going to trouble the Oscars, but just one of the most wholly entertaining action films of the year. Rebecca Ferguson kicks-ass in an ambiguous good girl/bad girl role and Tom Cruise’s aerobatic stunt makes for one of the most jaw-dropping openers of any film. A guilty pleasure.
#4 – The Martian
Ridley Scott’s interplanetary version of Robinson Crusoe using the clever device of Matt Damon’s vlog to avoid the cinematic death-grip of the voiceover. We learn that potatoes grow well in shit and that if you’re going to take gaffer tape to Mars make sure it’s the REALLY STRONG sort!
#3 – Ex Machina
Unlike the next film in the countdown, a low-key science-fiction classic. With Force Awakens alumni Domnhnall Gleeson and Oscar Isaac and the gorgeous Alicia Vikander, Alex Garland’s claustrophobic little tale ticked all my boxes. It was probably the one film I massively under-rated in my original review.
After all the hype, the reality couldn’t possibly meet the expectation could it? For me, it did. J.J. Abrams lovingly created a movie that ‘smells’ of the original trilogy, thankfully obliterating from the memory the lacklustre and CGI-rich prequels. Daisy Ridley and John Boyega excel in their new roles of Rey and Finn with the original stars reprising their roles, all older and wiser and all back in the cast list for 2017’s Star Wars VIII.
#1 – Whiplash
It’s easy when you do one of these lists to overlook the great films early in the year at the expense of the later ones you’ve seen. But Damien Chazelle’s Whiplash is so emotionally powerful in its feral tale of bullying in a music academy that it breaks through that bias to get my number one slot for the year. A well-deserved Oscar for J.K. Simmons and a breakout role for Miles Teller.