The Best Films of 2015

In this article I run down what films I felt were the 25 best movies of last year from selection of 70+ films that I had the chance to see. It was extremely tough narrowing it down to 25 and especially the top 10 is super-tight, but in reality, I enjoyed all of these movies and they all offer something new to the table regardless of the genre and what film they’re in. I also list my favourite actors and actresses of the year, as well as various other awards in a similar fashion to the Oscars Ceremony, which airs later today.

25. Dope

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Directed by Rick Famuyiwa | Starring: Shameik Moore, Zoe Kravitz, Kiersey Clemons, Tony Revolori | Genre(s): Drama, Comedy | Length: 103mins | Trailer 

Too often, high school coming of age movies are clichéd, unoriginal and forgettable. Not so with Dope, following a geeky, ‘90s hip hop obsessed teenager and his struggles after he accidentally picks up a bag filled with drugs and a gun following a chance invitation to an underground party. It’s funny, entertaining and makes use of solid directing and acting to tell a compelling story. The cast is great as well with good performances from the likes of Shameik Moore and Zoe Kravitz, blending several genres like crime, comedy and romance together to create a well-balanced, diverse film that really works.

24. Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight For Freedom

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Directed by Evgeny Afineevsky | Genre: Documentary | Length: 98mins | Trailer

It’s not often that I watch documentaries but after watching  Evgeny Afineevsky on The Daily Show I knew I had to watch Winter on Fire and it really blew me away. The powerful subject of the Ukraine Revolution was really brought to life in Winter on Fire in a harrowing way, with some great use of real footage and some haunting interviews. It’s on Netflix so if you want to give it a shot now might be a good time to do so.

23. Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation

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Directed by Christopher McQuarrie | Starring: Tom Cruise, Rebecca Furguson, Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg | Genre(s): Action, Adventure, Thriller | Length: 131mins | Trailer

Five movies into the Mission Impossible series and the franchise just keeps getting and better. With better stunts, better action and a better plot, Mission Impossible established itself as one of the best spy movies of the a year packed full of them, featuring a breakout role for one of the best new female actors in the franchise, Rebecca Furguson, who has, unlike any female star in previous Mission Impossible films, been recalled for a second outing in the next film.

22. The Walk

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Directed by Robert Zemeckis | Staring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ben Kingsley, Charlotte Le Bon | Genre(s): Drama, Adventure, Thriller | Trailer

Based on the true story of the man who successfully wire-walked the Twin Towers, Joseph Gordon-Levitt steals the show in a fun, enjoyable story that’s part origin story, part heist movie. The Walk is a spectacle that director Robert Zemeckis handles incredibly well, even if it may not offer much attention to its supporting cast and Gordon-Levitt’s French accent may be offputting to some.

21. Straight Outta Compton

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Directed by F. Gary Grey | Starring: O’Shea Jackson Junior, Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell | Genre(s): Music, Drama | Length: 147mins | Trailer

A biopic decapitating the origin of the N.W.A. rap group, Straight Outta Compton was a terrific success by director F. Gary Grey and deserved a lot more love at the Oscars than just the screenplay nomination. Although some parts were rushed, Straight Outta Compton was powerful, impressive, and had some fantastic concert scenes to boot, boasting a great ensemble cast as well.

20. It Follows

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Directed by David Robert Mitchell | Starring: Maika Monroe, Keir Gilchrist, Olivia Luccardi | Genre(s): Horror, Thriller | Length: 100mins | Trailer

Not just the best horror movie of 2015, but one of the best in years, It Follows is a groundbreaking, tense and atmospheric, often outright scary film that has a simple plot at its core.  The film follows a 19 year old named Jay who believes something is following her that nobody else can see and has inherited the curse after a seemingly simple sexual encounter. It’s a powerful movie that really impresses, and thanks to a great performance from Maika Monroe, is one of last year’s best films.

19. Kingsman: The Secret Service

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Directed by Matthew Vaughn | Starring: Colin Firth, Taron Egerton, Samuel L. Jackson, Michael Caine, Mark Strong | Genre(s): Action, Adventure, Comedy, Crime | Length: 130mins | Trailer

The best comic book adaption of 2015 came from a Matthew Vaughn film released in January. Featuring a stellar cast of the likes of Colin Firth, Michael Caine, Samuel L. Jackson and breakout star Taron Egerton, Kingsman: The Secret Service is an action comedy that overloads on the violence and really works as a result. It’s awesome, really fun to watch, and the infamous Church scene may well be one of the best movie moments of 2015.

18. Room

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Directed by Lenny Abrahamson | Starring: Brie Larson, Jacob Tremblay | Genre(s): Drama | Length: 117mins | Trailer

It’s a testament to the sheer quality of releases in 2015 that Brie Larson, responsible for my favourite female performance of the year, only winds up in the eighteenth place on this list. It tells the story of a woman who is trapped in a single room by a vile abuser for several years, and ends up giving birth to her son Jack, who has spent five years inside the Room. It’s an incredible story with some terrific acting from both Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay, with Frank director Lenny Abrahamson working really well to deliver a powerful movie that packs an emotional punch.

17. Macbeth

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Directed by Justin Kurzel | Starring: Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Sean Harris | Genre(s): War, Drama | Length: 113mins | Trailer

I was never the biggest fan of Shakespeare at school but thanks to some recent movie adaptions I’ve started to enjoy his work a lot more. I loved Joss Whedon’s 2012 spin on Much Ado About Nothing and Justin Kurzel brings some masterful direction to the table to weave an epic take on the tragic character. Fassbender plays Macbeth incredibly well with Marion Cotillard putting in an equally fantastic performance as his wife. The score and cinematography is amazing and I really can’t wait to see what Kurzel does with this year’s Assassin’s Creed film which also features the same two actors.

16. Beasts of No Nation

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Directed by Cary Fukenaga | Starring: Idris Elba, Abraham Atta, Opeyemi Fagbohungbe, Richard Pepple | Genre(s): War, Drama | Length: 137mins | Trailer 

Netflix’s first feature length film also happened to be an incredible one as it looked as to how war devastated a nameless African Nation and how child soldiers were conscripted into the conflict. The cinematography allowed for the backdrop to look absolutely stunning, and True Detective’s Cary Fukenaga delivered a film that was at times, hard to watch, featuring stunning performances from both Idris Elba and young star Abraham Atta, in their respective roles as the Commandant, and a child soldier.

15. Mistress America

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Directed by Noah Baumbach | Starring: Greta Gerwig, Lola Kirke, Charlie Gillette, Dean Wareham | Genre(s): Comedy | Length: 84mins | Trailer

The best comedy movie of 2015 is from one of my favourite Comedy directors, Noah Baumbach. He puts Lola Kirke and Greta Gerwig in one movie and makes them shine, telling the story about a young and lonely College Freshman in New York (Kirke) who finds out that she has a soon-to-be-stepsister, the funny, adventurous Brooke (Gerwig). Compelling, amusing and entertaining, Mistress America is an excellent film and one of Baumbach’s two great movies this year, with the fantastic While We’re Young being the other. Both are excellent, and the latter fell just short of making it two for Baumbach on this list.

14. Ex Machina

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Directed by Alex Garland | Starring: Oscar Isaac, Domhnall Gleeson, Alicia Vikander | Genre(s): Drama, Science Fiction | Length: 108mins | Trailer

A debut from director Alex Garland blew me away when I was watching this smart, complex thriller about the creation of an Artificial Intelligence. Featuring The Force Awakens actors Oscar Isaac and Domhnall Gleeson as well as a superb performance from Alicia Vikander, the acting, direction and smart ideas make Ex Machina essential viewing.

13. Crimson Peak

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Directed by Guillermo Del Toro | Starring: Jessica Chastain, Tom Hiddleston, Mia Waiskowska, Charlie Hunnam, Jim Beaver, Burn Gorman | Length: 119mins | Trailer

Guillermo Del Toro is one of my favourite horror directors and I have loved his work like Pan’s Labyrinth, The Devil’s Backbone and Pacific Rim (to venture outside of the horror category), and each of his films are unique, entertaining and pretty awesome. Packed with an amazing cast who deliver excellent performances, Crimson Peak looks absolutely amazing and despite on paper looking like a typical ghost story it’s far more complex, unique and different than that. It’s a proper gothic romance that fans of the genre should love, even though it won’t be for everyone.

12. Creed

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Directed by Ryan Coogler | Starring: Michael B. Jordan, Tessa Thompson, Sylvester Stallone | Genre(s): Sport, Drama | Length: 113mins | Trailer

The dark horse for the Oscar Nominations this year before the nominations were made, Ryan Coogler’s Rocky reboot/reimagining/sequel captured the same nostalgic feel as The Force Awakens offering something fresh and exciting at the same time, as the director of the upcoming Black Panther film cast Michael B. Jordan in the spotlight as the son of a famous boxer Apollo Creed. Featuring the excellent Tessa Thompson alongside a Sylvester Stallone (who remembered that he can actually act) reprising his role as Rocky Balboa. The soundtrack was excellent and the story was inspiring, emotionally investing and overall, a resounding success. If only boxing was this exciting in real life.

11. Sicario

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Directed by Denis Villeneuve | Starring: Emily Blunt, Benicio Del Toro, Josh Brolin, Jon Bernthal | Genre(s): Action, Thriller, Mystery, Drama, Crime | Length: 121mins | Trailer

Denis Villeneuve is a director whose movies I really want to watch more of, and it was great to see that Sicario really succeeded. It’s a movie which follows a young female FBI Agent (Emily Blunt) joining a secret CIA operation to take down a Mexican Cartel Boss. The cast is good, with Benicio Del Toro, Josh Brolin, Jon Bernthal and more cropping up in this story that looks at how out of her depth Emily Blunt’s character really is, as the film’s intensity always keeps the tension high and action packed throughout.

10. Slow West

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Directed by John Macclean | Starring: Michael Fassbender, Kodi Smit-McPhee | Genre(s): Thriller, Romance, Western | Length: 84mins | Trailer

Aside from gangster movies and space operas, the western is probably one of my favourite genres. It’s a shame that we rarely get films set in the Old West anymore but every now and then films like The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, True Grit and Django Unchained come along and leave an amazing impression. Slow West was another one of these films that did just that, following a 17 year old Scottish teenager played by Kodi Smit-McPhee who finds himself teaming up with a mysterious gunman played by Michael Fassbender to find the woman who he is in love with. It’s a beautifully shot Western that pulls the audience in and keeps them hooked from start to finish. John Maclean is certainly a director to watch.

9. Bridge of Spies

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Directed by Steven Spielberg, Starring: Tom Hanks, Mark Rylance, Amy Ryan, Alan Alda | Genre(s): Thriller, Drama | Length: 141mins | Trailer

Steven Spielberg’s Cold War epic, based on the true story of Lawyer James Britt Donavan, was one of the best movies of 2015. The atmosphere that Spielberg conveys here is incredible with some great cinematography as we really get a sense of Berlin during 1957 when the Wall is being established. The film follows the extraordinary event that saw Donavan attempt to negotiate a prisoner exchange during the height of the Cold War between captured US Spy Pilot Francis Gary Powers and captured Soviet Spy Rudolf Abel, and with some wonderful performances from Tom Hanks and Mark Rylance, as well as a superb Coen Brothers script, Bridge of Spies is an excellent film.

8. The Revenant

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Directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu | Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Will Poulter, Domhnall Gleeson | Genre(s): Western, Drama, Adventure, Thriller | Length: 156mins | Trailer

Every time the Oscars roll around, there’s a running joke that Leonardo DiCaprio didn’t win the Best Actor Award no matter how many times he gets nominated. Well, The Revenant looks set to change that as he puts in an epic performance as frontiersman Hugh Glass, who survives a horrific experience of being mauled by a bear and has to set out for vengeance against John Fitzgerald, the man who murdered his son and left him for dead. Fitzgerald is played almost equally well by Tom Hardy, and with the likes of Will Poulter and Domhnall Gleeson also starring, the film is a brutal, intense experience from Birdman director Alejandro González Iñárritu. I wouldn’t be surprised to see this film do really well at the Oscars this yea – even if I think Fassbender should get the nod instead for Steve Jobs.

7. The Big Short

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Directed by Adam McKay | Starring: Christian Bale, Ryan Gosling, Steve Carrell, Brad Pitt | Genre(s): Drama | Length: 130mins | Trailer

Based on the true story about the men who made millions from a global economic meltdown, The Big Short is from director Adam McKay and features a stellar cast of fantastic actors. Christian Bale and Ryan Gosling kill it in their respective roles, and with cameos from the likes of Margot Robbie (as herself), The Big Short is a smart and funny look into the banking crisis.

6. The Martian

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Directed by Ridley Scott | Starring: Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Jeff Daniels, Michael Pena, Sean Bean, Kate Mara, Sebastian Stan, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Mackenzie Davis, Donald Glover | Genre(s):  Science-Fiction, Adventure | Length: 141mins | Trailer

Ridley Scott is back. Based on Andy Weir’s novel which was one of my favourite books of 2014 it is easy to see why that the film is one of my favourites of 2015. The film follows yet another attempt to save Matt Damon, who plays astronaut Mark Watney, stranded and left behind on Mars when an accident causes his crew to leave him for dead. Boasting some great moments of humour and a nice soundtrack (anything that features Bowie music earns a point in my book), The Martian also happened to be one of the most uplifting movies of 2015.

5. Spotlight

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Directed by Tom McCarthy | Starring: Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Live Schreiber | Genre(s): Thriller, Drama, History | Length: 128mins | Trailer

The first film that I’ve seen from Tom McCarthy is an absolute must-see, with Spotlight knocking it out of the park in terms of direction. It’s stunning and follows a harrowing, subtle, hard-to-watch story about a difficult subject matter in the cover-ups by the Catholic Church of child molestation and follows an elite team of journalists called Spotlight in their efforts to expose the truth. With an incredible cast featuring the likes of Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams and Liev Schreiber, as well as a fantastic score by Howard Shore, Spotlight is really worth a watch.

4. Steve Jobs

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Directed by Danny Boyle | Starring: Michael Fassbender, Seth Rogen, Kate Winslet, Jeff Daniels, Sarah Snook | Genre(s): History, Drama | Length: 125mins | Trailer

I’m not Apple’s biggest fan but Danny Boyle is a superb director, Aaron Sorkin is a superb screenwriter and Michael Fassbender is a superb actor so there was no way I was not going to go and see Steve Jobs, the bipoic that is set backstage at three iconic press conferences over the course of the inventor’s career. It’s intense and features an amazing soundtrack from Daniel Pemberton, with some amazing acting and a great script to boot. There are just so many great lines in this film. Oh, and Fassbender’s performance tops DiCaprio’s for me. It would be great to see him win the award and keep our the memes going.

3. Star Wars: The Force Awakens

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Directed by J.J. Abrams | Starring: Daisy Ridley, Oscar Isaac, John Boyega, Adam Driver, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Lupita Nyong’o, Gwendoline Christie, Andy Serkis, Max Von Sydow | Genre(s): Science Fiction, Fantasy, Action, Adventure | Length: 136mins | Trailer

Of course this was always going to be high on this list, I’m a huge Star Wars fan and I’ve seen this film twice in the cinema and each viewing it just gets better and better, hitting all the nostalgic touches featuring a great trio of new cast in the form of Daisy Ridley, Oscar Isaac (Go watch Inside Llewellyn Davis!) and John Boyega (Go watch Attack the Block!) The score from John Williams is superb as well, and basically, what more about this film needs to be really said since pretty much everyone has probably seen this at least once by now?

2. Mad Max: Fury Road

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Directed by George Miller | Starring: Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult | Genre(s): Thriller, Action, Adventure, Science-Fiction | Length: 120mins | Trailer

Okay, this film. THIS FILM. Wow. One of the most intense experiences at a Cinema ever has come from Mad Max: Fury Road and I’m really glad I got to see it on the big screen. It’s just one long action sequence after another that’s beautifully shot and directed and features Tom Hardy being awesome and some great female characters such as Imperator Furiousa and a killer score to boot. Awe-inspiring epicness, Mad Max: Fury Road is my second favourite film of 2015 and pretty much essential viewing.

1. The Hateful Eight

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Directed by Quentin Tarantino| Starring: Jennifer Jason Leigh, Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Walton Goggins, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen | Genre(s): Mystery, Thriller, Drama | Length: 182mins | Trailer

I’m a massive Quentin Tarantino and Western fan so there was really no question that anything but this film was going to be number one on this list, even in the same year that we’ve had so many excellent releases. The fialogue alone is incredible as it follows eight people stranded in a cabin during a blizzard and features some fantastic scenes with some great twists and turns. Jennifer Jason Leigh and Samuel L. Jackson kill it in their respective roles and the soundtrack is just epic, with Ennio Morricone delivering an incredible score. The film, like all of Tarantino’s work, may be divisive, but it’s still a superb experience and worth watching at least once.

Best Actor

  • Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs – Winner!
  • Matt Damon, The Martian
  • Michael B. Jordan, Creed
  • Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant
  • Samuel L. Jackson, The Hateful Eight

Best Actress

  • Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn 
  • Charlize Theron, Mad Max: Fury Road
  • Brie Larson, Room – Winner!
  • Maika Monroe, It Follows
  • Emily Blunt, Sicario 

Best Supporting Actor

  • Slyvester Stallone, Creed
  • Mark Rufallo, Spotlight
  • Idris Elba, Beasts of No Nation – Winner!
  • Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies 
  • Jason Mitchell, Straight Outta Compton 

Best Supporting Actress

  • Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight – Winner! 
  • Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs
  • Rachel McAdams, Spotlight
  • Alicia Vikander, Ex Machina
  • Rebecca Ferguson, Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation

Best Director

  • Danny Boyle, Steve Jobs
  • Quentin Tarantino, The Hateful Eight
  • George Miller, Mad Max: Fury Road – Winner! 
  • Ryan Coogler, Creed
  • Tom McCarthy, Spotlight

Best Original Screenplay

  • Quentin Tarantino, The Hateful Eight – Winner!
  • Aaron Sorkin, Steve Jobs
  • Andrea Berloff, Jonathan Herman, S Leigh Savidge, Alan Wenkis, Straight Outta Compton
  • Tom McCarthy, Josh Singer, Spotlight
  • Alex Garland, Ex Machina

Best Original Score

  • Daniel Pemberton, Steve Jobs
  • Howard Shore, Spotlight
  • John Williams, Star Wars: The Force Awakens
  • Ennio Morricone, The Hateful Eight – Winner!
  • Thomas Newman, Bridge of Spies

Best Visual Effects

  • Mad Max: Fury Road – Winner!
  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens
  • The Martian
  • Crimson Peak
  • The Revenant

Best Adapted Screenplay

  • Adam Mckay, Charles Randolph, The Big Short – Winner!
  • Drew Goddard, Andy Weir, The Martian
  • Jane Goldman, Matthew Vaughn, Kingsman: The Secret Service
  • Emma Donoghue, Room
  • Jacob Koskoff, Todd Louiso, Michael Lesslie, Macbeth

Best Cinematography

  • Adam Arkapaw, Macbeth
  • Dan Laustsen, Crimson Peak
  • Daniel Mindel, Star Wars: The Force Awakens – Winner!
  • Janusz Kaminski, Bridge of Spies
  • Robert Richardson, The Hateful Eight

Worst Film

  • The Ridiculous 6 – Winner! (erm… not really, but you get what I mean) 
  • The Boy Next Door
  • Pixels
  • Entourage
  • Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2

And… that’s it. There we have my favourite films of 2015 as well as the best various awards in a similiar makeup to the Oscars. (Only, with more diversity, because there are some seriously awesome films out there like Creed and Straight Outta Compton that should have received more love) It was extremely hard to narrow it down to 25 for this list and as a result you can see all the movies that failed to make the selection here, as well as the full list of films that may have some slight changes, and will be constantly updated as I watch more new movies from last year.

There are of course, always films that I didn’t get the chance to see in time. Carol, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, and The Man From UNCLE are the three films that I really wanted to see but never got around to doing so. Regardless, there you have it. Let me know in the comments below what films you think are the best of the year and feel free to mention any film that you think should have made this list.

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