Please note the following list is based on films that saw a release in Australia in 2015, which unfortunately discounts films such as The Revenant and The Hateful 8.
So in no particular order, here are my choices for the best films of 2015.
1. Ex Machina
Here is a great example to show that you don’t need a massive budget, cast, or set to make a great film. All you need is good writing and good performances. The four main contributors for this film; writer/director Alex Garland, actress Alicia Vikander, actors Domhnall Gleeson, and Oscar Isaac, delivered in spades to create a beautiful, interesting, and tense sci-fi movie that asks a lot of questions about humanity. Also has a great and unexpected dance scene.
This is why we love indie films. We’ve got three lead performers who are relatively unknown so we’re just seeing them purely as the characters they are playing. Dope is a joy. Original, creative, crazy, funny, and most of all heartfelt. It’s a great take on the story of finding your place in the world with a great score to boot and be assured, it will take you by surprise in more ways than one.
3. Inside Out
Without doubt one of Disney – Pixar’s best films. Equally accessible by children and adults, it’s an incredibly imaginative exploration of the human psyche. Funny and touching, it can also teach us a lot about how we perceive ourselves and others. I’d watch it for Rage alone.
Some critics couldn’t get past the casting choices or tonal shifts of this film. On the contrary I think the injection of Die Antwoord as main characters and the use of humour through the middle act made this film all the better and unique. Director Neil Blomkamp stamped it with his typical style of balancing serious issues with offbeat jokes and casting Sharlto Copley, who did a good job by the way. Chappie is essentially a condensed version of childhood, nature vs nurture, and what it means to be human. It’s charming, funny, and emotional on top of also being a good action film.
5. Mad Max: Fury Road
Not much needs to be said here. It’s one of the most intense action films you’re ever likely to see. It never lets up, it never slows down. Incredibly stark cinematography combines with amazing stunt work to create a full-on experience that may be overbearing for some but heaven for others. Although most of the plaudits are for guitar guy.
6. It Follows
I’m not a horror fan but I think that’s because the genre has lost its way. It Follows is an example of how it should be done. Instead of relying on unnecessary shocks like gore and loud noises it uses tension and a far more interesting story than you’ll find in other horror films. There’s a good film here in general with an underlying theme, not just a good horror film. Don’t watch if you’re overly worried about sti’s.
7. The Martian
Ridley Scott returns with this extremely surprising survival story. After the ultra serious Gravity and Interstellar, The Martian turned towards levity with great effect. Matt Damon’s central performance was outstanding and made the movie work as well as it did. As someone who was never thrilled about Damon, I was shocked by how much I enjoyed this film and he deserves a lot of praise.
8. Lost River
Ryan Gosling’s debut as a writer/director was not loved by critics who criticised him for borrowing and meshing the styles of some of his mentors like Nicholas Winding-Refn and Derek Cianfrance but who isn’t inspired by the artists they love? In reality this is very much Gosling’s film. The way he chose to tell his story was as original and creative as it gets. Every shot in this movie is beautiful to look at and his actors gave their all for him, they’re faultless. The music, curated by Johnnie Jewel is magnetic and there are so many scenes in this film that are hypnotic. Yes, it will be a little on the strange side for some but if you see film as an art form, this is one to watch. Ben Mendelsohn also challenges Oscar Isaac for best dance of the year. Hmm, is dancing becoming a theme here?
9. A Most Violent Year
Oscar Isaac gets his second mention on the list and neither have been Star Wars. Sue me. Here’s a film that received very little media attention. It’s not a blockbuster, not a comedy. It’s not even violent, as the title would suggest, just a supremely tightly wound drama that is terrifically acted by Isaac and Jessica Chastein. Understated and intimate, it slowly makes an impression on you, one you won’t forget.
Director Denis Villenueve is a master of tension and suspense nothing has changed here. Sicario is gritty, grimy, shocking and might have you grinding your teeth. Look out for some exceptional cinematography alongside brilliant performances from Emily Blunt and Benicio Del Toro.