Top 10 Best Movies of 2015

Dec 31, 2015 | Posted by in Lists
Top 10 Best Movies of 2015

Now that the Top 10 Worst Movies of 2015 is out of the way it’s time for me to talk about my favourites. I chose to do this one last as I wanted to end the year on a positive note instead of having my last article of 2015 be a negative one. Hopefully many of you will have seen and enjoyed these films as much as I did:

10: John Wick

John WickJohn Wick was a huge surprise to me as I had no expectations going in but had an absolute blast while watching it.

Keanu Reeves suits a certain type of film and this one is a great example of it. The character of John Wick is someone that has heard of human emotion and even has them from time to time but doesn’t make a point of showing it. Most of his expression is through some pretty impressive violence.

I love how the catalyst for the story was for him to avenge his dog. The dog does represent his relationship with his dead wife but it’s the death of the dog that sets him off. It was one of the best action films of the year and an absolute joy to watch. I look forward to the sequel.

9: Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation

Mission: Impossible - Rogue NationMission: Impossible is a franchise that shows no signs of running out of steam despite being on its 5th installment.

Love him or hate him, Tom Cruise has star power like nobody else around and a film gets better by virtue of him simply being in it. The Mission: Impossible franchise has almost become his vanity project as he uses it as a vehicle to show just how insane he is. There seems to be no practical stunt that he won’t attempt as shown by the opening sequence that has him actually hang off a plane.

Relative newcomer Rebecca Ferguson is a great addition to the franchise with a strong character who can rival Cruise’s Ethan Hunt in many ways. The rest of the cast don’t have much to do but fit in well nonetheless.

The film manages to seamlessly blend big set pieces with smaller scale sequences based more on tension than explosions which shows just how versatile this franchise can be. It could have done with a more engaging villain but it’s a small gripe in an otherwise excellent viewing experience.

8: Birdman

BirdmanBirdman was the first film I saw in 2015 and it has stuck with me ever since.

It’s a very clever blend of script and actor as Micheal Keaton plays a washed up actor who wants to be taken seriously after being known as a superhero. Michael Keaton is far from washed up but his turn as Batman is so memorable that people still talk about it so it’s not a tough sell to think that he might have issues finding other work given that association. Keaton does a great job in the role and it’s easy to root for him to be taken seriously as he seems to genuinely understand the craft of acting and clearly works hard to achieve credibility in the field.

The rest of the cast are great as well with special attention given to Edward Norton who plays almost a parody of himself and comes across as a somewhat likable jackass. The likability only really extends to watching him as having to interact with him would surely be a nightmare as the film shows.

Other members of the cast like Emma Stone and Naomi Watts prove memorable as well. There’s a sense of reality to the film and it cleverly makes a strong point about the current landscape of superhero movie domination with actors like Robert Downey Jr. etc being cited as specific examples. I may not agree with the point that the film makes but I certainly appreciate the way it was presented. This is a definite must see.

7: Mad Max: Fury Road

Mad Max: Fury RoadThere wasn’t a single second of Mad Max: Fury Road that didn’t entertain me in some way. George Miller shows all these young action directors how it’s done with a film that just dazzles throughout.

It could be criticised for the fact that it’s simply a two hour action sequence without any depth but as far as I’m concerned it didn’t really need to be anything else nor does it actually pretend to be anything else. The character of Max -played by Tom Hardy- isn’t even the focus of this film as that belongs to Charlize Theron’s Furiosa who deservedly steals the show. I like the idea that Max is a transient presence who wanders into other people’s stories as it works really well for putting something fun across.

Fun is definitely the intention here with breathtaking action beats that look incredible. It’s light on plot but heavy on peril and manages to put across everything we need to know these characters with as few words as possible. Maybe it lacks a bit of depth in storytelling but it is so intricately crafted that I really didn’t care. Go for the biggest screen you can find and just get swept up in this amazing experience.

6: Steve Jobs

Steve JobsSteve Jobs is miles better than the Ashton Kutcher film about the Apple CEO. Danny Boyle’s direction with Aaron Sorkin’s script make for a perfect partnership in telling this story.

The structure of the film is quite striking as it takes place backstage at 3 major product launches with the odd flashback showing important moments in the life of the renowned futurist. The focus remains tight on Jobs throughout and gives the viewer plenty of insight into the way he thinks and how uncompromising he could be. I have no idea how much artistic license was taken in this portrayal but I guess it doesn’t really matter.

Michael Fassbender is excellent in the role despite not really resembling the man he’s playing. The important thing is that he digs into the essence of him and is always believable as a cruel man who needs to have everything go his way. He treats everyone around him terribly but for some reason they deal with it and continue to work with him. Kate Winselt, Jeff Daniels and even Seth Rogen provide excellent support for Fassbender with well realised characters of their own coupled with excellent performances. Sorkin’s dialogue is perfect as always with everyone talking quickly and confidently with a pinpoint wit that makes even the most mundane conversations fascinating.

5: Ant-Man

Ant-ManAnt-Man was a big surprise in the sense that it turned out to be watchable. It was marred with production issues when Edgar Wright walked out for reasons that we don’t fully understand as yet.

Despite this the end result is a more or less seamless and enjoyable action comedy romp that further expands the ever growing Marvel Cinematic Universe. I’m of the belief that this is the best origin story of all the Marvel films -yes, better even than Iron Man– because it has a defined end point that is built to throughout the entire film. Everything hinges on performing the heist and then it happens. It’s simple and elegant while being completely entertaining.

It definitely has one of the most inventive action climaxes I have ever seen with the whole growing and shrinking concept being played out entirely in a little girl’s bedroom which allows us to have Man of Steel style property damage while only really breaking toys. Again it’s simple and elegant while being hilarious. The comedy worked for me where it didn’t in Marvel’s previous comedic effort Guardians of the Galaxy.

Paul Rudd carries the film really well with strong turns from Evangeline Lily and Michael Douglas backing him up. They all work really well together with some light comic relief from Michael Peña that is nicely understated. Everyone gets a turn at drama and comedy and do it well. As with the majority of Marvel films the villain is massively underdeveloped but Corey Stoll manages to work well with what he’s got. It’s just generally a great film and Paul Rudd is a worthy addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe

4: Inside Out

inside-out-banner CroppedInside Out shows that Pixar can really bring the goods when they really want to. It is definitely up there with the best of their output.

The idea of emotions being characters inside our head who influence our actions is excellent and is played out in some really interesting ways. The level of creativity on display here is absolutely staggering. Entire essays could be written on the nuance in this film and that is no exaggeration. I loved everything they did from core memories to islands representing parts of our personality as well as long term memory and the imagination. Some of it is played for laughs and other parts are played straight but everything remains internally consistent.

All of the emotions are really well done and focusing on the story on Joy as she learns the importance of the other emotions as Riley grows up to deal with more emotional complexity is a nice idea. Going from a naively happy child to realising that not everything is perfect is an important lesson and having a literal emotional journal to explore that is genius.

There’s a lot of potential to this idea and this film barely scratches the surface. I’d like to see more films in this universe focusing on the emotions in the heads of different people but if this is all we’ll see of this then I could absolutely live with it as it is outstanding.

3: The Martian

The MartianThe Martian proves that Ridley Scott can still make a film that is worth watching. Considering his more recent output I had my doubts but I’m glad to see that I was wrong.

Survival stories are nothing new and arguably setting it on Mars doesn’t necessarily bring anything new to the table but it’s handled with such style that it feels new and unique for the most part.

The whole thing is told with an infectious positivity that chronicles the global effort to make sure that Matt Damon’s Mark Watney gets home safe and sound. It’s inspiring to watch everyone use their considerable skills and resources to make sure that he comes home safely. There are problems and complications along the way but the film never descends into the bleakness that it so easily could. Cynically it could be seen as a recruitment tool for NASA as it makes being stranded on another planet look kinda fun but I’m fine with that.

Matt Damon is great as always while playing his standard likable onscreen persona. Watching him puzzle his way through different problems that come up is fascinating and as above his positive attitude at all times is infectious. Mark Watney has plenty of personality that helps make it easier to root for his survival.

The film keeps a solid pace throughout and the shifting locations really help with that. It isn’t long before we see someone else with a different problem to solve. There’s always a sense of urgency and the tension is built nicely when it needs to be. I usually have issues with films that breach the 2 hour mark but I found myself wanting more. Check this out before Ridley Scott bores us with the endless Prometheus sequels/Alien prequels that he plans to make.

2: Avengers: Age of Ultron

avengers-age-of-ultron-banner-e1427921645186 CroppedAvengers: Age of Ultron is well regarded as being not as good as the first one and I find it really difficult to disagree with that. That doesn’t mean that it isn’t still a great film.

The first film was iconic in many ways as it represented the end point of a very long game to introduce these characters and bring them together. It hadn’t been done before in cinema and it will always be remembered for being unique in that regard whereas this one is more business as usual.

If this is what Marvel calls business as usual then that’s fine by me as this is a really entertaining film from beginning to end. Watching the Avengers come together and bounce off each other both in and out of costume never gets old. There’s the added benefit of these relationships deepening in different ways and much needed development is given to Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye who anchors the film in a sense of normalcy as everything around them gets much weirder.

The new characters are pretty engaging as well but suffer from a lack of development in some cases. It’s not a big deal as they are still an integral part of the story but at times the whole thing feels just a little too busy. This could get worse in future films as the volume of characters steadily increases.

All of the set piece moments are incredible with every Avenger getting the chance to show what they can do in different ways against a villain who is wonderfully voiced by James Spader. It’s a shame that the climax has them fighting anonymous henchmen like the first film but it’s hard to criticise considering how entertaining it is.

I love comics, I love these characters and I love what Marvel has done with them so this was always going to be a highlight of the year for me. It definitely didn’t disappoint me and is a must see for those that like those sorts of films.

1: Ex Machina

Ex MachinaEx Machina was another early 2015 viewing for me but it’s an unforgettable experience that comes together excellently.

The structure of the film is really clever as it emphasises the scientific nature of the film. Domhnall Gleeson’s Caleb has several sessions with Alicia Vikander’s Ava designed to test if she can truly pass for human or not. The whole film is built around these sessions and uses them to develop all three of the characters even though one of them is largely present. Ava’s growth can be seen through all of these sessions and Vikander gives her just the right amount of humanity to encourage viewers to sympathise with her while still seeming artificial enough to keep the audience guessing. She moves gracefully but this is contrasted with the subtle sound of her mechanisms that make her work. It’s easy to forget that Vikander is playing a machine due to the astounding effects work as well as her performance.

Her creator Nathan (Oscar Isaac) is your standard eccentric billionaire dialed up to a massive degree. Isaac’s performance brings a lot of flawed humanity to him as well as a sinister edge that becomes more apparent as the film progresses. He’s always brilliant to watch but there’s always something unsettling about him.

Domhnall Gleeson’s Caleb is almost the opposite with a timid nature in the beginning that prevents him from acting naturally. As the film progresses a keen scientific mind is unearthed. His growing paranoia throughout the film is wonderfully played and the character always remains engaging even as he becomes manipulated by outside forces.

It’s a great story that keeps the viewer guessing throughout with a twist at the end that manages to avoid being predictable. I won’t spoil it but the film looks as if it might go one way and then completely turns around into territory that I certainly wasn’t expecting. It all makes sense within the framework and a second viewing enriches the experience as it can be seen what is being put in place to engineer that ending.

This is an excellent science fiction film that entertains, makes you think and makes you laugh pretty much constantly. There’s a dance routine from Oscar Isaac that has to be seen to be believed. If you somehow missed this at the start of the year then make sure you see it as it was my favourite film of the year.


That’s it for my final article of 2015. You might be wondering why Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens isn’t on here. That doesn’t mean I didn’t like it, it just means that there are at least 10 films I liked more.

Thanks to everyone who has stuck with this site through 2015 and I hope that continues into 2016 and beyond. I’m sure there will be plenty of good and bad films over the coming 12 months.