So we came to the end of 2015. A year of more and more comic book based films, new Star Wars chapter, sensational winner of Cannes festival, but also some undeniably fantastic flicks. And as we have entered 2016, I decided to sum up the best films I’ve seen in the last year. There it goes!
THE BEST FILMS OF 2015
10. La Isla Mínima
Dir. Alberto Rodriguez (Spain) / Starring: Javier Gutierrez, Raúl Arévalo
The list opens with this Spanish tribute to the Pizzolato & Fukunaga masterpiece True Detective. Two homicide department officers seek for the killer of two girls in the Spanish marshland, whilst fighting their own demons in the aftermath of Franco’s regime. Rodriguez’s film is beautifully directed, shot with spacious elegance and includes a harrowing, minimalist soundtrack, which lasted with me quite a long after the screening. Although an avalanche of prizes could be a bit exaggerated, La Isla Mínima is a top-notch thriller and a must-see for True Detective fans.
Review of La Isla Mínima soon on my blog!
9. The Experimenter
Dir. Michael Almereyda (USA) / Starring: Winona Ryder, Peter Sarsgaard
An elegant biopic, which tells the story of Steven Milgram, was truly a sweet treat to watch. Intelligent narration was built to remind a bit of Greek tragedy, whilst a complex look at Milgram’s experiments and its aftermath was not only a consequence of well-written script – it’s Peter Sarsgaard superb performance mostly. It would be also a huge mistake not to mention Winona Ryder’s comeback to brilliant acting – her performance is a great pairing for Sarsgaard. The Experimenter, which bows before vintage-like cinema and theatre, is undoubtedly one of the most underrated and overlooked films of 2015 – pity it is.
Click here for The Experimenter review.
8. Mad Max: Fury Road
Dir. George Miller (Australia) / Starring: Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron
What a film, what a lovely film! George Miller’s comeback to the Mad Max trilogy was somewhere in the air for a long time, several times being off the shore, but eventually making it to the Cannes festival. Max Rockatansky is scavenging through rough deserts of post-apocalyptic world, dead bodies are thrown out of the speeding vehicles and chrome shines brighter than ever – ladies and gentlemen, that’s the Fury Road. Without exaggerating, George Miller has marked a new chapter in the history of pure entertainment in cinema. And those practical effects!
Click here for Mad Max: Fury Road review.
Dir. Charlie Kauffman, Duke Johnson (USA) / Starring: David Thewlis, Jennifer Jason Leigh
The everyday routine, constructed of mundanities is what frightens Michael Stone, the protagonist of Anomalisa. Don’t get confused, Charlie Kauffman delivers a lot more to his story than this. Enriched with witty dialogues, weaved with irony and bitterness, Anomalisa is one hour and a half long stream of philosophical contemplation, where one can melt in entirely. Anomalisa is full of brilliance, beginning from the stop-motion animation technique to David Thewlis’ character confronted with ubiquitous voice of Tom Noonan as a metaphor for the dull reality. All in all, definitely the best animation for adults in a long, long time.
Review of Anomalisa soon on my blog!
Dir. Grimur Hakonarsson (Iceland) / Starring: Sigurður Sigurjónsson, Theodór Júlíusson
Rams is a drama telling the story of two brothers, living house to house, but never talking to each other, but offering much more than this. The endless landscapes of Iceland are a perfect background for this heart-warming story of long-buried feelings, envy and loneliness. Whilst the film did not receive the Oscar nomination it deserved, Rams was given the Un Certain Regard prize at the Cannes Festival. Hakonarsson’s drama lands as one of the most moving films in this year and cements my belief that the Icelanders will soon become influencers in the European cinema.
Review of Rams soon on my blog!
5. Inside Out
Dir. Pete Docter, Ronnie Del Carmen (USA) / Starring: Amy Poehler, Phyllis Smith
Crazy imagination of Pixar employees was set free again and has taken me over – again. I have a thing for Pixar animations – Inside Out outranged not only other animations this year, but managed to top many assumed-to-be-hits films. Beautifully creative, intelligent and genuine story, which brings back the good ol’ times when animations were actually serving a learning purpose. Try not to shed a tear while watching Inside Out guys!
Review of Inside Out soon on my blog.
Dir. Justin Kurzel (Great Britain, USA, France) / Starring: Michael Fassbender, Marrion Cotillard
Although Justin Kurzel’s adaptation of classic Shakespeare received quite mixed reviews, I found this film an exhilarating visual experience. Every detail of Adam Arkapaw’s cinematography was orgasmic and vividly painted the story of Macbeth. With solid performances by Fassbender and Cotillard, Kurzel sketched a fascinating picture – rough, artistic and aspiring to become one of the best Shakespearean dramas translated into screen’s language.
Click here for Macbeth review.
3. Beasts Of No Nation
Dir. Cary Joji Fukunaga (USA) / Starring: Abraham Attah, Idris Elba
Cary Fukunaga’s war drama works like a heavy punchline for the viewer, not only due to the topic touches. Based on a novel, Beasts Of No Nation tells a story of Agu, an orphaned boy, who becomes a member of the rebel army, under the wing of the Commandant. It’s deliberately visceral, hard to watch film, which hypnotizes at the same time, mainly thanks to phenomenal acting by young Attah and Elba. Not everyone will be able to watch this film, but it’s worth to give this a try – one of the most devastating films I’ve ever seen.
Click here for Beasts Of No Nation review.
2. El Clúb
Dir. Pablo Larraín (Chile) / Starring: Roberto Farias, Marcelo Alonso
Probably the most controversial film of the year is also one of the very best. It’s not only a precisely aimed criticism towards the rotten clergy and its inability to intervene, but a broader and bitter commentary upon modern times and how hedonism and egoism rule today’s reality. Artistically directed, oneirically colorful, El Clúb strikes the viewer hard and doesn’t let go till the very end. A shocking film, but at the same time a though-provoking experience, which questions the fundamentals of human morality.
Click here for El Club review.
Dir. Denis Villeneuve (Canada, Mexico, USA) / Starring: Emily Blunt, Benicio Del Toro, Josh Brolin
Denis Villeneuve’s superbly directed political thriller is by far the most complete film of the year. The plot, which revolves around the brutal, anti-drug war in the American-Mexican border, is implacably proving that ferocious beasts work for both sides of the fence. Enriched with stunningly bedazzling cinematography by Roger Deakins and overwhelming, hauting score of an Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson, Sicario marks Villeneuve’s entrance to the greatest directors of our times. And if someone has any doubts, just go watch the convoy scene – shivers down the spine guaranteed.
Although this top 10 was my favorite set of the last year, it would be a big mistake to overlook some other good movies, which we could watch. Here’s the list of honorable mentions.
Buzzard – An indie flick with almost no budget directed by Joel Potrykus was probably the biggest surprise for me in 2015. A buddy-type film was also a sarcastic comment upon the consumerism and how mundane life breeds anger. A recommendation for indie film lovers. Click here for the review.
Corbo – A totally off-mainstream, Canadian film, which revolves around the beginnings of terrorist group FLQ in Quebec. A political thriller, which sketches a complete picture of the stormy era in the Canadian history, with some extraordinary soundtrack and good acting. Click here for review.
Ex Machina – A mind-blowing idea for a film was somehow a bit wasted, but it’s Oscar Isaac’s and Alicia Vikander’s performances that make up for some plot flaws. Amore philosophical sci-fi film is always a nice treat, isn’t it? Click here for review.
Partisan – Vincent Cassel’s fascinating role was vastly overlooked in this Aussie thriller. Matched with some beautiful cinematography and confusing, but yet intriguing plot, Kleiman’s debut deserved to be mentioned. Click here for a review.
71’ – a shivering experience to follow, marking one of the best performances of the year by Jack O’Connell. Irish political disturbances and a depressing aftermath of the spiral of hatred is what 71’ strength is made of.
Sparrows – a heart-warming, but at the same time depressing coming-of-age story, set in the Icelandic landscapes. A very down-to-earth, human film. Click here for review.
Youth – Sorrentino did not manage to direct such a witty masterpiece like Grande Bellezza, but Youth is still a film worth mentioning. Greatly acted (bravo for Michael Caine) and seen through peculiar glasses of the Italian filmmaker, Youth might still be an important player in the Oscar race. Click here for review.
Let me know in the comments if you agree with my list!