feature: top 7 films of 2015

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feature: top 7 films of 2015

I had intended to do a Top 10 films of 2015 list, but it’s taking too long for me to decide the other 3 and their order so… It’s a top 7 films list. I feel like this is acceptable. I’ve also failed to do many reviews this year. Or much on the site at all. Which I feel bad about. Here’s hoping I’ll get time to do more on 2016.

I always think it’s worth mentioning approximately how many films I’ve seen, just to give some context. This year I’ve been down a bit so I’ve probably only seen maybe 150 or so new films. So if there’s a film you’re expecting to see on the list that isn’t there well… I might not have seen it, but it’s equally likely that I just didn’t rate it.

There were, however, definitely some contenders I missed. Films I missed that I think I might have liked include A Most Violent Year, Tangerine, Wild Tales and 45 Years. If I do get around to seeing them then I’ll try to get reviews up. Also, since I’m in Ireland, films like Creed, Room and Spotlight don’t fall into 2015 releases, while older films like Whiplash and Birdman do.

Anyway… here are my top films for 2015. In reverse order.

7) Macbeth

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Australian director of Snowtown, Justin Kurzel, takes on one of the bard’s most well-known works.

Starring Michael Fassbender in the first of two of his films on this list, Macbeth was truly a sight to behold. If I’m being honest… the language was difficult. No doubt like many, I hadn’t read or heard any Shakespearean English in, oh, 20 years or so. Plus I’ve never read, studied or seen any productions of Macbeth before, so there were a couple of times where I had to trust that my reactions were suitable. But hey, that’s true of any film right?

I’ve put it on the list because, despite that difficulty, strong cinematography has a huge impact on me and I really felt that Macbeth was one of the most stunning films I’d seen in years. This coupled with the excellent performances from Fassbender, Cotillard and Harris made this one of the stand out films of 2015.

6) Brooklyn

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Adapted by Nick Hornby from a Colm Tóibín novel and directed by John Crowley, Brooklyn stars Saoirse Ronan as a young Irish girl in the 1950s, torn between two loves and two worlds.

Look, honestly, I thought Brooklyn would be terrible. I’m not into period romance and I know the synopsis above is glib, but it really is all the film is about. Yet Brooklyn, as simple and clichéd as it is, manages to be more than you’d expect. It’s a fantastic example of doing something simple well.

Like, on Great British Bake Off – you can make a carrot cake as your showstopper, but it better be the best damn carrot cake the judges have ever tasted. I thought I didn’t like carrot cake, but it turns out I just haven’t been eating top quality carrot cake.

It was probably the most surprising film I saw this year.

In a year which included a film in Ukrainian sign language with no subtitles.

5) Ex Machina

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Alicia Vikander, my personal breakout star of 2015, features as our machina in this thoughtful sci-fi thriller. Ex Machina also features Domhnall Gleeson and our other breakthrough star of the moment, Oscar Isaac.

If you’ve read much of this site you’ll know that I’m a huge sci-fi fan… so… it’s not really surprising that the best sci-fi film of 2015 makes my top 5 for the year.

Hmm… I probably should mention, I’m pretty strict on sci-fi. Like, I wouldn’t count Star Wars: The Force Awakens or Avengers: Age of Ultron as sci-fi. I would count The Martian and it gets an honourable mention but for me, Ex Machina had that element of thinking bigger that I love about the genre.

4) Steve Jobs

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Michael Fassbender appears in his second film on the list as the titular character in this much anticipated biopic, written by Aaron Sorkin and helmed by Danny Boyle.

Set behind the scenes at 3 pivotal product launches for Steve Jobs, the film is, I suppose, non-traditional. I’m a long time fan of Aaron Sorkin so this one was always going to be a bit of a slam dunk for me. The conceit is a little unbelievable, that everyone important in Jobs life would appear 5 mins before a product launch to tell him what they think of him, but just to dial up the meta Sorkin mentions this… so that’s ok right?

Ultimately, Steve Jobs is at #4 because I found it… beguiling. This was the word I settled on while watching it. There was something charming and compelling about it, even though there was also something completely unrealistic and almost ridiculous about it. It kept me hooked. I wanted to watch it again straight away, even though I couldn’t put my finger on why.

3) Inside Out

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Pixar’s first release of 2015 sends us on an adventure inside the mind of a young girl.

In the tradition of Toy Story, Pixar treated us to another piercingly insightful look at what it means to grow up.

I actually don’t feel like there’s much more to say about Inside Out. It’s a beautiful piece of emotionally nuanced film-making. It’s only a shame that Pixar’s second film of the year, The Good Dinosaur didn’t manage to reach the same heights.

2) Birdman

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Directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu, Michael Keaton stars as a washed up faded movie star, remembered for his cult hero film Birdman.

I actually did review this one so you can read more about it here: Birdman review

At the time I gave it an 8/10, and I still would, but there was something that stood out about it for me. That’s why it’s #2, even though I saw it back in January.

1) Mad Max: Fury Road

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The legendary director of Mad Max, Happy Feet and Babe: Pig in the City returns to his roots, 30 years after his last Mad Max foray.

George Miller may be 70 years old but he’s directed the freshest, most exciting blockbuster of the year.

Going into it though, my expectations weren’t that high for Mad Max: Fury Road. I’d only seen the first two Mad Max films a few weeks before and I wasn’t overly impressed. I liked them well enough, but I’d seen the trailers for Fury Road and the previous films indicated a different kettle of fish. Perhaps if I’d taken the time to watch Beyond the Thunderdome I’d have felt a bit more positive but unfortunately that wasn’t part of the cinema re-release that I went to.

Fortunately, but maybe not entirely unexpectedly, the trailer was a pretty accurate representation of what to expect from the film. Mad Max: Fury Road is frantic, garish and unashamedly over the top. In other words, everything the trailer promised. Turns out that’s rarer than you’d think.

Check out the trailer below and let me know in the comments – what were your favourite films of 2015?

Honourable mentions


In the end, I feel like there probably aren’t really any surprises here – In fact I’m seeing a lot of consensus in the top films lists. Even where lists have been almost completely different from mine I can see where they’re coming from with most of them.

Except for A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence. That one’s a strong No from me. No.

Here’s a few honourable mentions:
The Martian – Lovely film.
The Gift – Joel Edgerton’s feature film directorial debut turns out to be a nifty psychological thriller.
Kingsman: The Secret Service – Bonkers.
John Wick – Stylish.
Spy – Funny. The only film I’ve watched twice this year so far.
Unfriended – Sure, it might have been a gimmick but as far as I’m concerned the dedication made it work. I’ve seen that story 100 times and it was great to see a different take on it.

By the way, if you’re ever wondering what I do think of a film, you can go follow me on Twitter (@avgfilmreviews) and ask me. I’ve probably seen it. I just haven’t written about it.

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