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Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Movie Retrospect's Top 10 Films of 2015

Star Wars: The Force Awakens - Tie Fighter Sunset - Top 10 Films 2015

Well 2015 is a done deal and I've crammed in as many films as I could in what has been the biggest year of my personal life... Moving twice, travelling to exotic locations and best of all, getting married.

This post is my personal record of my year in films, which I like to share with my friends, but if anyone else should stumble on this list, then I hope you can enjoy reading it as much as I do creating it myself.

In 2015 I managed to watch an impressive 72 films in total - 27 of which had a mainstream UK release in that calendar year - so these are the ones that are eligible for my Top 10 Films of the Year - 2015.

This is my personal list, so if you disagree with any of my selection, let me know your Top 10 of 2015 in the comments below.  If you want to see my complete list of films watched in 2015 you can find it on my IMDB profile here (not including films I re-watched during the year).

10. Ant-Man - 7/10

Ant-Man with Paul Rudd - Movie Poster - Top 10 of 2015

Guilty as charged - I like comic book / superhero movies, so sue me.  But in the year of the second Avengers movie, who would have thought that Ant-Man would be the only comic book movie to make my Top 10 this year?  Not me, that's for sure... I didn't even really know much about Ant-Man until this film came out.  It's not really that there is anything terribly wrong with Age of Ultron, it's fine, but it wasn't the knock-your-socks-off movie we were all expecting, or that it should have been.

In many ways Ant-Man is this year's Guardians of the Galaxy.  It was exactly the right kind of superhero film we all needed and probably didn't even know it.  Ant-Man knows exactly what type of movie it is trying to be.  It has it's serious moments, in a generally whacky sort of concept for a film, but somehow it makes you believe it all just enough to come along for the ride.  And it's a really, really fun ride too.

It has some of the best comedy moments you can find in a superhero film (except maybe for Guardians), with Paul Rudd and Michael Douglas being just the right amount of self-aware to make the comedy work.  Even Rudd has to ask about the name Ant-Man - "Is it too late to change the name?"

Michael Peña also lightens the mood in some great ways too, but some of the action, especially with a fight scene on a train set is not only great as an action scene, but is absolutely some of the most hilarious stuff I've seen in a long time, I just loved it so much.  It's by far the best film Thomas the Tank Engine has been in.


9. The Walk - 8/10

The Walk - Movie Poster - Top 10 Films 2015

Well I must say, I really enjoyed The Walk.  Joseph Gordon-Levitt must have worked really hard on this film with the French language, the accent and actually learning to walk on a wire.  It's by no means a perfect or Oscar worthy performance but it is certainly admirable and worth of note.  I am a pretty big Gordon-Levitt fan on the whole.

I saw this movie alone in an almost empty cinema and found it a surprisingly emotional experience, The Walk feels like a love letter and an incredible tribute to those amazing Twin Towers of the World Trade Centre in New York.  The NYC skyline just isn't the same without them, it's actually quite emotional to see them in all their glory at the end of the film.  In many respects, those twin towers are the real star of the film.

I can imagine that this film really would look amazing in 3D actually, but even if you don't see it in 3D it comes fully recommended from me.  As a side note - the documentary Man on Wire is also a quality film that must be seen.


8. Sisters - 8/10

Sisters Film Poster with Tina Fey and Amy Poehler - Top 10 Films 2015

The sceptical amongst you may look at my Top 10 and see Sisters here in eight place and think "WTF?"  But if you haven't seen it then you won't know how much fun this film is.

Okay, I admit, I'm a massive Tina Fey / 30 Rock fan, and I'm also becoming a big Amy Poehler fan having got into Parks & Recreation over the last few months, so it was inevitable I was going to enjoy this film.  But I honestly didn't expect I would enjoy it enough to make my Top 10 of the year.  But what do you know... I laughed until my cheeks hurt and that doesn't happen often these days, so this fully deserves to make my Top 10... Hey, it's my list anyway. ;)

The two sisters come back to the family home to clear out their room, before their parents sell the place, but they decide to throw 'one last party' for old time's sake first, and boy, do things go crazy.  'House party' style films don't typically float my boat, but this one probably works on a different level, maybe because the characters are much older than the standard high-school-aged parties where you'd expect some crazy stuff to happen.

Tina Fey plays a very different style of role compared to her 30 Rock days, but that's just fine.  The chemistry between Tina Fey and Amy Poehler was brilliant, and sure it looks like these two girls are having a bunch of fun working together, but I had a lot of fun watching them too, and I really hope they do more together soon.


7. Everest - 8/10

Everest - Movie Poster - Top 10 Films 2015

Everest feels like it was a much overlooked film by many this year, I don't think I know many people who actually saw this true account of the fateful expedition to the summit in 1996.  Everest is not a film you can love, but it can certainly be appreciated.

Jason Clarke and Jake Gyllenhaal lead two groups on their final ascent to the summit, with little warning when a violent storm hits.  Everest is no place for human life and the climbers are faced with some of the harshest conditions imaginable.

With a strong supporting cast including Josh Brolin, Sam Worthington, John Hawks, Emily Watson and Keira Knightley (with a Kiwi accent), Everest is a gripping, shocking and emotional ride that leaves you thinking about what you've just seen for days after.  Its a highly worthy Top 10 Film in my list this year.


6. Whiplash - 8/10

Whiplash - Movie Poster - Top 10 Films 2015

I saw Whiplash back in January in an empty cinema, just me and my brother and enjoyed it immensely.  I always like to see as many Oscar nominated films as possible and this was an excellent start to the year.

Miles Teller and J.K.Simmons put in two excellent performances as the student drummer hoping to achieve greatness and the teacher who will stop at nothing to realise his student's potential.

A sort or Karate Kid with a twist, you keep wondering how much more Simmons' character will push and how much more can Teller's character take before he cracks?  Almost like a cat and mouse style battle of wits. You don't have to have an interest in music or drumming to appreciate this film, Whiplash is well worth anyone's time.


5. The Theory of Everything - 8/10

The Theory of Everything - Movie Poster - Top 10 Films of 2015

This Oscar winning film was a particular highlight for me from the 2015 Oscar season.  Telling the story of the relationship between Stephen Hawking and his wife Jane.  I do love a bit of science and Stephen Hawking is a genius in my book and an overall incredible man with a great resilience and a wicked sense of humour and this film does a great job of presenting all that and showing everyone in a glowing light.

Eddie Redmayne absolutely deserved his Oscar for his performance as the wheelchair bound physicist suffering from motor neurone disease and given just two years to live at the age of 21 while studying at Cambridge in the 1960's.  The Best Actor Oscar was never in doubt with this one.


4. Ex Machina - 8/10

Ex_Machina - Movie Poster - Top 10 Films 2015

Anyone who knows me will know how much I love my Sci-Fi, and Ex Machina is of particular high quality in this genre.  Domhnall Gleeson is a skilled programmer selected to participate in a ground breaking experiment in Artificial Intelligence by evaluating the human qualities of an incredible female-like A.I. created by Oscar Isaac - a sort of Google/facebook genius of the tech world.

Like some of the best Sci-Fi movies, Ex Machina is a real slow burner, raising many interesting questions and presenting some unique ideas and concepts, building to an ending that, while not completely surprising is still very enjoyable to witness.

Great performances from all the three leads in the film including Alicia Vikander as the stunning A.I. and some quite beautiful sets playing as the home of Oscar Isaac's private residence and research facility.  First time director Alex Garland has done himself proud with this excellent piece of work, I can't wait to see what he comes up with next in Annihilation.


3. The Martian - 8/10

The Martian - Movie Poster with Matt Damon - Top 10 Films of 2015

This was a film I was excited about seeing since I first heard about it, especially seeing how much I loved the book by Andy Weir... for me it was the best, most enjoyable book I've read since Ready Player One and I was so pleased that a director like Ridley Scott was behind it with a star like Matt Damon playing the stranded astronaut - Mark Watney.

The film was as faithful to the source material as you can realistically expect, keeping much of the humour and personality of the characters, but it does understandably have to go easy on the finer 'sciencey' details of the book (which is a shame as that's partly what makes the book so special).

But the film does also trim some of the more dramatic sequences from the book which is odd, as it feels like it doesn't quite have the kind of peril you might expect from such a situation as being stranded alone on Mars.

The Martian is a great film, it really is the best thing Ridley Scott has done in years and it really scratches my space itch for 2015 - If you ask me, there are never enough movies about space, and in particular - Mars!!!

If you haven't already, make sure you read the book after seeing the film, it's well worth your time as there is easily enough extra stuff in there to enjoy, even when you know what happens.


2. Star Wars: The Force Awakens - 8/10

Star Wars: The Force Awakens - Movie Poster - Top 10 Films of 2015

Naturally I was like a kid in a sweetshop about this film.  After the disappointment of the prequels I was initially on the fence about getting too excited about Episode VII, but once we got down to the week of the release I couldn't contain myself any more... The force was awakened in me and I was buzzing for it.

This film hasn't been out too long so I'm going to avoid saying too much about it here right now as there may still be people who haven't had chance to see it yet and I don't want to ruin their experience of it.

That said, it was great to see the legacy cast back in action and the new stars, Daisy Ridley and John Boyega look like they've got a big future ahead of them and Oscar Isaac is fast becoming a hit with the fans.

The Force Awakens is not a perfect film, but it is a great Star Wars experience and there is so much here for fans, both old and new.  We should be all set for a great new trilogy of films.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying here in my Top 10 that Star Wars is a "better" film than others, such as The Theory of Everything for example.  In fact, when I first saw Star Wars I put it around 5th or 6th in my list... so what changed?  After a second viewing with friends, I picked up some extra things about the movie that I might not have seen the first time round due to over-excitement.  And in fact I even enjoyed it more the second time.

I also remembered a 'feeling' - perhaps it's nostalgia, but there is a certain kind of joy you get from watching this and the original Star Wars films that even some better films can't replicate.  Having debated with myself much over the last week I decided to move The Force Awakens up to Number Two in my Top 10, because I would quite happily watch it again and again and enjoy it every time.


1. Mad Max: Fury Road - 9/10

Mad Max: Fury Road - Movie Poster - Top 10 Films of 2015

"Oh what a day... What a LOVELY Day!!!"

To be honest, my number one movie of 2015 wasn't actually a hard choice this year.  I loved every moment of this film from the moment I saw it.  It went straight to the top of my list back in May and not much else has come close to knocking it off the number one slot since.

The best way to describe the film is "Absolutely mental, insane action".  It was the perfect re-visit to the world of Mad Max, bringing back the glory days of the classic Mad Max 2: Road Warrior with insane practical effects and real life stunts that just looked incredible on the big screen.

When we came out of the cinema, I asked my wife what she thought - knowing that she hadn't seen any other Mad Max films before, her reaction made me smile "That was weird" she said... and she's not wrong.

It is a bizarre film; how can you not love those moments when the chase starts up and the guitar playing crazy person jumps back into life, playing a guitar with flames coming out of it while a whole bunch of drummers are banging away for no reason other than the fact that it looks amazing!

There is not a dull moment in this film and I can't wait to see it again, I'm still gushing for this movie, I just loved it, and that's why it's my number 1.


Honourable Mention

Birdman: or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) - Top 10 Films of 2015

Birdman: or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) - 7/10

It might be surprising for many to see that this Oscar winning film did not make my Top 10 of 2015.  Just because it's just outside my Top 10, doesn't mean it doesn't deserve the praise it received.  There is no denying that this is an incredibly well-made film with some very interesting and unique features and effects - the film gives you the impression that it is all filmed in one take from a single camera, and the drum soundtrack is used in an interesting way.

The performances from all the cast and especially Michael Keaton are of the highest quality, but in the end, despite all the great things going for this film - especially from a production point of view - this film just didn't quite "do it for me" so to speak.  It just didn't quite grab me from a storyline perspective and struggled to hold my attention just enough for me to rate this film any more than a 7/10...  But hey, maybe it's just me that feels that way.


Surprise of the Year

This is a hard one to pick out this year as for me there weren't any major surprises, unlike last year's Guardians of the Galaxy... If it was a normal year then Ant-Man would be the clear winner, after all, who would have expected a film with a title & concept like that would be any good?  But after last year's Guardians it's probably more surprising when a Marvel film turns out 'not' to be so good.

Sisters - Movie Poster - Top 10 Films of 2015 - Surprise of the Year

However, looking back over my Top 10, I think I have to give this award to Sisters... Yes okay, I know I expected to enjoy it, but even I'm surprised that it was good enough to push some much bigger films outside my Top 10.


Best Scene of the Year

Paul Rudd in Ant-Man - Thomas the Tank Engine Train Set Fight Sequence

Given how much I laughed in the cinema throughout this "action" scene, I have to give this award to the fight sequence on the train set in Ant-Man.  It was genius.

Worthy Mentions

Oscar nominated (or winning) films like Wild or American Sniper are naturally fully worthy of mentioning here as must see movies, which probably comes as no surprise to many, however, I feel I must also give a worthy mention to It Follows.


It Follows - Movie Poster - Top 10 Films of 2015

It Follows does something very different with the horror genre, and in doing so creates tension and suspense in the viewer's very own mind.  It's very clever in the way that it is filmed - shots are framed in such a way that there is almost always a wide open space behind the characters on screen; as the viewer, you absolutely cannot help but look at the people in the backgrounds and imagine that they are 'the entity' out to get us!

I've seen a few horror films in my time, but the moment where the big man enters the bedroom even sent shivers down my spine.  What a great moment.


Worst Film of the Year

Terminator: Genysis - Movie Poster - Top 10 Films of 2015 - Worst Film

Terminator: Genysis - 3/10

Oh dear, oh very dear indeed.  I was always nervous that this was not going to be very good, so I didn't have very high hopes going in, but my God it was awful.  Truly, truly bad.  They literally 'self-terminated' the franchise with this mess of a movie.  Talk about taking the original classic movie and then taking a massive dump all over it.  What a crying shame.

They totally messed with the timeline of the first two great movies, basically making them redundant in the timeline of the universe.  And what the hell were they thinking about with the John Connor storyline.  The more I think about this, the more I'm thinking my initial score of 3/10 was way overly generous.  I'm done with any more Terminator films now... no more, please, no more.


What's Missing

2015 was a year of some pretty big movies and many of those didn't make my Top 10 for one reason or another... so what's missing and why?

Avengers: Age of Ultron - Movie Poster - Top 10 Films of 2015

Avengers: Age of Ultron - 7/10
This was going to be the biggest film of the year coming in, and it wasn't bad, it was good for the most part, but really though, it should have been 'amazing!'  It just didn't push enough buttons to make my top 10, in fact it only made it to number 17 on my list which is actually a little disappointing - or maybe it just shows how good a year 2015 actually was?

Spectre - Movie Poster - Top 10 Films of 2015

Spectre - 7/10
The latest Bond film landed just outside my top 10 in the end.  Daniel Craig's fourth outing as Bond was good, but not as good as Casino Royale or Skyfall in my opinion.  But there was a lot here that long time Bond fans will pick up on.  This film really ties all four Daniel Craig films together and effectively re-boots one of the franchises most notorious villains of all time - no doubt setting us up for future Bond vs Blofeld encounters.

I think this could have been a better Bond film though if Christoph Waltz had a bit more to do.  It just didn't feel like we got enough of him in the end.  Probably the highlight of the film was the fight scene on the train, Bond getting his ass kicked by the massive Mr. Hinx (wrestler Dave Bautista).  Quite reminiscent of some old Bond fights with Jaws.

Jurassic World - Movie Poster - Top 10 Films of 2015

Jurassic World - 7/10
It was great to return to Jurassic World after all these years and this was a fun Summer blockbuster. Some amazing visuals to enjoy, and some nice tributes to the original when the characters find the old Jurassic Park in a state of disrepair.  But it was also mostly ridiculous in many ways too with paper-thin character back-stories and an overall plot that was too similar to the original for the most part.

The film makes up for any flaws it has with the final battle between the Indominus-Rex and the good old T-Rex - although seeing Bryce Dallas Howard running from the T-Rex in high-heels is a step too far ;)  In the end, Jurassic World was entertaining for what it was, but not a patch on the original 1993 Spielberg classic.


Let me know your Top movies in the comments below, I'd love to hear what you think.


About the Author: Chris Russell has a passion for movies, films and cool TV shows and loves to share that passion here on Movie Retrospect where readers can join the discussion in the comments below or directly to Chris though his  profile. If you enjoyed this post, please follow @MovieRetrospect on Twitter.


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About the Author: Chris Russell has a passion for movies, films and cool TV shows and loves to share that passion here on Movie Retrospect where readers can join the discussion in the comments below or directly to Chris though his profile. If you enjoyed this post, please follow @MovieRetrospect on Twitter.