As the curtains close on 2015, all of us here at Flickreel are looking back over what was another year of cinema to cherish. Of course, the year produced its fair share of duds, but there were also a handful of indelible classics too – and it’s our job to separate the wheat from the chaff.
Before we begin, a few films we’ve included here actually count as 2014 releases, as we’re using the same system as the Academy Awards; these particular films, however, weren’t released in either the US or the UK until 2015, which is where our writers are based, and we wouldn’t have been able to catch them until this year at either critics screenings or regular performances. For that reason, we’re including them (and marking them with an asterisk).
2015 saw the release of some breathtaking movies, ranging from the likes of Ex Machina and The Lobster, to Mad Max: Fury Road and Star Wars: The Force Awakens – each feature critically acclaimed to say the least. Brooklyn is a glorious and enchanting romantic piece too, while Mississippi Grind shows a somewhat lesser side to America, albeit to similarly triumphant results.
Mad Max: Fury Road blew everybody away; a blockbuster that’s being tipped to win various awards (and is already doing so) is seldom seen, and it also marks what has been a noteworthy year for female-led productions, such as studio releases like Far From the Madding Crowd, Suffragette and the ineffably beautiful Carol, to indies such as A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night* and The Diary of a Teenage Girl.
Women also had a major impact in comedy across the course of the year, in features such as Trainwreck, Sisters, and Hot Pursuit. But on the whole it wasn’t a particularly strong year for the genre; while and The Overnight stand out, we still had to sit through the likes of Get Hard, Ted 2 and Daddy’s Home.
2015 will always be tarnished as the year that saw the release of Fifty Shades of Grey, despite the fact the film was, surprisingly, really rather good. It wasn’t the only film to surpass expectations either, as Cinderella was enchanting, Magic Mike XXL was even better than the original – in spite of Steven Soderbergh’s absence – and The Spongebob Movie was beautifully bonkers. But for every film that looked bad and ended up being good, there’s films that had so much unfulfilled potential. Blackhat, The Gunman and Child 44 were all disappointments, while Ryan Gosling’s directorial debut Lost River* was awful – and Everest and Pan were underwhelming to say the least.
Thankfully, however, the majority of blockbusters this year were decidedly a hit. Star Wars: The Force Awakens (you may have heard of it) is simply brilliant, and could end up being the biggest release of all time – and deservedly so. While that franchise kickstarts, the very final entry into the Hunger Games universe was also a riotous success, while Marvel continued their trend for releasing damn good movies, with Ant-Man and The Avengers: Age of Ultron. That said, Fantastic Four was a complete disaster, while 007 returned with Spectre – a somewhat disappointing effort for Sam Mendes to follow up the incredible Skyfall.
Fast & Furious 7 was insanely good fun, as was the Dwayne Johnson-starring San Andreas and Ridley Scott’s The Martian. George Clooney’s Tomorrowland: A World Beyond was a sci-fi that struggled to have quite the same impact, while the less said about Hitman: Agent 47 the better. Thankfully, however, Jurassic World captured the tone and essence of the Spielberg classic, and whets the appetite for the forthcoming features to come out of that series.
2015 was also a strong year for the biopic, with Love & Mercy* and Straight Outta Compton doing justice to the musical heroes they’re based on, while Tom Hardy, Dane DeHaan and Michael Fassbender brought life to their subjects in Legend, Life and Steve Jobs respectively.
British cinema had an inconsistent year, but thankfully will always boast the incredible drama 45 Years, featuring two powerhouse performances from Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay, while Kingsman: The Secret Service miracles at the box office.
Across the world, we also had a number of inspiring endeavours, albeit not quite as much as usual. Mommy* is the stand-out production, though, and fans of arthouse cinema will be encouraged by what was a staggeringly good year for the documentary: from The Look of Silence* – Joshua Oppenheimer’s follow-up to The Act of Killing – to Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief. There was also The Salt of the Earth*, The Wolfpack and the devastatingly powerful 3 ½ Minutes, 10 Bullets. Listen to Me Marlon also makes for compelling viewing, while Asif Kapadia’s Amy is the highlight of the year in this category – and the favourite to win big during the awards season.
Talking of which, Pixar’s Inside Out is a shoe-in for every animation award, though deserves to be run close by Snoopy and Charlie Brown: The Peanuts Movie. Pixar’s other endeavour (the first year they’ve released two films in one year) was The Good Dinosaur, a charming (if lesser) offering from the studio, and The Shaun the Sheep Movie are also worth seeking out.
But for every hit, comes one helluva miss – and there were a handful of films you will want to avoid at all costs this year. M. Night Shyamalan’s found-footage horror movie The Visit stands out, while Jupiter Ascending and Burnt are all to be left on the scrap heap. Accidental Love is a complete shambles of a film too, and one so bad, that director David O. Russell wouldn’t even put his name on it. Oh dear.