The 10 best films of 2015 (UK release)

When I stepped back to look at my list of the 10 best films of 2015, I noticed 4 of my choices are science fiction and a further 3 are animated.

Cinema is escapism and if I wanted real life I’d stay at home. When I go to the cinema I want to go to places I can’t go in real life. There’s no place I can’t go to more than outer space.

Any film holds the possibility for fully exploiting cinema’s epic potential if it combines intelligent storytelling, tremendous visuals, an out of this world scale and a sense of humour.

As ever it’s impossible to see every film released each year, and so the absence of drama 45 Years (2015) and documentary Amy (2015) shouldn’t be read as a judgement upon them.

However the absence of probably Oscar contender Carol (2015) is deliberate. You can read about here.

Top 10 films of 2015

1. Mad Max: Fury Road

George Miller’s barkingly brilliant reboot of his own 1979 action classic is an extraordinarily epic non-stop thrill-ride, an apocalyptic nitrous charge of pure cinema.

2. The Martian

Matt Damon was marooned on Mars in this breathless, big budget sci-fi adventure which rockets along to a disco beat. Who knew Ridley Scott could do funny?

3. Song of the Sea

This gorgeous Irish fairytale is a moving and magical adventure full of enchantment and transformation. Oscar nominated for Best Animated film.

4. Ex Machina

Sexy, sharp and stylish, this brilliant British sci-fi thriller explores man’s relationship to machines with verve, wit and polish. Alex Garland is happy to acknowledge the debt it owes to long running comic 2000AD.

5. Whiplash

An aspiring jazz drummer clashes with his menacing music teacher in this  exhilarating music masterclass. Won three Oscars including Best Supporting Actor for JK Simmons.

6. Big Hero 6

Disney gave us this hilarious, joyous and thrilling tale of a boy and his inflatable robot Baymax. Winner of the Oscar for best animated film.

7. Birdman

Michael Keaton soars in this extraordinarily ambitious black comedy about a desperate actor enduring a nervous breakdown. It’s funny, sexy, brave and bold. It won Oscars for Best Picture, Director, Original Screenplay and Cinematography.

8. The Tale of the Princess Kaguya

Magical and moving, this animated folktale of a young girl who comes of age is a charming, moving and beautifully crafted joy, bursting with humour and life.

9. Star Wars: The Force Awakens

A light speed blast of fun from this epic seventh and third best episode in the long running sci-fi saga. Fast, funny and visually spectacular. The force is strong in this one.

10. Spring

Little seen but fabulous horror of an American in Italy who falls for a mysterious girl. A gorgeous and terrifying love story. Narrowly edged out It Follows as best horror of the year.

And the best of the rest:

Horror 

It Follows

Documentary

Red Army

Precinct 75 

Western

The Salvation

Slow West

Bonus movie:

The return of Keanu Reeves in kick ass form as the puppy-loving assassin John Wick.

Top Ten worst films

1. Jupiter Ascending

2. Entourage

3. The Last Witch Hunter

4. The Boy Next Door

5. Seventh Son

6. Captive

7. The Visit

8. Vacation

9. Hot Pursuit

10. Everly

Birdman

Director: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu

This extraordinarily ambitious black comedy about a desperate actor having a nervous breakdown is funny, sexy, brave and bold.

Michael Keaton, former star in blockbusting Hollywood superhero franchise Batman plays Riggan Thomas, former star in the blockbusting Hollywood superhero franchise Birdman.

That was twenty years ago and now Riggan, aware of his age and lack of artistic legacy, wants to reboot his career as a serious artist by starring and directing in a Broadway adaptation of an important literary work.

However he’s beset by professional and personal problems – not least being haunted by his gravel voiced masked-man alter ego of yesteryear who preys on his many insecurities.

As an accomplished actor Riggan is an untrustworthy guide to his own existence and it may be best not believe anything he says, sees or shows us.

He has re-mortgaged his house to pay for the production but influential critic Tabitha Dickinson (Lindsay Duncan) threatens to bury the show and a former employee wants to sue him.

His daughter Sam (Emma Stone) is out of rehab and last minute replacement actor Mike (Edward Norton) is re-writing his lines and stealing the limelight.

Meanwhile co-star girlfriend Laura (Andrea Riseborough) is pregnant and manager Jake (Zach Galifianakis) is constantly lying to him.

Dressing rooms are trashed amid scenes of fights, affairs, drunks, drugs, and attempted suicide.

It all leads to an astonishing scene in Times Square where Riggan clutches at his rapidly shrinking dignity.

As shamelessly superb camerawork (Emmanuel Lubezki) and editing (Douglas Crise, Stephen Mirrione) create the astonishing illusion of a single continuous shot that lasts the entire film.

Dynamic and fearless performances embrace the vanity of the flawed characters and offer moments of insight creating an exhausting, energetic and constantly surprising experience.

Birdman is a soaring success.

★★★★★