Thus far, 2015 has been a busy year and this list proposes to look at some of the best films of 2015 to date. These films were shown at festivals or have had a theatrical release in the year 2015.
As this list was written before the 2015 Cannes Film Festival was held, films shown at that event will not be included. 2015 has to date been a rich year for film as the following list hopes to show. Please note that this list is not ranked in any particular order.
1. Ex Machina
Ex Machina is the a British science fiction thriller from screenwriter Alex Garland, making his directorial debut. The plot follows the reclusive CEO of a hi-tech company (Oscar Isaac) who recruits a brilliant young computer programmer (Domhnall Gleeson) in order to evaluate his creation, Ava (Alicia Vikander), the most advanced artificial intelligence ever conceived. The two men fail to realize that Ava has plans of her own.
Garland kept the budget as small as possible. There were no special or green effects during filming as all such effects were created in post-production. To create Ava’s robotic features the scenes were first filmed live then copied without the actress, which allowed the director to capture the background behind her.
Ex Machina was released in January in the UK, and then premiered in the United States at the South by Southwest Film Festival before a theatrical release on April 10 2015. On the Rotten Tomatoes website, the film has received a 91% rating based on 174 reviews, among other favorable notices. The film relies more on ideas rather than effects,making it unique, visually stunning and uncommonly engaging.
2. The Salt of the Earth
Selected to compete in the 2014 Cannes Film Festival’s Un Certain Regard section, but theatrically released in March 2015, The Salt of the Earth was a collaboration between acclaimed director Wim Wenders and Juliano Ribeiro Salgado, the son of the film’s subject, Brazilian photographer Sebastião Salgado.
The film has received positive reviews and several awards since its premiere at Cannes, where it won a special prize. It also won the audience award at the 2014 San Sebastian Film Festival and 2015 Toronto Film Festival and best documentary at the 40th César Awards. It was also nominated for the Academy Award for Best Documentary.
On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has achieved a 93% approval rating with an average of 8.1/10 based on 41 reviews. While the film may somewhat neglect the thorny social questions, it raises it also remains a thought-provoking testament to the photographer’s career.
3. It Follows
This horror film premiered at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival and has been noted for its minimalist style and for director David Robert Mitchell’s command of shifting tone. The plot follows a young woman who is pursued by a supernatural entity after a sexual encounter. The film had a limited release in March of 2015 and received a wider release shortly thereafter.
A major impacting element of It Follows is the plethora of interpretations concerning the film’s “it” symbolism. Some have interpreted the film as a parable on AIDS or other sexually-transmitted diseases, a study of the sexual revolution, or a tapping into the primal anxieties about intimacy and sex. The film also explores existential aspects of death and how people try to avoid or postpone that inevitability.
The film has had critical acclaim with the majority of the praise reserved for Mitchell, whose style has been hailed as refreshing and progressive. The film is smart, original and terrifying and works on multiple levels.
4. While We’re Young
Noah Baumbach, the director of The Squid and the Whale and Frances Ha, directed this film which centers on a New York City based documentary filmmaker and his wife, played by Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts, who strike up a friendship with a couple in their 20s, portrayed by Adam Driver and Amanda Seyfried. The older couple explore the youth and freedom of the younger one, due to the fact that their marriage is in a rut.
The film premiered at the Toronto Film Festival in September 2014, it was released in March 2015 by A24 films. The film has an 84% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 152 reviews with a 7.3 average rating. The film is poignant and piercingly honest, containing numerous funny lines delivered through relatable characters. Through these characters Baumbach explores age, mid-life crises and how generations interrelate.
Although the plot is a somewhat complicated, particularly in its exploration of the ethics of documentary filmmaking, but it has a touching nature and is a return to form for Stiller and Watts.
5. Mad Max: Fury Road
The fourth film in the Mad Max franchise and the first entry in thirty years. It is directed by George Miller, the same director who has helmed the series since its inception. The film features Tom Hardy in the titular role, with Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, and Hugh Keays-Byrne rounding out the cast.
Set in a desolate wasteland environment where water and gasoline are scarce, Mad Max joins forces with Imperator Furiosa (Theron) to run away from cult leader Immortan Joe (Keays-Byrne) and his army’s pursuit.
After being in production on and off for close to a decade, the film had its world premiere at the TCL Chinese Theatre on May 7th 2015. The film began wide theatrical release a week later, highlighted by an out of competition screening at the 68th Cannes Film Festival. Critics praised the film for its acting, screenplay, action sequences, stunts, and direction.
Mad Max: Fury Road currently has a 98% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and has returned the franchise to the public’s consciousness. The film goes beyond the normal action field and is a great film overall. The overall success has led to the announcements of sequels.
6. What We Do in the Shadows
This New Zealand found footage film was a hit at the Sundance Film Festival in January. The film is directed and written by Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement, who also appear in the film. The picture concerns a group of vampires who live together in Wellington. After premiering at the Sundance Film Festival, the film received a limited release across the United States in March of 2015.
The story follows three vampire housemates who try to cope with the complexities of modern life and show a newly turned hipster some perks of being a member of the undead. The leavening factor is the film’s surprising humor.
The film currently has a 96% certified fresh score on Rotten Tomatoes. What We Do in the Shadows is bloody good fun.
Directed by British thespian, Kenneth Branagh, Disney’s live action semi-remake of the studio’s classic 1950 animated version. The cast includes Lily James as Ella (Cinderella), Cate Blanchett as Lady Tremaine/the wicked stepmother and Helena Bonham Carter as the Fairy Godmother. Premiering at the Berlin International Film Festival in February 2015, the film opened to critical acclaim and has grossed over $500 million.
After the success of the live-action remake of Alice in Wonderland, Disney began developing this film. Oscar winning costume designer Sandy Powell helped create the classic yet reimagined production world of Cinderella inspired by the 19th century period films made in the 1940s or 1950s and many are considering the work award worthy.
The film received positive critical mention focusing on the performances of Blanchett, James and Carter, the direction,and visuals and costume design.