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The 30 Best Movies of 2015

31 December 2015 | Features, Film Lists | by Shane Scott-Travis

23. Horse Money

Pedro Costa, Portugal

Horse Money

Blurring the line between documentary film and fiction, Pedro Costa’s nocturnal nightmare of chiaroscuro apartment blocks and hazy, half-remembered hospital wards makes for an alternately troubling and dazzling cinematic experience.

Set in present day Lisbon, we meet a man named Ventura – in his fifth film with Costa – a retired immigrant and Cape Verdean survivor. Now a laborer in his fifties and confined to a hospital bed – though it often intentionally looks more like a prison – Ventura’s not alone.

Horse Money is a hypnotic, deliberate, and dirge-like journey that doubles as vivid portraiture and Joycean nighttime transmigration. Haunting.

 

22. The Hateful Eight

Quentin Tarantino, USA

hateful eight review

A grisly and gratifying ensemble film that doubles as chamber piece set in the Wild West, The Hateful Eight is the kind of blood-mottled, pitch-dark comedy that Quentin Tarantino does best. Unfolding in the years following the Civil War, with race relations and gender politicking ever present, QT rounds up eight rogues, each with their own agenda, and isolates them in a stagecoach chalet in the Wyoming mountains, just as a blizzard touches down.

Patchy, uneven, and charming to a fault, The Hateful Eight is custom built for film lovers as it metes out destruction, endless n-bombs, and, perhaps most surprisingly, polemic connected to misconstrued ideas of culture, race, and gender. This is the American Dream with decorum set aside, and the unseemly truth left glistening, astonishingly exposed by QT’s foul-mouthed raconteurs.

 

21. Deathgasm

Jason Lei Howden, New Zealand

Deathgasm

Kiwi writer/director Jason Lei Howden’s hilariously resurrects the splatter comedy with Deathgasm. If combining the crude fanboy nobility of Bill and Ted with the stomach-churning carnage of Dead Alive sounds delectable, then this indelicate midnight movie masterpiece is your main course.

Brodie (Milo Cawthorne), a serious heavy metal fan, along with bad-boy bff Zakk (James Blake) front a band, the titular Deathgasm, who up their street cred and Satanic celebrity by incorporating demonic lyrics from an ancient text into their music. It turns out that doing so summons an assortment of teeth-gnashing nasties that only they can stand up to.

Deathgasm’s fluid-spewing violence is a morbid revelry with rapid-fire quotable quips that are laugh-out-loud funny, this is a movie meant for repeat viewings. A new cult classic is born, kicking and screaming, of course.

 

20. Suffragette

Sarah Gavron, UK

Suffragette (2015) movie review

Carey Mulligan mesmerizes as Maud Watts, a fictional working-class mother and laundress in London’s East End, who in 1912 finds herself swept up in the women’s suffrage movement. Director Sarah Gavron vividly portrays Maud’s political awakening amidst real-life events in the struggle for electoral equality at the dawn of the 20th-century women’s rights movement and the resulting film is as revelatory as it is terrible, serving as a look backward at the slow climb to equality.

Smartly, Suffragette is an eloquent intimation of the still flourishing and ever-evolving feminist movement. On the surface it’s about a brave workaday woman with a destiny no more heroic and clement than yours or mine. It’s also about something deeper, more declarative, and empowering than that, too. It has more authenticity and amity than almost any film in recent memory. Its heart is unequalled, and is bigger than all of us.

 

19. Star Wars: The Force Awakens

J.J. Abrams, USA

the force awakens review

From the first fusillade of John Williams’ robust and instantly recognizable score partnered with the retreating opening titles, we are back en masse to the long ago galaxy, and any fears of rickety science fiction pinned on platitudes are soon dashed. The Force Awakens restores the Star Wars tradition, introduces new characters while honoring and headlining the old, reworks the mythology we once cherished and offers the ultimate trip on the blockbuster ladder.

The characters are compelling, charismatic, and memorable, the visuals are imaginative and incredibly realized, and the story cues, while unsophisticated, contain astonishment and awe at nearly every turn. Abrams wisely eschews any of his lens-flare fuelled emblems in favor of a more methodical sweep that carries the brilliantly executed special effects and action sequences with verve, validity, and nostalgia flecked excitement.

There’s a childish and sprightly sense of exhibition and pop imagination at play here that is foolish to resist, making The Force Awakens a pure cinematic joy.

 

18. Clouds of Sils Maria

Olivier Assayas, Germany/France/Switzerland

The Clouds of Sils Maria

Easily one of Olivier Assayas’ most intelligent and mystifying masterpieces (right up there with Irma Vep and Summer Hours), Clouds of Sils Maria acquires and earns a correlation to Ingmar Bergman’s Persona. Juliette Binoche and Kristen Stewart are pitch-perfect in this finely inflected psychodrama that proves them both to be amongst the best actors of their respective generations.

Maria Enders (Binoche) is an aging A-list actress and Valentine (Stewart) is her ravishing young assistant, and they spend the better part of the film in seclusion in the remote Swiss canyons as Maria prepares for what could be her comeback performance. There’s more to her role preparation then she anticipates, and the two women walk a precipice that’s often unclear and ever shifting, like the titular Majola Snake cloud formations in their midst. Magnificent.

 

17. Songs My Brothers Taught Me

Chloé Zhao, USA

Songs My Brothers Taught Me

Piercingly sad yet stunningly beautiful, Chloé Zhao’s debut feature, Songs My Brothers Taught Me offers an authentic and elegiac portrait of life on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. Told from the perspective of 11-year-old Jashawn Winters (Jashaun St. John), and a handful of her foolhardy older brothers, Zhao’s film is somewhat indebted to the tradition of neorealism.

The intensity of caprice and character makes for a beautiful and sustained poetic melancholy. It’s so rare that marginalized characters such as these get their own film, let alone one that’s such a shimmering prize. Zhao’s a strong voice and a director to watch.

 

16. Sicario

Denis Villeneuve, USA

sicario 2015 movie review

Prolific Québécois filmmaker Denis Villeneuve’s latest film, Sicario, is a tightly drawn thriller that’s gritty and provocative with the hard-edged and high-minded seriousness of his previous storied works, Prisoners and Enemy (both from 2013).

Kate Mercer (Emily Blunt) runs a kidnap response team that’s suddenly sucked into a vortex of viciously warring Mexican drug cartels when a raid in an Arizona suburb uncovers 42 dead bodies and a baited-trap explosive that kills two officers. Soon Kate’s the new recruit in a CIA Special Activities Division black ops overseen by the mussed and macho Matt Graver (Josh Brolin).

Not at all the sort of film that outright offers redemption for its broken characters, instead they come to understand their own deception and an unfeigned truthfulness results. Sicario is compelling cinema, formidable and ferocious, its moral and political squeam is sure to fuel endless debate. Stormy and refined, Sicario is out-and-out unmissable.

 

 

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  • Unkle Dee

    Thank you. Cool list

  • Dimitrije Stojanovic

    Hard to be a God is even from 2013

    • shane scott-travis

      It wasn’t released in North America until 2015, when I saw it. For myself and many critics in the West this was a huge event. 🙂

  • Alonso Llanos

    Where is Inside Out?

    • Andy West

      Sounds like a riddle. Is the answer bacon?

  • Simina Sovi

    Mad Max has got to make the list of the most overrated movies of 2015, not the best.

    • Rafael Castilho Monteiro

      i love you.

      • Simina Sovi

        <3

    • Shawn Savage

      Generally I think the usage of the term “overrated” is, in and of itself, overrated, but this is one of the rare instances in which I agree. Don’t get me wrong, I liked the movie, but holy shit.

    • kanis

      I don’t agree. One of the best movies last year. Top 3. Definitely.

    • Akshay Bhanot

      watch it again you are missing something

      • Simina

        That something being?

        • Phan Nguyen

          That movie was very good if you’re a fan of action movie and understand things that make a good action movie and things that make a bad one. I respect your opinion if you’re not an action fan, but if you are, saying mad max was overrated you are not worthy of being an action fan and should be sent to Valhallaaaa

          • Simina

            I would never insult myself by saying I like action movies, they bore me to death.

          • LittleRedRooster

            Die then.

          • Sean Sherk You’re Dead

            What a Pretentious moron you are

          • Simina

            Had you used the word snob, you would have been closer to truth. I know that my claim is such an upsetting one to all of you, action fans, but what can I do if the genre does not define me. I cannot lie and say I appreciate it.

          • D Train

            Then why say anything? I don’t like musicals but I don’t troll popular musicals and their fans. And I can appreciate when one is well made. Duh!

          • Simina

            Just because I do not see the value of Mad Max or most action movies in general that doesn’t mean that I don’t appreciate when one is well made (and my initial comment was far from trolling, just an opinion). Mad Max has no plot almost, the chromatic is horrible despite the good visual effects, it’s repetitive and unoriginal and superficial. But that’s Hollywood, there are so many other movies that would fit this description and are not even action movies.

          • Akshay Bhanot

            After half an hour into the movie I was like WTH I’m watching to then i realized that this movie is going to play like this till the end and then I got used the camera work and the craziness I fucking enjoyed it then.. u need to accept the craziness and that’s it you will like it then.. 🙂 you don’t need to be an action movie lover to see good in this film A MOVIE LOVER WOULD DO JUST FINE!!!.. I don’t have a particular favorite genre in films, I like all of em until they deliver what they have promised in the trailers or do justice with the story or stupefy/surprise me.. You need to embrace all kind stories first and then make your opinion by this method u will get the best results… (i don’t think I met a single girl who liked mad max) CHEERS!!

          • Simina

            I have a close girl friend who liked it. It was about the feminism and the cynicism it incorporated, she said. Those aspects were not bad at all, but the overall thing just meh.

      • WilloughbyBucksworth

        Miller should have either done it with Mel Gibson as Max or without a Max at all.

    • mark

      Wow what a bag of dicks these commenters are. You go Simina.

    • Agreed. I really couldn’t even finish it.

    • Valentin Genev

      Get over yourself.

  • Rudi

    Not very movie lover-y to include two movies (The Hateful Eight and The Revenant) that 99% has only seen in an illegal way this year. They’re for the 2016 lists, after people had the chance to see them in cinema.

    • sailor monsoon

      Just because you didn’t see them in theaters doesn’t mean i did illegally.
      They’re both on my list and hateful eight is also way down the list

      • Rudi

        You’re twisting my words.

        31,031 people rated The Hateful Eight on IMDB and it has had 4 or 5 screenings this year. I think it’s safe to assume by far the biggest part of those 31,000 people saw it illegally.

        For The Revenant the numbers are almost the same; close to 30,000 ratings with only 2 screenings this year.

        • sailor monsoon

          Because people stole it, i shouldn’t count it on my list?
          That doesn’t effect me.
          I waited in line 7 hours to see hateful eight

          • Rudi

            If you’re part of an extreme minority who saw the movie in the year before it officially releases I indeed think it’s one for the 2016 lists.

          • sailor monsoon

            I go by US release dates.
            If it was released in America in 2015 and i saw it in 2015, i count it.
            If it’s released later for you, put it on your 2016 list

          • shane scott-travis

            So therefore I need to check in with you to determine what year to categorize the films I’m viewing and writing about? Okay, and who the fug are you again? hahaha

          • sailor monsoon

            Um…
            What?

    • Chrisychipz

      In my city, they both came out in limited release on christmas day

  • Derek Handelong
    • Harshwardhan Pagare

      About Elly is included in your list. It’s 2009 movie just so you know

      • Brandon Thompson

        It received a wide release in 2015

        • Derek Handelong

          Exactly, thanks. Most of the others people “think” are 2014 didn’t get a chance until 2015 and really who cares. Why nitpick over that instead of talk about the films.

  • Brandon Thompson

    My top 10 are

    1. Mommy
    2. Mad Max: Fury Road
    3. Sicario
    4. 99 Homes
    5. The Walk
    6. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
    7. Inside Out
    8. The Lobster
    9. Creed
    10. The Assassin

    And yes I realise that Mommy and 99 Homes are listed as 2014 movies on IMDb but they didn’t get there wide release until 2015.

    Also notable oscar buzz movies haven’t been released in Australia yet (E.G. Room, Spotlight, Carol)

    • Chrisychipz

      Mommy is one of the best movie I’ve seen in years, along with Anomalisa

  • Brandon Thompson

    Also how was this list decided upon? Was it just the author of the article or was it a collaboration of taste of cinema writers.

    • John W. Thackery

      It’s one writer. Almost all TOC articles are written by one writer.

  • M.A. Rauf

    No ‘ Bridge of Spies ‘ ?? How could you ?? Please sit down and have a sprite and then please rewrite the list.

    • shane scott-travis

      Haha – I’ll need something stiffer than a Sprite to digest a Speilberg crowd-pleaser! 😉

    • HDbfly

      Dull.

  • David Ames

    Why is Green Room on this list…its torture porn.

    • D Train

      It’s brilliant! Not for all tastes and gruesome but a great genre film.

  • Iván Solorio (SanS)

    I honestly think that Carol is Haynes most forgettable movie.

    • Mortimer

      I honestly think your opinion is not even on “forgettable” level.

  • Prince Purple

    I hated every minute of “Clouds of Sils Maria”. Just because its an art movie, every one praises Kristen stewart’s performance, which actually remains as bad as what was in Twilight.

    • Chrisychipz

      Definitely not..

  • Chrisychipz

    Not too sure about It Follows being number 2.. Where is Mommy? Black Coal Thin Ice? 45 Years? Victoria? Brooklyn? Goodnight Mommy? The Tribe? Youth? The Look of Silence?

  • Pedro Enrique Casique Duran

    No like…

  • santiamen

    If you get a chance, you should check out the Hungarian film Liza, a rokatunder (Lisa, the Fox-Fairy), one of the most original pieces to see this year for sure.

  • Erwin Houto

    Carol? Ha!

    • shane scott-travis

      You’ll laugh when it deservedly wins “Best Adapted Screenplay” amongst many other awards, hmm?

      • Erwin Houto

        The film will probably do very well with all kinds of US film awards, partly due to its subject matter. Knowing other Todd Haynes films I was underwhelmed, that’s all.

      • HDbfly

        Oops. It didn’t win. And it was not as good as you think it is.

        • Mortimer

          Actually the movie IS good as he thinks. Even better. And winning or not winning Oscar is completely irrelevant for the movie quality.

  • Rafael Castilho Monteiro

    wheres BONE TOMAHAWK?

    but im glad to see ENTERTAIMENT in the top five, it was the best movie of the year im my opinion.

  • Wyatt W.B

    Steve Jobs.

    • Maryanne

      boring!!!!

  • The Man Who Wasn’t There

    No Beasts of No Nation?A powerful and unique movie that features One of the best child performances ever. Inside Out was a great animation too i think that deserves a spot on the list, too.

  • Nick Arno

    I am very disappointed that Spotlight isn’t on this list. It was one of the most important movies made in a while, and so well done.

  • Alex

    Equal parts surprised and happy to see “It Follows” listed. Truly deserves every single praise it gets. One for the ages, undoubtedly.

  • For me:
    1. The Lobster
    2. Son Of Saul
    3. Embrace Of The Serpent
    4. Hard To Be A God
    5. The Revenant/ The Hateful Eight

  • Elke Damm

    I didn’t expect “Carol” on n°1 on this list! Don’t get me wrong: This is one of my favourite movies of all times and the movie fully deserve it. You should have told the Academy. This year it will be: “And the Oscar goes to “The Revenant” … “The Revenant” and …. “The Revenant”. Predictable and so boring.

  • David W

    Victoria!

    • D Train

      Victoria was terrible. Just a gimmick. Zzz

  • Usama Asif Khan

    Sicario wasnt that great

  • Diego Alejandro Alvarez

    Star Wars: The Force Awakens?? this crap should be among the 30 worst movies 2015, it was a mediocre attempt to retread the saga in a teen version

  • xDynazty

    Mad max #5 ? Son of Saul only #11? Haha im out of this page.

  • TudorR

    Aferim!

  • Mortimer

    Excellent list. In my opinion CAROL and MAD MAX:FURY ROAD are two best films of 2015.

  • Ozhan

    I hope one day I’ll figure out, what caused the love of TOT for “It Follows”.

  • Ruchit Negotia

    Ugh anomalisa is so overrated, its basically lost in translation 2.0 with stop motion. Also it follows had a good idea and for the most part they did good but towards the end or the last act they killed it IMO, deserves the list but not number 2.

  • colonelkurtz

    Cause I’m a grammar/style nut, please forgive me, but: eponymous is used solely for names of people. Harry Potter is the protagonist in his eponymous novel, works. Has to be a person, not a thing (in this case, green room).

  • WilloughbyBucksworth

    Mad Max Fury Road was both a mash up and unintended parody of The Road Warrior and Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. Should have just left Tom Hardy out.

  • Pedro D. Souza

    The 8 Best:
    1) Inside Out
    2) Victoria
    3) Anomalisa
    4) The Lobster
    5) Youth
    6) The Hateful Eight
    7) Carol
    8) The Revenant

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  • ttt

    Er ist wieder da, Suburra, The End of the Tour, Tale of Tales

  • Filo

    Where is YOUTH ?

  • Malthe Tuxen

    How can you not include The Big Short and Spotlight they definitly deserves to be on this list. Just Saying

  • frozengoatsheadupanunsarse

    Some great stuff here, and some I’ve not encountered but shall now check out. I thought The Hateful Eight and The Force Awakens were just average though. The former was overstretched and over-schlocky, and while the latter proved that Star Wars can be worthwhile again, Daisy Ridley was a weak lead and Kylo Ren a weak villain.

  • Mick Swinnen

    What about Embrace of the Serpent? Having a 2015 list that features star wars and not a film that’s obviously superior, cool.

  • Gurparkash Singh Sohi

    How is Star Wars: The Force Awakens above The Hateful Eight and The Ravenant?