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The 30 Best Movies of 2015

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

7. Green Room

Jeremy Saulnier, USA

green room

Offering an extremely vicious punk rock variant on Rio Bravo, Jeremy Saulnier‘s (Blue Ruin) intense new shocker, Green Room, is catnip for extreme action thriller devotees.

On the ass end of an awful tour, Pat (Anton Yelchin) and his noisy punk band, The Ain’t Rights, desperate for dough, find themselves headlining a gig at a backwoods skinhead bar, way off the map.

Soon the band witness something grisly in the eponymous green room and then that same room is all that stands between them and a blood-simple, well-armed Neo-Nazi mob, led by a terrifying Patrick Stewart.

As one brazenly executed action sequence follows another, duress and bloodshed reach a fever pitch. The sustained intense onslaughts on our tapering protagonists effectively obliterates any notions of assurance for the audience.

A more thought-provoking and brilliantly paced horror film with so palpable a physicality you will not find. In Green Room nothing is safe, survival is a fool’s paradise, and hope but a blink in a broken beer bottle.

 

6. Entertainment

Rick Alverson, USA

Entertainment

An erratic road movie perplexed by sad poetry, somber perceptions, and preyed upon by endless longing is an apt description of Rick Alverson’s latest, Entertainment.

As he wanders through a dusty, hard-hearted American landscape – mostly the Mojave Desert – a nameless antihero and ho-hum stand-up comic played by Gregg Turkington moves like a man thrown down, on a journey somewhere, maybe home. Alverson’s film is haunting, hypnotic, and disconcerting in succession.

There’s something fatalistic in Turkington’s almost somnambulistic drifting, his tenures in fleabag hotels, and filling stations, his curdled charm, and seemingly surreal asides with bereft eccentrics (including John C. Reilly, Jesus Lizard frontman David Yow, Amy Seimetz, and Michael Cera at his creepiest).

Turkington, in his cheapo suit, dripping sweat, stumbling through the desert, looks like a spurious Moses wandering the wastes of a soured American dream, with a folkloric quality.

 

5. Mad Max: Fury Road

George Miller, Australia/USA

Mad Max Fury Road movie

This intense mytho-poetic punk rock actioner has few antecedents, really. I can think of only a few; Henri-Georges Clouzot’s The Wages of Fear, William Friedkin’s Sorcerer, and John Woo’s Hard-Boiled spring to mind, but even if action isn’t your genre of preference it’s near impossible to shrug off the adrenaline charge that George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road elicits full on.

Returning to his dystopian milieu that Miller began in 1979 with the first Mad Max, Fury Road, the fourth in the now post-apocalyptic series offers us Tom Hardy in the title role as Max Rockatansky (replacing Mel Gibson, for the better). But Max takes the backseat to Charlize Theron’s now iconic Imperator Furiosa.

Make no mistake, this is an intelligently assembled chase picture, storyline in the periphery to action set-pieces that sharply astound, inventive and complex visuals that miraculously aren’t obscured. The spatial relationships, cause-and-effect forward march of the motorcade, and the kinetic stimulus couple judiciously with road-raging feminist poli-sci and environmental umbrage.

It’s rare that a genre film of this sort receive so many accolades – or any at all – let alone transcend so many stereotypes. Blockbusters are rarely if ever this material, for a franchise film, Fury Road is a diesel-exhaust-fumes-spitting trailblazer, and a brilliant one.

 

4. Anomalisa

Duke Johnson and Charlie Kaufman, USA

Anomalisa film

Combining high ambition with near errorless achievement, Anomalisa is an intimate stop-motion moral story as well as an experiment in cinematic form. Directors Duke Johnson, and Charlie Kaufman have undertaken a risky project here, one hinging on a nominal sketch, basically, and complete it with such a stunning success.

At first a rather mundane story about an author of popular books on customer service, voiced by David Thewlis, going on a business trip to Cincinnati lulls the viewer into an anxious ennui before making it into a weird Kafkaesque experience, with shades of Philip K. Dick – the influence we’ve most come to expect from Kaufman.

Anomalisa depicts an almost innocuous story – aspects of it feel deliberately incomplete – and still it carries a melody of carefully sequenced chords, concentus, and uncertain rhythms; notes from dreams, jewels dredged from the slough of a flowing well of creativity. Wow.

 

3. The Duke of Burgundy

Peter Strickland, UK

The Duke of Burgundy

The third feature film from writer/director Peter Strickland (Berberian Sound Studio), The Duke of Burgundy, takes place in a pocket universe that’s populated by women only. As idiosyncratic and malicious as Strickland’s previous work, here our provocateur storyteller seeks and succeeds a cheeky consortium between sexploitation à la Jess Franco (think Vampyros Lesbos) and the cushy deadpan domesticity you might find in an erstwhile sitcom.

Evelyn (Chiara D’Anna) and Cynthia (Sidse Babett Knudsen) share passions for each other, for sadomasochism, for butterflies – both women are entomologists – and for role-playing. The Gothic flavor of the film, the nuanced charms, subtle humor, seductive confab, hallucinatory visuals, and bravura delicacy on display amounts to delicious and amorously-owed entertainment.

 

2. It Follows

David Robert Mitchell, USA

It Follows

Remember the name David Robert Mitchell. His old school horror film, It Follows, is keenly observed and beset with ill-lit hallucinations, angst-fuelled lament, and radiant performances – expressly Maika Monroe’s breakout performance – in one of the most poetic studies of terror this side of vintage Brian De Palma and Dario Argento.

Jay (Monroe), our ill-starred heroine battling a sexually transmitted curse that shape-shifts into some of the creepiest ghouls going, this is the film that made audiences at Cannes sit up and take notice. In turns unsettling, sexy, and audacious, It Follows is a spine-chilling supernatural stroke of genius. Masterful.

 

1. Carol

Todd Haynes, UK/USA

Carol (2015)

“What a strange girl you are, you must be from outer space,” quips Carol Aird (Blanchette) with a delicate reserve to Therese Belivet (Rooney Mara), a shopgirl with aspirations in 1952 New York in Todd Haynes (I’m Not There) intelligent and agonizing film, Carol.

Part revisionist melodrama and postmodernist Douglas Sirk-style weepie, Carol is a decidedly outré lesbian love story as well as Haynes most meticulously crafted, richly detailed, and most stirring work.

Sexual politics and identity are regularly tested and thought about in cinema, but rarely with such nimble naturalism and perceptivity. Carol is a masterpiece, triumphant in both its artifice and merciless honesty, it glitters like a precious stone; the finest film of 2015.

Author Bio: Shane Scott-Travis is a film critic, screenwriter, comic book author/illustrator and cineaste. Currently residing in Vancouver, Canada, Shane can often be found at the cinema, the dog park, or off in a corner someplace, paraphrasing Groucho Marx. Follow Shane on Twitter @ShaneScottravis.

 

 

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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.

      • Iván Solorio (SanS)

        Nice reply. Took you 2 years to come up with that

  • 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?