It’s time, the movies have been watched and it’s time to sort out the best of the best that 2015 had to offer. I sorted, I mulled, I worried and I brought it down to 50, but before I get to it there is one that I have to bring attention to as an honorable mention.
Released in 1981, writer/director Noel Marshall takes us into the heart of the African jungle with real lions…everywhere. It has to be seen to be believed…
Voting takes place under CAST (Cinematic Appreciation Society of Toronto) rules, meaning if it played on a screen during a festival or a theatrical run in the city of Toronto, it is up for consideration.
Now, strap in and get ready for the best of the year that was in 2015.
50.) A Pigeon On A Branch Contemplating Existence
A dark, nihilistic and often confusing look at the state of our lives and how many of us live that ultimately won’t be for everyone but you simply can’t look away from as writer/director Roy Andersson completes his “living trilogy” with the absurd and the sublime that makes him one of the most unique directors working today. See the full review right here.
49.) Cop Car
In a return to pitch black noir storytelling, this story of two wayward kids who go for a joy ride in crooked Sheriff Krester while he is off burying a body is a delicious slice of pulp that we lap up with a spoon as star Kevin Bacon chews every bit of scenery that he can find as our crooked sheriff.
48.) The Duff
Easily one of the best comedies of the past year that you have never heard of as Mae Whitman and Bella Thorne make their mark giving the teen comedy a refreshing kick in the pants as it proves how you can still get some quality laughs out of a formula that tends to get run into the ground.
47.) By The Sea
You can easily mistake this for a vanity piece but you would ultimately be very, VERY wrong as writer/director Angeline Jolie-Pitt crafts a lush and sumptuous looking film that deals with the worst of tragedies and trying to get past the things that hold us back. Granted she made a movie in Malta for a month with her husband but she also made an intensely personal and emotional movie that is filled with rewarding layer after layer that sit with you long after the film is over. See the full review right here.
46.) The End of the Tour
A pitch perfect example at the rewarding power of words and the strength of a mere conversation, both Jason Segel and Jesse Eisenberg are peak efficiency here as this slice of life out of the life of one of the 20th century’s most enigmatic authors. See the full review right here.
45.) Shaun of the Sheep Movie
Can you make a charming and delightful kids movie without a single stitch of dialogue? Yes, yes you can. See our full review right here.
44.) Seymour: An Introduction
Director Ethan Hawke keeps it beautifully simple in this documentary about his mentor, inspiration and friend, pianist Seymour Bernstein. See our full review right here.
43.) Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck
While not without some obvious flaws (Too much Courtney & Krist, yet no Dave Grohl), this is a visceral and intimate portrait of one of rock music’s most enigmatic and tortured souls. It plays much better on multiple passes and it’s one that sits with you.
A dream for any film nerd as this film looks at the influence that this iconic book has had on modern filmmaking.
Sure it’s a gimmick of a movie that was shot entirely on an iPhone, but it also an emotionally daring movie that gives us a glance at lives most of us can’t even comprehend. Check here for our full review.
40.) Lost River
You’d be right to cringe at the words “Ryan Gosling’s directorial debut”…but here’s the thing, he’s been working with the right people and has managed to craft a fevered nightmare of a movie that would make the like of Nicolas Winding Refn and Alejandro Jodoworsky proud.
39.) Slow West
A beautifully minimalist western that shows the hard costs involved with true love and it marks a powerful debut feature for writer/director John McLean.
An indie gem that shows how hard it is for a geek to stay out of trouble in South Central Los Angeles as Writer/Director Rick Famuyiwa takes us on a ride that crosses racial and cultural boundaries laced with an infectious soundtrack that we can all relate to.
37.) When Marnie Was There
Yet another heartbreaking fable from the inspirational team at Studio Ghibli that flows like an absolute dream.
36.) Son of Saul
A stunning, simply stunning feature debut from Laszlo Nemes that takes us right into the horrors of 1944 Auschwitz that does just enough to let our imaginations to go to some pretty horrible places.
35.) That Guy, Dick Miller
Anyone who watches enough movies in their life time knows “That Guy”. Well Dick Miller made a career out of it and watching this tribute to a character actor who has seen it all and then some is just a real treat. Click here for our interview with Dick and Lanie Miller.
34.) White God:
Imagine Hitchcock’s The Birds…but with dogs. It makes for one hell of an intense ride. Read our full review right here.
33.) The Salvation:
Quite possibly the best movie that you didn’t even know existed as some of the brain trusts and creative forces behind the emotionally wrought and twisted cinema in Denmark give us a brutal revenge driven western that can be placed in the canon alongside the works of Sergio Leone and Clint Eastwood themselves.
32.) Heaven Knows What:
An intense look into the hopeless nature of heroin addiction and life on the streets that is hard to shake long after you’ve seen it.
31.) Goodnight Mommy:
It’s genuinely beautiful when a viewer as occasionally jaded as yours truly can still get his mind universally fucked with. The writing and directing team of Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz take the mother/son relationship to a whole new level as twin boys staying with their mother after a major plastic surgery suspect this woman underneath the bandages is not the woman they know as their mother.
Streets of Belfast in the middle of the conflict come alive with rage as star Jack O’Connell fights for his life in territory so familiar it is hard to believe that is filled with people that want to kill him. Director Yann Demange in his feature debut pummels the audience with violence and emotion in this visceral experience of a film. Check out our full review, right here.SAMUEL L. JACKSON stars in THE HATEFUL EIGHT.
Photo: Andrew Cooper, SMPSP
© 2015 The Weinstein Company. All Rights Reserved
29.) The Hateful Eight
While cinematic maestro Quentin Tarantino adventures in 70mm tend to get a little too cute at times, it is easily the most visually stunning piece of cinema that he has ever put together even though the bulk of it takes place in one single room.
28.) Kumiko: The Treasure Hunter
Co-Writer/Director David Zellner walks us straight into the magic and tragic nature of escapist fantasies as a Japanese woman at the end of her rope begins a journey believing that the events of Fargo the movie actually happened and there is a suitcase full of money just waiting for her. Never have hilarity and sadness meshed so well together.
27.) It Follows
A creepy forbearer for any youngsters out there looking to lose their virginity as writer/director David Robert Mitchell rocks a premise so painfully simple, I’m amazed that it had never been done before. Check out our review, right here.
26.) Star Wars Episode 7: The Force Awakens
Haters gonna hate and knit pickers gonna pick, but no one can deny what undeniable fun the re-entry into this world genuinely is. Read our full review, right here.
Documentarian Asif Kapadia reminds us of the brilliance that was Amy Winehouse and subsequently makes her songs all the more haunting and poignant. Click right here to check out our interview director Asif Kapadia.
24.) Magic Mike XXL
If you thought that Entourage: The Movie was the movie about friendship and getting down with your bro…then you were flat out wrong. The Kings of Tampa reunite and hit the road for a trip that will change all of their lives and it is a pleasure to watch it all unfold. You don’t need to be a fan of the beefcake to get behind this simple and genuine story about wanting to go out on top at least once in your life. It plays better each time I watch it.
23.) The Last Five Years
This tight little movie musical flew under most people’s radar and it shouldn’t have. It genuinely showcases what a powerhouse that star Anna Kendrick really is no matter what medium she is working in. Plus co-star Jeremy Jordan announces himself as a genuine star ready to make the move from the stage to the screen.
Rocky VII this is not, as Stallone and writer/director Ryan Coogler and star Michael B Jordan give this movie a chance to go even more rounds and show us that even though the sport of boxing may be in trouble, the genuine human emotion in the boxing movie is alive and well. Sly genuinely deserves some acting nods as he transitions Rocky into an older, world weary kind of character.
21.) Beasts of No Nation
Netflix gets into the feature movie business with a big way and after it’s bow at the Toronto International Film Festival the buzz for this powerful tale of the horrors that a child solider can go through in the horrors of war. As well Idris Elba who plays a charismatic warlord in the film could make history as the first actor to earn an Academy Award nod for the streaming service.
20.) Memories of the Sword
A lush and underrated sword swinging epic as writer/director Park Heung-Sik gives us a violent and beautiful tale that matches some of the Wushu classics that have come out mainland China and marks him as another powerful voice in the realm of Korean cinema.
19.) Inside Out
It’s time for all the feels to bubble up to the surface as Pixar does it yet again with an emotionally poignant, funny and relatable story about growing up and learning how to deal with our feelings. Read our full review right here.
18.) The Martian
So much more then Cast Away in space, director Ridley Scott and star Matt Damon turn science into a superhero as we follow Mark Watney his struggle to stay alive and how sometimes the good of the one and the good of the many are one in the same.
17.) Mr. Holmes
A movie that flew under quite a few people’s radar but features one of the performances of the year as Sir Ian McKellen gives us the world’s most famous detective in a way we have never seen before being spurred out of retirement, to solve one last case and let the ghosts of his past finally go to rest.
16.) Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation
A series that should be in decline keeps getting better with age as star Tom Cruise and director Christopher McQuarrie give audiences a nail biting thrill ride from beginning to end as star Tom Cruise finally found a leading lady to play off of in stunning Swedish powerhouse Rebecca Ferguson. Read our full review right here.
15.) Mistress America
The Noah Baumbach/Greta Gerwig duo strike again with even more comic gold as college freshman (Lola Kirke) finds her life thrown for a loop when she moves to the big city and meets her soon to be stepsister (Greta Gerwig). Flowing with the typical Baumbach charm and laughs, this just might be his most accessible and complete film to date.
A claustrophobic and emotionally wrought story of power and discovery as we witness a horrible situation through the eyes of a 5 year old boy that grabs you so hard you’ll need to hug a loved one at the end of the film. You just can’t look away from as Brie Larson and Canada’s own Jacob Tremblay give some of the performances of the year.
Cynical yet truthfully cold and gripping all at the same time; as director Denis Villeneuve and stars Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin and Benicio Del Toro dive head first into the ugly world of illegal drugs and how difficult the enforcement of it all truly is. Shot by the epically talented Roger Deakins, never have the beautiful and the grim looked so goddamn good together.
12.) Jafar Panahi’s ‘Taxi’
Banned from making movies by his own government, director Jafar Panahi poses as a taxi driver and captures a slice of life from a country that is hungry for change and allows for the inherent humor and outrage of life in Modern Iran come to the surface, a genuine example of art as subtle political protest.
Like a marmalade sandwich that’s been sitting in my hat, Paddington is such a comfortable piece of children’s cinema that washes over audiences with such a warm feeling that it simply makes us feel like a kid again. At the end of the day isn’t that what we ultimately hope for with any piece of children’s entertainment, one that reminds us of the joy of childlike adventure.
10.) Z For Zachariah
Very possibly the best movie of the year that you have never heard of, Z For Zachariah takes us into a world after it has been mostly destroyed as the raw emotion of a passionate love triangle comes to a head when their may very well be no one else in the world to love and to hold.
9.) Listen To Me, Marlon
A truly unique documentary experience as writer/director Stevan Riley uses the private audio recordings of Marlon himself to paint us a unique and heartbreaking portrait of the life that he had lived.
8.) Love & Mercy
When looking at a genius mind the likes of the Beach Boys, Brian Wilson it is no surprise that it takes two actors to play him. Paul Dano as the young Brian captures the whimsy and eclectic nature of the musician that was challenging boundaries and changing rules in an environment that really didn’t want him to, while John Cusack as older Brian shows us broken soul under the spell of a manipulative sociopath of a manager and the love that actually helped him break free of it all and get the help that he truly needed. Check out our review, right here.
A cold and calculating ‘what-if’ of a movie as the debate and ethics of artificial intelligence come into play in what is essentially a psychological duel of a movie between Eva; (Alicia Vikander) an artificial intelligence like no other, Caleb (Domnhall Gleeson) a naive yet brilliant young programmer and her creator (Oscar Isaac), a genius, bordering on megalomania and the mess that is waiting to happen. Read here for our interview with writer/director Alex Garland.
Post-war drama at the highest level as a badly scared woman fresh off some grueling plastic surgery has to pretend to be herself in order to re-enter her life and discover who sent her off to the prison camps in the first place. Writer/Director Christian Petzold and star Nina Hoss craft a haunting tale of a movie that you won’t soon forget.
5.) Steve Jobs
Hardly a traditional bio pic, director Danny Boyle and writer Aaron Sorkin take us into the complicated life of the man that was Steve Jobs during three key project launches in his life. Michael Fassbender in the title role gives us one of the more nuanced performances of the year as he walks the line between charming, maniacal and even likeable while Kate Winslet is barely recognizable to the point that it borders on brilliance. Click here for our full review.
A tribute to the power of investigative journalism as the truth will out, even if it takes a little longer then it should. Easily one of the best ensemble performances of the year as writer/director Tom McCarthy gives us balanced and ball busting expose on the work that it actually took to uncover corruption in the Catholic Church in the city of Boston. You can read out full review, right here.
Love can be an unrelenting gut punch, especially when it happens at the most inopportune of times in your life. Cate Blanchett is an absolute dream who commands the screen at every turn in a lushly filmed love story that is hard to forget. A woman out of time, steeped in her passions she loves at the risk of losing everything that means anything to her while Rooney Mara is the fresh faced store girl, dreaming of a better life and falls in love with the one person that she really shouldn’t. A shining example of how love should be universal but how blind passion can get the better of us all.
2.) Mad Max: Fury Road
The straight up, full throttle action movie of the year, as director George Miller only asks us to strap in for dear life as we barrel down the Fury Road for not only one of the best action films of the year, but in a world that overuses CGI at every turn, this is a practical effects master piece that we may never see again.
1.) The Big Short
Funny, scary as all hell and all true, The Big Short is a testament of ballsy filmmaking as it never flinches from what actually happened and especially what is still happening. Read our review right here.
And that as they say kids…is that…see you as we press reset and get down to the business of 2016.