2015 was a great year for movies. It was a year where creative filmmakers continued to thrive and challenge the status quo. It was also a landmark year for documentaries and animated cinema. And of course, the quality of television continues to increase, with Netflix continuing to ramp up their production of original material – dominating the cultural discussion with a diverse range of original programming that continues to captivate audiences all over the world. Amazon Prime, while slower to adapt than Netflix, also has its fair share of impressive original material, which will continue to expand into 2016, as Hulu starts to get in on the game as well.
The less said about Yahoo’s botched offerings, the better.
As the availability of technology increases, independent cinema is becoming more and more ambitious, which in turn pushes more mainstream cinema to take risks. 2015 was the year of the 140 minute action thriller, all in one continuous shot. The year that an independent director shot a beautiful looking film with an iPhone and a handful of cheap apps. The year that Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu reached peak levels of insanity and somehow got a film greenlit that was shot all in natural light, made in a place where there is incredibly limited natural light (and that was barely habitable for humans, like a modern day Apocalypse Now).
2015 was also the year that Marvel had a weaker year on their film side, at least critically (they still made close to $2 billion), but had an incredible run on the television side, creating some of the best new shows of the year. Universal Studios had one of the best years on records, with the runaway successes of Furious 7 (RIP Paul Walker, thanks for the huge payout), and Jurassic World, which was only eclipsed by a certain little known space epic in December.
Quentin Tarantino released another new movie set in the past, displaying a fierce love of the ‘n’ word, and a fetish for beating on women – in a time as culturally sensitive and explosive (there were unparalleled amounts of moral outrage last year) as we’re in, The Hateful Eight has proven…divisive, even within my own brain. Is it his worst or best film yet? You’ll find plenty of arguments for both.
It was also the year of the return of the western, with several impressive revisionist westerns being created last year – not just Tarantino’s latest effort. If revisionist westerns aren’t your thing there was also comedy westerns, feminist westerns, and even horror westerns. Westerns are showing no sign of slowing down in 2016 either (and even making their way to television with HBO’s remake Westworld, and AMC’s Preacher), so yes, it does seem like the genre may actually be here to stay for a little while.
Oh, and of course, there was this little thing called Star Wars: The Force Awakens. You may have heard of it? It was kind of a big deal. It also turned out to be pretty good! It also obliterated the combination, to the surprise of absolutely no-one. It was the perfect cap to a year that seemed heavily focused on nostalgia, with the highly praised end sequence of Furious 7, Jurassic World, and even Creed, which arguably is the first film to truly perfect the delicate hybrid formula for a successful remake/reboot/sequel.
And so begins my extensive rundown of the high points of 2015 in film, across independent, Hollywood, and international cinema. We’ll be exploring everything from the best films, to the most ambitious, to the best performances, to the best characters, deaths, and cameos. It’s going to be a wide ride. And hopefully, some of you will enjoy reading it. We kick things off with a look at the best cameo appearances of 2015:
Movie cameos (like most things) come in many different forms. Originally they were designed to be a brief but important character that stands out, but over time they have transformed into something far less tangible, and more flexible. Whether it’s Alfred Hitchcock‘s notorious, delightful silent walk ons, or the insanely hilarious appearance by Tom Cruise in Tropic Thunder, and everything in between. Cruise appears in the latter for multiple scenes, and is even the focus point of the end credits – whereas Hitchcock’s appearance is of a blink and you’ll miss it capacity. The reason why Cruise counts is because you don’t expect him to appear in a comedy, least of all looking like that. It relies on the world outside of the film in order to be effective. This creates a very fine line, that can be the difference between a legendary cameo, and a complete disaster.
As such, the very existence of the cameo is a delicate balancing act between the world of the film, and the audience member’s perception of the real world: to literally break the fourth wall and play on a preconceived notion, but that also doesn’t pull the audience out of the film; to please, but not to overwhelm. It’s a lot harder to pull off than most people realise.
As you’ll see from the list, there’s a variety of different styles of cameo that are represented here – and several that didn’t make the cut. Be sure to tell us your favourites at the end.
Note: across all of my lists certain films may pop up again and again so in my descriptions I will do my best to focus on the subject matter of each individual list so that writing will not overlap too much answer if a film appears on multiple lists – that way you learn something new each time, and avoids me repeating myself. I will do my best to reduce the number of spoilers, but please note that certain subject matter will involve spoilers by their very nature. You have been warned!