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Best Of 2015 Film - Female Performances

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 continues my extensive rundown of the high points of 2015 in film, across independent, Hollywood, and international cinema. Previously, we covered the best cameo appearances of 2015, best deaths, the best new characters, the best documentaries of 2015, and the best male performances. It’s been a wide ride. And hopefully, some of you have enjoyed taking it. Without further ado, let me present to you the best female performances in film from 2015:

There’s no real denying the fact that the film industry has more opportunities for male actors than their female equivalents. My own list for potential male performances that could make it onto a list like this was twice the size of its female counterpart. But one thing I find particularly interesting about this industry is that I feel like many of the female film performances are of a higher calibre than many of the men that made it into an equivalent list. I originally decided on supporting this gender divide so that I could highlight the stellar performances from both genders without leaving anyone out, but one can’t help that feel that if I hadn’t, there’d be far more women on the list than men.

That’s not to say that women are ostensibly better actors than men – performance and art are not specific to gender, but I think it does say something equally interesting about our society. For one, I feel that female film performances, with a strong script, are permitted to go deeper, because from a societal perspective, women are expected, nay demanded to be more emotional than their male counterparts. Too often, male actors are given complex roles that are essentially geared around anger and masculinity, whereas women are more often given the opportunity to plumb incredible depths and explore more nuanced realms of performance. Males are often forced to drive the momentum of the story, an outburst here, a poor decision there, whereas great female performers are given better opportunity to play realistic, and raw characters. To soak in the emotional reality, and to react in ways that make us question ourselves at the deepest level.

2015 saw a lot of this. Many of the roles highlighted here are about identity, whether it is in the face of a tragedy, after a long suffering relationship, after coming to terms with something in the past, or hell, even just dealing with what it means to be a women. While women are certainly a lot more equal than they have ever been, there are still plenty of injustices in our modern world, and there are still an inordinate amount of concerns and discussions pertaining to female identity. Overall, I believe 2015 was a stronger year for female performance than last, and hopefully this will continue on into 2016, except perhaps with more diversity.

Before we get into the nitty gritty, here are a handful of amazing women that just missed the cut:

Near Misses:

Cobie Smulders Unexpected
Cobie Smulders – Unexpected
Blythe Danner – I’ll See You In My Dreams
Emily Blunt – Sicario
Daisy Ridley – Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Rooney Mara – Carol
Margot Robbie – Z For Zachariah
Abigail Breslin – Maggie
Laurence Lebeouf – Turbo Kid
Elizabeth Banks – Love & Mercy
Kristen Wiig – Welcome To Me
Greta Gerwig – Mistress America
Elizabeth Moss – Queen Of Earth

Click ‘next’ to begin!