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 concludes 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, the best male performances, and the best female performances. Now, the one you’ve all been waiting for – the best films of 2015.
Let’s face it, you guys aren’t here for the introduction. You’re just itching to get to the movies so you can tell me how wrong I am. As usual, first we start with a few special mentions:
For the films that deserve mention, but didn’t make the cut for various reasons.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
J.J. Abrams, Lawrence Kasdan & Michael Arndt
Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Adam Driver, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Domnhall Gleeson, Andy Serkis & Mark Hamill
Three decades after the defeat of the Galactic Empire, a new threat arises. The First Order attempts to rule the galaxy and only a ragtag group of heroes can stop them, along with the help of the Resistance.
Why it’s here:
Everyone has already talked about the latest chapter in the Star Wars saga to death, and as a nerd who is overjoyed that it didn’t turn out to be anywhere near as disastrous as the prequels, it’s impossible to be objective about it when it comes to ranking in a list. Plus, I didn’t want to not talk about the 30 I’d already decided on, so there’s that. Either way, The Force Awakens should be celebrated for forming a stable foundation for a new generation of both fans and Star Wars movies. Let’s hope the future additions of the saga can continue to build at this level of quality, and higher.