December is coming to a close, and as is the well-established tradition by now, that means it's time to put together a conclusive list of my Top 10 Films from the year.
2015 has been an absolutely stellar year for movies, with piles upon piles of thrilling, immersive and exciting films landing on our cinema screens across the year. Picking a personal Top 10 might seem a little redundant underneath the hundreds of other end of year lists, but I think it's fun and feels like a nice way to round out the year.
So, which ten flicks made the cut this year?
Note: My list goes by Australian release dates - for example, something like The Revenant, The Hateful Eight or Room is a 2015 film for people in the US, but they don't hit Australian screens until mid-January over here. I know, sucks right? Anyway, whilst some of these films may be '2015' for you, they were well into 2016 for me, hence their omission. Who knows, maybe they'll sneak a mention next year!
You can also view this list on my Letterboxd profile - click the link here to check it out.
Some honourable mentions that just missed the cut: Birdman, Testament of Youth, Ant-Man, The Gift, Slow West, Love and Mercy, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Inside Out, Crimson Peak, Straight Outta Compton
10th - Bridge of SpiesRead my review of Bridge of Spies
Spielberg works the frame in such a way that even the most simplistic of scenes, such as one where two actors are delivering dialogue in a jail cell, feels smooth, engaging and compelling. In didn't hurt that Tom Hanks brought his A-game, whilst seasoned theatre actor Mark Rylance gave a layered performance as an embattled Soviet spy faced with execution.
It isn't filled with eye-popping effects like Jurassic Park or loaded with action like Indiana Jones, but Bridge of Spies does see Spielberg back and firing on all cylinders; whether it's oak-lined Washington courtrooms or snowy East Berlin checkpoints, everything about this engaging drama oozed quality.
9th - Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
A trio of astounding performances from Olivia Cooke, Thomas Mann and RJ Cyler gave this cute and quirky coming-of-age tale a stirring, varied and emotional depth; with a title so decidedly macabre, it came as an honest surprise that this movie was so easily able to make me laugh as it did make me cry.
Plus, it wins the award for best cameo of the year in the form of Hugh Jackman's soothing Aussie voice resonating from a teenagers bedroom wall.
8th - It FollowsRead my review of It Follows
I especially loved the haunting synth soundtrack and director David Robert Mitchell's creepy camerawork that keeps a curtain of unease draped across proceedings throughout.
The ending has been a point of contention since it came out (I maintain that it works), but It Follows has certainly gotten people excited by low-budget horror once again. It might be contentious and divisive, but we need more films like this than we do half-arsed sequel machines like the Paranormal Activity, Sinister and Insidious franchises.
7th - Creed
As well as the reinvigorated adventures of Rey, Han and Finn (more on that later), we were also treated to Creed, a reinvention of the iconic Rocky franchise - only this time, we're introduced to Adonis Creed, an ambitious young boxer with a formidable legacy shadowing his every move.
Creed is a film that is just exemplary across the board; if you want brilliant acting, look no further than Michael B. Jordan's star-making turn as Adonis Creed or Sylvester Stallone's heartbreaking comeback performance as Rocky Balboa. If you want fantastic writing and an astute understanding of what makes a satisfying sequel, spin-off or reboot, give Ryan Coogler's polished screenplay a read. And if you want inventive and amazing direction, check out Coogler's spellbinding camerawork that mixes complex long takes with punchy fight scenes and rousing montages.
Simply put, it's a really well-rounded, exciting, entertaining, emotional film that came out of absolutely nowhere to blow my thongs off. Sign up me up for six more of these, please.
6th - Mission Impossible - Rogue NationRead my review of Mission Impossible - Rogue Nation
Oh, you thought Ghost Protocol was as good as it gets? Think again. Tom Cruise took the Mission Impossible franchise higher than ever before in Rogue Nation - and I'm not just talking about the part where he was literally hanging onto the outside of a fricking plane during take off.
Bigger, better and funnier in just about every way, Rogue Nation took the format established by Ghost Protocol and polished even further, creating a slick, exciting spy caper that trotted from Minsk and Morocco to Langley and London. Cruise was again defied death to earn his money whilst returning cast members (Simon Pegg, Jeremy Renner, Ving Rhames) had a lot of fun with a more humorous script that ever before.
On top of all that awesome, Rogue Nation also gets extra bonus points for being the film that introduced me to Swedish beauty Rebecca Ferguson - I mean, I think this gif pretty much speaks for itself. She can
5th - Ex MachinaRead my review of Ex Machina
The directorial debut of British screenwriter Alex Garland, Ex Machina is a thought-provoking sci-fi that feels like Steve Jobs and Stanley Kubrick’s brushed steel love child. Spearheaded by terrific performances from Alicia Vikander, Domnhall Gleeson and Oscar Isaac, this is one low-budget indie thriller that twisted my melon like no other film this year.
Gleeson, as intelligent young programmer Caleb, does a fantastic job with a role that sees him increasingly plagued by suspicion concerning Isaac's reclusive billionaire, Nathan. But it's Vikander who steals the show; quiet, cold and withdrawn, Vikander is scarily convincing in her expressions and mannerisms. Plus, we actually see her performance develop across the film as her robotic AI character Ava grows more confident and intelligent. It's some of the most powerful and engaging character development I've seen all year.
Plus, Garland’s sleek execution propels Ex Machina ahead of more conventional sci-fi fare; the film offers insightful commentary on online privacy and data mining as well as sexuality, gender, humanity and morality. It's also about artificial intelligence, and covers it so much better than more bombastic efforts like Avengers: Age of Ultron or Chappie. Chilling, provocative and cerebral, Ex Machina was one tight, tense drama that kept me guessing from start to finish.
4th - SicarioRead my review of Sicario
Few films are as deliciously macabre and grim as Sicario, and even fewer turn this into a positive; Denis Villeneuve's war of drugs yarn may have been suffocatingly dark, but it was also an engrossing and compelling character-driven story that never paused to let you draw breath. Even in its quieter moments, the audience are never given the opportunity to escape the tight envelope of foreboding that the film exists within.
A triumvirate of excellence from director Denis Villeneuve, cinematographer Roger Deakins and composer Jóhann Jóhannsson all interweave to bring Sicario to life. Combine that with three comparatively brilliant performances from Emily Blunt, Benicio del Toro and Josh Brolin, and you've got one of the most enthralling, captivating and nerve-wracking cinema visits I undertook all year.
It's a film that the Academy might turn a blind eye towards, but the technical elements and acting in Sicario are all worthy of receiving heaps of praise and accolades - and so that's exactly what I did in my Fuzzies Film Awards post just last week. In fact, it was a very tough decision to plonk it this far down the list. But, that's just a testament to how much I loved each of the top 3...
3rd - The MartianRead my review of The Martian
Who would've thought that a film about an astronaut stranded on a bleak, inhospitable alien landscape would turn out to be one of the feel good films of the year? And, even unlikelier, who would've picked that said film would be directed by Ridley Scott? A director whose recent output has been divisive to say the least, 2015 saw Scott roar back onto the A-list with his best film in a decade, maybe even two.
Leading a superb ensemble cast is Matt Damon, the aforementioned astronaut stranded on Mars after his crew mates thought him dead. Damon's witty and nonchalant portrayal of Mark Watney could've been the make or break factor in the movie, and the guy made it work. Similarly, the plot strand back home on Earth could've been the part that caused audiences to yawn, but Jeff Daniels, Kristen Wiig, Donald Glover, Sean Bean and Chiwetel Ejiofor made it work. Despite juggling a huge cast that even stretched to include Jessica Chastain, Kate Mara and Michael Pena, the film made it all work.
The film came out of nowhere to deliver absolutely everything I ask for in a movie; it had laughs, tears and well-rounded, likeable lead characters that are a hoot to be around courtesy of a neat screenplay from Drew Goddard. It had striking direction from Scott and a killer soundtrack that mixed licensed songs and uplifting composition from Harry Gregson-Williams. It has a rousing, punch-the-air finale that recalled classic 'against-all-odds' tales of survival films from the 90's. It really was the complete package.
2nd - Mad Max: Fury RoadRead my review of Mad Max: Fury Road
George Miller's rip-roaring return to the barren war-torn Australian Outback has been gestating for a long time, but no-one could've predicted just how amazing the end result would be.
Billed as the best action movie in decades, Mad Max: Fury Road exceeded expectations through completely redefining the post-apocalypse genre; eye-popping practical effects and gorgeous scenery combine to create a symphony of mayhem that effortlessly dances across the screen.
Meticulous choreography and seamless editing that is never hard to follow make this a full on sensory assault with that leave you feeling exhilarated and amazed through every single frame.
But, amongst the chaos, Fury Road is also a film that finds time to comment on some heavy themes, from the abuse of women, to the rapidly degrading environment and our insatiable hunger for natural resources. Tom Hardy is an excellent replacement for Mel Gibson, whilst Charlize Theron's Furiosa practically steals the entire show.
1st - Star Wars: The Force AwakensRead my review of Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Plus, how great was it seeing Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher reprise their roles of Han and Leia once again? And Mark Hamill too, even if it was all too brief. Films that revive iconic characters are threatened with feeling overly nostalgic - but not The Force Awakens. With this film, Abrams was able to find room for the original cast in a narrative that didn't shamelessly thrust them into the forefront - as well as showing immense bravery by showing one of them the door...
But, even better than all that, was the quartet of excellent new characters that The Force Awakens brought into the fray; Rey (Daisy Ridley), Finn (John Boyega), Poe (Oscar Isaac) and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) all make me genuinely excited to see where this series is heading next. In fact, everything about The Force Awakens has gotten me excited for new Star Wars movies - and that's a feeling that I haven't felt in a long time. A long time.
So, there we have it - my pick for Top 10 Films of 2015. What're your thoughts? Let me know your list in the comments down below! Keep your eyes peeled over the next few days for my look ahead at what 2015 has in-store. Thanks for reading!