We are at that time of year again when we pick and choose our favourite (and least favourite…see Worst Ten Films of 2015). This year has been a good year for cinema. Not a classic year but a good one, with the return of Bond, Jurassic and, of course, Star Wars. We said goodbye to the Hunger Games, saw Tom Cruise hanging from a plane in Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation and Pixar came back with more than a bang, a triumphant fanfare with Inside Out.
So before we start with my favourite films of the year, how about some honorary mentions that didn’t quite make the top list but were worthy, strong contenders.
Kinsman: The Secret Service, Selma, Enemy, American Sniper, Foxcatcher, Ex Machina, Unfriended, John Wick, Cinderella, The Goob, Spy, Jurassic World, Minions, Ant-Man, Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, The Diary Of A Teenage Girl, The Gift, Trainwreck, Everest, Legend, Bill, Suffragette, Spectre, The Lady In The Van, Steve Jobs, Snoopy and Charlie Brown: The Peanuts Movie, Bridge Of Spies.
And now my top ten. Remember, people, that these are my choices. These were the films that I liked the most, so don’t lose your cool if your favourite isn’t in there.
10. The Martian
Ridley Scott finally returns to form after years of average movies, with a cracking adventure starring Matt Damon as a man stranded on Mars. Full of laughs, tension and a first-rate disco soundtrack, it finally proved that Scott does have a sense of humour and that Damon can carry any kind of film.
9. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
The most eagerly waited film of the year did not disappoint. A big, brassy blockbuster full of excitement, humour and tragedy. It made me feel as if I was back watching the original in 1977. Well done, J.J. Abrams, you did the impossible. We now have a fourth Star Wars film.
8. Inside Out
Pixar took a year off after a series of less than successful movies to come back with a storming classic. An examination of emotions and how they lead our lives, played out in a joyful, often hilarious, unbelievably moving animation. The utter inventiveness of the piece allows us to go on a crazy adventure that is certainly up there with the best of Pixar.
The award for the most beautiful film of the year has to go to this tale of forbidden love from Todd Haynes. An elegant story of a wannabe photographer slowly falling for an older woman. Capturing the feel of the 50’s in both style, production and script, it boasts two outstanding performances from Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara, who are going to be hard to beat when the Awards are handed out this year.
This year’s best picture Oscar went to this tale of backstage shenanigans as Michael Keaton’s movie star decides to play it straight with a Broadway production. Crammed with top performances from a stellar cast, the film gives the impression that it’s shot in one take (although with some very clever editing, you can’t see the seams). Witty, bizarre and utterly gripping.
5. Mad Max: Fury Road
George Miller returned to his post-apocalyptic world with an enormous bang, as Tom Hardy took over the role made famous by Mel Gibson, in a non-stop, adrenaline-fuelled action film that is relentless with its mad and crazy stunt work. Charlize Theron almost steals the film but you can’t escape the fury of the set pieces. If only all action films were made this way.
4. Still Alice
Beautiful, classy and unbelievably heart-breaking, this tale of a woman suffering from the beginnings of Alzheimer’s, has a long-overdue Oscar-winning performance from Julianne Moore, while ably supported from a strong cat, including Kristen Stewart. A hard film to watch, yet stays with you long afterwards.
A thriller that is as baffling as it is gripping. Emily Blunt plays the FBI agent who joins a special unit dealing with a drug cartel from Mexico, yet being left out in the dark by her supervisors. Treating its audience like adults, it has some incredible set pieces, including the best car chase set in a traffic jam. My finger nails are still bitten down to the core.
This was my number one at the half way stage but still manages to stay up there after all this time. Miles Teller is the young drumming hopeful taken under the wing of tough, no-nonsense conductor, J.K. Simmons. Brutal, shocking and completely unforgettable, it has a power like no other film for gripping you to the very last scene. A boxing movie about jazz drumming.
Asif Kapadia’s controversial documentary about the rise and ultimate demise of Amy Winehouse is a stunning piece of cinema that stuck with me ever since I saw it. Using archive footage and home videos to tell the tragic story, its real power lies in the songs of Amy, with lyrics on-screen to show the poignancy. Accused, by her father, of showing him in a bad light, it manages never to point the finger of blame, instead allowing us to make our own minds up.