Films of 2015: Hippies, Road Warriors and STD Hauntings

Feature by Film team | 02 Dec 2015

Once again our writers draw lines in the cinematic sand to choose 2015's essential films. Our top ten has a curious gender divide: the male protagonists (The Lobster, Eden, Inherent Vice) are shambolic while the females (Mad Max, Inside Out, Carol) are kickass

Joaquin Phoenix Paul Thomas Anderson Inherent Vice

1. Inherent Vice

Dir. Paul Thomas Anderson

Adapting a Thomas Pynchon novel, even one that harkens to Chandler and film noir, would never have been an easy commercial sell, despite Joaquin Phoenix’s tragicomic turn as ‘Doc,’ a stoner PI in 1970 SoCal experiencing first hand the hangover from 60s utopianism. Detractors and admirers alike agree on the film’s incoherence. An incoherence of narrative; an incoherence of dialogue, an alien hippy speak combined with inaudible mumbling that renders some exchanges with a musical, abstract quality through their unintelligibility; and an incoherence of period, with a deliberate, gentle surrealism replacing faux mimetic realism. Inherent Vice thus captures Pynchon’s grimy, lived-in nostalgia, rejecting the millennial need to cannibalise the past into kitsch. The result is a dense rabbit hole of a movie that begs repeat viewings. With a film this rich in expressive details, those revisits will be a pleasure. [Rachel Bowles]

Read our original review of Inherent Vice

Tom Courtenay and Charlotte Rampling in Andrew Haigh's 45 Years

2. 45 Years

Dir. Andrew Haigh

Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay excel in Andrew Haigh’s 45 Years, a domestic ghost story heavy with the weight of memory and regret. A letter, arriving a week before the 45th wedding anniversary of Geoff (Courtenay) and Kate (Rampling), is the catalyst behind Haigh’s tale about the damage secrets can have on a relationship. The letter, informing Geoff that his first love’s frozen remains have been discovered, forces the couple to reflect on their marriage. What transpires is a film so graceful and restrained that the insidious resentment Haigh cultivates becomes all-consuming. A beautiful drama of quiet confrontations, the real demons in 45 Years aren’t the ghosts of Geoff’s past, but the inauspicious forces silently tearing them apart. [Patrick Gamble]

Read our interview with Andrew haigh

Tom Hardy as Max in Mad Max: Fury Road

3. Mad Max: Fury Road

Dir. George Miller

Mad Max: Fury Road exploded out of the summer moviegoing desert with an artistry and sense of purpose that showed up the rest of the studios’ blockbuster offerings for the timid, compromised and soulless corporate products that they are. George Miller’s return to the series that made his name favours action over exposition and images over words, with traces of silent cinema masters like Keaton, Murnau and Dreyer evident in its brilliant construction. On a level of pure cinematic spectacle Mad Max: Fury Road is a sensational achievement, but it also possesses a core of tangible emotion and intelligence, and in Charlize Theron’s Furiosa it has created an iconic heroine for the ages. An alternative title? Woman is the Future of Man. [Philip Concannon]

Read our original review of Mad Max: Fury Road

Maika Monroe in It Follows

4. It Follows

Dir. David Robert Mitchell

As horror premises go, this one was delicious – a sexually transmitted curse that causes a monster to follow its victims to the death, assuming any form, visible only to the victim, coming for them day or night. David Robert Mitchell’s script and direction ponder the inevitability of mortality and work with themes of youth and sexuality, allusions to class and collective national guilt, and codified references to disparate works of literature, cinema and TV, making It Follows ripe for intellectual dissection. But more directly, the film just plain delivers as a bold, terrifying attack of cinema. [Ian Mantgani]

Read our interview with David Robert Mitchell

Cate Blanchett in Todd Haynes's Carol

5. Carol

Dir. Todd Haynes

A paean to burning passion and restraint, Carol is the year's most heartbreaking love story. Over the course of two swooningly beautiful hours, the tentative romance between two women (played by Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara) in 50s New York is told through fleeting glances and the electrifying intimacy of apparently innocent contact; a hand placed on a shoulder is imbued with such deep and poignant longing as to enrapture even the stoniest viewer. Carol exists as an enigmatic tear withheld on an eyelash, refusing to fall and reveal its nature. Todd Haynes’ command of his canvas is impeccable, the rich Super 16 compositions allowing perfect room for the luminescent performances of Blanchett and Mara. Exquisite. [Ben Nicholson]

Read our interview with Todd Haynes


Mia Wasikowska in Crimson Peak Criminally Overlooked Films of 2015

Agyness Deyn & Kevin Guthrie in Sunset Song Agyness Deyn & Kevin Guthrie on making Sunset Song


Miles Teller and JK Simmons in Whiplash

6. Whiplash

Dir. Damien Chazelle

With the application of enough pressure, can brilliance be achieved? Shot in just 19 days, Whiplash proves through both form and content that it can. Flinching, we accompany a student drummer (Miles Teller) as he is piloted through humiliation, threat and abuse by the flying fists of his revered conductor (J K Simmons). With each visceral beat some mental, personal or physical toll is expended in his self-flagellating quest for approval. Simmons and Teller render in punishing dimension this violent, mesmerising and pure investigation of control and devotion between teacher and protégé. Even after its vindicating encore, Whiplash leaves behind rhythm bruises that will take much longer than the applause to fade. [Kirsty Leckie-Palmer]

Read our interview with Damien Chazelle

Pixar's Inside Out

7. Inside Out

Dir. Pete Docter, Ronaldo Del Carmen

Pixar's latest masterwork is a beautiful and imaginative exploration of the subconscious that recalls Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind in its playful evocation of memory and loss. However, it's the film's distinctly melancholy streak that elevates it into the territory of year’s best. Moving beyond the surface storyline of a girl's emotions spiralling out of control as her family relocates to a new city, lies a deeper exploration of what it means to grow up – to learn to see new sides to old memories, to let go of old feelings and attempt to embrace the future. One for all ages, for the ages. [Sam Lewis]

Read our original review of Inside Out

Peter Strickland's The Duke of Burgundy

8. The Duke of Burgundy

Dir: Peter Strickland

A stark contrast to this year’s more notorious film about sadomasochism, the third film from British auteur Peter Strickland details a particularly intense relationship between two women living in near isolation in a grand old house enclosed by lush forestry. More Angela Carter than Brothers Grimm, the fairytale atmosphere of the film slowly morphs as the fantasy rigorously re-enacted by the couple takes on the ethereal qualities of an eerie, reoccurring dream. Relentlessly stylish though it may be, Strickland nevertheless eschews empty artifice to show that whatever else this relationship may be it is still, very much, a relationship. [Michael Jaconelli]

Read our interview with Peter Strickland

Colin Farrell and Rachel Weisz in The Lobster

9. The Lobster

Dir. Yorgos Lanthimos

Greek provocateur Yorgos Lanthimos’s English-language debut is scathing social satire, but The Lobster isn’t merely an exercise in dark-hearted misanthropy à la the filmmaker’s cult favourite Dogtooth (2009). In its depiction of an individuality-crushing modernist dystopia and the lost souls trapped within – so inept at interpersonal connection they’re literally in danger of losing their humanity altogether – the film asks difficult questions: What is it to be human? How can we truly know others if we are incapable of knowing ourselves? It’s brutal, yes. But it’s surprisingly humane in its brutality, in addition to being the most brutally funny film of the year. [Michelle Devereaux]

Read our original review of The Lobster

Mia Hansen-Løve's Eden

10. Eden

Dir. Mia Hansen-Løve

Mia Hansen-Løve’s Eden is, on the surface, a telling of the rise and fall of one fleetingly successful fellow in the “French touch” music scene, but there’s so much more going on behind every fine-tuned but restrained detail, every brief but lingering little gesture. Spanning 20-plus years, one might be inclined to read the film as an alternate-universe spin on the formula of Boyhood, except with the theme of yearning for one’s youth that seems to have gone as quickly as it came; where doing what you love sees you lose the people you love. Few seemingly bare-bones films are as dense as this intimate epic. [Josh Slater-Williams]

Read our interview with Mia Hansen-Løve

The Next Ten:

Channing Tatum in Magic Mike XXL

11. The Look of Silence (Joshua Oppenheimer)
12. A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence (Roy Andersson)
13. Birdman (Alejandro González Iñárritu)
14. Magic Mike XXL (Gregory Jacobs)
15. Ex Machina (Alex Garland)
16. While We’re Young (Noah Baumbach)
17. Macbeth (Justin Kurzel)
18. Girlhood (Céline Sciamma)
19Listen Up Philip (Alex Ross Perry)
20. Sicario (Denis Villeneuve)


Writers' Individual Top Tens

Hard to be a God Alan Bett (@AJBee888)

1. Hard to be a God (Aleksei German)
2. It Follows (David Robert Mitchell)
3. Sicario (Denis Villeneuve)
4. Mad Max: Fury Road (George Miller)
5. White God (Kornél Mundruczó)
6. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (Ana Lily Amirpour)
7. Beasts of No Nation (Cary Fukunaga)
8. What We Do in the Shadows (Jermaine Clement, Taika Waititi)
9. Zhong Kui: Snow Girl and the Dark Crystal (Peter Pau, Zhao Tian-yu)
10. The Lobster (Yorgos Lanthimos)

A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night Rachel Bowles

1. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (Ana Lily Amipour)
2. Girlhood (Céline Sciamma)
3. It Follows (David Robert Mitchell)
4. Inherent Vice (Paul Thomas Anderson)
5. Macbeth (Justin Kurzel)
6. Crimson Peak (Guillermo del Toro)
7. Marshland (Alberto Rodríguez)
8. Amy (Asif Kapadia)
9. The Dark Horse (James Napier Robertson)
10. Tangerines (Zaza Urushadze)

Special mentions: Radiator (Tom Browne), Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (Alfonso Gomez-Rejon)

Re-releases: Touch of Evil (Orson Welles), Blade Runner: the Final Cut (Ridley Scott)

DVD/Bly-ray re-release of the year: Eyes With A Face (Georges Franju)

Stinker of the year: Jupiter Ascending (Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski)

Tom Hardy in Mad Max: Fury Road Philip Concannon (@Phil_on_Film)

1. Mad Max: Fury Road (George Miller)
2. Inherent Vice (Paul Thomas Anderson)
3. Sunset Song (Terence Davies)
4. The Forbidden Room (Guy Maddin)
5. Blackhat (Michael Mann)
6. Carol (Todd Haynes)
7. The Look of Silence (Joshua Oppenheimer)
8. 45 Years (Andrew Haigh)
9. The Lobster (Yorgos Lanthimos)
10. Taxi Tehran (Jafar Panahi)

Honorable Mentions: Brooklyn (John Crowley), Dreamcatcher (Kim Longinotto), Miss Julie (Liv Ullmann), The Tale of the Princess Kaguya (Isao Takahata), Tangerine (Sean Baker)

Re-release of the Year: Man With A Movie Camera (Dziga Vertov) – BFI

DVD/Blu-ray release of the Year: The Jacques Rivette Collection – Arrow

Colin Farrell in The Lobster Michelle Devereaux

1. The Lobster (Yorgos Lanthimos)
2. The Duke of Burgundy (Peter Strickland)
3. A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence (Roy Andersson)
4. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (Ana Lily Amirpour)
5. Jauja (Lisandro Alonso)
6. The Salt of the Earth (Wim Wenders)
7. Whiplash (Damien Chazelle)
8. Girlhood (Céline Sciamma)
9. Mad Max: Fury Road (George Miller)
10. Inside Out (Pete Docter, Ronnie Del Carmen)

Honourable: The Falling (Carol Morley), Beasts of No Nation (Cary Joji Fukunaga)

Re-releases: Touch of Evil (Orson Welles), Blade Runner: The Final Cut (Ridley Scott)

DVD re-release: Eyes Without a Face (Georges Franju)

Mad Max: Fury Road Jamie Dunn (@jamiedunnesq)

1. Mad Max: Fury Road (George Miller)
2. 45 Years (Andrew Haigh)
3. Eden (Mia Hansen-Løve)
4. Carol (Todd Haynes)
5. It Follows (David Robert Mitchell)
6. Mistress America (Noah Baumbach)
7. Stray Dogs (Tsai Ming-liang)
8. Phoenix (Christian Petzold)
9. Tangerine (Sean Baker)
10. While We’re Young (Noah Baumbach)

Honourable mentions: Results (Andrew Bujalski), Spy (Paul Feig), Les Combattants (Andy Goddard, Thomas Cailley), The Falling (Carol Morley), Inherent Vice (Paul Thomas Anderson)

Re-releases of the year: Only Angels Have Wings (Howard Hawks) – Park Circus

DVD/Blu-ray re-release of the year: Pickup on South Street (Samuel Fuller) – Eureka!

Stinker of the year: Bypass (Duane Hopkins)

The Look of Silence Chris Fyvie (@ckfyvie)

1. The Look of Silence (Joshua Oppenheimer)
2. Inherent Vice (Paul Thomas Anderson)
3. Whiplash (Damien Chazelle)
4. Mad Max: Fury Road (George Miller)
5. Magic Mike XXL (Gregory Jacobs)
6. Carol (Todd Haynes)
7. A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence (Roy Andersson)
8. Mommy (Xavier Dolan)
9. 45 Years (Andrew Haigh)
10. Steve Jobs (Danny Boyle)

Honourable Mentions: Force Majeure (Ruben Östlund), The Falling (Carol Morley), Blackhat (Michael Mann), The Diary of a Teenage Girl (Marielle Heller), The Gift (Joel Edgerton)

Re-release of the Year: Blade Runner (Ridley Scott) – BFI

Stinker of the Year: True Story (Rupert Goold)

Diane Lane Memorial Award for First Cinema Viewing of Streets of Fire: Streets of Fire @ EIFF (Walter Hill)

Stray Dogs Patrick Gamble (@PatrickJGamble)

1. Stray Dogs (Tsai Ming-Liang)
2. Carol (Todd Haynes)
3. Mommy (Xavier Dolan)
4. It Follows (David Robert Mitchell)
5. 45 Years (Andrew Haigh)
6. Hard To Be a God (Aleksey German)
7. Spy (Paul Feig)
8. Jauja (Lisandro Alonso)
9. The Lobster (Yorgos Lanthimos)
10. Catch Me Daddy (Daniel Wolfe)

Honourable mentions: Listen up Philip (Alex Ross Perry), Clouds of Sils Maria (Olivier Assayas), Tangerine (Sean Baker), Maidan (Sergei Loznitsa), Girlhood (Celine Sciamma)

Re-releases of the year: The Third Man (Carol Reed) – StudioCanal

Stinker of the year: Wild (Jean-Marc Vallée)

The Look of Silence Michael Jaconelli

1. The Look of Silence (Joshua Oppenheimer)
2. Birdman (Alejandro González Iñárritu)
3. Inherent Vice (Paul Thomas Anderson)
4. The Duke of Burgandy (Peter Strickland)
5. Mad Max: Fury Road (George Miller)
6. Macbeth (Justin Kurzel)
7. Beasts of No Nation (Cary Fukunaga)
8. Ex Machina (Alex Garland)
9. A Most Violent Year (J. C. Chandor)
10. Sicario (Denis Villeneuve )

Honourable Mentions: Inside Out (Pete Docter), Crimson Peak (Guillermo del Toro), Slow West (John Maclean), Far From the Maddening Crowd (Thomas Vinterberg)

Re-release of the year: Touch of Evil (Orson Welles) – BFI

DVD/Blu-Ray Release of the year: Eyes Without a Face (Georges Franju) – Lace DVD

Stinker of the year: Pixels (Chris Columbus)

Whiplash Kirsty Leckie-Palmer (@kleckiepalmer)

1. Whiplash (Damien Chazelle)
2. Birdman (Alejandro González Iñárritu)
3. Macbeth (Justin Kurzel)
4. Ex Machina (Alex Garland)
5. Slow West (John Maclean)
6. What We Do in the Shadows (Jemaine Clement, Taika Waititi)
7. The Martian (Rdley Scott)
8. Kung Fury (David Sandberg)
9. Inside Out (Pete Docter, Ronnie del Carmen)
10. Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter (David Zellner, Nathan Zellner)

Honourable mentions: It Follows (David Robert Mitchell), The Look of Silence (Joshua Oppenheimer), A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (Ana Lily Amirpour)

Stinker of the year: The Voices (Marjane Satrapi)

DVD release: Wild Tales (Damián Szifrón) – Fusion Media

Ex Machina Sam Lewis

1. Ex Machina (Alex Garland)
2. The Tale of Princess Kaguya (Isao Takahata)
3. Mia Madre (Nanni Moretti)
4. The Second Mother (Anna Muylaert)
5. It Follows (David Robert Mitchell)
6. Sicario (Denis Villeneuve)
7. Mistress America (Noah Baumbach)
8. Inside Out (Pete Docter, Ronnie del Carmen)
9. The Ecstasy of Wilko Johnson (Julien Temple)
10. Jurassic World (Colin Trevorrow)

Honourables: Salt of the Earth (Wim Wenders), The Martian (Ridley Scott), Mr Holmes (Bill Condon)

Stinker: The Falling (Carol Morley)

Inherent Vice Ian Mantgani (@mant_a_tangi)

1. Inherent Vice (Paul Thomas Anderson)
2. American Sniper (Clint Eastwood)
3. Magic Mike XXL (Gregory Jacobs)
4. It Follows (David Robert Mitchell)
5. Sunset Song (Terence Davies)
6. Timbuktu (Abderrahmane Sissako)
7. 45 Years (Andrew Heigh)
8. Sicario (Denis Villeneuve)
9. Listen Up Philip (Alex Ross Perry)
10. Irrational Man (Woody Allen)

Honourable mentions: Tangerine (Sean Baker), National Gallery (Frederick Wiseman), Dreamcatcher (Kim Longinotto), The Tribe (Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy), Forbidden Room (Guy Maddin)

Re-release of the year: Man with a Movie Camera (Dziga Vertov) – BFI

While We're Young David McGinty

1. While We're Young (Noah Baumbach)
2. Inside Out (Pete Docter, Ronnie Del Carmen)
3. Mistress America (Noah Baumbach)
4. 45 Years (Andrew Haigh)
5. The Falling (Carol Morley)
6. Listen Up Phillip (Alex Ross Perry)
7. Inherent Vice (Paul Thomas Anderson)
8. Wild Tales (Damián Szifron)
9. Whiplash (Damien Chazelle)
10. Still Alice (Richard Glatzer, Wash Westmoreland)

Honourable mentions: Birdman (Alejandro González Iñárritu), Ex Machina (Alex Garland), Mad Max: Fury Road (George Miller), Me, Earl and the Dying Girl (Alfonso Gomez-Rejon), Clouds of Sils Maria (Olivier Assayas)

Re-releases of the year: Au Revoir Les Enfants (Louis Malle) – BFI

DVD/Blu-ray re-release of the year: Day for Night (François Truffaut) – Criterion Collection

Stinker of the year: Entourage (Doug Ellin)

A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Ben Nicholson (@BRNicholson)

1. A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence (Roy Andersson)
2. The Tribe (Miroslav Slaboshpitsky)
3. Carol (Todd Haynes)
4. Horse Money (Pedro Costa)
5. Selma (Ava DuVernay)
6. Duke of Burgundy (Peter Strickland)
7. A Most Violent Year (J.C. Chandor)
8. Birdman (Alejandro González Iñárritu)
9. The Lobster (Yorgos Lanthimos)
10. Girlhood (Céline Sciamma)

Honourable mentions: Salt of the Earth (Wim Wenders), Taxi Tehran (Jafa Panahi), It Follows (David Robert Mitchell), Cartel Land (Matthew Heineman), Second Coming (Debbie Tucker Green)

Re-releases of the year: The Third Man (Carol Reed) – StudioCanal

DVD/Blu-ray re-release of the year: Second Run's re-release of Vera Chytilova's Fruit of Paradise

Stinker of the year: Tak3n

Adam Driver in While We're Young Danny Scott (@ASimpleDan)

1. While We're Young (Noah Baumbach)
2. Whiplash (Damien Chazelle)
3. It Follows (David Robert Mitchell)
4. 45 Years (Andrew Haigh)
5. Eden (Mia Hansen-Love)
6. Force Majeure (Ruben Ostland)
7. Listen Up Philip (Alex Ross Perry)
8. Salt of the Earth (Wim Wenders)
9. Amy (Asif Kapadia)
10. Slow West (John Maclean)

Honourable mentions: Love and Mercy (Bill Pohlad), Inherent Vice (Paul Thomas Anderson), White Bird In A Blizzard (Gregg Araki), Mistress America (Noam Baumbach), Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (Alfonso Gomez-Rejon)

Re-releases of the year: The Philadelphia Story (George Cukor) – BFI, The Third Man (Carol Reed) – StudioCanal, Back to the Future Part II (Robert Zemeckis) – Universal

Stinker of the year: Pitch Perfect 2 (Elizabeth Banks)

Eden Josh Slater-Williams (@jslaterwilliams)

1. Eden (Mia Hansen-Løve)
2. Mad Max: Fury Road (George Miller)
3. Carol (Todd Haynes)
4. Magic Mike XXL (Gregory Jacobs)
5. Inherent Vice (Paul Thomas Anderson)
6. Selma (Ava DuVernay)
7. The Duke of Burgundy (Peter Strickland)
8. Inside Out (Pete Docter, Ronnie Del Carmen)
9. The Diary of a Teenage Girl (Marielle Heller)
10. Dear White People (Justin Simien)

Honourable mentions: Clouds of Sils Maria (Olivier Assayas), Blackhat (Michael Mann), The Tale of the Princess Kaguya (Isao Takahata), Brooklyn (John Crowley), Fidelio: Alice's Journey (Lucie Borleteau)

Re-releases of the year: The Green Ray (Eric Rohmer) – BFI, Only Angels Have Wings (Howard Hawks) – Park Circus, Blade Runner: The Final Cut (Ridley Scott) – BFI

DVD/Blu-ray release of the year: Videodrome (David Cronenberg) – Arrow

Stinker of the year: Mortdecai (David Koepp)

Read about our most underrated films of 2015 and check out our writer's individual top tens over at theskinny.co.uk/film