You all know the score, it’s an end of year list. So let’s cut the chatter and get on with it.
Slow West (director John Maclean)
A naive young Scot searches for his lost love in the American west and is quickly disabused of his Romantic notions of the New World when faced with the harsh realities of frontier life.
Sicario (director Denis Villeneuve)
Emily Blunt’s DEA agent is swept up in the murky politics of America’s War on Drugs when she joins forces with Josh Brolin’s shady spook and Benicio Del Toro’s mysterious consultant in this pulsating, paranoid thriller.
Brooklyn (director John Crowley)
This wonderfully restrained drama about the immigration experience in 1950s New York is anchored by a magnetic performance by Saorise Ronan.
Amy (director Asif Kapadia)
The tragically short life of troubled singer Amy Winehouse is under the microscope in Asif Kapadia’s follow-up to his critically acclaimed doc Senna.
It Follows (director David Robert Mitchell)
A teenage girl is terrorised by an STD (sexually transmitted demon) in this slick, high-concept horror.
Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (director Alejandro González Iñárritu)
Technically dazzling – the entire film is presented as a single take – and stuffed with fantastic performances; Birdman might also be the weirdest Best Picture winner in recent memory.
Still Alice (directors Richard Glatzer, Wash Westmoreland)
Powered by an emotionally raw, and Oscar winning, performance by Julianne Moore; this chronicle of a woman’s decline as she succumbs to Alzheimer’s is tender, humane and never condescending.
Timbuktu (director Abderrahmane Sissako)
Inspired by the brief occupation of Timbuktu by jihadists in 2012, Timbuktu is a powerful, timely film filled with grace and moral indignation that also showcases the best in contemporary African cinema.
The Look of Silence (director Joshua Oppenheimer)
This disturbing companion piece to 2013’s The Act of Killing offers another look at the Indonesian genocide of 1965-66. Profound, compelling and harrowing in equal measure.
Ex Machina (director Alex Garland)
Domhnall Gleeson and Oscar Isaac ask big questions on the nature of existence while performing a Turing test on Alicia Vikander’s sophisticated new A.I. in this smart, stylish, science fiction of ideas.
Whiplash (director Damien Chazelle)
Full Metal Jacket meets School of Rock when a talented young musician enrols in a prestigious music school with a tyrannical band leader. What follows is a fascinating examination of art, ambition and ego that won much loved character actor J.K. Simmons a Best Supporting Actor Oscar.
Force Majeure (director Ruben Östlund)
When a controlled avalanche at a ski resort threatens to engulf a family restaurant, middle class father Tomas ditches his wife and young children and legs it for safety. When the dust begins to settle and it’s clear that everyone is okay, the family have to live with the knowledge that their patriarch would abandon them to preserve himself. An excruciating black comedy of middle-class manners and the fragile male ego is matched by a chilly and austere visual palette of whites, blues and greys.
Inherent Vice (director Paul Thomas Anderson)
After the bruising intensity of There Will Be Blood and The Master, Paul Thomas Anderson lightens up (and lights up?) with a private eye stoner comedy. Admittedly this is an adaptation of a stoner comedy written by Thomas ‘literary heavyweight’ Pynchon, but all the same there’s a sense of looseness to Inherent Vice that’s been missing from Anderson’s work since Punch-Drunk Love in 2002. The plot is utterly incomprehensible but its woozy, stoned atmosphere and off-beat performances will likely ensure this oddity retains a cult status in years to come.
Inside Out (directors Pete Docter, Ronnie Del Carmen)
On the surface, Inside Out seems like something we’ve all seen before. The whole premise of little sprites inside our heads who control our bodies can be found in comic strips like The Numskulls and films like Meet Dave. Inside Out takes this idea and runs with it however, using it as a way to explore some fairly sophisticated ideas about memory, identity and our relationship with our emotions. Visually dazzling, brimming with ideas and with a powerful emotional punch, this is peak Pixar.
Mad Max: Fury Road (director George Miller)
The only film to make it onto every contributor’s list, Mad Max: Fury Road is a snarling, diesel powered monster. Essentially a two hour chase movie, it’s one of the most exhilarating action films of the last fifteen years; stripping plot and dialogue to a bare minimum this is storytelling on a primal level. Perfectly paced (there are moments of calm amidst all the chaos) and with some of the best staged action in a long while (around 80% of what’s seen on screen was done for real) the whole thing is captured in retina-scorching colour that brings a hyper-real quality to things. What’s more, in Charlize Theron’s Imperator Furiosa, audiences are given the most kick-ass action heroine since Ripley strapped on her power-loader in Aliens. Hopefully George Miller won’t wait another thirty years before he takes us all back to the wasteland.