There are no bad years for film. Well, until the last strip of celluloid shrivels up within 12 months of the Internet being devoured by the mother of all computer worms, no year can go by without a title, a name, a performance, or a breakthrough that permanently reframes discussion of the artform. The proliferation of production tools combined with growing international distribution makes every year of movies harder to stay on top of than the one that came before it. The biggest movies of the year may be the ones with the flashiest effects, broadest marketing, and most teeth, but cinema, like life, finds a way.
There are, however, years of film that are more exciting to remember, or more specifically personal to a viewer than others. It matters as much about where you are in your life as it does the industry’s output, so it’s no one’s fault that, when reflecting on 2015’s best films, my blood didn’t pump and my brain didn’t race the way it did last year. 2014 gave me more movies to marvel at, re-watch, and cherish than could fit into any list of 10. 2015, in comparison, did not lack for emotional highs as high, or images as indelible as those offered in years past. While putting this list together and looking at the year as a whole, however, admiration often trumped love.
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Perhaps this owes in part to the language barrier that came with half my favourite films being imports, or the often troubling, dense subject matter that made many entries on this list easier to appreciate at arm’s length, rather than fully embrace. Despite my second favourite film of the year being one of the loudest, most exhilarating celebrations of spectacle in recent memory (or was Jersey Boys a 2014 release?), an air of solemnity hung over the majority of this year’s best. Conspiracies of silence born in conflicts past and present, a speechless ache for personal connection, and vaudevillian displays of melancholy connect all my favourites from 2015; perhaps it would be poor form to feel like singing their praises from the rooftops.
So before we get into all that, a reminder of just a few of the many, many things one could love about 2015 in film: Michael B. Jordan boxing with shadows in Creed; Oscar Isaac and Sonoya Mizuno boogying in Ex Machina; Jermaine Clement explaining why vampire’s prefer virgin blood in What We Do in the Shadows; Jennifer Jason Leigh strumming a tune for The Hateful Eight; Marielle Heller dancing across the tightest of tightropes while making The Diary of a Teenage Girl; the Kings of Tampa putting on a show for Magic Mike XXL; Bugles rolling down a treadmill in Buzzard; the pulse-pounding drama that is threading a needle in Heaven Knows What; doleful meditation on love and loss in Heart of a Dog; an endearing new generation of heroes brought to life by The Force Awakens.
All of these were characters, moments, or expressions of being worth remembering, along with these ten features I consider to be the Top 10 Films of 2015.