Top 20 Films of 2015

As always this is going by UK release dates, so Sundance festival favourites like Z for Zachariah, The Witch and I'll See You in My Dreams - don't make the cut this year.

20. 45 Years

Director: Andrew Haigh
Stars: Charlotte Rampling & Sir Tom Courtenay

Brimming with a slow-burning intensity, 45 Years captures the gradual breakdown of a long-married couple with masterful precision, gut-punching heartbreak, and eloquent performances from Rampling and Courtenay.

19. The New Girlfriend

Director: François Ozon
Stars: Romain Duris, Raphael Personnaz, Anaïs Demoustier

François Ozon delivers a striking return to form with this psychosexual tale packed with Hitchcockian twists, high camp melodrama, and Ozon's wicked sense of humour.

18. The Water Diviner

Director: Russell Crowe
Stars: Russell Crowe, Olga Kurylenko, Ryan Corr

The Water Diviner has all the power, scale and magnitude of a classic epic delivering sweeping direction and a heartfelt yet staunch anti-war message delivered through the little told accounts of the ANZAC forces of WW1.

17. The Man from UNCLE

Director: Guy Ritchie
Stars: Henry Cavill, Armie Hammer, Alicia Vikander

Brimming with charm, glamour and excitement, Ritchie has delivered a joyous romp that takes us back to a time where spy films were exciting, colourful and outlandish. Career best performances from Cavill and Hammer ensure that the fiery Cold War interplay of the original series is kept alive and remains incredibly amusing.

16. Beyond the Reach

Director: Jean-Baptiste Léonetti 
Stars: Michael Douglas, Jeremy Irvine, Ronny Cox

Beyond the Reach has no illusions of grandeur, instead it has a ball delivering exploitative B-movie camp that we want. Who knew watching a white stetson-clad Michael Douglas hunting a semi-naked Jeremy Irvine in the desert could be this fun? We did.

15. Love & Mercy

Director: Bill Pohlad
Stars: John Cusack, Elizabeth Banks, Paul Dano

Like Brian Wilson, the musical deity it pays tribute to, Love & Mercy is filled with blissful inspiration - resulting in a cinematic triumph of compassion, insight, and winsome nostalgia. Never an easy watch, Pohlad's impressively performed film is an immersive and often emotionally haunting look at the struggles that shaped a genius.

14. The Age of Adaline

Director: Lee Toland Krieger
Stars: Blake Lively, Harrison Ford, Michiel Huisman

This sweeping romance presents a world of period glamour and gentle camp, but is pulsing with a heartfelt pathos. Lively is magnificent in this inspired romantic fantasy.

13. The Boy Next Door

Director: Rob Cohen
Stars: Jennifer Lopez, Ryan Guzman, Kristin Chenoweth

In terms of good old fashioned sexy fun, The Boy Next Door is a treat in our book (which happens to be a first edition of The Illiad). The plot is straight out of a nineties television movie, but there are countless laughs to be had, as well as cheap titillation and campy thrills. The chiseled Ryan Guzman, Kristin Chenoweth in a campy best friend role, and Jennifer Lopez acting her socks off, all make this a complete so bad it's good delight.

12. The Voices

Director: Marjane Satrapi
Stars: Ryan Reynolds, Anna Kendrick, Gemma Arterton

This is as close as we'll come to a cinematic version of Marmite this year. Some love loathed the blackly comic, disturbingly violent and kitschy aesthetic of The Voices. We loved it - and not just because Mr. Whiskers tells us to. Ryan Reynolds has never been better delivering both an utterly tragic and wickedly amusing lead performance in this garish horror-comedy.

11. Carol

Director: Todd Haynes
Stars: Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Sarah Paulson

Haynes crafts this tale of unspoken desire, broken social convention, and the beauty of authentic love in the style of a Douglas Sirk melodrama. The result is a watch with a stirring visual magnificence and the emotional impact of a wrecking ball channelled in gorgeous performances from Blanchett and Mara.

10. Foxcatcher

Director: Bennett Miller
Stars: Channing Tatum, Steve Carrell, Mark Ruffalo

Foxcatcher's simmering dread makes it a stirring exercise in brooding tension that provides an unsettling glimpse into the US class system and its connection with darkest recesses of the human psyche.

9. A Little Chaos

Director: Alan Rickman
Stars: Kate Winslet, Matthias Schoenaerts, Alan Rickman

Sometimes it's nice to just pretend you are in the court of Louis XIV and enjoy the pomp and frivolity. However, among the lush aesthetics A Little Chaos provides endearing and forward-thinking celebration of the strength of the human spirit channelled through Winslet's outstanding central performance.

8. Manglehorn

Director: David Gordon Green
Stars: Al Pacino, Holly Hunter

This tale of self-realisation is filled with poetic visual clout, complex emotion, and boldly authentic performances from Al Pacino and Holly Hunter.

7. Clouds of Sils Maria

Director:Olivier Assayas
Stars: Juliette Binoche, Kristin Stewart, Chloe Grace Moretz

Clouds of Sils Maria is ambitious, thoughtful, and performed with a heartfelt authenticity. Binoche and Stewart are magnificent , whilst Assayas has crafted a compelling and gorgeously-pitched character piece examining intergenerational tensions and the blurring lines between reality and fiction. 

6. The Dressmaker

Director: Jocelyn Moorhouse
Stars: Kate Winslet, Judy Davis, Hugo Weaving & Liam Hemsworth

High camp revenge fantasy meets kitsch small town send-up - there's lots of fun to be had in the surprisingly poignant and magnificently performed, The Dressmaker. This feels like an instant cult classic to be lapped up.

5. Pasolini

Director: Abel Ferrara
Stars: Willem Dafoe

Pasolini is an astounding feat that daringly captures Italian political and social unrest with its depictions of a chaotic, animalistic sexuality and dreamlike exploration of the carnivalesque. Ferrara and Dafoe capture a light at the heart of this period in their ambiguous exploration of Pasolini and his magnetism, incomparable cinematic aesthetic and his unnerving final moments.

4. Mad Max: Fury Road

Director: George Miller
Stars: Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron

It's hard to recall an action film as ferocious and thrilling as this gas guzzling tour de force of sheer blistering mania.

3. A Most Violent Year

Director: J.C. Chandor
Stars: Oscar Isaac, Jessica Chastain, Albert Brooks

Intricately crafted and masterfully performed, A Most Violent Year is an engrossing and atmospheric slice of seventies inspired crime noir.

2. Tangerine

Director: Sean Baker
Stars: Kitana Kiki Rodriguez, Mya Taylor

Feeling like a contemporary trash epic in the vein of the work of John Waters and Andy Warhol, Tangerine unfolds on screen with an explosive energy, vivid performances, and a wickedly amusing sense of humour.

1. Slow West

Director: John Maclean
Stars: Michael Fassbender, Ben Mendelsohn & Kodi-Smit McPhee

Slow West is an enthralling ride that packs a real visceral punch. Masterfully performed and atmospherically crafted with a real visual lyricism, John Maclean's debut feels like the most bold western since Clint Eastwood's Unforgiven.

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