Feature: Mid-Year Top 20 Best Films of 2015

We’re clearly past the mid-year mark, but nonetheless we’ve compiled a list of our 2015 cinematic highlights thus far. This includes festival screenings, but will mostly be in accordance with UK release dates. We’ll have a full round-up in December.

20. The Boy Next Door

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.

19. Cake
Our review

Cake may not have got Aniston her Oscar nomination, but it is a film that she should be proud of. It’s a gorgeously penned character piece that hits all the right emotional nerves and presents Aniston as an actress capable of great things.

18. The Water Diviner
Our review

You would be wrong presuming that Russell Crowe had opted for a small scale project to launch his debut as a director. The actor’s first feature, The Water Diviner, is a film of magnificent scale with a hard-hitting emotional pulse and staunch anti-war message.

17. Knock Knock
Our review

In full on exploitation mode, Eli Roth tackles the femme fatale film in this takedown of a fairly decent married man by two masochistic young women. Its gender politics might be a little dubious, but Keanu Reeves commits to this with a Cage-like intensity. The result is a tremendously fun watch.

16. Grandma
Our review

Gorgeously crafted characters, well-pitched comedy, and a career best performance from Lily Tomlin all contribute to Grandma’s impressive stature as one of the most charming indies in recent years.

15. It Follows
Our review

It’s not often that you watch a horror film (or any genre for that matter) and are left with the feeling that it will be regarded as a classic. It Follows bucks that trend in the subversive and utterly bone-chilling bolt of energy that it lights up the genre with.

14. 45 Years
Our review

Fraught nuances have knockout blows in Andrew Haigh’s 45 Years, a heartbreaking glimpse into the quiet destruction of a long-married couple’s relationship. This cinematic tour de force features astounding performances from Charlotte Rampling and Sir Tom Courtenay.

13. Love & Mercy
Our review

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

12. The D Train
Our review

In its subversion of the Hollywood bromance, The D Train provides an amusing and dramatically complex look at sexual identity, small town life, and acceptance. Jack Black and James Marsden excel and carry these themes in a naturalistic and engaging manner, thanks to the stellar writing-directing team of Paul and Mogel.

11. Strangerland

Kim Farrant’s debut feature Strangerland is a bleak and evocative look at the personal breakdown of the parents of missing children. It features startling performances from both Nicole Kidman and Joseph Fiennes.

10. The Witch
Our review

The Witch is an earthy, stomach-churning barrel of grim folk-horror. Bold in its themes and unflinching aesthetic, Eggers and the film’s impressive cast have crafted a haunting genre piece. Whilst there’s no release date apparently set, we cannot wait to see the audience response to this ferocious piece of cinema.

9. The Voices

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.

8. I’ll See You In My Dreams
Our review

If you provide us with a film featuring Blythe Danner, Mary Kay Place, Rhea Perlman and June Squibb getting high, don’t be shocked that it gets into our top ten. I’ll See You in My Dreams is a sheer cinematic triumph. Packed with heartfelt emotion, warming humour, and dazzling performances – spearheaded by the sublime Danner – Haley’s film is a sheer treat from start to finish.

7. Manglehorn
Our review

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

6. Z For Zachariah
Our review

Z for Zachariah is an outstanding slice of character driven cinema – with gorgeously scripted protagonists, engaging dynamics, and a setting packed with a revitalising originality – it is sure to be a firm highlight of 2015.

5. The New Girlfriend
Our review

The New Girlfriend is a complex and compelling tale packed with simmering suspense, dark humour, and brooding, emotionally-charged melodrama that showcases Francois Ozon as a filmmaker still at the top of his game.

4. A Most Violent Year
Our review

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

3. Clouds of Sils Maria
Our review

Clouds of Sils Maria is ambitious, thoughtful, and performed with a heartfelt authenticity. Binoche and Stewart are simply magnificent here, whilst Assayas has crafted a compelling and gorgeously-pitched character piece.

2. Slow West
Our review

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.

1. Tangerine
Our review

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.

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