Now that the dust has settled on 2015, I hereby present my list of best films and best performances of the year. This turned out to be much harder than I thought, so many great films narrowly missed the cut. And that is a testament to how great last year was for film. Same goes for the performances. I’ve always said this and I’ll say it again: every year is a great year for female performances. Don’t ever let awards pundits fool you into thinking otherwise.
So, anyway, without further ado, I now give you the best of the best of the best, as deemed by me.
I’ll See You In My Dreams, The Look of Silence, By the Sea, Macbeth
Brooklyn, The Mend, Mistress America, Love & Mercy, Victoria
dir. Mia Hansen-Løve
Inside Llewyn Davis meets Take This Waltz. An ode to failure.
dir. Céline Sciamma
No one makes coming-of-age films like the French. Girlhood captures the essence of adolescence and ups the stakes. Vibrant, joyous, raw, and… blue.
Far from the Madding Crowd
dir. Thomas Vinterberg
It’s disappointing how costume dramas are often downplayed and dismissed as boring and dull. Vinterberg’s adaptation of Far from the Madding Crowd doesn’t deserve to be brushed off just like that. A sumptuous period piece with a lot of style and heart, anchored by the ever transcendent Carey Mulligan.
Magic Mike XXL
dir. Gregory Jacobs
This second installment of what is perhaps the most misunderstood series of all time is just as magical as the first. Magic Mike XXL is a wildly entertaining response to ageism. It’s unexpectedly feminist and unapologetically plot-free. Thrilled that there’s a movie out there that not only objectifies men but also celebrates and treats women like royalty.
Listen to Me Marlon
dir. Stevan Riley
Likely the most creative work of documentary filmmaking we’ll see this decade. Listen to Me Marlon is an inventive documentary and a story that needed to be expressed in Marlon Brando’s own words. Intimate, haunting, poetic.
dir. Charles Poekel
Christmas, Again really caught me off guard. I went in expecting a standard Christmas movie, and I wasn’t prepared for just how compelling the whole thing turned out to be. A sombre meditation on isolation, loneliness, and heartbreak that Sofia Coppola would be proud of.
dir. Yorgos Lanthimos
What a strange film you are. Flung out of space.
dir. Sean S. Baker
If you want to know what it feels like to be high without having to do drugs, this is it. Tangerine is energetically directed and acted, absolutely riotous and yet very moving too.
Queen of Earth
dir. Alex Ross Perry
A harrowing exploration of depression that echoes Roman Polanski’s Repulsion but unravels in its own unique, terrifying way. Elisabeth Moss does more acting with her face than most people do with pages of dialogue. A hypnotic fever dream.
dir. Paul Feig
Paul Feig and Melissa McCarthy together works a treat yet again (seriously, their work stands out as a collaboration for the ages). Spy is non stop funny, balancing out verbal and physical humor perfectly from scene to scene. Another female led comedy that far excels the majority of male centric comedies. Still think women are not funny?
dir. Desiree Akhavan
Relatability is what I love so much about Appropriate Behavior. It’s the single most accurate depiction of what a queer person goes through or thinks following a break-up. It’s like a cross between Annie Hall and Girls, only gayer. Desiree Akhavan is a terrific director/writer/actor triple threat and I’m excited to see what’s next from her.
Mountains May Depart
dir. Jia Zhangke
Mountains May Depart is so many things. It’s a poignant social commentary on the growth of Chinese capitalism and human relationships in an increasingly modern society, but it’s also a reminder of how much of an exquisite smiler Zhao Tao is. “Go West” so devastatingly used.
Mad Max: Fury Road
dir. George Miller
If you would have told me going into 2015 that I’d love this movie, I’d tell you you were bananas. Mad Max: Fury Road, otherwise known as Destroyer of Emotions and Slayer of Fragile Masculinity, is virtuoso filmmaking of the highest order. It’s a full on visual spectacle, but it’s also much more than that. It has everything I want in an action film, plus the added bonus of apparently being feminist propaganda! We all should strive to be like Furiosa.
dir. Pete Docter and Ronnie del Carmen
How can one possibly not love a Pixar movie that makes a reference to gay bear culture? Inside Out is the movie I was afraid Pixar couldn’t make anymore. All of the ideas seemed insanely risky on paper but, much to my surprise, turned out to be masterfully executed. It’s ballsy, ambitious, and richly complex. A light-hearted but deeply human story strengthened by gorgeous visuals and a top-tier voice cast.
dir. Andrew Haigh
It shouldn’t be a surprise that I’m a fan of Andrew Haigh’s work, and 45 Years is yet another masterpiece by him. It truly is perfect; it stands firmly on its own but also fascinating as a thematic companion piece to the brilliant Weekend. A powerhouse that’s as profound and subtle as it is complex and devastating, carried almost entirely by Charlotte Rampling who is just otherworldly in this.
dir. Todd Haynes
If you only saw one movie last year, it should have been Carol (a love story with two female leads who just happen to be gay and where the “gayness” is incidental to the plot, um yes!). Todd Haynes again crafts a lush time capsule of early ’50s that makes expert use of Rooney Mara’s icy demeanor and Cate Blanchett’s radiance. It’s a stunning work of cinema, one that attempts to understand and explore its subject immaculately from every angle, one that I’ve failed to stop thinking of ever since I saw it. Carol is love, Carol is life.
- Charlotte Rampling – 45 Years
- Zhao Tao – Mountains May Depart
- Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara – Carol
- Elisabeth Moss – Queen of Earth
- Saoirse Ronan – Brooklyn
Mya Taylor – Tangerine, Blythe Danner – I’ll See You In My Dreams, Carey Mulligan – Far from the Madding Crowd, Kristen Wiig – Welcome to Me, Laia Costa – Victoria, Karidja Toure – Girlhood, Meryl Streep – Ricki and the Flash, Melissa McCarthy – Spy, Lola Kirke – Mistress America, Angelina Jolie – By the Sea, Nina Hoss – Phoenix, Jennifer Lawrence – Joy, Charlize Theron – Mad Max: Fury Road, Amy Poehler – Inside Out, Dakota Johnson – Fifty Shades of Grey, Mae Whitman – The DUFF
- Colin Farrell – The Lobster
- Paul Dano – Love & Mercy
- Jacob Tremblay – Room
- Tom Courtenay – 45 Years
- Gaspard Ulliel – Saint Laurent
Kentucker Audley – Christmas, Again, Michael Fassbender – Macbeth, Josh Lucas and Stephen Plunkett – The Mend, Michael B. Jordan – Creed, Channing Tatum – Magic Mike XXL, Ben Whishaw – Paddington
Best Supporting Actress
- Elizabeth Banks – Love & Mercy
- Phyllis Smith – Inside Out
- Kristen Stewart – Clouds of Sils Maria
- Rose Byrne – Spy
- Katherine Waterston – Queen of Earth
Kate Winslet – Steve Jobs, Sarah Paulson – Carol, Marion Cotillard – Macbeth, Assa Sylla – Girlhood, Cate Blanchett – Cinderella, Rachel Weisz – The Lobster, Jada Pinkett-Smith and Andie MacDowell – Magic Mike XXL, Kristin Chenoweth – The Boy Next Door, Rebecca Ferguson – Mission Impossible: The Rogue Nation, Rhea Perlman – I’ll See You In My Dreams, Elizabeth Debicki – The Man from the U.N.C.L.E
Best Supporting Actor
- Emory Cohen – Brooklyn
- Frederick Lau – Victoria
- Jason Statham – Spy
- Ben Whishaw – The Lobster
- Martin Starr – I’ll See You In My Dreams
Liev Schreiber – Spotlight, Sylvester Stallone – Creed, Ronald Zehrfeld – Phoenix, Martin Sheen – Far from the Madding Crowd, Rick Springfield – Ricki and the Flash, Nicholas Hoult – Mad Max: Fury Road, Jake Lacy – Carol, Joe Manganiello – Magic Mike XXL
Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Kyle Chandler, Sarah Paulson, Jake Lacy, Carrie Brownstein, John Magaro, Cory Michael Smith
- The Lobster
Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, Lea Seydoux, Ben Whishaw, John C. Reilly, Ariane Labed, Olivia Colman, Jessica Barden, Ashley Jensen
Melissa McCarthy, Rose Byrne, Jason Statham, Jude Law, Miranda Hart, Allison Janney, Bobby Cannavale, Peter Serafinowicz
- I’ll See You In My Dreams
Blythe Danner, Martin Starr, Sam Elliott, Rhea Perlman, Malin Akerman, June Squibb, Mary Kay Place, Reid Scott
- Inside Out
Amy Poehler, Phyllis Smith, Mindy Kaling, Bill Hader, Lewis Black, Richard Kind, Kaitlyn Dias, Diane Lane, Kyle MacLachlan
Far from the Madding Crowd, Magic Mike XXL, Spotlight, Mistress America
Best Body of Work
- Kristen Wiig
Welcome to Me, The Diary of a Teenage Girl, Nasty Baby, The Martian, The Spoils Before Dying, Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp
- Ben Whishaw
Paddington, London Spy, The Lobster, Spectre, Suffragette, In the Heart of the Sea, The Danish Girl
- Cate Blanchett
Carol, Cinderella, Truth
- Michael Fassbender
Macbeth, Steve Jobs, Slow West
- Matthias Schoenaerts
Far from the Madding Crowd, Suite Française, A Little Chaos, The Danish Girl