The Absolute Best Films of 2015

Another year, another best and worst list to report. I have to clearly state that, the highlight of my career and choice to be a film critic and blogger for film, truly resonates from this list and the constant praise and happiness I provide viewers, friends, family and strangers with comments and the thanks for allowing them the opportunity of making aware such films that express so many emotions. Night Film Reviews is dedicated to the big, small and almost completely unknown films that fill your days with love, happiness, sadness and all the wonderful emotions in-between.

2015 was quite the year for film. Sure, we may say that every year but, 2015 was especially memorable not only to Box Office history, but to the contribution to film history also. Some old favourites popped up this year, as well as many fantastic original new works making their way into many people’s hearts.

But before we get to the great, here are three of the most definite worst films of 2015 that, by all means, are encouraged for viewing pleasure, simply to cast a bright light at the best of the year. So, for your caution and weird enjoyment, here are three of the worst films of 2015.

Worst

3.Vacation (2015)

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Hollywood is obsessed with getting the old and trying to making it better or new and shiny for a new generation of cinephiles. Unfortunately, nothing is shiny, or new or great about Ed Helm’s Vacation film. Instead, the film’s humour is flat, out-dated and highly uninspiring. The cast is nothing short of shameless and its sad that such studio films get the green-lit approval so fast. Go back to making original and new material people, please, learn something from the recent success of Deadpool. 

2. Pixels

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While many have come out and told me personally that this is surely not a film that is deserving on being on the worst list, simply for its highly mesmerizing and highly manipulative nostalgic factor, I can assure you that Adam Sandler’s Pixels is a dumb,unnecessary and fatty film filled with non-inventive dialogue, story and comedy. The newest addition to the  Happy Madison filmography is one that no family member, no matter how old or young, should ever experience.

1. Krampus

worst1I know that many will roll their eyes and disagree with this is opinion very much, which is why I couldn’t wait to include it as my top worst film of 2015. The film, which takes cues from Men In Black in all the wrong ways, takes no time to set up any empathy for the family being tormented by the mythical German anti-Santa Claus, and instead just makes a mockery of the mixing of sub-genre films, especially those mixing horror with Christmas. I mean, we already have so many great genre Christmas films already; Die Hard, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, The Holiday, In Bruges, to name a few. Krampus is full of heavy and annoying cinematic cramps. Its uncomfortable to watch, blood-less, gross and just plain awful. Avoid this one at all costs, especially if you are a horror fan.

Ok, as promised, here is the list of the ABSOLUTE Best Film had to offer in 2015. As always, you all may not agree or disagree, but I am sure there are some films here you will be pleasantly surprised in seeing, and ones you can’t help but agree with. So, without further ado, the best…

Best

15. The Night Before

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It’s kind of funny that we are ending The Worst of the Year with a Christmas theme film, and starting the Best of the Year with the same holiday themed film. The truth of the matter is, The Night Before was a film that I saw in theatres thrice, and each time, with different people, brought different laughs, similar laughs, but always was a guarantee of being one of the most consistent, fun and happy movies of 2015. Filled with themes of loyalty, friendship, family and overall being and staying true to yourself and the emotions filled during the Holiday season, The Night Before is easily one of my fav of the year, and def a new holiday classic. Read more on the film in my review here. Here is the first two minutes of the film, to give you a little taste of what shenanigans are to come.

 

14. Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation

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Mission Impossible is an example of a tentpole film franchise in Hollywood, born in the 90’s, that makes its way every so often to cineplex’s to ensure that capital gain is always met. Yet, in the newest instalment of the film franchise, some of our favourite aspect of the films are included, with of course, the moment of what Tom Cruise is daringly going to do next. Yet, the film isn’t centred or marketed just around his one daring stunt. With Ghost Protocol, Cruise’s daredevil climbing of Barj Khalifa was one of the climax’s and centre point of the film. In Rogue Nation, Cruise’s deft-defying airplane stunt is dealt with early in the film, in fact, one of the first frames of the film. Sure, it was a huge selling point for the film but, it was by no means the whole film. Instead, Cruise, who wondered audiences with his amazing athletic abilities for his age throughout the film, as well as a strong narrative and fun filled storyline makes Rogue Nation easily one of the best action films of the year, as well as one of the best Mission Impossible entires since the original film. If you are looking to having some fun, watch this movie.

13. Inside Out

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Easily the best animated film of 2015, Inside Out puts Pixar back to form as the super, powerhouse film studio that brings back the notion of originality, story and excitement to film houses everywhere. Pete Doctor, the mind behind animated classics Up, Monsters Inc., Wall-E, and of course Toy Story brings audiences the most gut-wrenching, heart loving animated comedy film for all ages. Backed by some solid voice work by Amy Poehler, Bill Hader, Mindy Kaling, Richard Kind, Phyllis Smith and others, Inside Out is a winner, through and through.

12. Kingsman: The Secret Service

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Blending humour and action has to be one of the hardest things for modern Hollywood films today. Yet, Kingsman: The Secret Servic does so effortlessly, while wittingly parodying  some of the classic films its representing all too well. Add Colin Farrell as one of the best British spies we’ve seen in a long time, the inclusion of new star-to-watch Taron Egerton and Samuel L. Jackson in one of the best villain roles of the year, Kingsman easily becomes one of the best and most unexpected guilty pleasures of the year. I don’t think there is one person that I have recommended this film to, that hasn’t enjoyed or basked in the ridiculousness all its glory fully yet. If you are looking for one of the most cavity inducing films of 2015, look no further. Interested any more in the film, check out this wild clip.

11. McFarlane, USA

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Never in a million years would I have thought that a movie, so intent on promoting the idea of Americanism and with the US of A in its title, would make it in my top of the year list. I mean, not that I hate the United States of America or ‘Merica as a whole, I will admit, I am a proud Canadian with very proud European and Hispanic roots. Hence, why McFarland, USA made it on my top films of the year list. One of the most influencing factors for it inclusion, is for its truly positive and inspiring message about immigrant culture, most specifically, Latino culture, within the boarders of the United States. Everyone knows whats going on in the US right now when it comes to issues of immigration, boarders and Donald Trump, hence, why, more than ever, this film becomes one of the most deeply true, pure and inspiring true stories of the year. If you haven’t checked it out yet, please do.

10. River

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I can assure many that my number ten entry will be one of those films that not many would have heard of, nor will it be a film that will easily accessible after reading this review. River, a small little Canadian film, directed by Jamie M. Dagg, and starring Rossif Sutherland, yes, from the famous Canadian Sutherland family, that made quite the big splash on my list this year. Luckily for myself, and a small group of friends that I brought to the premiere of this film at TIFF, with an audience that included the great Donald Sutherland himself, and Dagg’s close personal friend Rachel McAdams, the film was an impressionable film about the very real and worrisome issues that many Canadian could face during their very positive and life changing efforts in countries abroad. Taking place in the south of Laos, John Lake (Sutherland) must make a big decision when an unexpected event puts him at risk of losing it all for a small and very life-changing act of self-defence and principle. River asks a lot of important questions, ones including self-worth, faith and most of all, how willing are we capable of going for whats right, without tainting who we are and our very fortunate first world conscious? Part thriller, part drama, never dull, River is easily a must see. Whatever you have to do to see this movie, make sure you see it, and help support some great Canadian cinema.

9. Chappie

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This HAS to be the film I have and will continue to get the most grief for. Chappi is SURELY not a critical success by any means. Instead, Chappie, my number 2 film from my Best Thus Far list is just so damn memorable and well-done, it deserves to be on here. Dealing with one of the most popular themes in mainstream films today, class, acceptance and the crossing of boundaries between citizen and alien, Chappie is a film that is not only enjoyable from its first frames, but just so damn memorable. This will be my last effort for this film, but please, whether you love it or you hate it, try to see this film homie.

8. Creed

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It’s kind of ironic that following Chappie on the list, there is another very similar story with very contemporary elements inserted into it, in order for it to stick with a new generation of audiences, as well as able please a very skeptical older generation. I don’t think ANYONE expected Creed to be as good as it actually is, which is funny, especially since director Ryan Coogler proved himself, more than worthy, of being able to handle drama and build characters with his directorial stunner Fruitvale Station. In his first Hollywood Blockbuster, Coogler took the elements that worked in his indie, polished them up, introduced us to familiar characters, and gave us one of the most surprising one-two punch films of 2015. Creed is nothing short of a cementing stable to the year of 2015 cinema. Thanks to the amazing performance of Michael B. Jordan as the disregarded son of Apollo Creed, excellent integration of the very slummy and hip-hop driven city of  Philadelphia and the best Stallone performance since, probably ever, Creed is something to believe in.

7. Dope

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I don’t quite know if its a good thing, or a bad thing, but my number one from my Best Thus Far article has taken the biggest leap out of any year, firming its position in the seventh spot. It isn’t that Dope is any more or less stronger as a film than the next six, its that, Dope is an acquired and very specific taste; one that savours over time and just gets sweeter and sweeter the more you think about it. Dope is a fantastic film that, again, shows so many of the issues between class, race, social status and even gender. While many of the above mentioned and films waiting for recognition below, Dope is easily one of the most creative and imaginative films, stylistically speaking, of 2015. Its fun, fresh and just plain awesome.

6. Bang Gang: A Modern Love Story

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Another TIFF indie that I am sure is going to frustrate many trying to find once this snippet is done. Bang Gang: A Modern Love Story is as free, liberated and naked as its main leads throughout. Diving deep into the world of social and casual sex between young people, the film will easily draw comparisons to Blue is the Warmest Colour and Young & Beautifulbut this French gem, from first time feature filmmaker Eva Husson is a very liberal look at the true direction of the youth’s mentality of sexuality, exhibition and privacy. Nothing is sacred; the film shows the wonders and very real and extremely scary consequences of being connected, being exhibitionists and the severely real issues youth around the world are facing today involving social media and the concerning absence of privacy. Bang Gang is an altruistic tale of beauty, love and most of all, immorality of youth during high school. The film introduces us to a slew of talented young fresh faces, including Marilyn Lima as George, one of the most promising and talented young breakout actresses of 2015. Keep a close eye out for this one, and make sure to use protection, cause this one comes deep and clear for the heart.

5. Sicario

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What do you get when you combine the talents of French-Canadian filmmaker Denis Villeneuve, the master eye of Legendary cinematographer Roger Deakins, and the master-class acting skills of Josh Brolin, Emily Blunt, Jon Bernthal and of course, master-bad guy specialist Benecio Del Toro? You get one of the most compelling, complete and thought-provoking films of 2015, that’s what. Sicari is one full-throttle emotional ride of a film. The players are all intense, the landscape is violent and dangerous, and Sicario is one of the most adrenaline pumping, atmospheric films of the last ten years, never mind 2015. Dealing, again, with some of the very popular issues playing news outlets and stations today, the film, never being compared to anything else, shines as a very unique tour-de-force film, blurring the lines between realism, fiction and tragedy. Sicario is absolutely sick0…in a good way of course!

4. El Club (The Club)

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Another entry I am sure many, if not most of you, have never heard of before, El Club is one of the dreariest, sick, twisted and most uncomfortable films you will see this year, and thats one of the film’s biggest compliments. El Club is the foreign counterpart to this year’s largely popular Hollywood film Spotlight, but where Spotlight ends, El Club continues. The film, which is basically a very small and innocent account of the lives of disgraced priests seeking refuge in Chile, the lives of each disgraced priest is shook to its core with the arrival of a very mysterious priest and a very persistent civilian man. At times, El Club is radical in its narrative tone, suspicious and most of all, plain offensive. El Club certainly is not for the faint of heart, regardless of your faith and beliefs in certain creeds or religions. As a non-believer, the film is easily one of my favourable and memorable of the year. As a believer, I can’t help but see most walk out, as many did during my experience watching the film during TIFF earlier this year. Director Pablo Larraín is easily becoming one of the most consistent voices for foreign cinema, from No to Post Mortem, Pablo brings forth a truth, honesty and surreal darkness to the present realities of a very fragile and unexplainable species; human beings. El Club is easily Pablo’s masterpiece and one of the hardest and cloudiest films to watch this year.

3. The Hateful Eight 

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Westerns aren’t exactly the most popular of genres in 2015, which is why, after the massive critical and commercial success of There Will Be Blood, No Country for Old Men, and of course Django Unchained, Westerns are quickly becoming a very niche genre of films currently, that showcases a very original eye to style, narrative and largely unforgettable characters. Which is why, this year, Tarantino is making his way onto the list with The Hateful Eighta Western whodunit with some of the most thrilling, complex and entertaining moments of the year. On a mainstream level, The Hateful Eight was easily the most entertaining and sweetest pleasure of the year; factor in some signature Tarantino dialogue, the ridiculousness of most of his plot points, and some crazy memorable and totally unforgettable imagery, The Hateful Eight is one crazy and wild ride at the movies this year. Filled with some of the best work from Samuel L., Walton Goggins, Demián Bichir and of course, Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight is pure, unapologetic enjoyment, from start to finish. Its Tarantino entertainment, as only he knows how to do it.

2. Steve Jobs

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I was convinced that Steve Job was going to end up at the top of my list this year, gaining two viewings from me at the theatres (one screening then one leisure viewing), an immense adoration for its soundtrack and constant praise on my end to friends and family to go see it. The thing is, Steve Jobs is a movie event unlike many others this year. As a biopic, its unconventional, almost completely empty of an origin story and completely unlike anything you’ve ever seen. As a piece of true orchestrated cinematic brilliance, it shines like no other. Steve Jobs is unlike anything you’ve ever seen on film, thanks to the brilliance of screenwriter Aaron Sorkin, director Danny Boyle, the hypnotic and electronically spunky music of Daniel Pemberton, and miraculous acting from the ever so spectacular Michael Fassbender. Critically speaking, Steve Jobs is a darling to the film community and world; commercially, the film was easily one of the biggest Awards Contender flops of the year. No one went to go see this film! Now, was it because of the bad aftertaste Ashton Kutcher’s film left back in 2013? Was it too soon for a biopic on the late, great and highly misunderstood tech genius of our time? Whatever it was, Steve Jobs suffered greatly for it; losing momentum come Oscar time for some of the strongest performances of the year. Fassbender is a marvel as Jobs; Winslet is nothing short of amazing as his right hand woman Joana Hoffman, Rogen is mesmerizing as Steve Wozniak, but mostly, and one of the biggest snubs at this year’s Academy Awards, is the magnificent turn of former Apple CEO John Sculley, played more than convincingly by the always awe-inspiring Jeff Daniels. Steve Jobs is all around, one of the best films of 2015, stylistically, narratively and cinematically. Presented in only three acts, like a theatre production, Steve Jobs is a magnum opus for the cinematic medium.

1. The Big Short

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El Club was easily one of the most uncomfortable films to watch this year, without question. Heres the thing though, The Big Short, was physically one of the most gut-wrenching, physically unbearable and at times, sickening films to watch in 2015, yet, its doesn’t deal with grotesque visuals of death, violence, blood, rape or child molestation, it  just deals with the ignorance and greed of the American populous, and thats enough to make anyone sick. In 2008, the economic crash on Wall Street is one that was felt globally, making the world angry with the United States and their careless economic ways. The Big Short doesn’t glorify these instances at all, if anything, the film breaks them down, deconstructs them for a vastly unaware general public, and angers us with information. It allows us to get our frustrations out. Made by an American about everything thats wrong with the United States, The Big Short is one big, long and very unapologetic film about everything the United States did wrong with their money.

While the film was one of the last films I saw in 2015, and it was a VERY hard struggle and long internal debate within myself between this film and Steve Jobs as to which deserved the top spot, it became clear to me that, although I was highly engaged, entertained and awed by the beauty of Steve Jobs, I was sickened and enraged with the images and story The Big Short told. Last year, Gone Girl topped my list for best film of 2014, and I am still VERY okay with that. This year, even though Gone Girl and Steve Jobs are two VERY different films, they both display an excellence in style and story, two very obvious favourites of mine. With The Big Short, I was leaving my comfort zone, but felt at ease with doing so. The film, which is one that I heavily encouraged my friends to see and family to see, almost forcefully, is one film that I truly believe should be shown in Math and economic classes all around the world. Unanimously speaking, the most common thread of comments I heard about the film were people’s disbelief  on the whole message of the film, and the film itself. The Big Short surely won’t be the most enjoyable film of the year for you, but, and I promise you this, it is surely one of the most important, educating and mandatory films right now! Anchored by a top-notch script by Charles Randolph and Adam McKay, solid directing and stylistic forth wall-breaking choices by comedy director McKay, performances by actors like you have never seen them, most notably by the one and only Steve Carrell, The Big Short is one big, long message of the mistakes we made as a greedy, irresponsible and totally moronic group of financial irresponsible individuals. If there is one film you pick and choose to watch on this list, I would encourage it being this one. Just be forewarned, you’ll find yourself angry, appalled, in utter and complete rage and will have uncanny emotions all day…and thats okay. Let the power of cinema move you, as The Big Short did with me, because if there is one thing The Big Short taught me, its God Bless ‘Merica?…yea right!

Honourable Mentions: Carol, Desierto, In The Heart of the Sea, The Good Dinosaur, Mad Max: Fury Road, Paper Towns, Sleeping With Other People, We Are Your Friends.

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So there you have it folks, some of my fav films of the year. As always, my best of the year list is quite easily the best and most enjoyable pieces to write each and every year for myself. Its always a joy sharing the films that entertained me to no end, made me laugh, cry, weep, sob, anger and enraged me all year. I really hope, and this list, as well as this site as a whole, encourages you to leave you viewing comfort zones, and really seek out films here and elsewhere, that will inspire you, challenge you, disturb you, and compel you to be the best version of yourself you may be.

If you’re wondering, also, why is this list being released in February, its because, we here at Night Film Reviews, love to see ALL the films of 2015 before the list is complete. And while, we don’t mention films seen after the year specified on the list, here are some honourable mentions of films made in 2015 that would have SURELY been on our list, had we seen them in 2015.

45 Years

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Joy

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Mustang

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The Revenant 

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So with this said, hopefully, the beginning of a slumpy 2016 will be improved with this wide range and variety of amazing films from the year 2015. Enjoy!

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