The 50 Best English Language Films Of 2015
After going through around 200 films I am finally exhausted. So, following the yearly ritual, here are the best 50 English Language Films of 2015 :
The Suicide Theory
What goes around comes around the corner and puts a bullet in your head. Dru Brown’s absolutely stunning film had weird amalgamations of retribution and self-pity. While it’s essentially a hit-man tale, its surreal and twisted story-telling is compelling and touching at the same time.
50. The Final Girls
The Final Girls is the God of meta-horror films. It shreds one convention after the other as it tries blending surprisingly effective emotions with an utterly bonkers homage to the 80s slasher films. It builds up on the stoned adventures of Joss Whedon’s The Cabin In the Woods & Eli Craig’s Tucker and Dale Vs Evil.
49. Kingsman: The Secret Service
While Mad Max: Fury Road takes away the cake for the best action movie of the year, Matthew Vaughn’s Kingsman: The Secret Service takes away the cake for the best action scene of the year. Stylish, funny and charmingly entertaining, Kingsman was, over everything else, a good show.
48. The Voices
If you take Patrick Bateman from American Psycho, blend him in a blender making him an introvert who talks with his pets, the resulting mixture would turn out to be Jerry. Marjane Satrapi‘s black comedy about a lonesome guy features the single greatest performance by Ryan Reynolds. The Voices works perfectly on multiple fronts. It’s a charming black comedy that has the perfect amount of surrealistic gruesomeness. One that not only entertains but enthralls and horrifies in equal measures.
47. 99 Homes
Above everything, the film is about the desperation of a human being. It’s about that thought in the brain which leads you to hang around the bridge that can take you both ways. It also channels out the fact that the dark side is not always wrong, and the right side is not always right. 99 Homes is a powerfully acted human tragedy that works mostly because of a taut screenplay and its ability to bring out real emotions out of the people watching without being overly manipulative.
46. The Martian
A disco opera in space. More than anything, it’s a collection of brilliantly written scenes and niche low-key sci-fi jargon. Ridley Scott’s The Martian is an entertainer. One with an intelligent man-child as its centerpiece and a surprisingly straightforward low on dread – storyline. The space-pirate (Matt Damon) embraces his circumstances and doesn’t throw signs of feeling low. Which makes The Martian, Ridley Scott’s cutest film till date.
Gaspar Noé’s Love has a very loosely constructed narrative which might be the reason why it was so harshly treated. On the offset, you can call the film as melodramatic, overly long, abstract artsy porn. But it’s about memories & dreams and also about the greatest love affair of one’s life. Noé’s Love is taking a trip down the sexual dreams which are sometimes beautiful, sometimes filthy & sometimes heart-breaking.
44. The Overnight
The film explores a lot of intertwined relationship dynamics. How comfortable are you with your significant other? Are you okay with sharing your intimate details with other people? How willing are you at being sexually exploitative? There are a lot of fascinating and totally bizarre things that The Overnight touches on. Brice’s film is awkward. It will make you uncomfortable with every passing second. Just when you expect it to go easy on the eye, it goes a peak higher, also, it never goes in the direction you will want it to go; even if you are as bizarre and as strange as Jason’s fake penis, lined with well cropped pubic hair. Read Full Review.
43. Tale Of Tales
Tale Of Tales is a bloody reminder that fairy tales were never really meant for kids. Matteo Garrone’s film looks terrific. Based on three stories, the film accounts what beauty does to people. It shows the beauty in ugliness and vice-versa. Tale Of Tales is a surreal vignette that will boil your heart and eat it without changing its skin.
42. Bridge Of Spies
A film that displayed colors of hope, perseverance and the true heart-warming spirit of being a human being. Bridge of Spies is essentially a film about an American Hero. But this Spielberg grand spectacle visualizes it in such a way that it feels like he is in complete control of the emotions that will flow as the film progresses. The sly wit that surrounds this story about the cold-war never falters and always hits home. Yes, even when it’s trying to be emotionally manipulative.
41. The Revenant
A sorrow-stricken Hugh Glass walks, crawls and dies a little to get the devil by his throat. A gory, breathtaking and absolutely terrifying portrayal of survival and revenge. Alejandro González Iñárritu’s The Revenant features one of the most stunning camera-work by Emmanuel Lubezki. His shots present a cold-blooded, brutal and violent scenery which feel like a traumatizing dance of death. Leonardo Dicaprio gives it his all and is exceedingly matched by Tom Hardy’s uni-dimensional role.
40. The Big Short
When Margot Robbie explains economics to you in a bubble bath, you Listen. Then you rewind and listen to her again. Adam McKay’s The Big Short has a ridiculously smart execution. The director takes on the high road breaking conventions, making his film feel like a documentary, mockumentary and a fictional account at the same time. While the monetary jargon is a hit and a miss, the film’s energy is astonishing on multiple grounds. The cast plays a very important role in making this film sound better than it actually is.
39. The Duke Of Burgundy
The Duke Of Burgundy is a story about two women and their sexual cycle, mostly concerning control, jealousy, betrayal, and insecurity. I’ve never seen a more specific exploration of sexuality on film. Using and enhancing its style, the director uses moths/butterflies to enunciate metaphors relating the two people here. The film has been deliberately slow-paced and is almost excruciating to watch but its also equally exhilarating and rewarding.
38. Night Owls
Featuring one of the most magnetic chemistries of the year, Night Owls is a subversive romantic-comedy that doesn’t push back from insulting, kicking or pulling the hair of the person in front. It talks about the obsession and desperation to be loved by the right ‘one.’ It questions as to what should be done when it’s too hard to leave things be and simply walk away. It’s also about trying to figure out the easier and the right path in a world that seems to push you towards following the said God.
37. 45 Years
Every single expression on Charlotte Rampling’s face makes you skip a beat. 45 Years is a heartbreaking portrayal of a couple who are so in love with each other that they don’t realize how lonely they really are. This character study is so serene that even when people want to shout, the time and reality that binds them together just wouldn’t let them shed a tear or two.
36. The Mend
The Mend is a terrific first feature. It inspects the life of two brothers who are oil & water in a tank of wastewater. Josh Lucas, in particular, is a revelation here. His character pisses on random thoughts & wishes to keep himself afloat with a broken laptop & a leather bag. His brother, on the other hand, is in love with a girl who may or may not be the right one. The Mend has an energy that shows more life in its mundane, monotonous moments than any other film does in an hour or so. The energy & intelligent editing shows the power of cinema in transforming similarly themed results into fresh & new packages. Also, has one of the best opening scenes of the year.
35. Queen of Earth
Queen of Earth is about chronic depression, about paranoia and that single figurative perspective of life that sends you to a descent into unfamiliar & heart-breaking territories. Alex Ross Perry’s film relies heavily on the atmosphere that surrounds it and succeeds greatly. It works like a horrific account of a woman on the edge of losing herself to insanity. Bolstered by one of the best performance of the year by Elisabeth Moss, Queen of Earth is a film that, in spite of its timid & dark subject, chalks out with engaging vibrancy.
34. The Little Death
A film that tells us how the different versions/flavor of sex can alter, manipulate, play with and destroy love. A film that has intense moments of black humor mixed up with the light-hearted rom-com-ish fun. It’s strange how this black-comedy that centers around sex can explain and examine the various stages of love. I wonder why people don’t like it (maybe it’s the lack of nudity?). Because if you can walk past the first 30 odd minutes you get to see how these small stories make more sense than it actually should have.
Collin Schiffli’s Animals is about a couple who lives on a thin line between being homeless and being in a world of their own imagination. A world that mostly blooms in a cafe washroom, rigged by conning people. A world where they needle themselves to addiction but they can also see that belonging together will keep them afloat only till they burst out of that bubble of imaginative hallucination and go swimming.
She’ll kick you in the balls, she’ll steal your weed. She’ll get a tattoo so she could think straight and she’ll probably call you a slut because, well, she can. So screw you! and shove up that 50$ along with your phony attitude way up to your ass! Paul Weitz’s Grandma looks like a crass-comedy that turns into a road-trip but its a crisp character study of a sturdy woman in her waning years.
31. The Stanford Prison Experiment
What starts off as a comedy with prosthetic hair and fake looking old-school clothes slowly creeps up on you and gets under your skin. The Stanford Prison Experiment uses its wonderful young cast to get to your head where it resides – growling, shouting and begging for freedom. While it acts like a psychological thriller that engages, the film manages to show how the various roles assigned to us in our life define us.
Anchored by a brilliant performance by Mary Elizabeth Winstead, first time director Riley Stearns talks about insanity, solitude and spiritual beliefs. Like a coin that has two sides, he never falters in showing the two sides of the story. Packs them with enough black-humor and subtlety to a point where it gets the audiences confused; as they drown in the sea of lies and truth. He constantly questions the human psyche as to what side should they be on.
29. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
This coming of age film is about cinematic expression, about knowing the world in all its weird and beautiful forms and also about fitting into that ladder that takes you to your aim. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is the right kind of funny, right kind of sad and the right kind of thought-provoking film. It’s the kind of film that more teenagers should see. Just so they understand the human condition, also studying the various layers of life sketched around three characters so charmingly.
28. Slow West
As captivating as it is tragic, Slow West is John M. Maclean’s fascinatingly original approach to westerns. There’s a scene in Slow West where salt slowly dribbles into the wounds of Kodi Smit-McPhee, Maclean’s film is quite the same. In its most tragic and dark moments, it manages to jumble the viewer’s mind with purity and concise dramatic inventions of black-humor and comic oddity.
27. While We’re Young
After the full-of-blistering-life-ball of a film – Frances Ha, Noah Baumbach examines the life of an odd couple in their 40s whilst he compares them to an energetic, role-model-of-a younger couple. While We’re Young has a strangely heavy dramatic-deft that has been handled quite exquisitely by Noah. While he does falter a couple of time, there’s so much more than his movie says that it’s almost impossible for me to give it as a negative. This observational comedy is based around people who in spite of their oddball shape and reactions feel real.
26. Ex Machina
Ex Machina plays with your head. More times than you can imagine. It favors one character, then the other and then again makes a turn out of nowhere. While it take enough time to get to the point it does plunges into the question that we, the people of the new age have been asking ourselves daily: Should we rely on ‘the things’ we own? Or there’s still possibilities of ‘it’ owning you? Ex Machina is a creepy, mesmerizing movie that leaves you guessing till the last frame. Who manipulates whom? who evaluates whom? This is the kind of artificial intelligence the pundits fear and clamor about, yet desire and lust after.
25. Lost River
Weird, bizarre and surreal. Ryan Gosling’s directorial debut was audacious and experimental. A very strange blend of David Lynch & Nicolas Winding Refn, Lost River, set in a nightmarish-fairyland of fictionalized Detroit talks about a few people surrounded by violence, trouble, hooligans, creeps and their shot at achieving the American dream. The plot might seem convoluted and makes less sense a couple of times, but it’s also so well made that you can’t take your eyes off it. What I got from the film is Gosling’s way of portraying freedom in destruction. He doesn’t manage to show it exactly the way he intended to, but he gets close, very very close.
24. Z for Zachariah
Featuring one of the most ambiguous & hypnotic endings of the year, Z for Zachariah examines what humanity would be like when there are no humans left. While it falters occasionally, the film, which is shot with great care and nuance, glitters through the pages of an open book touching them just the right amount. It’s a film that builds up from destroyed social status and is a waterfall of rigged human emotions of jealousy and greed.
23. The Falling
The Falling is an enigmatic tale of mass-hysteria. Chucking up elements from Picnic at Hanging Rock, Carol Morley’s film is poetic, bewitched, disturbing and absolutely unforgettable. The film observes the peculiar and mysterious fall-out of a hysterical epidemic in the early 1960s. Filmed and seen from the perspective of an all-girls-school in England, it revolves around two friends/lovers who share an intense relationship with each other. The color pallets and the instant change in imagery is a wee-bit tough to fathom and yet it fascinates without faltering. Read Complete Review.
The tale of a hyena trapped in a land of drug-induced, violently non-human wolves. Sicario is a beast of a film which has a vulnerable protagonist trying to shake-off the political systems while she is wrapped around a clay of inhumane lies and double-cross. Villeneuve’s direction takes you through something that looks like a snake of havoc and its snail and vicious bite comes when Benicio del Toro gets into gear and serves you a hearty supper. Roger Deakins’ cinematography makes sure that you feel the consequence of violence without scathing out the drama that moves along.
21. It Follows
A scintillating score plays throughout David Robert Mitchell’s second directorial venture. If not for the premise or the creepy horrific-thrills, the score of footsteps almost gets you every single time. After his first indie film, the brilliant The Myth Of The American Sleepover, which talked about the various uncommon teenage issues Mitchell cleverly ensures the most common of them all – Sex into his intelligent, original and terrifying second film. It Follows is an uninstalling metaphor on the fucked-up American youth and their shenanigans. While people in It Follows struggle when they pass it on to the next one, I sure will pass this film on to everyone and anyone who has the least of interests in films, because maybe someone, somewhere will get it in the true sense.
20. Mr. Holmes
Ian McKellen plays an aging Sherlock Holmes whose last great mystery is himself. Bill Condon has made a handsome, tender and beautiful amalgamations of the various layers of human nature. Where the bees and wasps are mere metaphors for the right and wrongs you do in life and the countryside is not just a getaway, but a learning road to rest your shoulders from the regrets and wrongdoings that life has thrown your way. Mr. Holmes is a poetic character study of the other side of the Robot detective from Baker Street. Bill Condon’s film presents a picture of Sherlock Holmes that hasn’t graced the screen till date. It’s a film that grows on you when the fictionalized emotions come to play.
Spotlight has a very low-key approach to a very sensitive topic. It doesn’t try too hard to leave a mark and yet somehow comes out as a clear winner. Mccarthy’s film focuses on a group of journalists who get involved in a case that doesn’t only question their own ethics but also brings them face to face with the humanitarian aspect of a person, his fears & his delicacies. The scene where Mark Ruffalo takes it all out is one of the best scenes of 2015.
Todd Haynes’s Carol works as a symphony of various musical notes plucked at the right time. There is drama, there is romance and there is a fleeting necessity of desire, be it for the better half or that child which defines you as a person. Carol is a waking dream that never overshadows the feelings of its two central characters with unnecessary fillers. Packed with one of the greatest performances ever by Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara, Carol defines that Haynes can make almost anything look beautiful.
A woozy, energetic and hilarious comedy about the geeks who go gangsta on the world. Lased with the dopest soundtrack & a razor-sharp screenplay, Dope chronicles the life of Malcolm (Shameik Moore) a 90s hip-hop geek who rides BMX bikes & has a band whose name rhymes with a popular biscuit. Watch his life give him a topsy-turvy as he understands that not being able to fit in is essentially a blessing in disguise.
16. Mistress America
Another incredibly charming, fast-paced oddball comedy about people who are surrounded by failure. It’s interesting how Noah manages to show the failing nature of his characters in such a subtle manner. While Mistress America is mostly about Brooke (Greta Gerwig) whose ambitions and authenticity get muddled up in the disorienting world of New York City, it was also about Tracy (Lola Kirk) who never seems to stop to look around at the various things she is failing at. Its a retrospective on the life of two women trying their best to grasp upon the moving ground, learning to accept and understand each other and themselves in the process.
Paolo Sorrentino’s Youth starts with what looks like an exploration of the bond of two aging friends, but it slowly transcends into something entirely different. It’s an ode to all the living, dead and struggling artists on the face of the planet. Ones who peep through holes of memories to relive what they felt for that one second of admiration. Youth is a fascinating, beautiful and unforgettable symphony that plays along the lines of a road that leads to both – the past and the future.
The End of the Tour is essentially a character study that operates both, on the mind of a writer and an interviewer. It slices open and presents the mind, spooling everything out on the screen. Ponsoldt’s film is firmly grounded to reality and yet it’s uniquely profound in its intimate way of understanding and perceiving oneself and others. The End of the Tour is also a fitting homage to the infinite mind of a depressed soul and a prodigy who doesn’t understand the way the minds of a male, female and a cartoon should be represented on a personal wall. The End of the Tour says that there isn’t a reason for how things turn out eventually. Its mostly because we are too scared to choose anything but the safe side, or maybe it’s because we did take the other side but never got a proper road to travel on.
As its name suggests, Buzzard is about an idle temp, a deadly vulture in a corporate flock that takes advantage of a crack in the system and feeds on it. Take Holden Caulfield from Catcher in the Rye minus the booze adding a Nintendo Power Glove and some un-cashed signed-over-to-self-cheques, you get Marty. The third film in the Animal Trilogy is a satire on the normalcy of life. Where Paranoia & bad decisions are welcome to sit on any branch possible. It’s one of those slacker films that doesn’t take itself seriously and it continuously tells you to stay in your zone and play with your own controllers.
12. Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter
The film asks a very interesting question: Whether it’s better to find meaning in something false than to know that there is no meaning? As Kumiko discovers that she is onto something that might not be worth it, she doesn’t stop. She puts her random-roadside-motel-made-jacket on and take off to her quest, or as she calls it ‘something that keeps her busy.’ Each frame in Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter speaks for itself. It’s tragic, poignant and bases itself totally on something called a not-so-wishful-life but as the curtains fall and the prize is revealed it leaves you with a kind of smile that’s both sweet and bitter.
11. The Gift
The Gift is haunting, suspenseful and absolutely fascinating considering it’s Joel Edgerton’s debut feature. In a world where the audience has outsmarted the Hitchcock films, Edgerton’s film develops the three main characters in such a way that they grow extensively unfamiliar the more familiar they get. And that’s a feat to achieve these days. Featuring that best Jason Bateman performance till date and a feeling of dread that doesn’t leave you until the credits roll off.
Heaven Knows What shows a mirror to the people. One that tells them that they are slowly decaying and burning on the inside as well as on the outside. Written, acted and felt by Arielle Holmes herself, the film is an account of her love in a thunderstorm of hallucinating, suicidal and addictive nightmares. Heaven Knows What is an intense film that rebels against the standard narrative and makes a place of its own. It never shows redemption, it never uplifts you, it just follows people on their downhill stride to nothingness and back. The film is so authentic that you never see that these are actors acting it out.
To describe this perfectly: If Linklater ever got drunk and hooked up with David Lynch under the Italian roads, Spring would be their bastard son. This atmospheric monster film quite intelligently glides through a lot of other good films on this list just because of the way it’s handled. The director duo here cleverly bend the rules set and come up with a horror-romance that talks about relationships, love, and life in depths.
Justin Kurzel’s Macbeth crawls through muddy streams of blood to focus on greed and paranoia that drives a person when the watchful eyes of the one contemplating your behavior is devoured by the eye for the crown. The film figures out ways to show how power drives people towards insanity. It also shows that the beauty that resides in the bleakness constantly haunts you to submission. Adam Arkapaw’s camera-work is so insanely beautiful that your insides hurt to know that he didn’t get the recognition he deserved.
7. The Hateful Eight
A blizzard surrounds Minnie’s Haberdashery, Tarantino finally finds a stage for his characters to play upon. He unleashes them one after the other, sneaking in a copious amount of arrogance and hate into their being and waits for the coffee to boils to soak everyone in blood and disgust. Tarantino’s 8th film is so full of him that his characters get a part each. They come and leave the stage in regular interval, giving the stage to someone else for the time being, and just when you expect Tarantino to step back and retrieve them, he tells them to forge letters for themselves. The Hateful Eight is a grand spectacle. Dished out with one of the best soundtracks of the year, Tarantino is at the top of the game. Anyone who says otherwise will have their legs cut being called ‘shorty’ afterward.
6. Steve Jobs
If there is one fill that tells you what incredible writing can do, look no further. I feel sad that I’ve to call this Danny Boyle’s Steve Jobs because even though he works brilliantly in excavating the brains of the evil genius, it’s an Aaron Sorkin film from start to finish. The fineness in his screenplay can be understood in the very first scene itself. There have been films that have dived deep into the life of Steve Jobs but none of them have managed to replicate what the man was inside that twisted brain of his. Sorkin has waived his pen that acts like the weaving stick in an Orchestra. It’s like he says to the audience – The musicians (Read: Everyone else) play the instruments, I (Sorkin) play the Orchestra.
5. Inside Out
This movie does things to your eye ducts. Things you never imagined were inside you, things which were just craving to come out but were just looking for their own way through the memory system to finally be a core-memory. This little film is stuck in my heart and will always be there. Pixar’s Inside Out is an animated film that talks about a girl with teenage-angst. After a few speed-bumps, Pixar is finally back with a film that’s so energetic and sentimental that it’s almost impossible for even the strangest, most bizarre sadistic people to hate it.
4. The Lobster
The Lobster is a cross-breed between a tragic comedy and a satire which sticks and floats, breeds and grows on you. It’s the kind of film that gets better and better with each viewing. And in spite of all the strangeness, it is astonishing to see how grounded and similar it is to reality. While it’s basically about loneliness and relationships, there are very minute accounts of humans who are so accustomed to following the crowd, that they are bewildered when a state of choosing between right and wrong comes. They take knives out of the shelves and are unable to decide whether it should be used to chop up vegetables or to cut-off their wrists or maybe kill the person who told them to make a choice in the first place. Read Full Review.
3. Mad Max: Fury Road
Mad Max: Fury Road is probably the only film ever to have a guy playing guitar in a post-apocalyptic wasteland that’s turned into a horrific war zone. George Miller’s newest entry to his franchise of madness is as insane and berserk as it can be. Boosted with soul-pounding, rib-cracking, blood-infusing action that gets you high and never gives you enough oxygen to chew on. What’s surprising is the fact that a film that gets your adrenaline rising manages to get you emotionally attached to someone as stupid as a half-life-war-boy searching for his effin’ blood-bag in a raging sandstorm. If someone decides to make a list of the biggest bad-asses in movie history, Charlize Theron as the fearless Furiosa will definitely find a spot somewhere near the top.
2. Knight Of Cups
When you look real close at Terrence Malick’s Knight Of Cups it feels empty, but isn’t real life the same? At its core, the film somehow talks about Malick himself. In what looks like a decade of work in Hollywood, Malick has had love affairs and has declined to mostly comment on it. Much like Rick, he feels lost in a crowd of people to whom life is a party. He is hypnotized by the beauty but he is basically walking it off. What makes the film stand out is how closely it borderlines a pompous pretentious show of nothingness & a cerebral visceral masterpiece. I don’t really know how I feel about it yet, but I was amused at the dancing liquid of cinematic energy that was flowing through the length of the entire film.
The Fregoli hallucinates the first person into believing there is no second person. And the third person is on a very thin thread between the first, the second and the third. Shifting gears to be in the shadows of the first. But they are all puppets in the hand of a handler who is devoid of a natural connection searching for a perfect anomaly. He names her so to make her mortal in a world that is all the same, but he has forgotten the signs of life. Even her eating habit can make him slip into the void he was already in. Anomalisa is giddy and valuable. It is the perfect example of taking up a simple premise and turning it into an anomaly in an ocean of artistic block.