The 30 best movies of 2015

Top of the class

After a soft 2014, this year proved to be a veritable feast of goodies for any movie lover out there. Whether you were after innovative horrors, nailbitingly tense crime dramas, lush romances or all-out action, there was something for everyone. And for us, these 30 movies that follow were the best that 2015 had to offer at the cinema.

Our only criteria: the movies had to have had their first release theatrically (anywhere in the world) over the past twelve months. This is why the list doesn’t contain the likes of Oscar winner Birdman, critical darling Whiplash or the other Eddie Redmayne biopic The Theory of Everything. But the movies that remain have one thing in common: they’re bloody brilliant.

30. Unfriended

The story: On the anniversary of a classmate’s suicide, Blaire (Shelley Hennig) and her five friends find themselves haunted by an unseen figure that they can’t get rid of as they talk over Skype.

Why you should watch it: Unfolding in real time and solely from one computer screen, Unfriended is the year’s most original and relevant horror. Far from just a gimmick though, it delivers strong scares, excellent deaths (including an unforgettable encounter with a blender) and, crucially, feels authentic in how its characters act.

29. Jurassic World

The story: 22 years after the original Jurassic Park failed, a new park called Jurassic World has been opened and everything is running swimmingly. That is until the scientists decide to dabble in genetics and genetically engineer a new breed of dinosaur, the Indominus Rex. What could possibly go wrong?

Why you should watch it: Though it isn’t a patch on the original, Jurassic World delivers everything a fan could want. With tense dinosaur attack sequences and spectacle in spades, it all builds to a crowdpleasing finale that showcases who the real dino daddy is. Not to mention it also has 2015’s most surprisingly brutal death.

28. Spectre

The story: A cryptic message sends James Bond (Daniel Craig) on a mission to uncover a sinister organisation that takes him on a journey into his past. All the while, M (Ralph Fiennes) struggles to keep agents like Bond active in face of political pressure.

Why you should watch it: Matching the grittiness of the Craig era with old-school Bond tropes, Spectre boasts one of the series’ best-ever openings and a train sequence to rival From Russia with Love. It wasn’t for everyone, but long-term fans will certainly have appreciated several throwbacks and the expert handling of the re-emergence of Bond’s greatest nemesis.

27. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2

The story: In the climactic instalment of The Hunger Games series, Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) sets off to liberate Panem and assassinate President Snow (Donald Sutherland), aided by her closest friends including a recovering Peeta (Josh Hutcherson).

Why you should watch it: As with the other outings in the series, Mockingjay – Part 2 nails the big moments of the books – including one tragic, shocking death and an downright terrifying sewer sequence – as it refuses to shy away from the bleakness. J-Law is predictably excellent, yet it’s Hutcherson who threatens to steal the movie away from her with a raw turn.

26. Brooklyn

The story: Young Irish immigrant Eilis (Saoirse Ronan) attempts to find her way through 1950s Brooklyn and falls in love with Tony (Emory Cohen). But when tragedy strikes, she finds herself caught between two countries and two loves.

Why you should watch it: With a career-best performance from Ronan and strong support from Cohen and Domhnall Gleeson, Brooklyn is a gorgeous and defiantly old-fashioned romantic drama that has been winningly adapted from Colm Tibn’s best-selling novel.

25. Bridge of Spies

The story: Based on the real-life tale of James Donovan (Tom Hanks), a Brooklyn lawyer who finds himself having to first defend a Russian spy (Mark Rylance) during the Cold War, and then negotiate the release of a captured American U2 spy pilot (Austin Stowell).

Why you should watch it: Pair Steven Spielberg with Hanks and movie magic invariably follows, and Bridge of Spies proves no exception. A seriously classy and grown-up spy drama with an exquisite supporting turn from Rylance that has already established him as an awards contender. And rightly so.

24. Kingsman: The Secret Service

The story: Unrefined street kid Eggsy (Taron Egerton) is recruited into a super-secret spy organisation by top agent Harry Hart (Colin Firth) for its training programme, just as the villainous Valentine (Samuel L Jackson) unleashes his plan of controlling the human race.

Why you should watch it: Shot through with Matthew Vaughn’s typical hyperkinetic style, Kingsman is not for the easily offended due to its often breathtaking un-PC audacity, particularly in a stand-out church massacre. Packed with affectionate meta gags and ultraviolence, it’s the Kick-Ass of the spy genre.

23. Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation

The story: When the IMF is disbanded, Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) goes rogue to track down and eliminate the Syndicate, an international organisation as highly skilled as the IMF but committed to taking all of its agents down.

Why you should watch it: The most consistent outing of the series to date, Rogue Nation doesn’t attempt to top the Burj stunt of Ghost Protocol but chooses instead to focus on several slickly-crafted and thrilling action sequences. Rebecca Ferguson is the MVP, stealing every scene she’s in and, if there’s any justice in the world, will be cast in everything from now on.

22. Straight Outta Compton

The story: Documenting the rise and fall of N.W.A., five young men rebel against the authorities with their honest music that gave a voice to a silenced generation.

Why you should watch it: A scintillating and powerful biopic of one of the US’s most influential rap bands. The performances are confident and engaging across the board, not least from Ice Cube’s own son OShea Jackson Jr playing his father, and though it follows typical biopic conventions, it does so in a fresh manner.

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