The Iris’ Twenty Best Films of 2015

Now that we’ve all had a chance to watch Star Wars and the run of Boxing Day films, join The Iris as we count down our twenty favourite films from 2015… and for our overseas readers just take note that we at The Iris can only include films that received cinematic release in Australia between the 1st of January and the 31st of December – which means films like The Revenant and The Hateful Eight couldn’t be included. But we’ll hopefully see those on the list next year! And now, without further delay…

20. Spy

“This isn’t some indie comedy gem, nor is it something that’s going to win a pile of awards. But like Bridesmaids, what sets it apart from the rest is that it’s a genuinely good film. It’s funny, well written and given some grand – if not occasionally over-the-top – performances. And with few attempts at the “spy comedy” hitting the mark (Get Smart was the last notable one, at least in the English language, and that only got halfway there… has anything really managed it since Austin Powers?), it’s an achievement in itself that the team have created a compelling spy film that’s actually funny, too.” – Larry Heath

19. Foxcatcher

Foxcatcher is a grossly intriguing character study, and also subtle commentary on the dangers of emotionally investing yourself in your passions. The performances by Tatum, Carell and Ruffalo are stellar and particularly for Carell it allows him to showcase a dark dramatic side we’ve not witnessed before in his career. In this case, the truth is just as strange and disturbing as fiction.” – Carina Nilma

18. The Imitation Game

“Director Morten Tyldum manages to create a beautiful biopic about a richly complicated man, his emotional intrigues and the machine that was the end result that went on to become the computers of today. All of this is interwoven with the interspersed action of a war film and the thrill of a nail biting spy film. The world and history would be starkly different had it not been for the brilliance of Alan Turing and this does a great job of highlighting his accomplishments.” – Carina Nilma

17. Dope

Dope is incredibly fun and refreshing, even if it gets a bit too ridiculous at times. “Hood films” have always had a platter of social issues to choose from with their approach, and this one balances creativity, a message, and a sense of playfulness with the nimble skill of a professional juggler, a feat made all the more impressive when you realise that these young actors are all fairly new to the game. Oh yeah, and the soundtrack is ace. ” – Chris Singh

16. It Follows

Atmospherically and chillingly executed to perfection, this unique horror experience hooks its audience with its bizarre central theme and runs with it.” – Peter Gray

15. Victoria

This stunning German drama was one hell of a ride, from the curiosity of the beginning to the head-spinning adrenaline of the latter half, all shot with a raw sense of adventure in and out of Berlin’s late-night clubs, and unprotected banks. The entire cast were impressive in their endurance, successfully playing with the one-shot nature of the film, seemingly only stopped for a breathe when the camera would cleverly swing away for one second to focus on atmosphere. The film is draining, intense, and surprisingly emotional. ” – Chris Singh

14. The Lobster

“It’s witty, intelligent, and unlike anything you’ve seen before. A dash of romance, a pinch of black comedy, and a whole lot of originality.”  – Ally Koster

13. Legend

Legend probably won’t make it into many Top 10 lists but I was utterly floored by this film. It probably helped that I wasn’t familiar with the story of the Kray Brothers so it made it an interesting watch to see their story unfold. Honestly though, this film rested solely upon the shoulders of Tom Hardy’s performance as both Reggie and Ronnie Kray and I honestly don’t think there’s any other actor who could’ve done it as convincingly as him. I truly hope he wins the Best Actor Oscar for this film though I suspect he’ll be beaten by Matt Damon or maybe Leo DiCaprio. ” – Carina Nilma

12. Ant-Man

Ant-Man is a fun romp of a heist movie, and Paul Rudd definitely kicks ass both in a serious and comedic way. ” – Carina Nilma

11. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

“With its beautifully shot scenes, clever plays on typical coming-of-age tropes, and original and heart-wrenching approach to an extremely sensitive topic, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl has found a place in my top ten films of all time; I adore it with the strength of a thousand burning suns. To say that you have to see this film is a gross understatement. What I’ll say is this – you haven’t seen cinema at it’s finest until you’ve seen Me and Earl and the Dying Girl.” – Ally Koster

10. Straight Outta Compton

“Fun to watch, funny to watch – listen out for the two clever Fridayreferences – and mostly, important to watch, Straight Outta Comptonis much more than just another music biopic; hard, taut lessons about the music industry, free speech, and also the various threats and issues unique to hip hop, are embedded in this carefully paced narrative, surprisingly tracking all the way up until the last few years. Great acting and incredible direction is just a bonus.” – Chris Singh

9. Amy

“Amy is a nuanced and multi-facaeted look at the life and demise of jazz great Amy Winehouse. Beginning at the start of her career as a teenager, and ending with her tragic death, Asif Kapadia’s film cleverly uses audio interviews, and a mixture of papparazzi photography and home videos, to help get a sense of the life that this talented yet troubled singer led.” – Amy Nancarrow

8. Kingsman: The Secret Service

“One of the most surprising films of the year, Kingsman came out of relative nowhere – with a fairly misleading title to be honest – to be one of the most enjoyable rides the cinema had to offer this year. a rare film that I wanted to see again as soon as I walked out the door, in all its brain exploding glory.” – Larry Heath

7. Inside Out

This Pixar offering is cute, emotional, and deftly touches on the themes of adolescence and growing up. The film cleverly uses characters such as Joy, Sadness, and Anger to expore how emotions evolve with the passing of time. Starring Amy Poehler and Mindy Kaling, Inside Out has both brains and heart, and plenty of it.” – Amy Nancarrow

6. Jurassic World

Jurassic World has been a contentious issue amongst cinema fans, but personally for me I felt that this film managed to deliver as a suitable sequel to the original 1993 film Jurassic Park. It felt just as ridiculous and OTT as the first, but also just as dramatic and providing challenging ideas and notions like its predecessor. Sometimes all you want in a film is for it to be a fun escapist watch, and Jurassic World does just that. Also Chris Pratt riding a motorbike + Velociraptor Attack Squad!” – Carina Nilma

5. Ex-Machina

“A clever sci-fi flick that revolves around exploring the relationship between humans and AI’s, which, you may been thinking has been done multiple times before, but Ex Machina delivers an amazingly fresh take and meaning on the classic tale. The chilling sci-fi thriller does have its flaws, but regardless, it features a clever thought-provoking story featuring excellent performances.” – Elain Cham

4. Birdman

I found ‘Birdman’ to be a brilliant piece of art, an operatic analysis on the progression of imagination and the roadblocks we face in our own lives. It’s the kind of film that makes going to the movies a genuinely exciting experience and one that I hope others will enjoy, or at least appreciate.” – Peter Gray

3. The Martian

Matt Damon gives one of his finest performances in years here, giving us a hero to root for all the way through and he does the impossible and starts a life on Mars out of necessity. Large, impressive shots and absolutely flawless soundtrack choices help this film along but it’s Damon who remains the strongest element here. ”  – Chris Singh

2. Star Wars: The Force Awakens

The Force Awakens dredges up all your childhood nostalgia for George Lucas’ original trilogy and does an incredible job of restoring faith in even the staunchest Star Wars naysayers. It’s been weeks since this film and literally cannot go a day without thinking about Star Wars, can I give more of a recommendation that that? As a film, it does play things a little bit safe – but safe is probably exactly what Star Wars fans needed.” – Fergus Halliday

1. Mad Max: Fury Road

“This is a film that has been made with so much passion, energy and vigour; it literally explodes on the screen in front of you. A visceral experience 30 years in the making, this is not only the type of film that proves how effective the action genre can be, but one that cements itself as a modern-day classic.” – Peter Gray

George Miller takes the dystopian genre to a whole new action packed level. This is literally like riding a movie version of a rollercoaster, it’s breathtaking and phenomenal to watch. The story might appear simple but it allows you to think about all the underlying themes that Miller wants us to contemplate upon. Also we finally get one of the most badass heroines to grace our screens in Charlize Theron’s portrayal of Imperator Furiosa. There are far too many reasons behind why this has to be the number one film of the year, all I can say is I regret not giving this a full 5 stars on my review now that I think back on it!” – Carina Nilma

If there was any film that united film critics this year, it was Mad Max: Fury Road. George Miller’s post-apocalyptic romp is a roller-coaster ride of a movie brings together tight performances, superb action sequences and a elegantly simple plotting. Through sheer dedication, detail and determination, Fury Road puts almost every action movie of the last few year’s to shame. It isn’t often that I rewatch movies within the same year that they come out. I saw Fury Road five times in 2015 and never once did I feel bored. ” – Fergus Halliday

By a long run, Mad Max: Fury Road is one of the best action films this year and is definitely in my top picks for one of the greatest action films ever created. This film took me on a ride for one of best cinematic experiences I’ve had in a long time; from the landscapes, to visual effects, action choreography and lastly, the incredible world-building. This action masterpiece has definitely set in stone its place as a modern day classic. ” – Elain Cham