Laurène Boglio

The 20 best films of 2015

From Mad Max to Sunset Song, find out what came out on top in our annual countdown of the year’s best releases.

Attempting to distill 12 months’ worth of movies into a single ‘best of’ list is never a straightforward exercise, but while there was plenty of debate around the ordering of the cream of year’s bumper crop, the number one spot was decided unanimously. The following countdown comprises 20 of our favourite films to receive a UK theatrical release in 2015, as chosen by our staff writers and ranked according to their individual top 10s. How many have you seen?

20. Tangerine

What we said: “The characters talk trash with as much bite as Nicki Minaj, defiantly spitting in the face of good taste. Lines like, ‘You didn’t have to Chris Brown the girl!’ zing from the mouths of Taylor and Rodriguez, providing unadulterated joy in the process. There are shades of John Waters-style debauchery at times and it’s all the more enjoyable for it, but it is also sincere, unguarded and feels lived in.”

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19. The Supreme Price

What we said: “Joanna Lipper’s documentary is, however, a multiple issue film. It attains its power by rooting Hafsat’s struggle against a crosshair of different forces, taking the time to attentively and vividly express their source. Using archive footage she tells the story of Nigeria’s military political history.”

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18. Inside Out

What we said: “The sharp wit of the writing and detailed imagery of the world-building combine in a way that provides endless surface delights and chuckles. Yet Pete Docter and Ronaldo del Carmen’s film goes deeper and further, travelling in a focused arc from the brain’s well-lit centre to its darkest reaches.”

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17. Inherent Vice

What we said: “The film is at once frantic and laconic, sprawling and intimate, utterly confusing and wholly straightforward. It’s shot on film, which seems germane considering it’s a story which exists on an exciting frontier between one era and the next. ”

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16. Dreamcatcher

What we said: “Longinotto’s rare skill is in that she makes advocacy documentaries by stealth, espousing the work of certain people and groups without ever having to explicitly state the fact. ”

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15. Crimson Peak

What we said: “The film pays lip service to gothic chillers like Gaslight and The Innocents, but it also channels Hitchcock (particularly Psycho and Notorious), Hammer maestro Terence Fisher, Polanski (The Tenant and Cul-De-Sac) even Minnelli. The film’s greatest victory, however, it that it values romanticism over cynicism.”

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14. Jauja

What we said: “This film is a reimagining of ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ where the white rabbit leads the way to a dread wasteland of tinpot cannibal overlords, fetid bogs, dream caves and terrains whose formulation and topography appear to openly mock those who attempt to conquer them.”

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13. Aaaaaaaah!

What we said: “Oram’s own thousand-yard deadpan is chilling and amusing in equal measure, but there’s also very game supporting turns from Toyah Willcox, Julian Barratt (who spends the entire film clutching a length of Battenburg) and Julian Rhind-Tutt. I’ve never laughed so hard at the tragicomedy of three people having a quiet kick-about on an empty field while it’s raining.”

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12. The Diary of a Teenage Girl

What we said: “It really is hard to think of another movie quite like this, one so naturally harmonised with the rugged topography of teenage sexuality but that refuses to set its stall as Sex Ed 101.”

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11. Phoenix

What we said: “It may sound like a dramatic cop out, but Phoenix examines a brand of evil that exists beyond human comprehension, where actions are so devoid of the constituents of naked compassion that one might well become violently detached from any sense of rational perspective.”

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10. The Voices

What we said: “Is this making light of mental illness? No. Director Marjane Satrapi and scriptwriter Michael R Perry both have wild idiosyncratic imaginations and their combined individuality and comic daring have resulted in a paradoxical treasure trove.”

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9. Horse Money

What we said: “Costa frames each shot like a static mural, draping figures and objects in gulfs of darkness which spill forth from beyond the measure of the frame. These digital images, beautiful and grotesque, conjure a sense of apocalyptic grandeur at eye level, capturing dilapidated interiors at impossible angles and moonlit clearings with disarming austerity.”

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8. Mad Max: Fury Road

What we said: “Few could have predicted that Miller would be bold enough to force his iconic hero to take a backseat in favour of a refreshing franchise – not to mention industry – subverting feminist subtext.”

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7. Eden

What we said: “History and the passing of time in Eden are presented as entirely experiential, and while the film does roughly adhere to a marketing synopsis which infers a musical biopic covering some 20 years of this specific ‘scene’, it’s much more than a series of carefully mounted Wiki-touchstones. ”

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6. Selma

What we said: “Selma would pass as a great movie whatever the current news agenda, as it explores issues of universal import such as the nuances of popular protest, the media as a tool for political dissemination, how rhetoric can be transformed into action, and the fact that radical change will only likely be achieved by wading through pools of hot blood.”

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5. Timbuktu

What we said: “Still, it would be ludicrous to suggest that the film attempts to absolve these fundamentalists. On the contrary, Sissako exposes the soft tissue beneath their armour, their crimes made all the more tragic by how delicately he’s able to lift the veil.”

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4. Taxi Tehran

What we said: “Taxi Tehran has a grand sense of humour. It rather lovingly suggests that crime and punishment are relative terms; one man’s serious offence is another woman’s slap on the wrist.”

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3. The Look of Silence

What we said: “While respecting the complexity of both standpoints, The Look of Silence is not an emotional democracy between killers and victims. It is an anguished tribute to those that suffer brutal injustice abstractly and in the particular devastating scheme of this film.”

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2. Sunset Song

What we said: “The plush splendour of the landscape is a tonic for Chris’ woes. It’s her one constant. Davies films exteriors in 65mm and captures the idyllic rapture of gently shimmering wheat fields but avoids undue romanticisation.”

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1. Carol

What we said: “The storytelling is as clear as a polished windowpane. Everything serves the point that love is the still heart of a chaotic world: the frosted purity of the colours, the stately pacing, the yearning score by Carter Burwell, the way that Ed Lachman’s camera always drinks in a space before dialogue kicks in which in turn creates a graceful rhythm. Haynes conducts all elements as individual instruments that come together in one harmonious chord which means the most primal and wondrous of feelings.”

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What have been your favourite films of 2015? Comment below or let us know @LWLies

Published 3 Dec 2015

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Little White Lies was established in 2005 as a bi-monthly print magazine committed to championing great movies and the talented people who make them. Combining cutting-edge design, illustration and journalism, we’ve been described as being “at the vanguard of the independent publishing movement.” Our reviews feature a unique tripartite ranking system that captures the different aspects of the movie-going experience. We believe in Truth & Movies.