It is fundamentally stupid to try and rank films in order of preference, but I am about to do it anyway. I mean, on what do criteria do you judge them all? For the sake of this exercise, I’m going to go with enjoyment value – again, probably stupid, and definitely relative, but it’s searching for fun which keeps me going back to the cinema again and again. And 2015 at the multiplex has been a hell of fun. So, from the bottom up, this is my (blockbuster-centric, definitely entirely subjective) top 10 films of the year list.
10 – Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Going to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens pretty close to its release was an experience like few others. I’ve never seen so many people turn up to a cinema wearing themed t-shirts (although sadly no costumes) and close to crying with excitement. Their enthusiasm swept me along for that first viewing (I didn’t grow up with Star Wars like a lot of people did), and it rendered me so invested in the characters and the plot that I was close to crying with joy too. The second time, though, wasn’t quite so emotional. The second act is pretty slow (the whole bit with Maz, while it has some great bits, is too long) and the gags weren’t landing as well on another viewing. To be fair, though, that first experience does count for a lot, and there are more bits I loved than bits which left me cold.
9 – Trainwreck
I was beyond surprised by how much I enjoyed Trainwreck both times I’ve seen it. The first time I laughed a lot, and I still laughed pretty hard on the second go. It’s not the kind of thing I’d enjoy on paper – rom-coms aren’t generally my cup of tea, and Judd Apatow movies pretty much certainly aren’t – but I really liked Trainwreck. That’s probably a huge deal to do with Amy Schumer, who is very funny, and the fact that if I’m going to like a rom-com it has to be filled with snark…until a cute ending.
8 – Inside Out
Inside Out is only so far down this list by default. It is an incredible film, and undoubtedly one of Pixar’s most powerful, but because I found it so harrowing (yes, harrowing) I had to say I enjoyed other films more. This does feel ludicrous and I’ll probably regret it in the future, but in the rules I set forward at the beginning of this post I have to say that it’s lower down the enjoyment scale. Basically, even thinking about Inside Out makes me teary – and that means it’s amazing and powerful, and a film everyone should see, but I’m not rushing back to see it again. Any Pixar film I’ve seen though (I missed The Good Dinosaur, irritatingly) has to be on the list, because it’s bloody Pixar. I worship the ground on which they animate.
7 – Magic Mike XXL
Seeing Magic Mike XXL on a Friday night was another one of those brilliant cinema experiences where you’re glad you went out to see it. Everyone was cheering and clapping and laughing – and when you’re surrounded by an audience that happy, it is IMPOSSIBLE not to have a good time. I adore Magic Mike XXL for so many reasons, not least because it is a film that so unashamedly appeals to women. It is literally a film ABOUT appealing to women. It is a treat, and it will continue to be a film my friends and I watch and discuss for, I don’t know, forever.
6 – Fast and Furious 7
HOW HAVE I ONLY SEEN THIS ONCE? It makes no sense to me. For my first IMAX experience, Fast and Furious 7 was a mighty place to start. It’s probably so high up this list because I keep seeing the DVD and craving the Fast and Furious movies (at least from Fast Five onwards), but it’s also on there because of the sequence when the car drives across the upper floors of not one but two Dubai skyscrapers. And that bit where Paul Walker runs along the top of a bus while it hangs off a cliff. And mainly that bit where The Rock flexes and bursts the plaster cast on his arm. It is one of the funniest films I have ever seen.
5 – Ant-Man
Since the first time I saw Ant-Man and included it in my discussion of slightly disappointing summer movies, my Marvel-loving brain revolted and performed a fairly substantial reassessment. When I saw it the second time on a plane, I was so much more disposed to appreciate it because I wasn’t sat imagining it was going to be a different (probably more serious film). I mean, there are so many fantastic comedy moments in Ant-Man – my favourite bits undoubtedly both times Michael Peña explains a story to Paul Rudd, which are both so well put together and so funnily executed that that they could each sell me on the film without anything else. But there are other bits to like, and even if it’s not a corner of the MCU in which I’m particularly interested, it’s different, and I am intrigued to know how it’s going to fit into the franchise going forward.
4 – Mad Max: Fury Road
I could not in good faith put Mad Max: Fury Road further down this list, even if it did almost give me a heart attack. That’s a pretty strange definition of ‘enjoyable’, I know, but it is still one of the best films I have ever seen in my life and for that reason I couldn’t shift it down even a slot or two. Mad Max: Fury Road is preposterous. It never lets up, or ceases to amaze, and even if it did leave me a couple of leaps from calm, I do not regret seeing it for one second. In fact, I REALLY want to watch it again, on the biggest screen I can get my hands on, because it is what it deserves. But you don’t need me to tell you that. I haven’t seen many other people put this at any position other than top in their lists.
3 – Avengers: Age of Ultron
Even if in hindsight, yeah, I can see and accept that Avengers: Age of Ultron is flawed, I don’t particularly care. That whole franchise means so much to me that I was never going to hate it, but that didn’t mean I was going to love it – and I do. It’s got to the point now that all of the characters are so familiar to me that I’d happily watch a film of them just chilling out, and I got at least a scene of that in this (the party scene is one of my favourites of the year). I actually really enjoyed Ultron, and I loved both Scarlet Witch and The Vision. Hey, if a film has a shot which makes me cry with joy, it can’t be too far from the top of my best of list.
2 – Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation
There’s not much I can say about Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation that I haven’t said already…because I have seen it five times. For a film that came out in cinemas in July, and on DVD in December, that is quite an achievement. The fact of the matter is that I LOVE Rogue Nation. It is funny, it is exciting, and it is everything I want from a Mission: Impossible movie. It’s given me a new favourite actress in Rebecca Ferguson, and another Tom Cruise movie I’ll constantly be trying and failing to persuade people to take a chance on. And, five goes in, I’m still at the point where I’d try and watch it every week if I didn’t have so much else to see.
1 – The Martian
I thought long and hard about which film was going to go at the top of this list, I really did, but at the end of the day there wasn’t much of a contest. Everything about The Martian made me ludicrously happy. Those first few trailers, where I tried so hard not to get my hopes up and failed dismally because it looked like exactly what I’d hoped it to be. The additional promo videos, which set up the tone so brilliantly – and got that great Aquaman joke in, somehow. The film itself, which was just…perfect. At least for me. I’ve watched the film, read the book, and watched the film again, and even when their differences are so apparent (there’s at least 50% fewer storms, for starters) up close I STILL think it’s a nailed-on five star adaptation. It’s also got an amazingly on-the-nose disco soundtrack (with the best possible choice for a credits song), which works brilliantly. Basically, The Martian makes me giddy, and I’ve been craving the DVD for about as long as the film’s been out in the world. I can’t think of a film I’d rather have at number 1.
Of course, this list is by no means comprehensive. While I’ve been to the cinema a lot I’ve watched the same movies more times than I’ve seen different ones. This wasn’t always deliberate – Me and Earl and The Dying Girl, which I desperately wanted to see, didn’t make its way anywhere near me. Others only stuck around for times when I couldn’t get my brain in gear in time – I wasn’t ready for Amy, or for Steve Jobs, or for Bridge of Spies. These are all oversights I’m going to fix, but in terms of what I have managed to see I’ve been really happy. Only few disappointments spring to mind, and I think I deliberately avoided the year’s biggest turkeys. On the whole, then, 2015 has actually been pretty solid – and it definitely contained at least a few films I’ll go back to time and time again. And what more can you ask for, really?