Top 25 must-see movies of 2015

Odd List Ryan Lambie Simon Brew
15 Feb 2016 - 06:29

Tomorrowland? Mad Max? Bridge Of Spies? Star Wars? Child 44? join us as we look forward to 2015's must-see movies...

UPDATE: You can now find our top 25 must-see movies of 2016 right here

There's an awful lot to look forward to over the coming 12 months, from Hollywood and beyond. As such, compiling a list of 2015's most exciting films is extremely difficult.

In an attempt to limit the number of sequels which can fill up a list such as this, we've left out something like Fast & Furious 7, even though we're fairly sure it'll be a lot of fun. With but two significant exceptions, we've excluded some of the films from this list that we're looking forward to in 2014 that have been delayed until this, such as Kingsman: The Secret Service and Frankenstein

What we're left with, we hope, is a fairly broad selection of action and comedy, science fiction and drama, animation and live-action, and small-scale productions as well as widescreen superhero blockbusters. So here goes...

25. Shaun The Sheep

There aren't too many firms still slavishly practicing the art of big screen stop motion animation. Laika is one, and The Boxtrolls, thankfully, was a modest box office success. But when The Pirates: An Adventure With Scientists! failed to recreate its good UK performance in the US, and with its Sony deal ending, there was a fear that the marvellous Aardman may take a step back.

But fear not. It's bringing Shaun The Sheep to the big screen, and from the promos released thus far, with considerable style. Mark Burton and Richard Starzak are directing, with the mighty Justin Fletcher - Mr Tumble himself - lending his voice to Shaun.

The plot sees Shaun and his flock heading into the big city to rescue their farmer, and the movie itself has been in development for the best part of half a decade. After the less than impressive conversion of Postman Pat to the big screen in 2014, there may be some fears of another popular British children's TV character making the transition and stumbling along the way. But Aardman appears to be throwing its not inconsiderable resources of talent firmly in Shaun's direction, and as always, its film seems to be bursting at the seams with character.

Our review of the film is here.

24. Ant-Man

For some, Edgar Wright’s departure from Ant-Man, after years of development, will make Marvel’s other 2015 release a less exciting prospect than it might have been. But the presence of a great cast, headed up by Paul Rudd as the central hero and Michael Douglas as his mentor, Dr Hank Pym, plus a potentially fun premise, means it’s still on our list. This is, after all, Marvel’s first foray into comedy heist territory; the pair hatch a plan to pull of some kind of robbery that will, according to Marvel, save the world.

Given just how much fun this year's Guardians Of The Galaxy was - Marvel’s potentially risky leap into the space opera genre - we’ve high hopes that this first airing for another slightly lesser-known comic will be just as entertaining.

Here's our review of the film.

23. Bill

A film that may be under a few people's radar, but deserves not to be. Bill is the big screen debut of the Horrible Histories team, as they attempt to do for William Shakespeare what they've been doing for major historical events on the small screen. If you've never had the pleasure of Horrible Histories thus far, do treat yourself to a DVD.

Bill will focus on the apparent 'lost years' of Shakespeare's life, and you can expect a hefty dose of creative licence to be used. Richard Bracewell, who helmed Cuckoo and The Gigolos, is directing. Matthew Baynton will be taking on the title role, who we'll meet as a lute player. And not a very good one...

You can find our review of the film right here.

22. Terminator: Genisys

In what Paramount will no doubt be hoping is a new beginning for the franchise after the middling Terminator Salvation, Terminator Genisys is production company Skydance’s attempt to bring a hint of freshness to the series - just as it did with the Star Trek reboot in 2009. The film introduces a new generation of actors in familiar roles: Emilia Clarke replaces Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor, Jason Clarke as her son John, plus Matthew Smith as an unspecified yet presumably key character (he’s signed up to appear in all three proposed movies).

Then, of course, there’s Arnold Schwarzenegger, back in his leather jacket as the title cyborg. We’re told that the story will account for Schwarzenegger’s advancing years (the Terminator’s flesh ages, but the metal combat chassis beneath remains gleaming), though the rest of the plot, and how it fits into the Terminator canon, is a closely-guarded secret. Suspect title aside, Terminator: Genisys could, if it returns to the time-travel-and-chase format that made the first two films such classics, give the franchise the shot of energy it deserves. Paramount hopes so: it's already dated the next two films...

You can have a gander at our review of the film here.

21. The Man From U.N.C.L.E

With Mission: Impossible 5 also set for release in 2015, the multiplexes will not be short of spy capers (there's also Kingsman: The Secret Service, which only doesn't make the cut this time because we included it in our 2014 preview, and we're only allowed to pick 25 movies!). We're intrigued by The Man From U.N.C.L.E., though. Not only does it have more full stops than its competitors, it also gives us a chance to see Henry Cavill flexing his acting muscles without a superhero suit on.

Cavill stars alongside Hugh Grant, Armie Hammer and Jared Harris, and Guy Ritchie has co-penned the script and is directing. Ritchie's career has had some very pronounced ups and downs over the past decade, but if he can bring 60s suave and the best bits of his Sherlock Holmes movies to the screen here, then he may be onto a winner.

Expect The Man From U.N.C.L.E. to have closer links to the source TV show than 2014's The Equalizer did too, incidentally. And less DIY.

Here's our review of the movie.

20. The Hateful Eight

Quentin Tarantino already brought us one impressive western with 2012‘s Django Unchained, so there was considerable anticipation surrounding his next horse opera, The Hateful Eight. A much-publicised script leak seemed to throw the whole project into question for a few worrying months, but the film’s now firmly back on track, with shooting scheduled to begin in December.

Tarantino’s continued Hollywood clout means that he’s assembled yet another sterling cast here - look out for Jennifer Lawrence, Zoe Bell and Bruce Dern as well as regular collaborators Samuel L Jackson, Kurt Russell and Michael Madsen - and the box-office success of Django should ensure that, even though westerns aren’t high on most studios’ agenda these days, The Hateful Eight will be a highly-anticipated entry in an oft-neglected genre.

Our review of The Hateful Eight can be found here.

19. The Martian

Ridley Scott’s still making movies at an admirably brisk pace, and this sci-fi adventure, based on the book by Andy Weir, is his next foray into the genre following 2012‘s Prometheus. Matt Damon stars as an engineer trapped on Mars after a dust storm forces his fellow astronauts to evacuate. Presumed dead and left behind, Damon's character scratches out a living on the Martian surface, hoping against hope that he can survive long enough for NASA to mount a rescue attempt.

Could this be the Gravity and Robinson Crusoe On Mars mash-up we never knew we wanted? With Scott behind the lens and co-stars Jessica Chastain and Kate Mara in front of it, this could be another great sci-fi survival film. It's due for release - in the US at least - in November.

Here's our review of the movie.

18. Black Mass

Scott Cooper currently has two films on his directorial CV. Firstly, he directed Jeff Bridges to an Oscar with the respected Crazy Heart. Then he scored a decent hit with 2013's Out Of The Furnace, starring Christian Bale.

Yet might Black Mass be the film to finally break him into the directorial big leagues, whatever the directorial big leagues are? It's the film that tells the true story of gangster Whitey Bulger, an infamous criminal in US history who turned FBI informant. In the process, he helped bring down a Mafia family.

There's the potential for an absorbing, rich gangster drama here, and Cooper has attracted quite a cast to help tell his story. Johnny Depp takes on the title role, Benedict Cumberbatch (for it is he) will play his brother (a state Senator), whilst there are roles too for Juno Temple, Joel Edgerton, Corey Stoll and Kevin Bacon. In fact, Black Mass has one impressive cast list, and its September 2015 release date gives it an early shot at awards attention - if Cooper can deliver a film that does justice to the story.

Here's our latest article on Black Mass.

17. Triple Nine

John Hillcoat's films tend to stick in your head. In particular, The Proposition, starring Guy Pearce, was one of the best westerns of the past decade. Lawless, meanwhile, saw Pearce as a gleeful pantomime villain, in another stylish period piece.

We get his next movie, Triple Nine, in 2015. This one's a contemporary piece, that's attracted Aaron Paul, Kate Winslet, Woody Harrelson and Casey Affleck to its cast. The story follows a bunch of corrupt police officers who end up blackmailed into undertaking a heist. To pull off said heist, they need a distraction, and that distraction involves the potential murder of a rookie cop. These are not nice people.

Hillcoat is working with Nick Cave again on this one, with the latter providing the music. Shia LaBeouf had been originally earmarked to take one of the lead roles, but then Shia LaBeouf happened and he dropped out.

We're promised double crosses, action, and no shortage of revenge. Hillcoat is more than capable of realising that in a compelling movie. It's another that's been scheduled with a possible Oscar run in mind...

Triple Nine has been pushed back to 2016, and is now on our new must-see list.

16. Mortdecai

In the old era of the movie star, people would go and see the big names. That's not the case now - even Johnny Depp needs a Pirates Of The Caribbean and Alice In Wonderland to get large numbers of people off their backside. But he's not lost the ability to pick out an interesting project. Mortdecai is his latest.

He takes the title role of Charles Mortdecai, an art dealer on the hunt for a stolen painting, that may or may not have links to Nazi gold. Based on the novel of Kyril Bonfigilioli, director David Koepp is playing the material as an action comedy - as the trailer demonstrates - and along for the ride are Aubrey Plaza, Olivia Munn, Ewan McGregor, Paul Bettany and Gwyneth Paltrow.

It promises to be a fun caper, and early signs are that Depp in particular has had an awful lot of fun with the role.

Here's our review of the film.

15. Bond 24

At the time of writing, we don't even know its official title, and certain quarters of the web are grumbling about rumours of Rihanna making some form of appearance. But even with Bond 24 surrounded in mystery, we're still very much looking forward to it. This is partly because Sam Mendes is back behind the camera, having directed the stirring Skyfall, and we're excited to see where Bond's story goes after the major upheaval we saw at the conclusion of that film. Roger Deakins, who made Skyfall look so beautiful, isn't returning, unfortunately, but he's replaced by Hoyte Van Hoytema - whose credits include Let The Right One In, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and The Fighter. Those films are a hint, perhaps, of the cool, stylish direction Bond 24 will be going in.

Our review of Bond 24 - which we eventually came to know as Spectre - is here.

14. The Walk

Half an hour in particular of Robert Zemeckis' Flight was utterly gripping filmmaking. Even after the outstanding opening sequence, the decidedly grown-up drama had a lot to offer, and Zemeckis' return to live action filmmaking continues with The Walk.

This is based on the story of Philippe Petit, already the subject of the wonderful Oscar-winning documentary Man On Wire. Petit was the man who walked a high wire between the towers of the World Trade Center back in 1974, and Zemeckis is now realising the story in a new film, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

Zemeckis will apparently be bringing us some interesting technical innovations with his movie, as he often does. And whilst he's got a fight on his hands to tell the story in a way that improves on the stunning Man On Wire, he remains a mainstream Hollywood director whose work is consistently worth looking out for. The Walk is likely to be no exception.

Our review of The Walk can be found here.

13. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2

These words are being written before we've had a chance to see The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1, but nonetheless, the fourth and closing movie of the film series remains a 2015 must-see. Mockingjay is a difficult book to adapt, even in one film, and the challenge for director Francis Lawrence and his team is how to get across its slippy narrative and darker moments, within the confines of PG-13. They proved they could do so with Catching Fire, and thus far, The Hunger Games movies have not disappointed. Furthermore, they've proven that films can talk to a teen audience about politics without dulling the edges.

On a sadder note, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2 will be one of the final chances we get to see a new Philip Seymour Hoffman performance on the big screen.

Here's our review of the film.

12. Bridge Of Spies

It's now got a title at last - Bridge Of Spies - and inevitably there's no shortage of interest developing in Steven Spielberg's first film as director since Lincoln. His Cold War thriller comes with a screenplay by the Coen Brothers (appreciating that there's a bumpy track record where others directing their words is concerned) and it reunites him with Tom Hanks for the first time since The Terminal.

The story centres on a lawyer recruited by the CIA during the height of the Cold War, to help rescue a pilot who's being held captive in Russia. There's perhaps a thread of Argo in that description, but Spielberg's film is set to be a very different beast. Expect it in October.

Our Bridge Of Spies review is here.

11. Child 44

If you haven't already, check out the 2010 film Easy Money - the Swedish thriller that put director Daniel Espinosa on the Hollywood radar. Although Espinosa's US debut Safe House had plenty to recommend it, Easy Money is a real find: tense, superbly paced, and with a great leading performance from Joel Kinnaman.

Child 44 will be Espinosa's next film, an adaptation of the novel of the same name by Tom Rob Smith. It's about the case of Russian serial killer Andrei Chikatilo, one of the most infamous murderers in history. The story behind the case is horrifying yet fascinating, and Espinosa's assembled a superb cast to help tell it: Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace, Joel Kinnaman, Gary Oldman, Paddy Considine and Vincent Cassel to name a few.

If you can't wait until next spring to see Child 44, try to track down the 1995 TV film Citizen X. Its acting, direction and cinematography are extraordinary for a film of television origins, with heart-wrenching performances from Stephen Rea, Donald Sutherland and Max von Sydow. It's one of HBO's earlier made-for-cable projects, and it still packs a punch now.

Here's our review of the film.

10. Crimson Peak

Following the giant robots-versus-kaiju smackdown Pacific Rim, Guillermo del Toro is set to return to the smaller-scale, more macabre territory of his earlier films such as Cronos and The Devil’s Backbone. A gothic haunted house film that sounds like del Toro’s love letter to such directors as William Castle and Robert Wise, and the classic output of Hammer (Mia Wasikowska plays a writer named Edith Cushing) Crimson Peak also stars Charlie Hunnam, Tom Hiddleston and Jessica Chastain.

Although Pacific Rim proved how adept the Mexican director is at bringing larger-than-life action to the screen, it’s when he concentrates his energies on more ominous subject matters that his talent really shines: del Toro’s suggested that Crimson Peak will be a full-blooded horror, too, so this could be a welcome return to the horror genre which made his name in the first place. And who knows, if Crimson Peak’s a hit, maybe we’ll finally get that At The Mountains Of Madness adaptation soon...

Here's our review of Crimson Peak.

9. Inside Out

After a Pixar drought that stretches back to summer 2013's Monsters University, 2015 will see a pair of features from the studio. The Good Dinosaur, delayed from last year (and with the Pixar brain trust effectively co-directing) is one of them. But the one that's got us particularly interested is Inside Out.

It's the new film from Pete Docter, the director of Up and Monsters, Inc, and it's a movie that focuses on the emotions that live inside us. Not for nothing was this one originally known as 'Pixar Movie Set Inside The Mind', and Docter's lateral, original storytelling has been key to his films to date.

Amongst the voice talent are Mindy Kaling, Bill Hader and Amy Poehler. Pixar has scheduled this for a big summer release. Expect big things.

Our review of the wonderful Inside Out can be found here.

8. Midnight Special

A filmmaker who continues, unfairly, to fly under a few peoples' radars, Jeff Nichols' two most recent features - Mud and Take Shelter - are both gems in their own right. And his next one looks a bit of a gem, too. Midnight Special sees Nichols tackling science fiction, as a father and son head off on the run, when they realise the former has special powers.

Michael Shannon, Adam Driver, Kirsten Dunst and Joel Edgerton lead the cast, all working from Nichols' screenplay. It's the first time, interestingly, that Nichols has worked within the studio system, and Warner Bros describes the movie as a "government chase film". Nichols cites John Carpenter as an inspiration for the project, and that's no bad sign.

Midnight Special has been moved to 2016, and is now on our list of sci-fi movies to look for.

7. Tomorrowland

A few films that we put on out 2014 preview list subsequently got delayed to 2015, and as a rule, we've left them off this time. Tomorrowland is the one exception to that rule.

It's helmed, for a start, by one of our favourite directors, Brad Bird (who hopefully can get us an Iron Giant Blu-ray in 2015 too), and features George Clooney, with a script from Bird and Damon Lindelof.

Given that the film has been known about for some time, it's impressive how much of it remains under wraps. We know that it's been filming in Walt Disney World, and we know that it features a former boy genius inventor teaming up with a young boy bursting with ideas. But secrets are at the heart of Tomorrowland, and for the time being, secrets they remain.

It looks, in the surface, like a big, ambitious, intelligent piece of science fiction for a blockbuster family audience. If Bird can pull that off, then we might just buy him a few biscuits.

Here's our review of Tomorrowland.

6. Avengers: Age Of Ultron

Such is the embarrassment of riches that 2015 potentially offers us that Joss Whedon's Avengers sequel sits outside the top five. But still: this is an absolute must see for many, ourselves included.

Whedon reunites Captain America, Black Widow, Hawkeye, Thor, Nick Fury, Iron Man and Hulk, whilst introducing James Spader as the villainous Ultron. Intriguingly, we may get a few of the ongoing Marvel mysteries resolved in this one too, as well as some teases for future films.

But it's the here and now of this movie that's the most exciting part. It was a near miracle that Whedon managed to blend the ingredients last time into such a strong piece of big screen entertainment, one that DC and Warner executives continues to look at and wonder how it was done. With the sequel? We're promised more of the Avengers together, and one hell of a threat to fight. Can't wait...

Here's our review of Avengers: Age Of Ultron.

5. Jurassic World

After making a bold debut with the wonderful romantic comedy Safety Not Guaranteed, director Colin Trevorrow’s making an equally bold leap into blockbuster filmmaking with this belated third sequel to Jurassic Park. At the time of writing, we haven’t seen any official footage from Jurassic World yet, but Trevorrow’s concept alone sounds promising: with the standard-issue T-rexes and other dinosaurs at the infamous theme park deemed too familiar and passe by an easily distracted, mobile-phone obsessed public, the park's scientists breed a new, more eye-catching variety of prehistoric lizards. We’re guessing that things don’t exactly go according to plan.

If Trevorrow can match his clear talent for capturing drama and comedy with a lightness of touch with the requirements of an effects-heavy summer movie, this could be one sequel well worth waiting for.

You can find our review of Jurassic World right here.

4. Mad Max: Fury Road

Things looked worryingly difficult for George Miller’s belated Mad Max sequel, with the production beset by all kinds of problems, from bad weather to protracted reshoots. The first trailer for Fury Road, which landed a few months ago, showed no signs of behind-the-scenes problems: if anything, it turned out to be one of the most unexpectedly exciting promos we’ve seen all year.

The new Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy) drives his ramshackle vehicle through swirling desert sands and surreal curls of coloured smoke, and you can almost smell the engine oil and smouldering brakes. Among the supporting cast are Charlize Theron as Furiosa and Nicholas Hoult as a character named Nux, but it’s the vehicular stunts we’re most excited to see: and by the looks of things, we’re in for one heck of a thrill-ride. It'll be a full 30 years since the release of Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome when Fury Road comes out next summer, but Miler's brand of automotive mayhem looks as fresh as ever.

Mad Max: Fury Road was terrific. Here's our review.

3. Chappie

Back when Neill Blomkamp’s second film Elysium came out, we learned that this third feature would be a much lighter, comic affair loosely based on one of his shorts called Tetra Vaal. Chappie’s about a childlike robot - voiced by Sharlto Copley - who’s snatched by a dysfunctional criminal family and pressed into a life of theft. Even from that brief synopsis, we’re guessing that Chappie’s still going to be quite dark (he reunites with District 9 co-writer Terri Tatchell here), if not quite as grisly as Blomkamp’s previous films.

We thoroughly enjoyed the expensive, explosive Elysium - particularly Sharlto Copley’s villainous performance - but we’re also excited to see Blomkamp head into smaller-scale territory. With his long-term collaborator Copley once again playing a part (he's the voice of the robot), Chappie promises to be another rich and witty sci-fi film from one of the best directors working in the genre.

Our review of Chappie can be found here.

2. Blackhat

Any film by Michael Mann’s worth looking forward to, and it’s exciting to see him back in thriller territory with Blackhat. Chris Hemsworth stars as a convicted computer hacker who’s hauled out of prison when an anonymous group of computer experts start threatening America’s financial infrastructure. The premise might lead you to think we’re in for about 120 minutes of watching Hemsworth sitting at a screen and typing, but the recent trailer for Blackhat hinted at a globe-trotting affair with a smattering of gun-blazing action straight out of Mann’s classic Heat.

Going by the director’s earlier movies, we’re guessing this’ll be a tense, brooding affair with very occasional flashes of violence, but given that Mann does tense and brooding better than just about any director currently working, this is all the more reason to look forward to Blackhat’s release next year.

Here's our review of Black Hat.

1. Star Wars: Episode VII

The Star Wars logo.

It had to be on the list somewhere, didn’t it? Anticipation for Episode VII may not be quite at Phantom Menace pre-release levels (well, at least not yet), but the team behind the Star Wars sequel are certainly making all the right noises. Director JJ Abrams has been vocal about an emphasis on physical effects and sets rather than the slightly numb digital backlot approach of the prequels.

Set photos (some official, many not) seem to back this up, with some familiar star-faring vessels all being built for the production. Then there’s the cast, replete with returning faces (Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Peter Mayhew) and young, extremely interesting ones (Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega).

The big question is whether its writers can cook up an interesting story to follow the events of the Battle of Endor, especially as Disney has every intention of Episode VII marking a big, lucrative new beginning for a multi-movie franchise. The new Star Wars has a lot to live up to, but we’re looking forward to seeing where Abrams goes with George Lucas’ fantastical universe.

Star Wars: Episode VII eventually became known as The Force Awakens. Here's our review.

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