The Top Films of 2015

We asked Curzon staff to pick their favourite films released in UK cinemas in 2015. Here's the lowdown:

Irene Musumeci (Curzon Cinemas) on Eden, Mommy and Girlhood

I tend to fall for filmmakers who can create completely believable and aesthetically coherent  worlds - no matter how familiar or strange - and so my favourite film of the year was Roy Andersson’s wonderful tragicomedy: a distinctively odd study in social awkwardness, a sprawling historical fresco depicting a cruel, hopeless planet that Samuel Beckett would have recognised, painted in fifty shades of beige. But I suspect that the films that will grow in my memories of 2015 are Eden, Mommy and Girlhood. Although I am a big fan of their respective directors (Mia Hansen Løve, Xavier Dolan and Céline Sciamma, truly the crème de la crème of the latest generation of francophone filmmakers), all three films surprised me with their intense passion for their subjects and inventive combination of style and substance in storytelling, camerawork, and editing. Somehow I see them as forming a trilogy about the unfulfilled promises of youth and the difficulties of growing up in a world that appears to offer itself up with dreams only to slap the young down with a hard dose of reality. Love, fear and loss are sublimated in music in all three films in ways that are genuinely transcendental - I don’t think I’ve seen a more memorable sequence this year than the 'Wonderwall' scene in Mommy. 

  1. A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence
  2. Eden
  3. Girlhood
  4. Mommy
  5. Carol
  6. The Lobster
  7. Inherent Vice
  8. 45 Years
  9. Taxi Tehran
  10. Tangerines

James King (Curzon Artificial Eye) on 45 Years

The best film of 2015 was Andrew Haigh’s heart-stopping relationship drama 45 Years. I have tried to empathise with the opinions of others, but this fact is simply incontestable. It was just a better film than Mad Max - if I want to see a bunch of tattooed trustafarians driving around the desert in steampunk cars I’ll go back to Burning Man. For me this stunning two-hander is the best film Britain has produced in years. Featuring career-best performances from Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay, it’s a near-impeccable adaptation of David Constantine’s short story “In Another Country”, depicting the Norfolk countryside in luscious 35mm photography, with a finale that can only be described as an emotional sledgehammer. The fact that it proved so successful at the UK box office, breaking all day-and-date records with a final tally of £1.8m, is a wonderful affirmation that despite everything UK audiences will still turn out to see intelligent independent British cinema when given the opportunity. We should give it to them more often!  

  1. 45 Years
  2. Eden
  3. The High Sun
  4. Force Majeure
  5. Inherent Vice
  6. It Follows
  7. Jauja
  8. Listen Up Philip
  9. A Pigeon Sat On A Branch Reflecting On Existence
  10. The Duke of Burgundy

Jon on The Lobster

Perhaps history will be kind to 2015 but to for me it wasn't a strong vintage. Hopefully the year will be remembered for the rise of crowdfunding models that gave us Dear White People, and the emergence of microbudget Aaaaaaaah! and Hinterland, rather than for the start of the inevitable 50 Shades of Grey quadrilogy. 

Popularity doesn’t mean quality - we know this - but even films which supposedly combined the two like Mad Max: Fury Road and Whiplash didn’t do much for me.

Thank goodness then for independent hits 45 Years and The Lobster, which easily stand out from a mediocre crowd. Although at first glance very different films, there are thematic and storytelling similarities; both films look at love and the longevity of partnership, tell very particular stories which invite universal extrapolation. They have the potential to be profound, but only if you want to read them that way. Both films end brilliantly, with tantalisingly opaque final scenes, which is perhaps why both have stayed with me now the year is coming to an end.

  1. The Lobster
  2. The Tribe
  3. 45 Years
  4. Pelo Malo
  5. Listen Up Philip
  6. Girlhood
  7. Slow West
  8. Princess Kaguya
  9. Aaaaaaaah!
  10. Mistress America

Chris Boyd on The Gift

Like Mad Max: Fury RoadSicario and Whiplash, The Gift managed to stop me breathing at several points during its swift running time. Always a sure-fire sign of cinematic success. 
I saw it mid-afternoon in a practically empty rep cinema just outside Denton, Texas and came out afterwards blinking in the baking Summer heat, thoroughly disturbed and elated. 
Like Felony and The Square, the last two films written by Joel Edgerton, The Gift takes genre conventions and expectations and crafts something much more interesting and original out of them. This time he plays with the classic 'couple in jeopardy' scenario, ramps up the psychological tension, shifts audience sympathies and finally delivers a smart, sharp and ambiguous drama. He is also brilliant as a performer in the film appearing alongside Rebecca Hall and Jason Bateman, also excellent. It's a film that creeps up on you, never doing what you anticipate, leaving you shaken by its shell-shocking climax and the questions it raises. I'm placing bets on the man behind the camera winning an Oscar for Direction some day. 

  1. The Gift (Joel Edgerton)
  2. Mad Max: Fury Road (George Miller)
  3. Sicario (Denis Villeneuve)
  4. It Follows (David Robert Mitchell)
  5. Going Clear (Alex Gibney)
  6. Whiplash (Damien Chazelle)
  7. Buzzard (Joel Potrykus - US release)
  8. Maidan (Sergei Loznitsa)
  9. Tangerine (Sean S Baker)
  10. The Wolfpack (Crystal Moselle)

Gabby Kere (Curzon Soho): My Top 10

  1. Enemy
  2. The Lobster
  3. Wild
  4. Whiplash
  5. Lost River
  6. Ex Machina
  7. Wild Tales
  8. Force Majeure
  9. A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night
  10. Far From The Madding Crowd

Lydia Penke (Curzon Cinemas): My Top 10,
in order of appearance in UK cinemas

  • Birdman (1 Jan)
  • Kumiko the Treasure Hunter (20 Feb)
  • It Follows (27 Feb)
  • Wild Tales (27 March)
  • Force Majeure (10 April)
  • A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (22 May)
  • Spy (5 June)
  • The Lobster (16 Oct)
  • Tangerine (13 Nov)
  • Carol (27 Nov)

Ted Pearce (Curzon Soho): My Top 10

  1. Stretch & Bobbito: Radio That Changed Lives
  2. Precinct 75
  3. Black Mass
  4. Marshland
  5. Cartel Land
  6. Red Army
  7. Sicario
  8. Rubble Kings
  9. Straight Outta Compton
  10. Slow West

Ally Clow (Curzon Soho): My Top 10

  1. Birdman
  2. Phoenix
  3. Mad Max: Fury Road
  4. Macbeth
  5. Eden
  6. Carol
  7. Taxi Tehran
  8. The Salt of the Earth
  9. Precinct 75
  10. The Gift


Stephen Leach (Curzon Home Cinema) on Whiplash

Although released in early Jan, for me, there's nothing that has come close to topping Whiplash this year. I can't remember the last time I enjoyed a film at the cinema as much as I did here. I wanted to buy another ticket immediately after the screening and watch it through all over again. Whiplash has everything; it's intense, gripping, well-acted, has faultless editing and an amazing soundtrack to boot. J.K. Simmons is mesmeric as the foul-mouthed drum instructor, and was the worthy winner of the Oscar gong - no one stood a chance! The last 10 minutes of the film are incredible, and is something I won't forget any time soon.

  1. Whiplash
  2. Force Majeure
  3. Love is Strange
  4. It Follows
  5. The Duke of Burgundy
  6. White God
  7. Wild Tales
  8. 45 Years
  9. Sicario
  10. Mad Max: Fury Road

Cate Kane (Curzon Artificial Eye) on Force Majeure and The Tribe

I’ve tried very hard to be objective and not put all of our films in this top ten but for me, Force Majeure is genuinely one of the most enjoyable, perceptive and original films of the year. A sharp script, unflinching long shots, bombastic score and sweeping Alpine vistas frame the disintegration of a marriage in the most beautifully realistic and darkly comic way possible.  Sweden’s Ruben Ostlünd firmly establishes himself as the heir apparent to Bergman and the Curzon cinemas witnessed many couples arguing on their way out of the cinema as they discussed.

Utterly original, spellbinding cinema from Ukranian director Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy, The Tribe stunned audiences when it screened at Critics Week in Cannes and has stayed with me ever since. We watch the brutality of life for a new pupil at a boarding school for the deaf as he’s drawn into drugs, sex and violence. All this in sign language - without any subtitles. This is no-holds-barred cinema but utterly effective in its ability to transpose the essential core of the story.  Not an easy watch but rewarding
for those who do.

  1. Force Majeure
  2. Whiplash
  3. The Tribe
  4. Love Is Strange
  5.  45 Years
  6. The Second Mother
  7. Carol
  8. Timbuktu
  9. Inherent Vice
  10. Kumiko The Treasure Hunter


Mandy Hitchborn (Curzon Ripon)

1.     Ex Machina

Atmospheric cinematography and visuals create a tense and claustrophobic feel to this thought-provoking film. Mid-way through I thought that it was turning into a bit of a male fantasy but the end didn't disappoint. 

2.     Paddington

Fabulous feel-good family fun with interesting, colourful characters, who still ring true, and Paddington is adorable. Interesting use of visual techniques add to the fairytale quality. Its central message of acceptance is heart-warming.

3.     Amy

Compelling, moving and personal portrayal of Amy Winehouse, revealing the quite ordinary, flawed, talented personality behind the public image.

4.     Slow West

A steady paced understated 'western' with a lot going on, but little said. Beautifully filmed and acted.

5.     Shaun the Sheep

This was beautifully animated, inoffensive old fashioned slapstick. Entertaining for all ages.

 6.     Beasts of No Nation

A strong subject matter, it doesn't apportion any blame but there are some truly bad things happening. The child performances are superb.

I loved that we gave it the opportunity to be seen  on the big screen.

7.     Spy

 A guilty pleasure  -  most of the humour comes from bad language but it's still very funny and I appreciated the emphasis on the female characters.

8.     Love and Mercy

Very well put together with the sometimes intrusive soundtrack reflecting the mood of the film. Superb performances.

9.     Spectre

 Entertaining Bond film with all the necessary old-fashioned ingredients. And because it’s great to see the cinema busy, especially  with people choosing to come to us for a night out.

10.  Inside Out

Imaginative, enjoyable and insightful film about developing a healthy balance of emotions.

Jake Garriock (Curzon Artificial Eye) on Carol, A Pigeon Sat on A Branch

Carol so perfectly renders love that the film itself begins to resemble the object of love. When you hear others talk highly of it you think, egotistically, “yes I’m glad you have enjoyed it, but you can’t possibly love it, so totally, in the way that I do”.  And when you find that rare person that doesn’t profess unqualified infatuation for it you, condescendingly, pity them, imaging that the reason must be that they have never been in love.  

Paradoxically for a film so rich in detail, brimming with subtle touches and outstanding work in every department it is one that is difficult to praise in the particular, as Baudelaire might say: ‘The harmony that governs her whole body is too lovely for impotent analysis’. 

If you don’t love Carol now I hope one day you do. She’ll be waiting.

A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence
When thinking of Roy Andersson's magnificent 'living trilogy', of which Pigeon is the crowning glory, I'm reminded of a quote by Homer Simpson: 'If everyone here were more like Ned Flanders, there'd be no need for Heaven, we would already be there.' Indeed if everyone appreciated Roy Andersson there'd be no need for his films, we'd already be in heaven. While we're waiting Roy allows a little respite in purgatory for his devotees.

The Look of Silence

I can't remember watching a film which disturbed and inspired in such equal measure. The film, a follow-up to the equally astonishing The Act of Killing, follows Adi as he confronts the men who murdered his brother and many others during the Indonesian genocide of the 1960's. His courage to speak face-to-face with these men, and more, to try and understand them is deeply moving. The fact that many of them remain unrepentant and unpunished profoundly disturbing. The film's indictment of the American regime, which implicitly and explicitly supported these crimes during the cold war fervour, is a reminder that the patient work of truth seeking is a duty for us all.    

  1. A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence
  2. Carol
  3. The Look of Silence
  4. A Most Violent Year
  5. 45 Years
  6. The Tribe
  7. Inherent Vice
  8. The Duke of Burgundy
  9. Mississippi Grind
  10. Girlhood

Marissa La Spina (Curzon Cinemas): My Top 5

Telling the story of the flamboyant New York style maverick Iris Apfel, Iris was more than just a fashion documentary: it was a showcase of creativity and self-sustenance.  I thoroughly enjoyed seeing Iris put together fashion looks with her flair for colour analysis and love of bold accessories to complete an outfit. Her close relationship with husband Carl was beautiful and it was clear they are still so much in love.  
















Danny James (Curzon Artificial Eye) on Birdman, Sicario and Tangerine

I’ve struggled to whittle the films that resonated with me this year down to ten, let alone down to a top three, so I’m afraid I’m going to chicken out and just go for an alphabetical list.

2015 seemed to provide a bonanza of technically accomplished films, set early on by the flashy digital tricks of Birdman, that some have criticised but that I found exhilarating. Such imaginative use of the medium was shown further in the singular visions of constructed realities in The Duke of BurgundyHard to be a GodHorse MoneyJauja and The Tribe, all of which blew me away both visually and conceptually. In a more mundane but no less thrilling manner, 45 Years and Force Majeure showed real, classical mastery, employing watertight scripts and visceral performances to retain breathless engagement until the final shot. As with BirdmanSicario may also have had some critics, but no other film this year, especially American, made me grip the arm-rests as forcefully. Dramatically I thought it was a great little two-hander, too. Finally, special mention goes to Tangerine, which I had little to no hope for, laden as it was with gimmicks and zeitgeist trappings, but I defy anyone to not spend the whole thing with a grin from ear to ear and two fists pumped into the air.  

  • 45 Years
  • Birdman
  • The Duke of Burgundy
  • Force Majeure
  • Hard to be a God
  • Horse Money
  • Jauja
  • Sicario
  • Tangerine
  • The Tribe


Ben Lyndon (Curzon Cinemas) on It Follows

Within religious conservative quarters It Follows may serve as an effective piece of propaganda to warn teenagers of the perils of sexual promiscuity. For the rest of us however director David Robert Mitchell’s sophomore feature is a wickedly chilling horror which had me nervously looking over my shoulder for a good few days after viewing it. While its teen victims and suburban locale call to mind 1970s and 80s slasher films from the likes of Wes Craven and John Carpenter, what I really liked about this film was the lack of dependence on blood and gore to draw its scares. Conversely, It Follows employs extended takes, wide-angle lenses and 360-degree panning shots to convey the long periods of inertia, which in turn breed a foreboding sense of dread and paranoia.

  1. 45 Years
  2. Carol
  3. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night
  4. Inherent Vice
  5. It Follows
  6. A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence
  7. Sicario
  8. Slow West
  9. Tangerine
  10. Whiplash



Ailsa Ferrier (Curzon Cinemas): My Top 10

It’s a painful task to whittle this list down to ten and must add the caveat that this list is in no particular order.  I think I probably say this every year, but looking back on the hours of cinematic pleasure during 2015 this has certainly been an great year and I’m very pleased to have spent so much of it in a dark room.
Carol can probably be singled out as the most effortlessly refined, heart breaking and near perfect film I have seen this year, but have been equally bowled over by the terrific story telling of Paul Thomas Anderson and the luscious visuals and emotional resonance of Peter Strickland’s The Duke of Burgundy.  You know it's going to be a good year when Roy Andersson releases a new film.  The film I went geeky on was It Follows which was as stylishly contemporary as it is embedded in great horror film history, and terrifically eerie.  
I'm in a privileged position to have a head start on the delights of 2016 - it’s 'so far so good' from what I can tell, and will hopefully take the edge off the inevitable January blues.

  • Force Majeure 
  • It Follows 
  • Taxi Tehran
  • Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief
  • A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence
  • Macbeth 
  • Carol 
  • The Duke of Burgundy 
  • Inherent Vice 
  • Whiplash