For everything Horror, it was a terrible year. For everything NON-Horror, it was simply a fantastic year! I can't remember the last time I saw so many amazing movies from all NON-Horror genres in one single year. From odd arthouse to bonkers multiplex action, from gender drama to 90s-like thriller, from sophisticated science-fiction to bombastic spy movie - awesomeness, awesomeness, awesomeness! That's why I had to make an overlong Top 40 list to cover all the great movies I saw this year.
Oh btw, in case you don't know, last December, I was selected
to participate in "SCOPE100", a European distribution initiative that
recruits 100 film enthusiasts to watch 10 selected films to vote
for one to be subsequently released theatrically next year in Austria. Believe it or not: 4 of the films were so good, they made it into this list (16, 18, 34 & 39)!
Well, without further ado, here are my 40 favorites:
Maynard's Top 40
Best Non-Horror Films 2015
THE SUICIDE THEORY
Completely odd, yet tremendously compelling and superbly complex drama-thriller about a guy who is convinced that he can't die and can't get killed. Cleverly written, splendidly directed, competently acted - a tragedy that it doesn't get the attention it deserves.
International Title: Land Legs
Adorably straightforward drama about a fisherman's struggle with unemployment, divorce, his daughter's pregnancy and social services. The impressive direction, the post-rock score and the believable performances managed to suck me in completely, loved it!
Ridiculously insane adaptation of Thomas Pynchon's novel of the same name, probably the coolest stoner-flicks I've ever seen (usually, I hate everything Stoners) and definitely the weirdest entry in Paul Thomas Anderson's super-eclectic filmography.
ROGER WATERS THE WALL
Pink Floyd's "The Wall", the best album ever written and recorded, as epic and unbelievably impressive concert film, shot during Roger Waters 2010-2013 World Tour. "Goodbye Blue Sky", "One Of My Turns", "In The Flesh" or "Waiting For The Worms" have never sounded (and looked) so awesome!
Probably the best and wildest Hip-Hop-themed movie I have ever seen. Maestro Sion Sono's 2-hour-gangsta-rap-opera is a mindblowing visual/aural explosion full of armadas of bizarrely cool dudes and hawt chicks, and tons of ace rhymes and dope beats. "Tokyo Tribe! Never ever die!"
Spain / Bulgaria, 2015
Antonio Banderas, IMO one of the most underrated actors of the last 30 years, in a mesmerising post-apocalyptic science fiction movie, packed to the brim with excellent CGI effects, thought-provoking "Blade Runner"-like story elements and super-gorgeous shots of desolate landscapes.
PEUR DE RIEN
International Title: Parisienne
2 hours of various episodes in the life of a young student from Lebanon who tries to find her way in Paris - believe me when I say that "Peur de rien" is way more awesome than it sounds. Terrific direction, a fabulous soundtrack and an absolutely wonderful performance by the lovely Manal Issa.
LOVE & PEACE
The strangest, weirdest, quirkiest, but also funniest, most emotional and most heartwarming movie Maestro Sion Sono has ever made incl. incredibly catchy pop tunes, adorable talking toys, even more adorables kitties, a hilarious Kaiju turtle, and the most interesting interpretation of Santa Claus I've ever seen!
FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD
UK / USA, 2015
Intensely directed, intriguingly written and stunningly beautiful adaptation of Thomas Hardy's novel of the same name, with a stellar cast (Carey Mulligan, Matthias Schoenarts, Michael Sheen, Juno Temple), breathtaking cinematography and superb-as-always direction by Danish mastermind Thomas Vinterberg.
THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E.
UK / USA, 2015
Certainly not the best movie Guy Ritchie has ever made (that's still "Sherlock Holmes"), but nonetheless a stunningly old-fashioned, super-stylish and very funny old-school spy flick with an eargasmic soundtrack, an adorable cast (yay for Hugh Grant!) and a clever kind of parody-like humor that blasts the "Austin Powers" films to hell.
DER TOTE AM TEICH
English Title: The Dead Man at the Pond
Splendidly entertaining and extremely well-made made-for-TV comedy-crime-drama that takes place in some rather desolate rural area in Upper Austria, and somehow feels like a mix of "Der Knochenmann" (=The Bone Man), "The Dark Valley" and "Dead in 3 Days". Very Austrian, very black-humored, tense, atmospheric and full of amazing actors.
LOS ÚLTIMOS DÍAS
International Title: The Last Days
Spain / France, 2013
Completely overlooked post-apocalpytic science-fiction drama from the massively talented directors behind the outstanding also-post-apocalyptic "Carriers". A perfect example of an intelligent movie about the end of all days without any zombies, oh-so-cool cars or stupid Mad-Max-surrogates. More of that please!
The absolute worst trailer of the year (I mean it) turns out to be one of the most badass action-flicks of the year. Packed with ridiculously genius ideas, serious-but-not-that-serious plot points and a top-notch Keanu Reeves that makes you forget about his god-awful performance in the god-awful "Knock Knock".
Michael Douglas (my favorite actor of all time), the superhero-version of "Honey I Shrunk the Kids" and Paul "Halloween 6" Rudd - what can go wrong? ;-) As a non-fan of Marvel and superheroes per se, this was one of the biggest surprises of 2015. A wonderfully bonkers movie with an insane finale that made me laugh my ass off.
STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS
A fabulous-looking, highly diverting and very satisfying return to old-school "Star Wars"-awesomeness, made by fans, made for fans (not hardcore geeks ;-). After successfully re-calibrating "Mission: Impossible" and "Star Trek", Abrams once again proves that he is the most talented man in the business when it comes to big-budget reboots.
USA / China, 2015
James Wan proves that he is fully able to create something other than haunted-house horror or semi-torture-porn by delivering the absolute best entry in the "Fast & Furious" franchise with some of the best car-action since "Ronin", a tearjerkingly beautiful tribute to Paul Walker R.I.P and delightful performances by Jason Statham and Kurt Russell.
UK / USA, 2015
A very welcome return to form for ex-SciFi-grandmaster Ridley Scott and surely one of the best, most epic and most amusing big budget science-fiction movies of the last years that makes you forget about frustrating and overrated blockbusters like "Gravity" or "Insterstellar". Matt Damon has never been funnier, and Mars has never looked cooler. In your face, Neil Armstrong!
ER IST WIEDER DA
International Title: Look Who's Back
Adolf Hitler is back, alive and very well - the starting point for a comeback-tour-de-force through Germany that is hilarious, entertaining, provocative, alarming and extremely thought-provoking at the very same time + the most interesting Hitler interpretation since "Downfall" and a surprising shocker ending that is simply genius and made various people in the audience stand up and applaud (incl. me).
USA / UK, 2013
That's what I call one hell of a debut movie! James Ward Byrkit delivers a super-clever, highly captivating and deeply fascinating sci-fi/mystery-fest, somewhere between "Primer", "Triangle" and "Timecrimes". Starts out weird, gets more and more intense, and ends with an terrifically obscure Wow!-ending that just leaves you breathless.
Not as mindblowing as I expected (8,5 on Imdb - WTF?), but still a fucking impressive juggernaut of a movie about the "battle" between a dictator-like music teacher and a slightly "Young Gerber"-like pupil. Outstanding performances by J.K. Simmons and Miles Teller, and the final "Caravan" drum solo is still ringing in my ears.
International Title: The Treatment
The third-best serial-killer-thriller of 2015 and surely one of the greatest Belgian movies I have ever seen. A tremendously directed and highly unsettling little shocker that came out of nowhere and knocked me off my socks completely. The best David Fincher movie not directed by David Fincher. I'm serious!
KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE
Who needs Ethan Hunt (kidding) or James Bond (not kidding) when you can have "Kingsman"? Who thought that Colin Firth could be such a fucking badass? Who thought that Samuel L. Jackson could be that hilariously silly? And who thought Matthew Vaughn was able to make a movie that is even better than "Kick-Ass!"?
International Title: The Here After
Sweden / Poland / France, 2015
A stirring and unbelievably depressing downward-spiral-like Swedish drama, dealing with the events in a small community where a teenager, who killed a girl, returns home from prison. In terms of build-up, intensity and heart-shattering drama, it strongly reminded me Georges Simenon's slightly overlooked novel "Chez Krull".
BIRDMAN OR (THE UNEXPECTED VIRTUE OF IGNORANCE)
the best, erm, superhero-themed movie of the year ;-) including Michael
Keaton's most impressive performance in his entire career, the first
really great Zach Galifianakis performance, an outstanding Edward Norton, a
fantastic-as-always Naomi Watts and a mindblowing Emma Stone (a shame
that she didn't got an Oscar).
International Title: The Apostate
Spain / France / Uruguay, 2015
Slightly Kafka-esque dramatic comedy about a young man who desperately tries to apostate. The main character reminded me a lot of my younger self which may be the the reason why I was completely gobsmacked by this movie. In addition, there's some magnificent acting, a couple of highly impressive shots and images, and a bafflingly eclectic soundtrack. Great!
LA ISLA MÍNIMA
International Title: Marshland
second-best serial-killer-thriller of 2015, and surely the best Spanish
movie of 2015. A mesmerising steamroller of a movie,
so dark and grim, so powerful and intriguing, so eerie and unsettling,
it's simply mindblowing, incl. career-redefining performances by Javier
Gutiérrez and Raúl Arévalo. Forget about "True Detective", this is the
Chile / USA, 2015
I had to up the initial 8,5 rating to a 9,0 because I just can't get this extraordinary movie out of my head, which is actually so much creepier, so much more unsettling than what you might expect from a movie with such a silly title and such an ugly poster. What starts out as hipster-comedy/dramedy ends up as bizarre and strangely haunting, slightly grotesque mini-nightmare. A truly unique movie from a visionary filmmaker.
After "Incendies", "Prisoners" and "Enemy", the fourth piece of cinematic genius from the unbelievably talented Canadian director Denis Villeneuve. "Sicario" looks and feels like a sequel to Steven Soderbergh's "Traffic" (one of my favorite movies of all time), yet somehow manages to be even more more grim, more intense, and happens to deliver the eeriest Benicio del Toro ever. Can't hardly wait for Villeneuve's upcoming "Blade Runner" sequel!
I don't care about how hard this movie bombed, "Steve Jobs" was just awesome! Another piece of high-quality work by genius Danny Boyle, based on a masterfully created three-act-screenplay by genius Aaron Sorkin, packed to the brim with insanely good rapid-fire dialogue and terrific performances by Michael Fassbender (great as always), Kate Winslet (I love this woman!), Jeff Daniels (wow!) and Seth Rogen (easily the best thing he has ever done).
BRIDGE OF SPIES
USA / Germany, 2015
Steven Spielberg once again proves that he is one of the greatest filmmakers of all time, and Tom Hanks once again proves that he is one of most likable actors of all time. Together, they created a fabulous historical opus magnum about the "1960 U-2 incident" during the Cold War. Fantastically written (Coen Brothers!), masterfully directed, beautifully photographed and with a brilliant musical score.
DAS EWIGE LEBEN
International Title: Life Eternal
Not just the best movie prolific Austrian director Wolfgang Murnberger has ever made, but also the most entertaining AND most thrilling entry in the successful film series about ex-cop Brenner. A rollercoaster ride of black humor, sinister drama and gripping suspense, starring a super-hilarious Josef Hader, an even more hilarious Roland Düringer and a fucking amazing Tobias Moretti, delivering one of his most intense performances ever.
THE FROZEN GROUND
Not just the most awesome 90s serial-killer-thriller not made in the 90s, but also the absolute best thriller in this thriller-heavy year, including one of the most impressive performances Nicolas Cage has ever delivered (I'm dead serious!), the absolute darkest John Cusack I have ever seen (yup!) and the most frightening-looking Canada since the early hey-days of David Cronenberg. Also: holy shit, Vanessa Hudgens can act!
THE IMITATION GAME
UK / USA, 2014
Holy World War, this was one of the most touching, most emotional biopics I have ever seen! It taught me lots of cool, interesting and/or heartbreaking facts about Alan Turing and the Enigma machine, amused me, thrilled me, shocked me and eventually made me cry like a baby, thanks to a Benedict Cumberbatch that is so freaking amazing, it makes me wanna steal the Oscar from the horribly overrated Eddie Redmayne and give it to him!
MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE - ROGUE NATION
Not just better than Part 3 (which was my fave installment in the "Mission: Impossible" series), but actually the absolute best, most entertaining, most suspenseful M:I movie so far. Tom Cruise and Simon Pegg share a chemistry that is even more powerful than Pegg/Frost, the action scenes have never been as stylish and over-the-top as here, and, heck, I can't remember the last action movie that gave me such a great fucking time in the cinema. I want five more M:I flicks, all directed by McQuarrie!!
No doubt, Alex Garland is an extremely talented writer of novels and screenplays. With "Ex Machina", he shows us that he is an even more talented director, delivering one of the greatest and most intriguing artificial-intelligence-themed science fiction films since "Blade Runner" + stellar performances by Alicia Vikander (next big thing?) and Oscar Isaac (I love that beard), and the best random dance scene of all time. A modern science-fiction masterpiece!
UK / USA / France, 2015
My first Todd Haynes movie so far, and the first time I ever heard of the tragic lesbian relationship between Carol Aird and Therese Belivet, the main characters in Patricia Highsmith's novel "The Price of Salt". I cried several times during this marvellous movie, mainly due to Cate Blanchett who delivers a performance that is even more adorable than in "Blue Jasmine", and made me fall in love with her even more. Damn, Academy,
just give her another Oscar, will ya? She definitely deserves it!
Just when I thought that "Primer" is the most fascinating time-travel I've ever seen, "Predestination" came along and showed me that it's possible to make time-travel even more fascinating. A mindblowing mind-fucker of a movie, created by two of the most overlooked Australian filmmakers of all time, featuring an Ethan Hawke that proves that he still has it, and a Sarah Snook who gives a performance that is so insanely breathtaking, it almost makes your testicles fall off.
My first Bennett Miller movie so far, and the first time I ever heard of the fascinating events surrounding the wrestling brothers Mark & Dave Schultz, and the super-eccentric multimillionaire John E. Du Pont. "Foxcatcher" is an absolutely incredible piece of cinematic awesomeness that taught me how grim the world of professional wrestling can be, that Channing Tatum is actually a fan-fucking-tastic actor, that Mark Ruffalo gets better and better with every single movie, and that Steve Carrell is able to scare the shit out of me. Outstanding!
Not just the greatest thing director Adam Wingard has done since the embarrasingly overlooked 2010 horror-thriller "A Horrible Way to Die" (I give a fuck about "You're Next"), but also the absolute best thing he has ever done. A freaking fantastic badass acion-thriller that also works as a homage to 80s horror, 80s sci-fi, 80s action and, well, the Eighties per se. Between May and June, I watched "The Guest" 7 times! I became, and I'm still addicted to this uber-gem. Like Vanity Fair said: "It's big, it's bold, it's badass!"
Just when you thought "Birdman" is THE highlight in director Alejandro González Iñárritu's filmography, he comes along with "The Revenant", undoubtedly one of the most impressive survival-movies ever made, and proves you all wrong.
"The Revenant" is an epic and powerful monster of a movie about one man's will to survive, more brutal, more emotional and more devastating than I expected it to be. Powerhouse-performances by Leonardo Di Caprio (Oscar!) and Tom Hardy (forget about "Fury Road"), breathtaking music, ravishing cinematography, pitch-perfect production design and an insanely high amount of blood and guts.
150 minutes of pure fucking awesomeness, from the slightly "Saving Private Ryan"-like opening massacre to the gut-wrenching and totally merciless finale. A masterpiece that will stay with you long after you've left the cinema - and definitely the best movie I've seen in 2015!