The 10 most notable movies this year that aren’t ‘The Force Awakens’

Sure BB-8 is stealing all the headlines right now, but there were plenty of other great films in 2015.


There’s no question that Star Wars: The Force Awakens is the most talked-about movie of the year — maybe even the decade. But let’s not forget there were plenty of other great movies this year. We asked Liz Czach, associate professor in film studies at the University of Alberta, to give us her lowdown on the other most notable films of the year, from blockbusters to indie gems.

In no particular order, here are Czach’s top 10 standout films of 2015.

The Lobster
Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos

This was my favourite film of the year and won the Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival. The plot is set in a near future where all single adults must go to a hotel and find a mate within 45 days — if not, they will be turned into an animal. It’s weird, dark and artistic, and offers a satire on the imperative to “couple up” in our society.

Son of Saul
Directed by László Nemes

Son of Saul proves that stories about the Holocaust have not been exhausted — all these years later, the reality of what happened is still horrifying. The film follows Jewish prisoner Saul as he works in a concentration camp at the end of the Second World War. It will leave you devastated, but in a powerful way.

Directed by Lenny Abrahamson

Based on the novel by Emma Donoghue, Room traces the challenges and triumphs of a mother and son who escape the room they were imprisoned in for five years. I was particularly struck by the performance of the up-and-coming Brie Larson. This is a great vehicle for showing off her talents.

Mad Max: Fury Road
Directed by George Miller

This iteration of the Mad Max franchise breathes a surprising amount of life into what is essentially one long chase action sequence. It boasts a well-executed upkeep of tension and, although there isn’t a lot of dialogue, it manages to develop all the characters within the restrictiveness of the action film structure.

Directed by Tom McCarthy

Spotlight tells the true story of the Boston Globe investigation into sexual abuse allegations in the Catholic Church. I was sad after watching this film, because I realized that today there are fewer resources for newsrooms to take on this kind of in-depth journalism — we’ll be an impoverished society without it.

Directed by Denis Villeneuve

Sicario’s depiction of the war on drugs across the U.S.-Mexican border is one of the best thrillers of the year. I have a soft spot for Québécois director Danny Villeneuve, and Emily Blunt is great as FBI agent Kate Macer. The tension in the film is riveting, kept by a throbbing, powerful score — I was on the edge of my seat the whole time.

Ex Machina
Directed by Alex Garland

[SPOILER ALERT] In this independent film, a man who works for a high-tech software company is tricked into working on an artificially intelligent being — who happens to be a sexy 20-something-year-old woman. It’s an interesting commentary on the consequences of developing beings more intelligent than humans. Turns out, they might not be that nice to us.

Inside Out
Directed by Pete Docter and Ronnie del Carmen

I laughed and cried while watching this. There are not a lot of female leads in animated features, but Inside Out does a lovely job at tracing the emotional complexity of a young girl going through a difficult transition. It’s also an interesting attempt to put psychological processes in a film.

The Martian
Directed by Ridley Scott

I’m not usually a big fan of 3D or Matt Damon but, nevertheless, I liked The Martian. The premise was great — like Robinson Crusoe in space — as we watch an astronaut try to find his way home after being abandoned by his crew.

Directed by Todd Haynes

Carol hasn’t opened yet, but it was incredibly well-received on this year’s festival circuit. Cate Blanchett showed her range in Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine and promises to shine in this period-piece lesbian romance. I’m intrigued and I can’t wait for it to open.

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