The 25 best films of 2015: Star Wars, Mad Max, The Assassin and more

Critical darlings Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Mad Max: Fury Road make the cut, as do Oscar heavy hitters Boyhood and Birdman, but it’s a Chinese-language film that tops the list

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 24 December, 2015, 6:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 29 December, 2015, 6:55pm

You’ve probably seen our list of the worst films of 2015 , so now let’s look on the bright side. From The Martian to Star Wars: The Force Awakens, these, in the opinion of our film writers, are the 25 best films released in Hong Kong this year.

25. Bridge of Spies

This Steven Spielberg cold war drama about a spy exchange between the Russians, the East Germans, and the Americans tells its story in a refreshingly straightforward way. Read the full review

24. Little Big Master

The film is based on a true story that was already dramatic gold, and the filmmakers wisely went for a direct, no-frills approach when adapting it to the screen. Read the full review

23. It Follows

It Follows substantiates its originality by delving deep into the viewers’ primal fears. In David Robert Mitchell’s intensely creepy movie, the dread only keeps on building until the end. Read the full review

22. The Tribe

Imagine Michael Haneke adapting Lord of the Flies and you might have some sense of its chilly compulsiveness. It’s a film that, once experienced, can’t be unseen. Read the full review

21. The End of the Tour

It’s a startlingly immersive film that gives the illusion – at once inspiring and heartbreaking – that you’re in the presence of the late great American novelist David Foster Wallace. Read the full review

20. Goodbye to Language

This cinematic fever dream may well be Jean-Luc Godard’s carefully articulated effort to take apart every aspect of the film language we’re accustomed to today. Read the full review

19. Inside Out

The animation giant Pixar’s first outing in two years is a sensational return to form that turns abstract ideas into a spirited cinematic tour de force. Read the full review

18. Leviathan

Although every adult in this powerful film knocks back vodka like it’s water, the common people come across as characters whose sad lot one feels deeply for. Read the full review

17. A Most Violent Year

Set in a crime-ridden New York in the winter of 1981, this intricate third feature by writer-director J.C. Chandor is a masterful drama on ambition, complicity and outright corruption. Read the full review

16. Port of Call

A slow-burning true crime story that only indulges its sensationalistic premise in brief doses, the film weaves a complex web of psychological turmoil around many of its characters. Read the full review

15. Foxcatcher

Drawing on everything from classic 1970s movies to Citizen Kane, and featuring terrific performances across the board, Bennett Miller has come close to making the perfect drama. Read the full review

14. The Martian

Here’s a space travel epic that digs deep into technicalities and still manages to be tremendously thrilling and fun. Read the full review

13. Sicario

This taut story of a narcotics operation is a textbook piece of thriller filmmaking. The script is labyrinthine and credible, the locations look realistic, and the acting is superb. Read the full review

12. Mommy

Mommy forces you to give in to its relentless energy. Xavier Dolan conducts it with gusto, leaving us with a cathartic reckoning with his own demons. Read the full review

11. Boyhood

The cumulative effect of its narrative is extraordinary; a microscopic look at the little moments in life that’s intimate in its emotions, epic in its ambitions. Read the SCMP interview

10. Mad Max: Fury Road

Visceral and relentless, George Miller’s dystopian vision grabs you by the throat from the very first scene and never lets go. This film will floor you. Read the full review

9. Ten Years

The five thought-provoking short films offer a reminder of the power of independent, intelligent filmmaking as a vehicle for social and political criticism. Read the full review

8. Black Mass

It’s certainly the finest gangster film since Martin Scorsese’s The Departed. Violent, uncompromising and superbly executed, this is visceral filmmaking of the highest order. Read the full review

7. Kingsman: The Secret Service

Director-producer-writer Matthew Vaughn has mastered the art of mixing ultra-violent action, tragedy, comedy and drama into a coherent and immensely enjoyable watch. Read the full review

6. Tangerine

The best LA Christmas movie since Die Hard, Sean Baker’s micro-budget drama is destined to become a landmark in American independent cinema. It is absolutely essential viewing. Read the full review

5. Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Expectations are already astronomically high for Episode VII of the George Lucas’ sci-fi phenomenon. But somehow, they’re exceeded here. Read the full review

4. Taxi

In a movie covertly filmed inside a taxi, the ridiculousness of the dissident Iranian film director Jafar Panahi’s predicament is highlighted to often light-hearted, yet ultimately potent, effect. Read the full review

3. Birdman

This technical showcase of a film flaunts its overacting frolics, tricky cinematography and an unrelenting jazzy music track as if this is all a game of showmanship. Read the full review

2. Amy

Whether you loved her music or loathed her presence in the tabloids, this Amy Winehouse documentary lingers long after you’ve left the cinema. Read the full review

1. The Assassin

Hou Hsiao-hsien’s wuxia epic summons a strangely rapturous experience from its ostensibly bewildering narrative, which only adds to the air of mystique. An instant classic. Read the full review