Another year has passed – another year of movies big and small. So to help stave off thoughts of the absolute inevitability of death, the body’s decay and time’s monstrous passing, we have assembled the Top Five favourite films of our staff.
As usual, to avoid the structural chaos of many end-of-year lists, our rules were clear. Only films theatrically released in the UK in 2015 could be voted for. This therefore excluded films seen at festivals, films yet to be released and straight-to-video fare, as well as artists films and videos.
A total of 54 staff members from across the Picturehouse group took part in the poll, with a record-breaking 83 titles voted for at least once. The Top Five itself accounted for 89 of the 270 votes cast, representing just a third of the spread. Almost 50% of the films voted for received only one vote each, demonstrating a wider spread of taste across the group than has ever been seen before. It’s been a very diverse year for movies.
So here it is, the Picturehouse Top Five.
The clear front runner was Mad Max: Fury Road with 25 votes; Whiplash and Carol came in joint second, with 18 apiece; and Inside Out narrowly took fourth place with 17 votes, leaving fifth place to Birdman with 11 votes.
- Mad Max: Fury Road (George Miller)
“Thrilling, sensational, like nothing else released this year, or any year for that matter! Charlize Theron smashed it out of the park. My feet didn’t touch the ground for two days after this!” – Clare Binns, Director Of Programming And Acquisitions
- Whiplash (Damien Chazelle)
“Staggering, slick tension with a tiny budget and shooting window. Showing how less can be so much more.” – Ben Rothwell, Exeter Picturehouse
- Carol (Todd Haynes)
“Carol is the definition of cinema.” – Chris Harris, Picturehouse Programmer
“Carol utterly floored me both times I watched it. Much like Blanchett and Mara’s illicit affair, there is a wonderfully elegant restraint in the way Haynes’s film expresses emotional depth, with a sureness of touch that is breathtakingly effortless, and heartbreakingly beautiful. It’s a film made with love, about love, and worthy of love.” – Tim Rogerson, Picturehouse Programmer
- Inside Out (Pete Docter, Ronnie Del Carmen)
“Pixar’s gift of combining exciting and vastly enjoyable stories with heartfelt – often heart-crushing – depth and insight has rarely been greater. In a film literally filled with emotions it’s perfect that the centre of it all is Joy.” – Stephen Sambrook, Harbour Lights Picturehouse
- Birdman (Alejandro G. Iñárritu)
“A dazzlingly intense yet comedic masterpiece from Alejandro G. Iñárritu.” – Tim Reynard, Phoenix Picturehouse
Strong, goal-oriented narratives were a common thread in all of the Top Five, as was an emphasis on cinematic spectacle. All Top Five films were predominantly US productions, with Carol the only film with significant UK financing. Two were comedies, two were saturation releases, and three would pass the Bechdel Test.
More broadly, Inside Out and Mad Max: Fury Road presented strong female leads with minimal mention of romance, whilst 29 of the 83 films voted for foregrounded strong female leads and stories: standouts include Mommy, Still Alice, The Clouds Of Sils Maria and The Falling for prioritising non-romantic female stories. Eight were directed by women (10%), but none of those made the Top Five: Céline Sciamma’s Girlhood was the highest performer with six votes.
Meanwhile, 13 of the films voted for were documentaries (16%); 17 were foreign-language films (20%); and only 12 were saturation releases, with remarkably few votes cast for the big hitters SPECTRE, Jurassic World and Star Wars: The Force Awakens (although the latter would surely figure much more strongly in a re-ballot, since we ended the vote only shortly after its release).
Once again, a big spread of titles, a wide range of tastes and another strong year of films at Picturehouse Cinemas. Bring on 2016.