You will be redirected back to your article in seconds
Back to IndieWire

Criticwire Survey: The 2015 Movies You Have to Catch Up On

Criticwire Survey: The 2015 Movies You Have to Catch Up On

Every week, the Criticwire Survey asks film and TV critics two questions. (The answer to the second, “What is the best film in theaters right now?” can be found at the end of this post.) Send suggestions for future questions to sam at indiewire dot com.

Q: We’re just days away from the
onset of awards season, when the must-see movies start coming thick and
fast. So before we get swamped with year-end heavyweights — and as
critics start to draft the first versions of their Top 10 lists — what
movies from earlier in the year should we catch up on first?

Charles Bramesco, Random Nerds, ScreenCrush

It’s a crying
shame how many phenomenal movies released between January and June get buried
under the deluge of fall and winter awards horses. A year’s a long damn time,
and it’s too easy to forget the gems that don’t arrive with huge ad campaigns
once the year winds down. To wit: Joel Potrykus’ nastily hilarious punk oddity Buzzard will captivate
surly teens for decades to come; Hungarian social allegory White God blends exhilarating cinematography with
baffling control over a canine fleet of extras; Olivier Assayas topped himself
yet again with the dazzling, verbose, metatextually thorny Clouds of Sils Maria,” including a career-high
performance from Kristen Stewart to top it off; the little-seen Spring plays like a
monster-movie riff on the “Before Sunrise” trilogy; and the harrowing
formal rigor of The Tribe
is almost too traumatic to be forgotten, but I’ll include it anyway.

Alissa Wilkinson, Christianity Today

The five I keep
recommending to people: “The End of
the Tour,” “Slow West,” “Best of Enemies,” “99
Homes,” and “Love & Mercy.”
The first will keep quietly
ripping your insides apart long after the credits roll; the second is
gorgeously shot and acted; the third is exactly the movie we all need to be
watching during endless campaign debate season; the fourth is biting social
realism; the fifth is everything a movie about a real person (as opposed to
“biopic,” snore) ought to be.

Tim Grierson, Screen International, Paste

This year’s “Inside Llewyn Davis,” “Eden” details how a
temporarily huge DJ (Félix de Givry) sorta kinda reaches his dreams before
falling back to earth. Filmmaker Mia Hansen-Løve’s bittersweet drama isn’t
about success or failure: It’s about learning to live with a passion that can
often let you down.

Experimenter: What begins as a biopic of Stanley Milgram’s life becomes,
in writer-director Michael Almereyda’s hands, a meditation on being an artist.
As played by Peter Sarsgaard, Milgram is one-hit wonder, misunderstood genius,
trailblazing icon, pretentious hack and curious explorer. For such a
deceptively clinical movie, “Experimenter” is incredibly humane and
inspiring, advocating for the joys and agonies of following one’s own path.

“Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem”: Co-directors Ronit Elkabetz and
Shlomi Elkabetz have made an excellent courtroom drama by throwing out the
conventions. There’s no sense of justice, the rules seem to change throughout,
and we don’t have much confidence that any sort of outcome will actually occur.
“Gett” is also crushingly good at making the slow march of time feel
oppressive, as this woman’s endless trial drags on in interminable, sometimes
hilarious fashion.

The New Girlfriend: I prefer François Ozon in
dark/kinky mode, and this psychological drama about a cross-dressing widower
(Romain Duris) and his dead wife’s best friend (Anaïs Demoustier) gets its kick
from examining the ways that we mourn those we’ve lost. I still think about
that ending.

Really, really funny and reverberates with that look-at-what-we-can-do energy
that so few American indies possess.

Thugs are people, too: terrible, terrible, awful, stupid, clueless, petty,
moronic people. Abderrahmane Sissako’s portrait of Islamic terror does the impressive
job of humanizing evil, which only makes it more inexplicable and infuriating.
And at the same time, “Timbuktu” is also one of 2015’s most
gorgeously shot films.

“The Tribe”:
Writer-director Miroslav Slaboshpitsky’s pseudo-silent movie is a raw, despairing
look at how bad apples are born, but its single-take scenes give the story an
exhilarating sense of possibility and adventurousness. “The Tribe” is
simultaneously among the year’s bleakest and most exciting films.

“World of Tomorrow”: Life is horrible, but it’s also
kinda amazing: That’s been animator Don Hertzfeldt’s M.O. from the start, and
this new short brings together his thematic interests in one vibrantly poignant
package. It’s good to see that he hasn’t lost his sense of humor along the way.

Jordan Hoffman, The Guardian, Mashable

Five from earlier
in the year that I hope don’t get forgotten include The Duke of Burgundy,” “A Pigeon Sat on a Branch
Reflecting on Existence,” “Heaven Knows What,” “Eden”

and “Diary of a Teenage Girl.”

Russ Fischer, The Playlist

“The Duke of Burgundy”: As dramatically satisfying as it
is aesthetically pleasing, Peter Strickland’s strange and beautiful romance had
the unfortunate fate of being a smallish film whose late-2014 festival buzz
didn’t translate into huge word of mouth for it’s small 2015 opening.

One of the few found-footage films that is worth a damn, the Netflix release of
this Patrick Brice and Mark Duplass film may have suggested it could be
overlooked. Don’t miss it — this one is a legit thriller that lives up to its

Here, again the primarily digital release of Paul Thomas Anderson’s documentary
may suggest it’s a trifle. Even if it is an experiment for Anderson — digital
rather than film, drama and narrative-free — it’s a terrific one, with stunning

Paddington: Sure, it turns into an overblown studio-style action thing
at the end, but the first 80 minutes are more than charming and lovely enough
to make up for it.

“Slow West”:
In case Michael Fassbender and Ben Mendelsohn aren’t enough to get more eyes on
this odd Western that leans equally into fairy tales and the Bible, there’s
also a bleakly wicked sense of humor and a bold visual style that puts this in
the realm of Joe Wright’s “Hanna.”

Kyle Turner, Movie Mezzanine

I hope we don’t
overlook gems like Celine Sciamma’s Girlhood
or Mia Hansen-Løve’s “Eden.”
The former is a beautiful testament to how we construct our identity based on
the people around us, particularly with regards to femininity (and some
queerness too), and the latter is similar in that way, but navigates these
ideas through music and atmosphere. (Also, I will always go to bat for Fifty Shades of Grey.” No

Justine Smith, Vague Visages

Going by NY
releases on this, for some coherence. First, “Timbuktu,” while it qualified for best foreign film last
year is still a 2015 release in most markets so will continue to qualify for
more awards this year. It is a moral tale as the patriarch of a family of
cattle herders is commits a crime and is pulled into the city controlled by
ISIS jihadists. Stephane Lafleur’s “Tu
Dors Nicole”
is likely the best Canadian film released in NY for 2015,
a dreamy tale of ennui and growing up. Pedro Costa’s Horse Money is a must. One of the year’s biggest
surprises that is pushing the boundaries of the medium is small-scale horror
film Unfriended.” Tense,
innovative and exciting — I can’t recommend it enough. Finally, rewatch “Tangerine” because it’s
still one of the year’s best

Danny Bowes, RogerEbert.com, A.V. Club

Neglect not “The Forbidden Room,” “The Duke of
Burgundy,” “The Russian Woodpecker,” “The Mend,”
nor “It
Despite their both being widely seen and heralded, I’d like
to remind people “Mad Max: Fury
and “Straight Outta
were both masterful pieces of cinema in their wildly differing
ways. At this point even mentioning
is tantamount to soliciting sneering dismissals, but
it’s a fascinating picture. And, finally, the most surprising legitimately
great film in years, “Paddington.”

Glenn Kenny, Some Came Running

Oh dear, these
“we” questions. While I do like to be able to be of service, I am
also increasingly and deeply indifferent to other people’s movie-watching
patterns. Sigh.

So my advice is
that everyone watch “Hard to Be a
five times in a row.

But also worth
seeing are “Horse Money,”
“Girlhood,” “The Mend,” “Fort Tilden,”
Shaun the Sheep Movie,” “Queen of Earth,”
and “Heaven Knows What,” which
deserves commendation for being a superb film and also for the fact that
Jeffrey Wells has never heard of it and expressed real irritation at its

Sean Burns, Movie Mezzanine

“The Mend”
and “Heaven Knows What”
are the two most ferocious movies I saw this year that don’t take place on Fury
Road. Put all three together and 2015 is one for the ages

Dan Kois, Slate

What We Do in the Shadows


“World of Tomorrow”

Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter

(for Worst Film lists)

Noah Gittell, Washington City Paper

If you haven’t
seen “Slow West” yet, get
on it. It barely sniffed a theatrical release (making its debut on DirecTV),
but this classical Western is a ripping good yarn that mixes violence, humor,
and heart into an intoxicating brew. Credit first goes to the casting: Michael
Fassbender has always been adept at nonverbal communication (for this reason, I
thought he was miscast in Steve Jobs), and he’s aces here as a gruff and brutish
cowboy who agrees to help a naive Scottish teenager traverse the Old West in
search of his lost love. It also offers a surprising visual palate. The film
was shot in New Zealand (it’s the directorial debut of The Beta Band’s John
MacLean), and it looks nothing like a typical Western; the topography is
varied, mixing dank forest and sandy plains in with the more predictable
desert-set scenes

But what stands
out most about “Slow West” is the pleasure derived from simply
following the plot. These days, indie cinema relies heavily on characterization
and atmosphere (it’s certainly what you expect from a movie with
“slow” in the title). Those aren’t inherently problematic, but it’s
refreshing to see a film that remembers that the foundation of a good film is a
good story. “Slow West” is the kind of movie you can’t wait to tell
your friends about, and describing the plot to them is almost as fun as seeing
the movie itself.

Scott Nye, Battleship Pretension

I’ve managed to
narrow my list down to eight, two of which can be dispensed with immediately as
they were widely-discussed upon release, but have since faded into the
background: Mia Hansen-Løve’s “Eden”
and Aleksei German’s “Hard to
be a God.”
See them, see them, see them. From there, I’ve remained
fond of Alonso Ruizpalacios’ feature debut, “Güeros,” in the full year since its festival screenings.
An exuberant, elaborately produced coming-of-age story, it avoids so many of
the sentimental pitfalls of the genre and sticks to the absurdity of adolescence.
Dominik Graf’s “Beloved
is a three-hour costume drama that moves with uncommon grace
and urgency, its saucy, based-on-a-true-story premise (two sisters in love with
the same man, Friedrich Schiller) never descending into exploitation or
self-congratulatory dramatics. Thomas Vinterberg’s Far From the Madding Crowd is considerably shorter and
tamer, but no less passionate, and easily among the most beautiful films of the
year. Also attractive, though considerably less overtly dramatic, is Eugène
Green’s La Sapienza,”
which allows its muted performances to accentuate the majesty of its
surroundings (no mere clever trick for a film centrally concerned with
architecture). Finally, a pair of tough, witty American independent films —
Sarah-Violet Bliss and Charles Rogers’s “Fort
and Andrew Bujalski’s “Results”
— gave me considerable hope in a time in which this scale of film seems more
determined every year to compliment its audience rather than engage them.

Ethan Alter, Film Journal International, Yahoo Movies

Three words: “World of Tomorrow.
Don Hertzfeldt’s animated wonder is 2015’s shortest–and most
profound — prestige picture, and can be yours (for 30 days) for a mere
$3.99 on Vimeo. In the documentary realm, Joshua Oppenheimer’s “The Look
of Silence,”
didn’t seem to generate the same “gotta see it” fervor
that greeted its more formally inventive predecessor, “The Act of
Killing,” but it’s still vital viewing. Leaving aside how accurately (or
not) it depicts David Foster Wallace, The End of the Tour is one of
the more effective depictions I’ve seen of the strange dance between
interviewer and interviewee. That’s the aspect of the source
material — David Lipsky’s book-length transcript with Wallace “Although
of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself” — that I enjoyed the most, and
screenwriter Donald Margulies preserves it onscreen. “Queen of Earth”
offers yet another reason to be excited for Elisabeth Moss’s post-“Mad
Men” career. And “The Diary of a Teenage Girl is quietly revolutionary
for depicting its central character’s sexual awakening without pointed
moralizing or leering titillation The movie’s got a definite future as
an audio/visual supplement to “The Talk” that parents dread having with
their own teenage girls and boys.

Alonso Duralde, TheWrap, Linoleum Knife

“Paddington,” “Clouds of Sils Maria,”
“White God,” “Slow West,” “The Tribe”

Gary Kramer
, Gay City News, Philadelphia Gay News

The top ten films
I recommend moviegoers see before the end of the year:

“Slow West”:
John Maclean’s completely overlooked masterpiece — arguably the best film no
one saw this year.

Heart of a Dog: Laurie Anderson’s remarkable documentary about the point
and power of storytelling. Not to be missed.

Eastern Boys: an utterly hypnotic and unconventional romantic drama
that’s not about what it’s about — and all the better for it.

The Kindergarten Teacher: Nadav Lapid’s astonishing film
about a 5-year old poet and the title character who develops an overzealous
interest in him.

Glass Chin: a highly stylized feature with two knockout turns by Corey
Stoll and Billy Crudup.

99 Homes:
Another riveting Michael Shannon performance that I fear will get lost in the
“Best Of” shuffle.

“The Mend”:
a messy film, that somehow managed to get under my skin, even as it got on my
nerves — always the sign of a great film for me.

The Overnight: A completely unexpected, hilarious, naughty surprise —
catch this before someone spoils the fun.

The Yes Men are Revolting: the merriest of prank-stars are at
their best in this film you probably missed.

The Boy Next Door: The guiltiest pleasure I’ve had in
a cinema all year. “I love your mother’s cookies.”

Ben Travers, Indiewire

I can’t imagine
anyone needs a reminder regarding “Mad
Max: Fury Road,”
but I hope it’s not forgotten by critics’ groups and
award shows in the coming months, as this year’s early crop of films has
nothing that can compare with George Miller’s onslaught of visual mayhem.
Constantly pulsing with feminist ferocity and imagination, “Fury Road” is a necessity for more than just action
fans. It’s an encapsulation of modern fears, both specific to California and
worldwide, told with addictive gusto.

In terms of
lesser-known works I don’t expect to see on any lists, Marjane Satrapi’s 2014
Sundance film festival entry “The
(released in the States in 2015) is a personal favorite. Ryan
Reynolds deserves credit for both his physical performance as well as the
varied voice work he provides for his demon cat and angelic dog, two pets who
encourage and deride (respectively) their owner’s sociopathic tendencies. More
fun and engaging than wholly original, the film still deserves to be part of
the larger year-end conversation

Luke Goodsell, 4:3

Assuming “earlier in the year” refers to the first three months of US
releases: “Blackhat,” “Appropriate Behavior,” “Hard to Be a God,” “It Follows,”
“Kumiko the Treasure Hunter,” “Amour Fou,” “Jauja,” “Timbuktu.”

Max O’Connell, Rapid City Journal

“The Duke of Burgundy” is my favorite film of the year at
the moment, and nothing else comes close. It’s still the film that surprised me
the most this year, with its gradual transformation from homage to ’70s
softcore to moving look at how people put up with the not-so-shared interests
of their lovers. I’d also recommend people who didn’t catch up with Guillermo
Del Toro’s Crimson Peak (plenty,
judging by the box office) give its swoon-worthy gothic romance a shot. Alex
Ross Perry’s “Queen of Earth”
is also terrific, with the director turning toxic friendships and insecurities
into a great horror chamber piece. “Bone
is worth seeking out for its agreeably ambling pace, its
flavorful western dialogue and performances (MVP: Richard Jenkins), and its
spectacular gore, including one moment that vaults to the top of the list of ways
I absolutely do not want to die, no sir. Finally, I loved Ricki and the Flash more than most, with Jonathan Demme
finding a way to make it more than just The Meryl Show while still getting
Streep’s best performance in nearly a decade, one that uses her affected
qualities as an actress in her put-on rocker persona only to tear them away
whenever she’s confronted with the real trauma her loved ones (especially
Streep’s real-life daughter Mamie Gummer in a fiery performance) have faced

Joey Magidson, The Awards Circuit

Among the early year titles worth remembering/catching up on, I’d cite 5 to 7,” “The End of the Tour,” “Grandma,” “It Follows,” “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl,” “Mistress America,” “Sleeping with Other People,” “Slow West,” “The Stanford Prison Experiment,” and Trainwreck as ten of the best. A number of them will wind up on my year end top ten list, and hopefully one or two will have some appeal to voters during the awards season. One can dream, right?

Mike McGranaghan, The Aisle Seat, One Perfect Shot

“Kumiko the Treasure Hunter,” “The Overnight,” “Dope,” “Queen of Earth,” and Veteran

Josh SpiegelMovie Mezzanine

Because of how
woefully behind I am on the year’s films, I think I’m going to be using most of
the responses here as a guide more than anything else. But I will throw out two
family-oriented films that deserve attention, with or without awards
consideration: “Paddington”
and “Shaun the Sheep Movie.” The
former is a surprisingly delightful melding of live-action and CGI, as a
British family meets Paddington Bear (voiced quite well by Ben Whishaw, who
took over for Colin Firth) and the ensuing misadventures where Paddington faces
off against a taxidermist (Nicole Kidman). The latter has an awkward title, but
is otherwise a silent and perfect gem, spinning off from a side character in an
Aardman short featuring their icons, Wallace and Gromit. Both of these UK films
were bigger overseas, but absolutely deserve your attention; family films or
not, they’re fine examples of dry British humor and inventive filmmaking

Jason Shawhan, The Nashville Scene, Interface 2037

“Alléluia,” “Felt,” “Li’l Quinquin,” “They Look Like People,” “Tom at the Farm.”

Edwin Arnaudin, Asheville Citizen-Times

Make sure you’ve
seen “What We Do in the
Shadows,” “While We’re Young,” “Kumiko, the Treasure
Hunter,” “Far From the Madding Crowd”
and “Love and Mercy.” As of now,
four of them are on my Top 10 list and one is looming just outside

Jeff Berg, ABQ
Free Press, Las Cruces Bulletin

The Salvation,” “Jauja,” “White
God,” “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl,” “The 33
(a little melodramatic, but
interesting), “Like Sunday, Like
and “Paulette.”
I’m surprised at how much I have missed this year, but that would be because my
book, “New Mexico Filmmaking,” is releasing on Monday. Hope to have
more time next year!

Adam Batty, Hope Lies at 24 Frames Per Second

Unusually, I too
am playing catch-up at the moment, having sat out the vast majority of summer
releases and missed a number of festivals this year. Alas, I’d recommend that
everyone see Bruno Dumont’s “L’il
which actually featured on my best-of list last year but
feels even more relevant this year in the wake of Charlie Hebdo, as well as
Céline Sciamma’s “Girlhood,”
which follows in the great tradition of French coming-of-age stories, and
Olivier Assayas’ “Clouds of Sils Maria.”

Vadim Rizov, Filmmaker Magazine

In the interests
of full disclosure, first here’s a list of all the 2015 releases I missed (I
was probably tired or something) that I feel like I should’ve seen; I’ll
rectify these if/when I can. My omissions are: “Accidental Love”
(morbid curiosity about this “lost”/hacked-together David O. Russell film),
Beloved Sisters,” “Bone Tomahawk,” “Breathe,”
“Buzzard,” “Counting,” “Court,”
“Crumbs,” “The Forbidden Room,” “Güeros,”
“The Gift,” “It Follows,” “Joy of Man’s
Desiring,” “The Kidnapping of Michel Houllebecq,” “The
Kindergarten Teacher,” “The Pearl Button,” “The Princess of
France,” “Ricki and the Flash,” “(T)ERROR,”
“Tired Moonlight,” “The Tribe,” “Uncertain
Terms,” “We Come as Friends,” “What We Do in the
Shadows.” Woof. (There are plenty of other films I didn’t see that are
“notable” that for various reasons I’m leery of.) I’ve seen 107 of
this year’s theatrical releases.

As for movies
released in the first half of the year I think other people should see: “Amour fou,” “Approaching
the Elephant,” “Doomsdays,” “Gett: The Trial of Viviane
(especially this one),
“Jauja,” “Results,” “Tu dors Nicole,” “When
Evening Falls on Bucharest or Metabolism.”

Piers Marchant, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Philadelphia Magazine

I’m going to
interpret the question to ask what five movies I’ve missed in their first
go-round I need to see before awards season starts. This could be an entirely
wrong interpretation, but I just spent 45 minutes trying to talk my mother
through the agonizing process of adding an image to her Dropbox folder, and I’m
just going to go with it, if that’s okay.

About Elly: An earlier work from Iranian auteur Asghar Farhadi tops
the list (though — cheating already! — I just managed to finally see this one
over the weekend and thought it very strong). This is that thing where you have
to ask if a top-ten list can contain a film that was actually already released
years before, which is a whole other mess.

It played Sundance, and got raves; and I was probably watching bloody “Me
and Earl” or something when it screened again.

The Assassin: It played in New York, and I missed it. It sounds pretty

Son of Saul: No excuse on this, other than TIFF’s brutal early
scheduling methodology.

No Home Movie: Especially in light of the fact that we will never again
get a new Chantal Akerman film.

John Keefer, 51 Deep

A movie I
personally have to catch-up on is Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s “The Assassin.” The reason I have to catch-up on it is
that I recently went to see it at the Historic Colonial Theater in
Phoenixville, PA (home of Blobfest!) and fell asleep. The reason I fell asleep
is that I had too many beers with my dinner at the bar next door to the
theater. I woke up halfway through and stared in bewilderment at the beautiful
film, cursing myself for that one too many while also wondering if I had been
snoring. If you were at that screening of Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s “The
Assassin” I apologize for my rude behavior. Today, when I go to see the
film again, I will have Just Enough beers prior to the screening to avoid
passing out. Then I will catch up on the other Hou Hsiao-Hsien films I haven’t
seen, most likely “Three Times” will be first since it’s next in my
Netflix queue. I would also highly recommend “City of Sadness” as
well as forgetting about catching up on whatever dumb movies happened to be
released this year. Watch great films from 5, 10, even (shudder) 20 years ago?
Maybe even films shot in black..and…white? Is that the term? Did they even
make movies pre-1991? Whatever, “Star Wars” in 5 Weeks!

Mark Young, Cinephile City

Although I
acknowledge it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, I think “Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter” demands respect for Rinko
Kikuchi’s performance alone. The only reason that the charming comedy “What We Do in the Shadows”
isn’t the funniest film of 2015 is because I nearly busted a gut at Noah
Baumbach’s “Mistress America.”
Although it will likely get nudged out of my top 10 by better movies, I
recommend the indie thriller “Cop
for its simplicity and bare-bones beauty. And finally, anyone who
hasn’t seen the gorgeous, haunting German drama Phoenix before compiling their year-end lists should be

Luke Y. Thompson,
The Robot’s Voice

I’m probably going
to get more use out of this survey than I will put into it, as I spend most of
the year strictly covering the genre fare which is my site’s stock in trade,
then cram as many of the rest as I can when studios start sending me awards
screeners in the fall for LA Film Critics Association votes. However, there is
one movie I feel strongly deserves more awards attention than it will get, and
that’s “The Tribe,” a
crime film set in a Ukrainian school for the deaf, all in Ukrainian sign
language with no subtitles, shot in unflinching long takes that linger on
things both sexual and violent that American films would cut away from to
preserve their R rating

Because Ukraine
did not select it to be the official Oscar contender, it is not being pushed
hard this season by Drafthouse, but it is a radical piece of work and one of
the year’s very best, and no awards or list for which it is eligible ought to
be complete without seeing it.

Also “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of
is genuinely amazing. See that too

Sean Chavel, Flick Minute

Ex Machina

John DeCarli, Film Capsule

While my own list
is by no means complete, here are some great films from this year that I
haven’t heard much talk about and you may have missed: “Li’l Quinquin,” “The Overnight,” “The Taking
of Tiger Mountain,” “Chappie,”
and Wild Canaries.”

Q: What is the best movie in theaters?

A: “Bridge of Spies”

Other movies receiving multiple votes: “Spotlight,” “Crimson Peak,” “James White,” “Steve Jobs”

Sign Up: Stay on top of the latest breaking film and TV news! Sign up for our Email Newsletters here.

This Article is related to: Features and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Get The Latest IndieWire Alerts And Newsletters Delivered Directly To Your Inbox