Some of the films on year-end best-of lists will take months yet to show up on streaming services, but here are ten from the cream of the 2015 crop that you can watch right now.
Directed by: Olivier Assayas (Carlos, Something in the Air)
Notable performances: Kristen Stewart, Juliette Binoche
Honours & Awards: Best Supporting Actress (Kristen Stewart)—César Awards 2015, NY Film Critics Circle 2015
Watch because: from first frame to last, this is an absolutely incandescent performance by Kristen Stewart. Juliette Binoche is no slouch either.
Directed by: Alex Garland (screenwriter: 28 Days Later, Sunshine)
Notable performances: Alicia Vikander, Oscar Isaac, Domhnall Gleeson
Honours & Awards: Best British Independent Film, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Outstanding Achievement in Craft—British Independent Film Awards 2015; Top 10 Independent Films—National Board of Review 2015
Watch because: striking visuals, and three very strong acting performances, drive a science fiction narrative that actually cares about ideas.
Directed by: Kornél Mundruczó (Johanna)
Notable performances: Zsófia Psotta, 250 dogs
Honours & Awards: Prix un certain regard—Cannes Film Festival 2014
Watch because: where else can you see 250 dogs storming the streets of Budapest in a canine uprising—without CGI augmentation.
Directed by: Céline Sciama (Tomboy)
Notable performances: Karidja Touré in a breakthrough
Honours & Awards: Nominated for Best Director, Most Promising Actress (Karidja Touré), Best Sound, Best Music—César Awards 2015
Watch because: “Raw and insistent, bold and brawling, Girlhood throbs with the global now, illustrating the ways an indifferent society boxes in the people who grow up in project-style boxes.”
Directed by: Peter Strickland (Berberian Sound Studio)
Notable performances: Sidse Babett Knudsen, Chiara D’Anna
Honours & Awards: Best Composer: Cat’s Eyes—European Film Awards 2015
Watch because: it’s, oh, just another “densely layered, slyly funny portrayal of the sadomasochistic affair between two lesbian entomologists.”
Directed by: Juliano Ribeiro Salgado (Nauru: An Island Adrift), Wim Wenders (Wings of Desire; Paris, Texas; Pina)
Honours & Awards: Un Certain Regard Special Prize—Cannes Film Festival 2014; Best Documentary—César Awards 2015
Watch because: this is one case where “epic emotional journey” a) is not an inflated description and b) unexpectedly describes a documentary about a photographer. Without doubt the most deeply moving film I have seen this year.
Directed by: David Robert Mitchell (The Myth of the American Sleepover)
Notable performance: Maika Monroe
Honours & Awards: Nominated for Best Director, Best Editing, Best Cinematography—Independent Spirit Awards 2016; Top 10 Independent Films—National Board of Review 2015
Watch because: it’s for anyone who likes their creep-outs smart, aware of film history, socially astute, but most of all—actually scary.
Directed by: Noah Baumbach (The Squid and the Whale, Frances Ha)
Notable performances: Ben Stiller, Naomi Watts, Adam Driver, Amanda Seyfried, Charles Grodin
Honours & Awards: Top 10 Independent Films—National Board of Review 2015
Watch because: in a film comedically juiced by clever casting and spot-on X-er/millennial collisions, the ultimate highlight is a Ben Stiller performance that (at least for its runtime) will make you forget all about his career bloat.
Directed by: Damián Szifron (The Six Billion Dollar Man—yes that is happening in 2017)
Notable performances: several, spread across 6 different stories—my fave is Érica Rivas as the bride, Romina
Honours & Awards: Best Spanish Language Foreign Film—Goya Awards (Spain); nominated for Best Foreign Language Film —2015 Academy Awards
Watch because: “in its vibrant lunacy, and with its cartoonishly brash violence, it’s a little bit Almodóvar, a little bit Tarantino”—and probably a little bit Buñuel too, if less psychoanalytic and subversive.
Directed by: Albert Maysles (Salesman, Gimme Shelter, Grey Gardens)
Honours & Awards: Best Documentary Feature (Audience Award)—Hamptons International Film Festival 2014
Watch because: this biopic/slice-of-life doc portrait of fashion icon Iris Apfel, she of the enormous chunky glasses and bracelets, gains added poignancy from its scenes of the 100th birthday of her husband Carl (since deceased), and a couple of brief glimpses of legendary director Maysles (also since deceased).