For a number of reasons (but mainly the production of London Symphony), I didn't get to see a huge amount of films last year (a meagre 157, all in), but I do have the good fortune to be able to say that most of what I did watch was great. However, this might mean that 2015 was a good year for film for me, rather than a good year all round, given that over 100 of the films I saw were archive titles – my viewing preference, it would seem, remains slanted towards older films. Still, from what I saw, 2015 did offer plenty of good work, and I'm feeling much more enthused by my list of new films than I was last year. So much so, I've had to make it a 'Top 12' rather than a 'Top 10', and I suspect there are a handful of films here which will go on to become future favourites of mine.
I suppose it might be worth commenting in passing on some of the more obvious omissions from this list (e.g. Carol, Hard to be a God, A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night, Star Wars: The Force Awakens) – well, quite simply, I prefer the films listed below. Inside Out just missed out, and I've not yet seen Horse Money or Eden, which I suspect would have been strong contenders.
I've also not listed German Concentration Camps Factual Survey. This is partly because I wasn't sure which list to include it in (old or new), and also because it's in a league of its own. Perhaps the most vital and powerful film I saw all year, it somehow lies outside the boundaries of cinema itself. Maybe I'll write more on this another time.
Finally, I'd like to give a special mention to The Knick – also not cinema, but the best piece of television I've seen in quite some time.
Anyway, here are my lists: as always, directors' names will take you to their IMDb pages, and I've limited myself to one film per director in each list.
My Top Films of 2015
01) Miss Julie (dir. Liv Ullmann)
02) La Sapienza (dir. Eugène Green)
03) The Assassin (dir. Hsiao-Hsien Hou)
04) 45 Years (dir. Andrew Haigh)
05) Paradise in Service (dir. Doze Niu)
06) Mad Max: Fury Road (dir. George Miller)
07) Clouds of Sils Maria (dir. Olivier Assayas)
08) Birdman (dir. Alejandro González Iñárritu)
09) Crimson Peak (dir. Guillermo del Toro)
10) Last Days in the Desert (dir. Rodrigo García)
11) Magic Mike XXL (dir. Gregory Jacobs)
The Best Films from Previous Years that I Saw for the First Time in 2015
01) The Children are Watching Us (1944, dir. Vittorio De Sica)
02) A Summer at Grandpa's (1984, dir. Hsiao-Hsien Hou)
03) Salt for Svanetia (1930, dir. Mikhail Kalatozov)
04) Passenger (1963, dir. Andrzej Munk)
05) Key Largo (1948, dir. John Huston)
06) Ace in the Hole (1951, dir. Billy Wilder)
07) Annie Laurie (1927, dir. John S. Robertson)
08) Melodie der Welt (1929, dir. Walter Ruttmann)
09) The Driver (1978, dir. Walter Hill)
10) The Last Command (1928, dir. Josef von Sternberg)
11) The Illusionist (2010, dir. Sylvain Chomet)
12) Bunny Lake is Missing (1965, dir. Otto Preminger)