2015 was an amazing year for movies, with box office records pulverized and a bumper crop of not only blockbusters but also highly creative films by independent studios. Sparking claims of a new golden age of movies, tills in movie theaters across the globe rang in a record-breaking $38bn, so it’s clear that, movie studios are now highly significant players on the world financial stage. Let’s take a look at a (highly subjective) top five and consider what impact they had.
At the top of the list on all counts was a thrilling, heart-warming and triumphant return to the Star Wars franchise with The Force Awakens. Now officially the biggest-selling movie made in 2015 in both the US and the UK, it showcased some old favorite characters as well as a fantastic female action hero and a satisfyingly enigmatic final scene. JJ Abrams’ directorial debut in the galaxy far, far away vindicates Disney’s decision to buy Lucasfilm and has given long-term Disney investors a satisfying 226% increase in the share price since 2010.
Another big seller, grossing over $500m, was Ridley Scott’s The Martian, with Matt Damon left behind on the red planet by his careless colleagues who believe him dead. Realizing that it will be years before any rescue mission reaches him, Mark Watney makes the most of his skills as a botanist and an excellent mix-tape in this sci-fi survivalist epic adapted brilliantly by Drew Goddard from an Andy Weir novel.
Notable for the bizarre enormity of its success is the ubiquitous Fifty Shades of Grey. Fifty Shades was another big seller, but the interesting thing about it was the way in which dubious writing and wooden acting was forgiven as a generation of women apparently took to being tied up and bossed around. Blending cinema-going with masochism in a number of ways, it makes this selection of ‘top films of 2015’ because of its puzzlingly huge media and social media impact. It also made Universal Studios over $500m, and a sequel – ‘Fifty Shades Darker’ is promised for 2017.
Song of the Sea
A refreshing contrast to the turgid mass-market bondage epic, Song of the Sea is a bewitchingly beautiful animation by up-and-coming Irish studio, Cartoon Saloon. Directed by Tomm Moore and featuring top Irish actors such as Brendan Gleeson, it blends reality and myth in a love-song to the Irish coast. This story of a boy who lives in a lighthouse and his mute half-girl, half-seal sister won an Oscar nomination and glowing reviews worldwide, a testament to the blossoming Irish animation industry.
It would be churlish not to include the year’s other massive studio super tanker, Jurassic World, in any list of 2015’s top 5 movies. This return to the island of the dinosaurs grossed $1.67bn for Universal Studios, a figure only recently beaten by the mighty Star Wars. It features a combination of roller-coasters, a particularly nasty, genetically-engineered beast who kills for fun and a heroine who gamely tries to out-run it in preposterous high heels. What’s not to like?
Although a massive Star Wars fan, my top spot in a bumper year has to go to Song of the Sea, for its sheer beauty and charm. What was your favorite?