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Colin Firth stars as Harry in Kingsman: The Secret Service, a brilliant work of pop-nihilism by director Matthew Vaughn.Jaap Buitendijk

If you take a close look at the wealth of Top 10 film lists floating around, a pattern emerges: Carol, Spotlight, Mad Max: Fury Road. All excellent films, all worthy of year-end hosannas. But there's a point at which everyone's "best films" start to blend together into a chorus of mandatory obligations. To offset the familiar shouts and murmurs, The Globe presents an alternative Top 10 that compiles the most overlooked, underrated and unfairly dismissed films of 2015 (listed alphabetically):

Cop Car

Best to get familiar with director Jon Watts's work now, before he takes the helm of the (latest) Spider-Man reboot next year. In this small but supremely confident thriller, he pits two young rebels against a brutal county sheriff (a never-better Kevin Bacon) after the boys stumble across an abandoned police cruiser. To say more would be to spoil the intense fun.

The Duke of Burgundy

Whereas Fifty Shades of Grey is eroticism as filtered through a PowerPoint presentation, Peter Strickland's eccentric drama is hot and sumptuous – a romance for an age where everyone has their own bookmarked online fetishes. As the narrative winds through the relationship of a wealthy entomologist and her younger, submissive lover, the film flirts with a sleazy edge that's as arousing as it is discomfiting. At the very least, it somehow makes the words "human toilet" sound like the epitome of romance.


An underrated entry at 2014's Toronto International Film Festival, this drama by French auteur Mia Hansen-Love made a similarly quiet debut this past spring, but it's worthy of a second, or third, look. Chronicling the hard-knock life of a Parisian DJ, the film is a fully lived-in document of a young man's flirtations with success and acceptance of failure. It's a difficult but riveting ride – and with a killer soundtrack, too.

Kingsman: The Secret Service

Was there a more gleefully immoral moment in cinema this year than the Freebird-scored church shootout scene in Kingsman? Well, perhaps the film's final set-piece – in which Barack Obama's head explodes in a mini-mushroom cloud of neon-coloured viscera – but director Matthew Vaughn's loose concept of moral conduct is just part of the fun. Yes, it's hard to say a film is underrated or unjustly ignored when it earns $400-million worldwide, but critics were too quick to dismiss this brash, brilliant work of pop-nihilism. Watch and be amazed it ever got past a Hollywood studio's system of checks and balances.

Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter

The logline is irresistible: A lonely Japanese woman (Babel's Rinko Kikuchi) travels to Minnesota, convinced the fictional satchel of money buried at the end of the film Fargo is real. In any hands other than Kikuchi's, the character, and the film along with her, would have devolved into offensive caricature, a needless riff on an urban legend for the Internet era. Yet the actress's committed and layered performance turns what should have been a joke into something rich and powerful. It's the forgotten performance of the year.

The Last Five Years

Musicals are not an easy genre – just look at Into the Woods, Annie or Jersey Boys. But The Last Five Years isn't like most brassy big-screen song-and-dance machines; it's an intimate, raw look at what tears two people apart. That sounds depressing, but its sincerity is enchanting, especially when co-star Anna Kendrick's numbers come up. To be clear, though: Do not watch this on a first date.

Mistress America

I'm still at a loss as to why Greta Gerwig hasn't been generating any awards buzz for her performance in this zippy, ruthlessly smart comedy. Following the friendship between shy college student Tracy (Lola Kirke) and her manic stepsister-to-be Brooke (Gerwig, also the film's co-writer, along with director Noah Baumbach), the movie rips apart New York's overcrowded social jungle of writers, musicians, interior designers and other wannabe creative types with gleeful abandon.

A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence

The title encompasses everything that most audiences despise about art-house films, but it's a deliberately winking choice on the part of director Roy Andersson, who specializes in deadpan absurdity. Here, the Swedish director wraps up his "Living Trilogy" with this series of loosely connected vignettes, all shot in self-contained tableaux. It's bizarre, occasionally frustrating but frequently hilarious cinema.


With stunts just as good as those in Spectre and a plot that actually makes sense, Paul Feig's espionage comedy is the best James Bond film of the year not starring Daniel Craig. This is what franchise filmmaking should look like.

What We Do in the Shadows

Taika Waititi is another filmmaker to bone up on before he's swallowed by the Marvel machine with the upcoming Thor: Ragnarok. Here, the New Zealand director joins forces with old friend Jemaine Clement (Flight of the Conchords) to create a hilarious and even heartwarming mockumentary about a group of Wellington vampires.