The Best Overlooked Movies & Shows of 2015

All the movies here are highly-rated (by both critics and viewers), little-known, and handpicked by our staff.

This list is ordered by most recent good movies, and therefore is not a ranking. Here are the titles considered as the best from the year 2015.

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Stars: Kurt Russell, Matthew Fox, Patrick Wilson
Directed by: S. Craig Zahler

A peculiar Western that might not please everyone if it wasn’t for its main star, Kurt Russel. It’s a mix between classic western material, a horror flick, and a fantasy movie. Yes, it’s a lot. And not only that, it can be slow at times. However, in those perks it also finds a lot of originality in a saturated genre, and one more time: Kurt Russel. He’s amazing as can be expected, playing the sheriff of a quiet town that gets struck by sudden disappearances. The suspect is a faraway tribe known for its cannibalism practices, the movie follows the sheriff as he leads an expedition to save a disappearing woman.

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Stars: Jason Bateman, Joel Edgerton, Rebecca Hall
Directed by: Joel Edgerton

The Gift is Joel Edgerton’s directoral debut, a twisted and smart thriller that sneaks up on you where you least expect it. He also stars in it as Gordo, a friend from the past that enters a new couple’s life (played by Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall) and brings a secret that has been hidden for decades. A very “movie” movie, it has enough in it that’s original and enough that’s not to make for a very enjoyable 100 minutes.

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Stars: Celia Ireland, Kate Atkinson, Leanne Campbell

Dark and almost too realistic, Wentworth is the women’s prison drama that we’ve all been waiting for. This Australian show might have the same set-up as Orange is the New Black, following a recently incarcerated woman as she discovers a new world, but the two series couldn’t be more far apart. Wentworth is more Breaking Bad than Orange is the New Black. It doesn’t follow people who are wronged by the system or who are misunderstood, but women that have actually done violent things, and continue being violent in prison. Everyone appeals to their dark side, and it’s almost impossible for any character to be redeemed in the viewer’s eye. The show’s biggest selling point though is that it never goes the violence-for-violence route, its immaculate character development allows to find reason and authenticity behind every act. This a true hidden gem.

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Stars: Camille Cottin, Grégory Montel, Thibault de Montalembert

Think of Dix pour cent, or as it was horribly translated to English “Call My Agent!”, as a smart French version of the American show Entourage. It’s the kind of thing where if you like it you will become obsessed with it. It chronicles the life of an aspiring agent at a French casting agency. New to Paris, she lands a job and is confronted with a variety of very stressed characters. Dix pour cent is the perfect definition of a hidden gem, featuring countless guest appearances by famous French actors and actresses.

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Stars: Charlotte Rampling, Geraldine James, Tom Courtenay
Directed by: Andrew Haigh

Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay both won Berlinale Best Actress and Best Actor for this movie. They play a couple who are only a few days away from their 45th marriage anniversary when they learn that the remains of the husband’s first lover have been found. He then starts obsessing about his previous relationship, to the extent that when the day of the anniversary comes, there might not be a marriage left to celebrate. This is a very ‘adult’ movie – it’s quiet, sometimes slow, very well-executed, and overall a fascinating look at marriage.

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Stars: Evanna Lynch, Martin McCann, Michael Smiley
Directed by: Simon Fitzmaurice

Emily (Evanna Lynch), a strange, unique girl does not receive the long awaited letter from her father on her birthday. Sick of worrying, she decides to break away from home to visit him in the psychiatric institution where he stays. The plan requires the help of Arden (George Webster), a boy from school who is ready to drop everything and accompany her on a journey that quickly becomes as adventurous as it is heartfelt. In this film, director Simon Fitzmaurice take will take you on a trip through the beautiful Irish landscape to find nothing else but simple and true love.

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Stars: Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Sarah Paulson
Directed by: Todd Haynes

Watching Carol is like reading a really interesting book while relaxing on a Sunday afternoon. It is one of those movies that you probably heard about during its Oscar run, and have since delayed actually viewing it. Well now that it is on Netflix and other streaming services you have no excuse! It’s refreshingly unique, incredibly charming, and features a kind of story that hasn’t been told very often – a love story between two women. Both characters played by Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara attempt to live true to their own principles while facing unjust yet severe backlash from society. If you are open to it, the love story in this will stay with you forever.

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Stars: Aziz Ansari, Eric Wareheim, Lena Waithe

Master of None doesn’t take a shot at realism that it doesn’t nail. It doesn’t take that many, since its main goal, and something both the show and its creator Aziz Ansari do very well, can be summarized in one word: charm. Quirky everything: acting, story line, soundtracks. And because it is the age of augmented realism in TV, this show feels fresh and timely. It features the life of Dev, a smart and funny actor as he tackles professional success, a serious relationship and growing up. Dev the character is based on the creator of the show and its lead actor Aziz Ansari. Because of this but also because of the genuineness of its creators and the wonderful casting, everything here is done with heart. Last thing, Master of None has got to be the most binge-worthy sitcom! You might want to think twice before starting it. You’ve been warned.

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Stars: Anna Chlumsky, Jason Segel, Jesse Eisenberg
Directed by: James Ponsoldt

A summer’s night, it’s around 2 AM and you’re outside talking with a close friend about life, happiness, and the human condition. That quality and depth of conversation, which you reach at best a couple of times a year is present throughout the 106 minutes of The End of the Tour. The film depicts the story of David Foster Wallace, as played by Jason Segel, and his interactions with then Rolling Stone journalist David Lipsky, as played by Jesse Eisenberg. It’s like being with two smart friends and discussing your life and theirs in the sense that it is deeply personal, very smart while being simple, and unpretentiously relevant. Performances are nothing short of perfect as Segel completely transforms into the character, and everything is authentically orchestrated with the deft hand of The Spectacular Now director James Ponsoldt. A rare and important film.

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Stars: Benicio Del Toro, Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin
Directed by: Denis Villeneuve

This is the type of famous movie that doesn’t feel like one. So if you haven’t yet seen it, avoid watching the trailer. Kate (Emily Blunt) is an FBI agent who is enlisted to aid in the war on drugs at the Mexican border. She is introduced to Alejandro (Benicio del Toro), a quiet  and secretive agent working on the Mexican side.  The reason you shouldn’t watch the trailer is that Sicario is much more than just another crime action movie, which its marketing will lead you to believe. It’s gorgeously made, with scenes that will catch your breath starting from the color composition to the amazing performances by Blunt and Del Toro. It’s intense, intelligent and very realistic in its approach to action sequences.  Directed by Denis Villeneuve (Prisoners, Incendies, etc.)

 

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Stars: Azusa Babazono, Reina Triendl, Yoshimi Tokui

Terrace House is the perfect show to binge on a lazy day, it will make you feel intimate not only with its cast, but also with the Japanese culture and lifestyle. The premise here is nothing that hasn’t been done before, and usually very terribly: Six strangers -three boys and three girls in their twenties – are given a beautiful home to live in for several months in Tokyo. We get to observe their interactions and the slow building of their friendships. What sets it apart from others in its genre is that it’s wholly unscripted and nothing is forced. The cast are normal people whose lives don’t revolve around the show: they have jobs, they’re free to come and leave the house whenever they want, they can travel, sleep all day, or date people not on the show. You might think this makes for bad TV, but it really doesn’t: Terrace House is really well-made and it knows how to make mundane life interesting and engaging. To round it up another cast of established japanese entertainers appear on interludes each episode to share their opinions on the happenings inside the house and to offer some comedic insight.

 

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Stars: Danielle Walters, Michaela Coel, Robert Lonsdale

A hilarious British sitcom about 24-year-old Tracey Gorden, a shop assistant living in a London housing estate with crazy friends and an even crazier family. Having had a very religious upbringing, the show is about her navigating adulthood and trying to untangle herself from the unexciting life her neighborhood offers (mainly by trying to lose her virginity). Michaela Coel plays Tracey, who also wrote and created the show. Her expressive face and fantastic character building make for such an original show. This is possibly the best sitcom on Netflix right now.

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Stars: Bahar Pars, Filip Berg, Rolf Lassgård
Directed by: Hannes Holm

This is an initially touching film about a man who feels his life is over. His wife has died and he wishes to join her. Whenever he tries to meet his end, he gets interrupted either by his desire to make sure things in his neighborhood are being done properly and rules are followed, or by someone needing him to help them. Despite himself, he turns out to be a man that people are glad is around and they insist on making a friend of him. He helps families with small children, ostracized teenagers, and even elderly Volvo drivers. Ove’s journey is always compelling. This Swedish hit has a remarkably good story to tell about finding tolerance in surprising places and it also portrays a good balance of sentimentality against a harsh reality.

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Stars: Bill Buford, Dan Barber, Massimo Bottura

A look into the interesting lives and magnificent plates made in the kitchens of some of the best chefs in the world (including an episode with the best). Each episode dives deep into their worlds’, providing an intimate and ultimately inspiring look at their life both inside the kitchen and out; with all of them having lived unique lives to say the least. Their perspectives on everything from family life to entrepreneurship will dazzle you almost as much as the colorful and spectacular dishes they produce.

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Stars: Bernadette Peters, Gael García Bernal, Malcolm McDowell

Hailey (Lola Kirke) is a struggling musician that has dedicated her life to the oboe. As the New York Symphony Orchestra reluctantly welcomes its new conductor, the controversial Rodrigo de Souza (Gael García Bernal), Hailey gives her all and tries to join the orchestra. But getting to play with some of the world’s best musicians isn’t only a difficult goal to attain, it is also a life-consuming struggle.
Inspired by the accounts of oboist Blair Tindall in her book Mozart in the Jungle: Sex, Drugs and Classical Music, the show follows the orchestra through its ups and downs , portraying the current state of classical music with all its power struggles, insane competitiveness , and reluctance to change.
While Mozart in the Jungle has a strong cast (Malcolm McDowell, Saffron Burrows, Bernadette Peters), Gael García Bernal steals the show with a golden globe-winning performance that perfectly fits the charming, lighthearted nature of the series.

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Stars: Carrie Fisher, Mark Bonnar, Rob Delaney, Sharon Horgan

When a New York exec travels to London he has a quick affair with a local. He goes back to New York, is on another date, when he receives a call from said local: I’m pregnant.

Catastrophe is the cleverly-written portrayal of a man deciding to have the baby with a woman whose last name he doesn’t know, and in a country where he barely knows anyone or anything. Naturally, hilarity ensues, as Rob tries to find his way through both parenthood, a relationship, and a new culture all at once; and Sharon tries to deal with a sudden pregnancy, the looks of her friends and relatives, and most importantly a big useless and strange man who suddenly moves in with her.

The thing about Catastrophe is that you’re getting the full unfiltered and untouched package: It’s a show created by Sharon Horgan and Rob Delaney, written by Sharon Horgan and Rob Delaney, and staring Sharon Horgan and Rob Delaney (as Sharon and Rob). And like the predicament the characters they created, wrote, and played, find themselves in–the show is Horgan and Delanay’s baby, a product of love, and it’s so beautiful.