The 30 best movies of 2015

21. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

The story: High school senior Greg (Thomas Mann) does his best to blend into the background and only has one friend, Earl, who he makes movies with, until his mother (Connie Britton) insists he spends time with Rachel (Olivia Cooke) who has just been diagnosed with cancer.

Why you should watch it: An underplayed and unsentimental comedy-drama, Me and Earl... will reduce even the hardiest of souls to tears thanks to its trio of engaging performances and inventive camera work. That's not to say it doesn't deliver on the laughs either, with its witty lo-fi parodies of classic movies that Earl and Greg create.

20. Ant-Man

The story: Burglar Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is hired by Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) to protect the secrets of his Ant-Man suit and pull off a heist to save the world, despite the protestations of Hank's daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly).

Why you should watch it: The best Marvel movie of 2015 was also its funniest yet. Ignore the troubled background and thoughts of what Edgar Wright might have done, and just embrace the quirkiness of a superhero outing that doesn't end in mass explosions. Rudd is excellent, but it's Michael Pea who owns the movie, closely followed by an oversized Thomas the Tank Engine.

19. The Danish Girl

The story: Artist Einar Wegener's (Eddie Redmayne) marriage with fellow artist Gerda (Alicia Vikander) changes when Einar starts a groundbreaking journey to become the first-ever person to undergo male to female sex reassignment surgery to become Lili Elbe.

Why you should watch it: Though it missteps slightly with its very final scene, The Danish Girl is an otherwise pleasingly understated and humane biopic that is crafted immaculately. Redmayne is superb but even he's outshone by the imperious Vikander who is responsible for most of the movie's heart. If anyone deserves an award, it's her.

18. 45 Years

The story: Ahead of their 45th wedding anniversary, Geoff (Tom Courtenay) receives a letter that contains potentially life-changing news that will affect his marriage to his wife Kate (Charlotte Rampling).

Why you should watch it: A subtly heartbreaking drama with two powerhouse performances from the ever-dependable Courtenay and Rampling. 45 Years is a quiet piece of cinema, all long shots and conversations, that has a lot to say about relationships and will undoubtedly make you think about your own, whether you're a year or decades into it.

17. The Lobster

The story: Set in a world where single people, according to law, are taken to The Hotel where they are obliged to find a romantic partner in 45 days, otherwise they are turned into a chosen animal and sent off to The Woods.

Why you should watch it: One of the year's oddest creations, The Lobster is a blackly comic and weirdly moving tale of the like you won't have seen before. It won't be to everyone's tastes yet for those willing to go along with its quirky concept and arthouse leanings, you'll be rewarded with a game cast and a wholly unpredictable journey.

16. Macbeth

The story: You know the story. Macbeth (Michael Fassbender) is told that he will one day become King of Scotland by a trio of witches. Encouraged by his wife (Marion Cotillard), Macbeth kills the king and takes the throne but soon descends into madness.

Why you should watch it: Justin Kurzel's take is a lean, visceral and powerful take with staggeringly good performances from Fassbender and Cotillard, who each get their chance to shine and do so with some style. And talking of style, it's arguably the most gorgeous Shakespeare adaptation to date with stunning visuals backed up by a pulsating score.

15. Tangerine

The story: Having just been released from prison, transgender hooker Sin-Dee (Kitana Kiki Rodriguez) learns her pimp boyfriend (James Ransone) hasn't been faithful and sets off across Los Angeles with her best friend Alexandra (Mya Taylor) to find out why.

Why you should watch it: So much more than its central gimmick of being the first film shot on the iPhone 5s (though you wouldn't know it from the stunning cinematography), Tangerine is a filthily funny and vibrant force of nature. It's anchored by two tremendous performances from Kiki Rodriguez and Taylor in their screen debuts.

14. Spotlight

The story: Based on the powerful true story, reporters of the Boston Globe's 'Spotlight' team investigate allegations of child molestation in the Catholic Church, uncovering a decades-long cover-up at the highest levels of Boston's establishment.

Why you should watch it: A vital watch that sensitively handles its troubling subject matter, Spotlight deserves to stand side-by-side with All the President's Men as an all-time great journalism movie. Helped by terrific performances from his central cast, director Tom McCarthy crafts a gripping, emotional and involving thriller.

13. Amy

The story: Told in her own words, Amy covers the rise and the tragic downfall of Amy Winehouse through the use of archival footage and previously unheard tracks.

Why you should watch it: Asif Kapadia echoes his previous movie Senna with a tragic reminder of what an immense talent we lost, and how it was wholly avoidable. It's a tough watch but one that's punctuated by the soaring highs of Amy Winehouse's career, utilising intimate home videos and select interviews to show the person behind the music.

12. The Hateful Eight

The story: A bounty hunter (Kurt Russell) and his fugitive (Jennifer Jason Leigh) come across two strangers on their way to the town of Red Rock. When a blizzard hits, they take refuge at Minnie's Haberdashery where they aren't greeted by the owner, but four new faces.

Why you should watch it: Bearing all the hallmarks of a Quentin Tarantino outing, The Hateful Eight is a contained tension-filled mystery thriller which explodes in bloody fashion after a measured first half. For the full experience, try to catch the roadshow version with old-school overture, extra footage and an intermission. You won't regret it.