The National Board of Review of Motion Pictures was founded in 1909 and has traditionally been the first major film critic organization to reveal its annual award-winners. The organization doesn't have a great track record when it comes to predicting Oscar winners, though; case in point, the last five titles to be honored as Best Film (A Most Violent Year, Her, Zero Dark Thirty, Hugo, and The Social Network) all failed to take home the Best Picture Academy Award, that same year.
Then again, that's part of the appeal of the National Board of Review choices: they're an alternative to the Academy Awards and Golden Globes, recognizing works that might not be as widely honored (if at all) at those respective awards ceremonies. Indeed, the movie that's been crowned Best of 2015 by the National Board of Review - George Miller's post-apocalyptic action film Mad Max: Fury Road - is not likely to take home the Best Picture Oscar at the 2016 ceremony, too.
Nevertheless, Mad Max: Fury Road has already cemented its place in pop culture history this year - so for the many who adore Miller's masterpiece of madness (and explosions), any love it lands during this awards season is icing on the cake. The same goes for the 3D space adventure The Martian, a film that (like Fury Road) is already a critical/commercial success; it was in turn honored by the National Board of Review in the areas of best director (Ridley Scott), actor (Matt Damon), and the adapted screenplay (Drew Goddard).
Fury Road and The Martian are expected to receive Oscar nominations for their technical qualities, so it will be interesting to see if they are recognized for their other aspects too, as happened here. Each of the other films that made the National Board of Review's top of 2015 list (Sicario, Bridge of Spies, etc.) has received wide critical acclaim too - and there's not a clear front-runner to sweep upcoming awards ceremonies at the moment, either. As such, it's feasible there will be more unforeseen twists and turns in the upcoming awards season race (maybe even when it comes to films like Fury Road).
Quentin Tarantino's western The Hateful Eight hasn't opened in theaters yet, but it was recognized by the National Board of Review for Supporting Actress (Jennifer Jason Leigh) and Tarantino's own script. Tarantino is frequently honored at the Academy Awards for his script writing (having won for his Pulp Fiction and Django Unchained scripts in the past), but it will be interesting to see if Leigh starts picking up awards season momentum thanks to her recognition here.
The winners in the other acting categories in this case - Damon, Brie Larson as Best Actress for Room, and Sylvester Stallone as Best Supporting Actor for Creed - are among the front-runners in their areas, when it comes to future honors; we can now add Leigh to the list of contenders for Supporting Actress at events like the Oscars and Golden Globes, too. Also worth noting: Cary Fukunaga's Beasts of No Nation (which debuted on Netflix the same day it hit theaters) got some love from the National Board of Review, but it remains to be seen if the African war drama picks up many honors during the award season beyond that.
Here is the full rundown of winners and films recognized by the National Board of Review in 2015:
Best Film: Mad Max: Fury RoadBest Director: Ridley Scott – The MartianBest Actor: Matt Damon – The MartianBest Actress: Brie Larson – RoomBest Supporting Actor: Sylvester Stallone – CreedBest Supporting Actress: Jennifer Jason Leigh – The Hateful EightBest Original Screenplay: Quentin Tarantino – The Hateful EightBest Adapted Screenplay: Drew Goddard – The MartianBest Animated Feature: Inside Out
Breakthrough Performance: Abraham Attah – Beasts of No Nation & Jacob Tremblay – RoomBest Directorial Debut: Jonas Carpignano – MediterraneaBest Foreign Language Film: Son of SaulBest Documentary: AmyWilliam K. Everson Film History Award: Cecilia De Mille PresleyBest Ensemble: The Big ShortSpotlight Award: Sicario for Outstanding Collaborative VisionNBR Freedom of Expression Award: Beasts of No Nation & Mustang
Top FilmsBridge of SpiesCreedThe Hateful EightInside OutThe MartianRoomSicarioSpotlightStraight Outta Compton
Top 5 Foreign Language FilmsGoodnight MommyMediterraneaPhoenixThe Second MotherThe Tribe
Top 5 DocumentariesBest of EnemiesThe Black Panthers: Vanguard of the RevolutionThe DiplomatListen to Me MarlonThe Look of Silence
Top 10 Independent Films’7145 YearsCop CarEx MachinaGrandmaIt FollowsJames WhiteMississippi GrindWelcome to MeWhile We’re Young
Source: The National Board of Review