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The 14 best scenes of 2015

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From Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation to Whiplash, 2015 was rich in synapse-blowing set-pieces and dramatic fireworks that lit up like Roman candles. Here, then, are our picks of the shiniest and most chrome sequences and scenes of the year. Please note, there isn't room for an entire movie here, so just assume the whole of Mad Max: Fury Road made the cut.

14. A Most Violent Year - the art of the sell

Between Ex Machina, The Force Awakens and A Most Violent Year, it's safe to say that these past 12 months belonged to Oscar Isaac. An actor of rare gifts, his coolly commanding side was on display in J.C. Chandor's '80s-set morality tale. This scene, in which his New York businessman Glengarry Glen Ross'es a bunch of newbie salesmen, sees him flick from persuasive and authorative to just a bit scary and back again with barely a change of register.

13. John Wick - nightclub fight

Picture the scene: you've gone out for a well-earned night's clubbing, found a spot on the dance floor and settled down to a night of extravagant shape-throwing. Sure, you've noticed more suited goons in attendance than at, say, Kudos in Romford but think nothing much of it. At least, until a vengeful and enraged Keanu Reeves turns up and kills all of them in a blitzkrieg of extreme violence. Next time? Bingo night.

12. The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water - cosmic space dolphin

Bubbles the dolphin, a kind of aquatic Heimdall, has one job. It involves keeping the solar system from catastrophe by watching serenely over the planets. The problem is that he's been doing it for years and really needs a pee. Happily, SpongeBob turns up and the chance presents itself. What follows is the most deliriously, cosmically bonkers moment of the year - and no, we don't have a clue what's going on either. It doesn't help that the dolphin sounded suspiciously like Steven Toast.

11. Girlhood - Diamonds

An Empire track of the year and an Empire scene of the year. Girlhood, a slice of hard-knock Parisian life that follows the growing pains of a young woman called Marieme (Karidja Touré), frequently soars, none more so than when she and her friends decamp to a hotel for a night losing themselves to reefer and Rihanna.

10. Jurassic World - final battle

Jurassic World boasts some monstrous set-pieces, but saves the best for last. Starting with (friendly!) velociraptors taking on the all-but-fire-breathing Indominus Rex, the sequence then unleashes the original film's T-Rex, now so doddery she can't catch a person in high heels, but still badass enough to lay down some prehistoric hurt. Besides the audacity, it's a technical marvel, deploying a dolly move, a Technocrane and a camera on the back of a motorbike to create what looks like one long shot. And the crescendo, which sees the mosasaurus breach its lagoon to gobble down the Indominus, is a crowdpleasing beaut.

9. Kingsman: The Secret Service - the church bloodbath

Colin Firth, hard-boiled action hero. What seemed an improbable prospect at the beginning of January made perfect sense by the end of the month after we'd winced our way through this chapel massacre perpetuated by Firth's Harry Hart. After some epic bloodletting, Col ends proceedings by dispatching Corey Johnson with a stake. As you do. It all seemed like a very far cry from The King's Speech.

8. Ex Machina - dance party

The standout sequence in Ex Machina was Oscar Isaac and Sonoya Mizuno's batty but impressively rhythmical dance-off to Oliver Cheatham's Get Down Saturday Night, although don't tell Domhnall Gleeson that ("everyone's favourite scene is the one I wasn't involved in," he rued on the Empire podcast). It just goes to show, everyone needs their downtime. Even megalomaniacs.

7. Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation - trip to the opera

Opera houses give good cinematic set-piece. Even Quantum Of Solace and The Godfather: Part III, those two unloved franchise orphans, had gripping sequences that took place while the fat lady was singing. Rogue Nation boasted one of the best of the lot, cross-cutting between Ethan Hunt, Ilsa Faust and Benji Dunn as they try to foil (or unfoil) the assassination of Austria's head of state. It's elaborate, zippy and loads of fun, putting even the movie's opening plane sequence into the shade.

6. Ant–Man - Thomas The Tank Engine battle

We're not sure what the Fat Controller made of it all, but Ant-Man's mini-third act battle deserves plaudits for being at once thrilling, in keeping with the spirit of the film and serving up an incredibly random appearance by Thomas The Tank Engine. Paul Rudd's Ant-Man and Corey Stoll's Yellowjacket duke it out and, in a terrific visual gag, it all goes horribly wrong for the still-grinning Tank Engine.

5. Spectre - train fight scene

An otherwise disappointing Bond movie was bookended by two crunching fight sequences that stand with the best in the franchise. The Day of the Dead opening had scale and invention, but for sheer blood and thunder 007's train scrap with Hinx (Dave Bautista) was hard to beat. Unlike the train itself, which was utterly pummelled. Bonus marks, too, for the look Bautista shoots Bond as he realised he's about to take a trip into the North African night. Well played, sir.

Slow West ending

4. Slow West - the final shootout

A surprise gem, Slow West was the debut of The Beta Band's John Maclean. In the era of Peckinpah and Altman, it might have been tagged a revisionist Western, depicting, as it does, a fairly bleak picture of homesteaders and all the flotsam and jetsam of the frontier, even if Maclean's painterly style was more evocative of John Ford. The final sequence, a blistering shootout seige set in and around one of those very homes, certainly stands in that company.

Whiplash scene of the year

3. Whiplash - the final concert

Battered but unbroken in the face of J.K. Simmons' tyrannical instructor, some heavily lacerated palms and a car accident, Miles Teller's drummer, still determined to be the next Buddy Rich, takes to the stage at a jazz festival - and then refuses to leave it again until he's given every last drop of sweat and, arguably, sanity. The camera and editing jolts back between Teller and Simmons' characters - who will break first? - as the audience and fellow band members melt away. Utterly mesmerising.

2. Avengers: Age Of Ultron - lifting Mjölnir

Joss Whedon's writing occasionally got lost in the noise of a blockbuster that was filled to bursting with huge action sequences. A memorable exception came when the Avengers play a spontaneous game of 'who can lift Mjölnir?' at the end of a Tony Stark-hosted house/tower party. Here, Whedon's whipsmart dialogue and ken for character dynamics came joyously into its own. We especially loved the look that races across Thor's face when Cap shifts his hammer just a millimetre.

1. Sicario - border crossing

For napalming your nerve endings this ten minutes or so of cinematic defibrillation took some beating. Josh Brolin's snatch team, conforming to precisely no legal niceties or immigration protocols, and boasting enough SUVs to punch a sizeable hole in the ozone layer, race across the border and back like they're in Fast And Furious: Juarez Drift. No wonder. The city has 1.5 million inhabitants and most want to kill them.

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