What an interesting year for movies. It’s tough to say great because I had a difficult time finding ten truly deserving films to be on my Top Ten Movies of 2015 list. However, I had six films that I believe could be a number one in a different year. Yes, I said SIX. That’s a big number. I gave one perfect score and five that were just a shade from that when I usually only have two or three total. I think it’s important to take that into consideration when nearing the top of my list as they were all such incredible films. To counter that, my runner’s up list is a bit shallow with the 8 – 15 spots nearly interchangeable, but I tried to name the one’s I truly believe are worth seeing, which means you should definitely check out my runner’s up list at the bottom. While I liked a great deal of films this year, only a handful of them did I find it necessary to call out. Women had a banner year in film and the blockbusters were particularly strong (minus superhero movies) as you will see a few show up due to wildly fun rides at the cineplex. I’m excited about this year’s variety and enough can’t be said about the top six.
Click on the titles to link to a full review.
Honorable Mention: THE MARTIAN / JURASSIC WORLD – I usually reserve my ten spot for a fun blockbuster, but since I believe I have plenty of those, I decided to swap my Honorable Mention with my number ten. I put both of these films here because I find them very similar. Many will have you believe THE MARTIAN is something much more and JURASSIC WORLD is something far less. Ultimately I think they are closer to the same category – dumb, fun, wildly ridiculous popcorn entertainment and I loved every minute of it. While THE MARTIAN has a bit more brains and an Oscar worthy performance, I’m the first to admit that these films are not Best Picture material.
10. ME AND EARL AND THE DYING GIRL – A little gem about a high schooler who spends his time with his associate parodying classic films. His life is changed when he befriends a classmate dying of cancer. It’s clever, touching and funny, showing a lot of promise for almost everyone involved. While every shot doesn’t always work, director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon is deliberate with his choices and it’s nice to see a filmmaker with a vision.
9. SHAUN THE SHEEP MOVIE – Any other year, SHAUN THE SHEEP MOVIE would be my favorite animated film and I would be championing it to win. Unfortunately, had to go up against the juggernaut Pixar with one of their best creations (and that’s saying a lot). Much like Pixar’s WALL-E, SHAUN THE SHEEP MOVIE is very close to a silent film. It’s a slapstick comedy that goes from one delightful dilemma to the next. Maybe it’s having a 1.5 year old daughter, but this film charmed the pants off me and had me laughing out loud throughout.
8. STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS – Do I really need to bring any more attention to the record breaking craze that is STAR WARS? Well, I can’t help myself. I’m fully aware that this film has many problems, particularly the near exact script from A NEW HOPE. But my unique experience had an unforgettable impact on me . It brought me back to my childhood and the emotional nostalgia that I felt throughout the film was unexpected. Goosebumps ran across my body from beginning to end and I can’t wait to see where the Saga ventures next. I’ve spent hours after the fact discussing the film with people, analyzing details, guessing possible answers and yes, talking at length about what we did not like. But the fact remains, we were talking about it passionately. Plain and simple, the experience was just too much fun to not have it on my list.
7. IT FOLLOWS – Concisely explained in the title, IT FOLLOWS taps into our fears more than most films before it by repeating one of the most simple horror concepts. It’s amazing that such a succinct idea had never been done before. By having the catalyst be a commentary on sexually transmitted diseases, only furthers the films profound lasting affect. This film is not without its flaws, especially in its final act, but like last year’s THE BABADOOK, IT FOLLOWS is the rare horror film that is both terrifying and relevant.
6. THE REVENANT – An excruciatingly brutal journey of one man’s plight for survival driven by revenge. This wilderness/western film captures the unrelenting power of both nature and man like no other. Leonardo DiCaprio turns in another Oscar worthy performance as he endures everything Oscar winning director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu throws at him, including one of the most impressive scenes I’ve ever seen on film. Using mostly natural light throughout the picture, THE REVENANT’s epic beauty is something to behold on the big screen.
5. THE HATEFUL EIGHT – Quentin Tarantino can do no wrong in my book. It’s a testament to the next few films on this list that THE HATEFUL EIGHT is only at my five spot. Most years, like most of his movies, this would be somewhere in my top three, probably number one. Tarantino creates a whodunit murder mystery staged in the old west. The way he weaves characters and dialogue is better than anyone before him, providing another wickedly entertaining ride.
4. EX MACHINA – A near perfect not-so-futuristic, science fiction film, EX MACHINA is visually stunning with a ton of thematic issues involving physicality, sexuality, mentality, and divinity. Every aspect of this film, cinematography, art direction, performances, cohesively lends itself to the engaging screenplay about man’s ego when evaluating the human tendencies of a female artificial intelligence.
3. SPOTLIGHT – The film about The Boston Globe team that uncovered the horrific molestation scandal hidden by the catholic church is a thorough insight into the investigative procedure. It somehow manages to be edge of your seat fascinating while watching people do research. SPOTLIGHT’s greatest achievement is keeping the children off camera and not making the journalist team into heroes. Everyone plays a part in the good and bad and that is why it’s important to not let acts like these go unnoticed. SPOTLIGHT was both emotionally unsettling and inspirationally moving.
2. MAD MAX FURY ROAD – Blending minimal CGI with incredible high wire stunt work, MAD MAX: FURY ROAD is relentless, beautiful, and insane. George Miller has created a cinematic masterpiece with one of the greatest action films of all time. I’ve never seen anything like it and better yet, it actually has something to say as the unlikely strongest pro-woman film of the year.
1. INSIDE OUT – It is no surprise that my one perfect score of the year is a Pixar film. INSIDE OUT managed to create a complex story about a child’s emotions and the importance and value of expressing each one. The aging process of a child might be very sad but the tears they bring can also bring a lot of joy. I will forever look at my daughter’s personality in a positively different way and I’m very thankful.
Runner’s Up – STEVE JOBS, THE BIG SHORT, ROOM, 45 YEARS