I know this is kind of late, but I love making these end of the year lists, and since this is my first year with my blog, I thought it would be cool to go back to last year and reveal my best movies of 2015 list. It was a pretty spread out year for the most part. There were great blockbuster films, action films, children’s films, independent films, and some fantastic Academy Award nominated films. I certainly haven’t seen every film of 2015 (who has?), so this list is based solely on what films I have seen and nothing more. I don’t normally see a lot of foreign films and not too many independent films, although I’m trying to break that trend currently (there have been a lot of fantastic independent films this year). I do try to see as many films that were nominated at the Academy Awards as I possibly can, and of course all the larger, American films that have received high praise. If I were to do this list based on popularity alone than films like Jurassic World, Furious 7, and Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation might be on here. If I were to do this list based solely on critical acclaim than films like The Martian, Brooklyn, and Carol might be on here. However, with my list, I am focused most on what the legacy for these specific films will be. I want my end-of-the-year list to have films that will be remembered in 5 or 10 years. These films might be considered classics, and are not just really good oscar-bait films that will be forgotten in a year or so. So, with that being said, here are my 10 best films of 2015!
Honorable Mentions: Spotlight, The Hateful Eight, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, Dope, The Invitation
10. The Gift
The Gift was a criminally underrated thriller directed by the ever so talented Joel Edgerton. Edgerton proved he can not only act very well, but direct too! This film is masterfully directed, offering incredible tension throughout and some fantastic visual imagery. Jason Bateman gives the best performance of his career and Joel Edgerton gives a chilling performance that is extremely memorable. The story is told at a soothing pace, that continues to build as the film goes along. However, the ending to this film is one of the best I have seen in years and continues to haunt my dreams. This film reminded me of a great David Fincher directed thriller. The Gift is one of the best thrillers of 2015 and shouldn’t be missed by anyone who are fans of dark, psychological thrillers.
9. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Arguably the most anticipated film of all time, Star Wars: The Force Awakens was a great return to form for the Star Wars franchise. Was it perfect? No. Was it the best Star Wars films ever? No. It didn’t need to be. What it ended up being was a film that offered brand new faces to the franchise and enough nostalgia to please any hardcore Star Wars fan of any age. J.J. Abrams does a great job of meshing modern CGI action, with old-school practical effects that the older Star Wars films were known to have. This film also introduced the world to three talented, young actors Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, and Adam Driver. They will all be important for the rest of the series. Star Wars is back, and you can thank this film which ended up grossing over 2 billion at the box office!
Creed did to the Rocky franchise what Star Wars: The Force Awakens did to the Star Wars franchise. It brought new life into the franchise that meshed older characters with new ones. Creed is directed very well and has great performances, especially from Michael B. Jordan who proves he can carry a film as a lead actor. (It’s great to see him become this gigantic movie star, because I’ve always known him as Wallace from The Wire). This is a fantastic boxing film that offered some fantastic fighting scenes, great music, and some heart-wrenching scenes that could make a grown man cry. I like how Ryan Coogler didn’t force everything to happen in the one film. He seems to be taking his time and allowing the characters to grow and planting the necessary seeds to allow the franchise to get better and better. I’m really excited for the sequels!
Room is one of those films that really get under your skin, but won’t allow your eyes to move anywhere else from the screen. It is one of the best directed films I saw in 2015 and offers two phenomenal performances from Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay. I already knew Larson had the acting chops, but I was absolutely blown away with how great Tremblay was. He gave one of the best child performances I have ever seen, and should have been nominated for an Academy Award. Both Larson and Tremblay had fantastic chemistry and really seemed like they were mother and son. The first half of this film is sensational, but it does lose its steam a little bit in the second half. Nevertheless, Room is still one of the 10 best films I saw in 2015 and is a great drama that shouldn’t be forgotten for years and years.
6. The Revenant
Yes, after looking back on this film, it does seem like an Oscar grab for Leonardo DiCaprio. And the plot is pretty bland, and the characters may not be as memorable as they could have been. With that being said, this film is still incredible, with superb directing from Alejandro González Iñárritu, and breathtaking cinematography from Emmanuel Lubezki. Seriously, some of the best cinematography I have ever seen in a film! The Revenant has some extremely memorable scenes like the inglorious bear scene for example, and is filmed entirely in a real-life setting with very few CGI green screens. This is always refreshing to see, and I highly recommend reading the IMDB trivia for this film, because it is truly incredible what the actors and filmmakers did to create this film.
5. Straight Outta Compton
Straight Outta Compton really surprised me after watching it for the first time. Even thought I wasn’t really familiar with the hip-hop group N.W.A, I immediately became fascinated with the group, after watching the film, and forced myself into reading as much as possible about the group and the members. Not only is this film a great history lesson for how N.W.A changed hip-hop and pop culture, but also how crazy inner-city Los Angeles can be between African-Americans and police officers. This film is extremely relevant in today’s world, and is very honest with how things went down and didn’t focus too much on the glamour. This film is also incredibly well-directed, written, and acted. The three actors who portrayed Ice Cube, Easy-E, and Dr. Dre were all phenomenal, and Paul Giamatti gives one of his best performances in years.
Denis Villeneuve is certainly one of the best directors working today, and he continued his hot streak with this fabulous film. Sicario accurately presents the horror and infamy of what goes on in the current drug trade along the Mexican-American border. We get both sides of the coin, the law enforcement and drug dealers showcased very well and realistic sequences that don’t feel “Hollywoodized” at all. This film is directed with vitality by Villeneuve and shot extremely well by the great Roger Deakins. Emily Blunt proves that she is one of the best actresses working today and Benicio Del Toro gives one of the best performances of his great career. I absolutely loved his character, and I would love to see a spin-off film with his character at some point.
3. Ex Machina
2015 was a big year for Alicia Vikander, and even though she won an Oscar for her performance in The Danish Girl, everyone will remember her for her role in Ex Machina over the next five years or so. Her character in this film, Ava, is one of my favorite characters of 2015 and really put Vikander on the map. I would love to see a spin-off movie with her character as well, just as I said with Del Torro’s character in Sicario. Ex Machina is a highly original science fiction film, that has a simple but compelling story and some fantastic characters to boot. I love films that have a limited setting, but still remain interesting and intriguing throughout. Ex Machina fits that bill perfectly. The directing is fantastic by Alex Garland, especially with what he does in the scenes with Ava and Domhnall Gleeson’s character, Caleb. I was blown away with this film, and should be considered one of the best science fiction films of recent memory.
2. Inside Out
Inside Out is one of the best, if not the best, Pixar films of all time. That is really saying something, because Pixar has given us so many phenomenal films over the past few decades. Inside Out has the perfect formula for what makes a Pixar film so great: beautiful animation, great voiceover performances, an original story, compelling characters, humor for both children and adults, and lots of emotion. This will certainly go down as one of the best animated films of all time, and is certainly one of the best films of 2015.
You probably have already guessed it by now, but here is my best film of 2015! (No surprise)
1. Mad Max: Fury Road
What is there to say that hasn’t already been said about this action gem? George Miller went absolutely crazy and insane creating this movie, and I loved every second of it! This is one of the most original, well-made action films of all time possibly. The lack of CGI in favor of actual stunts is what makes this rise above other average action films we are accustomed to seeing. Also the incredibly memorable characters including my favorite character of 2015, Furiosa, played by Charlize Theron. This film is a non-stop thrill ride from beginning to end, literally, and has you at the edge of your seat and sweating just like most of the characters in the film. Also the editing and cinematography are phenomenal. It deserved to win all the awards and I just wish it would have won Best Picture, but it certainly will be one of the most memorable films and its legacy will live on forever and ever.