Despite the many flops the year had to offer, 2015 was the year of strong, independent female characters, wonderful dramas, hilarious comedies, breathtaking action, and some notable directors finding redemption (M. Night Shyamalan coming back with The Visit is among many examples). I was surprised by a lot of films this year, even ones I became too skeptical on. Since there was a lot of great movies in 2015, here is my list of the top 15 best movies of the year. Keep in mind, I haven’t seen every great movie. Don’t expect movies like The Hateful Eight, Spotlight, Carol, or The Danish Girl on this list.
Honorable Mentions: Ant-Man, The Avengers: Age of Ultron, Cinderella, Far from the Madding Crowd, Furious 7, It Follows, Mr. Holmes, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, The Peanuts Movie, Straight Outta Compton
15. Ex Machina – Talk about an original sci-fi picture that is provocative, unexpected, and chilling to the core! With three terrific performances by Domnhall Gleeson, Alicia Vikander, and a scene-stealing Oscar Isaac, Ex Machina brings the issues of artificial intelligence and how advanced technology has control in everyday life. The beautiful, haunting visuals through Alex Garland’s direction makes it such a treat. Ava (played wonderfully by Vikander) is one of the best special effects creations in recent years.
14. Steve Jobs – I don’t know why this movie didn’t get the audience it deserved. Danny Boyle and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin create an emotionally intense portrait of one of the most influential people in technology. Told in a three-act structure, the movie follows Jobs as he is about to appear for his product launches of the Macintosh, the NeXT, and the iMac. Even though he looks absolutely nothing like Steve Jobs, Michael Fassbender gives one hell of a performance as the Apple CEO. With a gifted supporting cast and miraculous dialogue, Steve Jobs is The Social Network of 2015.
13. Amy – The best documentary of the year chronicles Amy Winehouse’s fame and personal struggles. I knew very little about Winehouse, but I remember the day she died of alcohol poisoning. Seeing this documentary made me knew more about the life of one of the most original singers of the early 21st century. She brought a different style to the contemporary music world. A lot of people were used to hearing pop and hip-hop, Winehouse was more about blues, soul, and jazz. She became huge success worldwide. Then, she became addicted to drugs and alcohol. When she died at the age of 27, she left behind a great legacy.
12. The End of the Tour – I love movies involving two people having a fascinating conversation. The End of the Tour is no exception. It features Jason Segel in his best performance as the late author David Foster Wallace, whose 1,000+ page book Infinite Jest made him become a big name. Jesse Eisenberg plays David Lipsky, a Rolling Stone who decides to have a five-day interview with him. They live up on junk food, binge-watching (before “binge-watching” became a thing), and spending time around the Mall of America. The chemistry between these two actors is so compelling I never wanted their conversation to end. Poignant, funny, and all-around excellent.
11. The Gift – This movie surprised the hell out of me! Joel Edgerton’s directorial debut is so Hitchcockian in its style and narrative. Starring along with Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall, Edgerton makes one hell of a creepy stalker. It’s unnerving, unpredictable, and engaging in every way. Seeing his face sends shivers down my spine.
10. Creed – Michael B. Jordan and Ryan Coogler return two years after collaborating in Fruitvale Station. In Creed, they bring the beloved Rocky series back to life. Sylvester Stallone returns as our favorite boxer from Philadelphia: Rocky Balboa. This time, he has retired from boxing. And starts training the son of Apollo Creed. Coogler perfectly blends old-fashioned drama with the excellent boxing scenes; especially the first fight consists of a five-minute long take. The chemistry between Michael B. Jordan and Stallone is one-of-a-kind.
9. Bridge of Spies – Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg are two of my favorite people working today. Bridge of Spies proves it. Their latest masterpiece is one of the most fascinating projects: an old-fashioned, dialogue-driven Cold War thriller. With a screenplay written by Joel and Ethan Coen, Spielberg and Hanks take us back to a time where America was living in a state of fear. The biggest fear is no other than Communism. The tension is brought through with the astounding dialogue and Thomas Newman’s breathtaking score. Hanks delivers yet another wonderful performance as insurance lawyer Jim Donavon, who brought “justice for all”.
8. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl – This Sundance winner would make Wes Anderson proud. Alfonso Gomez-Rejon creates an offbeat comedy with a big heart. Thomas Mann, R.J. Cyler, and Olivia Cooke have long careers ahead of them. Their compelling chemistry brings enough laughs and tears to the story about two high school seniors creating spoofs of art films while befriending a girl with leukemia. It’s hard not to relate to the main character Greg. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is more than just a high school film, it’s a love letter to the art of filmmaking. Watching Nick Offerman as Greg’s dad convincing his son and Greg’s friend Earl to try these weird foods is priceless.
7. Mad Max: Fury Road – Easily the best action film of the year featuring some of the best action of this decade. George Miller reboots the Mad Max franchise thirty years after Beyond Thunderdome. With a basic narrative about finding hope and redemption, Mad Max: Fury Road is an engine that never runs out of steam. It’s refreshing to see mostly practical effects to give a sense on how insane Miller’s apocalyptic wasteland is where people are in desperate need of food, water, and gas. Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron make a terrific duo. Take notes from the master, Michael Bay.
6. Love & Mercy – The music of the Beach Boys truly define the feeling of summer. The band started to record songs for Pet Sounds. Instead of doing songs about summer, Brian Wilson decided to make the songs for listening. Then, he begins having panic attacks. Told in two timelines–1960s and the 1980s–we follow Brian Wilson, played wonderfully by Paul Dano and John Cusack, as he begins to lose grip on reality. Bill Pohlad gives a devastating biopic on one of the best musicians of the 20th century inside and outside of the studio through his brilliant direction. Love & Mercy is an experience I’ll never forget.
5. Inside Out – After the disappointments of Cars 2, Brave and Monsters University, PIXAR is back with Inside Out. It gives something original, ambitious, creative, imaginative, relatable, funny, and downright heartbreaking. The metaphors and the breathtaking animation make it a feast for the ears and the eyes. The voice acting is superb, the characters are as lovable as ever, and the emotion is raw. Seeing this three times in the theaters made me love it more each viewing. It makes everyone wonder what is going on inside our heads.
4. The Martian – Ridley Scott’s directing career has been in the gutter for years. In The Martian, he gives a survival tale that is as funny as it is suspenseful. With Drew Goddard’s witty screenplay, Matt Damon’s Watney the most optimistic survivalist ever (or as I like to describe him as a classier Bear Grylls). “In your face, Neil Armstrong,” he wisecracks as he colonizes Mars. During his time on Mars, he listens to disco music from Michael Lewis’ (excellent performance by Jessica Chastain) playlist. With an all-star cast including Chiwetel Ejiofor, Kristen Wiig, Jeff Daniels, Michael Peña, and Kate Mara, hilarious pop culture references, and breathtaking cinematography, The Martian is Ridley Scott’s new masterpiece. This movie has the best Lord of the Rings reference (I was in stitches).
3. Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens – I know I haven’t posted a review for the latest chapter in the Star Wars saga. Because I didn’t want to spoil for anyone who has yet to see it. To keep it as brief as I possibly can, The Force Awakens is everything I want in a Star Wars movie: funny, breathtaking, exciting, and touching. It introduces new characters (Daisy Ridley’s Rey is one of the best characters of the year) as well as some familiar faces. Thanks J.J. Abrams for bringing the saga back to the silver screen!
2. Brooklyn – What a charming love story. John Crowley pays tribute to his native Ireland as well as the films of the 1950s (in which Brooklyn is set). The movie doesn’t come close to becoming a soap opera. Brooklyn is as human of a movie as it gets, kudos to Crowley’s direction and Nick Hornby’s screenplay. Saoirse Ronan gives the performance of a lifetime as an Irish immigrant trying to settle in Brooklyn. When she falls in love with an Italian-American plumber, she must choose to live in America or Ireland. Brooklyn is a wonderful study in homesickness with enough wit, charm and emotion.
1. Room – Going into this movie with barely any expectations at all made the experience so much better; I knew I wanted to see it again. Now I have seen it twice, Lenny Abrahamson and Emma Donaghue give a raw, intense film about taking the big step into the big world. Seen through the eyes of 5-year-old Jack (Jacob Tremblay, in an award-worthy performance), he has been living in a small garden shed with no windows (except for a skylight) with Ma (another wonderful performance by Brie Larson). During the first act, we see Ma (Joy) and Jack living in Room. As Jack begins to understand more about the situation they are in, he slowly begins to make that huge transition in life. His memories and imaginations are in Room. As the second act comes into play, he becomes more comfortable living in the real world. Ma, however, is struggling to find what is best for her son. What a movie!
I hope you enjoyed my list of the best movies of 2015. I’m looking forward to see what 2016 has to offer. Please feel free to leave a comment on what some of your favorite movies of the year are. Stay tuned for my top 20 most anticipated movies of the new year. Take care.