The Best Films of 2015

Reminiscing back on 2015, it’s easy to deduce that it has been an exceptional year at the movies. This is our list of the best films of 2015!

Movie-goers have been spoilt rotten with big-budget productions like Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Mad Max: Fury Road, Avengers: Age of Ultron and a host of others who have raked in their fair share of record-breaking profits. It’s also been a great year for filmmakers. But on the other end of the stick, Hollywood’s cookie cutter approach has delivered some atrocious attempts at cashing in on underserved reboots (Point Break, Poltergeist, Fantastic Four), unoriginal scripts (Chappie, Fifty Shades of Grey), and awful sequels (Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2, Ted 2). Amongst this list were also a number of disappointments (Spectre, Hitman: Agent 47, Pixels) and movies that surprised us (What We Do In The Shadows, It Follows, Paddington).

Again, before you gather your pitchforks and sign out your picket boards for protest, it is important to remember that Top lists are always subjective – of course! The following picks were MY PERSONAL favorite films of the year. What qualifies me to compile a list like this, you might ask? I hope that my experience as a movie critic for the last 10 years, my viewing of over five hundred unique movies a year (no easy task), and my experience as a scriptwriter and director would count in my favor here. So without further ado, here is my list of top 15 films of 2015…

15. Ex-Machina

A young programmer is selected to participate in a groundbreaking experiment in artificial intelligence by evaluating the human qualities of a breathtaking female A.I.

An amalgam of 2001, Frankenstein and Greek mythology, Ex-Machina is a haunting look at artificial intelligence and human intellect. It’s a remarkably disturbing and mesmerizing sci-fi that will leave you haunted for days after viewing. Undoubtedly, one of the best sci-fi’s the year had to offer.

14. Mad Max: Fury Road

A woman rebels against a tyrannical ruler in post-apocalyptic Australia in search for her homeland with the help of a group of female prisoners, a psychotic worshiper, and a drifter named Max.

After thirty years, original Mad Max creator George Miller returns to the directorial chair and delivers jaw-dropping visuals coupled with remarkable stunts. Despite its lack of story, Fury Road takes us on a breathtaking journey that will change the action sci-fi film genre forever. Like Max’s personality, the film interested in nothing else but speed, thrills, visuals, and kicking-ass.

13. Selma

Selma is the story of a brave Martin Luther King Jr and his fight for equal voting rights for African Americans.

While there have been a number of movies in 2015 that dealt with racial issues, Selma is probably one of the few that attempts to offer a solution. It’s not all negative here, and, for once, no side of the racial line is shown as the enemy. David Oyelowo fully embodies the great Martin Luther King Jr. and delivers a performance worthy of an Oscar nod.

12. Bridge of Spies

During the Cold War, an American lawyer is recruited to defend an arrested Soviet spy in court, and then help the CIA facilitate an exchange of the spy for the Soviet captured American U2 spy plane pilot, Francis Gary Powers.

Steven Spielberg, The Coen Brothers and Tom Hanks team up for a period piece of spy vs. spy. Put any of those three names together and you’re bound to have a film that offers greatness. Bridge Of Spies is really well acted (especially the performance from Mark Rylance), smart and thrilling. Expect plenty of recognition at the 2015 Academy Awards.

11. Brooklyn

An Irish immigrant lands in 1950s Brooklyn, where she quickly falls into a new romance. When her past catches up with her, however, she must choose between two countries and the lives that exist within.

Saoirse Ronan is an absolute delight in Brooklyn, a charming romantic drama set in the 1950s. She embodies the full emotion of her character in her eyes. This film is a remedy for anyone who is losing faith in simple, good, clean filmmaking. It’s remarkably sweet.

10. Anomalisa

A man crippled by the mundanity of his life experiences something out of the ordinary.

How can a movie with puppets be more life-like than a live action film? Anomalisa is poignant, poetic, and heartfelt. The latest of Charlie Kaufmann’s (Being John Malkovich, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) demonstrations of unique story-telling, Anomalisa is beyond the ordinary. It’s remarkable. While the story itself is disarmingly simple, the puppets allow us to empathize with the characters rather than openly judge them. The relationship between the two main characters is really beautiful. Some might call it depressing, but I call it art. This is storytelling at it’s best. It’s a unique look at love and loneliness. It’s is one of the year’s most important films! Undoubtedly, one of the best films of 2015!

09. Room

After five-year-old Jack and his mother escape from the enclosed surroundings that Jack has known his entire life, the boy makes a thrilling discovery.

Room is a harrowing thriller that is bound to hit you in the feels. The film is structured into two halves; a mother and son’s life inside a room where they are held captive and their life outside of the room where they struggle to adjust to freedom. The story draws similarities to the actual events that were Jaycee Lee Dugard’s true life story which occurred on June 10, 1991, in South Lake Tahoe, California. It is incredibly well-acted and moving. This is a must-see film, but it’s not easy to watch.

08. Beasts of No Nation

A drama based on the experiences of Agu, a child soldier fighting in the civil war of an unnamed African country.

Beasts of No Nation is a solid piece of powerful filmmaking that contains ground-breaking, uncompromising performances by Idris Elba, Abraham Attah, and Emmanuel Nii Adom Quaye. Director and cinematographer Cary Fukunaga make sure you remember the haunting reality of this not-so-fictional story. It’s brutal, heart-breaking and moving. Few movies with this type of content are able to make you laugh, cry, angry and sad all at the same time.

07. The Lobster

In a dystopian near future, single people, according to the laws of The City, are taken to The Hotel, where they are obliged to find a romantic partner in forty-five days or are transformed into beasts and sent off into The Woods.

The Lobster is a surreal and abstract deadpan comedy about the strangeness of modern relationships. It’s an odd movie. Easily the weirdest film you’ll see all year. But it’s also remarkably great. There is nothing quite like it out there. Believe it or not, this strange film will trigger a lot of conversations about the pressures of society and the ridiculous things we do to fall in love. You’ll definitely be laughing a lot, but wow, it’s super weird!

06. The Gift

A young married couple’s lives are thrown into a harrowing tailspin when an acquaintance from the husband’s past brings mysterious gifts and a horrifying secret to light after more than 20 years.

Joel Edgerton’s Hitchcockian directorial debut is rock solid. It’s a mystery thriller with a twist. Everything is well calculated here and the result is amazing. It’s a film that comments on modern day issues like privacy, security and bullying. If you love suspenseful thrillers, you’ll love The Gift. It’s definitely one of the best films of 2015!

05. The Revenant

A frontiersman named Hugh Glass on a fur trading expedition in the 1820s is on a quest for survival after being brutally mauled by a bear.

Beautifully shot, The Revenant is an unforgiving revenge thriller. It the harrowing, gripping, brutal, bold and harsh story of one man’s willpower. Like Mad Max before it, The Revenant is visual poetry with great captivating performances. Will Leonardo finally get his Oscar nod? Perhaps.

04. Spotlight

The true story of how the Boston Globe uncovered the massive scandal of child molestation and cover-up within the local Catholic Archdiocese, shaking the entire Catholic Church to its core.

Spotlight is a film that reminds us of the importance of good journalism. In a world filled with all sorts of unimportant stories, it proves that there is still a place for researched newspaper journalism. Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Live Schreiber, John Slattery, Brian D’Arcy James, Stanley Tucci, Billy Crudup and Len Cariou make up the cast. And you’ll hardly see them better anywhere else this year. Despite its harsh topic, everything here is handled very well. It’s an outstanding film that will make you want to be a better writer and a better person.

03. Sicario

An idealistic FBI agent is enlisted by a government task force to aid in the escalating war against drugs at the border area between the U.S. and Mexico.

Sicario is a deeper look into the bloody desecration of Mexico as a result of the drug cartel wars. It’s an intense film told with surgical precision in the hands of master filmmaker Denis Villeneuve (Prisoners, Enemy). Think Steven Soderbergh’s Traffic. Del Toro, Brolin, and Blunt are nothing short of perfect.

02. Creed

The former World Heavyweight Champion Rocky Balboa serves as a trainer and mentor to Adonis Johnson, the son of his late friend and former rival Apollo Creed.

Who knew that we needed more Rocky movies? Who knew that Creed would prove to be a groundbreaking step in the franchise? Ryan Coogler musters up every emotion possible in this two-hour tour-de-force of filmmaking. Really, Creed is that good. It will make you realize why you loved all the previous movies. On a whole it was an absolutely unexpected journey filled with great excitement, vigor, and energy. You’ll never feel so inspired to go out and accomplish your dreams. Creed is about life. It’s about hope. And most of all it’s about fighting.

01. The Hateful Eight

In the dead of a Wyoming winter, a bounty hunter and his prisoner find shelter in a cabin currently inhabited by a collection of nefarious characters.

It’s easy to walk away from The Hateful Eight and feeling underwhelmed. It wasn’t until the second viewing that I realized just how powerful this film was. Unlike Django Unchained and Inglorious Basterds before it, Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight features no real heroes and that makes it difficult to know who exactly to route for. All eight characters are exactly what the title says; hateful. And so, when everything unfolds you find yourself as a spectator to gruesome language, violence, and racial thoughts. But here is the trick; Tarantino is simply commentating on racism that is still hidden away in society today. You’ll either be completely offended or realize the point of the film. And when you do, it’s quite brilliant. If you expecting anything like his previous works, however, you’ll be bitterly disappointed. That being said, it’s probably one of Tarantino’s most important works yet. The Hateful Eight gets our pick for the number one spot.

A few worthy and unworthy mentions…

Biggest Disappointment… Terminator Genisys
Biggest Disappointment still worth seeing… Marvel’s The Avengers: Age Of Ultron
Best Sequel… Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Worst Sequel… Terminator Genisys
Worst CGI… The Seventh Son
Best CGI… Jurassic World
Best Reboot… Mad Max: Fury Road
Worst Reboot… Point Break
Best Ending… The Hateful Eight
Worst Ending… Chappie
Biggest Waste of Time… Pixels
Biggest Flop… Fantastic Four
Most Confusing Film… Terminator Genisys
Worst Movie… Schucks! Pay Back The Money! / Chappie
Best Documentary… Going Clear
Best Horror… It Follows
Worst Screenwriting… Schucks! Pay Back The Money! / Chappie
Best Comedy… What We Do In The Shadows
Best Kids Movie… Paddington
Worst Comedy… Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2
Best Musical…Straight Outta Compton
Best Action Movie… The Guest
Worst Action Movie… Taken 3
Best Romantic Movie… Brooklyn
Best Science Fiction… The Martian / Ex-Machina
Worst Science Fiction… Jupiter Ascending
Most Entertaining… Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Weirdest Movie… Tusk
Most Over-hyped… Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation
Best Twist… Predestination

What do you think are the best films of 2015?

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