My Favorite Movies of 2015

10: The Martian

The Martian was a nice surprise. Some are calling it a return to form for director Ridley Scott. I can't argue with that. It's entertaining sci-fi. With some entertaining humor (thanks to the source material) and one of the best Matt Damon performances in quite a while. Bust mostly I love watching smart, intuitive, curiously-minded people do the things they are best at. This movie is that in a nutshell; or a spaceship. Whatever. It's fun and I enjoyed it wholeheartedly.

9: Sicario

In Sicario, there's a scene at a border crossing that I'll likely won't ever forget. It's as tense and riveting as anything you'll see. Denis Villeneuve is a master of crafting tone, of which always tends to be dark, unnerving, edge of your seat with an added grinding of teeth. Roger Deakins, as cinematographer, is once again amazing, and if he loses to Lubezki for The Revenant, which will likely be the case, there needs to be a Deakins Day created so we can annually celebrate his fine work. Think Soderbergh's Traffic but much more grim. Oh, and the cast is impeccable.

8: Spotlight

Spotlight is one of those must see films. Not for its impeccable acting or directing, but its subject matter. We are all generally aware of the abuses that occurred in the Catholic church. Spotlight is the story of the Boston Globe journalists who uncovered the corruption. It's a horrific injustice that should be discussed more, and the film captures it aptly: measured, methodical, morally impassioned, steering clear of melodrama. The entire cast deserves an award. Hard to watch, but a must watch (The Big Short from 2015 would also fall into that category).

7: It Follows

I'm fond of narratives that juxtapose elegant filmmaking with dark, unnerving, tonally unsettling thematic material. That's It Follows! It's a beautifully made horror film that is less concerned with the gruesome and more focused on compelling characters, tone as character, and a masterful opening sequence that will leave you scratching your head while simultaneously covering your eyes. I'm pretty thrilled to see what director David Robert Mitchell does in the future.

6: Brooklyn

The most beautiful movie of 2015. I could stare into Saoirse Ronan's eyes or the hills of Ireland or the vibrant colors of 1950s New York forever. It's part love story, which is done beautifully. But where it shines for me is in its coming of age tale. I left this film feeling like my heart grew a few sizes, which would bring it to normal heart size as my heart is miniature but you get the idea. Oh, and every character in this film is interested and well developed, even if we only get a few moments with them. That's an astonishing feat.

5: Room

I read Room as a book before I saw the movie. I adored it, and I was excited to see that its writer, Emma Donaghue, also wrote the screenplay. Plus, you have Lenny Abrahamson directing. His film, Frank, from last year was a delightful hit you in the heart surprise. Room, the film, is every bit as good as the book. Where it shines best are in the performances from Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay. They are both spectacular. It's a harrowing film at times, but it has some pretty universally wonderful, nuanced things to say about perspective and the lives we live I found to be so compelling and inspiring.

4: Ex Machina

I loved Alex Garland's writing in 28 Days Later, Dredd, and Sunshine. I was really excited to see him direct his own script. Ex Machina is one of those smart, thinky, hard sci-fi movies you hear about, right there with 2001: A Space Odyssey, or Moon. Ex Machina is an intimate look at artificial intelligence that is wholly unsettling and voyeuristic and an essential exploration of its implications. Amazing performances from Oscar Isaac, Domhnall Gleeson, and especially Alicia Vikander as Eve, the robot.

3: Inside Out

So many tears and gross cry face while I watched Inside Out. It's a story about emotions, and the interconnectedness of our emotions and the essential validity of all of our emotions, from joy and sadness to fear and anger. Really wonderful. My favorite Pixar film since Ratatouille. I loved its message so much I wrote about it!

2: Mad Max: Fury Road

The most in your face vibrancy and energy and fire-breathing guitar movie ever. It's simple storytelling, yet it has some profound things to say about feminism and identity. Some of the most thrilling and unbelievable chase sequences ever put to film. Mad Max: Fury Road rules!

1: Victoria

The single-take film that doesn't feel like a gimmick. You feel like you're there with the characters on their sometimes sweet, sometimes adventurous, sometimes terrifying journey. Remarkable movie in every way. Laia Costa is sublime. Seriously, go see this movie. It's an experience like you've never had before.

Honorable Mentions:

  • The cleverly scripted and gruesome Bone Tomahawk
  • The brilliant return to the Rocky franchise with Creed
  • The lyrical and touching Tangerine
  • The quirky, violent, and non-Western Western Slow West
  • The best comedy of 2015, with the inestimable Amy Schumer, Trainwreck
  • The utterly gorgeous and affecting (with a deliciously villainous turn from Jessica Chastain) Crimson Peak
  • The hilarious and sweet What We Do in the Shadows, the second best comedy of 2015
  • The amazingly acted and profound NWA origin story, Straight Outta Compton
  • The wild, kinetic, sharply smart Kingsman: the Secret Service
  • The return to the world I love so much, the fun and joyous and nostalgic gem, Star Wars: The Force Awakens