I don’t think I have ever been less excited to make a top 10 of the year list. It’s not that 2015 was a bad year, because it wasn’t, but I did get a bit stressed out over having seen the wrong movie compared to what the Academy nominated and what were on a lot of other people’s top ten lists. Mine might seem a bit strange, but that’s probably because I simply did not have enough time to see all of the films that people were talking about this past year.
Also, 2015 was strange in that there were a ton of really, really good movies, but not too many great ones. So with regards to my top ten list, a lot of these titles really seem interchangeable. As such, I really wanted to include a lot of more interesting movies that may have technically were not that great or even good, but at least they were more of a standout as an interesting failure. A lot of big director’s projects kind of fell through with me, but a lot of surprises came through as well. I also had a lot of movies that I saved until they the end, and as such, had already been way way hyped, and so I wasn’t as surprised by them as most people were.
I liked 2015 in film, and I think it’s a year that will only get better as I leave it behind. I’ll catch up with more of the films down the road, and I think I’ll have a greater appreciation for it now that I don’t have to make this list.
So, as a recap, here are the 2015 films I’ve seen this past year:
Amy, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Beasts of No Nation, Black Mass, Bridge of Spies, Brooklyn, By the Sea, Carol, Creed, Crimson Peak, Ex Machina, The Hateful Eight, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2, Inside Out, Joy, Listen to Me Marlon, Mad Max: Fury Road, Macbeth, The Martian, The Revenant, Room, Ricki and the Flash, Sicario, Southpaw, Spectre, Spotlight, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Steve Jobs, Trumbo
Honorable Mentions: The Revenant, Listen to Me Marlon, Bridge of Spies, Joy, By the Sea
Coming in at number ten is…..
Ryan Coogler’s Creed
If you had told me that I would like Creed when I first saw the trailer, I would have loled so hard. I may not be as familiar with the Rocky franchise as some, but love what I have seen of it, and it seemed weird to bring it back after all these years. As someone who normally questions these types of sequels, it was a bit strange for me to get as on board with this film as I did. But then again, it was surprisingly good! The great central performances from Micheal B. Jordan and Tessa Thompson anchor a film with great cinematography and a great story. One of the biggest surprises of a year filled with them. (3.5/4 stars)
Coming in at number nine is….
Tom McCarthy’s Spotlight
Spotlight is a great old school movie, only made better for the fact that it’s set in Boston! It uses a very matter-of-fact style to portray journalists investigating the cover up of sex abuse in the Catholic Church. While other films might have gone for easy shocks considering the subject matter, Spotlight instead focuses on the diligence of the journalists, doing with little what few films can. It’s far from the flashiest film of the year, but that’s what makes it great. (3.5/4 stars)
Coming in at number eight is…
Ridley Scott’s The Martian
It took me forever to catch up with this film for some reason, but I couldn’t be happier with it once I finally did. It more than lived up to the hype for me. What a fun and entertaining film! I love films about space in general, and it’s nice to see one that it is focused on the wonder of space and human achievement every once in a while. If there’s one film on this list that can inspire its audience to believe in something great, it’s The Martian. (3.5/4 stars)
Coming in at number seven is…
JJ Abrams’ Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Am I inflating this movie’s position on the list just because it’s Star Wars? Probably, but nevertheless the experience of finally seeing a Star Wars film in the theaters was fantastic. The film might stray a bit too close to the original movies, but I can’t help but loving it anyway. My heart’s ahead of my head on this one, but nevertheless The Force Awakens was one of the best times I had in a theater in 2015, even though it could use more Oscar Isaac. (3.5/4 stars)
Coming in at number six is…
Guillermo del Toro’s Crimson Peak
I looked back to my top ten of 2013, and was tickled by the fact that Stoker took the number six spot that year. Fast forward two years, and you have another Gothic horror genre hybrid starring Mia Waskiowska at the same spot. Seriously, I know this is more of an individualist pick than most of my list, and I won’t find many people agreeing with me, but I loved Crimson Peak so much I don’t even care. It was so thoroughly my kind of movie that I really couldn’t leave it off, even if it runs off the rails a bit. (3.5/4 stars)
Coming in at number five is….
Pixar’s Inside Out
Like the next film on this list, Inside Out had me shedding more than a couple of tears during its running time. It’s one of the ones I caught up later in the year that did not disappoint, even after all of the hype. The way they manage to visualize abstract concepts of emotion in such a clever and colorful way was truly a joy to witness. Definitely makes me regret all of the Pixar films I don’t catch up on. (3.5/4 stars)
Coming in at number four is…
John Crowley’s Brooklyn
Like many of the films on this list, Brooklyn was a not a film I expected to like. However, the mixture of the film’s emotional heft and the mood I was in that day at the theater had me tearing up the entire way through. Make no mistake, Brooklyn‘s tale of a young girl finding her way in America is very old-fashioned, but in a way that makes us question why they don’t (usually) make ’em like they used to. And for my money, it features the best performance of the year from the impossibly perfect Saoirse Ronan. (3.5/4 stars)
Coming in at number three is…
Denis Villeneuve’s Sicario
When I first saw Sicario, I definitely didn’t expect it to end up at number three on my end of the year list. I actually wasn’t too fond of it. However, the more I thought about this movie the more I really appreciated it. The moral weight this movie has, even with the brutality, was something I didn’t see much of in the cinema at the end of the year. It’s an interesting and unusual film in how its structured and shot, and I appreciated it for that as much as the story. It’s mostly gotten lost in the end of the year shuffle so I haven’t been revisiting it in my mind as often as I should have, but I look forward to seeing it again sometime. (3.5/4 stars)
Coming in at number two is…
George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road
Whenever I remember Mad Max: Fury Road, a gleeful smile spreads across my face. That smile is the sign that I when I watched Mad Max: Fury Road, I witnessed an exemplary piece of filmmaking unfold before my very eyes. I did not even know what the Mad Max franchise was before I saw this movie, and I’m very glad I took a chance and did see it. To see this magnificent, complex, and mythical vision play out in the desert under George Miller’s direction was definitely one of the highlights of the year for me. Even if you set aside the awesome feminist message, Mad Max‘s greatest accomplishment is the how I walked out of the theater at the end and I had no idea how long I had been in there. I really got lost it. I really should have given 4/4 stars, I just don’t think I believed it could have actually been as great as it was. (3.5/4 stars, really should be a 4)
Coming in at number one is…
Todd Haynes’ Carol
As the only four star film from this year, it’s no surprise that Carol won the top spot from me. I really adored this film. It took me a while to tap into what it was doing, but after you get used to it the film is simply stunning. Enough credit cannot be given to Todd Haynes, who masterful orchestrates all of the artists under his direction into turning in incredible performances, cinematography, costume design, score, and so on. Though it is a somewhat reserved movie that can be hard to find a way into, the rare moments when its genuine feeling bursts forth are priceless. (4/4 stars)
All in all, I may have been slighting disappointed with 2015, but that’s not because I didn’t like the movies. It’s more because I didn’t LOVE a lot of the movies. You’ll probably be most surprised at my inclusion of Joy and By the Sea on honorable mentions, and that’s just because even though I know some of the oscary movies are better, I just didn’t love them as I felt I should have. But movies like Joy and By the Sea had bars so low that they couldn’t help but surprise me. There were a lot of films like that this year, films I had a strange affection for but didn’t full out love.
And it looks like 2016 is getting underway a lot sooner than usual, with the Coens’ Hail! Caesar coming out this weekend! Though I’m usually wary of movies released this early in the year, Hail! Caesar is exactly up my alley. Next we have Terrance Malick’s Knight of Cups, which I’ve heard is better than To the Wonder, so that’s something. I might not be as familiar with Jeff Nichols as some, but I’m still interested in seeing Midnight Special. I’m not going to miss anything with Jake Gyllenhaal in it, so Demolition is on the list too. The Nice Guys had a great trailer. I have mixed feelings about Finding Dory, but I have to mention it for sure. I have similarly mixed feeling about the Justin Lin directed Star Trek Beyond, but we’ll see how that goes (also Idris Elba is in this movie, hell yeah!). Suicide Squad I will see just for Margot Robbie. I stand by it. Same deal with Batman vs. Superman; I will 100% just see that for Jesse Eisenberg being a smart ass. Finally, Passengers seems pretty interesting. You have sci-fi, Morton Tyldum (I guess?), and Jennifer Lawrence, Chris Pratt, and Micheal Sheen! That cast though.
So that’s 2016, stay tuned to find out how many of those I actually see and review! Thanks for reading and thanks for another great year!