'71, 99 Homes, Ant-Man, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Beasts of No Nation, Best of 2015, Black Mass, Bridge of Spies, Brooklyn, Creed, In the Heart of the Sea, Inside Out, Joy, Lists and Insight, Mad Max: Fury Road, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, Mission: Impossible- Rogue Nation, Mr. Holmes, Pawn Sacrifice, Room, Sicario, Slow West, Spectre, Spotlight, Star Wars, Star Wars: Episode VII- The Force Awakens, Steve Jobs, Straight Outta Compton, The Big Short, The End of the Tour, The Hateful Eight, The Martian, The Walk
Best Movies of 2015
As 2015 comes to an end, it’s time to look back at the best films of the year. While some films, such as The Revenant, have not opened in my area, there are a lot of great films to pick amongst the best of the year. Similarly, 2014 films that I was unable to review until this year, including American Sniper, Selma, and The Interview will not be counted on this list, as they are technically not 2015 releases. Here are my picks for the top thirty best films of 2015.
Raiders! The Story of the Greatest Fan film Ever Made
Love & Mercy
The Man From U.N.C.L.E.
A Walk in the Woods
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay- Part 2
While We’re Young
A Most Violent Year
Ant-Man serves as a highly entertaining comic book adaptation, with the film focusing on a more heist oriented storyline with a comical edge. Ant-Man is an extremely fun film, with great performances, action, and comedy that works as a heist film and a superhero adventure. The collaboration between Peyton Reed and Paul Rudd is a successful one, creating a unique film amongst the growing weariness of the action movie genre.
’71 is a grittily realized independent thriller that benefits from its remarkable filmmaking and brutal stylization. The strong direction by Yann Demange demonstrates a profound knowledge of the elements of a thrilling feature, and make for an exhilarating film. ’71 is a powerful film that presents a brilliant storyline and delivers on its premise. The duo of Demange and O’Connell present a thrilling film that is both exhilarating and heartfelt.
- The Walk
The Walk is a visceral cinematic experience that celebrates the triumph of the human spirit with stunningly intense moments of cinematic ingenuity. There are flaws along the way, but the last act of the film is one of the most intense and thrilling sequences in recent memory, and certainly one of the best to grace the silver screen this year. There’s a playfulness to the entire adventure, but there’s also a more dramatic gravity to the experience, as recognized in a tribute to the real life events. The Walk is exhilarating, stunning in parts, and constantly entertaining, as well as a worthy film in Zemeckis’s catalogue of classics. It’s definitely a fun film about human spirit, but when the films gets into the heart of its message it transcends to a more emotional state
- 99 Homes
99 Homes is an interesting film; it has the appearance of an intricately based drama, but divulges into a morality-based thriller, and plays well into true events without being preachy. There’s enough realism that nearly crosses the line of clashing with the story, but there’s enough emotional empowerment that drives the film throughout its internal melodrama. Andrew Garfield and Michael Shannon give incredible performances, and while they play roles that are perusal for the characters, they do well with the material and put emotions and characters behind the faceless numbers of real estate.
Sicario is a highly ambitious crime thriller with some highly intriguing elements, including tonal and psychological shifts, as well as an interesting commentary on violence and moral dilemma presented between its characters. The method of storytelling, specifically Director Denis Villenueve’s emphasis on mystery and suspense, draw divisive results, but it’s ultimately a rewarding experience to take part in the film’s stronger sequences and shifts in plot. Sicario is worth seeing simply to be part of the conversation, and while there are certainly issues, the film concludes too well to be ignored. It’s a psychological and mentally challenging film, and a one that will spark discussions in the following.
- Pawn Sacrifice
Pawn Sacrifice is an excellent biographical thriller, with top notch work from Tobey Maguire and Liev Schreiber. Though it sometimes stumbles in capturing the madness of its characters, the film feels authentic and exciting throughout the runtime, building to an epic climax that combines history and mental games to create an enigmatic and shocking thriller. Pawn Sacrifice is an intellectually stimulating and emotionally resonant film that excellently captures a game and an era. Not to be forgotten by award season, the film is an epic and thrilling capsule into a fascinating story.
Following a series of successful achievements in storytelling, David O. Russel returns to prominence with Joy, a compelling biographical film about a young woman (Jennifer Lawrence) holding her family together and pursuing the invention of the miracle mop. While the story is unconventional to say the least, the characters are deeply compelling, and as always O. Russel pulls excellent performances from his cast. As with many of Russel’s films, there’s many quick cuts, montages, nonlinear storytelling, and extravagant dream sequences. While at points this may seem like chaos, Russel pulls through like a master and pulls a cheeky commentary about the American dream, filled with expert dialogue and great performances.
- Beasts of No Nation
Beasts of No Nation is a visceral, haunting cinematic experience that touches on the themes of cycles of violence and man’s competitive nature, while supplying a compelling narrative with a real life commentary. It’s a difficult task to manage, but luckily fantastic director Cary Fukunagua handles the material with great care and precision, never going to far with the message whilst not holding back the brutality. It’s a somber, yet important film, and one of the best that 2015 has to offer.
- Mad Max: Fury Road
Action films like Mad Max: Fury Road is perhaps one of the best action films of the decade, a mesmerizing journey into madness and chaos and emerging with effective human emotion and great characters, as well as a stimulating visual design. While it drags at a point, everything done in the film is unique. It’s a detailed film that transports its audience to a different place, and stimulates with some of the best action ever put to the silver screen.
- In the Heart of the Sea
A sweeping, exciting epic, In the Heart of the Sea is a visual achievement and rousing story brought about by one of Hollywood’s best directors in Ron Howard. The film isn’t just a capsule of era and event, but a great character study of its desperate cast of leads. The characterization is grim and powerful, but and the emotional core of the film is solid throughout, and there’s an investment in every character and their arcs in the story. A stirring drama with the scope of a blockbuster, In the Heart of the Sea is a great cinematic treat.
- Mr. Holmes
Mr. Holmes is a passionately crafted character-study of the iconic character of Sherlock Holmes, filled with all the adventure and intrigue of Arthur Conan Doyle’s original tales, but given an introspective look at the character. The film is both a story of regret and mystery, but also questions the ideals of the character that has become imprinted into popular culture. Mr. Holmes is a passionately crafted character-study of the iconic character of Sherlock Holmes, filled with all the adventure and intrigue of Arthur Conan Doyle’s original tales, but given an introspective look at the character. The film is both a story of regret and mystery, but also questions the ideals of the character that has become imprinted into popular culture.
- Avengers: Age of Ultron
Avengers: Age of Ultron is the definitive summer movie; an action packed and heartfelt film that delivers in spectacle, but more importantly elevates the characters to a more three dimensional level. Though the film has its share of action and humor, it’s the writing that puts it above other blockbusters of its kind, and makes it a memorable and exciting adventure. Avengers: Age of Ultron is the ideal summer blockbuster: smart, funny, and a most importantly, character based. The film is both a pinnacle of the superhero genre and a fantastic exercise in the spectacle and ambition of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, crated for both the longtime fan and the casual viewer.
- Slow West
Slow West is a brilliant western and American tale of revenge, action, love, and greed, all wrapped up by a brilliant script that explores its environment. Despite the oddness of the events, and the overall absurdity of the film, the film succeeds at being unique in its presentation and subtle in its theme. Slow West is certainly not for everyone, and it many easily bore or confuse an average audience member, but for film fans it’s a perfectly crafted film that delivers on every level. There’s a sense of wonder and delight in each scene, and though it’s hard to completely understand thematically, the story proves entertaining enough for an exciting and thrilling ride.
A film like Brooklyn is a film that’s impressive in how well it’s handled; there’s subtlety in its substance, emotion in its characters, and depth in its world. The story, revolving around a young Irish girl (Saoirse Ronan) torn between her home in Ireland and new residency in New York, and in turn her two lovers, isn’t in its own remarkable, but there’s a simplicity that makes Brooklyn so strong, and its capturing of life, in comedy and drama, is one of the most authentic films of the year.
Room is a highly ambitious film, as it attempts to delve into the deepest of human emotion and tell a complex and dark story through the eyes of a young child. It’s an interesting way to tell a story, and Room nails the emotional resonance found in this situation, and avoids situations when it could be overblown in sentient or melodrama. The performances are strong throughout, but it’s the realism and life that Lenny Abrahamson that establishes Room as one of the best films of the year.
Creed is not only a great addition to the Rocky franchise, but a standalone sequel that brings the series back to its gritty roots. Not only is Creed a worthy sequel to the franchise, its one that takes the series in new directions, adding subtlety to the world and open ends to the characters. Nearly forty years since the original 1976 classic, Creed is an outstanding and inspiring sports film with the heart that mads the original renowned.
- Straight Outta Compton
The line between entertainment and art is a tough one to bridge, and it’s one that Straight Outta Compton rides to maximum effect. Utilizing its young and talented cast to maximum affect, the film is a great look at the passion of the music industry infused with a brutal story of race relations. Relevant and raw, it’s an electrifying story. Spanning generations and events, covering history and culture, Straight Outta Compton is a powerful biographical film with the strength of an ensemble. It’s a powerful story, and while the events of the film are interesting in their own right, it’s the work of Gray that makes the film relevant and thoroughly entertaining.
- Black Mass
Black Mass is an excellent crime thriller, a perfectly pitched exploration of the mafia lifestyle in South Boston, featuring great performances from its entire cast, especially a resurgence for Johnny Depp in his best performance in ages. The film features similar elements to many other crime thriller films, but it’s the unique storytelling and massive cast that separates the film from other films of the genre, and improved by Director Scott Cooper’s fantastic capturing of the character dynamics.
- The End of the Tour
The End of the Tour is a great American film, including one of the best performances of the decade in Jason Segal, as well as a strong and haunting screenplay. The film’s emotionally draining nature makes it a difficult to rewatch at points, but the film remains a powerful exploration of loneliness, fame, and friendship, as well as one of the year’s best character studies. The film stands as a highlight of this year’s films, an emotional and heartwarming journey.
11. Inside Out
Inside Out is the epitome of a great Pixar film; it’s full of great ideas strung together with outstanding visuals, as well as featuring strong emotional undertones. It’s remarkable that technology allows a film like Inside Out to exist, but outside of the technical marvel of the film, it’s truly a great story and a pinnacle of creative filmmaking. Inside Out is a masterpiece of an animated film, and one of the strongest films in Pixar’s history. It works as both a comedy and a drama, and serves its ambitions as a remarkably imaginative exercise in creative filmmaking.
In it’s over half a century in existence, the James Bond franchise faces the same question: is 007 still relevant? With Spectre, the answer is most certainly yes. While it might not quite rise to the level of Skyfall or Casino Royale, the film is more than just back to business to the character, as it continues in the exploration of the character of Bond’s history. While it may feel familiar at points, Spectre plays into the Bond’s psychology, and feels more like an exploration than a retread.
- The Hateful Eight
After years of challenging the norm, Quentin Tarantino returns with yet another instant classic in The Hateful Eight, a throwback to classic westerns that divulges into a thrilling mystery caper with all the style expected out of a Tarantino film. The story follows eight strangers brought together to a mysterious tavern, and it’s this intimate environment that allows Tarantino to utilize his strongest assets: dialogue and characterization. As a filmmaker, Tarantino takes risks and the plot structure of The Hateful Eight takes massive risks, with the first half primarily being a Shakespearean epic, and the second half being a thrilling caper that divulges into a genius breakdown of the entire story. It’s a brilliant move, and late in his career Tarantino continues to impress. Not only is The Hateful Eight a brilliant exercise in style, but a new method of storytelling that has yet to be seen in its affect.
For a film that focuses on the standard practices of journalism, Spotlight is anything but generic. A rousing and powerful story, the film is a window into both tragedy and reality, yet remains engaging in its characters. Spotlight is a provocative, powerful story, which gets to the journalism behind news and the humans behind journalism. Sure to be an Oscar hit, it’s an important and masterful film.
- The Martian
The Martian is a gripping story of human survival, and a fascinating mix of intensity and humor, packed within an unconventional sci-fi adventure. Not only is the film a resurgence for veteran filmmaker Ridley Scott, and a great showcase for Matt Damon’s ability as an actor, but a unique and emotional journey into the story of human will and spirit. Special effects, cinematography, and visual ingenuity aside, it’s the writing and directing that makes The Martian one of the best films of the year.
- Mission: Impossible- Rogue Nation
Mission: Impossible- Rogue Nation is one of the best genre movies in recent memory, and a standout for both the franchise and the summer. Though the action is some of the best ever committed to screen, the film succeeds in drawing the audience to the characters and intriguing them in an engaging cat and mouse chase throughout the entire runtime.
- Bridge of Spies
Bridge of Spies is a rare film, a historical thriller that is both authentic and unglamorized, yet still thoughtful and exciting. While it’s a small story, it fits within a global and historical context, and remains both an informative and entertaining journey. Only a master filmmaker could handle a subject like this with such detail, precision, and skill, and Steven Spielberg rises to the challenge, submitting yet another piece of evidence that seeks to prove he is the greatest filmmaker that the industry has ever seen.
- Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is a brilliant mix of comedy and drama, and a film that’s both cinematically inventive and heart wrenchingly realistic. The settings and characters of the film are unlike anything we’ve seen before, but clearly takes influence from this generations finest films, becoming a passionate love letter to the industry. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is one of the best films of the year, and a revolutionary breakthrough for the film’s director and young stars. The unique filmmaking techniques and brilliant performances are instrumental in the film’s success, but it’s the strength of the screenplay that puts the film on the pedestal as cinematic powerhouse.
- Steve Jobs
In every decade, film fans are lucky to have only a couple of films like Steve Jobs, a film that’s both completive of its subject and exhilarating in its depiction of true events. Like its titular character, Steve Jobs is uncompromising, revolutionary, and unique. The film not only is a product of great direction from Danny Boyle and excellent performances from its fantastic cast, but like all great films its success stems from the screenplay. Stunning in every sense of the word, Steve Jobs is a modernized and exciting film experience that is a product of innovation and perfection on the creative level. Not only is a success from the perspective of a biography, the film a story of ambition and independence, a universal story with great work from all involved.
- The Big Short
The Big Short is not only the funniest movie of the year, but its also the most thought provoking, and in turn the most terrifying. Set within the world of a pending financial meltdown, the film’s story of the men combating the big banks isn’t just a great story, but a time capsule of an era, and a staggering array of satire. Director Adam McKay is so obviously passionate, and even furious, about the subject material that the film is vibrant with energy, cutting through the chaos with incredible comedy that’s every bit hilarious as it is disgusting. The Big Short is a powerful film, and its power doesn’t draw from self-importance and preaching, but from bluntness and intelligence. Some films are important and relevant, while some are prime entertainment. In some masterstroke, McKay managed to do both.
- Star Wars: Episode VII- The Force Awakens
Following in the footsteps of one of the most successful film franchises in cinematic history, Star Wars: Episode VII- The Force Awakens is a completely fulfilling return to the galaxy far, far away. Not only does the film pay homage to the past installments, but moves forward with a bold and imaginative story that blends elements of old and new. Director J.J. Abrams brings an inescapable sense of fun that never shrinks from the dramatic, delivering a Star Wars film that is funny, smart, exciting, and at points genuinely moving. In an era of franchises and sequels, few are able to distinguish themselves. What The Force Awakens does as a sequel and adventure film is remarkable in every way, and no minor drawbacks can distract from what a continuously imaginative story this is. The Star Wars franchise has longevity due to its characters, mythology, and tone, and to see a film that so clearly understands that is promising for the future of what the franchise may hold.