If you were ask me tomorrow at 5:00pm what was my favorite movie of 2015, I’d tell you a different answer rather than if you had waited until after supper. 2015 was that close for me, and ended up being one fantastic year for cinema, yet only was half expected. For my friend Brandon and I, the build up to the year was epic. Then as the year progressed, we kind of felt let down. Some of the big films didn’t hit that well, but as the dust settled… 2015 was a really fantastic year.
And honestly, I could have put almost every one of these films in the top three. These were the fifteen films that I truly loved.
I’d decided to wait until I was able to catch a few extra films that were released in 2015 and so only now, was I able to compile my Top 15 Films of 2015. Yes Top Fifteen. My initial list was 13, and as I struggled to pare it down, the aforementioned friend, Brandon, told me he was to make a Top 15…
…so screw it, it’ll make it easier, right?
Now I must stress, as I had mentioned before in my Top 20 Films of the #DLMChallenge that the two lists are dissimilar. This list is a collection of both the caliber of the films and how they impacted me.
So it may surprise you. But first–
All of the 2015 films in order of which I’d viewed them:
Hot Tub Time Machine 2 | Kingsman: Secret Service | Focus | Chappie | Run All Night | Get Hard | It Follows | Furious Seven | Predestination | Ex Machina | Avengers: Age of Ultron | Mad Max: Fury Road | Tomorrowland | Pitch Perfect 2 | Poltergeist | Spy | Jurassic World | Inside Out | The Spongebob Movie: Sponge Out of Water | Ted 2 | Terminator Genisys | Ant-Man | Trainwreck | Unfinished Business | Pixels | Tig | Mission: Impossible- Rogue Nation | Chronic Con, Episode 420- A New Dope | Fantastic Four | The Gift | Unfriended | Staten Island Summer | Straight Outta Compton | The D Train | Misery Loves Comedy | Area 51 | True Story | American Ultra | The Visit | World 1-1 | Black Mass | Infini | The Green Inferno | Everest | Smosh: The Movie | I Am Chris Farley | The Martian | Tremors 5: Bloodlines | The Final Girls | Knock Knock | Crimson Peak | The Nightmare | Tales of Halloween | Steve Jobs | Bridge of Spies | Spectre | Insidious: Chapter 3 | Back in Time | Bone Tomahawk | Self/Less | The Hunger Games: Mockingjay- Part 2 | Project Almanac | The Night Before | Cop Car | San Andreas | The Good Dinosaur | Creed | The End of the Tour | Krampus | In the Heart of the Sea | Star Wars: The Force Awakens | Vacation | Concussion | Me and Earl and the Dying Girl | The Hateful Eight | Sicario | The Walk | The Revenant | Sisters |
The Ones That I Missed…
Anomolisa | The Big Short | Room | Carol | Tangerine | Dope | Spotlight | Beasts of No Nation | Slow West | I Smile Back | The Danish Girl |
The Five Worst of 2015:
5. Hot Tub Time Machine 2
4. Unfinished Business
3. Terminator Genisys
1. Fantastic Four
15. The Final Girls–
When a movie has some magical element: one point. When it has a gorgeous lead: one point. Funny? Another point. But when a film has all of that and a well-written and touching story… That’s the winning combination in my book.
The Final Girls had it all. It begins with a mother and daughter (Malin Akerman and Taissa Farmiga [sister of Vera] respectively) just having a good time driving in a car, and discussing the mother’s actress woes. Then the unexpected happens (or expected for the audience) they crash.
The mother dies.
A year later, the daughter is still a former shell of herself. Her friends convince her to watch a campy horror movie of which her Mom was best known for which…. happens precisely on the anniversary of her mother’s death. She agrees and during a fire, they cut through the screen and are transported into the horror movie’s world.
They have to survive the movie and be “The Final Girl(s)” to get out of the movie. A brilliant idea executed perfectly; and an on-point parody of horror movie tropes.
14. The Night Before–
I had already mentioned this comedy (and many others in this list) in my #DLMChallenge Top 20, but it’s worth noting how much I enjoyed these films.
The Night Before plays like a twisted version of a Christmas classic, but it never truly follows a staple of any particular film, rather it has elements and references to those classics, and stands on its own as a great new addition.
If you’re not a fan of Seth Rogen, then clearly this film won’t be for you. But even if you are a mild fan, then you will still enjoy this last night hurrah between three childhood friends, all of whom have some growing up to do.
And if there was an Oscar for Best Scene Stealer then Michael Shannon would have swept.
13. The Hateful Eight–
When the first extended shot was about halfway through my Hobbit mindset came in and I began to recut the film, trimming away the fat. Then I realized almost instantly, that this is what Tarantino does.
Call it favoritism, but this man knows how to effectively use pacing and anticipation to make the pay off all the more gratifying.
When this film ended, I came out grinning from ear to ear. I am NOT a fan of period pieces, especially in the 1800s or earlier, and this film made me a fan, of at least The Hateful Eight.
Plus it was immensely satisfying to see all of these Tarantino standbys work with him once more. I mean Madsen? Roth? Jackson? Russell? Bell? It’s like a Tarantino Expendables dream team.
All that was missing was Uma Thurman and a cameo from De Niro.
Oh and second in the category for Best Scene Stealer would have been Walton Goggins. My God, that man is enigmatic!
Another thing on my ‘Despise List’ aside from period pieces is the sports film genre. Now, few seem to stand out of their particular genres, so I gave Creed the benefit of the doubt especially when hearing good things. There’s always talk of good buzz, sure, but this was way better than I had ever expected.
Creed took a modern man and put him into similar boots as the Rocky or Apollo of the 70s. With that framework, the screenwriters Aaron Covington and director Ryan Cooler crafted a tale that not only put an amateur against himself and his famous shadow, but took a look at the grind of an American struggling to walk the line between job and passion. And more importantly, discovering what that passion is.
Philadelphia has such a rich history (especially in the Rocky franchise) that it breathes life into the narrative as its own character.
I’m not sure when Michael B. Jordan will get his next round of Oscar buzz, but he most certainly has a storied career ahead of him. As does Coogler, who was recently signed to direct Black Panther.
11. Mad Max: Fury Road–
I finished the series thanks to the #DLMChallenge. And I’m sure this is my #2 out of four (Road Warrior is still the best). Before jumping into this one, I had marveled at the absolutely gorgeous trailers and heard nothing but praise. And again, it far exceeded even those lofty ambitions.
George Miller has been working on this film in some way, shape, or form for almost as long as I’ve been alive.
And yet, after a grueling two (plus) year shoot schedule (shooting in chronological order no less), this brilliant and beautiful cinematic achievement was finally released this year.
If it weren’t for the bevy of other fine works this year, Mad Max: Fury Road would have been guzzling up the competition.
This film is also inadvertently a feminist piece with Furiosa being one of the better heroines in cinema… ever.
Simply put, Predestination is one of the most perfect time travel movies ever made. Time travel is “more like a big ball of wibbly- wobbly… timey-wimey… stuff.”
Most time travel films let their devotion to the paradoxes slip, to tell a better story. This film stays true to those paradoxes while also crafting an excellent film.
The Spierig Brothers wrote and directed this movie five years after their last, also starring Ethan Hawke: Daybreakers.
Who here reading hasn’t seen this yet? Get on it, ASAP. Do not research the plot at all, just go ahead and watch it. Trust me.
9. The Nightmare–
Once again, one of the better documentaries released this year. While this may not be my favorite one, truth be told, I have four favorites this year, this one impacted me the most.
The Nightmare plays out like one- Its interviews are some of the best shot interviews I have ever witnessed. Seriously, they’re gorgeous.
Then the reenactments of the interviewees’ stories are brought to life cinematically to dazzling effects. It feels like you are experiencing these nightmares with them.
If you were to watch this at night with all of the lights off, you just may forget that you were watching a documentary. And I can’t think of any higher praise than that.
8. Steve Jobs–
Steve Jobs is one of the most successful and prolific Americans of our time. And while he was known to be somewhat of a douche at work, and maybe at home, his innovations led the country through a technological revolution.
With this adaptation of his life (and book by Walter Isaacson), director Danny Boyle and writer Aaron Sorkin were able to take the embodiment of Jobs himself and take an innovative look at his life via three vastly different product launches.
In fact, only a few shots stray out of these launches, and it’s so engaging and fresh that it quickly became one of my favorites of the year.
It’s a shame that Aaron Sorkin didn’t get an adapted screenplay nomination for this really was one of the most unique screenplays of the year. And it’s no surprise considering how similarly different Danny Boyle’s 2008 film, Slumdog Millionaire was: The man knows his screenplays.
7. The End of the Tour–
This one was a slow burn, and one that shook my pre-conceived perception of the writer David Foster Wallace. In my mind, and while having never read his work, when I heard of his suicide I assumed something involving anti-depressants.
But what this film (based on the book by Jesse Eisenberg’s “character” David Lipsky) taught me was of Wallace’s fascinating perspective on the human mind, especially from its effects from television.
That notion is something that I can relate to having grown up on my T.V. as a kid. I was always in front of that thing– Shows, movies, and video games; they’d consumed my life. I suppose this is why my mind fights these past times often. I don’t want to and can’t be sucked into that life again.
Now I need to read his book, Infinite Jest. The thousand, seventy-nine page count has me a bit concerned however… Let alone all of those footnotes.
6. Star Wars: The Force Awakens–
Okay, so I went into this with high expectations, because the trailers had shown that the film wasn’t:
2…Only talk of the Trade Federation
3…Directed by George Lucas
And with this, I knew it would be alright. That I wouldn’t have to worry.
But my expectations were shattered, because it truly felt like an old-school Star Wars movie.
Leave it to J.J. Abrams, the master of starting a series or franchise on strong legs, to reignite the Star Wars franchise. I would put this film much higher on the list if the year didn’t provide many more endearing films for my enjoyment.
I did have an issue with this film, but now I see that it was a necessary thing to do. If you want spoilers, then message me in the comments.
5. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl–
I was ready to hate this fucking movie. It looked like a Nicholas Sparks novel, and worse, it was about kids with cancer. I hate it when that happens. But this film took over me, made me laugh; tear up, but it always had a strong center. Sure occasionally it messes with you, but it’s a touching story with a great cast.
If Earl wasn’t so funny, I don’t know how it would work. The cast is great, and the story is incredibly well-written, but the humor solidifies the rest of the film into a perfect dish– Without one element, it’s just not right.
Earl is similar to the movie 50/50 in its comedic take on cancer, but with some quirky dialogue a la Diablo Cody, and a hint of the tone of The Perks of Being a Wallflower, the film has its balance well in check.
It also truly helps that the characters Greg and Earl make some really funny films based on other classics.
4. The Martian–
One of the first books in quite some time that I had read before seeing the film, The Martian was a commandeering book. I was engrossed from cover to cover, and had to read the entire book within a day. I could NOT put it down.
The book, written by Andy Weir, was a stark sci-fi tale of a near future where on the third of six manned missions to Mars, an astronaut gets left behind to try and survive on his own, 100% alone.
I’ve always been a big sci-fi nut, but even more so when it’s a film that can truly happen within my lifetime. The mere notion of going to Mars excites the living hell out of me, and I wish our population were planning such a trip.
Anyway, the book was fantastic, and when I heard news of who was to star, write, and direct the movie?! Holy Hell. Matt Damon, Drew Goddard, and Ridley Scott respectively, if you weren’t inclined.
If you haven’t seen this film, and love space or sci-fi tales, then please, watch this.
3. Inside Out–
As one of the best animated films in the past fifteen years, Inside Out has it all– humor for all ages, a quality story, and nostalgia and emotion, things of which parents will align.
This film really is something to marvel. The actors were so perfectly cast in their respective roles. The animation is gorgeous- even down to Joy’s hair.
The design of the inner workings of a young girl’s mind from the memory bank to the command deck of the main emotions, oh man, the mind-altering abstract art sequence. I’m gushing over this film just thinking about it!
I will definitely need to re-watch this as I haven’t experienced it since its June release. That’s saying something to its memorable merit.
2. The Revenant–
In one of the most alarming upsets in recent list history, The Revenant jumped all the way up into my Top Three. This film is absolutely stunning, both in its gorgeous cinematography, and its incredibly engaging revenge narrative.
Revenant is directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu, director of Birdman (Or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), and co-written by Iñárritu himself & writer Mark L. Smith. It is also based loosely on the book about real-life frontiersman Hugh Glass written by Michael Punke.
Leonardo DiCaprio needs an Oscar. His work has proven its worth over the past twenty-five years and if he doesn’t get this one for Best Actor, I’m going to fucking snap. Not really, but I will be grossly unsatisfied with the Oscars this year.
And you all need to see this gorgeous film, shot over a grueling nine month shoot in the cold wilderness of Canada.
Tom Hardy, Will Poulter, and Domhnall Gleeson also co-star and kill it in their roles.
Funnily enough, I watched this on a windy and rainy night, and the power went out. I had 36 minutes left. And as of press time I still haven’t seen this in full yet. But I know it’s one of my favorites of the year. Just need to see it all…
1. Ex Machina–
What can I say? Brandon asked me based on my #DLMChallenge Top 20, if Ex Machina would be number one due to the fact that it was the highest 2015 release on the list, I adamantly said no. There was no way it would have made it.
Well, in this list’s current configuration, it has made it to the top.
Released in April, Ex Machina had little with which to compete. Aside from Furious Seven it was all alone. And while it didn’t make gangbusters at the box office, it surely made an impact on me and many others. I see other Top Ten lists of 2015 incorporate Ex Machina, but much further down on their respective lists.
To me, Ex Machina is the scariest film released this year. Remember how I said I love sci-fi films that are close to our time and plausible? Well, this film is exactly that; which is why it is so damn scary.
Just imagine this being five years from now. How long until androids take over our cities akin the Native Americans? We would be wiped out for the sake of societal improvement. We’d be deemed “too messy and imperfect” and systematically erased from the planet’s face.
Okay, so that may be a little drastic, but considering the fact of androids becoming sentient like this is a guaranteed future based on our current path, I’m allowed to be a tad drastic.
So there you have it! This list is my interpretation of the best films of 2015! What are your thoughts? How many of these have you seen? I’d really love to discuss films in the comments below. Or on Twitter!