2015 was a mixed bag of a year for movies, but while there were some bad ones, there were also a bunch of good ones. Now, this list includes movies that I’ve reviewed that came out in 2015, and while I haven’t seen every 2015 film, such as Carol, The Danish Girl, Steve Jobs, Spotlight, Sicario, and others, I did see a lot of notable ones, so many in fact that it was pretty hard to keep the list down to ten movies. Granted, there are some movies paired together on this list, mostly because I couldn’t help but feel certain similarities or how they explore similar ideas in different ways. I apologize that this list came in so late, as well as the reviews for the films themselves, but I’ve finally caught up and can continue on with 2016 films I’ve seen. Before getting to the top 10, here are some honorable mentions:
– Black Mass
– Crimson Peak
– Jurassic World
– X-Men: Days of Future Past – The Rogue Cut
– Avengers: Age of Ultron
– Knock Knock
– The Green Inferno
– Daddy’s Home
And now, on with the list:
This one was a surprise addition, even for me. Still, I couldn’t help but put it on this list. Arnold Schwarzenegger has had a somewhat varied career over the years, but I think this one might be his best film yet. It may not have gotten quite as much attention as his other 2015 film, Terminator: Genisys (still debating whether it’s good or bad I haven’t seen it), but it definitely showcases a different side of his acting ability that other films couldn’t quite do justice. It could very well be for him what Cop Land and Creed did for Sylvester Stallone. Instead of shooty bang bang action like we’re used to in his other films, his performance is subdued, nuanced, and relies more on the emotional facial expressions, the development of his character, the relationship between his character and his character’s daughter, and the dramatic weight of it all. On the surface, it may seem like a typical zombie story and those are everywhere these days, it is nice to see the interesting twists and turns it takes on familiar tropes. Hopefully there can be more performances like this in future Schwarzenegger movies.
9. Ant-Man and Justice League: Gods and Monsters
One of the first pairings on this list, and for good reason. Both are superhero movies, about superheroes from different comic book companies, and both of them in their own way explore different sides of the spectrum in the superhero genre. Ant-Man is a fun, comedic, action-packed adventure from beginning to end, while Justice League: Gods and Monsters takes familiar “dark superhero” story tropes and applies it to the DC Trinity, but is still engaging and entertaining (something the DCEU should take note of, and yes I recently saw Suicide Squad, I liked it, I’m just making a joke on DC stuff), especially since it’s from the DC animation god himself, Bruce Timm. Avengers 2 got a lot of hype and was okay at best (yeah I know I gave it a 5/5 at the time, kinda let my excitement get the better of me, it’s still a good movie though), however Ant-Man outshined it with its story, humor, and just about everything else that made it a fun movie to watch. Justice League: Gods and Monsters lived up to its title and more by having different versions of Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman, depicted as almost authoritarian-like figures, but having to come back down to Earth, so to speak, when they realize that it’s not just their identities and powers that make them what they are, it’s their actions. With a sequel to Ant-Man in development and a second season of the tie-in web series to Justice League: Gods and Monsters, I think it’s good to know that there can be more stories like these to come from Marvel and DC.
8. Ex Machina
A science fiction thriller film from the screenwriter of Dredd in his directorial debut. How could this not be on the list? What looks simple on the surface turns into something both disturbing and serene. The performances of the cast are excellent, especially Alicia Vikander, the effects, in particular for Ava, look awesome and believable, the atmosphere and music score add more to the film, and it’s just enjoyable and thought-provoking to watch. This is a sci-fi film for the ages.
7. Creed and Straight Outta Compton
It made sense for me to pair both of these movies together for this spot on the list. They’re both about characters who overcome their struggles and make something of themselves, yet each of them do it in different ways. The newest film in the Rocky saga, Creed, is about a young man with a chip on his shoulder, who starts out from humble beginnings, starts to have other opportunities to succeed in life but rejects them in favor of boxing, and tries to become a champ in his own right while also having to deal with the legacy of a father he never knew. Straight Outta Compton, on the other hand, being a biopic, so it has credence in it being based on true events, but also depicts a similar story of a group of individuals trying to rise above their own struggles, and while they do achieve success, they also experience pitfalls that test and ultimately break the bond between them, and before they could reunite and patch things up, one of them dies as a result of the kind of life they lived. Both of these movies are heartfelt and somewhat brutally honest tales of overcoming struggles, which resonate with audiences today, and what could happen when getting to the top.
6. Mad Max: Fury Road
It’s taken 30 years to truly get “beyond Thuderdome” (heyohh!), but Fury Road has done that and so much more. This movie has pretty much set the standard for action films in times to come, and for good reason. The acting, writing, direction, scale and scope, the visuals, and just about everything else in this film that makes it purely, rock’n’rollin, AWESOME. Tom Hardy may be the titular character as Mad Max, but this is a movie that has presented one of the best female characters in movie history, Imperator Furiosa (played by Charlize Theron). A badass with a heart of gold, she is the soul of this movie. What else can I say about this movie other than what a film, what a LOVELY FILM!!!!
5. Inside Out
Just when you think that Pixar is losing its touch, they bounce right back with Inside Out. This was a movie that tugged at heartstrings from start to finish. It’s colorful, funny, sad, and just overall enjoyable. The humor hit all the right notes, the voice acting was top-notch, the characters are memorable (and how could they not be since they’re named after emotions), the story was engaging and kinda made me cry a few times. It’s a movie that’s great for people of all ages, exploring themes and ideas through a story that is all kinds of emotional.
4. The Martian
Ridley Scott is back at it again in probably one of his best films to date. If it weren’t for some of the later films on this list, this one would’ve been the best movie of 2015 I ever saw. Matt Damon’s portrayal of Mark Watney is also one of his best performances, a character that despite incredible odds, managed to survive a long time on Mars with nothing more than his wit, sense of humor, and resourcefulness. What really cemented this movie, as well as the book it’s based on, for me as one of the year’s best, though, was its idea of how united humanity can become, no matter what differences or conflicts they have with one another, in order to help their fellow man get back home, which is something that can really resonate with the real world in this day and age, so there’s still hope.
3. The Hateful Eight
Quentin Tarantino is back in the saddle (pun sorta intended) with another Western under his belt (again, pun sorta intended). After reinvigorating the Western genre three years prior with Django Unchained, he does so again with The Hateful Eight. Shady characters provided by awesome performances from the actors playing them, “Tarantinoing” dialogue, beautiful cinematography, excellent music score provided by Ennio Morricone who is basically the master of Western genre film music, an intriguing and engaging mystery throughout the film, and as typical of Tarantino films, lots of violence with plenty of blood and gore to go with it. And if you saw the 70mm version, there’s a nice intermission to go out and stretch your legs, just like an old-fashioned movie. This is pretty much Tarantino’s best film to date and I can’t wait for what he’s gonna do next.
2. The Revenant
While The Hateful Eight was brutal in its own right, in a Spaghetti Western kind of way done by Quentin Tarantino, The Revenant is probably the most brutally epic Western film done in AGES. Who would’ve thought that all Leonardo DiCaprio had to do in order to win an Oscar was crawl, grunt, eat raw fish and other kinds of animals, sleep inside a dead horse, get attacked and injured in almost any way possible, endure severe cold weather, and of course have “fun times” with a bear? Regardless, this was a film that was a spectacle to behold, and really the movie does spend A LOT of time showing all the beautiful scenery it can get, and a very visceral tale of revenge, with plenty of surrealism along with it.
1. Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens
I already called this movie the best film of 2015 in my review of it not too long ago, and for good reason. It was the most anticipated movie of the year, and everyone involved had a huge task at hand in revitalizing one of the most beloved space opera franchises set during a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. Much like with certain other films similar in concept to this one in 2015, this movie was a revival of what made the originals so great in the first place. Does it retread on familiar territory? Yes, it does, but at the same time it does something unique and interesting that makes it entertaining and fun to watch. But I didn’t go and see this movie FIVE TIMES in the theaters because of just that. This movie helped bring a sense of positivity I haven’t felt in a long time. Sure, I can still be cynical and snarky at times (well I gotta be for humor’s sake lol), but when I look back at this movie and remember how happy I was watching it, being in awe and fulfilled with a sense of wonder and excitement, I know that there is still hope out there, and may the Force be with us all.
2015 was a beast of a year and so far, 2016 has been a beast of its own as well. Tell me what you think was your best films of 2015 and thanks for reading! 🙂