Best Movies of 2015


This is my Favorite Movies of 2015 list (along with a second opinion from Eric Sweeney at the bottom). As all movie lists are, this list is highly subjective and probably has a few dumb movies on it. What can I say? It’s a sickness. Even then, there are still quite a few movies that I haven’t gotten around to seeing yet, so no yelling about your favorite film being excluded if it appears on the haven’t seen yet list at the bottom*. If it didn’t make either of those lists, then have at it with the internet yelling (And yes, I saw the Hateful Eight already, but did not dig it. Sorry. Well made, but not my jam).


1. Star Wars: The Force Awakens – Admittedly, my bias was strong with this one. The Force Awakens was always going to occupy this slot unless it was terrible. But it wasn’t. I loved it. The new cast members were fantastic, the old reliables were solid, the script was sharp and the film itself set a promising tone for the rest of the Skywalker saga. I don’t care if it was a mild retread of A New Hope. It was wonderful. (Trailer)

Best Scene: Snow falling on sabers

Watch This If You Like: A New Hope, Things that are not the Star Wars prequels, JJ Abrams reboots

madmaxnewposter1_large2. Mad Max: Fury Road – Certainly the surprise hit of the summer, Mad Max stunned viewers by actually living up to expectations set by its insane looking trailer and in some ways even surpassing it. Even with a bit of green screen in play, this movie is a prime example of why it pays to shoot on location. No digitally created environment can trump how the barren deserts of Namibia look in this film. (Trailer)

Best Scene: That two hour chase scene/Many mothers reveal

Watch This If You Like: The Road Warrior, two hour chase scenes, witnessing War Boys reach the gates of Vahalla

the-martian-104112-poster-xlarge3. The Martian – This is the movie Prometheus really should have been. Not necessarily in terms of content, but in terms of quality. It, like Prometheus, has such a slick look to it (credit to Dariusz Wolski‘s cinematography in both movies), but the Martian is so much more satisfying. Armed with a perfect cast, the humor of Weir’s novel and a number of surprisingly poignant moments, this is the best adaptation of the book you could have possibly hoped for. (Trailer)

Best Scene: Watney’s tearful takeoff

Watch This If You Like:Apollo 13Cast AwayMoon, Non-Prometheus Based Space Movies

sicario-poster4. Sicario – Oozing with a sense of dread from its very first frame, Sicario is easily the year’s most gripping film. A tense narco thriller about an idealistic FBI agent sent to assist in the war against the Mexican cartels, Sicario’s acting (Benicio deserves a best supporting actor nod for this), directing and cinematography really trump what could be a shrug worthy script in other hands. But be warned. This is a bleak film. Like abandon all hope bleak. If you’re feeling good about yourself and for some reason want to take yourself down ten notches, this is the movie for you. (Trailer)

Best Scene: “Go ahead. Eat.”

Watch This If You Like: TrafficPrisoners, a better version of True Detective Season 2, feeling utterly helpless, depression naps, depressing soundtracks, hiding in the closet when someone knocks on your door, fear, fear naps, reasons to never visit Juarez, anxiety attacks

the-revenant-character-poster-15. The Revenant – The Revenant is a grisly survival story propped up on the merits of its technical marvels, a fearless lead performance and a collection of starkly desolate landscapes. At some point, it becomes less of a movie and more of a ‘How to Win Leonardo Dicaprio an Oscar’ simulator, but I was still captivated. Despite all the draining brutality, hardship and ugliness, it still remains a stunningly beautiful movie. I expect this one to jump up my list when I get around to seeing it again. Definitely not for the squeamish though. (Trailer)

Best Scene: The opening ambush aka Get to the Boats!

Watch This If You Like: The GreyLast of the Mohicans, Terrence Malik movies, feeling cold

Inside Out6. Inside Out – Inside Out is a movie I liked significantly more the second time I watched it. Originally, I admired the visuals and the vibrant color palette employed by the animation team, but came away thinking it borrowed too much from its influences (Calvin and Hobbes, Osmosis Jones, Herman’s Head, and Wreck-It Ralph to name a few) and delivered a fun, but fairly innocuous story. The second time through I appreciated it a lot more, seeing it for the emotionally rich picture it really is. Even if you get hung up on the film’s rather accessible approach to psychology, I think there are themes that will resonate deeply with both kids and adults alike. However, the true accomplishment of this movie may be that it makes the audience misty eyed over a character named Bing Bong. Did not see that coming. (Trailer)

Best Scene: Joy realizes the merits of sadness/Bing Bong’s goodbye

Watch This If You Like: Pixar Movies, Feels, Wreck-It Ralph

creedpostersmall7. Creed – A far superior boxing movie than the strangely flat and disappointing Southpaw (which I saw someone accurately describe as a trash can fire of unearned sentimentality), Creed, despite having a trailer which unwisely chose to divulge the entire plot of the movie, succeeds just as much outside of the ring as it did inside the ring. Michael B. Jordan and Tessa Thompson turn in solid, likable performances, while Stallone, freed from his usual directing responsibilities in the series, gives a stripped down Rocky Balboa closer to that which we haven’t seen since the first Rocky movie, and it is a welcome surprise. After however many terrible bravado filled posture fest Expendables movies, I had forgotten Stallone could be so good. And that tracking shot in the first fight? Immaculate. Also very happy to see that Marvel just gave Creed’s director Ryan Coogler the directing job for Black Panther. Well deserved. (Trailer)

Best Scene: The one-take fight.

Watch This If You Like: Rocky Movies, Fruitvale Station, training montages
meru-poster8. Meru – Meru is an alpine climbing documentary that follows a team of climbers (climbing heavyweights Conrad Anker, Jimmy Chin and Renan Ozturk) who attempt to complete a first ascent of the seemingly impossible Shark Fin route on Mount Meru. Despite focusing on the kind of esoteric subject matter you would expect to be buried in the deep dark recesses of your Netflix que, Meru is breathtaking, harrowing (all three of its subjects nearly die on a semi-regular basis during filming), and at times profoundly touching (proof of which came when it was recently shortlisted by the academy for best documentary). Even if the outdoors aren’t your thing, give this documentary a shot. It is a truly powerful film that should not be missed. (Trailer)

Best Scene: Survivor’s guilt

Watch This If You Like: Touching the Void, The Summit, Everest

CO9p5Z2XAAAbyL69. Beasts of No Nation – This haunting adaptation of Uzodinma Iweala’s book is the gut punch you would expect it to be. A brutal and unflinching look at a fictitious group of child soldiers led by a cruel but charismatic leader, Beasts of No Nation was Netflix’s first real push into the production side of the movie business, and I think it was a great success. The performances from Idris Elba and Abraham Attah are a large part of why it works so well, but Cary Fukunaga’s production as a whole should be commended. This could not have been an easy film to make. And while it may be difficult to sit through, I do not think this movie should be ignored. I know everyone in America is binging Making a Murderer on Netflix right now, but when you finish, consider adding Beasts of No Nation to your que. (Trailer)

Best Scene: Commandant pumps up his troops

Watch This If You Like: City of God, Sin Nombre, God Grew Tired of Us

ant-man-poster-german10. Ant-Man – While it may not shock summer audiences quite like Guardians of the Guardians did last year, Ant-Man is a likable superhero flick that proves good casting and the right tone can go a long way toward making an almost unfilmable product worth watching. Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Michael Douglas and Michael Pena are especially good in this, but heavy doses of wit and a rather uncomplicated plot (as far as Marvel movies go at least) really prevent this from being the train wreck that it could have been (there is something about the template of this movie that reminds me a bit of DC’s Green Lantern movie, except if it wasn’t terrible, so if you want to see the disaster version of Ant-Man, watch Green Lantern as a cautionary tale of what could have been). Unfortunately, Ant-Man still falls into Marvel’s recent trappings of having forgettable and shrug worthy villains (Tom Hiddleston being the exception of course) seen in Corey Stoll’s sneering Daren Cross, whose journey from 0 to 60 on the doing bad things to people who disagree with you at board meetings scale seems completely absurd, but I guess you can’t have everything in a second tier Marvel superhero movie. Ant-man won’t blow you away, but at the end of the movie I was completely on board with seeing more of these characters in the Marvel universe. (Trailer)

Best Scene: Michael Pena’s heist pitches

Watch This If You Like: Guardians of the Galaxy, Heist movies, Paul Rudd

the-look-of-silence-poster11. The Look of Silence – Companion piece to the surreal and disturbing 2012 documentary ‘The Act of Killing’, filmmaker Joshua Oppenheimer’s second film regarding the Indonesian mass killings follows the brother of one of the victims as he confronts his brother’s killers. ‘The Look of Silence’ is so disturbing and difficult to watch. I had to stop it a few times and wasn’t sure I’d make it to the end. It’s easily one of the year’s best films, but I doubt I’ll ever watch it again. I have no idea how Josh Oppenheimer managed to make two movies about this subject without his life being seriously threatened. I assume he can’t go to Indonesia now and I fully understand why making these movies gave him insomnia and nightmares. (Trailer)

Best Scene: Is there such a thing as a best scene in a movie like this? I honestly don’t know. I can’t get this movie out of my head though. It’s haunting.

Watch This If You Like: The Act of Killing, Little Dieter Needs to Fly

IMG_028412. Everest – Stunning atmospheric visuals of the world’s tallest peak and a rock solid cast (Brolin, Knightley and Clarke are the standouts) headline this retelling of the 1996 Everest disaster (which Into Thin Air famously and controversially documented). While the spectacle and ruthless nature of alpine climbing are depicted effectively, it is unfortunately hampered by some odd pacing issues that keep it from being truly great. It also loses points for not having a scene where the climbers lug nitro glycerine up the mountain, but you can’t have everything. This is also the second movie on the list featuring John Krakauer. I guess it’s a good year to be Krakauer. (Trailer)

Best Scene: The storm approaches/Hall speaks with his wife

Watch This If You Like: North Face, Vertical Limit, Meru

Me-And-Earl-And-The-Dying-Girl-Poster13. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl – A mashup of ‘Be Kind Rewind’ and ‘The Fault in Our Stars’ with a sort of Wes Anderson for tweens vibe to it, ‘Me & Earl And The Dying Girl’ won a slew of awards at Sundance this year before triggering a bidding war for the rights to its theatrical release. Earl is better than most of the high school movies released in the last few years, but it’s also not without its problems. While I can’t fault a movie where the teen protagonist is obsessed with Werner Herzog, I do think there are about fifteen to twenty minutes where said protagonist becomes insufferable and the movie suffers as a result. Is this insufferable behavior most likely representative of actual teenage behavior? Sure, but it does prevent Me & Earl and The Dying Girl from taking that next step into becoming a classic coming of age story. It’s still an admirable movie however and RJ Cyler as Earl and Olivia Cooke as Rachel deliver fantastic performances. They should be given all the teenager roles in movies from now on. All of them! (Trailer)

Best Scene: Rachel watches her movie

Watch This If You Like: Be Kind Rewind, Fault in Our Stars, The Perks of Being a Wallflower 

MV5BMTA5MTU2NjIxOTNeQTJeQWpwZ15BbWU4MDA5Njc0MDIx._V1_SX640_SY720_14. The Salvation – A traditional gritty western revenge tale with no real frills to it, ‘The Salvation’ is bolstered by a strong lead performance from Mads Mikkelsen and spirited support work from Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Eva Green, Jonathan Pryce and Mikael Persbrandt. The is pretty much the Danish film industry’s answer to ‘Unforgiven,’ even if it doesn’t quite reach the brilliance of Eastwood’s swan song western. The Salvation may be rough around the edges, but there is still a lot to like here. I mean, Mads Mikkelsen is quietly one of the best actors in the world right now, so that alone should get any respectable western fan reason to chance ‘The Salvation.’ (Trailer)

Best Scene: A soldier’s revenge/Peter taunts his jailer

Watch This If You Like: The Proposition, UnforgivenBone Tomahawk


WHATWEDOINTHESHADOWS_moviefone15. What We Do In The Shadows – A kindred spirit to the deadpan humor of Flight of the Concords, this vampire mockumentary by FOTC creator Jemaine Clement and long time collaborator Taika Waititi is often hilarious. Owing a lot to mockumentary pioneers like Christopher Guest and horror comedy classics like Shaun of the Dead, this clever indie import from New Zealand could be a new Halloween classic in the making. And Stu. Stu really steals the show. Stu is the best. (Trailer)

Best Scene: You can’t eat Stu

Watch This If You Like: Flight of the Concords
Screen shot 2015-12-17 at 2.22.46 AM

16. Slow West – Slow West is an unsurprisingly slow western whose grim tone feels like an odd marriage between the Coen brothers, John Ford and Jim Jarmusch. Featuring some gorgeous vistas courtesy of New Zealand’s always scenic south island, a quality performance from Michael Fassbender and an undeniably tragic conclusion, this quirky tale is worth checking out if you’re a fan of the genre. It may not wow you with its gunplay and shootouts, but the film sure is pretty to look at. And if you find yourself fading while watching it, do yourself a favor and fast forward to the last twenty minutes. That is Slow West at its best. (Trailer)

Best Scene: The final shootout

Watch This If You Like: True Grit, Dead Man, Westerns

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