Although it didn’t start off great, 2015 ended up being an amazing year in film.
Scroll through the slideshows below to see what each of our writers considered some of the best and worst films of 2015.
Let us know in the comments below if you agree or if you think we overlooked anything!
Frequently, my choices for “best” films and “favorite” films do not line up. Sure, there are definitely movies that appear on each, but often, what I may consider to be the “best” film of the year, is one I may not enjoy or ever want to watch again. Just because I can indetify that a movie is perfectly made, does not mean that it was an enjoyable experience. Two examples of films like theses would be “12 Years a Slave” and this year’s “Room.” I raved about both of these films, and encouraged others to see them, but I likely wont be revisiting them myself for a very long time. For my Top 10 list this year, I’ve decided to focus on my favorite film experiences. Sure, some of them are a bit flawed, and some are still dark, but they all left me with the most fulfilling experiences, relatively speaking. I believe a critic’s choice of “favorite” films gives better insight into their perspective as an audience member.
10: "Star Wars: The Force Awakens"
Even though it certainly has a number of story problems and flaws, this is still the very best Star Wars film in over 30 years! Great new characters, and an appealing visual style leaves us craving more.
9: "Shaun the Sheep Movie"
I've always been a sucker for stop-motion animated films, especially the ones from Aardman Animation. Shaun is unique as there is no spoken dialogue, none that is comprehensible at least. What's amazing is how much of the story is conveyed by visuals alone. Bright, fun, and hilarious, "Shaun" was a surprise treat.
This is also a stop-motion animated film, but about as far as you can get from "Shaun." Masterfully animated, "Anomalisa" pulls off some things we've never seen in this format before. The story is somber, occasionally touching on sweetness, but for all the wrong reasons. By the end of the film, we see the main character for who he really is, a contemptible human being who is so narcissistic that he can't even see all the "problems" in his life are self inflicted. It's dark, but amazing, and possibly eye opening.
7: "It Follows"
Shrugged off by many as a metaphor on STDs, "It Follows" is so much deeper than that. Without giving too much away, it has a lot to say on the relationships between parents and their adolescent children. More specifically, the emotional baggage and hangups adults can inflict on their children regarding sex. Beautifully shot, "It Follows" exists as one my all time favorite horror films.
"Dope" may be one of the most underrated films of 2015. A close-knit trio of misfit friends are doing their best to survive High School in a rough California neighborhood. It follows a pretty standard plot line, where our heroes accidentally fall into a very bad situation and every attempt out seems to dig their hole deeper. The delightful performances, charisma of the characters, and totally sweet soundtrack propel this film far beyond what you'd expect it to be.
5: "The Big Short"
What a surprise this one turned out to be. Written and Directed by Adam McKay (The guy behind "Step Brothers") and focusing on the housing market crash of '08, this sounded like a disaster in the making. But after seeing it (twice!) I'm still in awe at what he has accomplished. Breaking a number of "cinematic rules" this film, and its all star cast, show us what caused the crash and introduces us to the group of oddballs who saw it coming and bet against the system. Seriously, don't brush this film off. You will be surprised at how much you learn AND laugh!
4: "The Revenant"
Alejandro González Iñárritu's followup to "Birdman" is, in a word, Breathtaking. The story line may be simple, but absolutely nothing about the movie is. Shot in the brutal Canadian wilderness, "The Revenant" is a cinematic masterpiece. A man cheats death through shear determination (and a touch of divine grace) while in search of justice (revenge). During his journey we experience the extremes of human nature in stark contrast against a backdrop of apathetic natural beauty. Besides all the incredible visuals, there are moments in the movie that will have you asking "how'd they do that" for weeks.
3: "Ex Machina"
Screenwriter Alex Garland's directorial debut reaches near sci-fi perfection. It's the ideal classic blend of Science, Philosophy, Sex, and Eeriness. Sci-Fi movies like this are few and far between, and it's even more rare when they look so good. The effects used to create the Ava character are unsettling good.
2: "Me & Earl & the Dying Girl"
I watch a lot of films, so over the years I've become a little jaded. I can usually spot the emotional manipulation coming a mile away. The thing about "METDG" is all of the emotions are very honest and earned. I had the opportunity to speak to director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon a few times, and it's apparent this movie is very close to his heart. Like "DOPE", this story revolves around three high-school friends just trying to survive. For one character, it's a literal battle for life after she's diagnosed with cancer. Don't let this scare you away. The film is hilarious, sweet, and features wonderful characters! No other movie this year has touched me like this one has.
1: "Mad Max: Fury Road"
A couple decades in the making, George Miller's magnum opus is brilliant piece of cinema. He has taken the familiar, the old, mixed it all up and created something entirely new. Perfectly executed, "Fury Road" gets better with each additional viewing. Film lovers will be dissecting this one for years to come. In fact, I might go watch it again right now...
WORST of 2015: "Felt"
Listed on IMDB under "Horror, Romance, Thriller", the vile "Felt" is nothing of these. Instead, it is a thinly veiled auto-biography of Amy Everson, the lead character in the film. I call it an auto-biography because she shares the writing credit, every character in the film uses their real name, and all of the artwork and costumes featured are Amy's real life creations. It's undeniable that she is very talented, but something terrible must have happened early in her life to create such a self-loathing, man-hating, psychotic. The final moments of the film finally skew away from real life (hopefully?) and becomes a violent, narcissistic, manifestation of her misandric fantasies.
10: "The Martian"
This is easily the most charming performance that Matt Damon has ever given. If he weren't the lead, the I don't think the film would work. I wish he would get nominated for best actor but it probably won't happen, unfortunately.
I was floored by how much I loved this film. I was expecting it to be terrible or mediocre at best. But I just got the biggest kick out of the characters and the structure and execution of the film.
8: "The Age of Adaline"
I am asking for a a lot of mockery when I list this movie. However, I just loved Blake Lively’s performance and the “one-that-got-away” theme. It just spoke to me.
This is such a moral film. Classy and reverent. It's a tale of kindness and forgiveness that touched me deeply.
6: "Bridge of Spies"
I am and always will be a sucker for Spielberg. He's my favorite director of all time. His latest film doesn't disappoint. It gives some of the greatest performances of the year and certainly is the most thrilling film of the year.
5: "Woman in Gold"
I really don't get the hate that some have for this movie. I found it deeply moving and its historical lessons very relevant.
4: "McFarland, USA"
I adore Disney true story sports dramas (Miracle is favorite film of all time). This one is gritty and down to earth and I just love it. It's a true American tale.
Wonderful performances and brilliant storytelling, Brooklyn is a film for the ages. Its themes spoke to me and Ronan gave the best performance of the year.
2: "Inside Out"
I actually can't watch this movie all the way through for a 2nd time. It's creative beyond compare and it tugs at my heart strings more than any film since Toy Story 3.
1: "Mr. Holmes"
I am alone in putting this as my number one film of the year, but no other movie engaged me more. It was a true Holmesian mystery that captivated me through every frame. It is brilliantly written and directed.
WORST of 2015: "Pixels"
How can a film about something so awesome be so terrible? Add Adam Sandler, that's how!
10: "Ex Machina"
A 26-year-old programmer (Domhnall Gleeson) - working for a wildly successful tech corporation - wins “a golden ticket” to visit its founder’s (Oscar Issac) home and then meets an artificial life form, Ava (Alicia Vikander), who looks like a beautiful 20-something woman. Supported by intense performances, writer/director Alex Garland provides an excellent setup for this man and machine encounter with oodles of eerie sci-fi weirdness and thought-provoking questions about humanity.
Saoirse Ronan shines in a beautifully-filmed movie about an young Irish woman starting a new life in the bustling streets of New York City while struggling with the emotional pulls of home in County Wexford. Along with Eilis’ (Ronan) homesickness, writer Nick Hornby pens several amusing and warm moments with her boarding housemates and a new love interest, and with the film’s throwback vibe to pictures of yesterdecade, “Brooklyn” is the most graceful and lovely cinematic experience of the year.
Five sisters - raised by their grandmother - harmlessly play in the Black Sea with some boys, but their uncle responds with massively excessive repercussions in a movie which intimately captures the struggle between child and adult and freedom of expression and oppression more than any other film that I can remember. The girls respond to their repressive new environment in varying ways, while writer/director Deniz Gamze Erguven organically communicates the involved bonds of sisterhood and heartbreaking moments within emotionally and physically enclosed spaces.
7: "Me & Earl & the Dying Girl"
In one of the most effective high school stories in long memory, a self-doubting teen (Thomas Mann) befriends a fellow student stricken with leukemia (Olivia Cooke), and the particularly well-written script provides an equally hilarious and affecting journey about teenagers coping with untimely circumstances. Director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon guides the material with a Wes Anderson-like flair, as Mann, Cooke and RJ Cyler (as Earl) deliver very likable and sympathetic performances while navigating through the clumsy, exposed and thoughtful emotions of youth.
6: "It Follows"
Writer/director David Robert Mitchell creates a horror film masterpiece with a story of a mysterious being who singularly follows an ordinary student through the suburbs of Detroit, MI. Mitchell’s film offers an obscure late 70s/early 80s vibe with the period’s cars, clothes, and living room decors and accompanies the landscape with a synthesizer-filled soundtrack and hand-wringing sequences reminiscent of 1978’s “Halloween”. With its unsettling creepiness and a most original antagonist, “It Follows” brings an intoxicating blend of old-school horror and brand new ideas.
5: "Listen to Me Marlon"
Movie icon Marlon Brando kept his personal life extremely private, but he chronicled hundreds of hours of personal audio recordings as a diary of sorts, and director Stevan Riley pieced together the man’s personal thoughts in a truly amazing reveal over a 1 hour 43 minute runtime. Paired with photos and historical video footage of movie clips and interviews, Brando - in his own words - recites and reflects his innermost views on his romantic relationships, colleagues, preparation for his most coveted roles, and his painful childhood. This extraordinary find is easily the documentary of the year.
4: "Wild Tales"
Wild is the definitive word when describing this wonderfully sadistic, sarcastic and hilarious ride into six devilish tales of revenge from the mind of writer/director Damian Szifron. Each story opens without fanfare or opening titles, jumps right into the daily lives of ordinary people, throws them life-changing curve balls, and lets the chips fall where they may. Wholly original and terrifically smart, this roller coaster ride will make you laugh, cringe and also very hopeful none of these “Wild Tales” will ever happen to you. A cinematic home run.
Brie Larson delivers the performance of year as a young mother living in an uncommonly cramped one-room space with her 5-year-old son (Jacob Tremblay). The movie initially presents the circumstances of their odd living situation as a confusing puzzle, but eventually the secrets of “the room” are revealed, and the narrative then splits from one incredibly difficult challenge to an altogether different confrontation. Narrated - at times - by Jack (Tremblay), this raw story expresses the beauty of our everyday world through a child’s voice, and Ma (Larson) professes the feverous bond of mother and child through her actions.
2: "Mad Max: Fury Road"
After a 30-year absence, Mad Max makes a triumphant return to the big screen in a completely enthralling action picture which is far superior to its three predecessors. Nearly the entire film plays out as a non-stop, mind-boggling chase through a barren Australian wasteland, and the action grabs you by the throat and periodically cuts off your air supply for two hours. “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” is great, but Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron star in the thrill ride of the year!
Led by an outstanding ensemble cast (Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Stanley Tucci, Rachel McAdams, and Liev Schreiber), director/co-writer Tom McCarthy provides a wholly mesmerizing account of a tenacious group of Boston Globe reporters who uncover a widespread Catholic priest sexual abuse scandal. The journalists bang on figurative locked doors while dozens of Boston players - big and small - carry differing agendas to expose or cover up the sordid details. McCarthy opens up a world of exemplary journalism practices to the audience and reinforces the importance of the media as the Fourth Pillar of Democracy. This riveting movie leaves you hanging on every spoken word and is the best picture of 2015.
WORST of 2015: "Monsters: Dark Continent"
Dishonorable mentions: "JEM and The Holograms", "Jupiter Ascending", "Fantastic Four""
10: "Crimson Peak"
Mmmm, Tom Hiddleston…..but wait, also Guillermo Del Toro. I’m a sucker for Tom in anything and have been a huge fan of Del Toro’s films and eccentric style for a long time, now someone granted my wish and said “you two, go make a movie together” and BAM, Lauren was a happy lady.
9: "What We Do in the Shadows"
I really dig Jemaine Clement’s oddball humor in Flight of the Conchords, and the same goes for this film. Generally, vampire parodies are overly cheesy, cliche and annoying, but Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi have written a clever, hilarious mockumentary.
8: "Inside Out"
Inside Out was so much better than I expected. Pixar put a silly twist on a serious subject, and I loved being able to watch and enjoy this with my entire family.
7: "Avengers: Age of Ultron"
Action, wit and badass superheroes...3 of my favorite things.
Hilarious, fast paced, and gave me serious John Hughes teen movie vibes; having that familiar, vaguely nostalgic feeling, made me like it even more.
5: "It Follows"
Lots of debate about the true meaning of "It Follows"; regardless of all that, I would love this film no matter what. The killer score; no pun intended, has a perfect 80’s vibe and reminds me of a John Carpenter movie.
4: "The Hateful Eight"
Stark white snowy backdrop, blizzard rolling in, and a group of the dirtiest, most conniving, foul mouthed characters smack dab in the middle of it all. What more could you ask for from a Tarantino flick? You know things are gonna get ugly, and way more than witty comebacks get thrown around.
3: "Ex Machina"
Visually stunning and engaging. Domhnall Gleeson in a great role; as always, and Oscar Isaac plays a disturbed, mad scientist, of sorts, quite well. Truly enjoyed the philosophical aspects of the story.
2: "Me & Earl & the Dying Girl"
Oh my heart! This film is beautiful for so many reasons. The art direction, attention to detail, uplifting yet heartbreaking story, and the actors are just perfect. I can honestly say that I felt rewarded after watching this film. Definitely a tear jerker, and I’m not the type to weep into my popcorn.
1: "Mad Max: Fury Road"
I’ve been a long time fan of Charlize Theron, as well as the Mad Max franchise and putting her in an action role is what really put this film over the top for me. Great cinematography, compelling story, with minimal dialogue, and the fantastic practical effects, made Fury Road an instant favorite in my book.
WORST of 2015: "Jupiter Ascending"
How many times can Mila Kunis fall? Seriously! Eddie Redmayne, can you just stop, please! He was either mumbling in silly accent or yelling thru the entire movie. And why do so many people thinks its OK to marry and/or possibly get freaky with their reincarnated Mother. Ya’ll nasty! This movie is so out of touch and badly written, I seriously wonder how sober Wachowski’s were during production.
I think I was primed to love creed after being so disappointed by Southpaw. That being said this “legacy-quel” definitely measures up to the Rocky franchise. Even though it’s a little predictable, it has a big heart at the center. And I will never get over that single take boxing match.
9: "Crimson Peak"
Is everything I could hope for from a Guillermo Del Torro film. The costumes and sets are gorgeous. This coupled with a beautiful and haunting love story makes it quite unforgettable.
8: "The Good Dinosaur"
This dinosaur/ coming of age/ western is absolutely delightful. The animation is Pixar’s best and the superb voice acting really bring it home.
7: "Inside Out"
I believe this film is another very important film. It’s one of the most innovative when it comes to emotional intelligence. I think Inside Out has the ability to change the way out culture thinks about emotions. Yet, it’s simple and relatable enough to be enjoyed by everyone.
6: "The Big Short"
is probably the most important movie you will see this year. This film does an excellent job at explaining the complex nature of the Housing Bubble. Excellent performances seen by all involved. Especally Steve Carell
5: "While We're Young"
Naomi Watts and Ben Stiller meet a younger hipster couple and get swept up in their youthfulness. Watts and Stiller perfectly portray a couple feeling caught between two generations. Its insightful, clever and just off beat enough to subvert your expectations.
4: "Kingsman: The Secret Service"
was the most fun I’ve had in a theater. Its action packed, witty, and downright dashing.
3: "Me and Earl and the Dying Girl"
After being diagnosed with cancer, Rachel befriends two amateur filmmakers Greg and Earl. This film and its characters are warm, quirky and charming. I’ve never wanted to be friends with movie characters so badly. There is also has a lot of humor that other film fanatics will be delighted to pick up on.
2: "What We Do in the Shadows"
is the funniest movie I have seen this year. And possibly ever. 4 vampires living together Not only is it brilliant but it also appeals to a wide range of audiences. Everyone I’ve shown it has found it just as hilarious.
1: "Mad Max: Fury Road"
I can’t get enough of this film. George miller has raised the bar for all future action movies. Charlize Theron and Tom Hardy give outstanding physical and emotional performances. I love it more and more every time I watch it. (I think it’s been six times now.)
WORST of 2015: "Self/Less"
is my worst film because of how disappointing it was. There was so much cool sci-fi potential that ended up being so blahh. It was the most forgettable movie I saw all year. I shouldn’t be bored watching Ryan Reynolds run around and kick butt.