2015 is at an end, and we had a great year for movies. Unfortunately I did not have the time to see every movie I wanted to (yet) such as In the Heart of the Sea or Everest, so please excuse any well-deserved absences from this list. Without further ado, here is my list of the top 10 films released this year. Enjoy!
#10. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
As a Star Wars fan, I enjoyed this movie. As a film fan, it was just ok. So it’s hard for me to put this film any higher than number 10 on this list. Director J.J. Abrams did everything he could to make sure fans enjoyed the film and that it was at least better than the prequels, not to mention better than a good chunk of movies that came out during the year (looking at you, Adam Sandler with your two terrible films). The box-office behemoth was definitely a fun time and can be enjoyed by all ages. Star Wars: The Force Awakens follows the new characters of Finn (John Boyega) and Rey (Daisy Ridley) as they discover the mystical world of the Force and their own destinies while they battle The First Order and their menacing leader, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). Each of the new actors fits right in to that galaxy far, far away and we all look forward to the next film where hopefully it will be its own movie instead of a reflection of the original film.
#9. The Martian
The Martian based on the book of the same name follows Mark Watney (Matt Damon) in a Cast Away-esque story about survival and isolation. Matt Damon delivers a great performance as Watney as well as making the science of his survival easy to comprehend for anyone (including my 9-year-old nephew who watched the film with me) and fun to watch. I personally feel Director Ridley Scott could have made some changes such as eliminating a montage or two, and sticking with science-fact over the more science-fiction-style ending, but overall The Martian is one of Damon’s better films and absolutely one of the better Ridley Scott movies in recent memory.
Creed stars Michael B. Jordan and Sylvester Stallone in a re-boot/sequel of the Rocky franchise. Stallone fits perfectly back into the shoes of Rocky Balboa and is the best character in the movie, well-deserved of his recently obtained Golden Globe Award for the role. Creed follows Adonis, the son of Rocky Balboa’s rival, mentor, and friend Apollo Creed who is trying to make his own name in the boxing world. Creed was surprisingly good and the camera work for Adonis’ first registered fight alone makes the movie worthwhile. Creed is full of heart, soul, and creativity. Michael B Jordan seems to be reflecting the character of Adonis, trying to make a name for himself rather than living in the shadow of his father, basketball superstar Michael Jordan. However, B. Jordan’s acting fell a bit flat, but the movie pulls on heart strings with the relationships between Adonis and Balboa, or Adonis and his new girlfriend. Creed was one of the better popcorn-flicks of 2015.
#7. Bridge of Spies
Written by the Coen Brothers Joel & Ethan, and directed by Steven Spielberg, Bridge of Spies is an intriguing film with themes that reflect current events. The film is very well written, has great lighting and style as well as a solid acting performance by everyone in it. Tom Hanks plays his typical self but does a very good job at that as per usual. Overall I think the plot was slightly unengaging as I never felt like any of the characters were in any real danger, but it was still interesting to see Spielberg put history on screen in this way and felt reminiscent of his one of his other historic-politico pieces, Amistad. Bridge of Spies is based on a true story about an insurance lawyer (Hanks) who sees it as his duty to defend a man who may or may not be a Russian spy during the Cold War.
Trumbo starring Bryan Cranston is a very solid biopic that chronicles the life of Dalton Trumbo as a communist screenwriter. The acting in this movie is what sets it apart and it was interesting to me to see the history of Hollywood during the McCarthyism-era. Cranston delivers an incredible performance and is well-deserved of his Academy Award nomination. The movie itself tends to follow typical biopic format, and occasionally had some pacing issues but overall I left the theater with a very good sense of who Trumbo was and what set him apart as one of Hollywood’s top screenwriters, and wanted very much to sit down and watch his work such as Roman Holiday, Spartacus, and The Brave One.
Sicario is the follow up to director Denis Villenueve’s 2013 thriller Prisoners. Sicario tells the tale of FBI Agent Kate Macer (Emily Blunt) as she is led down the rabbit-hole into the dark world of drug trafficking and Mexican cartels. Blunt delivers a great performance in her usual damsel-not-in-distress role, but the star of the show is Benicio Del Toro as Alejandro, a man whose intentions are a mystery. Sicario is dark, brutal, and intense, and I enjoyed every second of it.
#4. Ex Machina
Ex Machina is a frightfully realistic sci-fi film about a young man named Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) who is invited to participate in a series of tests involving the worlds’ first true artificial intelligence by its’ creator Nathan (Oscar Isaac). Ex Machina has an air of mystery and suspense about it that leaves you feeling uneasy most of the time. Is what they’re doing morally correct? Should Caleb have feelings for an object? Is there more to the AI than what is presented? Questions like these linger in your head while watching Ex Machina, and everything is paid off quite nicely in the end.
#3. Inside Out
Inside Out is now splitting a three-way tie for Best Pixar movie in my eyes, with Wall-E and Up. Inside Out does a fantastic job explaining to children the way emotions work and why it’s ok to be sad at times. I felt like I was having several existential moments while watching this movie. It’s a brainy kids movie presented in an effective way. It’s funny, smart, cute, creative and everything else you would expect from the Pixar brand. Amy Poehler leads a perfect cast and it is delightful to listen to her voice as she sounds genuinely excited to be a part of this film.
#2. The Revenant
The Revenant directed by Alejandro Inarritu is based on the pseudo-true story of Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) who was mauled by a bear and left for dead by his fellow pioneers. I don’t want to give anything away so I’ll try to stay away from the story as much as possible. I will say though that Inarritu chose to film this movie the hard way, in all natural lighting. This really gives the movie a sense of coldness, and Inarritu’s signature long shots are a spectacle to behold. Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy both give excellent performances, and this may finally be the year Leo nabs the golden statue. I feel that The Revenant just became one of those movies (such as The Godfather) you absolutely have to watch once every few years for the rest of your life. This movie is visual poetry and absolutely blew me away.
#1. Mad Max: Fury Road
There is not a single negative thing I can say about Mad Max. This movie is everything. The costumes, the sets, the action, the stunts, the music, the cinematography – Fury Road is a masterpiece. Director George Miller shows the rest of Hollywood how it’s done and puts on a clinic with this amazing over-the-top action film. Mad Max has me clutching the arm of my seat for 2 hours straight, every time I watch it. Fury Road never gets old, looks incredible, is an action-packed ride that will stand the test of time, and rests at the top of my list for best movie of 2015. The Revenant may be a better film artistically, but Mad Max was my favorite.
Let’s hope 2016 delivers as many great movies. Thanks for reading!