We have seen a lot of movies this year. Like, tons of movies. Something like 30 a piece, and there are still a bunch that haven’t gone to wide release yet or that we just haven’t had the chance to see. Which ones did you think were the best? Well, we’re going to tell you which ones were the best, so don’t worry yourself with that whole “having an opinion” thing. If you feel that any movies are missing then I’m sorry you feel that way.
- Mad Max: Fury Road
It’s not very surprising for this one to be in my #1 slot. Fury Road is a spectacular movie in many ways, from the understated-but-powerful story to the triad of protagonists to the spellbinding action sequences. Not only is the movie a rollercoaster ride from start to finish like few movies ever accomplish, but it’s a well-written movie that can impact anyone who watches it.
- Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens
I am such a big Star Wars fan that five of my Top 10 favorite movies of all-time are from the series, and this one fell right in with exactly what I had hoped for. While the movie does a lot of obvious nostalgia-baiting for those who grew up with the Original Trilogy, that definitely doesn’t make it a bad movie. In fact, it’s probably the perfect send-up to the previous six movies, and by the end of the film we know it isn’t afraid to keep the series moving away from its roots and onto a new path. The action and visuals are some of the best I’ve ever seen, and while JJ Abrams kept with many Star Wars traditions, he still brought his own unique directorial style along with it, putting his mark on the series with style. Out of all the characters of any movies in 2015, Finn, Poe, Rey, and Kylo Ren are most certainly my favorites, and I absolutely cannot wait until Episode VIII.
- Inside Out
Knowing Pixar’s track record, I went into Inside Out about anthropomorphized emotions expecting to be emotionally tortured for about two hours. That’s exactly what happened here, in the best of ways. The movie is half of a buddy comedy film between Joy and Sadness in classic Pixar style and half of a realistic family drama about a kid growing up and moving across the country. These two halves work together fantastically and produce one of Pixar’s best-ever films. It’s not exploitative, but it’s touching on a very deep level.
- Ex Machina
Ex Machina is a combination of so many things that I love in movies: Discussions about sentient AI and mortality. Moody lighting and beautiful sets. Thrillers where the protagonist isn’t clear. Twists that don’t dramatically shift the movie, but are still important nonetheless. Oscar Isaac. It’s everything I wanted and more.
- Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation
The Mission Impossible franchise is honestly probably the most solid action franchise out there. Out of five movies in nineteen years, four of them are great or better, and even the second one is only mediocre instead of full-on bad. Even so, Rogue Nation might actually be the best one. It takes everything that was so good about Ghost Protocol, like the supporting cast and the awe-inspiring action sequences, and ramps them up to 11. Simon Pegg, Jeremy Renner, Ving Rhames, and Alec Baldwin make for an amazing supporting cast, while Tom Cruise and Rebecca Ferguson knock it out of the park as the leads. The action setpieces in this stand out even in a year with Fury Road, The Force Awakens, and Jurassic World— The Opera House scene might be one of the best of all-time.
If you want to see the rest of the movies I liked from 2015, check out my Top 20 of 2015 list on Letterboxd.
Kenny’s List (The Right One)
- Mad Max: Fury Road
It’s hard to talk about how good Fury Road is without just repeating what everyone has been saying since May, so I’m going to just say what everyone else has been saying since May; Mad Max: Fury Road is simply one of the greatest action films ever created. It is a meticulously conducted symphony of twisted, exploding metal. Nearly every frame of the film a beautiful, chaotic mess of flipping, burning, and flying automobiles, while still managing to pack a surprising amount of world building and character drama in the sparse moments of silence in between the mayhem. Tom Hardy does a fantastic job taking over the role of Mel Gibson’s not-so-talkative road warrior, but Charlize Theron’s Furiosa (much to the dismay of some folks) really steals the show. I can’t think of the last time I have recommended a film this much. Go see it if you haven’t already and if you’ve already seen it, see it again.
I didn’t expect much the first time I heard about Creed. I first saw the trailer at a late night showing of Tyrmynytyr Gynysys (SPOILER ALERT: Not going to be on this list) and I laughed out loud. Seriously? Another terrible reboot of an irrelevant franchise that nobody will pay to see? While the irony of the situation wasn’t lost on me, having just spent $10 on a terrible reboot of an irrelevant franchise that nobody paid to see, it is safe to say that I am eating my words of premature criticism. Creed is a powerful, wonderfully acted, beautifully shot film. While on the surface it looks like just another young-fighter-works-his-way-to-the-top-against-all-odds kind of movie like we’ve seen a hundred times, it delivers a much needed twist on that trite premise. I can understand being apprehensive about seeing yet another Rocky movie, but this is not a Rocky movie. It is a fresh new story that works in a vacuum that builds itself up from the ruins of the old franchise instead of trying to cobble together the original films with nostalgia. PS the 10 minute long boxing match shot in one take is probably the best scene of the year and is worth the ticket price alone.
- Love and Mercy
For the most part, I tend to ignore biopics, particularly music biopics and especially biopics of people that I’m familiar with. Most feel like Oscar baity, paint by numbers drama and most of the time you know how they’re gonna end. But I figured I would give this one a shot. It wasn’t some cash grab pushed out 6 months after the subject of the film died a la Jobs and no one can say no to a little Cusack every now and then. Love and Mercy turned out to not really be much of a biopic at all, where you would expect to see the celebrities who look the most like the Beach Boys plink plonking their way through the band’s discography on fake instruments. Love and Mercy is about one man’s struggle with mental illness, anxiety, and abuse in the darkest period of his life. The film has a non-linear structure, bouncing back and forth between a young Pet Sounds/Smile era Wilson and a middle aged Wilson, portrayed by Paul Dano and John Cusack respectively, and that’s what sets it apart from other biographical films. Without giving too much away, the film explores the relationship between these two periods of Wilson’s life in a more abstract way, as if they are two different people instead of the same person separated by time. Even if you aren’t a Beach Boys fan or are not familiar with Brian Wilson’s story at all, Love and Mercy is an interesting film that can (and should be) experienced by everyone.
I can’t say that I enjoyed all of Sicario, at least not in the traditional sense. Not to say that it is a poorly made film; it is wonderfully shot with entertaining action scenes and great performances from all three leads, but the prevailing mood of this film is one of discomfort. Several moments made me feel physically ill. Benicio Del Toro’s performance evokes the same kind of uncanny silent intensity of Javier Bardem’s Anton Chigurh. The feeling of passive tension and suspense that hangs over every second of film is interrupted only by the active tension and suspense of the visceral, kinetic action scenes. But you know what? I loved every second of it. I’m admittedly not much of a horror buff, but films like Sicario and Ex Machina (which just missed the cut) are where I go for that same kind of thrill. There is not a second of this film, from the bombastic action scenes to the moments of quiet character building, that did not have me on the edge of my seat. While I loved both films, Sicario almost seems like the antithesis to Mad Max: Fury Road. Mad Max is a massive action scene punctuated by silence while Sicario is a prolonged silence punctuated by scenes of intense action, but both films were exhilarating in their own right.
- Star Wars: The Force Awakens
I mean, I couldn’t NOT put this somewhere in my top 5. While I am definitely a huge Star Wars fan, The Force Awakens doesn’t have a token spot on my top 5 just because it is a Star Wars movie. It has a spot because it is a fucking blast. While J.J. Abrams’ bombastic, quippy, lens flare filled brand of filmmaking may have rubbed some people the wrong way when it was applied to his Star Trek films, I feel like it is much more appropriate for a Star Wars movie. The action is fun and imaginative, the new characters are relatable and funny, and it is a welcome return to form for the franchise after the rollercoaster ride of quality that was the prequel trilogy. While it does occasionally get bogged down in nostalgia and self-referencing and certain aspects of the film (intentionally) recycle old plot points from the original trilogy, it is still a brisk, exciting, and flat-out fun sci-fi film that does a great job of passing the baton to a new generation. Disney has set a pretty high bar for themselves.
And there you have it. Here’s to another good year for movies in 2016!