Another year in film has come and gone, and I would go as far to say that 2015 has been the best year for cinema of the 2010s thus far. Genres that had gotten worse over time, especially horror and comedy, got wonderful additions this year with movies like “Unfriended” and “Spy.” Summer blockbusters were some of the best they’ve been in years, with specific emphasis on “Ant-Man” and “Shaun The Sheep.” While there were films that I did not care for, like “Jurassic World” and “Ex Machina,” and other films that were downright terrible, like “Krampus” and “Jupiter Ascending,” I’ve come to expect a range of good and bad from cinema these days.
As such, I’ve decided to do away with my Top 5 films of the year to expand this into a Top 10, since there were so many wonderful films to come out this year. These will all be films that I’ve previously done reviews of, and I’ll be linking each of my picks to their corresponding reviews. So if you want my expanded thoughts on each film, be sure to check those out.
Number Ten: “Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation”
I might have written this film off in my initial review as another spy film, but as I thought more about the most recent entry in the “Mission: Impossible” franchise, the more I realized how solid it was. Each action piece was fascinating to watch, the pacing is perfect, the acting is some of the best in the series, and the story is both convoluted and personal, something we haven’t seen in this group of films before. That gives “Rogue Nation” its own personal touch that I felt was lacking in the previous films. Something that hits home for our characters and makes their journey all the more satisfying.
Number Nine: “It Follows”
This one makes the list for having one of the most unusual and terrifying monsters to hit the screen in years. A creature that is transferred through sex, and will stop at nothing until the person it is hunting has been killed. This is a monster that can be anyone or anything, but the scariest thing of all is that it walks towards you. Not running or sprinting, but a never-ending walk. As if this thing knows that it doesn’t need to go any faster than that. Eventually you will have to stop and rest, but this thing will not. This gives “It Follows” unbelievably tense pacing, where every scene leaves you tense and nervous about what might be around the corner.
Number Eight: “Steve Jobs”
“Steve Jobs” is a modern-day tragedy, about a man who fought the standard norms of life and was mocked for his innovative thoughts. About a man who wanted to make a name for himself in the world, at any costs, but is so self-absorbed in his own ego that it astounds him that others don’t agree with his methods. Michael Fassbender gives the role of Steve Jobs enough vulnerability while still keeping the intellect, to give us a man who wants to change the world so badly that he abandons his own. We watch as this man becomes an innovator, but also what it means to change the world.
Number Seven: “The Hateful Eight”
This is the middle-ground between an Alfred Hitchcock thriller, a Sergio Leone western and everything that is cool about Quentin Tarantino. Certainly the most minimalistic film on this list, we are given a film that relies on its characters, writing and the pauses between their breaths. We hang on each of these dasterdly-no-gooders next actions, waiting for that classic Tarantino style violence to show up, only to savor every moment they make us wait. When “The Hateful Eight” wants to give us a violent show, it is one I’ll never forget. When it isn’t being violent, the film is even better.
Number Six: “Spotlight”
The movie that I respect more than any other this year. While not the most exciting or innovative film of the year, “Spotlight” is one of the few films I can think that stays honest with the “Based On A True Story” statement at the beginning of the film. As such, we watch as journalism wins over corrupt people and against the odds of a massive organization and the disbelief of an equally large city. We watch as these people give up everything, including their social lives and families, to fight for what they believe in and because they know this will help more people than it will hurt. Because they know that journalism gives the voiceless something to say and cheer about. And “Spotlight” gives power to those that need it the most.
Number Five: “Creed”
I would go as far to say that the best performance of 2015, leading and supporting, goes to Sylvester Stallone reprising an aging Rocky Balboa, a man who has lost everything and has nothing left to fight for, only to find that there is more to life than fighting. Who knew? In a year where we get wonderful performances from Tom Hanks, Jennifer Lawrence, Matt Damon and Leonardo DiCaprio, that Stallone would be the one to have the most heart and strength in his performance. This is not just about Rocky becoming a mentor, but Rocky seeking redemption in a world that he has given up on. The first “Rocky” was about second chances and that the American dream is still alive. In “Creed,” Rocky is given a second chance at life, and wants to share that knowledge with others. This is a heart-warming tale of with some of the best performances in a year full of outstanding roles.
Number Four: “The Martian”
Some love this film because of how scientifically accurate it is. Others love it because of the unique science fiction scenario that has lots of creativity and imagination in surviving on Mars. For me? I adore “The Martian” because of its always optimistic attitude and need to share that feeling with the audience through its sense of humor. In a world where we constantly keep getting gritty survival tales that are about as uplifting as a Holocaust film (I’m looking at you “The Revenant”), to see a film like “The Martian” where Matt Damon finds a reason to smile every morning even after listening to the same terrible disco music for hours means a lot to me. I honestly can’t find a reason why anyone would hate “The Martian.” Even if you don’t like science fiction or Matt Damon, this is a film that anyone can connect with on an emotional level and enjoy the ride as we’re taken to a far away place and shown that the human will is strongest thing we have.
Number Three: “Inside Out”
Speaking of films that anyone can connect with, “Inside Out” is the most relatable yet creative Pixar film in their entire library of emotionally-strong films. Basically, this is a story about growing up and the hardships that come with it. But it is just as enjoyable for adults as it is for kids, to show us that we don’t need to hide or repress our emotions. That it is very healthy to experience emotions like sadness and fear, and at times it is very necessary to experience those emotions. This is not just a conflict within the head of one girl, but in all of us, as we try to understand our own emotions. Throw in imaginative landscape for the human brain, some wonderful voice acting and an emotionally-gripping script and you get the best Pixar film since “Up.”
Number Two: “Star Wars – Episode VII: The Force Awakens”
After seeing this epic a second time, I can’t remember one scene where I wasn’t smiling or giddy as a school girl. Keep in mind, I’m not that big of a Star Wars fan, this is just a fun film that takes every opportunity to fill the screen with colorful characters, expansive mythology, a lavish universe and wonderfully unique action sequences. It comes across like every single person that worked on this film had an absolute blast making it, and wanted to share that enthusiasm with the audience. They wanted us to know that Star Wars is not just another action movie franchise with pretty effects and lightsaber battles, but that it is a phenomenon that begs, no demands, your attention.
Number One: “Mad Max: Fury Road”
I’m not sure what to say about this experience that hasn’t already been said.
Part of the reason this gets my number one spot is because “Mad Max: Fury Road” bucks with traditional action movie clichés and becomes its own unique style. Little to no CGI, takes every opportunity to showcase beautiful cinematography in stark and unforgiving landscape, very little dialogue between the main cast of characters, women leading the charge in the bad-ass department and not needing to see the other films in the “Mad Max” franchise to understand what’s going on. Every shot of this film is gorgeous to look at, whether you’re entranced by the barren post-apocalyptic wastes, the heart-pounding chase sequences combine with the thrilling soundtrack, or the crazy contraptions the wastelands will come up with next.
This is the type of film that makes cinema so much fun to behold. Every aspect of “Mad Max: Fury Road” was superb, including the writing, production design, costumes, pacing and so much more. I could watch this one on repeat and never get bored with it. This is not just an action movie, but an action experience.
“Kingsmen: The Secret Service”
“Shaun The Sheep”