It’s that time again – when every website, blog and publication floods the world with Best Movies of the Year lists! We here at MoviePass are no different, so here’s our Top 20 of the year with a caveat – we haven’t seen The Revenant, Carol or The Hateful Eight yet. There’s a good bet those three will be in there at some point after they’re viewed.
Tom McCarthy’s forthright, impeccably-acted paean to dogged journalism is the year’s crown jewel. This gripping tale of the Boston Globe’s efforts to unravel the scope of the Massachusetts Catholic priest scandal unspools in steadily terrifying fashion, propelled forward by the year’s best ensemble – Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, and Liev Schreiber, as the Globe’s “Spotlight” team, are all Oscar-worthy. It’s an illuminating tale, and a new classic that deserves this year’s top spot.
Bridge of Spies
So refreshingly old-school you almost feel like a Turner Movie Classics bumper should come up on the screen, this Spielberg-directed, Coen brothers-scripted, Hanks-starring picture is worthy of their pedigrees. Spielberg breathes new life into the concept of the Cold War thriller, and the scenes between Hanks and Russian spy Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance) contain the finest acting of 2015.
Mad Max: Fury Road
The greatest chase movie of all time? The most exhilarating movie ever made? The most progressive action film ever made? You could make a case for all three exultations for Mad Max: Fury Road, George Miller’s brilliant return to the franchise. It’s captivating, virtuoso filmmaking from Miller with a decidedly feminist bent to its story; anything that gets the guys from the MRA crowd fired up deserves a spot high on this list.
The surprise hit of the year – a sleek, Twilight Zone-like sci-fi thriller that brings a young programmer (Domhnall Gleeson) into close contact with humanoid robot Ava (Alicia Vikander). Alex Garland’s directorial debut is one of those future Blade Runner-like classics, and Oscar Isaac – having a hell of a year – gives 2015 one of its loosest, most captivating performances as a bro-y, douchebag-genius CEO.
Benicio Del Toro – poised and full of relaxed menace – gives one of the year’s most memorable performances in Denis Villeneuve’s harrowing, skillfully-directed Mexican drug war feature. Matched with Josh Brolin’s smooth CIA operator and Emily Blunt’s fish-out-of-water DEA agent, Del Toro is a dominating force.
This cynical 31-year-old New Englander started tearing up like a young child at the newest Pixar masterpiece. So, yes, Inside Out gets a spot on the list. I wish there was some way to give Richard Kind an Oscar for his masterful vocal performance as Bing-Bong.
Brie Larson’s been one of the finest actresses in Hollywood for a while (watch Short Term 12 for proof) and she’s probably going to pick up a Best Actress statue for her triumph in this harrowing and emotional story of abduction. Her young co-star Jacob Tremblay is equally as award-worthy. A towering acting showcase.
Star Wars, Episode 7: The Force Awakens
That collective cheer you heard the week before Christmas? That was every Star Wars fan unabashedly praising J.J. Abrams for his fine, fun reboot of the franchise, blasting away the memories of the soggy and empty prequel trilogy with a rousing and decidedly old-school adventure for a new millennium. It appears, finally, that the force is truly in the right balance.
The Big Short
It turns out that the Anchorman director Adam McKay was the perfect person to deliver the best movie made about the late-2000’s financial crisis. The Big Short turned out to be a vibrantly amusing red-hot jab at the men who burned the world down, rivers of rage seething just underneath its surface.
Ridley Scott made his most buoyant movie in ages with this fun, spirited adaptation of Andy Weir’s superb, stranded-on-Mars tale; Matt Damon, having a ball as the wiseass Robinson Crusoe-like biologist Mark Watney, will probably earn a (well-deserved) Best Actor nomination.
You’d probably either love or hate the Aaron Sorkin-penned, Danny Boyle-directed take on the Apple genius; count me as one of the former. Michael Fassbender nails all of Jobs’ eccentricities, and the rest of the sterling cast – Seth Rogen, Michael Stuhlbarg, and a great Kate Winslet – absolutely tear into Sorkin’s text.
Love and Mercy
A refreshingly subdued musical bio-pic that pulls off a nearly impossible stunt: having not one but two actors (Paul Dano and John Cusack) play Beach Boys leader Brian Wilson at varying stages of his troubled, brilliant life. Dano is especially superb.
Beasts of No Nation
A skillfully-crafted film from Cary Joji Fukunaga, chronicling the journey of a child soldier (Abraham Attah) under a terrifying leader (Idris Elba). Elba should break through with his first Oscar nomination, and Attah is a star in the making. Important not only for the movie’s themes, but for its release methods – premiering first on Netflix, then in a limited release to theaters.
There’s no way that Creed should have worked as well as it did, but man, was it ever a knockout. Michael B. Jordan easily shook off the Fantastic Four stink, giving some real weight to his Adonis Creed, while Sylvester Stallone’s aging, worn-down Rocky provides the film with an emotional roundhouse. This is a wonderful start to a new Rocky era.
What We Do in the Shadows
It was mostly a dreadful year for movie comedies, but this Jermaine Clement – Taikia Waititi vampire mockumentary production was flat-out hysterical, and more worthy of attention than all of the Twilight movies combined.
It’s too bad we’ll never see the Edgar Wright version of Ant-Man, but Peyton Reed’s finished product of this relatively minor Marvel character was so fun and polished that it’s hard to stay too disappointed. Paul Rudd was absolutely made for superhero stardom, and the rest of the supporting cast – Evangeline Lilly, Michael Peña, and a having-way-too-much-fun Michael Douglas – is probably the strongest in Marvel’s rich history. A tremendously fun breeze of a film after the bloated Age of Ultron.
The End of the Tour
Jason Segel is tremendously affecting as David Foster Wallace – trading stories and dialogue with fellow writer David Lipsky (Jesse Eisenberg), on a lonely Midwest book tour. It’s a thoughtful, memorable ode to those demons authors wrestle with.
Kingsman: The Secret Service
Any feature that makes such brilliant strategic use of “Money for Nothing” by Dire Straits and “Freebird” from Lynyrd Skynyrd earns a top-20 slot. This was a fun, fast and furious tongue-in-cheek spy romp that made Colin Firth into the year’s most unlikely action star.
Making full, queasy use of 3-D, Robert Zemeckis captures Philippe Petit’s (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) high-wire 1974 walk between the two towers in total stomach-churning immersion. It’s not going to be for everyone, that’s for sure – there will be many who can’t handle the experience – but those who can will find an exuberant, entertaining film.
Another overlooked gem from 2015, Baltasar Kormákur’s chronicle of the ill-fated Into Thin Air trek is a starkly beautiful warning about the dangers of facing down nature. This might be the finest mountaineering film since Cliffhanger.
What movie did you see that got robbed? Did any not deserve to be on the list? Let out all your opinions in the comments below. We can take it…
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EDITOR’S NOTE: to be honest, the list above started a rousing debate at the MoviePass office, and with that in mind, we wanted to add several movies some of us thought had to be included. It’s a “Best Movies of 2015, Part Deux” if you will. Enjoy.
Potentially this high school generation’s Superbad, Dope put a new spin on the drug-laced, teenage, R-rated comedy and added the seriousness of growing up in Inglewood. It made big waves at Sundance and was greeted with more acclaim when it was released to theaters this summer.
Straight Outta Compton
One of the best music biopics since Ray and Walk the Line, F. Gary Gray’s take on the story of N.W.A. was tense, entertaining, had great music, and made us laugh more than we expected. Although this was clearly the story of Dr. Dre and Ice Cube, the mostly brand new cast delivered a grade A depiction of their real-life counterparts after going through a bootcamp of sorts for rappers.
A couple of us caught this one last night, and for me, it’s equaling or topping Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu’s Birdman from last year. Insanely long takes during action sequences, jaw-dropping landscapes, and intense performances from all the actors, I have a feeling this will be a big winner at the Oscars this year. If Leo doesn’t go home with a statue for Best Actor, we will riot.
Amy Schumer’s comedy may not tickle everyone’s funny bone, but for her first full length screenplay comedy effort, you have to give her credit. It was one of the better female-centered comedies of the year, nearly topped the list for opening weekends for Judd Apatow-directed movies (only losing to Knocked Up by $600k), and started the transition for Lebron James from basketball legend into Hollywood (maybe). Not bad for a first time.
Another controversial pick, Colin Trevorrow’s reboot/sequel of the Jurassic Park franchise ended up breaking the Avengers’ record for highest opening weekend and offering further proof that Chris Pratt is the franchise leading man to beat right now. Looking at the comments below and the original article above, some felt it was a disappointment, but this was a tough movie to make and please everyone; we had fun and think it deserves some recognition.