2015 was a fantastic year for movies (for me anyway, I don’t know about you). There were so many great films in so many genres that I had difficulty ranking a top 10. But ranking a top 10 I must, and I feel I’ve finally managed to properly list my ten favorite films from 2015.
You may (once again) notice that my list won’t look like a whole lot of others. I like what I like, and I try to be honest with that. This of course means I’m not just going to sprinkle in some indie films and Oscar-bait just so I look “credible” to the hipsters and snobs of the internet. Some Oscar movies and indie flicks always have the potential to make it as some of my favorites of the year (and in the case of the former, some did this time around), but only if they had enough of an impact on me personally.
I have to admit, a number of films I really enjoyed, such as The Revenant, Ant-Man and Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, didn’t quite make the cut. 2015 was such a good year for movies that those films, contenders in their own right, miss the mark.
Also keep in mind that, although these ten films are ranked, some of them (particularly numbers 3 through 5) are pretty interchangeable. So if I ever say something down the road that contradicts what I say here, it’s not an inconsistency. Opinions fluctuate.
So without further ado, here are my top 10 films of 2015.
10: The Hateful Eight
Directed by: Quentin Tarantino
A lot of people seem to claim The Hateful Eight as one of Tarantino’s “weaker” films, but I personally felt it was on-par with Django Unchained, and certainly better than the immaculately flawed Inglourious Basterds.
Sure, The Hateful Eight is far from perfect. Truth be told, most of Tarantino’s movies are. But in terms of style and entertainment, they are strikingly unique, and The Hateful Eight carries on this tradition in spades.
It’s violent and gratuitous, like all of Tarantino’s flicks (one flashback/fabricated sequence might go a bit too far). But it’s also littered with some of his best characters and writing to date.
Directed by: Ryan Coogler
I love the Rocky movies. I really do. I even love Rocky IV and V in their own way, even though they are technically far from good movies. I feel the series’ sixth installment, Rocky Balboa, served as a worthy successor to the first Rocky. But Creed is very likely the best entry since the original.
This sequel/spinoff sees Rocky Balboa become the mentor to Adonis Creed, the son of Rocky’s original rival, Apollo.
Despite being the seventh entry in the franchise, Creed breathes new life into the series, providing a touching underdog story with some great character development. Creed is proof that you can indeed teach an old dog new tricks.
8: Shaun the Sheep Movie
Directed by: Mark Burton, Richard Starzak
No, you’re not reading this wrong. The Revenant only claims a runner-up spot, but Shaun the Sheep makes the list. Why? Because Shaun the Sheep Movie is excellent.
Much like the TV series of which it’s based, Shaun the Sheep Movie tells an incredibly simple story, but is so intricately animated, charming and funny that it becomes something great.
A flock of sheep and a dog go to the big city to rescue their farmer, who has come down with amnesia. That sums up the plot, but what the sheep, dog and farmer go through during the course of the film is immensely entertaining and, by the end of things, actually quite touching.
7: The Martian
Directed by: Ridley Scott
It’s kind of like Gravity, but with better storytelling and less shoehorned 3D effects.
More than just a Matt Damon star vehicle (though it is that too), The Martian is one of the better sci-fi movies of recent years. And one of the most character driven.
The Martian is a smart and highly entertaining film that helped get the bad taste of Prometheus out of my mouth.
6: Jurassic World
Directed by: Colin Trevorrow
In this day and age when the internet is on a constant witch hunt against all things fun, Jurassic World was a prime target for neck-bearded hipsters the world over. It’s a bit silly, has its share of logical gaps (though it’s not exactly like the original Jurassic Park was guiltless of them), and the characters are pretty archetypal (though we at least get a good amount of time to know them, unlike the cast in the original).
It’s also the best popcorn movie of recent years. Why? Because it gets the thrills just right. Whether it’s through action, suspense, or horror, Jurassic World gets it all done so well that you’d be forgiven for thinking Spielberg himself took the reigns.
It also doesn’t hurt that this blockbuster also serves as a clever commentary on blockbusters themselves. The genetically-modified Indominous Rex is a soulless spectacle, much like many of today’s big budget Hollywood flicks, for example.
Jurassic World is filled with subtle jabs at the tropes of Hollywood, while also being the most fun “Hollywood” movie of recent memory. It’s so much fun.
5: When Marnie Was There
Director: Hiromasa Yonebayashi
The second film by director Hiromasa Yonebayashi may tragically also be the last released by Studio Ghibli, whose future is looking uncertain after Hayao Miyazaki’s 2013 retirement.
If When Marnie Was There is to be the last film under the Studio Ghibli brand, then it will see them go out on a high note. It may not be the best Ghibli film, but it is nonetheless a remarkable achievement that manages to capture the studio’s unparalleled knack for imaginative storytelling, memorable characters, strong emotion, and beautiful animation.
The tale of a young girl, Anna, who is going through a hard time in her life, befriending a mysterious girl named Marnie, is heartfelt, haunting, and tragic.
A wonderful film. I might even rank it higher if I didn’t just recently see it.
4: The Peanuts Movie
Directed by: Steve Martino
Few movies elicit a sense of pure joy quite like The Peanuts Movie. It’s a tremendously faithful recreation of the storytelling and themes of Charles Schultz’s beloved comic characters, and it’s charming like nobody’s business.
In this day and age when kids’ movies are becoming increasingly manic (see; Minions), it’s wonderful to see a movie aimed at a young audience that’s smart, earnest and mellow enough to hold adult interest as well. And who better to deliver such a movie than the infinitely likable cast of Peanuts?
3: Mad Max: Fury Road
Directed by: George Miller
Holy crap. This movie is amazing.
Mad Max: Fury Road is not only a magnificent franchise revival, it’s one of the very best action films ever made. Nearly every moment is a high-octane set piece, with every few minutes putting the entire Fast & Furious franchise to shame ten times over.
But Mad Max: Fury Road also has character. They may not be particularly deep characters, but the film has an incredible way of winning us over to them within the few short minutes where the film pauses from all the action, and it tells a solid story to boot.
So, so good.
2: Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Directed by: J.J. Abrams
Remember when Star Wars was awesome? Remember when Star Wars was magical? Remember when Star Wars captured our imaginations? The Force Awakens remembers.
Though The Force Awakens may play things safe in certain regards, and it plays up the nostalgia card a bit, can you really blame it? After those awful prequels, The Force Awakens’ primary mission was to remind people of how special Star Wars really is. The sequels can worry about shaking things up.
What’s important is how well The Force Awakens executes just about everything it set out to do. It has great new characters joining beloved old ones, a wonderful story, great visuals (both practical and CG), memorable music and, perhaps most importantly, it feels special.
The Force Awakens, fittingly, re-awakened everything that made Star Wars great. And for that alone, it’s terrific.
It might even be my favorite Star Wars film. What could be better than that?
1: Inside Out
Directed by: Pete Docter
How about the best Pixar film?
Inside Out represents everything that every Pixar film up to this point has been about, and sets it all loose in its purest, most abstract form.
While most Pixar films have made us emotional, Inside Out seeks to give us insight into emotions themselves. This not only results in Pixar’s most imaginative feature, but also their smartest, most mature and most touching story.
Through its concept, Inside Out manages to weave a tale that’s as bittersweet as it is creative. We see how hard the process of growing up can be on a child through Riley, and we see just how complicated the feelings said process creates are through the adventures of the emotions inside of her head.
You may often hear people ask why Pixar films (and animated movies in general) make us cry. Inside Out provides the answer to that question, and it’s an invaluable one.
Inside Out is not only the best film of 2015, it’s the best film Pixar has ever made, and one of my favorite films of all time. It’s a pure joy.