We counted down our Top 10 TV Shows of 2015, and now it’s time to count down the movies that moved us, made us laugh and cry and think this year.
Sci-fi seemed like a big theme this year. There was a new “Star Wars” movie, and it’s not the only long-awaited sequel to make the list. Movies that came out of Sundance had staying power, and the partnership of Jennifer Lawrence and David O. Russell continued to pay dividends.
Check out our final Top 10 below, and let us know your list in the comments!
Inspirational sports movies are a dime a dozen, but “Creed” – a “Rocky” sequel/spinoff, as unlikely as that seems – is something special. Michael B. Jordan gives one of his best performances as the illegitimate son of Apollo Creed, and in a case of the movie itself imitating the story on screen, it succeeds against all odds. At the heart of this boxing movie, though, are the relationships. Jordan’s Adonis has a surprisingly tender and emotional relationship with Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky Balboa, and his love story with Tessa Thompson’s Bianca is nothing short of swoon-worthy.
9. Mad Max: Fury Road
One car chase down one long road, and yet, “Mad Max: Fury Road” managed a plethora of unbelievable, entertaining action scenes while really saying something at the same time. A true feminist tale that rejects the notion of women as property, even in a dystopian patriarchal society, even the film’s titular main character, as played by Tom Hardy, knows when to take a step back. “Fury Road” is, of course, all about Charlize Theron’s Furiosa, and the Five Wives.
8. Straight Outta Compton
As sprawling and epic as any biopic in recent memory, “Straight Outta Compton” has everything: Ambition, intrigue, hubris, betrayal and music that’s larger than life. The movie also introduced a trio of promising newcomers, led by O’Shea Jackson, Jr. a dead ringer for his father, Ice Cube, a magnetic Corey Hawkins as Dr. Dre, and Jason Mitchell, perhaps the biggest breakout star of the film, embodying all of the messy, complicated and tragic sides of Eazy-E’s short life.
7. Ex Machina
A chilling, intimate sci-fi thriller that dug deep into what makes us human, Alex Garland’s scripted debut also seemed like a great audition for something bigger. More than that, it showcased a trio of powerhouse performances, from Domhnall Gleeson’s trusting but doomed character to Alicia Vikander’s seemingly trusting but ultimately cunning one, though the movie undeniably belonged to Oscar Isaac. And we’re not just talking about that utterly captivating dance sequence.
It’s probably a cliche to say “Spotlight” is one of the best films about journalism since “All the President’s Men,” but it’s also not any less true. Shining a light on this kind of journalism is a good reminder of the importance of the profession, and Tom McCarthy does it in a tight, tense and fast-moving way that never gets preachy or boring. There’s also a level of delight in seeing how this group of journalists – played by Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, John Slattery, etc – used good old fashioned boots on the ground reporting to get their story. Phone calls, door to door knocking and digging through literal archives of documents at court houses and in their own offices. Google has never seemed more inefficient.
5. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
It’s been fifteen years since the last “Star Wars” movie and, let’s face it, more like thirty-two since the last really good one, but “The Force Awakens” more than makes up for lost time. The JJ Abrams-directed film is a “Star Wars” movie through and through, with all the adventure, fun, good vs. evil archetypes, adorable droids and characters to relaunch the franchise successfully for an all new generation. John Boyega and Daisy Ridley’s Finn and Rey are worthy successors to Luke, Han and Leia, and I can’t wait to see what adventures they get into next. (Full Review)
David O. Russell undeniably found a new muse in Jennifer Lawrence when he cast her in “Silver Linings Playbook,” and the partnership has revealed itself to be a mutually beneficial one in their best movie since. Lawrence as Joy is, as always, effortless, lived in, messy and compulsively watchable. It’s also a delight to see her sharing scenes with her “co-star soulmate” Bradley Cooper once again. The two have chemistry that is so magical and rare, it feels right no matter how many times it happens. Hopefully there’s many more collaborations in the future for this tight-knit group. We’ll just forget “American Hustle” happened.
3. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
The most underrated movie of the year, “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” is also the most lovely, quirky and unique. From Greg and Earl’s homemade parodies of great movies (I wish they were all real so I could watch them), to the movie’s refusal to make a cliche out of his relationship with Rachel, to the inventive breaking of the fourth wall, there was just so much to love about this little indie that deserves much more attention. But rest assured it will continue to grow its fanbase as more people discover it over the months and years.
This two hander was deftly elevated by an at-her-best Brie Larson and the kid acting powers of newcomer Jacob Tremblay. So much of the movie relied on emotional depth of the young actor, to play an isolated boy exposed to the real world for the first time, and the best scene arguably came when he was tasked with executing a complicated escape plan that almost goes wrong. It’s also a wonder and testament to director Lenny Abramson that the film feels small and claustrophobic for long after it shifts locations, as if – obviously – the effects of incarceration lingers for much longer.
An unabashedly romantic melodrama, John Crowley’s adaptation of “Brooklyn” is beautiful and heart-wrenching, and features Saoirse Ronan at her best. A simple tale of a girl who sets out alone into the world is nonetheless grounded by Ronan’s mature portrayal of homesickness and embracing one’s destiny, and elevated by Emory Cohen, who is a revelation as the boy she falls for. “Brooklyn” may purport to be about a girl torn between two cities and two loves, but Cohen’s undeniable presence and performance, like the title itself, makes this a no-brainer.