Top 10 Movies of 2015

It’s always fun to look back at the kind of year you’ve had, movies-wise, and 2015 was a good year for movies, so that’s even more fun. Keep in mind, though, that this came right after 2014, which was a great year for movies. So there was a certain measure of disappointment. (EDIT: Screw the disappointment, I just hadn’t seen the best 2015 had to offer when I first made this post.)

Also keep in mind that this is a list of my favorite movies of 2015, NOT the movies I thought were best made, or movies the critical part of my mind would call a tour de force. These are the movies I loved the most, so it will be a very personal list, and very different from other reviewers’ own lists, especially in one particular movie’s placement.

Finally, since I live in India, that country of late releases (if not no release), I haven’t yet been able to watch The Hateful Eight, The Revenant, The Big Short, Spotlight, Brooklyn, Carol, Anomalisa, Room, and Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, all movies I’ve heard are Top 10-worthy. So I’ve decided this will be a fluid list, and I will keep adding movies in their appropriate positions as I keep watching them in the early months of 2016. [EDIT: I have seen a few of them now, of course]

So let’s get on with it, shall we?

 

NUMBER TEN

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My favorite kinds of book-to-movie adaptations are the kind that add something that can only be done in a movie, thus giving the work its own identity. The book The Martian made us feel like we’re inside Mark Watney’s head, and while the movie didn’t do quite as great a job of that (as was to be expected), it made us feel like we’re on Mars, which is the kind of thing that makes good movies great.

What impressed me even more was the sheer acting talent amassed in this movie. You have Jessica Chastain, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Jeff Daniels, Kate Mara, Sebastian Stan, Troy from Community, and more in supporting roles, and as the lead you have Matt Damon in possibly the best performance of his career. This was Oscar-worthy. The movie is a theatrical experience that cannot be missed.

NUMBER NINE

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Another space movie, this is by far my favorite of the Star Wars franchise, which is probably because I did not grow up with these movies.

This J J Abrams flick came with a LOT of expectations, and pretty much surpassed them. It is the definition of a great fantasy saga, with great, easy-to-root-for heroes (Daisy Ridley as Rey is the highlight of the movie), a looming threat (The First Order, which I sure hope turns out to be more than just a rechristened Empire) and an enchanting lore. Add to that some great supporting performances from Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, Domhnall Gleeson, with a Maz Kanata reminiscent of Edna Mode, also, an adorable BB-8, and Oscar-worthy cinematography, set design and costumes, and there’s basically no reason not to watch this movie in a theater, even if you’ve never seen a Star Wars movie before. It does suffer from repetition and predictability issues, but it’s worth it.

Also, I need to give props to the casting people for not just choosing established actors. Now I can’t imagine anyone but Daisy Ridley as Rey.

NUMBER EIGHT

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This was a really good year for spy movies, with 1 of them on the list, and Kingsman: The Secret Service, Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation and Spy almost making it.

This movie being here really shouldn’t come as a surprise, though, given that there isn’t much debate that Steven Spielberg is one of the greatest movie directors of all time. Or that the Coen brothers are two of the greatest writers of all time. Or that Tom Hanks is one of the great actors of all time.

This is one of those stories, like The Great Gatsby or Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which can make one fall in love with the idea of the American Dream, though, as expected with Spielberg at its helm, it is a somewhat more hopeful look at the whole scenario. The premise, where a lawyer has to face a lot of flak for defending a suspected Russian spy, is an extremely sensitive one, and is handled beautifully. This is the kind of movie that can easily slip under your radar, but shouldn’t.

NUMBER SEVEN

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I’ll be honest, I did not expect an underdog sports drama to impress me as much as this did, but as it turns out, this movie really isn’t about the underdog elements. Or the boxing. It’s about issues of legacy and identity, explored in a smart, thoughtful way.

Also, Sylvester Stallone is awesome. The guy has dramatic chops (which we already knew, because Rocky, but had forgotten in recent times). Also, one of the fights in this movie would be a nominee for that Best Scene category that totally should exist but doesn’t.

There were two great boxing movies this year, but only one made it here.

NUMBER SIX

Yes, it won Best Picture at the awards, but while I didn’t find it the best 2015 had to offer, it was still pretty damn great.

First of all, I had absolutely no idea. None whatsoever. The journalists in this biopic uncover something so shocking that I feel like I should’ve known about it. It should’ve been common knowledge, and the fact that it’s not makes the movie even more important.

While the performances, particularly by Mark Ruffalo and Liev Schrieber are outstanding, what I loved most about this movie was how low-key it was. The tension was built not through epic music and fast cuts, but subtle camerawork and a poignant score by Howard Shore. The movie definitely deserves the spotlight.

NUMBER FIVE

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We’re in the big leagues now, people. The heavy hitters of 2015. Kicking it off is one of the greatest action movies ever made, Mad Max: Fury Road, starring Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa, a truly complex hero whose badass quotient knows no bounds, and Tom Hardy as Max Rockatansky, a great viewpoint character in an endlessly innovative post-apocalyptic world.

It is structured as one long car chase, so the excitement never lets up right until the very end.

And just in case you haven’t seen it yet, I won’t spend time talking about Nux (Nicholas Hoult in an Oscar-worthy performance).

NUMBER FOUR

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I cried. I don’t do that a lot. But when you-know-who did you-know-what for you-know-who, I teared up.

I’m a huge Pixar fan. And when they’re at their best, they make movies that will take you through an emotional roller coaster, but will actually leave a greater impression on you the more you think about them. This is Disney for grown ups. This is DreamWorks for smarter people. And I’m glad to say, this is Pixar in top form. They’re back, people. They are back!

And seriously, was there ever a better way to make you emotional than to tell a story about emotions?

NUMBER THREE

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Stop it, guys! I can hear you booing from here! Whatever happened to the good old days of personal opinion, huh?

Seriously, I loved the shit out of this movie. This was everything the first Avengers movie was and more. The humor worked, the drama worked, characters got more complex, their dynamic got more complex, the villain was one of the best Marvel has ever had, Vision is by far the coolest Avenger ever, the moral dilemmas were deeper … <pant> I could go on forever. <pant>

Joss Whedon was already one of my favorite directors, and he reinforced that position in my mind with this flick. This is fun with a mind. This is why I watch movies.

NUMBER TWO

The Revenant (literally: one who has returned from the dead) was directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu, director of last year’s Birdman, which ended up being my favorite film of 2014. This time, he teamed up with Leonardo Dicaprio and Tom Hardy for a brutal revenge thriller set in the 19th century.

There are a lot of things that make this movie great, from the committed performances to the intense action, but they’re not enough to put a movie this high on the list. And I would be lying if I said it was the subtle themes that did it.

No, what truly distinguishes this movie is how gorgeous it looks. The cinematographer, Emmanuel Lubezki, has now won 3 Oscars in 3 consecutive years and it’s not hard to see why. The wilderness feels wild, the brutal cold almost made me shiver (or maybe I was watching 4dx  and didn’t know it), the bear looked frighteningly real, and there was actually a scene where the breath of a character fogs up the screen! And all of this was accomplished in natural lighting. It is by far the most beautiful movie I have ever seen.

NUMBER ONE

Yes, I’m a softie. But here’s the thing, you don’t need to be a softie to appreciate this film. Room is a near-perfect movie that can make a stone-cold heart burst.

It is hard to say much about this movie without spoiling it, because after the first act itself, it shifts gears and goes in directions you didn’t expect it to. That said, I’ll still try.

Room has a very mature way of tackling complex themes, of which this movie has many, first and foremost being the question of what makes a good mother. In exploring this theme, there comes a point when a question is raised that overturns our whole perspective of certain decisions made in the film. Gah! The non-spoiler nature of this post is killing me! Just take my word for it, the scene I’m referring to is harrowing.

The performances are brilliant. Not only is Brie Larson perfect as a young mother trying to do the best she can, Jacob Tremblay gave one of my favorite child performances in, well, ever.

Also, props to the cinematographer for a scene near the end, which is shot in a way that makes many of the themes and emotions associated with the film come full circle, and for a scene near the middle, which, to put it cheesily, makes one fall in love with life, the universe and everything all over again.

That’s all for this post, thanks for reading, and Happy New Year!

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