It’s time for my annual look back at my top 10 favorite movies of 2015. While I do write the occasional movie review, I don’t consider myself to be a “film critic,” but rather more of an enthusiastic movie watcher. I enjoy a lot of movies I watch, but not many becomes “favorites.” So, this list here is not my picks for the “best” films of the year; these are merely my favorite movies of 2015.
I do get to see a lot of films every year, and my criteria for a “favorite” typically is one that keeps me entertained and makes me want to see it repeatedly. Admittedly, I tend to be drawn more towards the fantasy/superhero selections, and less towards the Oscar bait pictures. There will be plenty of other “Best Of 2015” lists being published here at Geeks Of Doom in the coming days that will take a more analytical look at 2015’s films, and will likely include more serious dramas. But for now, with me, you’ll get more fun picks than anything else.
With that, here’s a list of my Top 10 Favorite Movies of 2015.
Note – aside from my final pick here, none of these are in any real order, so don’t put too much stock in the numbering. I also added some Honorable Mentions.
Yes, after that introduction of how I love fun movies, my first pick for favorite movie of 2015 is Trumbo, a serious drama based on real events. It’s the story of 1940’s Hollywood screenwriter Dalton Trumbo after he fell victim to the Red Scare, an embarrassing and dangerous time in American history that included the Black Listing of entertainers based on their political affiliations. Jay Roach directs Bryan Cranston as the title character and the Breaking Bad actor, unsurprisingly, puts in an award-winning performance here. Trumbo made my list not only for how well-done it is, but also because the subject matter is one that’s always been of interest to me, and one I feel was and is still of importance. Roach took what could have been a TV movie (something I feel about David O. Russell’s Joy), and turned it into a compelling epic, while Cranston keeps you captivated throughout the film, while expertly channeled Dalton Trumbo, who had to write award-winning pictures Roman Holiday and The Brave One under a pseudonym after he was Black Listed.
9. Avengers: Age Of Ultron
Ok, now on to some fun. I tend to love the films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but not all of them have landed with me (especially the Iron Man sequels). But, Avengers: Age Of Ultron introduces the villain Ultron and gives the Marvel superheroes a serious adversary. Joss Whedon once again spectacularly directs this superhero team-up of heavies like Iron Man, Captain America, Hulk, Black Widow, Hawkeye, and more, and also adds more members to The Avengers. Anyone who loved the first Avengers movies will definitely be into the sequel, as it’s more of the same and then some.
What James Gunn’s Guardians Of The Galaxy did for the Marvel Cinematic Universe in 2014, Ant-Man did in 2015. We’re used to heavy-duty battles with The Avengers team, but Guardians infused humor and fantasy into the mix. This time around, the action-comedy Ant-Man injects the laughs in a heist story. Paul Rudd stars as Scott Lang, a well-intentioned thief who is recruited by the original Ant-Man, scientist Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), to take up the mantle of the shrinking superhero for a dangerous mission to protect the world. One of the best parts in the movie is when Ant-Man meets Anthony Mackie’s Falcon. Ant-Man has a great story with a lot of heart that will keep you smiling, and wanting more (which is coming via the planned sequel, Ant-Man and the Wasp).
7. Inside Out
Disney-Pixar once again pulls at the heartstrings with their latest animated feature Inside Out. The film revolves around a young girl named Riley, who is not too keen about the changes in her life, including her family’s move from Minnesota to San Francisco, and is struggling to cope with what’s happening around her and within her. While that premise is enough to make a good Pixar film, the studio took it a step further by having the movie mostly take place in Riley’s mind, namely her brain’s Control Center, where her five emotions — Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black), and Disgust (Mindy Kaling) — vie to balance the young girl’s memories, reactions, and decisions. But after Joy and Sadness get stuck in Riley’s long-term memory area, the 11-year-old girl begins to truly struggle, and it’s up to all five emotions to get back together at headquarters to figure out what to do. While children will watch Inside Out and have a laugh and enjoy the new characters, it’s adults who will really understand what is happening with Riley. This film really goes deep, and has the same “makes you laugh, makes you cry” reaction that you get from a Spielberg movie.
6. Mad Max: Fury Road
I totally, truly enjoyed Mad Max: Fury Road, which saw the return of director George Miller to the Mad Max universe made so popular in the 1980s by star Mel Gibson. Here, Tom Hardy plays the title character, yet the film does not center on him. Instead, Fury Road sees Charlize Theron and her girl-power troop at the forefront of this post-apocalyptic tale, where women are unwilling baby-making sex slaves and others are made to be “blood bags” — continuous blood donors — for the ailing. It’s a bad scene, but presented here, there’s lots of action and chewed-up scenery to go with a great relaunching of the franchise.
5. The Martian
I love a good space movie, but entries like Interstellar and Gravity failed to grab me like I had hoped they would. Ridley Scott’s The Martian hit me on all levels and reminded me how much I love outerspace, especially when it involves life on Mars. I devoured Andy Weir’s novel before seeing the film, and as I was reading it, I could totally imagine how the film adaptation would go. Matt Damon stars as NASA astronaut Mark Watney, who is inadvertently abandoned and presumed dead on Mars during a mission to the red planet. The bulk of the movie centers on Watney trying to figure out not only how to alert NASA to the fact that he’s still alive, but also how to stay alive long enough to be rescued — that is, if rescue is even a possibility. I love that it’s one man’s journey to survive, yet he doesn’t have to hack his arm off and we don’t have to watch him suffer endlessly or lose his mind. Instead, we get to see how a brilliant, resourceful man’s mind works. A fantastic novel adapted into a great movie that I’ve enjoyed upon repeat viewings.
The Christmas horror Krampus was another selection on my list of anticipated movies for 2015, since I loved the subject matter — I always thought Krampus never got enough attention in the U.S — and I loved the premise. There was just enough horror to make it frightening and eerie, but not too much where I felt disgusted and terrified. The movie starts out on the comedic side, and even has sufficient Christmas whimsy to make it a holiday favorite. Then all hell breaks loose when Krampus, the anti-Santa, comes to town to punish the naughty people. The film comes from director Michael Dougherty, who gave us the superb Halloween favorite Trick ‘r’ Treat, and with Krampus, he provides us with a mix of National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation and Gremlins. This film definitely makes my Favorites list, and will be added into my yearly holiday film rotation. (Check out my full review of the film for more.)
The Hateful Eight
The Hateful Eight is the eighth and latest film from director Quentin Tarantino, and much like his other films, this one is beautifully shot with fantastic dialogue. The Hateful Eight is done in the American Western style, with gratuitous use of the N word, which I found to be a bit jarring, which says something when there’s large quantities of hatred and violence, too. Told in six chapters in post-Civil War Wyoming, the film stars Kurt Russell as a bounty hunter who’s transporting a dangerous fugitive (Jennifer Jason Leigh) during a blizzard. After meeting several others along the road, the eventual titular “eight” find themselves snowed in at a haberdashery, where no one can tell the good guys from the bad, including the audience. Well, they all seem bad, but who’s the real enemy here? Tarantino keeps us guessing in this Ten Little Indians/And Then There Were None meets The Thing (complete with composer Ennio Morricone’s unused music from his previous films) in the Old West tale. If you’re a fan of Tarantino’s dialogue, then The Hateful Eight will surely entertain.
Oh, Crimson Peak, how I love thee. This gothic-romance, complete with ghosts and other horror elements, was one of my most anticipated films of the year, thanks to its cast of Mia Wasikowska, Tom Hiddleston, Jessica Chastain, and Charlie Hunnam, and the fact that it was directed and conceived by the great Guillermo del Toro. Del Toro knows how to tell a story, and how to design his sets so that they too become characters. Wasikowska plays Edith, the aspiring writer daughter of a successful American businessman who falls instantly for Hiddleston’s British aristocrat. But all is not as it seems. In Crimson Peak, every character is likable, even the ones who shouldn’t be, and the storytelling, while sometimes predictable, is done in a grand way. This is one film that should have gotten more attention, and been more successful, but I think the marketing for it was handled improperly. Del Toro maintained that this was a ghost story in the gothic-horror tradition, while the studio initially framed it as a true horror movie, helped by its October release. Either way, Crimson Peak instantly snagged a slot on my favorites list, and its print and audiobook novelizations made their way into several Best Of and Recommended Lists here at Geeks Of Doom.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
I’ve only been waiting for this movie my whole adult life, why would it be my #1 movie of the year??? Is there any movie franchise I love more than Star Wars? No, I don’t think there is. I don’t love Prequels, but when Episode I was released, enjoyed it because I was so insanely starved for new Star Wars. Then when I watched it again on DVD, I realized how bad it was. That’s not to say that there weren’t some really great elements in the Prequels, because there were; it’s just that on a whole, they were a disappointment. And George Lucas’s various “Special Editions” were as horror as well. It’s been a long time since the release of the Prequels, and I’ve learned a lot since then in terms of movies as well as just life itself. I’m older, I’m more cynical, I understand more how things work. That’s why, when I found out the franchise would be continued and that J.J. Abrams would be helming the first installment — 2015’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens — I promised myself I wouldn’t be brainwashed into “loving” it just because I wanted to love it. With the Prequels, I didn’t fall in love with any of the characters (although, I did enjoy Ewan McGregor’s version of Obi-Wan Kenobi), or ships, or planets, or any of the technology, and found them to drag on with way too much action and clustered-up scenes. I didn’t want to be transported to any of the places in that universe or fight beside any of the characters. With The Force Awakens, I instantly felt like I was back in the Original Trilogy universe, and Daisy Ridley’s Rey is now one of my favorite movie characters in Star Wars universe. An amazing journey undoubtedly awaits for her, and I can’t wait to see it. Even without bringing back some of the original characters, like Han Solo and Princess Leia, I think The Force Awakens stands on its own. I’ve seen it several times now, and with each viewing, I still love it. Are there some issues? Sure. It’s not a perfect movie, and being the first of a planned trilogy, it leaves a lot still unrevealed, but I’m OK with that. I’m happy with the film, and am enjoying speculating what is and what will be. And I’m ready for more. Star Wars: The Force Awakens is, hands down, my favorite movie of 2015.
If there ever was a woman who knows women and speaks our language and makes us laugh hysterically, it’s Amy Schumer, star of the raunchy comedy Trainwreck. Comedies don’t typically end up on my top ten favorites of the year, but since Schumer has become a hero of mine with her straight-talking, R-rated humor, I had to give her film Trainwreck an honorable mention. I fucking love her!!! Trainwreck is the anti-27 Dresses, but even with its tough exterior, it still has heart. Schumer, who’s made a name for herself recently with her stand-up, as well as the Comedy Central sketch comedy series Inside Amy Schumer, stars as Amy, a drinking, weed-smoking partier who has no issues sleeping around; matter of fact, after her parents’ divorce, she swears off monogamy. While working for a men’s magazine, Amy is assigned a story on a sports doctor, played here by Bill Hader as the serious straight-man to Schumer’s comedic powerhouse, and the two eventually become romantically involved. But, unlike other rom-coms, Amy isn’t desperate for an engagement ring; also, while other rom-coms star someone like Natalie Portman insisting that she doesn’t want a serious relationship, in Trainwreck, you believe that Amy could live her whole life just as she is. Trainwreck was an hilarious film that made me love Schumer and Hader even more than I already did (and the love was intense to begin with). Props to Hader for keeping it straight, which had to be difficult, because not only is he naturally funny, but he’s a great comedic improvisor. I’d love to see the outtakes on this one.
HONORABLE MENTIONS: Spy, Minions, Straight Outta Compton, Mr. Holmes, Ricki and the Flash, The Walk.
– Spy: Melissa McCarthy action-comedy that kept me laughing throughout.
– Minions: Love the Minions from Despicable Me, and this was a very cute origins story for them.
– Straight Outta Compton: Well-done biopic on pioneering rap group N.W.A.
Mr. Holmes: Ian McKellen stars as an elderly Sherlock Holmes in this endearing and clever tale.
Ricki and the Flash: Serious drama directed by Jonathan Demme and written by Diablo Cody, and starring Meryl Streep as an aging rocker with Rick Springfield as her bandmate and lover. Surprisingly compelling once you get past the modern-day cover songs (the classic rock picks are pretty cool though).
The Walk: Directed by Robert Zemeckis, this is the amazing true story of Philippe Petit’s 1974 rogue high-wire walk between the Twin Towers of NYC’s World Trade Center. Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars as Petit in a mesmerizing performance.
I got to see all of this year’s blockbusters, as well as a lot of the smaller ones, but there were some that interested me that I didn’t get to watch that I thought I would enjoy, like Steve Jobs, The Danish Girl, The Revenant, and Brooklyn (the last film not only takes place in my hometown, but my Brooklyn born and raised 90-year-old grandmother loved it). So, to be fair and to give a little perspective, I wanted to mention those here.
I’m looking forward to seeing what my fellow writers at Geeks Of Doom pick for their favorite movies of 2015, as well as what you, dear readers, think. Let us know!
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