Time for my TOP 10 BEST MOVIES I've seen this year (see my 10 Worst Movies of 2015)
*Note this year I am woefully behind on seeing movies so there are some that I am pretty sure would have made both lists that I haven't yet seen so I will note the likely candidates in the footnotes.
I am ranking the movies in order from 10 to 1. As with all critiques, there is a pretty good chance you will disagree with me on some or all. I probably can agree to a few moving up or down the list a little either way but I’m far less likely to agree that the movies listed don't belong.
Read the reasoning behind each of the movies so you get a better understanding of why I chose each movie for the best of list and why it belongs here.
After you are done, please let me know your thoughts or if I missed your favorite.
I will be following this list up with my Oscar Predictions next month. Enjoy.
10 Spy/Kingsman (Tie)
(Spy) I love comedies and I believe they are by far the most difficult to pull off and the most critically overlooked genre in film.
This is another movie I didn’t expect much from as I am a bit tired of the R rated comedy that plays mostly on innuendo and 13 year old boy humor. This movie surprised me in pretty much every way. The performances and characters were fun, I was entertained and the ending was unexpected.
If you like to laugh you should really give this one a go.
(Kingsman) I didn’t want to like this movie before I went to the theater but I have to admit I liked this one quite a bit.
I am pretty sick of the dark action movies where everyone is burdened and heavy with guilt and suffering.
I long for some of the fun action movies of the 80’s I grew up on and this movie delivered a new take on the action genre.
I loved how they merged comedy with action and I found myself entertained pretty much from start to end.
9 Pawn Sacrifice
Over the past few years, there have been quite a few biopics and based on real life stories.
I think most biopics these days inspire lazy filmmaking that rely on the subject being loved enough to drive the movie (anyone remember the disaster “Lincoln”?). Same with based on real life event films.
Those are made so the audience is ok with plot holes, weak stories and bad characters because hey “its real life!” so I was a little hesitant going into this one (and full disclosure I am a HUGE chess fan and love Bobby Fischer) but thought it looked good.
Spoiler: It was good, really good. I was entertained as a general audience member and at the same time loved the visual look and many of the technical elements of the film.
Not an all time classic but a great night spent if you want to check it out.
8 Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
I didn’t know much about this movie before I saw it. It came as a highly recommended movie to me (it was noted that one of the characters may resemble me as a younger man).
What I love about this movie is it seemed fresh. I love good classic stories told over and over but every once in a while I like to watch something I don’t know where its going or really why. The performances were outstanding and I was engaged the entire time.
Not a traditional movie per say but one of the best I saw this year by far.
7 Mission Impossible Rogue Nation
I loved the first Mission Impossible. HATED the second. 3rd was so-so (I know PSH was outstanding) and the 4th was another improvement from movie to movie.
This 5th edition is now second only to the original for me in the series and was a super fun movie to watch.
I love this movie as it was a tried and true story that was told well, had likeable known characters that keep you engaged, nervous and laughing, and the visual stunts delivered.
Sometimes I think the hardest filmmaking is taking something that everyone expects, meets their expectations and keeps you engaged.
This movie did all of those and I’d be willing to watch it again.
6 McFarland USA
I was told by my family to see this movie in theaters and I refused. I mean seriously, why would I want to see a Kevin Costner movie (I did see the Guardian after all) about long distance running?!
It looked like a Disney feel good movie that would play like an after school special.
Well I am a big man and I can admit when I am wrong.
This was a good movie. Frankly one of my favorites I saw this year.
Costner was great, the supporting players were great, the story (I know based on real life) was compelling and frankly it was just a well executed movie on pretty much every level.
If you are a doubter, take my word and rent it soon. You won’t be disappointed.
I love his performance in “Nightcrawler” last year and I have been watching many of his movies since “October Sky.” Unlike other critically accliamed actors I don’t feel Jake gets much respect or recognition for how much he changes from role to role (both physically and via character). He is one of the most interesting actors working today so I will generally check out what he does.
This movie was outstanding.
Instead of being a boxing movie they made it a movie about a complex man who happened to be a boxer.
This is not a happy movie or a movie like the original “Rocky” where it is mostly uplifting.
This really deals with humanity and how people are complex and often times flawed to the point of it being hard to watch.
However, they find the story and a way for you to stay engaged, see the growth of the characters and keep you entertained.
4 Mad Max Fury Road
I’ll also admit the story never looked interesting but I had to admit the visuals looked pretty impressive.
A great friend of mine saw it and told me he was taking me to the theater to see it and I was happy to attend. If you haven’t seen this movie, PLEASE try and see it on the biggest screen you can. This was a EPIC movie that was intended to be seen on a large screen.
I grew up a fan of filmmakers like David Lean and John Ford and I know how hard it is to capture an epic shot. Well this whole movie was an epic shot that happened to be a chase scene. Seriously, a 2 hour chase scene that doesn’t stop. Ever. No down time, no boring parts. It starts like a bat out of hell and keeps moving the whole time.
I won’t get into the battle of practical effects vs CG debate but this movie shows how having both is the best. The stunt work, coordination and everything that you see is eye candy of the first order.
Check out this youtube clip of almost 20 minutes of behind the scenes b-roll.
If that doesn’t get you excited to watch this movie then we have nothing more to talk about.
I love watching movies to escape or travel to other worlds. I don’t often fall in love with movies that force me to look at the dark side of humanity. So when a movie does that for me, it really says something. “Spotlight” deals with the systematic immorality of the Catholic church during the child molestation scandal of the past 30 years.
Not exactly the subject matter one wants to explore in great detail for 2 hours. However, this movie was so well acted and so well executed you shouldn’t miss this fantastic show. I know this movie just received two Oscar noms for Mark Ruffalo and Rachel MacAdams but the whole cast was spectacular. This movie reminds of me of All the Presidents Men (I am not saying they are equal in stature but rather have similarities).
It is mostly scenes of people talking. You know the outcome of the movie but probably didn’t know the players or the backdrop of how the story finally gained momentum post 9/11. As a filmmaker check out the scene when the team goes into the basement to look at some old printed directories. Since filmmaking is a visual medium, this type of scene may very well just seem like talking heads where you are waiting for the next scene. Instead, the filmmakers added some great touches.
First of all, the whole team doesn’t arrive at the same time. When the second part of the team arrives, they enter the room and immediately notice there is a horrible smell. This gave the new players in the scene something to do and their faces made the audience wonder what is happening.
Then the guy who was in the room causally mentioned there is a dead rat in the corner (which let us know he already explored the room and sets the stage that no one comes down there any more.)
Then as they settle in around the book shelves, not all the lights are working. This forces the actors into playing the scene more naturally as they couldn’t go wherever they wanted.
Then lastly, the character played by Michael Keaton (the eldest of the group) picks up one of the directories but can’t read it because he didn’t bring his reading glasses.
All these little touches added such depth to an otherwise simple and possibly boring scene. This movie is filled with little gems like these. This is a movie you shouldn’t miss.
2 Ex Machina
Sometimes you find a little movie that is a gem that you wished more people saw. That is this very film.
They took basically 3 actors and set them in a remote house and made it interesting, compelling, visually stunning and suspenseful. This has some of the overall best filmmaking on all levels of the movies I have seen.
Yes the plot line of the robot being a beautiful woman has been done to death but that is why this movie works so well. It doesn’t follow every other movie like this.
I feel the strongest part of this movie is the characters (and actors) in the film. You care about them, you feel like you get to know them and by the end, you have been confused just enough to be uncertain what each person can/is willing to do.
If you love movies then make sure you don’t miss this movie.
1 The Big Short
These movies are all SO different it is particularly hard to place them when directly comparing them.
The reason I am placing this one on top is the fact that I think it has the least issues of any of the top 3.
Sadly again, we are discussing a movie that is based on real life events but what makes this one work is the fact that no one watching knows any of the characters in the film. They are all new.
Also even though the movie deals with the housing/stock market crash of 2008, the subject matter is pretty much over everyone's head (which they do a good job explaining throughout the film) it doesn’t feel like a based on real life movie.
The performances of Christian Bale and Steve Carell are as good as they come. The other actors ranging from a scruffy Brad Pitt to an over-tanned Ryan Gosling are also top notch. This is a movie that in theory should be a difficult sell-mostly talking, depressing subject matter that effected pretty much everyone in the country in a negative way personally and it is about Wall Street.
Not exactly the recipe for a hit movie.
This movie has been gaining more and more awards consideration and I am happy it is.
I want more people to see movies like this so they get made so I have to watch less horrific movies like Jurassic World (see my 10 Worst Movies of 2015) where they don’t have to do anything right and the movie makes a ton of money.
As I said, I haven’t seen all the movies so there are some that might have made the list. Here are some of the movies that I think when I get around to seeing are candidates for appearing on the list.
- A Walk in the Woods
- Straight Outta Compton
- The Revenant
(cover photo credit: snap from designated movie posters)