By Ray Manukay
Bridge Of Spies
The Big Short
The Danish Girl
Going Clear: Scientology And The Prison of Belief
The Kingsmen: The Secret Service
Love & Mercy
#20: The Walk
directed by ROBERT ZEMECKIS
#19: The End Of The Tour
#18: Steve Jobs
directed by DANNY BOYLE
#17: Crimson Peak
directed by GUILLERMO DEL TORO
#16: Slow West
directed by JOHN MACLEAN
#15: Inside Out
directed by PETE DOCTER & RONNIE DEL CARMEN
#14: Beasts of No Nation
directed by CARY FUKUNAGA
directed by JOHN CROWLEY
#12: Danny Collins
directed by DAN FOGELMAN
#11: Straight Outta Compton
directed by F. GARY GRAY
And my Top 10 Films of 2015 are…
#10: The Hateful Eight
directed by QUENTIN TARANTINO
Quentin Tarantino made his much publicized return to the western genre, but The Hateful Eight had more in common with his debut film Reservoir Dogs, than it did with his last film Django Unchained. Taking place mostly in one location, The Hateful Eight is a delightful, talky and suspenseful work. It is a bit surprising, and disappointing that the film wasn’t embraced critically, and commercially as much as his other films. Filled with fun performances, and a wicked sense of humor, The Hateful Eight will likely stand out in years to come as an under appreciated gem in Tarantino’s eclectic portfolio.
# 9: Ex Machina
directed by ALEX GARLAND
It was a great year for science fiction and Ex Machina was near the top of this year’s list for that genre. But Ex Machina also stands out for being a mesmerizing, intense, and provocative work of drama. It helps that the film is anchored with star making turns by Oscar Isaac, Alicia Vikander and Domhnall Gleeson. But the real breakout star of the film is writer turned director Alex Garland, who made one of the most impressive directorial debuts in years.
#8: Star Wars: The Force Awakens
directed by J.J. ABRAMS
Let’s be real here.
There was no way Star Wars: The Force Awakens could live up to the astronomical expectations that preceded its release. The truth is the movie has some serious flaws that are hard for a grown man like me to overlook. Like its unimaginative use of yet another “Death Star” or its almost beat for beat retelling of Star Wars: A New Hope.
But this is Star Wars. and as much as as I like to pretend to be a cultured, elitist, film connoisseur, the film is just pure popcorn fun.
Even the biggest cynic could not help smiling watching Han Solo and Chewbacca briefly stomp around the Star Wars galaxy again. The film also nicely sets up the next generation of stories with some engaging and affable characters. Plus Star Wars: The Force Awakens provided this year’s most heated debate. Who is Rey? (For the record I fall into the “Luke’s Daughter theory.”
directed by RYAN COOGLER
Rocky returns! And there is a lot to like in Sylvester Stallone’s return to his most famous character. But what was really surprising and satisfying was the moving inner, emotional battle of Adonis Creed, Apollo’s illegitimate’s son, played by Michael B. Jordan.
Jordan turned in a touching, and under-appreciated turn as the title character. His in-ring battle mirrored his inner turmoil of rejecting or embracing his true identity.
Meanwhile, Ryan Coogler’s impressive, steady hand expertly balanced the Rocky nostalgia, with the traditional boxing action. It’s his fingerprints which elevated the film from a popcorn action film to an awards season favorite.
#6: The Revenant
directed by ALEJANDRO GONZALEZ INARRITU
Much has been written about the incredible action sequences and groundbreaking cinematography of The Revenant and the buzz is all justified. The decision by director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu to shoot the film with natural lighting and in brutal, unforgiving uninhabited locations resulted in one of the most breathtaking movies of the year.
The excellent performances of Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy even helped audiences overcome the razor thin plot of survival and revenge.
The truth is if The Revenant depended simply on the story, it wouldn’t deserve to be on this list.
Thankfully, that isn’t the only criteria.
The Revenant should go down as one of the best films of the year, if not decade, for its remarkable action sequences and Leonardo DiCaprio’s mostly non-verbal performance. The film had visuals that will likely never be duplicated and deserves to be witnessed by audiences for years to come.
Check out the already classic bear attack scene for proof.
directed by DENIS VILLENEUVE
Sicario is a dark, brutal, hard to watch film.
That is an understatement.
Which is likely why the film was mostly ignored during this awards season.
Make no mistake, Sicario is disturbing on many fronts and is not for the faint of hurt.
But that feeling of dread is also what propels Sicario.
The story examines the politically charged topic of the war on drugs and it handles the subject expertly.Sicario doesn’t shy away from showing the human cost of the war. Even though it’s unpleasant to watch, we just can’t look away.
Which is why Sicario isn’t just a compelling film, it’s also an important one. Hopefully it will help create more conversations on the subject. Which definitely demands to be addressed and explored socially and politically.
#4: Bone Tomahawk
directed by S. CRAIG ZAHLER
As much as everyone touted The Hateful Eight as the big cinematic western of 2015, the most traditional and frankly, the BEST western of 2015 was the gritty, violent and unforgiving Bone Tomahawk.
Basically a men on a mission movie. Bone Tomahawk also flipped the western on its head.
Director S. Craig Zahler turned up the brutality in his directorial debut. Bone Tomahawk turned away from the traditional, beautiful, cinematic landscapes of the genre and focused more on the stark, barren, lifelessness of the West. The results had critics grasping for nontraditional descriptions of the genre like horror or cannibal western.
But the best description of Bone Tomahawk is just plain great.
#3: The Martian
directed by RiDLEY SCOTT
The most crowd pleasing film of 2015 was The Martian.
Simply put, a film like this is why we go to the movies.
The Martian had everything audiences could want from a story.
It had drama, action, and suspense. It was touching and heartfelt. But what made the film stand out from the rest, was its optimistic message of hope.
Hope for the space program, hope for the future, hope for humanity.
Cynics probably rolled their eyes at its optimistic outlook. But in a year of brutal, unforgiving films, The Martian stood out for being a feel good experience.
It literally had moments which made audiences stand up and unabashedly cheer.
Which is impressive in this cynical, media savvy day and age.
directed by TOM McCARTHY
Spotlight is the best drama of the year.
It deserves all the kudos it has been earning. From its unflinching look at the Catholic church child abuse scandal, to the painfully meticulous work of the journalists uncovering the shocking truth. Spotlight was just excellent story telling.
Not to mention the great work of its impressive ensemble of actors. Who each nailed their individual performances, while elevating the entire team.
In a year full of amazing action, and fast paced thrills it was refreshing to finally watch a pure, dramatic experience. As much as we enjoy watching fun movies, the real reason why film is an art form is its ability to educate, move, and help inspire audiences.
The fact that it is based on an ongoing, growing scandal makes Spotlight immediate and important. Thankfully, the film will continue to shed light on an important subject like this for years to come.
And my favorite film of 2015 is…
#1: Mad Max: Fury Road
directed by GEORGE MILLER
Well… was there really ever any doubt that Mad Max Fury Road would be my favorite film of 2015? I’m an unabashed fan of science fiction. I’m also a huge fan of westerns. Smash the two genres together and Mad Max: Fury Road is what we get.
The film was just incredible.
From it’s eye popping chase sequences to its brilliant performance from Charlize Theron, Mad Max Fury Road was ground breaking. Throw on top of all that awesomeness the world building by writer director George Miller and Mad Max: Fury Road had everything audiences could ever want.
Wow! What a great year for movies! I’m a little ashamed that this list didn’t feature any international films or more documentaries. But I’m also happy to have seen practically all of the award season films this year.
I can’t wait to see what 2016 has in store. Hopefully Hollywood will be able to build on the great success of 2015. Let us know what you think in the comments! We love discussing films.