The Gold Knight presents our Top 10 films of 2015. Instead of a single set of 10 films, which can be highly subjective, our correspondents, along with editor James A. Molnar, will each present a Top 10 list.
The Academy announced its nominations for 2015 last week and now it's our turn to honor the best of the year.
The Gold Knight presents our Top 10 films of 2015. Instead of a single set of 10 films, which can be highly subjective, our correspondents, along with editor James A. Molnar, will each present a Top 10 list.
Please share your thoughts on our Top 10 lists by commenting on this post, on Facebook or by interacting with us on Twitter. We would also like to see your Top 10 lists. Share below. (Find our past Top 10 lists here: 2014 and 2013 and 2012 and 2011 and 2010.)
10. "Queen of Earth"
Elizabeth Moss has never been better than in this claustrophobic little psychological character study about a woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown. After a break-up and the death of her father, Catherine heads to her friend Virginia’s lake house for a bit of a cool down. But things spiral out of control when Virginia starts spending more time with her mysterious neighbor, leaving Catherine trapped inside her own mind. Alex Ross Perry’s chamber thriller recalls Roman Polanski’s "Repulsion" in its depiction of the dissolution of the female psyche.
A decidedly less solemn experience than its filmic counterpart, "The Stanford Prison Experiment" (also released in 2015), "Experimenter" is a playfully formalist look at Stanley Milgram, the psychologist behind the infamous social experiment in which the participant is made to believe they are sending electric shocks to a stranger in the other room. While some of director Michael Almereyda’s stylistic choices could easily come off as self-aggrandizing and pretentious (a literal representation of an elephant in the room, projected sets as opposed to physical ones, etc.), the good-humored presentation of the film’s considerably disturbing material and the unexpected affableness of Peter Sarsgaard’s lead performance never lend it anything less than a genial air.
Twists and turns abound in Christian Petzold’s quietly startling "Phoenix," the story of Nelly, a concentration camp survivor returning to Germany where she receives facial reconstruction surgery that renders her practically unrecognizable. With no family left, Nelly seeks out her husband who may or may not have given her up to the Nazis. To give away the plot from there would be a crime. "Phoenix" plays like an old-school character driven suspense-drama, and one that is never less than enthralling.
7. "Inside Out"
A definite return to form for Pixar who, after a string of disappointments, finally seems to have gotten their head back in the game, "Inside Out" is one of the studio’s most affecting films to date. It is, of course, beautiful to look at, with wonderful voice acting and a script full of humor and vivacity. But the real story here is how human this animated movie is. It is maybe the most poignant depiction of burgeoning depression to ever be put to film, and the fact that it accomplishes that with not one single human being on screen is nothing short of extraordinary.
6. "The Revenant"
A big, bloody, aggressive piece of filmmaking, Alejandro González Iñárritu’s first feature since his "Birdman" won Best Picture at the Oscars last year does not disappoint and may, in fact, be better than his previous awards darling effort. Whereas single-shot flare of "Birdman" often felt arbitrary, "The Revenant" is a less conceited effort, with epic cinematography and directorial flash that, while always obvious, is never forced, and lends itself to its source material beautifully. This is a film to be viewed in theaters on a big screen. Anything less would be a disservice to its scope and breadth.
5. "The Duke of Burgundy"
Funny and charming are not two adjectives one would expect to associate with a film chronicling the blessings and pitfalls of a lesbian BDSM relationship, but here we have "The Duke of Burgundy," a wonderful (and wonderfully erotic) love story. But no one familiar with the work of director Peter Strickland should be surprised by his loving approach to this humanely dirty story. His previous efforts include "Berberian Sound Studio," an uncanny horror movie about horror movies that made my list back in 2013, and a Björk concert film. At the risk of declaring his peak too early in his career, "The Duke of Burgundy" might be his magnum opus. Or, at least, it’ll be hard to top.
Easily the funniest movie of the year, Judd Apatow’s latest film is his best since "The 40-Year-Old Virgin." Amy Schumer is a revelation here, and she deserves an Oscar for her performance as Amy, a hard-partying 30-something who can’t maintain a relationship due to her lifestyle. That is, until unlikely heartthrob Bill Hader comes along. The other two big surprises here are LeBron James (as himself, of course), and ubiquitous WWE superstar John Cena. They’re both great, and I haven’t laughed so hard at athletes since "The Super Bowl Shuffle."
3. "Hard To Be a God"
A challenging film, to be sure, but a very rewarding one, "Hard To Be a God"’s 3-hour runtime isn’t even the most daunting thing about it. A dirty, crusty film full of brutality and grime, "Hard To Be a God" may just be some kind of a masterpiece. The plot is secondary, but it concerns a group of scientists who have traveled to another planet whose inhabitants are stuck in the Middle Ages and cannot progress in any worldly fashion because of their murderous distaste for intellectual thought. One of the scientists assumes the identity of a nobleman, and is treated thusly in a sanctified manner. "Hard To Be a God" has drawn comparisons to the work of Russian film godhead Andrei Tarkovsky, and it’s easy to see why. His singular vision is irreplicable, but director Aleksei German has posthumously left us with a close approximation.
2. "The Big Short"
Adam McKay, co-creator of Funny Or Die and frequent Will Ferrell collaborator, may not be the first name you’d expect to hear when talking about directors to adapt Michael Lewis’ "The Big Short," a nonfiction book about the housing market crisis of 2007. But if ever a person was to make talk about credit default swaps and collateralized debt obligations palatable, he sure did it here. The most thrilling movie of 2015 wasn’t about dinosaurs or superheroes or even wars among the stars. It was about a handful of guys who predicted a market crash in 2007 and tried to convince everyone what was going on. Unfortunately, their warnings fell on deaf ears. America was sent spiraling into a recession, and hundreds of thousands were left homeless and without jobs. "The Big Short" is so good, you’ll forget that some of the people you’re rooting for in it were those who profited when the country fell into financial ruin.
1. "It Follows"
It’s no coincidence that some of the best horror movies ever were made by non-horror directors. Stanley Kubrick made "The Shining," William Friedkin made "The Exorcist," Ridley Scott made "Alien," Steven Spielberg made "Jaws," and now David Robert Mitchell made "It Follows." Here is a horror film which operates in its own fully realized universe, with its own laws and manners, which then manipulates those rules to scare the ever-living hell out of us. What makes "It Follows" so damn scary is the fact that it doesn’t play like a horror movie. It plays more along the lines of a coming-of-age drama, something like Mitchell’s previous work "The Myth of the American Sleepover." The fact that such terrifying things can and do happen in a familiar world gets under the skin in a way that most films, horror or otherwise, rarely do.
My other ten favorites, in no particular order: "Wild Tales," "An Honest Liar," "Ex Machina," "Spotlight," "Mad Max: Fury Road," "Unfriended," "White God," "Sicario," "Best of Enemies" AND "Faults"
I found myself not heading to the movies as much this year. That's not to say that there weren't tons of movies that I wanted to see. Time got away from me. So my list is a bit more mainstream this year. I'm going to have to cram in some Oscar movies once the nominations are out. But these 10 films were definitely my favorite of the year:
10. "Star Wars: The Force Awakens"
I'm not a Star Wars fan. I freely admit it. I always leaned towards Star Trek over Star Wars. However, I did appreciate this movie which has reinvigorated the series. I love the new characters and we'll see what happens with the next film.
9. "Mad Max: Fury Road"
If you're looking for a film that keeps you on the edge of your seat, this is it. I also appreciated the strong female characters in this high-octane ride. I just wish Tom Hardy wasn't doing a Bane without his mask voice.
8. "Avengers: Age of Ultron"
I love the Avengers, but I found this movie in the series a bit disappointing. It was still a must-watch film and helped to grow the characters and the world of the Avengers. Hoping the next "Captain America" is better.
Paul Rudd as an action star/superhero. I was doubtful. But he really pulled it off. "Ant-Man" wasn't even a superhero I knew existed really until the casting news. But the story was intriguing and funny. I can't wait for the next one.
The one documentary to make my list: Twin sisters are adopted, raised apart and then find each other. It's entirely thanks to the Internet. How many other twins or siblings could be out there that were split up and have no idea? It's just so surprising to me and I just felt so happy that they were able to connect.
This movie did have a lot of hype behind it and, in all honestly, didn't live up to it for me. However, the movie put Amy Schumer on my radar when she wasn't previously. The movie had adorable parts to it. And the supporting cast, specifically John Cena, Tilda Swinton and LeBron James, really stole the show for me.
4. "Pitch Perfect 2"
The one movie I saw twice in the theaters this year. I love a cappella music. I can't help it. I bought the soundtrack before it was out and knew all the songs prior to sitting down.
3. "Inside Out"
To be frank, I didn't find this movie that appealing when I saw the trailers — hard to believe with a Pixar film. However, once I did watch it, I fell in love. It's such a touching story and it makes you wonder if you are housing a wonderland in your brain with tiny emotional creatures at the helm.
2. "Jurassic World"
I grew up watching the "Jurassic Park" movies. They have a special place in my heart. This new film, still has the campy aspects of the movies I love, but wasn't a complete retread. Plus, Chris Pratt was pretty fabulous. The whole running in heels thing, though, we could have done without.
1. "The Martian"
As soon as the movie ended, I wanted to rewatch it. Matt Damon is funny, yet you feel for him. The plot, while seeming completely far-fetched, didn't really feel as if it were. You wanted to root for all the characters to get through this. You wanted them to solve the problem.
This blood-soaked, action-packed adaptation is the version of "Macbeth" that we’ve always wanted. Led by a fantastic Michael Fassbender and a bone-chilling Marion Cotillard, Justin Kurzel’s treatment doesn’t skimp on the slow motion, sweeping landscapes and meticulous art direction. It’s "Macbeth," for "300" fans— can you believe it took this long?
9. "When Marnie Was There"
While we saw the final entries from Studio Ghibli titans Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata, the famed animation studio had one last trick up its sleeve — "When Marnie Was There," a nostalgic fairy tale tinged with the slightest hint of regret. It’s an unassuming, understated final entry to a stream of animation masterpieces, and it’s the perfect (albeit painful) goodbye to the Japanese warehouse of wonder.
8. "45 Years"
"45 Years" is a film of vast complexity seen through a pinhole of restraint. Charlotte Rampling is the film’s beating heart, as she emotes through a spiral of realizations about past lovers, her own life and what it means to be married. The film is classically British yet inventive in its suggestiveness, allowing its regal star to make of it what she will — and she creates a monument to emotional depth and crushing fragility.
7. "The Martian"
Ridley Scott has been making expertly crafted sci-fi films for decades, and he’s right in his wheelhouse with "The Martian," but the real honor goes to Matt Damon. Damon not only carries the film with effortless vitality, he injects it with all the humor, heart and fear that we could imagine from a stranded astronaut light years away from home. "The Martian" is a funny, edge-of-your-seat thrill ride and it’s some of the most fun I’ve had at the movies all year.
6. "Steve Jobs"
Aaron Sorkin returns to Silicon Valley to right some wrongs in regards to the famous tech guru. This movie is unafraid to show its source material as equal parts brilliant visionary and crushing tyrant. Danny Boyle handles the famous Sorkin style with his own fast-paced directorial ricochet, and the verbal and visual tennis match is a feast for the eyes, ears and mind.
Alas, a truly talented young Hollywood A-lister has fought his way to the top, and his name isn’t even Chris Something, it’s Michael B. Jordan. "Creed" is a triumph in so many ways — the rise of Jordan, the return of Stallone and his venerable franchise and the execution of an awesome, kick-ass, all-American sports movie. A reboot that’s actually worth watching, "Creed" will have you hooting, hollering, and praying for victory.
4. "Son of Saul"
Every bit the gritty Holocaust movie that we always dread yet must necessarily endure, "Son of Saul" employs a cascade of brilliant decisions to shed new light on the darkest age in history. Hungarian László Nemes uses several techniques to recreate the terror, claustrophobia and defeatism that being in a concentration camp would likely create. His film is blurry, loud, disjointed and frightening — but above all it’s a genius underscoring of a time we must never forget.
The aquiline Cate Blanchett — she’s something to take your breath away, isn’t she? "Carol" is a wonderful film about the complexities of new love, and thanks to Todd Haynes’ keen eye,m it’s a beautiful and luxurious one. Blanchett and Mara offer the year’s best performances, with their whirlwind romance all the more believable due to their stellar talents. "Carol" will sweep you off your feet, and deliver you back onto the ground at light speed with only your heart in pieces.
Paolo Sorrentino, fresh off the victory of "The Great Beauty," creates another masterwork in "Youth." Very much a stylistic sister-film to his previous Oscar-winning effort, "Youth" is a nonstop crescendo of beauty, ideas and heartbreak. His forced compositions are images to revel in, his stars the perfect actors for his bizarre view of time spent in a Swiss spa resort. Aside from the stalwart Michael Caine, Paul Dano and Rachel Weisz are spectacular, with the latter delivering the most biting monologue of the year — she’d surely make Bergman proud. When the parade of absurdity and wonder was over, I was left feeling revived, blissful, hopeful — and full of Youth.
1. "Inside Out"
The brief, fleeting return of the world’s best animation studio. Between a sea of sequels, Pixar decided to flirt with their former glory by giving us such an incredible film that I almost forgot that they’d fallen off the wagon. But with a movie like "Inside Out" — so touching, so poignant, so utterly real yet somehow so fantastical — does it even matter? "Inside Out" is near perfect — it’s universally relatable, emotionally deep, heartfelt and hilarious and it is a beautifully crafted thing to behold. I truly believe I cannot sing enough praises for just how artfully this movie was executed, from the concept to the screenplay to the acting to the animation to the music to the unforgettable experience of sitting down and watching it — "Inside Out" is definitely the best film of the year.
"Chewie, we're home."
Han Solo's line from the new "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" really encapsulates 2015 at the movies. Episode VII of the beloved space franchise features a homecoming of sorts for the two wacky characters but also one for moviegoing audiences.
My Top 10 list features quite a few nostalgic trips back in time. Some of the films are retreads of past beloved franchises. Some harken back to great genre films, whether it’s journalism, war or space. And there’s always room for a great comedy and reimagining of a fairy tale.
Here are my Top 10 films of 2015:
10. “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”
Movies from decades past were back in our lives in 2015 and I could not have been happier. While some may complain that J.J. Abrams’ “The Force Awakens” wasn’t fresh enough, I thoroughly enjoyed the trip to that galaxy far far away. The inclusion of the classic characters, while ushering in new characters, is a solid way to transition the franchise forward. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for “Star Wars.”
9. “Inside Out”
A beautifully crafted movie that dives deep into the mind with stunning results. Pixar does it again! And the short before the movie, “Lava,” is perfect and beautiful — the perfect pairing.
8. “Still Alice”
While technically released in 2014 for Oscars contention, I wasn’t able to see this film until February and I wanted to include it because it is a humbling and devastating look at Alzheimer's disease. “Still Alice” features an Oscar-winning performance by Julianne Moore in a portrait of a woman who is on the verge of losing her best asset: her mind and her memory. The juxtaposition of another awards season favorite with "The Theory of Everything" is really telling. These two academic leaders in their fields face devastating physical challenges that challenge who they are. If you missed seeing this film last year, please go check it out.
7. “The Danish Girl”
A film as beautiful as the paintings featured. Director Tom Hooper paints a beautiful story with poetic cinematography by Danny Cohen and a luscious score by Alexandre Desplat. Eddie Redmayne and Alicia Vikander bring the story to life and really give it wings.
“Have courage and be kind.” This phrase encapsulates Disney’s live-action adaptation of its classic animated fairy tale. And Disney gets it right. That magical feeling of watching a movie with a happy ending. That’s what Disney movies are about. The classic story is brought to life and audiences get a little more background into Cinderella’s upbringing. There are moments in the movie that will bring a tear or two to fans’ cheeks. There’s something purely magical about seeing Cinderella dressed up at the ball. And to see this in live action is something the production design and costuming gets absolutely right. Some of the scoring has moments that are reminiscent of “Sleeping Beauty” — wrong movie, but otherwise adds the perfect atmosphere. This is a must-see. Can’t wait to see what Disney does with “Beauty and the Beast” next.
Melissa McCarthy is laugh-out-loud hilarious as a CIA comm operator-turned field agent and the surprising plot twists keep coming. This spy comedy was a refreshing boost of originality during the summer season, even if it was raunchy and a little dirty.
4. “The Martian”
A brilliant display of science that is more science than fiction. Matt Damon is fantastic in a “Castaway”-style movie set on Mars. The visuals are beautiful. Let's go to Mars!
3. “Jurassic World”
“Jurassic World,” directed by Colin Trevorrow, is a continuation of the world created 22 years ago by Steven Spielberg, but bigger and bolder. This new film harkens back to the first film in many ways and as the nostalgia pours in so does that suspense as dinos run amok on the island. Sound familiar? The whole experience is familiar. What Trevorrow, his crew, along with Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard and the rest of the actors accomplish is recreating what was so special about that first film. It does what any great art strives to do: It take us to another place and time. “Jurassic World” has the perfect blend of comedy, drama, adventure, awe and suspense. You will laugh and cry and jump out of your seat. (Read my original review.)
2. “Bridge of Spies”
A highly compelling Cold War drama by Steven Spielberg starring Tom Hanks. The end is where the payoff is. What an incredible story inspired by true events, captured with engaging cinematography by Janusz Kaminski and scored perfectly by Thomas Newman. This is one of my favorite movies of the year because it takes you to another place and time. Here, it’s scary — and it happens to be true.
An enthralling cinematic story of the investigative journalism team at the Boston Globe that exposed the Catholic Church child abuse scandal. This film, with a phenomenal cast and score, is reminiscent of great journalism movies of the past, including “All the President’s Men,” and it’s the best movie of the year. This pick is completely biased, being that I have a journalism degree and background, but the film stands on its own, telling a story we all know the outcome to, but the journey there is so compelling, you can’t look away.