Best Movies of 2015


Denis Villeneuve | 121 mins | Action/Crime/Drama
Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin, Benicio Del Toro, Jon Bernthal

“Denis Villeneuve cements his status as one of the most exciting working filmmakers with his furious, visceral thriller “Sicario.” Following the grim one-two punch of his gloomy, arresting “Prisoners” and his whatsit of a doppelganger flick “Enemy,” “Sicario” emerges as Villeneuve’s most assured and distressing work to date. A tale of inexorable moral compromise unfolding along the godless Cartel city of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, “Sicario” is ultimately the story of Kate Mercer, a driven and resolutely unsentimental FBI agent who finds herself repeatedly thwarted by her male superiors when she agrees to enter this Southwestern heart of darkness. Villeneuve has an almost eerie ability to stage set pieces of prolonged, heart-stopping tension —as he does in a bullet-ridden showdown set at the U.S./Mexico border— and his work here with Roger Deakins, who also gave “Prisoners” its dark, glistening patina, is some of the best work either has ever done. Emily Blunt is a force of raw, elemental pain as Kate, Josh Brolin is wonderfully slimy as her annoyingly laid-back supervisor, and rising star Jon Bernthal has a scene with Kate in a motel room that ranks as one of the most terrifying we’ve seen all year. But it’s Benicio del Toro, as a man whose soul is all but a bygone thing, who quietly steals the show here. His Alejandro is a man of no allegiances, who, with his pointed goatee and predatory body movements, appears to be more wolf than man. “Sicario” follows Alejandro’s grim, precise footsteps: it’s coiled like a snake, with a bite just as deadly.” – IndieWire


Ryan Coogler | 133 mins | Drama/Sport
Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Tessa Thompson, Phylicia Rashad

“It’s impressive to consider how thoroughly this Rocky spinoff/sequel succeeds. Centered on Donnie Johnson — the illegitimate, unacknowledged son of Rocky Balboa’s former opponent-turned-friend Apollo Creed — this is a movie about legacies both real and imagined, and about fathers who are never there for their sons. Donnie (played by Michael B. Jordan, in a star-marking role) never knew his father because Apollo died before he was born. But that doesn’t change the fact that he became a void Donnie’s life orbited around, one he tries to fill, however imperfectly, with the presence of Rocky himself (Sylvester Stallone, magnetic). Creed is strictly by the numbers; you won’t care.” – Emily Todd VanDerWerff


Lenny Abrahamson | 118 mins | Drama/ Thriller
Brie Larson, Jacob Tremblay, Sean Bridgers, Wendy Crewson

“The Irish writer Emma Donoghue and director Lenny Abrahamson transform lurid true-crime material — inspired by stories of girls imprisoned for years by sexual psychopaths — into a kind of fairy tale. Five-year-old Jack (Jacob Tremblay) is the son of a rapist (barely seen) and his captive (Brie Larson), but he doesn’t know he’s living in a ten-by-ten-foot shed. Thanks to a ma who reads to him and encourages him to write and draw his own tales, he thinks “room” is the whole world, and he invests every object in it with life. Tremblay is very fine in early scenes but even more remarkable when his world goes from limited space and infinite warmth to infinite space and limited warmth. Watching Larson’s Ma — worn raw by fear, abuse, and deprivation, but fighting every second to be a reassuring parent — you know you’re in the presence of a major film actress. The evil depicted here is hard to fathom, but the good is more mysterious yet: the capacity of a child — when guarded by a loving parent — to project kindness onto the most malevolent environment.” – David Edelstein, Vulture


Ridley Scott | 144 mins | Adventure/Drama/Sci-Fi
Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig, Kate Mara

“In Ridley Scott’s hugely entertaining blockbuster, Matt Damon stars as a botanist left behind on the Red Planet during a violent dust storm. Sounds grim, but it’s probably the year’s most optimistic movie. While Damon keeps himself alive and sane à la Robinson Crusoe, people on Earth (played by Jeff Daniels, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Kristen Wiig) and in outer space (Jessica Chastain and Kate Mara) work together to save him. Yes, the ending is drawn out a bit, but this is Scott’s best movie in years, and without being sententious, The Martian celebrates all sorts of virtues that should be celebrated—good humor, lack of self-pity, the can-do spirit, the value of science.” – John Powers, Vogue


John Crowley | 117 mins | Drama/Romance
Saoirse Ronan, Emory Cohen, Domhnall Gleeson, Jim Broadbent

“Coming out at a moment of fraught immigration headlines, this wondrous adaptation of Colm Toibin’s marvelous novel is, by contrast, the ultimate feel-good immigration story, set, of course, 65 years ago. But it put this crusty part-Irishman through the emotional wringer more than any film has in decades. I was a hopeless blob of jelly by the end, and I salute director John Crowley’s achievement with unreserved admiration, as it’s so rare. Impeccable.” – Todd McCarthy, Hollywood Reporter


Alex Garland | 108 mins | Drama/Mystery/Sci-Fi
Alicia Vikander, Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac, Sonoya Mizuno

“Alex Garland’s directorial debut is the work of a burgeoning master. “Ex Machina” creeps up on you like a sunset, fading to dark so elegantly that you’ve hardly had time to process its significance. It stars a trio of actors who’ve appeared in multiple buzzy films this year: Domhnall Gleeson plays a programmer who wins a week-long stay at the home of a reclusive artificial-intelligence genius (Oscar Isaac) who’s created a humanoid (Alicia Vikander) who may be too smart for her own good. The sleek thriller chugs along with an ominous hum, resulting in a killer third act that is both startling and profound. Also, Oscar Isaac disco-dances.” – Matthew Jacobs, HuffPost


Todd Haynes | 118 mins | Drama/Romance
Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Sarah Paulson, Kyle Chandler

“Like “Brooklyn,” this portrait of a shop girl in 1950s New York is suffused with the production values and visual grammar of a delicious melodrama of the era. But in the hands of Todd Haynes, surface gloss and high style serve as a language all their own, in this case to express desires that the story’s characters cannot. Rooney Mara and Cate Blanchett play women who fall in love at a time when such a romance “dare not speak its name.” Their eyes — and the lush symbolic and aural world Haynes creates for them — do all the talking for them.” – Ann Hornaday, Washington Post


Pete Docter and Ronnie Del Carmen | 95 mins | Animation/Adventure/Comedy
Amy Poehler, Bill Hader, Lewis Black, Mindy Kaling

“Few studios manage to handcraft films as beautifully as Pixar. But even by the Bay Area brain trust’s own lofty standards, Inside Out is a masterpiece of emotional complexity and striking depth. It’s also a bit of a bait and switch — a kiddie film that speaks most directly to parents. Directed by Pete Docter (Monsters, Inc. and Up), this animated fun-house takes place inside the head of a saucer-eyed 11-year-old girl named Riley, who’s thrown for a loop when her family relocates to an unwelcoming San Francisco. Anyone with kids (or anyone who’s ever spent 10 minutes with a tweenage girl) will be all too familiar with the swirling emotional minefield that makes up Riley’s pint-size psyche. The genius of Inside Out is that it pits those clashing moods against one another in a battle royal. There’s Joy (Amy Poehler), Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black), Disgust (Mindy Kaling), and Sadness (The Office’s scene-stealing Phyllis Smith). Inside Out is, naturally, full of eye-candy silliness and smart-alecky slapstick. But the reason it soars is that deep down, it’s a bittersweet story about the loss of innocence and the blink-and-you-miss-it fleetingness of childhood.” – Chris Nashawaty, Entertainment Weekly


Tom McCarthy | 129 mins | Biography/Crime/Drama
Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber

Tom McCarthy’s journalism procedural doesn’t just reconstruct the Boston Globe’s groundbreaking 2001 reporting of the Catholic priest abuse scandal, right down to the last Post-it note and follow-up phone call. It does something not many Hollywood movies dared to do in 2015: It slows down, making us privy to every editorial-meeting debate and red-tape-related delay, so that when those damning headlines go to press in the final montage, you understand exactly how much effort, dedication, and courage it took for the good guys to prevail this time.” – Dana Stevens, Slate


George Miller | 120 mins | Action/Adventure/Sci-Fi
Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Zoë Kravitz

“Quite simply the most thrilling action movie of the decade, George Miller’s return to the sun-blasted deserts of his Mad Max universe makes quite a case for waiting 30 years between films in a franchise, and for upending audience expectations while still satisfying primal needs. All you want is here: roaring car chases, belching fire, massive explosions, ludicrous acrobatics, crunching fights. Fury Road is perpetually moving, but never gets repetitive or monotonous. Miller has stocked his movie with so many ingenious practical effects that what could be a fairly simple chase movie becomes something uniquely breathtaking. What we didn’t think to expect was the film’s surprisingly feminist take on dystopia, with Charlize Theron’s Imperator Furiosa leading a women’s-liberation movement that mostly takes center stage, leaving stolid Max (Tom Hardy, doing his thing) to help out when he can. Grim, loud, and eye-popping, Fury Road is far and away the most memorable movie experience of 2015, an action movie with soul, a post-apocalyptic chiller with hope, a blockbuster with boundless style. What a trip.” – Richard Lawson, Vanity Fair

Full Top 50:

1Mad Max: Fury Road5711623.8269%22%2446664%19%
3Inside Out348293.9442%4%1271334%4%
5Ex Machina283234.9634%3%112930%3%
7The Martian22065.2626%1%67318%1%
12Star Wars: The Force Awakens15794.8819%1%42111%0%
13It Follows15075.5318%1%63317%1%
14The Big Short14494.8417%1%59516%1%
16The Revenant136104.1216%1%46512%1%
18Son of Saul125164.7215%2%66917%3%
19Clouds of Sils Maria11285.3113%1%60516%1%
20The Look of Silence108144.1713%2%54914%3%
2145 Years10775.3113%1%56615%2%
22Steve Jobs10645.1413%1%3619%0%
23The Hateful Eight10564.9313%1%47212%1%
24The Assassin104213.9512%3%581215%3%
24Bridge of Spies9825.9112%0%40111%0%
27The Diary of a Teenage Girl8534.9910%0%54314%1%
29Straight Outta Compton7845.899%1%2316%0%
30Love & Mercy7665.439%1%37310%1%
31The Duke of Burgundy7294.929%1%39510%1%
32Mistress America7134.849%0%3238%1%
33The End of the Tour7124.479%0%3128%1%
35The Tribe6074.587%1%3168%2%
36Hard to Be a God57104.367%1%38610%2%
37Magic Mike XXL5735.357%0%2938%1%
40Me and Earl and the Dying Girl5245.896%1%2226%1%
42What We Do in the Shadows4825.986%0%1714%0%
43Arabian Nights4854.496%1%2136%1%
45Heaven Knows What4504.935%0%3108%0%
46Heart of a Dog4336.085%0%2637%1%
48A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence4125.585%0%2527%1%
49The Forbidden Room3954.855%1%2035%1%
50In Jackson Heights3824.095%0%2817%0%

Lists Included 831 | Top Critics’ Lists Included 379

R Rank
L Total number of lists where the film was selected as one of the top 10 films of the year
AR Average position on ranked top 10 lists
#1 Total number of lists where the film was selected as the best film of the year
L% Percentage of total lists where the film was selected as one of the top 10 films of the year
#1% Percentage of mentions where the film was selected as the best film of the year
TCL Number of times that the film was selected as one of the top 10 films of the year on top critics’ lists
TCL1 Number of times that the film was selected as the best film of the year on top critics’ lists
TCL% Percentage of times that the film was selected as one of the top 10 films of the year on top critics’ lists
TCL1% Percentage of lists where the film was selected as the best film of the year on top critics’ lists

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.