Best of 2015

We have tallied 811 lists and I think it’s time to call 2015 complete!  Mad Max: Fury Road was the clear favorite in 2015, appearing on 68% of the lists – an even higher percent than Boyhood last year!

Check back throughout the year, as I hope to expand the lists to earlier years.

50. Trainwreck (35 lists)


“What makes “Trainwreck” work is that [Schumer] approaches every beat – funny, serious and in-between – in an open, undefended state. And she’s blessed with the perfect opposite number in Hader …” – Ann Hornaday, Washington Post

48. Mustang (35 lists; 2 top spots)


“This sneaky shocker of a debut feature — sneaky because it’s so good at depicting the sisters’ joyousness before, and even after, darkness descends — was directed by Deniz Gamze Ergüven from a script she wrote with Alice Winocour.” – Joe Morgenstern, Wall Street Journal

48. A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence (35 lists; 2 top spots)


“The film’s tone may be one of unrelenting absurdist melancholy, but Andersson does a dynamite job alchemizing despair into big, albeit deadpan, laughs, and the ugliness and banality of everyday existence into moments of beauty …” – Nathan Rabin, Globe and Mail

47. The Forbidden Room (35 lists; 4 top spots)


“For those attuned to Maddin’s goofy sense of humor, it’s easily the funniest movie he’s ever made — a series of several dozen comic shorts strung together on a ludicrous clothesline.” – Mike D’Angelo, AV Club

46. In Jackson Heights (37 lists; 2 top spots)


“This particular parade of context-free anecdotes covers so much different ground that it may be hard for those who’ve never been there to believe that they all take place in the same few blocks.” – Mike D’Angelo, AV Club

45. Youth (37 lists; 4 top spots)


“Quixotic, idiosyncratic, effortlessly moving, it’s as much a cinematic essay as anything else, a meditation on the wonders and complications of life, an examination of what lasts, of what matters to people no matter their age.” – Kenneth Turan, Las Angeles Times

43. Heart of a Dog (39 lists; 3 top spots)


“As meditations go, it’s a collegial meander through the ways we process life in the face of death, using a collage style that combines her own artwork, 8-mm home movies from childhood, and original footage and musical compositions.” – Robert Abele, Los Angeles Times

43. Jauja (39 lists; 3 top spots)


“If you applauded the genre-tweaking twists of Gus Van Sant’s “Gerry” and Kelly Reichardt’s “Meek’s Cutoff,” you may have a good time (or at least an interesting one) at acclaimed Argentine director Lisandro Alonso’s latest puzzler, “Jauja.”” – John Hartl, Seattle Times

42. Heaven Knows What (41 lists)


“New York-based brothers Josh and Benny Safdie look past Manhattan’s glossy surfaces to reveal an underworld of homeless young heroin addicts hidden in plain sight.” – Richard Brody, New Yorker

41. What We Do in the Shadows (42 lists; 2 top spots)


“It’s a cheerfully horrific affair, a sanguine comedy that feels more than a bit like a Christopher Guest farce or an elaborate Monty Python sketch, imprinted with the Kiwi comic sensibilities of co-directors Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi.” – Steven Rea, Philadelphia Inquirer

40. Arabian Nights (45 lists; 5 top spots)


“The stories have an almost dreamlike sweep and imaginative energy, and the film never exhausts that exuberance.” – Calum Marsh, Village Voice

39. The Tribe (47 lists; 6 top spots)


“If “The Tribe” were set in the hearing world, its desolation would seem reductive and forced, a pose rather than a statement. Without words, the movie becomes a nihilistic fable and, indeed, something unheard of until now. It’s silent opera.” – Ty Burr, Boston Globe

38. Chi-Raq (49 lists; 9 top spots)


“It’s a shattering, thunderous wake-up alarm, a call to lay down arms, a gutsy social satire and a highly stylized work of fiction that sometimes feels as accurate and sobering as the crime reporting you see on the front page of this newspaper.” – Richard Roeper, Chicago Sun-Times

37. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (52 lists; 4 top spots)


“Me and Earl and the Dying Girl has those handkerchief moments, but the laughs far outnumber the hard and sad punches. This is a movie that’s grounded in reality, has just enough whimsy and soars to the stars. It’s one of the best films of 2015.” – Richard Roeper, Chicago Sun-Times

36. Hard To Be a God (54 lists; 10 top spots)


“The roiling setting alone enforces a medieval mind-set that feels genuine: brutal yet often jovially rambunctious and crude, pre-psychological in its sense of the cheapness of life and yet rich with local custom and detail.” – Nicolas Rapold, New York Times

35. Taxi (55 lists; 4 top spots)


“Panahi’s status as a martyr for his art could have gulled him into loftiness and pride; and yet, by some miracle, Taxi stays as modest as his smile, the point being not to recruit us to his cause but to put us on the side of his compatriots.” – Anthony Lane, New Yorker

34. Magic Mike XXL (56 lists; 3 top spots)


“Rather than trying to replay the first episode and expand on its themes, this installment tosses it all aside like a handyman’s tool belt and throws itself headlong into the intoxicating carnality of what is demurely called “male entertainment.”” – A.O. Scott, New York Times

33. The Duke of Burgundy (61 lists; 8 top spots)


“While Strickland’s films already aren’t like anyone else’s, his real secret is that even in this strange constructed world, his characters feel like real people struggling with issues that aren’t exotic at all.” – Andrew O’Hehir,

32. Mistress America (66 lists; 3 top spots)


“Gerwig pulls off an incredible trick: Somehow, she makes an inherently unlikable character, likable. It’s one of the year’s most intriguing and unmissable performances, and it confirms that Gerwig is among the brightest talents on the cinema scene.” – Calvin Wilson, St. Louis Post Dispatch

31. The End of the Tour (71 lists; 2 top spots)


“Ponsoldt and Margulies have squeezed every last drop of subtext out of the material, and at times the movie’s small canvas feels momentous. They’ve found the inner tensions in people’s presentations of themselves in a way that’s positively Wallace-like.” – David Edelstein, New York Magazine

30. Love & Mercy (76 lists; 6 top spots)


“By deciding not to make “Love & Mercy” a musical biopic, the filmmakers have turned Wilson’s story into what it seems to have been all along: the adventure of one man’s arduous, terrifying, ultimately triumphant search for God.” – Ann Hornaday, Washington Post

29. Timbuktu (76 lists; 7 top spots)


“Avoiding stereotypes, the movie shrinks larger political and religious battles down to the people of a desert town – city dwellers and nomadic Tuareg people out in the dunes – being forced to change by a handful of halfhearted oppressors.” – Jake Coyle Associated Press

28. Straight Outta Compton (78 lists; 4 top spots)


“F. Gary Gray’s excellent film is as sympathetic as it is bombastic, even when it depicts some of the rough stuff, a lot of the stupid excesses that come with fame, and even some quasi-criminal activities.” – Bruce Kirkland, Toronto Sun

27. The Diary of a Teenage Girl (85 lists; 3 top spots)


“The Diary of a Teenage Girl is a breakthrough moment in the culture in that it depicts youthful female sexuality … not just with the unapologetic frankness the boys usually get, but with an awareness of all the places a girl’s urges will take her …” – Ty Burr, Boston Globe 

26. The Hateful Eight (94 lists; 5 top spots)


“Composer Ennio Morricone’s seesawing score sometimes brings to mind Tarantino fave Sergio Leone, but the real ancestor here is John Carpenter’s 1982 The Thing, another thriller percolating with close-quarters paranoia and Hawksian gab.” – Josh Rothkopf, Time Out

24. Amy (97 lists; 2 top spots)


“It’s clear the smart, passionate singer knew her own mind – and the consequences of what she was doing to her body. But her tragic end, and the highly publicized chaos leading up to it, shows self-awareness wasn’t enough.” – Sara Stewart, New York Post

24. Bridge of Spies (97 lists; 2 top spots)


“Hanks has never seemed more like a modern Jimmy Stewart, drink in hand, just looking to get home to his bed, as the script leans into its cavalcade of slightly bizarre negotiations with Eastern European goons.” – Joshua Rothkopf, Time Out

23. The Assassin (98 lists; 20 top spots)


“If The Assassin is sometimes agonisingly slow, it’s also agonisingly well-crafted, and it’s an agony that regularly tips into ecstasy as Hou allows us to be lost in the period, people and places he offers us.” – David Calhoun, Time Out

22. Clouds of Sils Maria (99 lists; 7 top spots)


“Binoche, on whom the camera affectionately lingers, makes herself achingly vulnerable. Though the film feels at times a bit cloudy and enigmatic, it’s often fascinating in its juxtapositions.” – Moira MacDonald, Seattle Times

21. 45 Years (101 lists; 7 top spots)


“Rampling has never received an Oscar nomination, but she deserves one for this performance. Courtenay, who has two Oscar nods under his belt, rates another one for helping Rampling reach this peak” – Lou Lumenick, New York Post

20. The Look of Silence (102 lists; 13 top spots)


“The Look Of Silence is a powerful gesture of political rebellion, one whose boldest action isn’t damning mass murderers to their faces, but being willing to believe that their stranglehold on country and history could be broken.” – A.A. Dowd, AV Club

19. Steve Jobs (106 lists; 4 top spots)


“Screenwriter Aaron Sorkin, who’s written about America’s Great Flawed Men with such fire and hyperarticulate pathos that he’s threatened to become one himself, outdoes his work on The Social Network with an even sharper and more savage script.” – David Ehrlich, Time Out

18. Son of Saul (112 lists; 15 top spots)


“The tight focus on one character to the exclusion of everything else can be exhausting to the viewer, but it never comes across as just a gimmick; it’s too central to the story Nemes is telling.” – Steven Pond, The Wrap

17. Phoenix (118 lists; 11 top spots)


“Hoss is perfect in a challenging role, a woman trying to recover bits of the person she once was, but having to do so in service to a greedy scheme that robs her of the very identity she is trying to recover.” – Bill Goodykoontz, Arizona Republic

16. The Revenant (130 lists; 8 top spots)


“No, it’s not a happy tale. But what survives from ‘Birdman’ is a compelling, forward-moving, simple approach to storytelling that grips us through stretches of silence and misery.” – David Calhoun, Time Out

15. Tangerine (137 lists; 3 top spots)


“A necessary portrait of a multiracial L.A. as a concrete-surfaced hard-knocks-a-thon… as well as a hilarious and high-spirited comedy with a dramatic, third-act curve ball that reminds us that there are aching hearts under the quips and weaves.” – Inkoo Kang, The Wrap

14. The Big Short (138 lists; 9 top spots)


“Taking Michael Lewis’ seminal book about the meltdown as source material, director Adam McKay channels his own anger into something rarely even attempted by Hollywood, let alone pulled off: a comedy about a tragedy.” – Gersh Kuntzman, New York Daily News

13. It Follows (143 lists; 7 top spots)


“It Follows pretty much earns its buzz as the scariest and best-engineered American horror movie of recent years, and that’s all down to Mitchell’s sophisticated understanding of technique and the trust and freedom he accords his youthful cast.” – Andrew O’Hehir,

12. Anomalisa (147 lists; 10 top spots)


“Charlie Kaufman teams with stop-motion wiz Duke Johnson to bring his conceptual stageplay to life, resulting in another uniquely cerebral yet satisfying bout of self-analysis.” – Peter Debruge, Variety

11. Star Wars: The Force Awakens (155 lists; 9 top spots)


“A triumphant return to form for the franchise – the best of the films since The Empire Strikes Back…It’s also a rousing introduction to new characters who will likely carry this world forward through two more planned episodes and assorted spinoffs.” – Cary Darling, Fort Worth Star Telegram

10. Sicario (175 lists; 9 top spots)


“Villeneuve, cinematographer Roger Deakins and composer Jóhann Jóhannsson combine to make the action scenes gorgeous, scary and exciting, while the script by Taylor Sheridan is mordant and smart, with not a wasted word.” – Kyle Smith, New York Post

9. Creed (188 lists; 3 top spots)


“Creed leaves all doubts flat on the mat. It’s a rousing, crowd-pleasing blast of entertainment that is not only a well-made sports movie but is also a soulful, cinematic love letter to Philadelphia, the city that has become synonymous with Rocky Balboa.” – Cary Darling, Fort Worth Star-Telegram

8. Room (199 lists; 16 top spots)


“Room deserves to be seen unspoiled. All you need to know is that the performances of Larson and Tremblay will blow you away. OK, Room is a small movie, but its impact is enormous.” – Peter Travers, Rolling Stone

7. The Martian (217 lists; 6 top spots)


“Not only does the film stress the importance of using math and physics to solve problems, but it also makes a plot based on scientific inquiry as exciting and unpredictable as the kind that involves punching everyone and then blowing everything up.” – Alonso Duralde, The Wrap

6. Brooklyn (241 lists; 23 top spots)


“Something in the richness of its relationships puts an essential truth before us – the brevity and immensity of life. We know all about that, of course, but that’s the beauty of great art: It takes what you already know and makes you feel it.” – Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle

5. Ex Machina (280 lists; 23 top spots)


“Alex Garland brilliantly brings the past into the present with the near-future tale Ex Machina, a stark but dazzling meditation on intelligence, consciousness and morality that discreetly uses special effects in service of story, dialogue and character.” – Cary Darling, Fort Worth Star-Telegram

4. Carol (325 lists; 59 top spots)


“Holds back a bit compared to its more melodramatic predecessor. But these are small complaints about a movie containing a trio of truly extraordinary and moving performances from Blanchett, Mara and Paulson that place it among the year’s best.” – Lou Lumenick, New York Post

3. Inside Out (340 lists; 27 top spots)


“Pixar’s 15th feature proves to be the greatest idea the toon studio has ever had … promises to forever change the way people think about the way people think, delivering creative fireworks grounded by a wonderfully relatable family story.” – Peter Debruge, Variety

2. Spotlight (393 lists; 67 top spots)


“Unlike an ongoing investigation, we know the outcome here already. The trick of Spotlight is making the potentially unsexy “how they got there” into not only one of the best movies of the year, but one of the best journalism movies of all time.” – Lindsey Bahr, Associated Press

1. Mad Max: Fury Road (554 lists; 160 top spots)


“Even after two viewings, I feel as though I’ve only scratched the surface of Mad Max: Fury Road. George Miller’s action fantasy is astonishingly dense for a big-budget spectacle, not only in its imagery and ideas but in the complex interplay between them.” – Ben Sachs, Chicago Tribune