2015 Recap: Top 10 Best + 5 Worst Movies of the Year

Top10Movies2015

It’s THAT time of the year again… time for film bloggers to rake our brains to do the tricky-but-fun process of selecting the best films they’ve seen all year. I was going to post this on December 31 but due to my East Coast trip I had to delay it until I’m back home. Suffice to say I didn’t see any 2015 releases since I left on Dec 22, so the last 2015 film I saw at the cinema was The Force Awakens. As it wasn’t tough enough selecting only 10 films, it’s even tougher ranking them. But like the years before, once I decided on my top three, ranking the other seven was a bit easier to do. Btw, what constitutes a 2015 movie is based on US release, so even though it’d say 2014 on IMDb, if a film is released in 2015 in the US, I will include it here.

In case you’re wondering about the criteria of selecting these, well I always say that my ‘top movies’ it’s sort of a cross between a ‘best of and favorite’, so the criteria is that these films made an impression on me, combining the virtue of being entertaining, deeply moving, thought-provoking, and indelible. Re-watchability is also a factor here and I’d readily re-watch most of the films listed here, in fact, I have seen a few of them at least twice already.

Ok well, without further ado, I present you …

10 BEST FILMS OF 2015

10. Girlhood (Bande de filles)

Top10Films_Girlhood

I saw this at MSP film fest last April and it really made an impression on me. It’s the only foreign language film on my list, which means I didn’t get to see as many foreign films this year. Bande de filles means gang of girls, and it’s set in a low-income suburbs of Paris, which offers the unglamorous part of the City of Light I rarely see in cinema. The female-centric drama was written AND directed by a female filmmaker, Céline Sciamma, and it centers on16-year-old girl Marime played by the mesmerizing Karidja Touré. Let’s just say she’s one of my two French actor discoveries I’m thankful for this year. The film is on Netflix and I highly recommend it if you’re in the mood for an off-the-beaten path French film that’s emotional and indelible. (full review)

9. 99 Homes

Top10Films_99Homes

For some reason this film flew under the radar and it’s really a shame. Based on the strength of the two actors alone, Andrew Garfield and Michael Shannon, this film is well worth your time. The latter is especially electrifying in a role that really utilized Shannon’s inherently ominous quality, combined with his understated but powerful dramatic style. This is my first intro to Ramin Bahrani’s work and he’s made such a riveting drama about the housing crisis without resorting to sensationalizing to get the point across. A timely drama that will linger long after the closing credits. (full review)

8. Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation

Top10Films_MI5

I LOVE how there are two franchise films that shift the film’s focus to be more female-driven and Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation is one of them. Yes of course we still have the venerable Tom Cruise back as super-spy Ethan Hunt, but Rebecca Ferguson‘s Ilsa Faust has an intriguing character arc. Miss Ferguson also belongs to my list of top 5 actors I’d love to see more of based on 2015 viewing. She is as bad ass as she is shrewd, pretty much Hunt’s equal, if not better. This is a film that prides itself in its preposterous action sequences and there’s chock full of those here to entertain even the most cynical moviegoers. There are SO many awesome sequences I could watch over and over, with the Vienna Opera House sequence being my absolute favorite. (full review)

7. Creed

Top10Films_Creed

I LOVE it when a film I wasn’t really interested in initially ended up blowing me away. Well Creed is one of those films and it proves that not every reboot/spin-off is automatically bad. In fact, I’d consider this a gem of 2015 cinema that’d certainly please Rocky fans as well as win new ones. Michael B. Jordan hit gold once again with his second collaboration with writer/director Ryan Coogler, whose excellent direction makes for a dynamic as well as emotional film. Jordan is a charismatic lead, but it’s Sylvester Stallone who’s the scene-stealer, reprising his role he did forty years ago. As I mentioned in my awards musings post, it’d be cool to see him be nominated AND win an Oscar for the same role, as he absolutely deserved it. (full review)

6. The Big Short

Top10Films_BigShort

Films about the housing crisis have been the subject of many films as well as documentaries. I have to admit that the cast that include Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling and Brad Pitt piqued my interest. Well, those four actors were great, especially Bale and Carell who were the most memorable of the bunch. When I first saw the trailer and saw Adam McKay directing, I was a bit taken aback. I mean, this is the guy who did Anchorman and a bunch of comedies with Will Ferrell.  In a way, treating this dark and even upsetting subject matter in a comedic way works and it breaks the topic down to a level that’s easy to understand. The comedic style doesn’t mean it downplays the heartbreaking reality of the housing bubble crash however. There’s a similarities to 99 Homes and also Wolf of Wall Street in terms of its subject matter, but compared to Scorsese’s film I actually enjoyed this a lot more. It’s immensely entertaining from start to finish, so the bold-but-risky filmmaking style paid off here.

5. The Martian

Top10Films_Martian

If you had told me that The Martian might end up on someone’s top 10 list earlier this year, I’d have laughed in their face. Somehow I just didn’t have any interest in seeing this given my disappointment with Ridley Scott’s movies lately, but I had to eat my own words as I ended up loving this. The comedic tone (as well as the disco music) was so unexpected but somehow worked beautifully for the film and Matt Damon is as likable as ever in the lead. For much of the film, it was mostly a one-man show with his character Mark Watney, but I remained engrossed throughout. The film also had a nice balance of his scenes in Mars and the scenes on earth with the rescue team at NASA. Jeff Daniels gave one of his two most memorable performances of the year (the other was in Steve Jobs), but kudos to Drew Goddard‘s sharp script and Mr. Scott for his return-to-form as a filmmaker. (full review)

4. Ex Machina

Top10Films_ExMachina

This has been quite a year for Alicia Vikander. I hadn’t even heard of her before 2015, as I had just seen Anna Karenina earlier this year where she had a small part. Well, my intro to the Swedish actress was a memorable one. She played a beautiful female AI, as fetching and seductive even when her body looks very much like a machine. Alex Garland took an oft-told story of man vs. machine and somehow made it feel organic and even personal. Domhnall Gleeson and Oscar Isaac delivered excellent performances as well, especially the latter, as he continues to display amazing versatility as an actor. I saw this early in the year but I knew it’ll end up in my final top 10. It’s one of the best sci-fi films in recent memory, quite amazing what they achieved on a shoe-string budget of $15 million. (full review)

3. Brooklyn

Top10Films_Brooklyn

This was my favorite film I saw at TCFF this year and I knew this film would make my final Top 10. Brooklyn tells a simple yet very relatable and heartfelt story of an Irish immigrant and being an immigrant myself, I definitely relate to her in many ways. I’ve been a huge fan of Saoirse Ronan for some time and this is definitely her best work amongst her already illustrious career. She infused such gravitas into her role and able to convey the internal battle within her with just her eyes or a subtle smile. I also love Emory Cohen as one of her love interests, but the supporting cast are excellent overall. Sometimes a simple, no-frills story can make a great impact, and that’s the case with this one. Brilliant work from director John Crowley and screenwriter Nick Hornby, certainly one I’d appreciate for years to come. (full review)

2. Spotlight

Top10Films_Spotlight

I just heard about this film a few months before its release and I’ve been anticipating it since. Well it did NOT disappoint and it ranks as one of the best ensemble cast AND journalism film ever. It’s the kind of good story-telling that I wish Hollywood would make more of. The captivating dialog grabs you right from the start and the pacing is just right that the film never drags despite not having much action. Powerful without being sensationalizing the story or emotionally-manipulative, at times it even felt like a documentary.

The fantastic cast brought the disturbing true story of how the Boston Globe uncovered the Catholic Church’s child molestation and cover-up scandal to life. The investigative journalism scenes are riveting, but quiet scenes such as the meet-up between the Globe’s new editor and Cardinal Law was brimming with tension, and even occasional humor. I love that it subtly highlights the humanity of the journalists, more than just their reporting skills, without distracting from the main narrative.

The entire cast brought their A-game, especially those who made up the Spotlight investigative team: Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo (who got the most screen time), Rachel McAdams, and Brian d’Arcy James. Also kudos to Stanley Tucci and Liev Schreiber, the latter had the least screen time but perhaps one of the most memorable scenes as the Globe’s editor, thanks to his understated but astute performance. Tom McCarthy‘s script (co-written with Josh Singer) and his astute direction made a solid drama that will certainly linger with you for days. Definitely not the most comfortable subject but I encourage everyone to see this. Guaranteed to stun and rile you up, but that’s what what a brilliant retelling such a grievous subject matter is supposed to do.

1. Mad Max: Fury Road

Top10Films_FuryRoad

This is an easy pick for number 1. It’s one of the most unique and unusual films I’ve seen in a while, and the level of artistry that goes into it is off the charts. Technically it’s simply astounding, especially in terms of cinematography. Now, the first two sentences were from my #1 pick of 2014 (Birdman), but it also fits perfectly for George Miller‘s masterpiece. Yes I said the ‘m’ word and I don’t think it’s a hyperbole.

I wish I had seen this more than once on the big screen but I’ve seen re-watched it on Blu-ray twice and loved every minute of it. The visual effects is simply magnificent and awe-inspiring, which is more fun to watch over and over and you’d always something new to marvel at. Once you realize most of it is practical effects and not simply CGI it’d blow your mind away even more. But action alone, no matter how spectacular, doesn’t make a movie, and that’s what makes Fury Road so gratifying on every level. At the heart of the film is a compelling and heart-wrenching, female-driven story. I love stories of unlikely friendship and so is the pairing of fierce Furiosa and the drifter, Max Rockatansky. The partnership between the two lost souls is beautifully realized… nobody needed *saving* but their shared journey ended up bringing redemption to both of them. I sure hope Charlize Theron would get lots of nominations for Best Actress in the role as she’s absolutely astounding. Tom Hardy‘s as cool as ever as the strong, silent-type hero and I look forward to seeing more of him in this franchise.

What a rockin’ duo this proved out to be, oh and the music is equally rock-tastic [pardon the pun] and has become a staple in our car now. It’s tough to find films that are such an intense feast for the eyes (and ear) but also deeply emotional and moving, but Fury Road did that for me. It made me want to get up and cheer one moment and got me teary-eyed the next. Yes it’s an inherently bizarre film, but once it grabs you it’s impossible to turn away. What a ride, what a lovely ride! (full review).

HONORABLE MENTIONS:

Some of these almost made my final top 10 so some of these are excellent and some have become personal faves that I’d love to watch again and again. I list this in order of personal favorites, I actually owned the Blu-ray of Cinderella and What We Do in the Shadows, so yeah, I absolutely adore those two!

  1. Cinderella

  2. What We Do in the Shadows

  3. Inside Out

  4. Bridge of Spies

  5. Clouds of Sils Maria

  6. Room

  7. Star Wars: The Force Awakens

  8. Me and Earl and The Dying Girl

  9. Remember

  10. Mr. Holmes

  11. Cartel Land

  12. Kingsman: The Secret Service

  13. The End of the Tour

  14. Steve Jobs

  15. Spy

One film I’m surprised didn’t even make my top 25 is Macbeth, which I had been anticipating for some time. I don’t think I’ll be reviewing it but suffice it to say it didn’t quite make an impression to me, in fact I found it rather tedious. I was far more captivated watching Tom Hiddleston’s Coriolanus at the Donmar Theater on National Theatre Live. It may not be Shakespeare’s most famous play, but Hiddle’s performance was gripping from start to finish.

What I missed from 2015:

45 Years, Carol, The Danish Girl, The Lobster, Love & Mercy, Mustang, The Look of Silence, Tangerine, The Revenant, Sicario, Straight Outta Compton, etc.

I hope to catch these later this year.


5 Worst Movies of the Year

Now, some of these aren’t straight out horrible, there are some things I admire about Tomorrowland and Pan, I think both have interesting concepts but the execution didn’t quite work. I’d say those two still merit a rental, but I’d skip the rest. It really pains me to put Blackhat on here as I LOVE Michael Mann, but well, the movie was terrible! I wish Hollywood would realize there are other hunks besides Chris Hemsworth who can actually act! Self/Less and Jupiter Ascending are simply dreadful and a complete waste of time. In fact, the latter is just SO bad it still makes me cringe every time I see a photo of it, ugh. To this day I can’t understand the appeal of Channing Tatum and I probably never will.

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Now, I probably should’ve made a separate list for Most Disappointing Movies but I’d rather not waste my time. For sure Spectre and Jurassic World would make THAT list, as they’re not terrible film per se but it sure wasn’t nearly as good as I had expected.

Bullets Dodged:

Glad I missed some terrible ones like Terminator Genysis, Fantastic Four, The Seventh Son, The Cobler, Chappie, Aloha, etc. I have no interest in even renting these.


So that’s my top 10 list of 2015. Thoughts on my picks here? I’d love to hear it!

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72 thoughts on “2015 Recap: Top 10 Best + 5 Worst Movies of the Year

  1. I like your list, Ruth, Mad Max your favorite, huh? Yours is the first that put it at the top. I remember when it came out in late winter it was the roar of the blogosphere for a good month or so. I still have yet to see Spotlight–sounds like it will be a heavy favorite for award season. I won’t be surprised if it’s nominated for Best Film at the Oscars. “Creed” seems to be the surprise film that warmed hearts including yours. I didn’t see that one. Happy New Year!

    1. Hello Cindy, happy new year! I was actually debating between Spotlight and Fury Road as my #1 but I recently rewatched Fury Road again and it’s just so spectacular as well as heartfelt that I had to put that as #1. I’m just happy to see Fury Road in many people’s top 10, but I think for me it deserves the #1 spot for all the reasons I’ve given. Spotlight and Creed are both excellent, hope you get to see ’em soon.

  2. Paul S

    As an old school Mad Max fan I was sceptical about Fury Road, but I’m pleased to say my fears were groundless.
    Happy New Year Ruth!

    1. Hi there Paul! I was too but I’m glad I gave it a shot and saw it on the big screen. I was hoping to see it again on IMAX as the visuals are so spectacular. I did like the Road Warrior a lot, but I think Fury Road has much more heart.

  3. Quite a few movies which aren’t out here yet! Still have to get around to publishing my own top 10…probably tomorrow! Agree with most of your worst although I did enjoy Jupiter Ascending.

    1. Hi Nostra! It’s a bummer some films haven’t opened Internationally, but check out Spotlight as soon as it opens where you are. You liked Jupiter Ascending eh? Well I think that one ranks as one of the worst films ever for me, not just from 2015.

  4. Here is the post I’ve been waiting on! I was wondering if spotlight would have the UMPH to overtake Mad Max. 😉 I seriously love both of those movies. Also glad to see Brooklyn so high. It really was hard putting all of these together this year. A lot of strong movies that stood pretty close together in terms of my affection for them. As far as movies I hate, I recently posted five of them and they were much easier to come up with. Talk about some stinkers. Thankfully the good heavily outweighed the bad in 2015.

    1. Hi ya Keith! I was seriously debating between Spotlight and Fury Road but using your term, I think the latter definitely has more ooomph AND rewatchability in the long run. I still LOVE Spotlight very much as you can see, as well as Brooklyn. I actually REALLY love Cinderella but in the end, I had to put that on #11 on my top 20 😀 Yes, thankfully there are more good than bad that I saw this year.

    1. Thanks Brittani. Come to think of it, I should probably put Jurassic World instead of Tomorrowland on my Worst list as I think Tomorrowland still has some intriguing moments.

  5. BOOO!!! on hating Pan so much!!!!

    BUT…LOVE that Girlhood is still in your top ten. LOVE that movie so much. Cinderella, Inside Out, Beasts of No Nation and Mad Max are currently my 5 favorites of the year…but I still have so much to see.

    1. Sorry Drew!! But if you read that paragraph, I said it’s not horrible and I admire parts of it. I guess I should’ve made it a ‘disappointing’ list instead. In any case, I had to include Girlhood as I still remember much of it though I saw it back in April. As for Cinderella, I’m thrilled you love it to put it on your top 5!! I agonized about putting that on my top 10, but currently it sits at #11 on my top 20 which isn’t bad.

        1. Yes, yes, yes!! As a huge fan of the Disney version I was skeptical too, but like you said, I think Branagh did a masterful job in making it work. It’s sweet, lush, dreamy and even emotional, everything you imagined a fairy tale romance to be!

  6. Hello Ruth! So far I’ve seen 3 in your top 10 which means I have a lot of great films to look forward to. 🙂 I’m so behind on my 2015 movies! 😀 Love Mad Max Fury Road, it’s an incredible cinematic experience, I heard there were talks it’s getting re-released in theaters in black and white. I think I would prefer the color version, like you said the cinematography is astounding!

    1. Hi Eddie, hey there’s still time to catch up on 2015 movies 🙂 I’m glad you’ve seen Fury Road though, it IS indeed incredible. Hmmm I’m curious to see the BW version as it might actually look interesting and dramatic.

  7. We had quite a bit of overlap on our lists, despite the fact that I saw far fewer films than I might have. I will still be catching up with Spotlight, Brooklyn and The Big Short but Creed, The Martian, Ex-Machina and Mad Max: Fury Road as well as Mission Impossible Rogue Nation are on my list as well. I included Three from your honorable mentions on my top ten. Kingsman,Mr. Holmes and Star Wars. Hope to see some of the others off your list as well. I see you have Seventh Son listed as a bullet dodged, it’s actually a more old fashioned adventure story like one of those Ray Harryhausen type films, a popcorn program filler, not bad for a Saturday afternoon.

    1. Hi Richard! Glad to hear we have some in common, I’ll check out your top 10! I really didn’t think The Martian would make my top 10, so I think that’s one of the biggest surprises of 2015 for me. I know lots of people LOVE the latest Star Wars, but for me it was good enough for my top 20 but not top 10. I might rent Seventh Son but from the trailer it looks so ridiculous.

  8. I’m thrilled about your choices for top 10, they look awesome and though I have only a few of them in mine, I totally agree with nr 1… as many many many of us do!

    PS: The fact that I have only seen one of your worst movies this year, means that I do well to keep away from horrid things it seems. Also something that makes thrilled! Too bad you had to suffer through them though. 😦

    1. Hey thanks, glad we have a few in common and that you agree on my #1 pick. Fury Road rocks!! I actually dodged a lot of the truly horrible movies from last year, but Jupiter Ascending is beyond horrid, avoid it at all cost unless you want a good laugh.

        1. Very wise of you! I guess some films could be in the ‘so bad it’s good’ variety but this doesn’t even fall under that, it’s just irritatingly horrible!! I feel bad Sean Bean is involved in here, ugh!

  9. It really was such a tough year to put together the best film list. I had a few that any other year would have easily made my top 10! I really need to see Mad Max as your another blogger who has it at top spot! (I’m also jealous of the films we have yet to see here in the UK)

    I only saw 1 of your worst picks that being Pan and that’s in my worst list as well. I must have done well to avoid the others 🙂

    1. Hi Caz! I feel the same way. In fact I was so close in including Cinderella and What We Do in The Shadows in my top 10 before I saw some of the Nov/Dec releases. I actually don’t hate PAN, it has an interesting concept, I just think the execution was pretty bad and it was way too long & overwrought.

      1. November and December really did have some fantastic films released, even in the UK I saw about 4 really good ones in a row (that doesn’t happen very often does it, haha)

        1. Yeah, generally towards Christmas there’s a slew of great films. I just wish international release is more consistent across different countries. Which four movies did you see in a row?

          1. Oh totally we are still waiting for some big ones here in the UK, with The Revenant, Creed, Room, Spotlight and probably a few more!

            The four were The Lobster, Steve Jobs, The Dressmaker and Carol. With Hunger Games thrown somewhere in the middle haha

              1. Oh yeah I had to go to a small independent cinema to see it as didn’t get a wide release with the big chains. It’s very interesting and different.

  10. A good-looking list, Ruth…lots of films I’ve also enjoyed, some I’ve not seen and some that aren’t even out here yet. Of those Spotlight is the one I’m most excited about, it sounds right up my street, but I’m also looking forward to Room when it’s released in the UK.

    1. Hi Stu! Spotlight is excellent and I think you’d appreciate that film. Can’t believe Room hasn’t opened yet in the UK, well that’s another good one.

  11. I didn’t see all the movies on your best list but the ones I saw are also on my best list of the year: Fury Road (I’d move up my rating from 4 to 5 since I saw it many times now), The Martian, Creed, Ex-Machina. But my favorite/best is The Revenant.

    You lucked out of seeing some of the stinkers this year and wisely skipped the press screening, lol. Chappie, Point Break, The Gunman were pretty awful. But I will put Tomorrowland as the worst of the year mostly because it has so much potential and talented people involved. But the final product stunk so bad that I was so pissed off after seeing it.

    1. Hi there Ted! Fury Road is definitely a near-perfect film for me, so I’m glad you’re giving it a full score! I know you’d put The Revenant as #1 and based on what I’ve read, sounds like it merits that. I’m glad I’ve avoided a lot of stinkers, I’ll be posting your review of Point Break which is yet another pointless reboot. I agree w/ Tomorrowland, it’s a bummer as we both know Brad Bird is a good director.

  12. Great to see Mad Max and Rogue Nation in your top 10, I had a good time with those movies as well. I think I liked Inside Out and Force Awakens a bit more than you. Girlhood is a film I should check out!

    1. Hi Chris! I love that big action movies can still have an interesting story and great characters. That’s why Fury Road and MI5 are on my list. Yes you should check out Girlhood!

  13. Honestly I felt as if 2015 was a weak year for film. I did love a couple of movies this past year like The Hateful Eight, Spotlight, and The Past but many of the pictures I saw felt sort of bland.

    1. I think it’s all subjective, but for me, Fury Road, Ex Machina and even 99 Homes can’t be categorized as bland. So overall I think it’s a pretty memorable year in movies.

    1. I’m surprised by that as well but it did make my top 20 and it’s certainly one of the most rewatchable movies of the year. Do see Brooklyn, I think you’d appreciate that film.

  14. I’ve watched 4 of your top 10 and really enjoyed them all. Really happy to see the love for Creed. It is easily one of the best of the franchise. Of your worst, I’ve only seen Blackhat and it is definitely one of Mann’s weakest efforts.

    1. Hello Dell! Creed wasn’t even on my radar but I’m glad I gave it a shot and ended up really liking it! It’s too bad about Blackhat but I already had reservations about it when they cast Hemsworth!

  15. Oh yeah our top 2 are the same, but I have high hopes for The Revenant. I saw The Big Short last week most of it went over my head, but the performances alone, especially Gosling made the viewing fun for me

    1. Very cool Margaret! Glad you love Spotlight too. The Big Short went over my head too, but I think the presentation and acting made the subject matter more accessible than it otherwise would and certainly it was entertaining! Gosling was good surprisingly, though I love Carell and Bale the most.

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  17. Great list Ruth. I seem to be the only person who thought The Martian was incredibly average, as I am seeing it on a lot of top ten lists. Good to see Mad Max reigning supreme though 😀

    Oh, and you MUST see the Lobster! I’d love to hear your thoughts, it is such a strange but great film. It will make my top ten for sure 😀

    1. Hello Jordan! Hey, no worries about not loving a popular film, I feel the same about The Force Awakens right now.

      I can’t wait to see The Lobster!! I hope it gets to VOD soon. I LOVE the premise of that and the cast looks hilarious too!

      1. The Lobster hurt me I laughed so much. It also says so much about how society views single people, especially as they get older. Can’t wait to read your thoughts on it, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

        Good to see someone else not all giddy from Star Wars. I enjoyed myself watching it but goddamn it is extremely flawed IMO

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  20. Yeah, be having you dodged Aloha.
    I am happy to see Big Short on your list. I really enjoyed that movie. Well written. I also like that it didn’t downplay the seriousness but still had fun.

  21. Woo hoo! Fury Road is still my #1, too! (I’m delaying my top 10 list for a few more weeks, until I see some big films I’m missing.) And Spotlight, Ex Machina, and Brooklyn could very well make my list also. Great to see Rogue Nation here, by the way.

    LOL, I like Pan, Tomorrowland, and even Jupiter Ascending, even if it is a mess.

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