It’s time for my annual best of ____ post where I talk about all my favorite entertainment products I watched over the last year. There were a ton of great things to come out in 2015, so I’m going to split them into separate posts:
- The Best TV Shows of 2015
- The Best Movies of 2015 (you’re already here)
- The Best Music I discovered in 2015
- The Best Games of 2015
I won’t be ranking them with numbers, but I will point out a Top Pick for each category that can be considered #1. I’ll also do my best to describe everything in a way that I can narrow down who would likely enjoy each one. Enjoy!
If you love space travel like I do, you’ve probably already seen The Martian by now. If you’re somehow unfamiliar with the movie, think of it as Castaway on Mars. All the emotional content, the weird effects of loneliness, and the desperate attempts at survival. The big difference is, the protagonist here is going to “science the shit of it”.
Inside Out is a typical high quality Pixar movie that tugs at our heart strings. It follows a child through the time in our lives where we share the most similar experiences with one another, so it’s difficult for anyone watching it (in the U.S.) not to find something to relate to or be nostalgic about.
The one problem I had with the movie was that it felt a bit emotionally exhausting, and even a bit manipulative. We’re taken on this well-directed emotional rollercoaster that feels a lot less like Up did, and a lot more like a tap that Pixar can just switch on and off to make us feel what they want. We’ve known how skilled they are at creating great films that drive our emotions, but Inside Out sometimes felt like they were showing off.
Even so, it was a well-executed, entertaining, and moving film, so I must give Inside Out its due acclaim.
Ghost In The Shell (2015) : The New Movie
As much as I hate the American title of this film “The New Movie”, it was a great story that finally linked the world we know from the original Ghost in the Shell movie to the Stand Alone Complex and Arise series of TV shows. Ghost in the Shell is one of my favorite cyberpunk universes in any medium (manga comics, anime movies and TV shows), so I understand if most of you don’t care. But I wanted to include this new under-the-radar entry in the series here because I did really enjoy it.
People who haven’t seen any other Ghost in the Shell stuff — especially the Stand Alone Complex series and the original film — probably should watch those before trying this one.
Star Wars VII : The Force Awakens
The biggest movie of the year had to be in here somewhere. Star Wars VII : The Force Awakens is a fantastic fumble recovery after the disastrous prequels. The pace is snappy, and never feels like filler despite its long (over 2:30:00) runtime. The action is fantastic. The second time I saw the movie was with my parents-in-law, and even they gasped and ooohed at multiple points in the movie. Star Wars VII is a great ride for people of all ages.
Purists that complain about this movie wouldn’t have been happy with anything successful. They want their Extended universe kept intact. They want in-jokes that 99% of the people watching simply wouldn’t get. They want Grand Admiral Thrawn, Darth Plagueis, Jacen Solo, and Mara Jade in the exact form that they’ve read about them in the books. Believe me, I know that feeling. I too love the extended universe that is now relegated to “Legends”. But here’s the thing: Those books are still in print. You can still read them all you want. And many of the characters we love from those Legends can still live on in Rey, Kylo Ren, Finn, Poe, Snoke, and the other new faces we’ve seen in Star Wars VII.
If you’ve already seen The Force Awakens, you can also check out my article Star Wars VII “Plot Holes” FILLED. In it, I speculate about many of the mysteries and questions left behind by the latest addition into the series. (Some of that speculation may end up being true, so don’t read it if you don’t want any possible spoilers for future Star Wars movies)
Mad Max : Fury Road
This was very close to being #1 in the best movies of 2015, and should probably be considered that way by anyone that isn’t into the TOP PICK below. Mad Max : Fury Road is the perfect summer movie. It has excellent style, intense action, beautiful environments, and inspiring performances.
It does more than your average popcorn movie, though. There is depth in the characters, their motives, and the rules of the world around them. The film does an excellent job of making the viewer feel the confusion, the indecision, the heat, the pain, the thirst, and the desperation of the characters.
Charlize Theron plays an amazing Furiosa, and dominates the screen in spectacular form. Tom Hardy does a great job too, but he is definitely not the driving character of this story. Perhaps we’ll see more of him in the sequel(s).
TOP PICK : Ex Machina
Amazon (free w/ Prime)
Two actors from Star Wars VII are in Ex Machina, and they perform exceptionally well in this film as well.
Ex Machina is wonderfully uncomfortable. You are taken from an everyday urban environment, surrounded by people and working in a cubicle, into a secluded place in the wilderness. You share a beautiful futuristic home with an unpredictable genius and his work, and the humility he inspires can be felt through the screen.
I don’t want to spoil anymore of the experience than I need to, so I’ve kept this review brief. I also recommend that you don’t watch the trailer below if you haven’t seen it yet, and know you want to. If you’re still on the fence, feel free.
If you love Blade Runner and/or Ghost In The Shell like I do, definitely check it out. I consider Ex Machina the best movie of 2015.
What do you think were the best movies of 2015?
Let me know on social media, and feel free to make suggestions for me to check out as well.
There are a few 2015 movies that I haven’t seen yet, but intend to check out when they come to home video:
- It Follows
I know everyone is loving Creed, but I have never liked any of the Rocky movies, so I’m skeptical. Due to its high ratings and accolades from a few friends, I will definitely be watching it someday soon. I’m rarely into horror movies, but It Follows has been getting great reviews so I’ll see it eventually. Spotlight just seems like the kind of movie that would be better viewed comfortably at home, so I’m waiting for it to come out there.
My Oscar Commentary
I don’t generally care who gets an Oscar anymore, but the awards I’d give out would be these:
- Best Director: Alex Garland (Ex Machina), George Miller (Mad Max : Fury Road)
- Best Actor: Charlize Theron (Mad Max), Matt Damon (The Martian)
- Best Cinematography: Rob Hardy (Ex Machina), Emmanuel Lubezki (The Revenant)
- Best Screenplay: The Martian
- Best Makeup & Practical Effects: Star Wars VII : The Force Awakens
- Best Use of CG: Ex Machina
- Best Animated Film: Ghost in the Shell: The New Movie
Aside: Leonardo DiCaprio has deserved multiple Oscars for years now. So if they want to give him one this year because it’s owed to him, then I’m fine with that. But I didn’t find The Revenant to be anywhere near as compelling a performance as his work in previous films (Shutter Island, Aviator, Departed, and even Romeo & Juliet).