My Favorite Movies of 2015

2015 was a GREAT year for movies, especially those catered towards sheer popcorn entertainment. It seems like studios are increasingly putting great scripts and casts behind spectacle movies instead of just filling them with special effects. Even though they didn’t quite make the top-10 list, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Jurassic World, and Mission: Impossible V are all great examples of this.

It was really tough to order these movies, but I think what it really comes down to is (a) how memorable they are and (b) how much I want to see them again.

10. Ant-Man: A superhero movie combined with a heist movie? Count me in. I love that Ant-Man had such a distinct feel to it compared to other superhero movies. It isn’t about saving the world–it’s simply about stealing something from a bad guy. Aside from the first Iron-Man movie, I think this is also the funniest Marvel movie yet.

9. The Martian (review): It’s hard to capture a great book on the big screen, but it’s done pretty much flawlessly here. I’m already sensing a running theme as I look at this list, but I like that The Martian was a fairly serious movie, but it has plenty of humor to break the tension. Well done by Matt Damon on the delivery.

8. Inside Out (review): This immediately jumped into my top 5 Pixar movies. It’s so full of heart, and I love the way it presents this entirely new world that is so easy to connect to.

7. Furious 7 (review): I used the word “spectacle” earlier, and that one word sums of Furious 7. Every aspect of this movie is larger than life, making it one of my favorite theater experiences of 2015.

6. Birdman (review): Unlike the previous movies on this list, Birdman is a much smaller, more intimate film. So intimate, in fact, that the camera never cuts away (at least not as far as the audience can tell). It’s a remarkable film about an aging actor and his return to the stage.

5. Whiplash (review): This movie about a drummer and his instructor is one I never want to see it again, yet I’m still glad I watched it. It’s one of the most intense, best-acted films I’ve ever seen.

4. The Grand Budapest Hotel: We Anderson’s movies simply fill me with delight. I think I even said that to myself as I was watching this movie: “I’m delighted by this.” I wish there were more movies like this.

3. Ex Machina (review): This and the final two movies are those that got 5 stars from me (the others were 4.5-star movies). Ex Machina is smaller and more intimate than any other movie on this list, yet it’s entrancing, thought-provoking, thoroughly entertaining, and a little weird. If you like movies that unravel from scene to scene, you’ll love this movie.

2. Mad Max: Fury Road: This was really tough, because Mad Max could easily be my top movie of 2015. Unlike my #1 movie, Mad Max is like nothing I’ve ever seen before. The look and feel of the movie, the 2-hour chase scene, the intensity, the stakes…what can I say but to say it again? I’ve never experienced anything like it, and I’ll never forget it.

1. Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens (NO SPOILERS): This paragraph has no spoilers at all, just hyperbole. Below the cat photo you’ll find another paragraph with very minor spoilers. It may not be fair to use the criteria of “memorable” for a movie I just saw yesterday, but I’m simply in awe of this movie. It’s not just everything I want from a Star Wars movie…it’s everything I want from a movie, period. The pacing and acting are great, the action put me on the edge of my seat, it’s funny, it introduces new ideas and presents familiar ones too, and every scene is beautifully shot. It was the best theater experience of 2015 and is my favorite movie of 2015.

sith-lightsaber-cat

1. Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens (WITH MILD SPOILERS): One of the hardest things I did this year was not watch a single Star Wars trailer. I avoided all news about the movie–heck, I even avoided looking at the movie poster. I truly didn’t want to know anything about it. After I finally saw the movie, I watched all of the trailers, and really glad I hadn’t watched them before seeing the movie. There are so many little moments in the trailers that I would prefer to see for the first time on the big screen. Anyway, I loved the movie. While the structure is remarkably similar to A New Hope, what stood out to me were the characters and ideas that were fresh and new: a stormtrooper who decides that’s not who he wants to be, a bad guy who isn’t sure he wants to be bad, an amazing female lead who discovers new things about herself as the movie unfolds (things that, in previous movies, are taught instead of discovered), so many funny lines, an X-wing pilot with more to do than just just sit in a cockpit, a bad guy who is just as big as he is bad (probably)…I could go on and on. I loved every inch of it.

What were your favorite movies of 2015?

Here’s last year’s list.