2015 was a great year for movies, especially if you’re a genre fan like me. I’ve never made any bones over where my cinematic preferences lie, eschewing normal dramatic filmic fare for stories told across more fantastical canvases. I recognize that limits my consumption of movies, and therefore limits my perspective, but it’s a cross I’m okay bearing. I’m not the Academy, so screw it.
* It should also be noted that I have not yet had a chance to watch either The Hateful Eight or The Revenant, both of which look great enough from trailers to possibly be on this list.
Here are my top films of 2015 according to my ratings on The Hollywood Outsider podcast with the scores I gave them in parenthesis beside it:
#1 Star Wars: The Force Awakens (10/10)
#2 Jupiter Ascending (9/10)
#3 Cinderella (9/10)
#4 Ant-Man (8.5/10)
#5 Furious 7 (8.5/10)
#6 Avengers: Age of Ultron (8.5/10)
#7 Mad Max: Fury Road (8.5/10)
#8 San Andreas (8.5/10)
#9 Ex Machina (8/10)
#10 Boy Meets Girl (8/10)
That’s not a bad list, I suppose. It has some world famous movies, and a couple lesser-knowns. Of that list I want to highlight five films that meant more to me than simply a score. They are:
#1 – Star Wars: The Force Awakens
I don’t need to go into this one too much, do I? I’ve probably talked it to death already. But, I do want to say how thankful I am that J.J. Abrams was able to knock this one out of the park. So much rode on his shoulders, and I’m sure there were a million moments when it could have all gone to shit, but it didn’t, and now current and future generations of fans have a movie they can be proud of. Finn and Rey, not to mention BB-8, are great new additions to the franchise, and Kylo Ren will hopefully carry on to be the greatest villain the world has ever known. We’ll see. Either way, this is a great start to what will hopefully be an amazing new trilogy of films.
#2 – Jupiter Ascending
This movie is, for me, the Oreo cookie of movies, as it combines two things I love into one greater whole – space opera and the Wachowski siblings. I am a slobbering fan of space operas, as my eternal devotion to Star Wars attests, and for me the Wachowskis have yet to miss the mark (yes, I adore the Matrix sequels and think Speed Racer is a misunderstood masterpiece), so bringing them both together was a sure-fire hit. The visuals were lush, Giacchino’s music was amazing, and I think Kunis and Tatum were great together. Only my #1 did it better this year.
#3 – Cinderella
Yup, a Disney movie. And not just a Disney movie, but a live action remake of a cartoon classic. That usually would be a recipe for disaster, but as Disney showed with Maleficent, it can be done, and done very well. Cinderella is further proof of that. Though the original cartoon will never be replaced, this is an amazing new take on the story brought to life by wonderful actors such as Lily James as the titular character, Richard Madden as Prince Charming, and Cate Blanchett as the evil stepmother. Behind the camera, though, Kenneth Branagh’s direction was exquisite, walking the line between cartoon and reality as only he can. This is a wonderful, wonderful movie.
#4 – Ex Machina
Alex Garland is a movie writer I’ve followed from a distance ever since the film 28 Days Later came out. It wasn’t the first movie to use fast moving zombies (I think that might have been Zach Snyder’s remake of Dawn of the Dead), but it certainly used them to terrifying effect. He then went on to write the screenplay for Halo, a science fiction film based on one of my favorite video game franchises of all time, but sadly the production fell through. He also wrote the amazing sci-fi horror movie Sunshine. Now, with Ex Machina, we not only get Garland’s fantastic writing, but we also get his debut as a director. Ex Machina is a very dark, but also strangely human take on the idea of artificial intelligence and what sentience for that intelligence might mean. Oscar Isaac and Domhnall Gleeson (both of whom were also in my #1 pick) are great, but it’s really the slender shoulders of relative newcomer Alicia Vikander that this movie rests, and she carries it off in spectacular fashion. It’s high-minded science fiction made by a great group of people.
#5 – Boy Meets Girl
Because The Hollywood Outsider podcast has achieved a certain level of visibility in the entertainment industry, we are occasionally asked by studios to review movies they provide to us. Since most of these requests come from smaller independent movie companies, that means a lot of cheaper, more… limited… films are put before us. That is often not a great thing (you can go see my reviews for such films at the HO website), but occasionally something special comes along. In 2015, that something special was Boy Meets Girl, a film written and directed by Eric Schaeffer. The movie is about a young transgender woman in a small town who forms a relationship with a young woman who moves nearby. It is an incredibly sweet movie, with ever moment feeling real and honest, mostly because of the work of actor Michelle Hendley, a transgender girl herself. This is a film that will upset some, and infuriate others, and they are the audience this movie was made for. I think it has the power to actually change lives.
And there you have it. I hope you enjoyed reading this. May 2016 be a glorious new year.