|Spotlight. Image courtesy of Open Road Films.|
My best of the year list includes some familiar faces - directors who often make my top 10 - as well as some newcomers, an animated picture and one directorial debut. Also, a horror movie cracked my top 10 for the first time in years.
Here's my top 10 movies of 2015, plus my 10 runners up (numbers 11-20). I'd love to hear from you, so tell me what your favorite movies of the year were in the comment section.
Note: As of Dec. 31, I have yet to see Charlie Kaufman's "Anomalisa" and Andrew Haigh's "45 Years," both of which have been highly acclaimed and appeared on many top 10 lists. I intend to see both this weekend and will update my top 20 accordingly, if necessary.
Ten Runners Up
|Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Image courtesy of Walt Disney Studios.|
20. 99 Homes (Ramin Bahrani) - The socially conscious indie director's latest is set in the world of real estate and depicts a system failing its characters, many of whom have slipped through society's cracks. An intense and timely drama. Reviewed here.
19. Mad Max: Fury Road (George Miller) - One of two summer blockbusters to land in my top 20, Miller revives his career with this rip-roaring futuristic triumph of set design and art direction. And Charlize Theron's Furiosa is one of the year's most bad-ass women in a year full of them. Reviewed here.
18. Chi-Raq (Spike Lee) - Lee's best film in over a decade updates Aristophanes' "Lysistrata" and sets it in modern day Chicago, where gang violence is tearing apart a black community. But Lee also tackles everything from the death of Trayvon Martin to the confederate flag in this incendiary state-of-the-union address. Reviewed here.
17. Beasts of No Nation (Cary Joji Fukunaga) - Adapting Uzodinma Iweala's spare novel, Fukunaga leaves behind the film noir of "True Detective" and heads to the jungles of Africa, where a group of child soldiers and their ruthless leader (Idris Elba) undergo a horrific journey into the heart of darkness. Reviewed here.
16. Steve Jobs (Danny Boyle) - Boyle's film about the Apple mogul is less a standard biopic than a three-act play in which Jobs (a terrific Michael Fassbender) shows himself to be a brilliant inventor, but one who lacked empathy for others, including his own daughter. Aaron Sorkin provides the crackling dialogue. Reviewed here.
15. Timbuktu (Abderrahmane Sissako) - Sissako's latest picture is a powerful, heartbreaking and occasionally absurd drama about a family in Mali struggling after jihadists take over their town. Reviewed here.
14. Sicario (Denis Villeneuve) - One of the year's most intense and nerve-wracking thrillers, a sense of dread permeates this drug cartel thriller from start to finish. And Emily Blunt gives a career-best performance as a federal agent who gets caught up in U.S.-Mexico drug wars. Reviewed here.
13. While We're Young (Noah Baumbach) - Two films that focused on the attempt, often a failed one, to age gracefully made my top 20 this year. Baumbach's comedy about two 40-somethings coping with the fact that they are the only childless ones among their circle of friends is the funnier of the two. Reviewed here.
12. Bridge of Spies (Steven Spielberg) - Old fashioned in the best sense of the word, Spielberg's Cold War drama is tense when it needs to be and emotionally satisfying. It's also a great reminder of why Tom Hanks remains the gold standard for playing complex characters with a sense of decency. Reviewed here.
11. Star Wars: The Force Awakens (J.J. Abrams) - This is the closest a blockbuster (no, I don't count "Gravity," which made my top 10 of 2013, as one) has come to my top 10 in over a decade. Abrams' "Star Wars" sequel not only didn't fail us - it surpassed expectations, bringing back some familiar faces, introducing a great new lead in Daisy Ridley and proving that studio tent-pole movies can still be fun, rather than tiresome, joyless and overabundant displays of CGI. Reviewed here.
|Image courtesy of Universal Pictures.|
10. Straight Outta Compton (F. Gary Gray) - Much more than just a music biopic of the notorious hip hop group N.W.A., Gray's film - much like last year's terrific "Selma" - took a moment out of recent history (in this case, the founding of the group) and used it to draw parallels to our modern age, especially in how the treatment of young black men by police hasn't changed much since the days of the L.A. riots. The year's best origin story wasn't a comic book movie, but rather Gray's hip hop saga. Reviewed here.
|Image courtesy of Walt Disney Studios.|
9. Inside Out (Pete Docter) - The best Pixar movie since "Up" and "Wall-E," this imaginative film is set inside the mind of a young girl, whose emotions come brilliantly to life via the voice cast of Amy Poehler, Bill Hader and several others. For the past several years, Pixar has mostly relied on sequels to its most popular properties, but with "Inside Out," it proved once again that its original works can be magical, very funny and emotionally satisfying. Reviewed here.
|Image courtesy of 20th Century Fox.|
8. The Revenant (Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu) - Although narratively, Inarritu's latest is just a straightforward revenge tale, what an incredibly breathtaking one it is. No other film this year looked as gorgeous as "The Revenant," in which every single frame contained wonderment and majestic landscapes. And Leonardo DiCaprio, who plays the most physically tortured character in recent memory, gives one of his finest performances. Reviewed here.
|Image courtesy of The Weinstein Company.|
7. The Hateful Eight (Quentin Tarantino) - Tarantino's eighth film may be his bloodiest, but it's also one of his brassiest, featuring a take-no-prisoners attitude and some bold social commentary. At nearly three hours, it's also one of his longest, but I defy you to find another recent film in which (primarily) dialogue keeps you rapt for as long as this one does. When the violence is finally unleashed, it's unnerving, but Tarantino has never been one to let us off the hook. Reviewed here.
|Image courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures.|
|Image courtesy of Sundance Selects.|
|Image courtesy of Radius-TWC.|
|Image courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.|
|Image courtesy of The Weinstein Company.|
|Image courtesy of Open Road Films.|