For me, 2015 was a great year for movies, containing a wide array of solid releases, from huge spectacle films to low budget indies that all contain something special. Below, you’ll find my personal favorites of this year, whittled down from the 220 or so films I was able to check out. Of course, this list has been obsessively and pathetically toiled over for the last week or so, and I’m still not happy with the results, but it’s locked it now, so I’m forcing myself to be happy with it.
At any rate, I recommend checking out everything on this list. All of these films had either a theatrical or VOD release in 2015, and no festival or undistributed movies were included. For further discussion of myself and Kevin’s top movies this year, check out this week’s podcast here, and stay tuned for more year-end lists trickling out later this week.
20. Turbo Kid – I thought I was tired of nostalgic exploitation films until I saw this film, which is as heartfelt as it is funny and over the top gory.
19. Dope – Fast, cool, and wildly entertaining, Dope is one of the best and funniest comedies of the year.
18. Mustang – A tragic, uplifting tale about a group of sisters living in the Turkish countryside who start to get married off for a ridiculous reason.
17. Goodnight Mommy – This horror film breathes new life into a few tropes I thought I was thoroughly done with and delivers a meticulously framed nightmare that I couldn’t take my eyes away from.
16. Ex Machina – I thought this was just going to be another A.I. gone rogue film, but Alex Garland managed to deliver so much more in this beautiful looking science fiction thriller.
15. The Wolfpack – A thoroughly fascinating documentary about a group of brothers kept in near complete isolation their entire lives living in New York City.
14. Spring – I loved Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead’s last film, Resolution, and this one is even better, blending nearly every genre into this great looking horror-romance.
13. The Revenant – The most visceral and brutal film I’ve seen this year, with some of the best camerawork to boot. If Leo gets snubbed come Oscar time again it will be a crime.
12. What We Do in the Shadows – This Kiwi mockumentary about a group of vampire flat-mates is absolutely hilarious and begs for a sequel. Please, let there be a sequel.
11. Bone Tomahawk – Kurt Russell’s other Western proves to be a fantastic mix of comedy and horror boasting a great cast with an equally great script.
10. The Hateful Eight – Tarantino’s epic Western may not have been his best film, but that’s a tall order to fill. With an outstanding roster of colorful characters and some completely outrageous violence, this film is as fun as it is brutal.
9. Girlhood – This French coming of age story hit all the right notes for me and somehow resonated with me despite being a dorky white guy from the ‘burbs.
8. The Duke of Burgundy – Peter Strickland’s ode to ’60s sexploitation was equal parts odd and stunning. This one stuck with me all year.
7. It Follows – I love it when directors prove the horror genre can be awards contenders, and It Follows provides the right kind of narrative with some amazing cinematography that deserves the accolades it’s receiving.
6. Heaven Knows What – Taking the term ‘docu-drama’ to new heights, this may be the feel-bad movie of the year, but that’s not a bad thing given how damn engrossing this movie is.
5. The Tribe – Getting the award for most original film of the year comes The Tribe, a movie that is completely dialogue free, expressed entirely in sign language without subtitles. This may sound daunting, but the end result is incredible.
4. Tangerine – Shot entirely on an iPhone, Sean Baker’s Tangerine is one of the most fun times I had at the movies this year, and an absolute must-see for anyone believing you need a $20,000 camera to make a movie look good.
3. Mommy – Xavier Dolan’s emotional rollercoaster may employ a few gimmicks, but there’s nothing wrong with that when they work to the film’s benefit and Mommy was one of the most emotionally charged films I’ve seen this year, with some fantastic performances to back it up.
2. Star Wars: The Force Awakens – Sometimes when I see a movie I feel myself regressing back to my childhood self, where I let the magic of cinema wash over me and completely lose myself to what’s on the screen. The Force Awakens met and exceeded my expectations in achieving this, reminding me of why I was such a fan of this series as a kid.
1. Mad Max: Fury Road – George Miller’s return to the wasteland was welcomed with open arms and reminded me that sometimes we don’t know what we need in our lives until we get it, in this case Mad Max.