Well, since it’ll probably be a while until my next major post, I decided to put together something simple to fill in the time gap. Something I wouldn’t have to think too hard about. So, with the Oscars for the 2015 year having recently been aired, I thought it would be the perfect time to rank some of the movies I personally loved from 2015. This won’t be just one list, however. I like to separate my film rankings into movies I thought were the best, and movies that were my favorite. Movies I thought were the best are usually ones that impressed me the most from a film-making standpoint. They might also be movies that effected me emotionally in some way. Think of it as: if I were in charge of picking the best picture nominees, these are the movies I would pick. Whereas, my favorite movies of the year are ones that I could watch over and over again, even though I recognize they may not be technically great films. Of course there will be some overlap in these rankings, but I think the differences will be clear. An example comparison would be something like Pirates of the Caribbean vs Requiem for a Dream. Pirates isn’t winning any awards but I love it for the simple fact that it’s fun. Requiem for a Dream terrified and disturbed me. I will probably never watch it again. But I recognize the technical greatness of that film. The way it was made was so impressive and created such an immersive experience that it caused me to have a dramatic reaction towards it. For these reasons I would say Pirates is a favorite movie while Requiem is one of the best movies I’ve ever seen. The Lord of the Rings films would be an example of an overlap. They’re films that are considered to be very well made but also ones that I personally connect with and could watch over and over. You get the point. So, this post will be broken down into two parts. The first part (this one) will be about my favorite films of the year, while the second will be about the films I thought were the best. For each part, as a fun little side note, I will also rank the films nominated for best picture, (four lists total), since I actually managed to see all of them this year. I’d also just like to mention, even though it should go without saying, that this is just my opinion and of course I did not see every movie that came out this year. There are several movies I would have liked to have seen, but just didn’t get a chance to. If I do end up seeing those movies at some point, then it is possible I might make some changes to these lists. With that being said, here are my rankings:
Top 10 Favorite Films of 2015:
- Trainwreck is a perfect example of a not so perfect film that I, nevertheless, found extremely enjoyable. If you decide to really dissect the film, you’ll find that all the typical elements of a romantic comedy are there. And yet the film somehow manages to subvert your expectations. Some might say that this is due to it being a female driven comedy, with the gender roles being somewhat reversed. But I think there’s more to it than that. Honestly, the switching of gender roles doesn’t have much effect on the story. The typical romantic comedy story beats are still there. What DOES feel different is the fact that the film is aware of these cliches. And it uses the fact that the audience is also aware of these cliches to create some truly hilarious scenes. Example: AMY: “Alright goodbye”. AARON: “What’re you talking about goodbye?” AMY: “What, I’m leaving. We’re fighting, we won’t talk for a while. That’s how this works.” AARON: “What are you talking about? No, we’re just having a fight.” This sort of self awareness is a great way to inject comedy while keeping the story feeling fresh. But what’s important in a romantic comedy is not really the story. You know they’ll end up together in the end. It’s the road getting there that’s important. You want to care about the characters and root for them to be together, and you want to laugh. And Trainwreck was perfect in that regard. Amy Schumer is also excellent in the film. Not only in the comedic scenes, but also in some surprisingly dramatic ones. After the comedic exchange I quoted above, you actually do see them do some serious fighting. And it goes on for a while. That’s not something you typically see in a movie like this. Anyway, I could go on and on about this movie, but I’ll stop here. All in all, I found Trainwreck to be a hilarious (and sometimes emotional) film, with a fresh perspective on familiar elements. And that was enough for me.
- Straight Outta Compton:
- This movie really surprised me. I had heard the high praise for it before going in but had no idea just how much I would like it. I came away thinking the movie had a real chance of being nominated for best picture. (I still think it should have been nominated). I thought the film was very well acted, well shot, and well written. And, not knowing much at all about the real life story of NWA, I found the story presented in the movie to be extremely interesting. Again, the character dialogue and acting felt natural, and led to some great dramatic and hilarious moments. Favorite movies of mine tend to be one’s where I get so invested in what is happening on screen that I forget to analyze the finer details until later. And that is what I got with Straight Outta Compton. A movie that completely sucked me in. I will definitely be watching it again.
- It Follows: (Featured Image)
- You wanna know something weird? I don’t even like horror movies. But I do like seeing movies that are being praised by critics. So usually what happens is I hear about a horror film that’s supposed to be amazing and decide, “well I better see this then just to see what all the hype is about”. Then I sit down to watch it and go, “wait a minute….why am I doing this?”. Luckily, It Follows isn’t all that terrifying. At least not for me. What I loved about this movie was the atmosphere. You never quite feel comfortable while watching it and the whole time there’s this feeling of dread and/or suspense. But the film never resorts to jump scares or the typical horror movie cliches. It’s just extremely, extremely creepy. One of the subtle ways the director achieved this affect was by having a purposefully ambiguous time setting. Some things look old fashioned while others look futuristic. Parents are also mysteriously absent from the film. The result is a film that feels very much like a nightmare. Things don’t make sense, and things come to get you. It Follows also contains one of my favorite soundtracks of the year.
- Inside Out:
- Pixar made a big comeback with their first wholly original picture in two years. Inside Out, in my opinion, was another movie that should have been nominated for best picture. I’m not really sure what else to say about it. You should just watch it. The only reason it’s not higher on this list is because the movies below were either more personal for me, or the movie going experience was much more unique. But I would say that Inside Out is just slightly below my all time favorite Pixar movies (Toy Story 3, and Up). Like the best Pixar movies, it’s heartfelt, hilarious, and intelligent. Even introducing concepts that could be used to help with child psychology.
- Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens:
- I mean, come on. It’s Star Wars. I had to have it on my list. It probably would have been number 1 had there not been so many other great movies this year. But after years of waiting, nervous anticipation, and extremely high hopes, Star Wars 7 somehow managed to meet my expectations. As is the case with many of the films on this list, seeing Star Wars was a great theater experience. Just hearing that music again and returning to the things that once made star wars great (practical effects, interesting characters, and great action) was enough to make me love it. Enough to make me overlook the…. somewhat lazy story….shh, it’s ok. Episode 8 will be better.
- Crimson Peak:
- Guillermo Del Toro has made some of my favorite movies of all time. Each film he makes is full of imagination, unique visual imagery, and hidden metaphors that make re-watches a must. Crimson Peak was extremely underrated. This is partly due to the fact that the film was marketed as a horror film rather than simply a movie with some ghosts in it. But is also due to many expecting some sort of masterpiece a la pan’s labyrinth, even if they knew not to expect a horror film. And so when it did not live up to these expectations, they were disappointed. But if you take the film for what it is, an ode to classic Gothic romance stories, the inventiveness begins to shine through. Similar to Trainwreck, Del Toro uses all the typical elements of Gothic romance stories while putting his own spin on them. Subverting expectations and modernizing certain elements. The film has two very strong female leads and the story is infused with Del Toro’s signature visual flair and use of wonderful practical creature/ghost effects. Even those who didn’t love the film praised the use of real sets, the cinematography, and the costume design. All of which makes me surprised the film was not nominated in the production design or costume categories. But regardless of what other people thought, this was a film I immensely enjoyed, and one that I’m sure I’ll come back to in order to decipher all its hidden messages.
- The Visit:
- This might have been the most ridiculous and fun theater going experience I’ve ever had. I saw this movie at my college’s student union. So as you could imagine, there were a lot of students there. And it was the audience’s reactions to what was happening on screen that really made the movie for me. I’m a little worried that I’ll find the movie disappointing upon a re-watch. But what made it so good the first time was the fact that the movie was extremely funny, yet genuinely scary at times. The audience would be laughing one moment, screaming another, then laughing at everyone’s screams. It was a mad house. But the best part for me was watching the man sitting in front of me as his opinion gradually changed as the movie progressed. He started off ready to hate the movie because of M. Night Shyamalan’s recent track record. Then slowly started to warm up to it, and finally by the end was convinced this was Shyamalan’s comeback and regained all faith in him. He was so happy by the end that he shouted, “SHYAMALAN, YOU DOG! YOU DID IT!”.
- The Hateful Eight:
- While not my favorite Quentin Tarantino movie, The Hateful Eight gets points just for being a Tarantino film with all the things I love about his movies. The great dialogue, the almost unbearable tension, the music, and Tarantino’s very distinguishable editing/directing style. This was also another very memorable theater going experience. I got to see the 70mm roadshow version that was three hours long, complete with a program, overture, and intermission.
- Mad Max: Fury Road:
- Honestly, this movie has been talked about too much already, and I’m sure everyone has heard about how great it is by now so I’ll keep it short. This is the type of movie that makes me love watching movies. Incredibly fun and suspenseful, action packed, well shot and well directed. Diverse and interesting characters that you actually care about, and a very simple but effective story. Overall just incredibly exhilarating. It’s one of those movies where you wonder how in the world they pulled off certain stunts. And I love that it could be viewed as a silent film and you would still know all you need to know just from the visuals.
- I realize I might be contradicting myself here but, Room is not a super fun, “watch with your friends” type of movie. In fact it’s very depressing, and not something many people would like watching more than once. So by those standards, you would think it would be better placed in my best movies of the year list rather than here. And yet I would be lying if I said it wasn’t my favorite movie of the year. Room was a movie that made me tear up at times, had me on the edge of my seat at others, and had me completely engrossed throughout. Not only was I moved by the story, but the storytelling, directing, acting, and cinematography all impressed me as well. Simply put, Room was my favorite movie of the year because it was the best movie of the year. It’s a movie, that while not very fun or cheerful, is worth watching again and again because of how effective and powerful it is. At least for me…
Best Picture Nominees (Favorite to Least Favorite)
I’m not going to talk about these films in detail since I don’t have much to say about them. I’ll also be talking about a few of them in Part 2. Ranking films by how much you liked them is a weird thing. Sometimes you just can’t explain why you liked a certain film more than another. But I ranked these films based on how immersed I felt and by how much i’d be willing to watch them again. What resulted is what I think is my ranking of the best picture nominees from favorite to least favorite. It was difficult because for many of the films on this list my feelings towards them were about the same: very good movie, I can see why it was nominated for best picture, probably I’ll never watch it again….ok that sounded a little cold, and obviously it’s not true for all of them since I put Room and Mad Max on my favorite films of the year list. But for many, it’s true. Anyway, here’s the list, and stay tuned for Part 2.
- Mad Max: Fury Road
- The Revenant
- The Big Short
- The Martian
- Bridge of Spies