The Top 10 Best Films of 2015

As the new year rushes in, and thousands of bright and shiny new films come our way -- from the dozen of superhero sequels to the newest biopics -- we must now look back at last year's greatest and most memorable films. From spectacular visual feats like Mad Max: Fury Road and The Force Awakens to the most fascinating sci-fi sleepers like Ex Machina, there are plenty of films that I combed through to find the top 10. While I may have missed out on a few good ones, like Straight Outta Compton and The Hateful Eight, among others, these films listed are some I found to be the best of the year, whether it be for their powerful performances, brilliant direction, or breath-taking visual effects.   

1. Star Wars: The Force Awakens- One of the most memorable and fulfilling experiences I had at the theater this year had to be returning to a galaxy far, far away, the immeasurable hype for this film surpassing my great expectations without flaw. A fan of Star Wars since the dawn of the ill-fated prequel trilogy -- soon immersing myself in the magic of the originals and eventually enjoying the prequels for what they are -- I was reluctant to see the original cast return for more space-traveling action and adventure. What I got in the end was much, much more. From a powerful cast of new faces, including a bad-ass female lead and a man of color kicking ass as a rogue Stormtrooper, to a whole new world to discover,  The Force Awakens was the one film that managed to deliver an awesome new adventure, while also evoking the fantastic adventures and characters of the past all in the kick-start of a new trilogy.

2. Mad Max: Fury Road- Number 2 on the list is no surprise, as the return of the desert-dwelling hell-blazer Mad Max was another of my most fulfilling experiences in the theater this year. Offering up a sizzling action-thriller that not only blew your socks off, but also managed to reignite director George Miller's career, Fury Road shot through my expectations as it delivered a lively and legendary action film. Packing in thick characters from the ferocious Furiosa to the mysterious drifter Max, as well as some of the best action sequences of the year, it was difficult to determine whether or not Fury Road would take the #1 spot. 

3. Brooklyn- Third on the list is one of the most beautiful films I saw this year. Telling the profound story of an Irish immigrant who must traverse her way through the intimidating streets of 1950s New York City, Brooklyn translated from a powerful novel by author Colm Tóibín into one delightfully impacting 2-hour drama. Packed with brilliant writing -- from the humorous undertones to the meaningful confessions of love -- and a lovely cast, Brooklyn parted itself so much from the typical big-budget action flicks in the months prior that it really stood out to me when I finally saw it. In the end, while dramas like Carol or The Danish Girl might have stood a chance, I still believe Brooklyn was a brilliant mix between history and romance.  

4. Inside Out - Surely the best Pixar film to grace our presence this year, the animated emotional rollercoaster that is Inside Out of course made into the top 5. One of the most imaginative animated films I've ever seen, Inside Out was a pleasure to watch, from its stunning animation to its thick use of metaphors and inside jokes. Equipped with interesting characters, from the protagonist Riley to her brilliant team of emotions, and a concept that only the people behind such films as Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, and Toy Story could concoct, this film managed to make you evoke nearly every emotion, from sadness to undeniable joy (which was not much of a surprise). It's not that difficult to call something a great if it's executed almost perfectly, and as for Inside Out, it came pretty damn close.

5. The Martian - One of the few book adaptations I enjoyed this year (sorry, Maze Runner and Hunger Games), the space-thriller The Martian brought yet another huge smile to my face as I sat in the theater. With the great Matt Damon at the steering wheel, and a star-studded cast behind him, this film had some major star power working for its benefit. But star power wasn't the only thing working for this film, as the outer space survival premise took audiences to a whole new world. Fueled by Damon's witty charisma, as he darts his way across the red planet of Mars in search of a way to get home, this film exceeded my expectations as it delivered a hilarious comedy packed into a breathtaking space thriller. While it may not exceed 2014's Interstellar in terms of epicness, The Martian acted as both a satisfying Fall flick, as well as a worthy return to form for director Ridley Scott (sorry, but who else fell asleep during Exodus: Gods and Kings?)

6. Creed - If you weren't a Rocky fan before 2015 (like myself), then you sure as hell will be one after you've seen Creed. Telling of the conflicted son of the legendary boxer Apollo Creed, who battled the Philadelphia-born Rocky Balboa for the heavyweight title and ultimately died in the ring, Creed breaths new life into the Rocky franchise with fresh characters and an even more emotional plot. Introducing fans to a new young boxer, one who must overcome his personal struggles in order to become the champion he always saw in himself, the film utilizes the acting skills of both Michael B. Jordan and Sylvester Stallone to push it even more closer to greatness. Packed with strong acting all around, and an emotional tale that transcends even further past its lead characters, Creed was one of the most satisfying and heartfelt sports dramas I saw this year. While fellow boxing flick Southpaw may have had similar emotional weight, it was the combination of a strong-willed face of the new with the battered but brutal face of the old that won the title.

7. Ex Machina - Like most of you already know, science fiction is clearly one of my favorite genres in film. From its always-intriguing exploration of unknown technologies to its investing characters who are often left scarred by the advanced world around them, films like Ex Machina are one of the reasons I enjoy movies so much. As for this film specifically, it was one of the most mesmerizing films I've seen in a while. Telling of a loner programmer (Domhnall Gleeson) who visits an isolated research facility for artificial intelligence, only to realize that he's a part of something much bigger than he ever realized, this sci-fi thriller was haunting and beautiful all at once. With powerful performances from not only Gleeson, but also Oscar Isaac and Alicia Vikander, this sleeper hit managed to ignite not only nightmares about the horrors of artificial intelligence, but also thoughts of how our future could look quite similar if we aren't careful about what we concoct in our labs today.

8. Beasts of No Nation - Sliding into the list at number 8, we have the unexpectedly brilliant Netflix war-drama, Beasts of No Nation. Spinning a dynamic tale of a country at war, where a West African boy named Agu is forced to join a rebel army led by a fearless warlord who trains him in violent guerrilla warfare, this film appeared on my radar many months ago, looking to be an amazing depiction of the horrors of a war I knew little about. Finally watching the film this month, I was left utterly astonished. Depicting not only the horrors of a relentless civil war, but also the harrowing characters who fought within it, Beasts took us into the life of a boy who had to make the ultimate sacrifice to stay alive: kill or be killed. With breathtaking performances from both newcomer Abraham Attah and the ever-fantastic Idris Elba, as well as some of the best writing and directing I've seen all year, it would've been a crime to leave this late bloomer off the list.

9. Bridge of Spies - Ninth on the list had to be the political drama, Bridge of Spies, a worthy Steven Spielberg war-drama that packs a cold punch in its character-building formula. Reliant on favorable performances from both the leading man Tom Hanks and his innocent yet witty client played by Mark Rylance -- as well as brilliant screenplay by the Coen brothers -- this spy drama relied less on big-budget action and gadgetry and more on a powerful battle of words and wisdom. With equal amounts of memorable moments and expert filmmaking as his last few historical projects, like 2012's Lincoln and 2011's War Horse, Bridge of Spies delivered an entertaining drama that left with many more lessons about humanity and justice than Spy or Spectre ever did. 

10. The End of the Tour - Rounding out this list of odd and eye-opening films is probably one of the most odd and eye-opening of them all. A film I only discovered about a month ago, The End of the Tour delivers a small yet powerful sleeper hit for any fan of great characters and limited big-budget action. Reminiscent of another intriguing drama I saw this year, True Story, this film relies heavily on the weight of its two leading men. With your typical quirky yet witty Jesse Eisenberg as Rolling Stones journalist David Lipsky and a fantastically dreary Jason Segal as famed author David Foster Wallace leading the show, this film may not hold much in terms of groundbreaking drama or plot, but it does supply us with a brilliant investigation into its odd characters.  

Honorable Mentions: With the list above being quite the challenge to determine, as I saw some films too late and others I still need to watch again and reconsider, here are four other films that deserve an honorable mention for their unique greatness. From the underwhelming thriller Sicario to one of the best musical biopics I've seen, these films definitely made an impact on me in some way or another:

Sicario- Managing to finally see this long-awaited thriller a month ago -- the hype of visiting another nail-biter from director Denis Villeneuve (Prisoners) being enough to get me in the theater eventually -- I was left ultimately underwhelmed with this film. With a tight plot of drug cartels and corrupt cops, as well as a phenomenal cast including Emily Blunt and Benicio del Toro, I was surprised when I left Sicario slightly disappointed. My consensus, I eventually realized, was that I may have not enjoyed the film to its full potential. Possibly a second viewing may change my view on the film, unless I truly didn't love the film at all.

Love and Mercy - Spinning the tale of Beach Boys leading man Brian Wilson, who in the 1960s, began to lose his grip on reality and pushed his fellow band mates and friends away to pursue a hidden desire, Love and Mercy takes you by the ears right from the start as it delivers a wonderfully-tuned experience. Employing both the personal struggles of its subject and the impact it had on the entire band, as well as a revamped sound of the band's classic beach tunes, this film transports you to a new world of music and misery. A lasting flick I picked up this summer, in the great hysteria of animated fun and superhero hype, this peaceful biopic took me surprise with its delightful cast and meaningful aroma.

Boulevard - In one of the late Robin Williams' last films, the artful and quiet Boulevard grabbed my attention late in the game, but nevertheless surprised me beyond belief. Led by a sensitive and emotional Williams, this small film may not offer much in terms of plot, telling of a married man struggling to discover his true sexual identity, but it does manage to stay afloat thanks to its heart-broken characters. While it may not be the best of the actor's lifetime career of comedy and drama, this film offers a dramatic goodbye to the unforgettable actor and his achievements, all in a simple yet sincere plot of the bumpy roads of love.

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl - Just as I do for the occasional rom-com or historical biopic, I hold a generous soft spot in my heart for those annual independent films based around the entertaining coming-of-age of a troubled teen. With some of my favorites including 2013's The Way, Way Back and 2015's Dope, the indie genre always manages to deliver the most unique and profound coming-of-age stories, and the same applies to this gem. Telling of a semi-anti-social teen named Greg who gains the conflicted friendship of a lonely girl Rachel (who he soon learns has cancer), Me and Earl and the Dying Girl was a glorious mix of sharp wit, colorful direction, and depressing undertones. While it did end a bit on a sour note, as this isn't your typical guy-gets-the-girl story, this artful and humorous flick will always be one to go back and watch again.

Did you agree with my list? What films did you put in your top 10? Let me know what films you loved this year in the comments below, and stay tuned for another awesome year of movie reviews and other great content! Remember to follow and share if you enjoy my blog!  

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