I liked a lot of movies in 2015, so I decided to do a Top 30.
There were a wide range of movies I liked in 2015, so I thought a longer list would give a better view of what mattered to me this past year.
10. Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens
This movie is not flawless by any means, and my issues with it almost kept it out of the top ten, but the biggest testament to the strength of The Force Awakens is how it captures the imagination. There’s some visual storytelling here that the movies before here on the list just don’t compete with. Fin, Rey, and Kylo Ren are great characters and I’m just so invested in their adventures here and moving forward. The slavish way it follows from A New Hope is for sure damaging to the movie in a significant way, but the youthful earnestness it bring to the table allows me to forgive it to an extent. On top of that it captures the aesthetic of Star Wars that I love. If Episode VIII doesn’t move forward and away from the structure of the previous movies the problems here will sting more, but for at least two years I’m bought in.
9. A Hard Day
A Hard Day is like the movie equivalent of a game of Jenga. It’s just one ridiculous thing after another all building on top of each other and pushing its lead character to the brink. Its funny and tense; just a great ride.
Chi-Raq is unique among movies I’ve seen. It’s both very real and emotional about serious issues while also being completely ridiculous. There’s an amazing, very angry speech about how fucked up the United States is, and there’s a climactic sex off that the entire world watches on TV. This is a great use of art, turning topics that are hard and unpleasant to talk about and turning them into something new and compelling.
The execution in Office is so goddam impressive. This is the only movie I’ve seen that effectively cuts the difference between what works about a stage musical, and the visual character required of a good movie. There’s a real sense of the physical space here, but the creative design of the set allows the camera the freedom necessary for this to work as a movie. On top of that I really like the songs. The singing is great, the acting is great… Man I just love this thing.
The final scene of Phoenix is so great and perfect. In every way, this movie ends correctly. Up to that point the movie is good, but man, it’s that last scene that makes it great.
Anomalisa is built around a gimmick, but it’s a good gimmick allowing the audience to understand the main character’s mental breakdown by experiencing his reality with him. Also the climax of the movie is a sex scene that might be the best sex scene ever in a movie; authentically awkward and intimate despite being done with puppets.
4. Yakuza Apocalypse
Dumb in all the right ways, Yakuza Apocalypse goes all the way with its ridiculous ideas and that’s why I love it. When it plays things serious and straight it has the real weight and gravitas that only a great director can capture, and that makes such a stark contrast with the over the top ridiculousness the movie delivers on. This is the kind of spectacle I want.
3. Mad Max: Fury Road
The most technically impressive movie of the year easily; Fury Road just looks and sounds amazing. This is basically a reboot that still feels like it’s pushing its series forward. So many Hollywood movies this year felt like retreads, even good one, but Mad Max feels entirely new, despite being the fourth movie in the series; both in terms of filmmaking and storytelling. This movie was exciting, in a way that no other blockbuster was. There are plenty of nitpicks you could make, but I don’t give a shit, the rest of the movie is so goddam strong.
2. The Hateful Eight
Surprise, surprise, The Hateful Eight is about hate, but it’s also very much about the specific hate that lived in a post-Civil War United States. The remarkable thing is that it’s both about the destructive power of hate, how it puts people against each other, but also the power of hate to get people to overlook their differences and come together to hate someone else. Tarantino’s filmmaking sensibilities really mesh with my own tastes; the movie looks amazing and the dialogue is really good. It’s just a great chamber piece.
1. Bone Tomahawk
As much as I like the writing in The Hateful Eight I think this is the best script of the year. As much as I appreciate Tarantino’s takedown of the classic western hero, I still prefer stories about heroes. Sometimes I don’t want a movie to make a point; sometimes I just want the characters and plot to stand on their own; sometimes I want an underdog hero overcoming the odds, and sometimes I just want cannibalistic troglodytes. Bone Tomahawk is a great western, a great horror movie, really funny when it wants to be, and the overall best movie of 2015.