10 Must-See Movies From Last Year

2015 has been a huge year for movies. We were treated to a record-breaking weekend from Jurassic World, along with not one, but two Marvel films. It should tell you just how strong the field was that none of those number themselves among the top 10 movies of the year. While 2014 was a decidedly down year for Hollywood, 2015 has brought the film industry back with a vengeance, with the best of the best spanning everything from period piece drama, to horror and sci-fi.

Which of your favorite movies made the cut? There are a few that certainly won’t surprise anyone, while others still enter the list as relative surprises. There’s been no shortage of quality cinema to keep us entertained all year long, and the depth and breadth of 2015’s best are as a good an indicator of this fact as any.

10. Inside Out 

It should say something that a movie that’s not even Pixar’s best work still finds itself among the year’s top films. Inside Out gave us a insightful look at our own emotions, growing up, and how we develop into well-balanced individuals. Top that off with a scene capable of bringing even the most stalwart of movie viewers to tears (Bing Bong, WHY?), and you have a true return to form for Pixar.

9. Creed

This was one none of us saw coming, in the masterfully executed Rocky sequel focusing in on the son of Apollo Creed. With Ryan Coogler at the helm (Fruitvale Station) and Michael B. Jordan in the starring role, we had ourselves the best boxing movie Hollywood has churned out since 2010’s The Fighter. The film was highlighted by a gorgeous single-shot fight scene that we’ve never before seen the likes of in the sports movie genre, and more than deserves a place in the pantheon of 2015’s best.

8. It Follows

Continuing the resurgence of horror movies over the last two years, It Follows showed everyone that you don’t need blood and gore to make a truly terrifying film. The story follows Annie, a young girl that’s been given the horror equivalent of an STD. Essentially, an evil ghost/demon/entity chases her down following a sexual encounter, and the only way to make it stop is to have sex with someone else to pass on the curse. It’s far more nuanced and thoughtful than your run-of-the-mill Paranormal Activity sequel and is hopefully a harbinger of what’s to come for the genre.

7. Ex Machina

The field of robot sci-fi thrillers is a crowded one, making it that much more impressive that Ex Machina stands apart the way it does. The movie digs into complex themes of humanity and self-awareness, all in a remote, eery testing facility for a robot AI named Ava. It’s every bit a dense think-piece of a film, setting itself apart from its sci-fi contemporaries in a big way.

6. The Big Short

Directed by Adam McKay, The Big Short brings Michael Lewis’s novel by the same name to life in movie form. It features an A-list cast with Brad Pitt, Ryan Gosling, Steve Carell, and Christian Bale, as it skillfully maneuvers you through the veritable minefield that is the financial crisis of the late-00s. As a rare addition to the list that doesn’t reside in the sci-fi genre, The Big Short stands above the rest as a stellar Wall Street drama telling a true story.

5. Brooklyn

Nick Hornby is easily of the greatest writers of the modern generation, with offerings like High Fidelity and About a Boy already to his name. For Brooklyn, he pivots to something entirely different from his usual territory, telling the story of a young Irish immigrant girl, trying to adjust to live in Brooklyn, N.Y., in the mid-20th century. It’s a beautifully realized film that quietly keeps you on the edge of your seat and puts Saoirse Ronan in the conversation for the year’s best actress.

4. The Martian

Based on the novel by the same name, The Martian managed to be both a faithful adaptation and a spectacular standalone movie. Ridley Scott (director) and Drew Goddard (writer) made for a creative dream team, putting their heads together for one of 2015’s best offerings to date. The space-centric thriller joins a class of sci-fi movies that made this a banner year for the genre.

3. Star Wars, Episode VII: The Force Awakens

The hype is real: The Force Awakens is everything fans have been hoping for. The latest in the Star Wars saga manages to walk the delicate line between fan service and original storytelling, marking a clear victory for a franchise that’s finally found redemption in J.J. Abrams. New cast members Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, and Oscar Isaac mix in beautifully with Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, and Harrison Ford, blending the old and new generations to perfection.

2. Spotlight

Making a movie that digs into the journalism industry and the Catholic Church’s scandal involving priests molesting children is never one that’s going to be easy to perfect. Knowing that, what writer/director Tom McCarthy managed to accomplish with Spotlight is incredible. An all-star cast of Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, and Mark Ruffalo lead a movie that sits atop the rest of 2015’s offerings as an instant classic.

1. Mad Max: Fury Road

There was a fair amount of skepticism surrounding the release of the first new Mad Max movie since 1985’s Beyond the Thunderdome. What we got was 2015’s best movie period, as a progressive, visually stunning action flick that redefined its genre. It shocked all of us to see Charlize Theron’s Furiosa end up as the main protagonist, while Tom Hardy’s Max sat by as more of a bystander. It ended up working amazingly from a thematic standpoint, and already Fury Road has been sweeping through various awards. Now we wait to see if the Academy agrees.

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