Top Ten Films: 2015

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Here it is, my annual top ten films of the year!

2015 was the year of the blockbuster, with tons of franchise fare hits (The Avengers, Jurassic World, Star Wars VII, Furious 7, Minions, The Hunger Games, etc). With it, the year had a correspondingly lack of original/indie/art films, but I still saw a lot that I liked and have made what I think is a pretty solid top ten. And there’s even a franchise blockbuster in here, read below to check out which one it is!

Final note: I still have not seen Carol, Brooklyn, Creed, Bridge of Spies, Son of Saul, and probably some others that might make it onto this list once I do see them.

Without further ado, my top ten films of 2015:

10. Straight Outta Compton

Straight Outta Compton

F Gary Gray knocked it out of the park with this one. Seriously, his directing was impeccable, from the very first scene he captured what it felt like to be in the hood. And then what it was like to be a rapper. And then what it was like to be a famous, controversial, successful rapper (the concert scene in Detroit in particular was amazing, even if it didn’t actually go down that way). The third act was a little sentimental, but the film was so good I felt they earned it. The only thing that was missing was an acknowledgement/reference to the misogynism in the industry, especially with some of the characters at this time in their lives. But again, that’s real life and this is a movie, a very good one too.

9. Room

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This is a really unique film, especially structurally. It is basically two one-hour movies (one about escaping a kidnapper, the other about surviving the aftermath), either one of which would have been riveting. Put together it was fantastic, very poignant and moving (and also feature length). I especially enjoyed the acting, both from Brie Larson, one of the best actors working today, and Jacob Tremblay, who is superb, especially for a kid.

8. Ex Machina

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Look at this still! How could this not be one of the best films of the year? In all seriousness, this film was really exciting. It’s so rare to see films tackle subjects this intelligent, and this one does it so well; everything was clear and understandable, all without clunky exposition or dumbing things down (at least not dumbed down for a non-AI expert like me). My only wish is that they would have handled the second act break better, I love how the writer likes to change genres at this point in his films (he went from sci-fi to horror here, and also did similar things in Sunshine and 28 Days Later…) but it felt forced in this one. Other than that, this film was great!

7. The Revenant

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This year’s Gravity, The Revenant is a simple, straightforward story (in this case a revenge story) told in the most extreme and exciting way possible. It is incredible how this film was made; the whole time I watched it I was thinking: look at that!, how’d they do that?, I can’t believe they did that!, and so on. There are several moments (the bear scene in particular) where as a filmmaker I have no idea how they were filmed. Unfortunately, also like Gravity, the story here does not match the impressiveness of the production, otherwise this film would be #1 on my list, not #7.

6. Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief

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The most disturbing film of the year, and that in a year with horror and dystopian future films in my top ten. There is so much wrong with this organization and this film lays it all out, so undeniably and so clear. The founding, the history, the beliefs, practices, leadership, corruption, propaganda, the insanity, the lack of ethics, this is an organization that both is crazy and preys on crazy, and it definitely doesn’t help crazy. It is unbelievable that they are allowed to exist.

5. Spotlight

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I would not call this a great film, but it was really good. Like, really really good. It didn’t have a lot of flair, and it wasn’t super cinematic, but it wasn’t meant to be. It is about the Spotlight journalists and the work they did, and nothing else. It is brilliantly acted but otherwise straightforward, about one of the greatest journalistic works in history, something the film completely does justice to and does it right. I can see a lot of people going into investigative journalism after watching this film, heck it even made me want to be an investigative journalist!

4. Inside Out

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I have never seen a film like this before. Fun, funny, exciting, creative, honest, all while tackling issues of psychology and depression. Depression is such a difficult subject in filmmaking, not only is it tender and personal and unrelatable to many, but it is so hard to make entertaining. But PIXAR did it, and they did it great. This film was so powerful, so much I’ve never seen before; it is a wonderful, wonderful film. It is also a really important one and I’m so glad it was made, and even more glad it was made well.

3. Mad Max: Fury Road

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Here is the franchise blockbuster I alluded to at the top of this post, my #3 film of the year. This film was outstanding! I love, love, love strong females and Furiosa (and Charlize Theron with her) was a badass! Beyond that, I loved the technique of this film, the simple writing that wasn’t plotty and left the story open to so much fun and excitement. The amazing stunts and action and special effects. The fact that so much was special effects, not visual effects (I like special effects a lot more). The awesome cinematography and choreography. And most of all, the fact that all of this was at the service of a feminist story, something you almost never see out of Hollywood, especially not at this budget level. This film was a huge surprise, and it was great!

2. The Big Short

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Going Clear was the most disturbing film of the year but this was the most infuriating. Super creative and unconventional, the filmmakers used every trick they had to make this story (about the lead up to the financial crisis) understandable, entertaining, and powerful. The acting is great (Carell in particular, he’s my choice for best performance of the year), the editing like I’ve never seen before, and the humor is really awesome too, all of which combine to make the darkness at the end that much more powerful. This film doesn’t make you feel good, but boy does it make you feel.

1. It Follows

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This is 2015’s masterpiece. Maybe not an overall masterpiece, but without a doubt a masterpiece of its genre (horror, if you don’t already know). This is the best horror film in at least thirty years, stylistically in the 80s but harking back to horror’s greatest decade, the 1970s. The film is super cinematic and exhibits top form across the filmmaking spectrum (the score and the lead actor’s performance in particular), with the filmmakers able to reach beyond horror and into sheer terror, the most powerful and difficult response to achieve in this genre. Add to this the strong themes and allegorical nature of the film, and not only do you have a terrifying film, you also have a deep and powerful one. This is without a doubt the best film of the year.

Honorable mentions to The Jinx and Making a Murderer, two 2015 miniseries that were as good as anything released in theaters this year.

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About Gabriel Bruskoff
I write about films! I make them too! See www.gabrielbruskoff.com for more information.

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