I don’t know if you guys enjoy end of the year lists as much as I do but it s always fun to see both the highlights and lowlights of the year of movies. Next week we will dive into the low but today let’s talk about the best of the year! I ended up doing a top 15 because I had 15 films I felt were worthy of a shout out.
15. When Marnie was There-
Studio Ghibli’s beautiful final film is a magical realism story of a family rescuing a girl from deep depression. Lush, beautiful animation with incredible sound design and an emotional core that stayed with me long after I saw it.
14. Testament of Youth-
An underrated film about a woman in World War 1 in Britain. She starts out with idealism and through working as a nurse she see’s the reality of war including getting to serve the enemy for a time. Moving, beautiful and fine performances from all involved including Alicia Vikander.
Creed is a wonderful boxing movie and a great Rocky movie to boot. Michael B Jordan brings heart as Adonis Creed and Sylvester Stallone is wonderful back as Rocky. The boxing scenes are shot seamlessly and it’s a story that will make you want to cheer.
12. The Rewrite-
If you love old school romantic comedies then hunt down The Rewrite. It’s the kind of movie I haven’t seen made for so long. The kind of thing Nora Ephron used to write. With a terrific cast starring Hugh Grant, Marissa Tomei, JK Simmons, and Alison Janey, we get great writing about work, books, teaching, movies, writing and more. May be the movie from 2015 I rewatch the most because I loved it so much.
11. Mad Max Fury Road-
One of the most insane experiences I had at the theater this year. I felt exhausted after the intense experience but in an exciting way. It was something I had never seen before and the apocalyptic battles were so well done. I loved the strong female characters and the fact they weren’t pandered too. They were just cool characters no girl power slogans required. Way out of my comfort zone but a great film.
One of the best faith based films I’ve ever seen. Freetown tells the moving story of a group of missionaries who must be smuggled out of Liberia to Freetown. It is not a film of dogmatic, preachy like many faith based films. Instead it has characters that struggle with doubt under extreme pressure and stress and their faith helps them survive. Well made, acted and a good story make it a film I think anyone can respond too.
9. The Good Dinosaur
The second film from Pixar for the year was an emotional heroes journey of young Arlo trying to conquer his fears and find his way back home. I found the old fashioned Disney feel to be refreshing and something we haven’t seen from Pixar yet. The animation was stunning and I loved the relationship between Arlo and Spot.
The moving story of an Irish immigrant in 1952 who tries to make a home for herself in Brooklyn. It really asks the question of ‘what is home?’ and I loved seeing the immigrant journey play out. The performances are great, it looks beautiful and it was a sweet, old fashioned story you don’t see from Hollywood every day.
Paddington is probably my biggest surprise of 2015. I thought it was going to be a big stinker from the trailers but I ended up loving it. The journey of Paddington being left on the train station was surprisingly emotion and yet funny and sweet at the same time. The performances from Sally Hawkins, Hugh Bonneville and Julie Walters were so lovely and all the details like the sets and design of Paddington were wonderful. Most CG/Live action hybrid films are awful (think Smurfs, Yogi Bear) so that makes Paddington even more of an achievement.
Cinderella gave me hope for the Disney live action remakes. As a Cinderella aficionado I loved just about everything in this film. Lily James and Cate Blanchett are great and I loved the message of kindness and courage. The sets, art design and costumes were top notch. I liked they changed a few things from the cartoon but nothing that fundamentally altered the story.
5. The Peanuts Movie
This is how you do an adaptation of a beloved franchise! I was so worried this would end up like The Smurfs but I was completely charmed by The Peanuts Movie. I loved seeing Charlie Brown gain the confidence to talk to the Red Haired Girl. I loved Snoopy and the Red Baron. I loved all the other characters and the fact they stayed innocent and sweet. I loved the hybrid animation and how it looked both rich and flat at the same time. The voice acting was perfect and music worthy of Peanuts.
4. The Martian
I loved both the book and movie of The Martian. My favorite thing about both was what a nice guy Mark is- a lesser author would have made him all brooding and conflicted. Instead we get someone we want to see succeed and cheer for. Matt Damon is great as Mark and I loved seeing him tackle each challenge that came his way. Ridley Scott does a great job capturing the red planet and the entire cast does a magnificent job fleshing out characters out of small parts. It’s a movie that will make you feel fantastic
The movie that inspired me the most in 2015. You’d think the story of the investigation of the Catholic priest molestation scandal would be depressing but while it is certainly sobering I left the theater wanting to do something for my fellow man. It was empowering and so well acted/written. It’s as close to a perfectly executed film as I saw all year.
2. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
The most anticipated film of 2015 lived up to the hype. Some say it is the best Star Wars film ever. I don’t know if I’d go that far but what a great return to form for a galaxy far, far, away. I loved all the new characters and how they meshed with the old. I loved the grittiness and some of the storylines we’ve never seen in a Star Wars film. I’ve seen it twice and each time walked away with a huge smile on my face. Great performances from all involved and a tremendous job by JJ Abrams as the director. It was the movie that entertained me the most so it gets 2nd on my list
- Inside Out
Pixar made not only my favorite film of 2015 but one of the best animated films I’ve ever seen. I was so moved by both Riley’s and Joy’s journeys as they figured out what happiness and sadness mean. The world building was brilliant the heart was beautiful, the humor worked perfectly. I loved the animation and the ending gets me every time. A perfect film in my eyes that I like more every time I see it.