Not a Movie Snob - The Best Movies of 2015

Posted on Friday, January 08, 2016 at 11:00 AM

The Best Movies of 2015

Year in Review by Griffintainment X

Sir Mix-a-Lot must've loved the 2015 movie year, because it was extremely bottom heavy. There was the odd exception, Straight Outta Compton and Mad Max: Fury Road among them, but for the most part, pre-Oscar season was a bit of a dud at the multiplex. I can't tell you how many times I looked online to see what was playing and came away dejected.

But then September/October comes around and suddenly you can't find time in the week to keep up with all the great movies pouring out of Hollywood and around the world. In fact, prior to the beginning of December, I thought I was going to have a difficult time coming up with ten or so movies that deserved a place on a best-of list.

Thankfully that's no longer the case and I again struggle to place movies above or below others. I've seen all of these movies twice and in every case except one, I liked them even more the second time around. As a result, movies at numbers 4-10 are more or less interchangeable. I may like #5 more than #7 today, but tomorrow I may watch #7 and like it more than #4. So don't get the chisel and flat rock and pound this list out for the ages quite yet.

All these movies had special moments and all of these movies moved me in one way or another, but if I had to pick an overarching theme for the year as far as my list is concerned, it would be cinematography. 2015 was filled with some of the best, most gorgeous cinematography of the decade, in films both large and epic, small and indie. Beauty was the secret word of the cinema this past year, in both screams and whispers.

These are the Best Films I saw in 2015:

20. Creed
19. Room
18. Kumiko: The Treasure Hunter
17. Tangerine
16. Knight of Cups
15. Concussion
14. The Gift
13. It Follows
(Griffintainment Review >)
12. Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief
11. Straight Outta Compton
(Griffintainment Review >)


10. Mad Max: Fury Road. It's impossible to watch this behemoth, even after watching the special features on the Blu-Ray, without wondering how in the hell they pulled off lot of these stunts, or captured a lot of these shots. I'm a so-so fan of the Mad Max series. Truth be told, I'm not as huge on The Road Warrior as most, but apart from the trilogy that came before, Fury Road is just good movie watching. Yes, there is silly dialogue, yes, the story is ridiculous and yes, much of the acting is so over the top, it might as well be animated, but my God, what a ride! (Griffintainment Review >)


9. Bridge of Spies. A lot of these films needed two viewings to fully appreciate. Bridge of Spies was definitely one of them. I liked it the first time around, but it was harder to invest in the story than in Spielberg's expert hand at its orchestration. But the second time I saw this cold war thriller, the story clicked and the events took hold and I was enraptured by all that was happening. This film, like Munich before it, will go down as a solid side note in Spielberg's storied career, but a side note of, well, of note. Also, Mark Rylance gives one of the best performances of the year as Russian spy Rudolph Abel and will win the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. Mark it. (Griffintainment Review >)


8. Ex Machina. There have been a few of them now, but I am hugely on board for the cinematic exploration of artificial intelligence. I mean think about it: if a robot becomes self aware, does it, or does it not have the same rights to survival and prosperity as a human being? It's a deep, deep quandary and something that lends itself to a great wealth of exploration in cinema and in literature. Ex Machina is the latest film to probe this query and with the help of talented actors and a cool setting, creates a very powerful exploration of man's ability to play God, and the moral and logistical ramifications of said ability. Keep the AI fiction coming Hollywood, keep it coming. (Griffintainment Review >)


7. Steve Jobs. Typing out thoughts on a biopic of Steve Jobs on a Macbook is kind of wonderfully strange. Like carving 'Jesus Was Here' on a cedar cross on Mount Calvary. And appropriate, considering how many Apple heads consider Jobs to be the messiah of our times. And while this film very nearly bombed at the multiplex, I can only assume it was a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, because this is a fantastic movie. The acting is top notch all around, the directing, by the visionary Danny Boyle, explodes like fireworks on the screen, and the script...this is one of the best scripts I've ever read. Aaron Sorkin is a master of the form and his dialogue and pacing and cross cutting sparkles and pops with endless wit and exuberance. Pay no attention to Box Office Mojo, Steve Jobs is a five star affair that deserves be studied and admired. (Griffintainment Review >)


6. Carol. I saw all of these films twice, but Carol was the only film I saw a second time solely for the cinematography. Don't get me wrong, the story is a beautiful, well paced gem. But coupled with Todd Haynes and Ed Lachman's gorgeous visual palette, it washes across your eyes like a warm washcloth in a salt bath. There is a lot of aching emotion in this film, about two women who fall in love in the very intolerant to such matters 1940's. But for every well placed emotional beat, there is a well placed camera capturing these beats upon the characters, often through glass or windows or walls. And the natural 16mm film grain just gives it all a vintage kiss, like a kiss you'd get from your grandma: dry, old, but very warm and very loving. (Griffintainment Review >)


5. Inside Out. I re-watched many of these film very recently, the only one I hadn't seen in a while was Inside Out. And to be fair, if I did get around to re-watching this Pixar miracle, it could very well have been at least a couple of spots further up the list. Both times I watched this movie, I cried. Quite a bit. Now I'm a master of movie crying, I know all the tricks to cover it up: a scratch to wipe away the tears, a cough to cover a sob, or stretching my arms around my head to hide my tear streaked face from the people in the seats next to me. I don't know why I'm divulging all my movie cry secrets to you, but I do know this: Inside Out is the best animated movie of the year, and may be Pixar's best movie ever. No family film has any right to go this deep into the complicated highways and byways of emotion and psychology and remain as fresh, funny, exciting and uplifting as Inside Out does. But it does, and I couldn't be happier being sad. (Griffintainment Review >)


4. Spotlight. Here's another example of a film I liked the first time around, but was blown away by the second time around. I truly think I was too close to the two masterful documentaries that have explored the Catholic sex abuse scandals (Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God, and Deliver Us From Evil. See them both), which I watched in the same week as Spotlight and in effect stole some of its emotional thunder. But watching it again last week, I was struck not only by Spotlight's exquisite attention to detail (think Fincher's Zodiac, or Kurosawa's High and Low), but by the smaller emotional moments: Mike Rezendes watching the children's choir; Sacha Pfiffer's grandmother reading the newspaper article; Matt Carroll dropping a newspaper on a certain doorstep. These are what help make Spotlight fly and sparkle not only as a piece of entertainment, but as an important piece of investigative journalism and, most importantly, as a warning. (Griffintainment Review >)


3. The Hateful Eight. Anytime a Quentin Tarantino film comes out, I desperately want it to be the best film of the year. And I expect it to be. But there were things about The Hateful Eight I just couldn't get around, and it was these things that bumped it down a couple spots. I love this movie, for all the reasons I love any Tarantino experience. But this film could have certainly benefitted from being just a little less...Tarantino. I guess at times, like a box of rich chocolate truffles that give you a tummy ache, you can have too much of a good thing. I mean just look at this paragraph. I've spent the whole thing complaining about my #3 movie not being my #1 movie. When you set a bar at a certain height you better hit it, every time, or have nerds like me wonder why. (Griffintainment Review >)


2. Anomalisa. I was truly torn between this movie being my #2, or my #1. One day it was #1, the next, #2, and so on. Really this is more or less tied for #1 and #2 with my #1 (also #2). And while they are vastly different movies in many ways they do both share one thing in common: they are two of the most visceral experiences I had this year with the movies. My #1 movie was physically visceral. This movie, emotionally so. It's a stop motion animation marvel and I really can't put it any better than Matt Patches does on the movie poster, so I'll just reiterate: Anomalisa is the most human film of the year. And it doesn't have a single human being in it.

1. The Revenant. This movie is a workout. It will make you sweat. It will make you pant. It will make you walk into your bedroom, flop down on your bed and thank whatever god you pray to that you are in a warm house with comfy seating arrangements. Which is far more than can be said for the men and women of The Revenant. A lot of hubbub is being ballyhoo'd in regards to the inhospitable conditions the filmmaking crew had to endure in order to get this beast to the screen, and you can tell it was no picnic just by looking at it. But this film is more than its making-of story. This is an exercise in the triumph of the human spirit. This is an examination of the drive of pure vengeance and a lesson in top, top shelf filmmaking in every facet of the craft. I truly believe this film, and the same goes for Anomalisa, will change what it is possible to do with the form from here on out. The Revenant is the best film of 2015. (Griffintainment Review >)

And now a few of our door prize winners:

Worst Film of 2015:

War Room. The evangelical genre is making big piles of cash these days and it's mostly thanks to the Kendrick brothers. I generally ignore these movies because they're usually poorly made and if I want a sermon I'll go to church. But War Room got a lot of positive reviews even from non-faith based reviewers and I kept hearing it was the Christian movie for people who don't like Christian movies. It also sat at the top box office spot a couple of weekends in a row. So, rather than be left in the dark (pun intended), I figured I'd check it out. It didn't go so well. The characters were poorly written stereotypes, the acting was hammy at the best of times and the story was so cheesy and uneventful it felt more like a skit at a Christmas concert than a film with a wide release. I get that this was aimed and marketed toward a certain audience, but if you release your movie on the same screens as Mad Max and Steve Jobs, it better stand up to the task. This did not. Good for a youth group or bible study, bad for everyone else. 

Best Documentary of 2015:

The Look of Silence. The Look of Silence, along with its 2013 companion piece The Act of Killing, shines a light on the Indonesian killings that took place throughout 1965-66, in which over one million suspected 'communists', which essentially meant anyone who didn't have the exact same political and religious ideals as the government, were tortured and slaughtered by the militia and their citizens. The insane thing is, none of these butchers were ever punished for their crimes because the perpetrators are still in power. And you can still disappear in Indonesia for suspected communistic activities or ideals.

In The Look of Silence filmmaker Joshua Oppenheimer accompanies an eye doctor from a small village as he meets with some of the men responsible for the torture and murder of his brother. The film is filled with gut wrenching descriptions of the murders, as well as an incredible amount of denial from those responsible, who all have reasons why what they did was not wrong. These sequences are coupled with unbelievably gorgeous cinematography as Oppenheimer offsets the brutality of the killings with the lush tropical backdrop of rural Indonesia. It's a moving, profound experience and an important document. 

Best Soundtrack of 2015:


Carol. By far and wide, the soundtrack for Carol was the best I heard all year. I love listening to soundtracks, they provide a nice pulse to daily living and it's fun to match the songs to the scenes in which they originated. Carol's score was composed by the very talented composer Carter Burwell, who is most well known for his frequent collaborations with the Coen brothers and for his work on the Twilight films. Carol is his masterpiece. A haunting, ethereal piece that floats from track to track like stormy wind blowing in through an open window and rattling the floorboards of an old house on a summer evening. The piano is nice too.

Best Poster of 2015:

Knight of Cups: Many people don't get Terrence Malick films and as such many people hate Terrence Malick films. They often don't do well critically and they often don't make much money. But I love his films. To me they are examinations of the inner search for purpose and an understanding of why we are and where we're going. Knight of Cups is no different. It's a cinematic dream state in which Christian Bale plays a movie actor looking for peace in the endless parade of women, work and familial complications that dominate his life. It's a beautiful film, one of the best of the year, and the poster for it perfectly encapsulates its themes and examinations. I would proudly hang this in frame on my wall, and that's the only measurement for great poster art you need. 


There you go. I saw every film I wanted to this year save two: the documentary Hitchcock/Truffaut, about the famous book length conversation between the two cinematic giants, and Son of Saul, the WWII drama about a man trying to survive a concentration camp. Other than that, my brain is spilling over with 2015's movie roll call. Bring on 2016. 


NOTE: The showtimes listed on come directly from the theatres' announced schedules, which are distributed to us on a weekly basis. All showtimes are subject to change without notice or recourse to