But I don't think that there's been a year with as much depth as 2015 in a very long time. Every genre was filled with wonderful movies and there were so many great ones that I had to make a Top 20 list instead of my usual Top 15. And while it was a great year for indie cinema, it was an even better year for the studios and especially for old properties that found new life with a fresh generation of filmmakers. It was the year that Mad Max roared through the Wasteland again, the year that the Millenium Falcon soared the skies once more, and the year where Rocky returned to teach a new pupil in the rousing Creed. The films made us laugh, cry, hope and dream. We sat on the edge of our seat as Tom Cruise jumped on an airplane. We lamented the death of an imaginary friend. We witnessed the near-collapse of the American economy and the destruction of the reputation of the Catholic Church. And we sat in suspense as Quentin Tarantino put eight violent strangers in a room together for three hours, creating one of the best movie events of the last several years. This year couldn't have been any better in the cinematic world.
So, here it is. My picks for the 20 best films of 2015, along with five honorable mentions and one special mention.
ME AND EARL AND THE DYING GIRL
One of the best emotional experiences of 2015 was Alfonso Gomez-Rejon's Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, a cancer dramedy that offered so much more than the typical "Girl with cancer" young adult drama. Watch for one of the year's best scenes in the final moments.
THE NIGHT BEFORE
A very funny and honest Christmas comedy, The Night Before is filled with everything that you would expect from a Seth Rogen movie- drugs, sex and plenty of raunchiness. Although this time, there's much more heart than you would anticipate.
The summer's biggest surprise, The Gift was a tense and wild thriller with stunning turns from Jason Bateman and Joel Edgerton. Constantly filled with twists that you won't see coming, this is a slick and incredibly effective sleeper hit.
The best comedy of the year, Spy showed a side of Melissa McCarthy that I hadn't seen before. Her performance as Susan Cooper is sweet and funny, and I love how Spy parodies classic Bond movies while still charting its own path.
It may not have reached the dazzling heights of Sam Mendes' 2012 instant Bond classic Skyfall, but Spectre was a respectable follow-up that mixed iconic Bond entertainment with a modern twist. Christoph Waltz was under-used as Blofeld, but as a Bond superfan, I was thoroughly entertained by Spectre.
Special Mention- THE LOOK OF SILENCE
The Look of Silence is the darkest, most harrowing movie experience of the year. It's a movie that everybody, no matter who you are, absolutely must see. A haunting look at the pitch-black corners of the human mind and soul, Joshua Oppenheimer's second look at the 1965 Indonesian genocide combines sickening interviews and silence to chilling effect, creating a comprehensive look at corruption and justification of violence. An undeniably tough watch, The Look of Silence is a necessary film in every way and the best documentary film made this year. If this doesn't win the Oscar, it'll be a very sad day for cinema.
Now, for my Top 20 films of the year.
20. EX MACHINA
18. LOVE & MERCY
It's not as good as Ghost Protocol, but there's something simultaneously epic and intimate about the fifth Mission: Impossible adventure. It's well-scripted and directed and there's a constant source of tension that carries through the whole thing. Those things alone would be enough to make Rogue Nation a great ride. But you can't talk about this movie without mentioning the truly astonishing stunt scenes. A stunning motorcycle chase through the mountains of Morocco. A high-wire opera house shootout. An underwater setpiece for the ages. Oh, did I mention that Tom Cruise hangs off a plane? This is one fantastic flick that never quits.
10. STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON
I'm not sure that any movie not titled Star Wars: The Force Awakens captured the cultural zeitgeist this year as much as F. Gary Gray's rap epic Straight Outta Compton. The "Straight Outta ____" meme was literally everywhere in August and there was a sudden resurgence of N.W.A's classic music. As a high school kid, I saw this stuff constantly at my school. But beyond the hype, Straight Outta Compton was a legitimately great film and a near-perfect biopic. Well-written on a character level and stunningly ambitious in every way, Straight Outta Compton is a comprehensive look at a very tumultuous time in recent American history. And man, that soundtrack is great.
5. THE HATEFUL EIGHT
4. STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS
No movie in 2015 was more hyped up than Star Wars: The Force Awakens. And no movie delivered quite like The Force Awakens. A blend of compelling new characters and sweet nostalgia, J.J. Abrams' seventh installment in the beloved franchise was a fun, entertaining ride that gave me everything that I possibly wanted. Star Wars has always been a franchise driven by a sense of enjoyment and wonder, but also with a deep sense of emotion. The Force Awakens made me laugh. It made me cry. And it made me cheer. It was the Star Wars movie that we needed.
No film in 2015 hit me like Pete Docter's animated masterwork. It's the best animated film since Toy Story 3 and a movie that is so clever and profound on every level. Pixar has done emotional stuff before, but Inside Out is new territory. It's about the loss of innocence and the bittersweet experience of growing up. It made me cry multiple times and it still hits me very hard with each subsequent viewing. Simply put, it's one of the best films of the 21st Century. And Bing Bong might just be the greatest character ever created.
And then I saw it again. And again. And again. Each time that I rewatched Mad Max: Fury Road, I picked up on new things and I was consistently thrilled by the pacing, subtlety and pure filmmaking behind this action masterpiece. And after careful consideration, I know that it's my favorite film of the year. The performances, cinematography, music, direction, screenplay, world-building- it's a nearly perfect film. We'll be watching this film in 20, 30, 50 years. You can't say that for many movies. That's why Mad Max: Fury Road is the best film of 2015.
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