The Top 50 Films of 2015

10.) Victoria – This relentless, one take, oscillating German film might sound like a pure gimmick. A story built more off of a drunkenly distilled diversion rather than cinematic scope. After all, it follows an underground amateur heist uncut for nearly two and a half hours. And despite the focused frameworks, Victoria manages to fill its lavish landscapes with life and with purpose. Few movies in 2015 so brashly challenged the norm, and even fewer succeeded on such a totally realized scale. It’s the epitome of pushing the envelope.

Where to watch: Netflix

9.) Beasts of No Nation – Led by two of the year’s best performances from newcomer Abraham Attah and veteran Idris Eldba, Beasts of No Nation blends its truly haunting atmospherics into a unique homage to the universal trials and tribulations of youth. The result is refined, wounded, and achingly oozing with the infection of the mind and the spirit. No other film on this list feels as broadly contextual and as bound to the real world as this gung-ho guerilla epic.

Where to watch: Netflix

8.) Slow West – As a largely overlooked picture in a revivalist era of the modern western, Slow West tells a fractured and poignant tale of a love adorned youth painted red in the hands of fatalists, alarmists, and inflammatory infidels. It’s one of the strongest debut directorial efforts I’ve ever seen, and is as imbued with the influences of the director’s past artistic ventures as it is concerned with making a name for itself in the independent filmmaking community. If you like to read scripts, I highly encourage this one. What comes across beautifully on the page effortlessly translates onto the screen.

Where to watch: Amazon Prime

7.) The Revenant – Maybe it’s narrow-minded. Maybe it shuns completely developed storytelling. But what The Revenant does, both on-screen and off, is incite discussion of its merits and its worth. It had me begging for technical answers. Itching in my seat for a resolution to its maniacal manner. And in the end, simply dumbfounded, reveling in as ambitious a film as you’re likely to see. It’s Terrence Malick meets John Ford combined with everything that is so uniquely director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu. In a time of stale genre blockbusters, The Revenant huddles around its own branded and roughshod sense of humanity.

Where to watch: Available to rent

6.) Brooklyn – Saoirse Ronan does some of 2015’s premier acting captaining this immigration tale as Eilis Lacey, so nostalgic and grand and beautiful, entrenching the audience in a romance as timeless and peerless as anything that’s come before it. Here’s a lived film – in the past and in the present – that unleashes an unmatched sense of optimism, faith, and individuality. Brooklyn makes you believe in the idea and the action of love, and along the way, captures you in the midst of its tangible spirit. Watch out for Emory Cohen playing Eilis’ Italian fella Tony; he’s one of the industries best up-and-coming talents.

Where to watch: Available to rent

5.) The Big Short – Fiercely edited and impeccably adapted, The Big Short expertly explains the housing market bust in ways both inexplicable and discernible. And that’s the genius of its own back and forth batting stance. Most films would try to tee us up and knock us out of the park with such material. Instead, this lobs us soft pitch, delivering routine pop flies that when put together build towards the collective and essential elements. Critical, ornery, and unforgivably shrewd, The Big Short makes even non-believers pray for an end to such fiscal irresponsibility.

Where to watch: Netflix

4.) Inside Out – The more I watch it, the more I believe – besides Wall-E – that Inside Out is the best yet from Pixar Studios. As ingenious as it is refreshingly authentic, the animated feature caters to children and adults alike, dispensing a universal message understandable by any and all who happen to be watching. More than anything though, Inside Out is a conduit to light the flames of childish imagination and its joint journey into adult emotion. It’s a tandem ride, and one with as many deserved insights as there are unforgettable images throughout.

Where to watch: Available to rent

3.) The Look of Silence – Part two of Joshua Oppenheimer’s staggering diptych, The Look of Silence muzzles its feelings and sentiments in service of hushing anger and disposing dissent. It’s a rough ride, and one that should only be experienced after watching its predecessor The Act of Killing (currently available on Netflix). The documentary may stare down evil with a hollow poker face. But behind closed curtains, in the unraveling distress of unrelenting terror, we see the effect of evil’s affectations. Few documentary films will ever move you more than this masterpiece.

Where to watch: Netflix

2.) Mad Max: Fury RoadRight here is the definition a perfect action movie. A literal masterclass in all things adrenaline. George Miller hosts a discourse on how to direct movement, manipulate sound and vision, and combine every component into one cohesive unit. It was a longstanding and difficult movie to make, as well as one which defied all expectations by being a religiously cathartic drama and introspective exercise into the fragility and strength of the human soul. What a film…what a lovely film.

Where to watch: Available to rent

1.) Room – This top spot was a toss-up. I’ve seen Mad Max 4 times. Room 5. Neither movie has a technical flaw to be found. But upon my most recent viewing of Room, as bludgeoned by honest tears as I was new realizations, it became clear that I was watching the most transcendent picture of 2015. Our feelings – most specifically empathy – are what make us alive. And in that regard, no other film made me laugh, cry, or think as intimately and openly as this one. Room, ironically enough, knows nor meets any boundaries.

Where to watch: Amazon Prime

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