Top Fifteen Films of 2015
by Joe Walsh
Class of 2016
In honor of tonight’s Academy Awards ceremony, BHS News is counting down the fifteen best films of 2015.
Honorable Mention: Anomalisa, Steve Jobs, Black Mass, The End of the Tour, The Gift, and 71.
#15. The Martian
Ridley Scott’s The Martian, turned out to be the surprise hit of 2015, bringing in over six hundred million dollars. Despite mesmerizing visuals and intense action scenes, it is the emotional core of the film that truly makes it worth watching. Driven by a tour de force performance from Matt Damon and a brilliant script by Drew Goddard, The Martian tells an emotionally-charged, human story of perseverance and the will to survive.
#14. The Big Short
When esteemed comedic director Adam McKay, known for such films as Anchorman and Step Brothers, announced that he would be adapting Michael Lewis’ novel about the 2008 collapse of the housing market, he was met with surprise and skepticism. All that changed with the announcement of a stellar cast including Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Brad Pitt, and Ryan Gosling, and rightfully so. It turns out Mckay’s comedic sensibilities and ability to collaborate with actors allowed him to tackle this complex subject matter in a fresh and engaging manner. The Big Short is a brilliantly acted, and cinematically thrilling analysis of the folly of modern American society.
A breakout hit of the Sundance Film Festival, Dope centers around three teenagers in Inglewood California who are unwillingly forced into drug game. With three breakout performances from Shameik Moore, Tony Revolori, and Kiersey Clemons, Dope is a refreshingly unique comedy that also has something to say.
An intimate story of love and loss, Brooklyn is a touching film about the inherent conflict within us all between our desire for exploration and our unwillingness to let go of the past. Saoirse Ronan stars as an Irish immigrant to New York City in the 1950’s, in a performance that will speak to anyone who has, or is currently, going through significant life changes. It is impossible to leave Brooklyn without being affected emotionally.
#11. The Revenant
Reigning Academy Award winner for best director, Alejandro Gonzalez Iñaríttu, has spun gold once again with The Revenant. Although not quite as astonishing as Iñaríttu’s last film, Birdman, The Revenant is a masterfully crafted, beautifully shot showcase of the human experience. Leonardo DiCaprio delivers yet another career defining performance as Hugh Glass, a frontiersman who must brave the elements as he seeks revenge against the man who left him for dead. DiCaprio’s performance is undoubtedly Oscar worthy, but whether the Academy finally recognizes his abilities remains to be seen.
#10. Beasts of No Nation
As streaming services such as Netflix begin to play an increasingly substantial role in the media landscape, some believe film releases will soon be exclusively digital. The first-ever Netflix original feature film, Beasts of No Nation, is any indicator, audiences have nothing to worry about. Beasts of No Nation tells the story of Agu, an orphan turned child-soldier in an unnamed African nation. This incredibly powerful film is driven by magnificent performances from Abraham Attah and Idris Elba, as well as genius writing and direction from Cary Joji Fukunaga. This film contains not only heart-pounding suspense, but also a heart-breaking emotional core. Simply put, the beauty and importance of Beasts of No Nation cannot be overstated.
With a franchise that has given fans the highs of the the 1976 original, and the lows of the street fight between Balboa and Tommy Gunn, many didn’t know what to expect with the announcement of Creed, the seventh installment of the Rocky franchise, which introduces audiences to Adonis Creed, the son of the late Apollo. To the surprise and delight of many, Ryan Coogler’s Creed is an inspirational, underdog story that wears its heart on its sleeve. Even the most out of shape among us will want to throw on a sweatsuit and jog up a flight of stairs after watching this film. Creed doesn’t rely purely on nostalgia, it feels like a natural progression of the story, which is capable of supporting its own franchise in the future. Both Michael B. Jordan and Sylvester Stallone deliver amazing performances, and Coogler cements himself as one of the most promising up and coming filmmakers in Hollywood.
#8. The Hateful Eight
Quentin Tarantino is a one of a kind. His unmistakable style and flare has been capturing audiences imaginations for over two decades, and his eighth film The Hateful Eight is yet another spell-binding masterpiece. A western that centers around eight, untrusting strangers forced to shelter together during a blizzard, The Hateful Eight contains exactly what Tarantino fans have come to expect, fast-paced, witty dialogue, brutal violence, and stunning direction. The film is filled with notable performances, particularly from Samuel L. Jackson and Jennifer Jason Leigh, but there is no mistaking the fact that the true star of the film is Tarantino himself. Tarantino meant for this film to be a tribute to the classic style of filmmaking, even using the same camera that was used to shoot Ben-Hur, and like the films it pays homage to, The Hateful Eight will be remembered for years to come.
#7. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
In a truly remarkable year for films, the largest, grandest, and perhaps most historically significant of them all is Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The seventh installment of the legendary franchise, directed by J.J Abrams, recaptures the magic that first engulfed audiences in 1977. The Force Awakens has plenty of what fans loved about the original trilogy, including the return of screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, and Mark Hamill, but it is the new additions to the cast that allows The Force Awakens to truly shine. Newcomers Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, and Lupita Nyong’o all bring their characters vividly to life, and fit perfectly into this fictional universe. This epic tale will make audiences laugh and cry, but most of all, sit back in awe as they are transported into a galaxy far, far away.
#6. Straight Outta Compton
The film that stole the summer, Straight Outta Compton, tells the rise and fall of iconic Hip Hop group, N.W.A.. Director F. Gary Gray brings this layered story to life with the honesty and respect it deserves. Straight Outta Compton is a moving, inspirational story that contains a blend of subtle humor, gut-wrenching drama, and relevant social commentary that leaves a lasting and profound effect on audiences. Jason Mitchell as Eazy-E, Corey Hawkins as Dr. Dre, and O’Shea Jackson Jr. as his father Ice Cube all deliver unforgettable performances that are precursors to long and successful careers to come.
#5. Mad Max: Fury Road
Pause the screen on any frame of Mad Max: Fury Road and you will be amazed at the intricate detail, and beautiful cinematography of each shot. Director George Miller’s return to the franchise he created in 1979 is the most fully realized installment yet. Technology has finally caught up with the Miller’s imagination, leaving Fury Road a incredibly thrilling, yet personal and thought provoking, cinematic experience that grabs you from the opening scene and doesn’t let go.
Of all the films on this list, none contain as much raw emotion as Lenny Abrahamson’s Room. Room tells the story of a mother, Brie Larson, and her son, Jacob Tremblay who are being held captive in a one-room shed, and their harrowing attempts at escape. Abrahamson manages to tell this intimate story with the intensity and heart that it warrants. Larson and Tremblay both deliver genius performances filled with nuance and sincerity. Room will take audiences on an emotional roller-coaster that reveals the heights of love and joy, as well as the depths of sorrow and despair.
The criminally underseen, yet critically acclaimed film Sicario tells the story of an FBI agent who is drawn into the ongoing battle between the U.S government and Mexican drug cartels. The mystery and suspense created by director Denis Villeneuve, and the sheer beauty of Roger Deakins’ cinematography combine to form an unforgettable, completely entrancing film. Each performance is delivered expertly, but it is Emily Blunt and Benicio Del Toro that steal the show, each delivering performances that could be considered their best of all time. Above all, Sicario is a film about good and evil, and how the line between the two is often blurred, if a line exists at all.
#2. Ex Machina
If there is any brilliant film this year went as far under the radar as Sicario, it is Alex Garland’s Ex Machina. This high-concept, science-fiction masterpiece is a story about a computer programmer who is invited by his reclusive, tech-genius boss, to test out a new form of artificial intelligence. What ensues is a menacingly ambiguous, disturbingly unpredictable film that will cause audiences to question what it means to be human. Domhnall Gleeson, Alicia Vikander, and Oscar Isaac star in this mind-bending, one of a kind film that is a must see for anyone interested in the future of humanity and the perils of technology.
Some films just have it all, brilliant direction, engaging writing, and a litany of masterful performances. Spotlight is one of those films. Spotlight tells the story of the team of Boston Globe reporters who uncovered the child sexual abuse conspiracy within the Catholic Church. Director Tom McCarthy arranges the multitude of characters, events, and points of view involved in this real-life story into a film that will appall, challenge, and capture the mind of anyone who experiences it. The subject matter of the film is certainly controversial, yet McCarthy boldly tackles it with honesty and integrity. Spotlight’s all star cast includes, Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Liev Schreiber, Rachel McAdams, and Stanley Tucci, who all seamlessly disappear into their characters. Ingmar Bergman once said, “No art passes our conscience in the way film does, and goes directly to our feelings, deep down into the dark rooms of our souls.” Spotlight is representative of this idea, as it forces the audience to examine the morals of society, and themselves.
What are your thoughts? Did we rate anything too high? Too low? Forget something all together? Leave a comment below and start the conversation.