We're three quarters through 2015 and the standard logic has it that the best movies of the year are yet to come. Still, just because end-of-year Oscar contenders get more attention than the films that precede them, doesn't necessarily mean they're better, so we've made a list of the Top 10 Movies of 2015 So Far to make sure you don't forget about the beginning of the year when it comes time to making your own Top 10 list in January.
Some of these will get dethroned by new films from Spielberg, Tarantino, Boyle, Scott, Scorsese, and Innaritu amongst many others, but for the time being here are the highlights of 2015.
10 Inside Out (2015)
Who can forget the gorgeous dissection of young Riley’s feelings in Pixar’s masterful and imagination-filled Inside Out — a film that stands beside WALL-E, Up, and Toy Story 3 atop of the mighty Pixar shrine. The animation company has never made a brainier, trippier movie than this, in that they investigate the raw, anthropomorphized feelings of a teenage girl in her everyday life.
Riley is the anti-Disney princess and all the better for it. She encompasses the real feelings and emotions that must go through the head of any young teenage girl her age. It's an incomparably confusing time and Inside Out makes sure you go through the joy, fear, anger, disgust, and sadness of it all.
9 Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
In Mad Max: Fury Road, George Miller set the stage for a towering performance by Charlize Theron as a relentless seeker of freedom and justice. You can’t deny the sheer impact of Mad Max: Fury Road. Director George Miller’s fourth installment of the film franchise is proof that not all blockbusters should be greeted with an indifferent shrug.
If anything, this brutal action film is even more intense and exciting than its predecessors. With its nihilistic outlook on human nature and a nasty, in-your-face style, this is Miller’s triumph through and through. The amount of detail that he brings to every frame is as obsessively meticulous as any Wes Anderson picture. Edited at breakneck pace and staged with manic fury, Sixel is the unheralded hero here. The celebrated one is of course Miller whose passion and vision comes through in every frame.
8 Ex Machina (2015)
Ex Machina gave us the iconic Ava, a beautiful, seductive, intelligent android who is kept trapped by her creator, despite a personality that rivals any living human. This brilliant movie goes past its themes of the dangers of artificial intelligence and locates the heart and soul of a female android who wants to stop being controlled by the men around her.
Alex Garland’s Ex Machina is a movie that works on so many levels, it’s unlike anything you've seen before. Its agenda feels so clear and concise: the prophetic announcement of a future that’s coming at us full throttle and the rejection of science fiction for the birth of a new, more mature genre.
7 It Follows (2015)
It Follows is a darkly brilliant horror movie about a teenage girl called Jay who is cursed by a selfish young man and has to deal with the consequences throughout the film’s tightly-knit 107 minutes. The film deals with the 19 year-old as she loses her virginity, later gets told that she has been passed on a curse because of the sex and thereafter is stalked and hunted down by a mysterious, shape-shifting being everywhere she goes.
The film is imprinted with clever undertones about sexual transmitted diseases, and the only way for our main protagonist to get rid of this “disease” that she has inherited is to sleep with someone else and pass it on to them. The dark, understated direction by David Robert Mitchell is first class, as he is clearly inspired by John Carpenter's great '80s horror pictures.
6 Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (2015)
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl was bought for more than 8 million dollars back in January at the Sundance Film Festival, collecting the Grand Jury and Audience Prizes in the process. The film, a kind of indie take on The Fault in our Stars, focuses on a teenager who has stage IV cancer and the doomed-to-fail friendship she strikes with two oddballs. I
f only there were more movies that dealt with friendship, adolescence, and illness with such visually aesthetic wonder and a heart as vast as the sky. I'm sure this isn't the last we'll hear of Alfonso Gomez-Rejon, a visually gifted filmmaker. He has the time to not just evoke the friendship and heartache of the characters, but to also pay tribute to his favorite movies in the process by having his characters reenact classics.
5 Amy (2015)
Amy is virtually the first of its kind, a tragic examination of the late singer’s life, composed entirely of footage shot by Amy Winehouse and her friends, and directed and assembled with immeasurable passion by Asif Kapadia. The late 27-year-old singer/songwriter was an unmatched talent, but was tormented by addiction.
This compulsively watchable film exemplifies the next evolution in documentary, one in which each key milestone of a life is recorded with phone or camcorder by the subject herself. This wealth of first-hand material is then shaped by a talented director into a touching portrait of the late singer.
4 The Look of Silence (2015)
The Look of Silence is Joshua Oppenheimer’s spiritual sequel to The Act of Killing, as he once again addresses the Indonesian genocide of the mid-1960s that killed millions. If the first film dealt with the perpetrators, this one is about the victims, as a man who lost his brother in the killings tries to track down the perpetrators through research and in-your-face interviews. The truth isn’t easy and the final confrontation is haunting, but the interviews bring back a past that most of the perpetrators still deny.
If there is a more important, contemplative and meditative film about human nature this year, we sadly haven’t seen it. The Look of Silence represents one of the reasons we hope we all go to the movies — to face hard truths and cold facts that might otherwise be forgotten. Oppenheimer is quickly becoming a world-class filmmaker with these important films, and the potential significance they bring to society is almost beyond words.
3 Love and Mercy (2015)
Paul Dano embodies Brian Wilson so brilliantly in Love and Mercy that you may actually forget you are watching a movie. Giving us another memorable performance, his depiction of Wilson is that of a wide-eyed kid being slowly stripped of his innocence by obsessive artistic creativity. His absence is clearly felt whenever he is not on screen, as is the freewheeling nature of the Pet Sounds recording sessions where the actor basically becomes Wilson, a man so possessed and infatuated with getting the perfect sound that it ultimately becomes the tool of his undoing. John Cusack does his best to live up to Dano's performance as an older incarnation of Wilson, but he doesn't quite get there.
2 Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation
If there was any doubt about Tom Cruise's ability to carry a franchise (and why would there be?), the new Mission: Impossible put that theory to rest. Rogue Nation has intensely fabricated action sequences and exhilarating stunts performed by Cruise. Every detail is put together in such a professional, meticulously stylish way.
This is the type of movie you go into expecting over-the-top action sequences, especially after seeing the great ones delivered in Ghost Protocol, and the movie definitely delivers by exceeding those expectations. The movie does not have the strong thematic undertones and production design of Fury Road, and — again — the plot is definitely the weak link, but it does have some of the best action sequences of the year. If more summer blockbusters had this much effort and artistry on display, the multiplex would be a much better place.
1 Straight Outta Compton (2015)
In this summer’s surprise blockbuster, Straight Outta Compton, the N.W.A. story is told with such in-your-face vigor and bravado that it feels like a gangsta rap companion piece to Goodfellas. Directed by F. Gary Gray, the film recounts the day when these five young men from Compton, California - Eazy-E, Dr.Dre, Ice Cube, DJ Yella, and MC Ren - were the talk of the nation, and forcing America to think about the ongoing problem it faces with police violence against black Americans.
Eazy-E (Jason Mitchell) was the founder, Ice Cube (O’Shea Jackson Jr., Ice Cube’s son) was the lyricist, and Dr. Dre (Corey Hawkins) had the sick beats that nobody could touch. The centerpiece of the film is a concert in Detroit where the group is threatened by Detroit police to not play “F*** Tha Police” under threat of arrest. They don't listen, and a riot ensues.
Did we miss any of your favorite movies of the year so far? Has any particular cinematic achievement gone unnoticed on this list? Let us know in the comments below!