It's been a big year for movies - as a number of high-profile releases broke box office records in 2015. In the coming months, industry professionals will begin casting votes in the 2016 award season, honoring the movies that, regardless of profitability, contributed something special to moviemaking in 2015. However, film is a subjective medium and just because a movie performed well at the box office, or was a stand-out in the festival circuit, doesn't mean that it was among the favorites of the Screen Rant editorial team.
To that end, we've put together our individual Top 5 "Favorite" (not necessarily "Best") movie picks. Our Top 5 Favorite Movies of 2015 list isn't designed to act as a definitive Screen Rant endorsement, it's an opportunity for each one of our editors to call out the movies that touched us, wowed us, and reminded us why we love going to the theater. As with prior years, some of the year's "Best" movies won't make it onto any of our "Favorite" lists - so make sure to look over our movie review archive to find out what we thought of your own personal choices - then share your own Top 5 Favorite Movies of 2015 in the comments!
1: Sicario2: Mad Max: Fury Road3: Hateful Eight4: Dope5: Creed
No movie has at once captured the horrors of the drug war (and possibly the horror of female subjugation) better than Sicario. Impeccably shot and masterfully orchestrated with tension, the film also features great acting interplay between Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin, and Benicio Del Toro. Mad Max: Fury Road is an artful slice of cinematic storytelling that also happens to be one balls-to-the-wall action flick that is deserving of instant cult-classic status. More to the point: by coming back to direct this fourth installment, George Miller has arguably put together the greatest movie quadrilogy by a single director.
If you love Tarantino, then you'll love The Hateful Eight and QT does what only he seems capable of doing - turning conversation and pulpy human stories into a gut-punching good time at the movie. There are few African-American stories that make it to the screen; fewer still that don't tell the same story of hopeless poverty and the rocky roads out of it - Dope comes through and forcibly (and very openly) pushes black cinematic stories into a new paradigm, where they can be unique, idiosyncratic and (god willing) even... weird. As for Creed, director Ryan Coogler and Michael B. Jordan turned in a gripping sports drama film that arguably stands taller than the franchise it uses as a platform. Coogler also got Sylvester Stallone to deliver one of the best performances of his career. For that alone, the director is a real champion.
1: Me and Earl and the Dying Girl2: Ex Machina3: Star Wars - Episode VII - The Force Awakens4: Jurassic World5: The Hateful Eight (in 70 mm)Honorable Mentions: The Visit and The Gift
While Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens and Jurassic World both delivered the perfect amount of nostalgia-fueled adventure and eye-popping effects to easily take the top spot in my favorite theater experiences of 2015, two movies managed to affect (and impress) me more than any others. As a result, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl topped my favorite movies of 2015 list - thanks to a heartfelt story and characters that managed to celebrate life in the tale of a terminally ill person. It was a relatable, and to that end "real," story - one that was carried even higher by sincere performances and nuanced touches from director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon.
Where Me and Earl and the Dying Girl honors the gift of life, Alex Garland's Ex Machina, conversely, is a haunting exploration of creation - and what, exactly, it means to be alive. Garland wastes no time introducing audiences into a fascinating, and fully-realized, near-future - raising interesting philosophical questions within a sharp character story. Widely celebrated by moviegoers, critics and fellow Screen Rant editors, The Hateful Eight (in 70 mm) also made it onto my list, along with honorable mentions for M. Night Shyamalan's The Visit and Joel Edgerton's The Gift - both highly recommended for moviegoers looking for captivating (though disturbing) movie night ideas.
1. Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens2. The Hateful Eight3. Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation4. Kingsman: The Secret Service5. Ex Machina
In another year of established franchise dominance at the box office, the biggest and most important of these, Star Wars, delivered on the hype and decades of waiting for a followup to the original trilogy. The rest of the year was highlighted by ace directors doing what they do best - The Hateful Eight, Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation, Kingsman: The Secret Service, and Ex Machina finished-out my Top 5 (though I didn't get a chance to see Creed and The Revenant... yet).
1: Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens2: Mad Max: Fury Road3: Inside Out4: Paddington5: The Man from U.N.C.L.E./Magic Mike XXLHonorable Mention: The Peanuts Movie and Creed
In a year of rebooting sequels (or "re-quels" if you will), to me Star Wars: The Force Awakens is the most successful at both paying homage to its predecessors and recapturing the spirit of what made its respective franchise so beloved in the first place - while at the same time paving the way for exciting and innovative developments in the future Similarly, Mad Max: Fury Road is a masterful demonstration of not just compelling storytelling and world-building through action, but also how to creatively re-imagine a franchise using modern and old-school filmmaking techniques.
Inside Out is yet another witty, moving, and overall engaging piece of thoughtful animated storytelling by Pixar, while Paddington is likewise a charmingly quirky, clever, and heartfelt piece of storytelling regardless of your age. Finally, both The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and Magic Mike XXL are delightfully breezy and entertaining genre movies that have no pretensions about the sort of viewing experience they're aiming to provide.
1: The Martian2: Mad Max: Fury Road3: Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens4: The Visit5: Kingsman: The Secret ServiceHonorable Mention: Tomorrowland
The runaway success and critical hype surrounding both Star Wars and Mad Max, while completely justified, was one of the reasons why The Martian almost slipped past. But what I found was one of my instant favorites of recent memory, blending human survival, adventure, engineering, and above all, relentlessly relatable humor... that also happened to be set in a staggeringly beautiful Mars landscape. That it came from Ridley Scott makes its unexpected charm even more incredible.
It's a list of close seconds, with M. Night Shyamalan's The Visit a nearly flawless horror story (and hands-down my favorite found footage movie to date), and Kingsman's unexpected return to the slick roots of 60s-era super spies. And finally, Tomorrowland, director Brad Bird's indictment of cynicism, and love letter to dreamers everywhere that had me crying like a baby.
1: Mad Max: Fury Road2: It Follows3: Inside Out4: The Visit5: Magic Mike XXL
Of all the movies released this year, Mad Max: Fury Road was the one I saw the most times on the big screen - mainly because I kept dragging people along to it while insisting, "No, seriously, you have to watch this movie." It may well end being my favorite film of the decade.
It Follows had me looking over my shoulder the whole way home; I loved the concept, I loved the moody, tense atmosphere, and I loved the way it was shot. Inside Out was the quintessential Pixar movie: bright and funny, with some serious depth and some brutally sad moments. Overall it's been a fantastic year for cinema, and I can only hope that 2016 lives up to this same standard.
1: Mistress America2: Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation3: Mad Max: Fury Road4: Queen of Earth5: It Follows
Mistress America and Queen of Earth were like two sides of the same relationship coin. One side was new and adoring and a bit madcap, while the other had long since become far too familiar and toxic. Noah Baumbach managed to capture much of the same energy as he did in Frances Ha, but he also imbued it with a surprisingly lighter, screwier touch. On the other hand, Alex Ross Perry made terrific use of the talent that is Elisabeth Moss, who does a full-blown nervous breakdown like few ever have. Also, as with last year's Gone Girl, Queen of Earth proved the Patrick Fugitaissance is in full swing.
Mad Max: Fury Road and Mission: Impossible were outstanding sequels to long-running action franchises. Kinetic and fun, both films also understood the relationship the audience already had with these characters and didn't layer their stories with unnecessary universe building or connections to past installments. It Follows, meanwhile, definitely scratched that unique, low-budget horror itch with its simple but inspired setup and commitment to its great premise.
Alan Randolph Jones
1: CHAPPiE2: Tangerine3: Smokers Allowed4: Furious 75: The Look of SilenceHonorable Mentions: Magic Mike XXL
In a year of Avengers and Ultrons and Kylo Rens, I prefer my special effect-laden entertainment to take itself a little less seriously. To that end, CHAPPiE and Furious 7 are both unapologetically silly movies with a lot of heart. There wasn't anything as touching in this year of cinema as Die Antwoord's Yolandi Vi$$er tucked into bed with her robot son, CHAPPiE, reading Baa, Baa, Black Sheep to him. Though more about male stripping than explosions, Magic Mike XXL gets an honorable mention for its unabashed fan service as well.
Tangerine, about two transgender sex workers on the hunt for a cheating boyfriend in the sun-bleached Christmas wasteland of Los Angeles, was everything an indie film should be: funny, profane and wildly entertaining. The Look of Silence, a follow-up to Joshua Oppenheimer's remarkable The Act of Killing, follows an Indonesian optometrist as he treats the men responsible for murdering his father during the mass killings of the 1960s, and manages to evoke visceral feelings about its subjects' crimes against humanity despite a quiet, meditative approach. Meanwhile, "Smokers Allowed" may technically be an episode of Nathan For You rather than a movie, but it straddled the line between conceptual art and mainstream comedy so deftly and with so much densely layered humor that it deserves a place on this list.
1: Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens2: Inside Out3: Mad Max: Fury Road4: The Martian5: The Hateful Eight
Honorable Mentions: Ex Machina, Creed
Star Wars: The Force Awakens was a perfect moviegoing experience. As a longtime Star Wars fan, it had everything that I wanted: a sense of fun and wonder, exciting action, and most importantly, memorable characters. It was a pure representation of the magic of movies and I can't wait to see where the story goes from here. I had similar feelings about Inside Out, which was a throwback to the Pixar tales I grew up with. Original and heartfelt, it captured my imagination in a way the studio hasn't done in years. Joy and Sadness made for the next great Pixar duo.
Mad Max: Fury Road was unlike anything I've seen before and I can't fathom how some of those sequences were completed - it was refreshing to see an action film rely on the visual language of cinema and let the images tell the full story. The Martian was just a fun time at the movies, surprising me with its tone. Matt Damon was great as Mark Watney and, as far as I'm concerned, he deserves a Best Actor nomination.
At the end of 2015, we want to thank all our supporters (once again) for reading Screen Rant and listening to the Screen Rant podcast.
- Take a look back at our picks from 2014: Screen Rant’s Top 5 Favorite Movies of 2014.
We're interested to hear what films were your favorites in 2015, so make sure to list your own choices in the comment section!