Top 10 Films of 2015

2015 was a year building toward the release of a film set in a galaxy far, far away (and is included on this list) but along the way, a number of other stand out films were released. Instead of being ranked, here are the top 10 films of 2015 in alphabetical order.


A continuation/reboot of the “Rocky” film series seems like the last thing we need, especially with the number of sequels and superhero series already dominating theaters.  But director Ryan Coogler achieved the unlikely with “Creed,” revitalizing a seemingly played-out story and making it seem fresh and exciting. Michael B. Jordan’s Adonis Creed is the illegitimate son of the late boxing great Apollo Creed who decides to quit his white collar job to move to Philadelphia and train in hopes of following in his father’s footsteps. To do this, he seeks the help of a certain Italian Stallion and Sylvester Stallone gives a great performance as a world-weary and broken-down version of Rocky Balboa. Arguably the most crowd-pleasing film of the year, Adonius’ training sequence with the kids on motorcycles is a knockout and there’s no way to not get chills during the climatic fight when the familiar “Rocky” theme kicks in on the soundtrack.

Ex Machina

All you have to do is watch an episode of “The Twilight Zone” or the “Terminator” films to know there is a fascination within the science fiction genre with artificial intelligence. While it is a hugely popular subject, few pieces of pop culture have treated the implications of artificial intelligence as well as “Ex Machina.”  Caleb (Domnhall Gleeson) is a programmer at a software company who wins a contest to spend a week at the secluded estate of the company’s reclusive CEO, Nathan (Oscar Isaac, who is quickly climbing the list of best actors working). Once there, Nathan asks Caleb to perform a Turing Test on the A.I. he has created, named Ava (Alicia Vikander). Everything is not as it seems on the surface and through conversations with Ava and Nathan, the moral and psychological ramifications of making machines increasingly human are examined. I saw this film eight months ago and the film’s disturbing effect still has a hold.

Inside Out

The most original filmmakers in the business aren’t currently working in Hollywood, they’re working up the California coast at Pixar Studios. From “Up” to the “Toy Story” films, the Pixar animators continue to make the rules for what a cartoon can be. “Inside Out” is perhaps the studios most ambitious and ingenious film yet. 11-year old Riley has just moved to San Francisco with her family, but most of the film’s action takes place within Riley’s mind and is represented by her emotions: Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Disgust (Mindy Kaling), Fear (Bill Hader) and Anger (Lewis Black). The film’s depiction of cerebral elements like “long-term memory” and “core memories” is ingenious as Joy and Sadness navigate through Riley’s mind while she struggles to adjust to her new home. “Inside Out” has a lot of the same humor that will make adults laugh (the “Chinatown” reference in particular is great) and the film’s ultimate conclusion has an effective poignancy, especially for parents seeing the film with their kids.

It Follows

The best horror film since “The Descent,” “It Follows” is relatively short on gory shocks and relies more on psychological scares to create an atmosphere of dread. After college student Jay (Maika Monroe) has sex with her boyfriend, he ties her up and tells her that by sleeping with her, he’s passed on a curse in which an entity which only she can see, and can take on any form, will follow her at a walking pace until it succeeds in killing her. What exactly is “it”? The film never really explains and ultimately the true nature of “it” is best left up to interpretation. What makes “It Follows” unique is that in addition to being extremely creepy (helped by a fantastic original score), it also is unafraid to delve into issues of mortality and existentialism, even having a character reference Dostoyevsky’s “The Idiot."

Mad Max: Fury Road

There are action films and then there is “Mad Max: Fury Road.” From the start, “Fury Road” is an intense, thrilling chase film with absolutely no let up. It’s also one of the most original pieces of filmmaking in a long time. The film is of course a reboot of Mel Gibson’s “Mad Max” films from the 1980s, but “Fury Road” makes no reference to those films and offers little exposition. The audience is simply dropped into this post-apocalyptic wasteland where water is scarce, society has devolved into clans and commerce is driven by access to gasoline. While Tom Hardy’s Max is the title character, the true protagonist and hero of “Fury Road” is Charlize Theron’s Furiosa, a one-armed avenger orchestrating an escape by the pregnant wives of the tyrant Immortan Joe. Furiosa is more than capable of taking care of herself and what follows is basically a two-hour car chase film filled with some of the most mind-boggling and visually stunning action scenes and stunt work in recent memory.

The Martian

I wrote at length about “The Martian” here a few months ago, but it has held up as one of the year’s best films. Matt Damon’s Mark Watney is part of a space expedition to Mars and after a dust storm as they are preparing to leave, Watney is mistakenly left behind.  With little hope of survival, Watney, a botanist, must rely on his wealth of scientific knowledge to survive until a rescue party shows up. While heavy on the scientific language, “The Martian” is never confusing and is a very entertaining, and often very funny, story about one man’s quest to stay alive. A lot of the credit for the film’s success must go to Damon, who is at his most likable and charismatic, while he’s assisted by a strong supporting cast that includes Jeff Daniels, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Kristen Wiig.


The more left unsaid prior to viewing “Room” the better since the plot is most effective when you come in with little knowledge of what’s to come. At its bare bones, “Room” opens as Ma (Brie Larson) is celebrating the fifth birthday of her son Jack in the tiny shed that Jack has never left in his life. More and more is revealed about the pair’s living situation and how it came to be as the film goes along, but these developments work best without prior information. A lot of it would seem on the surface better suited for a Lifetime original film, but the key to its effectiveness is that it’s told from the perspective of five-year old Jack, offering a unique look on the parent-child relationship and the preciousness of life. In the end, the film’s biggest selling point is the performances, especially child actor Jacob Tremblay as Jack and Brie Larson (who is the frontrunner to win the Best Actress Oscar next month) as Ma. I often feel like the best films are the ones that feel like something I haven’t seen before. “Room” was that in 2015.


There aren’t many films about the newspaper business and the few that are usually get it wrong. “Spotlight” falls into the category, which to this point really only included “All the President’s Men,” that absolutely gets it right. I worked on my college newspaper and spent two and a half years as a reporter at a daily in South Carolina. I can’t relate to working on a project the scale of the Boston Globe’s investigation of sexual abuse by priests in the Catholic Church, but the depiction of the newsroom and the lifestyle of a reporter in “Spotlight” is very familiar. Add in the fact I grew up going to Catholic school, and “Spotlight” hit home in a lot of ways. When the film was first arriving in theaters, I know people who said, “I hope the film doesn’t trash the Catholic Church.” There is no way for the film not to make the Catholic Church look bad – the pedophile scandal was an irrefutable event that is one of the Church’s most shameful moments. What’s crucial about “Spotlight” though is the film and the characters are never critical of the Catholic faith. Instead it challenges the Catholic Church as an organization, the same as if the target was Wall Street bankers or Washington, D.C. politicians. The film’s realistic depiction of the time and minutiae that goes into investigating corruption as a reporter are what makes it one of the best films of the year.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

The most anticipated film of the year premiered with almost unreachable expectations, but “The Force Awakens” delivered on almost every level. Less than a month into its run, it is already the biggest moneymaker in film history but more importantly, it’s a well-made film that sets the “Star Wars” franchise up well for the future. Picking up 30 years after 1983’s “Return of the Jedi,” “The Force Awakens” follows the stories of new characters Rey, Finn and Kylo Ren, with appearances from old favorites like Han Solo, Princess Leia and (briefly) Luke Skywalker. Naysayers have complained the film is basically a retread of 1977’s “A New Hope,” but so what? George Lucas tried to reinvent the wheel with an overindulgence on special effects in the prequel trilogy and look how those turned out. Director J.J. Abrams wisely follows a familiar story structure and creates a “Star Wars” universe that looks lived in instead of the CGI slogfest Lucas conjured for the prequels. With plenty of surprising developments along the way, “The Force Awakens” does a masterful job of setting the stage for future installments.


At least in terms of comedy, it wouldn’t be out of line to refer to 2015 as the Year of Amy Schumer. Between her romantic comedy “Trainwreck” and an outstanding season of her Comedy Central series, “Inside Amy Schumer,” Schumer established herself as one of the smartest comics in the business. In her first leading role on the big screen, Schumer uses elements of her real life (dating woes, father with multiple sclerosis) to create a female character rarely seen in films. “Trainwreck”’s Amy is a writer for a GQ-esque men’s magazine who doesn’t believe in monogamy and builds up walls against any form of intimacy. Her lifestyle is challenged though when she does a profile on a sports physician (Bill Hader) and the film follows the very funny journey toward Amy getting out of her own way. Schumer is, as always, completely hilarious, but she’s backed up an equally game cast that includes Hader, Vanessa Bayer, Tilda Swinton and, most surprisingly, LeBron James. LeBron’s sharp comedy chops are just one of the surprises in a film that is equal parts humor and heart.
Share on Google Plus

About Kevin Fiorenzo

Under Construction