Best movies of 2015

I thought this was the worst year for movies since I have been watching them.  In fact I think you could multiply this year’s good films by two and still have the worst year for movies in a long, long time.  Maybe by three.  But here are the ones I liked, in many cases with my reviews behind the links:

American Sniper

Gett: The Trial of Viviane Ansalem

Ex Machina, visually nice and fun to watch, but conceptually not that sharp or original.

Inside Out, seemed splendid at the time, but hasn’t stuck with me.

Red Army, a documentary about the hockey team of the Soviet Red Army, its rise and fall.  Chock full of social science and public choice, I loved this movie, philosophical too, even though I am not especially interested in hockey.  One of my favorite documentaries.

Meru, documentary about climbing very high mountains and human motivation.  Should win a Cass Sunstein award.

A Brilliant Young Mind [X + Y is the title of the original UK release], one of the better autism movies, nice scenes of Taipei too.

Grandma, starring Lily Tomlin, give it the Girardian/Straussian take on what can really bring a dysfunctional, squabbling family together.

The Martian, and Alex’s contrasting review is here.

About Elly, first released in 2009, not available to most American viewers until this year.  From the Iranian director of A Separation.  You don’t realize how good it is until about forty-five minutes have passed.

Macbeth

Carol

Sicario

Mustang

Anomalisa

Blind (Norwegian)

Diary of a Teenage Girl

Of those, Red Army is my clear first choice, and it is only 70 minutes long.

What would you add to this list?

Comments

Movies are crap today, because most of them are made to appeal to international audiences.

And foreigners have bad taste? Crappy movies are doing better domestically than good movies have done in the past. It's the great screen shift. Thanks to HBO and Netflix, home entertainment is better than it's ever been and as a story-telling medium, which is what good movies are all about, it's superior to the big screen. The big screen is now reserved for immersive experiences. IMAX, 3D, lots of CGI. Action hero movies thrive in those conditions. The Godfather is just as good on a 60".

But this also means fewer crappier movies. We remember the good movies of the 20th century but forget that for every good movie, there were at least five horrible ones that only saw the light of day because of the lower financial bar in those days.

Foreigners do not have bad taste, but they do not have the same understanding of all nuances of US culture. Therefore, stories many times are simplified for better reception.

Also, other countries also make movies, but they cannot compete with Hollywood on big budget tent-poles. Hence, Hollywood finds it gets a better return on big productions rather than competing with small or middle budget movies from local markets. Thus, there is an emphasis on the summer blockbuster.

The big expansion in overseas markets isn't in countries with sophisticated cinema traditions like France, but in ones where poverty or Communism limited mass film appreciation until recently, like China and Russia. So, yeah, dumber movies like the Fast and Furious series tend to garner a higher % of their revenue abroad.

But, also, the American movie market has been inching downscale over the decades with the growth of unsophisticated Hispanics as the core domestic audience for blockbusters.

In contrast, the profusion of television shows allows the targeting of more elite segments than in television's past, such as how "Mad Men" was targeted at people in the media.

Don't know about the Chinese but the Russians would love at your assertion. They enjoy watching American movies but consider them dumb. All of them. Even the ones you think are smart or artistic.

"But, also, the American movie market has been inching downscale over the decades with the growth of unsophisticated Hispanics..."

Come on Steve, this is week, even for you. You're becoming a parody of yourself.

Everybody has heard that Hispanics are the Electoral Tidal Wave that are overwhelming American politics. That hasn't actually much happened yet, but real soon now! In contrast, nobody seems to have noticed that Hispanics do make up a very large fraction of ticket-buyers for blockbuster movies.

For data on blockbuster audiences, see:

http://takimag.com/article/hollywood_chihuahuas/print#axzz3sjvSVDS3

RR,

Are there a bunch of great Russian movies we are missing?

Yes.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andrei_Mironov_%28actor%29

Great Russian films? From the land of Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky and Eizenshtein? Of course. Here's a list that looks promising:

http://filmschoolrejects.com/opinions/15-great-russian-movies.php

You raise legit points, but I think Ignacio's response better explains my understanding of what is driving the Great Crapversion. If all these new action movies particularly good, that would be one thing, but they're not.

Yeah, let's talk about TV.

Anyone picked up on 'The Knick' ? It's great. It's like General Hospital only set at the turn of the century. No antibiotics, X-rays were just invented, doctors are shooting heroin, and surgery is something that is performed in a theater.

Yea, that's a good one. Not popular though. I meet few who've seen it.

File under "things that deserve to be raised in status".

Good post John.

+1

What theatrical movies are good at is forcing condensation into two hour time frames instead of dragging on for scores of hours.

People rewatch great movies all the time, but virtually nobody rewatches Quality Television dramatic series after they find out what eventually happened.

Movies are not worse today. We just forget about the terrible movies of the past.

Hollywood has always pumped out plenty of lame, formulaic movies. And actually these movies have been getting better over time, not worse. Watch an action movie from the 70's or 80's, even one that was considered good at the time, or a typical formulaic Western from the 50's. The quality is a lot lower than the typical summer blockbuster of today.

It depends on what you mean by quality.
Production quality has gotten better, but the writing has gotten worse (IMO).
Also I do think that television has gotten better and movies worse in recent years, but this isn't really caused by Netflix. Its the economics of the industry in an era of video piracy. A one-off two hour film is too easy to bootleg, But a TV series keeps people subscribed, week to week. Give people a little bit of the story at a time to hook them so they'll pay to see the next episode.

"Movies are crap today, because most of them are made to appeal to international audiences."

I think they are great movies in every year. It just takes time to find those great movies. That's why past years seem to be stronger than recent years. It's just an illusion.

People who say this have a hard time backing it up. Can you find 20 *big budget* mainstream films from 2001 to 2015 that are comparable to the best films that appeared between 1970 and 1980? Most film lovers would find that hard going, unless you have very idiosyncratic tastes. And I don't just mean the obscure Vietnamese- Iranian collaborations about Mongolian chessplayers in Islamic Spain as observed by alien servant girls that Tyler seems to like.

Few years ago I had pretty much the same opinion as you. Even though I might have named different decades. 1970 to 1980 was a great decade but so were the 1930s, 40s, 50s, 60s, 80s and 90s. I might have picked the 1940s because I love Film noir so much. But then I realized that from 1930-2000 there are so many great movies in every decade, why should 2001-2015 be that different?

By the way: “Big budget only” seems like a really odd criterion to me. Why would you care about the budget? And yes the era from 1967-1980 (called New Hollywood btw) is really hard to beat. But not only for 2000-2015 but for any era. You can still find movies that are comparable though. You might have to look really hard but it is possible.

I’m also not so sure about some movies of the 1970s that are still popular. For example The Godfather might not even make my top ten of the 1970s. In the end it’s all about personal taste anyway.

I'll take practically any ten year period you wish from the 1940s on over the last 15 years.

Most people like for the rest of their lives the movies they saw from, say, age 13 to 30, just as most people prefer the music they heard from, say, 12 to 22.

1970s movies are particularly well-regarded in part for the same reason that 1960s musics is so celebrated: the huge first wave of the Baby Boomer audience was in their Music Period in the late 1960s and then in their Movie Period in the 1970s.

I totally agree with your Baby boomer theory. I'm not a Baby boomer at all but even my generation and all generations until today are still heavily influenced by Baby boomers. This and the fact that 1967-1980 were indeed great times for cinema.

Even many directors are still from this era. Spielberg, Ridley Scott, Woody Allen and so on. From the really uber-directors of that era only Kubrick left us. So a lof of directors are still there, another reason why 2000-2015 can't be that bad.

I generally think you're right about people's tastes getting frozen at a certain age of maturity when their character openness begins to decline and their sense of nostalgia intensifies for things familiar, past and lost... madeleines or whatever... I find myself perhaps passing this "curmudgeon frontier." Whether it comes to food, travel, film or television I find myself more yearning for the comforts of the familiar from my youth than the adventure of exploring and discovering new things. It wasn't always like that.

I don't know if it's my personal attention deficit that is getting worse or if I'm prematurely acquiring age related dementia, but I do have a harder time finding television or film that I enjoy in recent years. Maybe it's Hollywood's relentless heavy-handed handling of certain themes that bores me.

On the other hand I'm absolutely excited about current trends in pop music. I hated the punk and alternative stuff that was fashionable among my peers while coming of age. Too much nihilistic negative energy for my taste. But this new highly produced positively charged and energetic electronic and dance music has been giving me great pleasure. I really envy the kids who get to come of age with these great sounds. Even though many of the DJs and producers are actually my age or older, I suspect I'm a little too old to put on the glitter and glow sticks and head to the raves.

I still remember the day I saw 2001, also even the TV ads for the first Star Wars. And Herzog's movies. Etc.. Yes, absolutely 13-30 is when movies seemed freshest.

Ah, and the awe at seeing a demo of the Apple II...

It's possible taste gets frozen at a certain age. it's also possible that we simply have less time to spend watching movies and listening to albums as we start working for a living and maybe raise a family. I looked through this list of great movies from 2000-2015 and was primarily struck by how very few of them I have seen.

http://www.imdb.com/list/ls000344406/

There are some great creative films on that list (Kung Fu Hustle, Spirited Away, etc.) as well as a number I'm not wild about. I'm not advocating it be taken on face value.

In the late 80's I worked at a video store owned by an emigre Iranian cinematographer. Extraordinary collection of films from around the world and I watched nearly all of them. After 2000?? No idea. I don't think I've seen a fraction of the content created. I've followed some directors (Coen Brothers, Ang Lee, Miyazaki, Del Toro, Ridley Scott, Scorsese, Malick etc.) as their films come out, but there are huge numbers of films I've yet to discover. I suspect that's true for many of us.

The cream hasn't risen to the top yet.

EDM is really just a soundtrack for doing drugs, isn't it? Raves without X -- Unthinkable. etc

It's hard to say what will stand the test of time, so comparing a recent decade to an older one is challenging.

However, here are some mainstream movies from the 2000s that I thought were very good:

No Country for Old Men

The Pianist

The Prestige

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Gran Torino

Memento

True Grit

Get Low

Crazy Heart

Stranger than Fiction

There are many highly regarded movies in recent years that I haven't seen, so this is based on a small subset of recent movies. It is far from clear to me that the 1970s were better.

I agree with The Prestige. That's like the only pretty good movie on your list.

Or just 1939.

And there are vastly more options to choose from. Netflix and Amazon, YouTube and alternative forms of entertainment like Facebook and Reddit make it harder for a movie to stand out from the noise. I'm much less willing to invest two hours in a movie now than I was five years ago.

In part, but I would add another factor: ticket prices. I'm not shelling out $15 to watch "My Dinner with Andre" when I can watch it on my 60-inch TV for pennies. If I'm going to a theater, I want lots of booms.

' Love ' by Gaspar Noe, was not bad.

45 Years, maybe? http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3544082/

My list for the year is completely different...Mann, Strickland, Noe, Sorrentino. A lot of promising stuff is coming out right at the end of the year: Anomalisa, High-Rise, The Revenant, etc. Eisenstein in Guanajato looks great but who knows when I'll get to see that.

Diary of a Teenage Girl, directed by Marielle Heller

I thought "A Most Violent Year" was outstanding.

Also, Black Mass was much better than its reviews indicated. "Everest" in 3D IMAX was a great experience. "Spotlight" was well done. "Bridge of Spies" also excellent.

I quite liked *Most Violent Year* but for me that was very late 2014...

I think I asked this question last year when Tyler did this: what are the rules for this sort of list in the streaming era? I'm of an age (and location) where I don't go to cinemas very often, and when I do it's to watch Inside Out or something like that (come to think of it, Jurassic World>>Mad Max: Fury Road). I rely on Netflix or Mubi for recent-ish movies.

My proposal: best films you've seen in the last year for the first time, via any medium. You could add a time criterion (say, made in the last 5 years), but on the other hand individual lists could be more interesting/informative without this. Most of the best films I've seen this year (for the first time) were made several years ago: Tony Manero, Old Joy, Limits of Control, Oslo August 31st. Embarrassingly enough I finally got round to watching Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained; they would make my list too.

^^^ Also bending the rules: The Trip to Italy, Only God Forgives, The Strange Colour of Your Body's Tears (bloody hell), Liverpool.

I liked The Trip to Italy. The Trip was better overall, but its sequel had better scenery.

Does that mean there is a blind-spot in your lists? This you are listing the 2015 movies in November. If a good movie comes out in December will it make the 2016 list?

Haven't seen too many this year, but Mad Max is my first choice so far.

I so wanted to like that, but was left a bit cold. Fabrizio del Wrongo has a good review:
http://uncouthreflections.com/2015/10/13/mad-max-fury-road

Yes! But I admit it ain't Academy Award material.

Best time at the movies however, this year.

It was everything a Mad Max movie should be.... I thought. But something was missing.

Miller and other artists developed 3,500 panels prior to beginning filming, in many ways making it a live action graphic novel.

Also, it's one of the few examples of successful contemporary action movies to finally start moving away from invincible/god-like heros (e.g., Marvel, Bond, new Die Hard, Matrix II & III, etc.) and back towards protagonists that genuinely appear to struggle to succeed (e.g., Indiana Jones, Lethal Weapon, Rockie, Die Hard I, Matrix I etc.).

`Hard to be a God' [couple of years old but only made it over here this year].

Good, but not great. Great set design, great atmosphere, but no story or character development to speak of, and that in a film that lasts three hours. Frankly, it got a bit boring after the first hour. I had high expectations, as I love the novels by Strugatsky brothers and I usually prefer films with strong visuals (Stalker being my absolute favorite). But here it was not working.... Although maybe it is still one of the better films of 2015, who knows.

"...no story or character development to speak of, and that in a film that lasts three hours."

I pretty much agree, but figure that it was part and parcel of the whole, horrifying experience.

Human Capital, an iIalian movie.
The Second Monther (Que Horas ela volta?), a Brazilian movie
Jafar Panahi´s Taxi, an Iranian movie

Phoenix was the masterpiece of this year

http://www.imdb.com/title

Agree, it's really good. Should probably be up for Best picture.

Also, if you liked that, I recommend 'Black Book' (2006)

Tosco's link should be to here

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2764784/

Thanks. I'll watch it.

While the movie was originally relasted in 2012 and I don't know when it became available to US audiences -- I suspect it's never been in theaters -- the most memorable movie I've been in 2015 (and I'm not a big movie person for anything other than distraction for the most part) was "A Little Pond" (Korean).

Just read your take on American Sniper, which I saw a few months ago. Outstanding review. A very sad movie. Very misunderstood.

Martian?! Visually stunning, but bad acting and terrible script made it overall lame and boring.

Concur. You feel the tickety-tack of a typewriter the whole way through.

Disagree?

Matt Damon made for a sympathetic lead. The pacing was quite good, and may have been the best part of the movie, the problem->thinking->explanation->implementation cycle of the movie/book was instrumental in making the pacing work. And, of course, it was visually beautiful.

The simplistic dialog is a feature not a bug. In that story, the human relationships need to exist, but they are not the point. They risk being a distraction. I therefore reserve judgement on the acting: it's hard to deliver lines well, when their only purpose is to be unremarkable.

Macfarland, USA.

Red Army was excellent. I also highly recommend Sherpa, a documentary filmed on Everest in 2014, and Best of Enemies, a documentary about the televised debates between Gore Vidal and William Buckley in the 1960's. Three very different documentaries, but all illuminating.

The best movies this year so far are Mad Max: Fury Road, Inside Out, Bridge of Spies, American Sniper, Circle, Predestination, Cinderella, and Dope.

the Western/Road Trip/Horror mashup "Bone Tomahawk" is the only movie I've seen more than once this year (I consider American Sniper a 2014 film)

Trainwreck wasn't too bad

The Imitation Game.

Sorry, that's a 2014 movie. It only got released in India this year, so I thought it was a 2015 movie.

Fury Road for sure. Best movie I've seen since Upstream Color (very different of course). Can we nominate TV? The final season of Hannibal had its problems but also a grace and deep craziness that puts most other crazy things I've seen to shame.

Weird. It's hard to imagine two movies more different. Except for the presence of color.

Completely agree its been a very bad year. 2011 and 2014 were also very bad, so I'm worried this is becoming a trend.

That said, this year's Oscar frontrunners are even more backloaded than normal so a lot of the the best films (The Revenant, Joy, Carol) have yet to be released widely or at all.

Are
Sicario and Phoenix.

'Inherent Vice' didn't get more than a very very limited release until 2015, so I'm counting it. Found it funny and sad and excellent. 'The Wolfpack' was also excellent. Seems a very weak first 11 months, indeed.

I took my son this last Monday to have his wisdom teeth removed and was trapped while this older fellow went on and on about American Sniper, he had the soft cover with him also had the hard cover on his "shelf" the DVDs of the movie and the audible version for his wife, she loved it. The tragic and sad story of Eddie Ray Routh and how desperately his mother sought help for him was nowhere in the narrative.
To the couple in the dentists office this was no anti-war story but just another example of American exceptionalism with a soap opera ending.

+1

When the left complained about American Sniper and was met with the rebuttal that it's no rah-rah film but instead gritty and complicated, what counter-critics perhaps overlooked was that the typical viewer DOES see it as patriotic. That's what AS critics are mostly pushing back against, the fact that mom and dad back in one's hometown liked the film.

Zero Dark Thirty, same dynamic.

Zero Dark Thirty is unalloyed torture/WarOnTerror apologia. Cheney has his Riefenstahl.

I'm not certain it was. But since the typical viewer probably drew that conclusion, it may as well be.

In Zero Dark Thirty, the CIA got zero useful intel from waterboarding. They did get useful intel using sleep deprivation and making the guy think he told them in his delirium. So I don't see where people think that it shows the usefulness of waterboarding, just the opposite.

Dain, you are describing a left that is almost purely reactionary. Some leftists aren't that dumb.

I haven't seen American Sniper but I was surprised to see some critics accusing Clint Eastwood of having made a pro-war, pro-violence movie. I think of Eastwood in his older, mature years as being averse to the celebration of violence (e.g. Unforgiven, Gran Torino, Invictus to a lesser extent). I would expect AS to follow in this tradition.

I had a similar reaction when I read from some right-wing sources that King Abdullah of Jordan had allegedly quoted from "Unforgiven" before declaring war on ISIS. I'm all in favor of any Arab country that wants to wipe out ISIS but that movie is not really an appropriate source to quote from when trying to muster support for a war.

"Deserve ain't got nothing to do with it." (King Abdullah)

The Walk in 3D and It Follows were most intense movies I've seen in years. They are not perfect movies and both had some awkward moments, but athmosphere was so tense they didn't bother me too much.

Mad Max! I am shocked not to see it here, or at the very least have an explanation why it doesn't belong here!

Creed was surprisingly good. I think Ryan Coogler (also did Fruitvale Station and is only 29) will go down as a special director.

Completely agree. Creed was the rare inspirational sports that actually inspired. The Coogler-Jordan combo could be gold for years to come.

Tyler probably hasn't seen Creed (yet). It just opened.

I did not see Creed, but Fruitvale Station was garbage.

Fruitvale wasn't garbage- even if you didn't like it, I think that's an overstatement. Perhaps gets a little overwrought in making the main character sympathetic, but it was smartly directed, well acted, and (I thought) ultimately deeply moving.

Creed is quite a good sentimental tear-jerker if you like Rocky movies.

I thought Michael B. Jordan was a little opaque as Apollo Creed's son, but Sylvester Stallone played Rocky Balboa almost if if he had practice at the role.

I think Creed was the best of the series since the original. They both were great in the prison scene. Hope Stallone gets a supporting actor nod.

The downside of "Creed" was that it was lacking the earlier "Rocky" movies sense of social satire. Stallone was a good-humored observer of Big Sports. Thus, Apollo Creed was an entertaining figure.

Adonis Creed is not. He's a sincere, emotionally earnest individual, and "Creed" is a fine manly tearjerker, but not very funny.

Agreed that Red Army was a great movie. Although not in cinemas, an excellent companion view for this is the ESPN 30 for 30 movie 'Of Miracles and Men', which documents the aftermath to the Soviet national program following the loss in Lake Placid.

I second this. Of Miracles and Men is simply outstanding. Anyone who liked Red Army ... heck, anyone who is interested in sport ... should watch it. It's available on Netflix streaming (or was, last I checked).

I still have a little bit of hope left for this year due to Tarantino's new movie and the Revenant (directed by Iñárritu).

I really enjoyed 'The Overnight'.
More realistic portrayal of how a swinger seduction would actually happen in real life. Also hilarious.

"Dope." Discussed (essay, not a review) here: http://www.bloombergview.com/articles/2015-10-21/-dope-movie-gives-the-black-geek-character-a-starring-role

I agree that it was a pretty bad year so far.

Mistress America was okay. Not as good as Frances Ha in 2012 but it's still my #1 for 2015 so far.

Other okay movies this year were Mad Max and Inside Out. Even Age of Ultron was surprisingly okay.

I got the feeling I missed 1-2 movies this year but who cares.

A Brilliant Young Mind was inspired by the documentary Beautiful Young Minds about the UK 2006 IMO team.
The main character in A Brilliant Young Mind is based on UK IMO team member Daniel Lightwing.

The impression one gets from this Beautiful Young Minds documentary is that a large fraction of the most mathematically gifted teens are very, very weird. For example, one student competing to win a place on the UK IMO team is a guy from a Chinese family who says that he thinks most Chinese people should be ground up and turned into fertilizer. Lightwing and Jos Gibbons (another student competing for a place on the team) are both way out there on the Aspergers-autism spectrum. I'm sure a lot of people who saw Beautiful Young Minds said to themselves, "If that's what mathematical geniuses are like, I'd just as soon not have a kid who's a mathematical genius."

This is another documentary called Hard Problems about the 2006 USA IMO team. In striking contrast to the Brit documentary, the American students come across as very personable and well-adjusted (in addition, of course, to being stratospherically intelligent). Nobody with any sense could feel sorry for their parents.

Spotlight was just about perfect. Heartbreaking and inspiring, but also sober and crisp. Very few Oscar-bait-y movies inspire so much moral outrage and handwringing at once.

Bone Tomahawk

Pretty good dialogue, but hobbled by an embarassingly racist portrayal of Native Americans. So bad they had to have a Native American character appear breifly to say "these guys aren't really Indians, they just look like us".
Also, unnecessarily gory at the climax.

"The Lunchbox."

http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/the_lunchbox/

It's a great one, but it's a 2013 movie: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2350496/combined

Where is the Mad Max? I'm shocked.

I recommend "Spotlight" and "Citizenfour" (but the latter was a 2014 release).

Love & Mercy, the Beach Boys biopic, was lovely. Straight Outta Compton wasn't as good, but was entertaining.

I'm a big Mad Max fan from the early 1980s, but in my review in Taki's Magazine I had to explain why audiences (rightfully) weren't as enraptured by Fury Road as were critics:

http://takimag.com/article/fury_road_at_the_box_office_steve_sailer/print#axzz3sjvSVDS3

Looking at movies as an hour or two of entertainment, with pacing relevant to the art-form, rather than as a magazine-like collection of set pieces by various contributors, I would guess someone should mention The Peanuts Movie, Paul Blart Mall Cop Two, and Ex Machina. I have not watched enough comedies to know which 2015 movie recalls best The Three Stooges (Wedding Ringer?) or W.C. Fields (PB Mall Cop 2?); reminding the cineplex customer of the Stooges and Fields is a central standard of excellence for movies set in the United States.

Have you had a chance to see The Assassin yet? I seem to recall you being a fan of Hou.

Still desperately awaiting a chance to see Carol.

I fell asleep 3 times during that movie. Incredible slow - and bad.

I don't get why people have watched movies since 2000.

You don't think there are enough novels and youtube lectures /debates out there?

This year, I almost went and saw The Martian but in the end couldn't summon the will to do so. Come to think of it, I probably should have seen Spectre too, but haven't. Thus, it looks like my total for 2015 will be ... zero.

"The End Of The Tour," which tries to replay the conversation Rolling Stones writer David Lipsky has with David Foster Wallace during the last leg of Wallace's tour promoting the book "Infinite Jest."

Try these:

Spotlight
Results (Netflix)
Mistress America
My Golden Days
Appropriate Behavior (VOD)
Experimenter (VOD)
The Blue Room (Netflix)
Doomsdays (Netflix)
Christmas, Again (coming to VOD early December)
Bitter Lake
Sicario
Queen of Earth (VOD)
Entertainment (VOD)
Stinking Heaven (if you can find it!)

A few I'd recommend that you didn't mention: Spotlight, Mistress America, While We're Young, It follows, Mad Max, Spring, Dope, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, The Duke of Burgandy, 7 Days in Hell.

Want to see Macbeth, Hateful Eight, Creed, Star Wars, Meadowland, Bone Tomahawk, Experimenter, Sicario, Nie yin niang, Irrational Man, The Standford Prison Experiment, A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence (might be 2014), Slow West, 45 Years, End of the Tour, Joy, Tangerine and Carol.

50 Shades of Grey was my favorite so far this year.

I loved The Martian - very best IMO of mainstream Hollywood filmmaking.

I see it's really a 2014 movie, though released here 2015, but did you see Two Days, One Night with Marion Cotillard?

He did see Two Days, One Night and he panned it on economic grounds: http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2015/01/two-misunderstood-movies-not-too-many-spoilers-here.html

I would add:

Victoria (!!!), Spotlight, Henry Gamble's Birthday Party, A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting Existence, The End of the Tour, Slow West (maybe), Wild Tales (came to the U.S. in 2015), What We Do in The Shadows, Inherent Vice (straddles 2014/2015).

And I haven't seen Taxi yet but I suspect that it would make my list.

I would really like to know what movies you watched and didn't make this list because it seems you missed a lot.

And putting this list on in November seems misguided since most of the "prestige dramas" from Hollywood get released between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Not that they're great by definition, but wouldn't it be better to wait until the year is actually over?

I agree this is the worst year for movies that I can remember. Just terrible.

"Inside Out" was the standout out for me. One more I can strongly suggest is "Advantageous," which was at Sundance and is now on Netflix.

Re: Meru review. Confused. Do you like this movie or not? Cass Sunstein award is not a ringing endorsement.

Mad Max, from a pretty weak field.

Tyler, I think you are not following the discussion, but I wanted to say that you are not fair with your post on the best films in 2015... if you understand the game theory for the film business, you see that a lot of good films are released at the end of the year (in order to have good positions for the films' yearly awards: from Golden globes to Academy Awards)... so we are approaching the peak of the season for 'elite' films :)
So here in France we are waiting to see on screens: Iñárritu's 'The Revenant', 'Spotlight', 'Creed', 'Bridge of Spies', 'Joy', 'Room' or 'Brooklyn'... still planning to see the Son of Saul or Beast of the nation

So here are so far my best films of the year: Sicario, Phoenix, Southpaw, The Martian, Macbeth (I think the last one is strong and it's hardly underrated), Pawn Sacrifice (for the actors' play at least)
... but also in the good list I can mention: True Story, Aferim!, Dark Places, No Escape, The Program, Hidden, Crimson Peak, Everest, The Walk or The Visit..
and still counting, the year is not over :)

I think it's just a strange time for movies overall as most of the "Cinema as Art" crowd seems to be moving into TV (esp. HBO/Netflix/etc) since it gives them even more freedom to tell their stories without censoring themselves to meet some set rating.
OTOH, I really like watching a number of movies that came out this year as they were just fun to watch... but not especially deep or long lasting (even Fury Road or The Martian).
I guess I'm less troubled by the latest trend as it's not like novels or TV disappear, and movies are still fun even without the artistic angle.

Mad Max: Fury Road
Tangerine
Finders Keepers
The Forbidden Room

Sorry, line breaks didn't take. Make that Mad Max: Fury Road, Tangerine, Finders Keepers, and The Forbidden Room.

Definitely Spotlight.

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