Each year it seems there’s an even more prolific slew of award-nominee fodder. 2014 featured such heavyweights as “Selma,” “Birdman,” “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” “Boyhood,” “Snowpiercer,” “Guardians of the Galaxy,” and well…the list goes on. 2015 continued the trend of notable cinematic releases. We’ve rounded up the top 10 flicks from 2015:
10. “Jurassic World”
“Jurassic Park” first stormed into theatres in 1993, and kicked off a successful franchise. Over eight years, the series rolled out three films, culminating in 2001’s “Jurassic Park III” which received decidedly mixed reviews. 14 years later, “Jurassic World” stomped back into the box office with a witty, action-filled return to our favorite prehistoric park. Self-referential, and featuring a string of new characters (aside from the far-underutilized BD Wong), the “Jurassic Park” franchise renewed its vigor with fresh acting, recalling the glory days of the ’93 original, but ultimately catering to a new generation of moviegoers.
With the steady stream of superhero films pumped out by Marvel, it’s inevitable that at least one Marvel Studios production made the cut. Known for innovation, “Ant-Man” wholly delivered, opting to focus on a lesser-known hero in Scott Lang aka Ant-Man (Paul Rudd). Central Marvel character Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) pops up for the first time, and there’s even an appearance by Avenger Falcon (Anthony Mackie), segueing into the forthcoming “Captain America: Civil War.” A humorous romp a la 2014’s brilliant “Guardians of the Galaxy,” it’s a highly-enjoyable, and unusual film, bridging the gap between casual and dedicated comic book fans. “Ant-Man” is one of 2015’s best films simply for that Thomas the Tank Engine fight scene.
8. “Bridge of Spies”
The historical drama genre has flourished over the past few years, with movies like “Argo,” “Selma,” “The Butler,” and “The Imitation Game.” Furthering this theme, “Bridge of Spies” presented a fascinating Cold War narrative. It’s always difficult to make a successful thriller, particularly when the outcome of the story is known. However, Steven Spielberg teamed up with veteran actor Tom Hanks, and writers Matt Charman, Joel Coen, and Ethan Coen to craft a tense, intriguing dramatic thriller. Everything about “Bridge of Spies” is fantastic, from the acting to set design, and even the soundtrack, composed by Thomas Newman. While the historical drama department can occasionally go overboard on the melodrama, there aren’t any moments that jump the shark like the end of “Argo.”
The story of Cinderella is by no means an obscure fairy tale. Nevertheless, masterful director and actor Kenneth Branagh eschewed falling prey to tropes with his reimagining of the classic narrative. 2015’s “Cinderella” probes Ella’s (Lily James) backstory, explaining why she’s so damn nice to her wicked stepmother and stepsisters. The cast reads like a best-of list, with Cate Blanchett, Helena Bonham Carter, Stellan Skarsgard, Sophie McShera, and Hayley Atwell among others: all worthy and capable of headlining any blockbuster film. Branagh’s vision infuses the story with a Shakespearean regality that offers a different perspective on an oft-told fairy tale.
6. “McFarland, USA”
Veteran actor Kevin Costner has found his niche, and no, thankfully it’s not making sequels to “Waterworld.” Rather, it’s the sports genre. No stranger to the genre, Costner excelled in past films “Field of Dreams,” “Bull Durham,” and “Tin Cup.” For two straight years, Costner and Disney have teamed up to make heartwarming sports flicks, 2014’s “Draft Day,” and 2015’s “McFarland, USA.” A root for the underdog film, “McFarland, USA” is a modern day “Breaking Away.” Based on a true story, it highlights an inspiring event. While framed around a cross country team, it’s really more about the local community, and might be the best running flick since “Chariots of Fire.”
5. “Kingsman: The Secret Service”
The spy film is one of cinema’s more dynamic genres, ranging from “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” to the 007 series. “Kingsman: The Secret Service” cleverly lampoons the latter, in a film chock full of intentional tropes which it embodies. “Kingsman” does for the spy genre what “Scream” and “Cabin in the Woods” did for the horror genre. A strong cast list boasts Colin Firth, Mark Strong, Michael Caine, Samuel L. Jackson, Mark Hamill, and Taron Egerton in a sleeper hit that appeared as a routine action flick on the surface, but blossomed into a delightfully hilarious satire of over-the-top spy thrillers.
4. “Mad Max: Fury Road”
”: George Miller first introduced the post apocalyptic “Mad Max” franchise in 1979. Fast forward to 2015, and George Miller’s cult classic creation is back with “Mad Max: Fury Road.” The fourth series installment, “Fury Road” is every bit as dystopian and bizarre as its ’79 predecessor. This round, Tom Hardy takes the reins from Mel Gibson, assuming the titular role of Max. Charlize Theron plays the badass Furiosa, who daringly defies the maniacal ruler Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne). Highly-stylized, “Mad Max: Fury Road” is one part outlandish post-apocalyptic thriller, one part high-speed car chase, with a dash of horror, and the combination makes for a very lovely day indeed.
3. “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”
After the unspeakable abomination that was the “Star Wars” prequel trilogy, anything would have been a masterpiece in comparison. Luckily, director JJ Abrams’ “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” is on its own a strong return to franchise roots. Very closely mimicking the plot from “Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope,” “The Force Awakens” might not really take too many risks, but it doesn’t need to. Rather, it incorporates everything that made the original trilogy such a masterpiece: likeable characters, a simple plot, good vs. evil. Did we mention no Jar Jar Binks?
2015 was a fantastic year for horror lovers, from “Insidious 3,” to “Crimson Peak,” and “Poltergeist.” However, by far the most haunting movie of the year was “Spotlight,” a historical drama depicting the Boston Globe’s expose on the Catholic Church sexual abuse scandal. Acting is top-notch, with one of Mark Ruffalo’s best performances, and a star-studded cast of Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, John Slattery, Stanley Tucci, and Brian d’Arcy James. Oddly enough, four of the actors (Ruffalo, Schreiber, Slattery, and Tucci), portrayed characters from the Marvel/X-Men universe, and McAdams is slated to appear in the forthcoming “Doctor Strange” movie. Make of that what you will. Driven primarily by dialogue, it’s a riveting exploration of the Globe’s Spotlight team and their research. A truly gut-wrenching movie, “Spotlight” is this generation’s “All the President’s Men,” and will leave you speechless while the final credits roll.
1. “It Follows”
Ah, the horror genre, a polarizing subset of the film spectrum. Though there’ve been some terrific horror flicks, there have been more than a few downright atrocious genre entries (we’re looking at you “Unfriended”). Enter “It Follows.” The quirky, suspenseful, dryly humorous tour de force from writer/director David Robert Mitchell featured a largely unknown group of actors who nonetheless delivered convincing, captivating performances. “It Follows” is an homage to the classic 1970’s-80’s horror films, and definitely channels a strong John Carpenter vibe from the retro sets to synth-filled soundtrack. Ultimately, “It Follows” is not only one of 2015’s best films, but arguably the greatest horror flick in decades.