The Top 10 Movies of 2015

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Welcome to another year-end list from us at The Filtered Lens. Here, I’ll be highlighting the ten films I loved the most this year. This was a pretty solid year for films, but it was actually fairly difficult to find ten that was I was passionate enough about to make up a top ten. There were some surefires of course, all of which are listed below. Here are the ten best films of 2015.


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10. Beasts of No Nation

Netflix entered the world of cinema with a brutal war film this year. They proved to be a force to be reckoned with as immediately as they did with television. The fact that Beasts of No Nation doesn’t need to name the African country in which it takes place is sobering. Following a young boy as he’s forced to join a militia led by Idris Elba’s Commandant, the film manages to get across a powerful message about war and the hardened souls that fight them across the globe. I’m not ashamed to admit that I spent the entire middle act of this one drying my eyes.


Photo Credit: Tangerine

Bound to become a cult classic, this iPhone-shot LGBT comedy was one of the biggest surprises of the year. Following two transgender sex workers in Hollywood, this film is absolutely hysterical. That’s partially because of the committed, pitch-perfect performances of Kitana Kiki Rodriguez and Mya Taylor. Taking place entirely on Christmas Eve, the story follows these two on a crazed, revenge-fueled night that never fails to entertain. But this is also a film that showcases the necessary bond for two women in a society that doesn’t entirely accept them. Their friendship is one LGBT cinema is seriously lacking.


Photo Credit: The Walk

Is there a more underrated film from all of 2015? Robert Zemeckis’ 3D spectacle may have been poorly marketed, but the final product delivered a touching, tense, and inspiring true story of the man who walked between the twin towers. Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s accent may fade in and out of realism, but he’s an energetic and charismatic lead you won’t want to take your eyes off of. He carries the first two acts, but then comes Zemeckis’ brilliant direction to take us through the high-flying third act that, even if you know the result, will leave you completely breathless.


Photo Credit: Star Wars: The Force Awakens

By some miracle, the stars aligned to make this unexpected continuation of cinema’s king of all franchises a rousing success. The Force Awakens immediately nails the tone of the original trilogy that hasn’t been replicated, in this series or any other, since 1983. This film is unbelievably fun, combining humor, whimsy, action, and high drama to make the most effective Star Wars film in a very long time. The marriage of old and new reignites the saga, with great returns from favorites like Han Solo and Chewbacca, as well as excellent turns from already famous new faces Rey and Kylo Ren. It’s a great time to be a Star Wars fan again. J.J. Abrams can rest easy, this film was anything but disappointing.


Photo Credit: The Revenant

In a year surprisingly full of strong westerns, The Revenant trumped them all with its epic scope, gorgeous photography, and a Leonardo DiCaprio at the top of his game. Striking an impressive absurdist tone among the film’s very real features, Alejandro G. Inarritu’s hard-boiled epic is unique in its raw ridiculousness. On the surface, it’s the type of film your dad absorbs every minute of on cable while flicking back to the game during commercials. But this layered piece of artistry has a lot of rewards for the patient viewer. It’s not perfect, but it is most certainly grand.


Photo Credit: Mad Max: Fury Road

The best and loudest big screen event of the year is undoubtedly the fourth film in George Miller’s long-gone Mad Max series. But this franchise resurrection is this decade’s Terminator 2. Charlize Theron’s Furiosa is a female action hero that rivals Sarah Connor and Ellen Ripley. Gender aside, she’s one of the best of the decade. This Mad Max is hardly about Max at all, but a woman desperately fighting for her kind in a dystopian society that forces slavery upon them. On top of that, the production values are brilliantly detailed and immersive. This sequel is not only a serious Oscar contender for cinematography, editing, production design, both sound categories, visual effects, costumes, makeup, and score, but also picture, director, and actress. Beyond that, it’s just an absolute blast.


Photo Credit: Ex Machina

An early favorite that premiered all the way back in April, Ex Machina is a stirring science fiction film that boasts several incredible performances, gorgeous filmmaking, and the best slow burn of the year. Playing like a ’70s sci-fi cautionary tale with a fascinating change in mood from those days, the film is as retro as it is evolving. Oscar Isaac continues to prove that he’s one of the best working actors with an engaging, physical performance. Alicia Vikander, meanwhile, perfectly straddles the line of humanity as the AI. But the film’s clever build to its crescendo of an ending is what makes this one of the most interesting and methodological sci-fi films of the decade.


Photo Credit: Anomalisa

This film is a serious victory for adult animated cinema. Charlie Kaufman’s bizarre stop-motion puppet fest gets everything right. The story of a solitary man who fails to connect with, or even differentiate between the people around him is one of the cleverest representations of human loneliness in cinema history. But then he hears Lisa’s voice and instantly feels a connection unlike any in his life in a long time. This film may not feature any actual live-action humans, but it taps into the human psyche as well as a certain other animated film discussed later on this list.


Photo Credit: Steve Jobs

This biopic of the man who put a thousand songs in our pocket at times barely feels like it should be unfolding before us on celluloid. Aaron Sorkin’s script feels more suited for the stage than the screen, considering its weaving of characters through its three major sequences. But then you’d miss its immersive, moody cinematography, its enchanting score, and the subtleties in several brilliant performances. Michael Fassbender captures the spirit of his subject in this fantasy biopic. The events may not be exactly as they happened in real life, but the emotions and spirit remind us of a genius gone too soon. No matter how big of an asshole he was.


Photo Credit: Inside Out

Pixar had been in a bit of a creative lull since Toy Story 3 decimated everyone’s tear ducts back in 2010. They finally came back in 2015 and in the only way they know how: making the best film of the year. Inside Out is a masterpiece, toppling just about every other film Pixar made before it (with the exception of maybe Wall-E). By going inside the mind of an 11-year old girl, the film dissects how we mature through very simple, relatable events. It also does this with a great deal of humor, many of the jokes being among the most creative in any animated film in history (the abstract thought scene comes to mind). But what sends Inside Out over the edge is its complicated and truthful take on human emotion. Happiness isn’t the key to everything. Without sadness, happiness would be rendered irrelevant. It’s a complicated message for a so-called kids movie, but I’m sure there’s more than a few adults out there that needed a reminder.


Honorable Mentions: As with most years, there were more than ten great films in 2015. Number eleven would pretty easily be Creed, as it justified a Rocky revival better than we could have ever imagined. Twelve was Slow West, another great western from this year that also doubled as a black comedy and teenage coming of age story. A lot of this year’s big awards contenders didn’t quite make cut for the list. Spotlight was probably the closest, but Son of Saul and Bridge of Spies were also films I really enjoyed. As for the smaller indies, Heaven Knows What was flawed but absolutely unforgettable. Queen of Earth was a stirring psychological thriller that showed us an unhinged Elisabeth Moss. A Brilliant Young Mind was perhaps the best of the year’s many explorations of mental illness. Then there was the hilarious What We Do in the Shadows, which was the best goofy satire we’ve gotten in a long time. Meanwhile, on the blockbuster side of things, while Jurassic World wasn’t as successful in revitalizing its franchise as Creed, Fury Road, or The Force Awakens were, it was definitely the best sequel to Jurassic Park yet. Ant-Man caught us all by surprise and ended up being the best superhero movie of the year. Finally, The Hunger Games: Mockinjay Part 2 ended the series with a bang and some seriously interesting twists.


Any other films you loved that didn’t end up on the list? Let us know in the comments!


By Matt Dougherty

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