The ultimate thing I’ve taken away from 2015 is to appreciate and commend the films that too risks within genres that are seen as safe (i.e. action movies, sequels, children’s films, etc.). It’s nice to know that even if studios are taking fewer risks that there are still filmmakers out there who are.
1. Room (dir. Lenny Abrahamson)
Room, more than any other film this year, left me walking to my car in tears, eager to tell anyone I could that they needed to see it. Which, by the way, is not always something you feel like saying with movies that you leave in tears. It is a small movie: small in budget, small in cast, small in setting, small in release. But it deserves the attention of the world.
2. Welcome to Me (dir. Shira Piven)
Welcome to Me is the kind of movie that you think you know what you’re getting into and then you watch it and your jaw is just doing everything it can to keep from hitting the floor. It’s a strange and brave film with an outstanding performance from Kristin Wiig.
3. The Big Short (dir. Adam McKay)
A movie about the financial crisis is a wild conceit when it would appear that most executives would rather tell you that the audience is made up of idiots (look no further than the schlock sequels pumped into theaters). Director Adam McKay knows this and injects humor and clarifications wherever possible—determined to make the film’s content worth overcoming all odds.
4. Amy (dir. Asif Kapadia)
Like Room, Amy, a documentary about Amy Winehouse, subverts a topic commonly fetishized by media and implicitly puts the lens on us. Without being overly didactic, director Asif Kapadia asks us to analyze our own role in floundering celebrities. It reminds the audience that they needn’t just watch, that actively not participating could save lives.
5. Victoria (dir. Sebastian Schipper)
Victoria takes a standard exercise, cutting down cuts (in their case the whole movie is done in only one shot), and yet, manages to breathe new life into what was thought to be understood. A heist movie in one shot creates new fears, new urgencies, new intimacies. Such that you forget the gimmick. A true triumph.
6. American Ultra (dir. Nima Nourizadeh)
American Ultra’s success was bungled by its trailer. Critics and viewers went in expecting a stoner comedy when that’s only a part of the movie. The other half is a comedically violent, action-packed romance. Thwarted by expectations, people were unable to see it for what it really was—a hilarious, earnest love story for people who appreciate things like Shaun of the Dead.
7. Shaun the Sheep (dirs. Mark Burton, Richard Starzak)
Truly one of the more unexpected films I saw this year. Shaun the Sheep is made by the folks behind Chicken Run and Wallace and Gromit,. It’s a children’s film about a sheep who takes a day off and travels to the big city. Practically dialogueless, Shaun the Sheep relies on the emotional intelligence of children to understand the film’s goings on.
8. Spotlight (dir. Tom McCarthy)
Certain movies, movies like Spotlight, feel like well-oiled machines, like you’re in the hands of a professional. It harkens back to an older kind of film like All the Presidents Men but finds its place in the modern world—despite the fact that it’s about a newspaper. Its slightly unsatisfying ending reflects the reality of its content, unfortunately there’s no happy conclusion there.
9. Mistress America (dir. Noah Baumbach)
I could watch Greta Gerwig do just about anything. She feels like an old world comedienne transplanted into today without anyone taking much notice. She oozes a spastic charm that comes together to make you simultaneously fall in love with her and think she’s a mess—the basic premise of her step-sister’s (for lack of a better term) relationship to her in Mistress America.
10. Mad Max: Fury Road (dir. George Miller)
Mad Max: Fury Road is the kind of movie I’m relieved I came into with no expectations. Despite the high praise it seemed to be receiving, my standards tend to be fairly low for action movies. Thus, I was pleasantly surprised by the female-oriented plot, the awe-inspiring visuals, and its careful use of sound.
Author: Madeline Meyer
Madeline recently graduated from Oberlin College where she studied Cinema Studies. She writes screenplays and ill-received dad jokes. She likes board games and olives.