The Best Movies I Saw in 2015

Yes, these lists usually come out right before the end of the year. To the surprise of few who know me, I’m just late with this one.

But I should also mention another difference between my list and many others you may see of the same type. Due to my stage in life (which I’d summarize as “three young kids”) I don’t exactly see everything that gets released. And my personal preferences may also my steer me away or toward particular films. So my list may not have a great movie that was released only a short time ago, simply because I haven’t seen it yet or I’m not that excited about seeing it for whatever reason. On the other hand, it might include something that came out many years ago.

So without further fanfare, and in no particular order, here goes:

1. Meru

I’ll start with a documentary that I took in at last year’s True/False Film Fest but is now widely available. Meru tells the story of three climbers as they attempt to summit one of the most difficult mountain peaks in the world. Their efforts force you to ask the question: what makes something worth the risk? The highly compelling narrative spurred both my frustration and dismay on the one hand and genuine admiration on the other. Beautifully shot.

2. Babette’s Feast

Babette’s Feast is widely regarded as a classic, and for good reason. Visually bleak at the outset, this film quietly develops into a feast in more ways than one. At bottom, it’s a parable of God’s grace as it comes to us through his good creation. I wish I would have seen this film years ago, but better late than never.

3. Mad Max: Fury Road

From the sublime to what I thought would be ridiculous. Post-apocalyptic road war movies are not my thing. In the case of Fury Road, however, I’m willing to make an exception. The movie is a very competent action thriller on its face. But film’s audiovisual pyrotechnics are accompanied by a handful of fine acting performances and a surprising amount of thematic depth…if you’re looking for it.

4. Inside Out

I doubt most of us usually equate animated films with emotional complexity. But that’s exactly what’s involved with Pixar’s excellent Inside Out. I wrote more about the movie here.

5. Cartel Land

The second documentary on my list, Cartel Land explores vigilante responses on both sides of the border to the Mexican drug trade. It isn’t perfect—it felt to me as if it was telling two separate stories. But the part of the film that takes place in Mexico is gripping, and the ending consists of one of the more startling reveals you’re likely to see. If you can appreciate a vivid reminder that our world is broken, you’ll find Cartel Land well worth your time.

6. Mr. Holmes

Mr. Holmes might be the best film I saw this past year. It features a characteristically excellent performance from Ian McKellan as an aging version of the arch-detective Sherlock Holmes. It alternately celebrates and explores the limitations of everything that we love about one of the most famous characters in Western literature and film. I’ll leave it there since this will be next feature for our Talking Pictures series at The Crossing on January 29.

7. Selma

Selma boasts a stellar and layered performance by David Oyelowo as Martin Luther King Jr. But more importantly, it’s a visceral reminder of what it meant to be at the forefront of the civil rights movement in the 1960’s. It’s not easy to watch…in the way that leaves you better off for having done so.

8. Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Surely you didn’t think I’d leave this one off my list? Yes, you can argue that it borrowed a bit too heavily from the original trilogy (and the first film in particular). But that might be a fair price to pay in order to recover the fun and sentiment that made those movies resonate so well (and that the prequels never quite achieved). And that closing scene? Don’t tell me you weren’t looking forward to seeing where the story goes from here.

One Comment

  1. Marie Alvarez said:

    Great list. I need to see your top two but enjoyed see the rest. Inside Out has a small clip out with Riley going on her first date.

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