Yes, we’re already three weeks into 2016 but I finally managed to put together my movie rankings for 2015. Because life. I only managed to see 51 films this year, a paltry sum compared to Watson when he isn’t even trying. And eight of those were on a plane to or from China, making the theater total even lower. Definitely a busy year, but overall a great one for movies. Head after the jump to see how I ranked all 51!
I’m not going to keep you in suspense–I’m ranking them in order of awesomess!
1. Star Wars Episode VII
Of course this was my favorite movie of the year. Have you met me or read anything I’ve ever written? All this movie had to do was show up and not suck and it was going to be my favorite–the fact that it was awesome was the icing on the cake. I loved the tone, the adventure, and that it felt like the true start of a series of movies with unresolved questions and hooks for the next film. But most of all, I loved having another Star Wars movie. We’ve been waiting since Return of the Jedi for another Star Wars film–the prequels failed to deliver on every front–and we finally got one. STAR WARS!!
2. The Martian
One of my top five favorite books of all time was turned into a movie in record time. Knowing it was coming out made me excited and nervous–I wanted to see it on the big screen but didn’t want Ridley Scott to screw it up. Not only did he avoid screwing it up but the movie actually improves on the book in a few areas. The book still has more detail and additional adventures, making this the perfect book-movie complement I’ve ever read-seen. But the changes made for movie were excellent and fun.
3. Mad Max: Fury Road
Fury Road is an amazing, amazing film that would have been my #1 in almost any other year. The story, action sequences, and overall pacing are not just good–they are perfect. Now that the movie is on HBO I’ve watched it about five more times and it’s one of those films I just can’t turn off. It’s not just intense, it is the most over the top action film that doesn’t topple into parody. A giant truck filled with drums and a guitar player to inspire the troops riding into the wasteland? Yes please!
4. Furious 7
I’ve been a fan of the Fast and the Furious franchise before they were even good (yeah, I’ll admit it). But the last three films have been fantastic. This one took on an extra layer with the death of Paul Walker but the movie handled it incredibly well and delivered on the emotion (that final scene still gives me goosebumps). Paired with one of the all-time great soundtrack songs that was ludicrously snubbed by the Oscars, this movie was a blast and has me looking forward to the next installment.
The Bond reboot has been nothing short of spectacular, even with the mistakes made in Quantum of Solace. Mixed reviews led many people to compare Spectre to QoS but I thought that was unfair–this was a fantastic extension of the themes presented in Skyfall. Especially when coupled with the theory about the bad guy in Skyfall I covered in my review. The Bond franchise license is up for auction this year and I hope they manage to bring the team back for another entry.
6. Wild Tales
This movie was released in the US in 2015 so it gets to be on my list despite its Best Foreign Language film nomination last year. My wife and I stumbled into a New York City theater in February to escape the bitter cold since we had a few hours between scheduled activities and didn’t want to risk leaving the area and trying to make it back in time. We picked this movie based on the reviews and it completely delivered. A collection of macabre, sometimes silly stories, every one of them managed to surprise you, disgust you, make you laugh, and make you grimace, sometimes simultaneously. I love the feeling of being surprised by a new story and this movie delivered that multiple times.
7. Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation
The MI series has always been a fun collection of stunts and action sequences, but the past two movies have added stories that are both intriguing and make sense. Impressive. This latest entry ups the game by tying together all the previous movies–usually every movie stands on its own, this one references all the prior outings in an intriguing way. Plus not only do they perform stunts that might kill Tom Cruise, they even acknowledge they do so and make it a running joke. That’s full of win right there.
8. Straight Outta Compton
I grew up in California when NWA started releasing albums and I remember all the medi coverage of how dangerous this new musical style could be. It’s great to see that time revisited through the eyes of several decades later, seeing the root of the artistic expression and how the music was intended to address social issues that still exist today. How this movie got snubbed by the Oscars I’ll never know, but the movie probably has an explanation between the credits.
It’s incredibly difficult to make a new romantic comedy because it’s hard to find novel ways to keep the guy and girl apart. This movie not only flips traditional gender roles but also inserts a healthy dose of Schumer’s baudy comedy to make a great film. I’m looking forward to Schumer’s next film only to see if she can break out as an actress and not just playing herself.
Ant-Man could be considered the first slight stumble in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It was their first film to take on a character that few people outside comics knew that didn’t break out (Guardians of the Galaxy were new characters but that movie was much more engaging). I liked the comedic tones and the heist elements but even I can admit this didn’t rise to the level of other MCU films. But I’m still a comic book geek and I’ll see Paul Rudd in anything that doesn’t have Anchorman in the title.
Remarkable insight into a troubled and talented life. You’ll leave hating her family and wishing she could have persevered over her demons, but it’s still amazing there was so much video footage of her to make this movie.
12. The Night Before
It’s raunchy, it’s stupid-silly, but I laughed out loud a lot and had tears on my cheeks after the church scene.
13. The Walk
The twin towers always had a special place in my heart even before 9/11, so I’m a bit of a sucker for films about the towers or NYC in the time of the towers. I thought this would be silly, but it ended up being compelling and sweet and the last moments of the film are shockingly emotional. I went in expecting to think this was mediocre but ended up loving this movie.
14. Terminator: Genisys
Jimmy and I appear to be the only two people who liked this movie, which still surprised me. This was fun and filled with twists and turns and great action sequences. Yes, the plot is a bit silly and it makes previous movies a bit non-sensical–but that’s what happens when you have time travel as the central plot device of a story about trying to change time! Sheesh. The next film has been shelved but I hope it eventually gets made because the Terminator series should always be back.
15. Age of Ultron
Even though this placed 15th on the list, this was still a disappointment. I expected more from the Avengers’ second outing–instead it felt like an impressive villain instantly became whiny and weak. If the next films end up having Thanos turn into a whiny goth kid, I’m done with Avengers.
I love time travel movies and this one had so many twists and turns that it was impossible to not love it.
17. Project Almanac
Another time travel movie, this one a bit lighter than Predestination, but still a lot of fun.
I liked this dark, intense look at the drug war and the morality of players on both sides, but it didn’t connect with me like a drama should. Plus I’m not a Blunt homer like Watson.
I laughed more times than I thought. And I want an entire movie with just Jason Statham’s character.
This one suffers because I liked the comic book so much. The changes they made were not for the better–nor did they make sense. For example, the comic book starts out with Mark Hamill being kidnapped. The actual Mark Hamill. When they announced Hamill was cast in the film, I thought they would stick to the book but instead they just made him kidnapped but as a scientist. That makes no sense. They got Hamill–use him!
21. Inside Out
Yes, it was Pixar and it was great. I still prefer some other Pixar films.
Shockingly good and sure to usher in another wave of live action remakes of animated films we’ve already seen.
I saw this movie with my boys at an evening show in a theater with reclining seats. It speaks volumes that this movie kept me awake. Better than expected.
24. Sleeping With Other People
This romantic comedy is the most acidly sarcastic movie I’ve ever seen–that’s a good thing.
25. Time Lapse
An interesting indie time travel movie about a trio of 20-somethings in Los Angeles that discover their deceased neighbor invented a camera that takes pictures 24 hours in the future. That camera was trained on the trio’s living room window, so the resulting adventures to prevent the future may end up causing it, or vice versa. Not as good as the other time travel films this year but some great moments.
I took my son to see this after he read the book. For a kid movie about a war-veteran dog who helps a boy unravel a murder mystery involving his older brother, it was fine.
Great tone and a feel good flick. I hope they continue the franchise.
28. Pitch Perfect 2
Another disappointing sequel. Not only was the story a virtual carbon copy of the original, the few changes they made were for the worse. And it didn’t have as many great songs as the first movie. This one cashed in on the success of the first and did well enough to greenlight a third, but I hope they recapture some of the magic of the first film.
29. Pawn Sacrifice
I like chess movies. And by chess movies I mean this one and Searching for Bobby Fischer. Because that’s it for chess movies. This one isn’t as good as Searching but it has some interesting angles on the real world Bobby Fischer and why his mental illness wasn’t addressed when it could have helped.
30. Shaun the Sheep
I went in with low expectations and this met them. A bit bland, a bit entertaining, a lot strange. I’ve seen worse family movies and that makes me sad.
31. Jupiter Ascending
Speaking of low expectations, I watched this movie expecting the worst movie of the year. When it delivered some visually fascinating moments and a rich back story, I was surprised to find myself entertained. Were expectations too high for the Matrix creators?
This ranked near the middle not for any stellar performances but because the concept was so clever. A movie that plays out completely within a laptop screen crossing multiple applications–Skype calls, web browsing, Spotify playlists, text chats. The idea of a social media horror film is difficult to pull off but this one nailed it. Fun stuff.
33. Mr. Holmes
The idea of a real life Sherlock Holmes (whose exploits were highly exaggerated for the press) facing old age and memory loss is unique and compelling. The story was a bit slow but I enjoyed it.
34. Ex Machina
The arthouse crowd loved this science fiction movie but for a science fiction fan like myself I found it all a bit old and stale. The headgame played by Oscar Isaac is played on the main character and the audience alike, but ultimately it doesn’t matter as the mental exercise turns into a tepid action thriller by the end.
35. Monkey Kingdom
This Disney animals movie is completely ludicrous, but halfway through watching it with my boys I suddenly wondered how they made it at all. Were these animals scripted? Did they really capture enough raw footage to make some silly story? Trying to piece it together, then being rewarded with behind the scenes footage during the credits, made it at least passable.
Focus is the last of the movies I somewhat enjoyed on this list. I like con movies or heist films that keep it light and moving–this one did an okay job at it but didn’t excel in the genre.
37. Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2
Thank goodness the series is over. Mockingjay could have been a decent, possibly even really good single film. Splitting it into two films killed pacing and interest.
38. Man from UNCLE
While I appreciated the unique touches to the genre, this movie felt too forced. Like a photoshoot trying to be trendy but ends up just looking silly.
How did the best part of Despicable Me 2 become a horrible stand-alone movie? Don’t tell me. I don’t care enough to find out. At least they ended the movie by bridging it to the first Despicable Me–even the studio realized this stinker wasn’t good enough to launch its own franchise as a prequel.
40. Bridge of Spies
The most interesting part of this movie was the title card at the end which talks about what the Tom Hanks character did after the movie’s events. The rest was boring.
Yes, this was bad. And yes, it could have been better. And yes, it ended up being a typical Adam Sandler film. And yet it barely escaped my bottom 10 of the year. Bully for it.
Speaking of the bottom 10, let’s get to the 10 worst films of the year according to me, which is all that matters.
42. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
This movie gets downgraded for two big reasons. The first is how blatantly manipulative the film is–not just through the narration but through the lies the narrator tells you. The second is that a key character trait in the movie–one of the main character’s religion–is completely betrayed by a scene in the end that is not true to the religion. It’s a minor point in the movie but huge in how the creators treated the subject matter.
Wow. What a mess. This movie was shrouded in mystery but with a top pedigree everyone expected great things. Instead it ended up a hot mess. Tomorrowland was two completely different movies crammed together. The optimistic vision of how we work towards a better future movie makes no practical sense (let’s be so optimistic we work in secret!) and the bang bang action film makes even less (let’s fight because–well, I don’t have a reason but we have a SFX budget and robots!).
44. San Andreas
I covered my discomfort in watching the movie with my review, but I can’t stress enough how bizarre it felt to watch a disaster film that was so callous with people’s lives while trying to (kinda?) depict a realistic disaster.
Nothing about this movie makes any sense and that’s saying something for a kids movie. That’s compounded by a completely wooden performance by Rihanna (even when her character is talking about a Rihanna song she sounds bored) and Jim Parsons playing Jim Parsons. I wanted to leave the theater so many times during this movie.
46. The Last Five Years
I love musicals. I’m a big Anna Kendrick fan. Heck, I even like Jeremy Jordan. Know what I didn’t love? This movie. It’s the best proof that not every musical should be made into a movie because this doesn’t work on so many levels. Visually bland (that’s being incredibly kind) and with blocking that ranges from standing in one spot and singing to standing in one spot and talking. This is an amateur production with really good casting but a total fail of a movie musical or a musical movie or of being good.
47. Peanuts Movie
Also covered in detail in my review, but can we please be done with Peanuts now? It was dated decades ago and that hasn’t improved. The movie is true to the comic strip in that it carries plot lines for about fifteen seconds and makes awkward jumps from moment to moment. But the entire property needs to go away.
48. Taken 3
This movie came out in early January and was already a contender for the worst movie of the year. The filmmakers didn’t even care to make it feel real, as one of the final shots of the movie basically shows you a film shoot on a highway where a few cars have crashed on an otherwise empty highway. In Los Angeles. In daylight. Yeah. But January was a bit early to make the call as it turns out not one, not two, but THREE movies ended up being worse!
49. The Gift
The marketing for this movie was incredibly effective. It talked about how shocking the movie was, how you’d never believe what happened. I watched this movie on a plane and it wasn’t shocking, it was predictable, and it wasn’t even that good. The most this movie does is end up making you think a total jerk of a character is a jerk and a bully too! Wow! This movie fails at everything it tries to be: interesting, shocking, and good. Total waste.
50. Fantastic Four
Let me make this clear–I heard horrible things about Jupiter Ascending and came out thinking it wasn’t as bad as people said. We all heard the horrible reviews of this movie so I went in with low expectations and this managed to be even worse. Yes, they made changes in an effort to make it a complete reboot. But none of the changes made sense or were interesting. Characters stumble from moment to moment, there isn’t much of a story, and except for the fact that they didn’t go into space there isn’t anything worth noting in this wreck of a film.
Which brings us to the worst movie of 2015. Brace yourself.
51. Jurassic World
“But it had dinosaurs!” Stop it. What makes this movie so bad is partially because everyone’s standards were so low the masses flocked to this horrible hack job of a dinosaur movie. The plot holes were bigger than the dinosaurs and was this a reboot where the first movie happened? Because if so these are the stupidest people on the planet in terms of their efforts to safeguard people–both in planning and then when a crisis breaks out. They have the movie go through the trouble of creating an implantable GPS tracker with a way to disable the creature it’s inside–then they DON’T USE IT when the worst of all dinosaurs is missing. By the time they use it the creature has removed it. Because if you’re making a dinosaur expected to live in a cage its entire life you should really try and make it smart. Oh, and then you DON’T put those same GPS tracker/disablers inside dinosaurs that can fly. Because those aren’t going anywhere. Idiots.
What makes this so bad is not just that it’s stupid, but it was successful at being stupid. Meaning the next one will be just as stupid. And when you go to see it and say “Wait, this is just dumb!” it will be ALL YOUR FAULT! Stop seeing stupid films. Or at least wait until they’re streaming.