2015 was a good year for film. There were box office hits, independent masterpieces, complete flops, and everything in between. Here are my top 10 movies from the past year, in alphabetical order:
1. "The Big Short" Director: Adam McKay
Christian Bale, Brad Pitt, Steve Carell, and Ryan Gosling star in this movie adapted from Michael Lews' bestselling book, "The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine."
The best part of the movie is that even though it is a very serious movie about a serious topic, it is genuinely funny at the same time. As a result, it becomes clear that while the events that led to the financial crisis are ludicrous and ridiculous, they, at times, can be a laughing matter. McKay does a great job directing, and the cast has great chemistry together.
2. "Bridge of Spies" Director: Steven Spielberg
In this historical drama from DreamWorks, Tom Hanks stars as an American attorney negotiating the release of a U-2 spy plane pilot who was shot down over Russia during the Cold War. The Coen brothers co-wrote the movie with Michael Chapman, and the end result is a visual tour-de-force.
2. "Brooklyn" Director: John Crowley
"Brooklyn" is, without question, one of my favorite movies of the year. Saiorse Ronan shines as a young Irish immigrant in the 1950s, and director John Crowley keeps everything under control in this tear-jerker.
3. "Creed" Director: Ryan Coogler
The original "Rocky" series is one of my favorites of all time, so it's no surprise that I loved "Creed." Michael B. Jordan is as dynamic as ever in his roll as Adonis Johnson, the son of former heavyweight champion Apollo Creed. The movie is cinematically impressive, and Coogler does a fantastic job making the movie enjoyable for both" Rocky" diehards and total newbies to the franchise.
4. "Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck" Director: Brett Morgen
Brett Morgen does an incredible job showing us who Kurt Cobain really was in this documentary. With exclusive access to Cobain's personal recordings, art, photography, journals, and home movies, we get an intimate picture of one of music's biggest enigmas.
5. "The Martian" Director: Ridley Scott
Matt Damon kills it in his role as Mark Watney, an astronaut stranded on Mars after a failed manned mission. Chronicling the efforts of both Watney, his crew, and NASA to rescue "the Martian," the film brings out the best in both Damon and director Ridley Scott.
6. "Sicario" Director: Denis Villeneuve
Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin, and Benicio Del Toro all display their top form in this Tex-Mex thriller. Blunt plays an FBI agent recruited to help an elite government official (Brolin) in the War on Drugs, while Del Toro plays a consultant with a shady past. The three all turn in wonderful performances, and the sparse dialogue helps the cinematography guide the movie.
7. "Son of Saul" Director: László Nemes
When an inmate at a concentration camp, ordered to burn the bodies of the dead, finds the body of his young son, he is forced to make a critical decision: participate in a secret uprising, or secure a proper burial for his son. Géza Röhrig is fantastic as Saul, and Nemes' claustrophobic, shallow-focused cinematography does an incredible job relaying the horrors of the Holocaust.
This Hungarian-made movie is, in my mind, the heavy favorite to win Best Foreign Language Film at this year's Academy Awards.
8. "Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens" Director" J.J. Abrams
The Force Awakens has its flaws. It's essentially the same exact movie a A New Hope (the first installment of the original trilogy); the plot is almost identical, the characters are either the same or manifestations of old characters, and shot-for-shot there are crazy similarities between the two. However, The Force Awakens was also genuinely fun to watch. The movie is shot excellently, and Daisy Ridley provides a great breakout performance as Daisy Ridley.
"Straight Outta Compton" Director: F. Gary Gray
This movie was awesome to watch. O'Shea Jackson, Jr. (Ice Cube's son), Corey Hawkins, and Jason Mitchell shine as Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, and Eazy-E, respectively, and F. Gary Gray's confident and engaging direction make "Straight Outta Compton" one of the best biopics of late.
N.B. -- I haven't seen "The Hateful Eight" yet, which breaks my heart. I have a feeling it would've made the list had I seen it.