It’s often the case that a year after writing a top 10, I’m sometimes filled with regret. “How did I forget to include that movie?” is a question that’s bound to arise every once in a while. Twelve months after writing one of these lists, you know which movies have genuinely stuck with you. Thankfully, most of of my choices from past “best” lists have over the years.
This year, I’m confident all of these films will not fade with time. 2015 was filled with movies I’ve already had the urge to revisit, and I was delighted to find they haven’t lost their power on repeat viewings. After the jump, help me count down my top 10 movies of 2015.
We’ve seen variations of this story before. Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden‘s film borrows heavily from The Gambler and California Split, but the writers and directors behind Half Nelson and Sugar made a gambling picture with its own desperate, sad identity. Mississippi Grind is one of those movies that initially plays it cards close to the chest, but slowly begins to reveal itself as its characters do. The two leads, played by Ryan Reynolds and Ben Mendelsohn, at first glance, are very different. Soon you realize their differences only lie in their contrasting appearances. Neither of them are where they want to be in life, having lied to themselves time and time again.
Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck
Both loud and meditative, Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck offers a mesmerizing chronicle of the life and art of Nirvana’s late frontman. Intimate and painful, Brett Morgan’s documentary features audio recordings, stories, home videos and even gorgeous animations to dig underneath the singer-songwriter’s skin, showcasing his ambition, creativity, and inner turmoil in a devastating warts-and-all portrait.
The most emotionally engaging film Ridley Scott has made in years. Scott’s body of work is mostly defined by mood and themes, not so much emotion. That’s perfectly fine, of course, since his movies generally operate on a more visceral and intellectual level. The Martian has plenty of smarts, of course, but Scott’s adaptation of Andy Weir‘s novel has a warmth we don’t always see from the filmmaker. The humor certainly helps in that regard, with Drew Goddard‘s clever script and Matt Damon‘s winning performance. Scott, Godard, and Damon make you root for Mark Watney’s survival, and partially because he’s so damn charming. What could have easily been two hours of misery is instead one of the year’s finest feel-good movies.
What We Do in the Shadows
If you tallied up all the jokes in What We Do in the Shadows and then counted how many of them are flat-out great, Taika Wititi and Jemaine Clement would end up with an insanely high batting average. It’s rare for a comedy with this many jokes to have so few gags fall flat. This buddy vampire comedy is never short on laughs, and the same goes for its heart and its attention to detail (the world-building is excellent). What We Do in the Shadows is a great hangout movie — the kind of film you want to invite friends over to watch. You’ll never tire of watching this charming ensemble of bloodthirsty, insecure pals.
Director John Magary makes you feel like a bipolar fly trapped in this apartment inhabited by two broken brothers. Josh Lucas, playing one of the siblings, is electrifying, with a natural raw energy about him. Lucas has always been a respected actor — he has one of the best death scenes ever in Ang Lee’s The Hulk — but The Mend reminds us how overlooked he can be. His performance here is my favorite of the year, exuding an unpredictability that heightens the piece’s manic atmosphere.