Come Thursday, many of us, like many of you, will find ourselves around a dinner table with our distant relatives, reflecting on what we’re grateful for in our lives. But before we get to that, we thought we’d take a moment to think about the films we’re thankful for this year.
This isn’t a list of our favorite films of the year, or the best films of the year (though some of them are that, too). These are the films that surprised us, that gave us something we didn’t even know we needed, that seemingly willed themselves into being against all odds, or that just made us really, really happy. After the jump, join us in looking back at the movies to be thankful for in 2015, and then hit the comments to let us know which films you’re grateful for.
It’s not that Jupiter Ascending is a perfect movie. Far from it: the narrative is confusing, the dialogue is awkward, the performances are all over the place, and so is the world surrounding them. (Royalty-detecting bees, anyone?) But, goddamnit, it’s a weird, original, big-budget space opera, at a time when it feels like remakes and reboots are all anyone wants to make. The multiplex could do with a little less focus-tested familiarity, and a little more WTF-ery. We’re thankful Jupiter Ascending was around this year to deliver it.
Like any genre, horror can fall victim to trends and ruts. But then every once in a while, there comes a film like It Follows. The indie-horror-film-that-could featured the rare premise that actually felt new, and its effects lingered long after the credits rolled. (Don’t act like you didn’t catch yourself nervously peeking over your shoulder on your way home.) It Follows breathed new life into the monster movie, and for that we’re grateful.
When Paul Walker passed away in 2013, he was in the middle of shooting Furious 7. For a while, it was unclear how (or even if) the project would proceed without one of its leads. Ultimately, director James Wan and his cast and crew managed to assemble a final performance by Walker via some combination of already-shot footage, body doubles, creative editing, and VFX magic, and we’re thankful they did. Furious 7 struck just the right tone, serving as both a joyous sendoff and a heartbreaking tribute to a much loved actor.
Alex Garland has been behind some of our favorite sci-fi movies of the past several years, but Ex Machina marked his transition from writing them to directing them. And he got off to a fantastic start. Anchored by three stellar performances from three on-the-cusp stars (Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac, and Alicia Vikander), Ex Machina was a small film that raised huge, haunting questions. We’re thankful for the movie itself, but also thankful for what it suggests about Garland’s future as a director.
Mad Max: Fury Road
Mad Max: Fury Road was stuck in development hell for many years before it finally moved into a rocky pre-production phase and a somehow even rockier shoot. It feels like a minor miracle that it got made at all, let alone that it turned out to be one of the best films of the year. It reinvigorated the action genre, gave Charlize Theron the badass hero role she deserved, and established 70-year-old George Miller as one of the most visionary directors working today. What’s not to be grateful for?