15 Movies To Be Thankful For This Year

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.

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Jupiter Ascending

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.

It Follows

It Follows

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.

Furious 7 Paul Walker

Furious 7

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.

Ex Machina

Ex Machina

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 - road battle

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?

Inside Out Bing Bong

Inside Out

Pixar's seemed a little stuck in neutral lately, and therefore we're grateful to Inside Out for reminding us of what the studio can do at its very best. No one plays the audience's emotions quite like Pixar, so maybe it was inevitable they'd put out a film that was literally about emotions. The premise is creative even by the studio's lofty standards, the cast and characters are as colorful as any we've seen, and the results are smart enough to please adults and kids alike. More like this, please.

Ant-Man Paul Rudd Shower

Ant-Man

Edgar Wright's abrupt departure from Ant-Man was as shocking a twist as any we've seen in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and immediately fans began to freak out. Peyton Reed was the one who came to the rescue. His Ant-Man was better than we had any right to expect given its behind-the-scenes woes, and it also brought its own unique flavor to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Is it still a shame we'll never see Edgar Wright's Ant-Man? Of course. But we're thankful for Peyton Reed's Ant-Man all the same.

Straight Outta Compton

Straight Outta Compton

Straight Outta Compton is exactly the kind of movie that so-called "conventional wisdom" says won't sell — a mid-budget drama with a cast of near-unknown minority actors. As a result, it's also exactly the kind of movie that rarely gets made at all. But it did, thankfully, and conventional wisdom turned out to be very, very wrong on that one. We'll add extra thanks for the exciting unknowns the film turned into stars, including Jason Mitchell and Corey Hawkins.

Rebecca Ferguson in Mission Impossible Rogue Nation

Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation

There's plenty to like about Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation. For starters, we're thankful Chris McQuarrie somehow kept Tom Cruise from killing himself despite his best efforts. But we may be most grateful to it for introducing Rebecca Ferguson. She'd been in a few things before, but Rogue Nation was the movie that made the world sit up, lean in, and ask, "Who's that?" It made great use of her effortless magnetism, catapulting her to the top of casting wish lists and fan crush lists.

The Visit

The Visit

M. Night Shyamalan still has a long road back to his Sixth SenseUnbreakable-era glory days, but The Visit was very much a step in the right direction. The low-budget indie sent him back to basics, and he came back with a taut, surprisingly funny narrative anchored by two charming kid performances. Despite all the grief we've given Shyamalan for his films over the years, we've always hoped he'd make a comeback. We're thankful The Visit has set the course.

The Martian

The Martian

For Ridley Scott fans, The Martian came as a relief. It wasn't just great for latter-day Scott, it was great, period. What really made The Martian special, though, was its overarching sense of optimism. Scott found hope, ingenuity, connection, and even humor in the direst of circumstances, and what's more, suggested that we could and should, too. The Martian was pro-human, pro-science propaganda, and that's a message we're grateful to see spread around the world.

Brooklyn

Brooklyn

Brooklyn's story is remarkable in how unremarkable it is. Eilis' saga is just like those of countless others who came to America in search of a better life — yours, perhaps, or your parents' or your grandparents' or your great-grandparents'. Given that Thanksgiving is one of the most American of holidays, second only to the Fourth of July, it seems only appropriate to give thanks for this wonderfully empathetic movie that gets up close and personal with the people who've made it what it is.

Spotlight

Spotlight

A drama about the Catholic Church child abuse scandal doesn't seem like it should be inspiring or fun. Thomas McCarthy's Spotlight is both — and without diminishing the horror of what happened in the slightest. The secret, it seems, was finding the humanity in this harrowing story. Spotlight shows how ordinary people let these events happen, but also how ordinary people could stop and speak out against them. For McCarthy's insistence on digging deep into the best and worst of human nature, we're thankful.

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The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2

Any way you slice it, The Hunger Games is one of the biggest film franchises of the past decade. After three fantastic installments, we could only hope the series would get the conclusion it deserved, and thankfully, with the sharp, thrilling Mockingjay – Part 2 it did. The film also gave us the final performance by Philip Seymour Hoffman. Plutarch Heavensbee might not be one of his most iconic roles of all time, but Hoffman's knack for bringing warmth and dignity to his characters was on full display.

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Creed

The first Rocky remains a stone-cold classic. The other Rockys, not so much. But Creed, as our own Jacob Hall noted, restores the series to its former glory. Creed recreates the magic that made the original so vital, and builds upon it to moving effect, but also channels it through a uniquely 2015 point of view. It gives us a star-making turn from Michael B. Jordan, and draws out one of Sylvester Stallone's best performances ever. We never knew we were rooting so hard for a Rocky comeback until Creed made it happen. Thanks for that.