Ethan Anderton's Top 10 Movies Of 2015

You know the drill. 2015 had plenty of great movies hit the big screen, and it was pretty difficult to whittle this list down to what you'll see below. Surely your favorite movies are not the same as mine. My list is by no means meant to be definitive, especially since there are some movies I've heard great things about but just haven't seen yet (my apologies to Carol and The Revenant). This is a collection of my personal Top 10 Movies of 2015, the ones that made me laugh really hard, made me cry or just hit all the right buttons. So let's get to it.

Honorable Mentions

These movies almost made the cut.

howtodanceinohio-dance

How to Dance in Ohio

A documentary that I've thought about several times since it premiere at Sundance, this is such an eye-opening and charming look at the lives of teenagers on the autism spectrum as they prepare for their first formal dance. There are some sad moments as these teens struggle with their condition, but the film is mostly upbeat and hopeful for them as they begin their journey into adulthood, a time that can be scary for anyone.

anomalisa poster

Anomalisa

Run through the ups and downs of love and happiness in a way that only Charlie Kaufman can deliver. At first it seems weird that this kind of movie is stop-motion animated, but as you begin to realize the presentation of all but two of the characters is meant to be exactly the same, the core of the story becomes clear. There's as much romance and heartbreak as there was in the Kaufman-scripted Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind along with the quirkiness of his Being John Malkovich. Part of me feels like this is one of those movies that will be higher on my list in a few years, but I still loved it quite a bit in this moment.

me and earl and the dying girl

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

One of my favorite films from the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, this was The Fault in Our Stars for the cinephiles. Chock full of Criterion Collection references and indie romance, this is a tearjerker of a coming-of-age tale with some stellar performances from the young cast.

Room trailer

Room

Brie Larson always seemed like she was going places, and Room is finally where she gets to shine to her full potential. As the captive mother of a son, himself a product of her kidnapper's lust, she brings hope to a place where there otherwise shouldn't be. And the film is only bolstered by the astounding performance of young Jacob Tremblay as the young Jack. It's just an all-around fantastic drama.

Emily Blunt in Sicario

Sicario

Emily Blunt kicked plenty of ass in Edge of Tomorrow, but in Sicario, she's a little out of the loop and out of control. The law enforcement agency she believes in is seemingly no less corrupt and dangerous than the criminals she's chasing down. This is the world we've created, where certain drug cartels are empowered by the officials taking others down. Benicio del Toro steals the show with just some silent glances, but Blunt is still a force to be reckoned with, making this one knockout of a thriller.

Other Honorable Mentions: The Martian, Bridge of Spies, Diary of a Teenage Girl, Trainwreck, Ex Machina, Tangerine, Trumbo, Dope, Straight Outta Compton

Movies I Missed: Carol, The Revenant, Slow West, Kumiko the Treasure Hunter, The Look of Silence, The Duke of Burgundy

Sleeping With Other People trailer

10. Sleeping with Other People

Here's a movie that you probably won't find on many other Top 10 lists. It's a contemporary, raunchy version of When Harry Met Sally. That's one of my favorite romantic comedies of all time, and the fact that this movie even comes close to its greatness is an achievement in itself. Jason Sudeikis and Alison Brie have perfect chemistry as friends trying hard not to be lovers, and while that sounds like every other romantic comedy out there, the smart, funny script from Leslye Headland is what makes this a worthy endeavor. As a hopeless romantic, this one just hit a lot of sweet spots in my heart and in my funny bone. Plus, any movie with Natasha Lyonne is going to be worth a watch.

Creed Clips

9. Creed

A hybrid of a remake, a sequel, and a spin-off, Creed seemed like a desperate way to keep the Rocky franchise alive, at least on paper. Therefore, it was more than a pleasant surprise that Fruitvale Station director Ryan Coogler was able to deliver a sports drama that hits all the familiar beats, but does so with some rich new characters and one old, reliable one. Creed reminds you that Sylvester Stallone can act, which isn't an easy feat nowadays, and proves why Michael B. Jordan is a true rising star, all without relying on the greatness of Rocky as a crutch.

Brooklyn

8. Brooklyn

I'm a sucker for these kind of love stories. Perhaps what's so satisfying about Brooklyn is how simple it is. In many ways it's a quaint story that you already know, but that doesn't keep it from feeling fresh and just plain wonderful. Plus, the movie is the best use yet of Saoirse Ronan, who delivers a performance as the Irish immigrant Ellis that makes her one of the most likable, irresistibly charming characters of the year. But credit also needs to be given to Emory Cohen who will make you fall for him just as hard as Ellis does.

What We Do in the Shadows

7. What We Do in the Shadows

Comedies like this are hard to come by nowadays. Despite the R-rating for some blood, language and sexual content, this is a fairly innocent flick thanks to the awkward vampire roommate trio played by Taika Waititi, Jemaine Clement and Jonny Brugh. This vampire world feels more rich and developed than any of the myriad vampire stories that have come to the big screen since Twilight, and it's also downright hilarious. It's like Shaun of the Dead meets The Office, with a script that is just as tight, funny and inspired as the former.

Steve Jobs

6. Steve Jobs

The biopic formula can get a little tired without the right subject. And Steve Jobs could have easily turned into that kind of story. But we already saw that with the lackluster Jobs starring Ashton Kutcher. Instead, this biopic takes a new approach by painting a brutally honest, albeit exaggerated and inflated, portrait of the technological innovator with just three different events spread out over a few decades. Michael Fassbender looks nothing like Steve Jobs, but you forget that quickly with his masterful delivery of Aaron Sorkin's signature snappy dialogue. I hesitate to call the movie a revelation, but it's extremely refreshing and an intimate character study, regardless of real-life accuracy.

Inside Out easter eggs

5. Inside Out

Pixar has made me cry plenty of times before, but there was something truly special about this one. We all had a childhood, and we all remember how easy it is to feel overwhelmed and helpless, even if those feelings came from the very nature of being childish. Inside Out presents a simple but no less significant presentation of how our feelings affect our everyday lives. Lively, beautiful and moving in more ways than one, this is a film that we can all connect to on some level, brought to life effortlessly by the perfect voice cast. It's hard not to love a movie that makes you cry over an imaginary friend.

big short

4. The Big Short

Who would have thought that Adam McKay, the director of Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy and Step Brothers, would deliver one of the smartest true stories of any year? But in 2015, McKay took aim at the banks that screwed over the American people by telling the story of the people who tried to profit off the economy crashing. It's not exactly a tale of heroes fighting for the American people, but an illustration of the broken financial and government system that we somehow trust everyday. Presented in a satirical way to make the "boring" stuff easier to swallow, there's no excuse for not being angry after watching this look at a scar on America that may never heal.

Star Wars The Force Awakens finn lightsaber

3. Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Yes, I'm a huge Star Wars fan. And yes, I recognize that this movie isn't perfect. It borrows a lot of elements from the original trilogy and remixes them with some new players. But it's those new players, especially Daisy Ridley as Rey, that make the derivative and familiar story exciting again. It wasn't my favorite movie of the year, but it was probably the most fun I've had at a movie theaters in a long time. I laughed, I cried, and I got excited like a little kid. The Force Awakens isn't Best Picture-worthy or anything like that, but it's the perfect place for Star Wars to begin again.

Mad Max Fury Road - Max and Furiosa

2. Mad Max: Fury Road

In an industry obsessed with universe building and planning for future stories, Mad Max: Fury Road works phenomenally as a sequel/reboot that would work just as well without the three films that precede it. Gorgeously shot with the right blend of practical production and visual effects, George Miller has made the kind of blockbuster that studios don't take chances on anymore. And let's not forget that Charlize Theron's Furiosa is one of the most badass female characters the screen has seen in a long time. The film doesn't need any subplots to keep the pace going, as the non-stop chase is all the fuel this fire needs to burn. Witness.

Spotlight trailer

1. Spotlight

It says something about the state of the world that two of my top five films of 2015 are about almost unfathomable injustices, but here we are. In the case of Spotlight, director Tom McCarthy doesn't turn the whistleblowers of the Catholic sex scandal into a story of clear-cut heroes. Instead, he shines a light on all the places where what should have been done right was done severely wrong, mostly on purpose. There's a reason that it took decades for this kind of scandal to come to the surface when all it really took was for some people to listen and do the right thing. Spotlight left me with a bad taste in my mouth and a pit in my stomach, but this is a story that needed to be told and should never be forgotten.

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That's all for my Top 10 of 2015. Sound off with your own lists and thoughts below!