Putting the Spotlight on My Favorite Movies of 2015

29 Dec

jurassic-worldWhat a great year for the movies 2015 was. Yes, I say that every year, because when you’re looking back on your favorite releases, it’s hard not to think positively.

But the fact is, going to the movies brought me a lot of pleasure this year, and not always due to conventionally good films.

To that end, two of the most enjoyable movies I saw, Jurassic World and, especially, San Andreas, delivered exactly what I wanted them to despite (or maybe because of) dubious quality.

Other films were pleasant surprises, like The Peanuts Movie, Ant-Man, and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. — and I mention that last film not just because it featured Alicia Vikander’s most adorable, most endearing, and most winning performance of the year.

I saw a lot of excellent documentaries this year, including Sunshine Superman, The Wolfpack, He Named Me Malala, and The Hunting Ground, and I watched as one of my all-time favorite docs, Man on Wire, became a drama: The Walk.

All this is to say, it was fun to be a frequent moviegoer this year. And frequent I was: I saw a total of 85 movies — more than I’ve ever seen in a single year.

Seeing so many movies made it even more of a challenge to narrow them down to my 10 favorites; you’ll notice the ones mentioned above didn’t even make my list. Which ones did make the list? Let’s get to it.

My Top 10 Favorite Films of 2015

1. While We’re Young. The first of Noah Baumbach’s two films this year touches a real chord in me because of the way it portrays 40somethings who aren’t ready to be 40somethings. And yes, on the surface, While We’re Young may appear to be a comedy about generational differences, and about trying to relate to your peers when your lives are taking different paths, but it was about much more. At its heart, Noah Baumbach’s film is about authenticity, and about how easy it is to be something you’re not, or to be fooled by others who aren’t what they say they are. Given how much time I spend on social media, that’s something I could really relate to.

steve-jobs2. Steve Jobs. Aaron Sorkin and Danny Boyle’s adaptation of Walter Isaacson’s massive biography isn’t literal (events and conversations didn’t happen exactly as portrayed), but the film sure is thrilling entertainment. Brilliantly filmed, written, and acted, Steve Jobs shows us the man (and, to be sure, the myth) through the prism of three product launches, and features tense confrontations — such as the one between Jobs and John Sculley midway through — that manage to encapsulate Jobs’ life story while keeping you on the edge of your seat.

3. The Martian. Ridley Scott’s latest space odyssey sure does “science the shit” out of the multiplex, celebrating the power of ingenuity (take that, MacGyver!) in impossible circumstances, and showing everyone how to make a slick, mainstream movie that’s smart but doesn’t talk down to the audience.

4. Amy. This heartbreaking documentary about Amy Winehouse, one of my all-time favorite singers, illustrates in devastating fashion how the destructive powers of fame, love, and drugs can completely overwhelm a person. The film makes brilliant use of home movies and interviews, and gives context to some of Amy’s most well known songs. The end result is you hear her music as if for the first time and appreciate her gifts even more than you probably already did.

5. Inside Out. When are people going to learn that just because a movie is animated, it’s not intended for kids? Pixar’s summer release was definitely aimed more at adults. Whether you’re a parent, grandparent, aunt or uncle, or you just know a young kid, Inside Out makes you smile from start to finish — except for those parts when you’re glad the 3D glasses hide your tears. (Bing Bong, we hardly knew ye!) This is an emotional film about emotions. It’s just wonderful … A true gem.

spotlight6. Spotlight. Tom McCarthy’s film provides an excellent tribute not just to the reporters and editors at the Boston Globe who, in 2001 and 2002, broke the Catholic Church sex abuse scandal, but to all hard-working journalists everywhere. Dispatching with the typical clichés, Spotlight puts the, uh, spotlight on the job of reporting itself, and via subtle performances by a top-notch cast honors the job these real-life heroes do each and every day to unearth wrongdoing and make us all more informed.

7. Creed. In a year with multiple series relaunches, Ryan Coogler’s film goes the extra round, revisiting many of the same familiar tropes from the original Rocky movie, but to satisfying effect. Unlike, say, The Force Awakens, Creed doesn’t just set the table for a new series; it stands on its own because it does so much more than worship at the altar of nostalgia, it begins a brand new story — albeit one informed by the films that have come before. As the aged Italian Stallion, Sylvester Stallone gives his best performance in decades, showing he can knock you out just with words and emotions, and as the next-generation fighter, Michael B. Jordan (reteaming with his Fruitvale Station writer/director) is someone we want to root for — and will hopefully get the chance to root for in multiple more films.

8. Mad Max: Fury Road. What a movie. What a lovely movie! High octane almost from start to finish, Fury Road did more than relaunch the Mad Max series. It schooled all those CGI-laden summer blockbusters on how to infuse a movie with testosterone, visual and aural excitement, and intelligence. (Yes, even the Doof Warrior, aka the blind flame-throwing guitarist, was a stroke of genius.) In short, George Miller’s film raised the stakes and standards for what an action movie could and should be — summer or not.

end-of-the-tour9. The End of the Tour. Jason Segel gives a moving performance as David Foster Wallace, and Jesse Eisenberg matches him as David Lipsky, the Rolling Stone reporter assigned to cover his Infinite Jest book tour, in this intimate tribute to the author, which also provides an insightful look at ego, competition, and the effects of depression on writers.

10. Carol. Todd Haynes’ utterly transporting film about a forbidden romance between two women in the early 1950s says all it has to in silences and subtleties, making you feel every last longing. Cate Blanchett and, especially, Rooney Mara are excellent, portraying the mutual insecurity of realizing someone sees you as your best self, even though you may not always see yourself that way. It’s beautiful to watch.

My 10 Least Favorite Films

The less said about each one of these, the better. They are listed alphabetically.



the-internThe D Train

Fantastic Four

The Intern

Love the Coopers

The Overnight



True Story

So, there you go. It was a great year for the movies. If you haven’t seen any of my favorites, definitely add them to your must-see list.

What were YOUR favorite — and least favorite— movies of 2015? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

By the way, here’s the full list of every movie I saw this year:

  1. Blackhat
  2. The Wedding Ringer
  3. Fifty Shades of Grey
  4. The Last Five Years
  5. The Hunting Ground
  6. Kingsman: The Secret Service
  7. Danny Collins
  8. Furious 7
  9. While We’re Young
  10. True Story
  11. Ex Machina
  12. The Age of Adeline
  13. The D Train
  14. The Avengers
  15. Adult Beginners
  16. Pitch Perfect 2
  17. Mad Max: Fury Road
  18. Tomorrowland
  19. San Andreas
  20. Entourage
  21. Aloha
  22. Sunshine Superman
  23. Inside Out
  24. Love & Mercy
  25. Spy
  26. Jurassic World
  27. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
  28. Dope
  29. The Overnight
  30. Live from New York!
  31. The Wolfpack
  32. Ted 2
  33. Magic Mike XXL
  34. Terminator: Genisys
  35. Infinitely Polar Bear
  36. Self/Less
  37. Amy
  38. Batkid Begins
  39. Trainwreck
  40. Ant-Man
  41. Mission: Impossible: Rogue Nation
  42. Fantastic Four
  43. The End of the Tour
  44. The Man from U.N.C.L.E
  45. Straight Outta Compton
  46. We Are Your Friends
  47. Mistress America
  48. Ricki & the Flash
  49. Pixels
  50. Grandma
  51. Everest
  52. Black Mass
  53. Sleeping with Other People
  54. The Intern
  55. Freeheld
  56. The Walk
  57. The Martian
  58. Bridge of Spies
  59. He Named Me Malala
  60. Steve Jobs
  61. Sicario
  62. Room
  63. Our Brand Is Crisis
  64. The 33
  65. Truth
  66. The Peanuts Movie
  67. Spotlight
  68. Spectre
  69. All Things Must Pass
  70. Love the Coopers
  71. Trumbo
  72. Brooklyn
  73. Creed
  74. The Night Before
  75. Legend
  76. The Big Short
  77. In the Heart of the Sea
  78. The Danish Girl
  79. Sisters
  80. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
  81. Carol
  82. The Hateful Eight
  83. Concussion
  84. Joy
  85. The Revenant

8 Responses to “Putting the Spotlight on My Favorite Movies of 2015”


  1. Keeping Things in Perspective Made 2015 a Great Year | Martin's Musings - December 31, 2015

    […] choose to remember that I saw 85 movies — the most I’ve ever seen in a single year — and that I published reviews on my blog more […]

  2. Finishing Off a Big Movie Year | Martin's Musings - January 8, 2016

    […] three times, or maybe even four, a bunch of other movies hit theaters. Sure, I did already publish my top movies of 2015 blog post, but now that all of these last few have hit theaters nationwide, and since none of them made my […]

  3. I’m 42, and I Have No Idea What That Really Means | Martin's Musings - June 7, 2016

    […] Chicago, Cleveland, Las Vegas, Florida, and of course, New York. There were dates. There were good movies. There was lots of good music. We celebrated family milestones like my dad’s 70th birthday and my […]

  4. Everybody Wanted Some Good Movies in 2016!! | Martin's Musings - December 27, 2016

    […] we may look back on 2016 as the year the movies died.” Ouch. (And this was less than a year after Spotlight, a fantastic movie about a group of dogged Boston Globe reporters, won all kinds of awards, […]

  5. Feast on These 12 Movies During the Thanksgiving Holiday Weekend | Martin's Musings - November 20, 2017

    […] Goldblum is, predictably, a hoot, and Tessa Thomson (Creed) makes a great addition to the team, but Cate Blanchett disappoints. Don’t believe the hype; […]

  6. The Most Bizarre Summer Festival Ever, and 7 Other Movies You Should See (or Not) | Martin's Musings - June 30, 2019

    […] from such an inspired foundation, writer Richard Curtis (Love Actually) and director Danny Boyle (Steve Jobs) spin a tale that, while enjoyable and crowd-pleasing, is nevertheless derivative, pandering, and […]

  7. In Theaters or Streaming, These Netflix Movies Are Well Worth Seeing | Martin's Musings - November 25, 2019

    […] whose While We’re Young was my favorite movie of 2015, has crafted a movie that shows real understanding about the challenges of forging a life with […]

  8. Wrapping Up a Decade at the Movies with 20 Favorite Films | Martin's Musings - December 10, 2019

    […] there are two Noah Baumbach films on this list. I had to do it. That’s because this one, my favorite movie of 2015, speaks to me on multiple levels. One is the way it portrays 40somethings who aren’t ready to be […]

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