Ranking anything that you love is not supposed to be easy, ranking something as subjective as movies makes the task infinitely more complicated. Do I base my choices on what made me laugh the hardest, smile the longest, think the most, or flat out cry? Do I judge based on what makes me look hip and trendy or by which brilliant under the radar movies I think people need to know about? When it comes down to it, I based this list on which movies stayed with me the longest, floating around in my busy mind when I should be focused on grown-up thoughts like sweater-vests, paying taxes, and kale. The list is fluid; ask me my top 10 tomorrow, next week, and especially next month and I guarantee that the choices won’t remain the same. That’s film; that’s art, and there is beauty in enjoying something so much that you appreciate it in newfound ways as you continue evolving.
Right off the bat, there is a bit of cheating going on here. The way that I see it, if you’re going to bend the rules, bend them when the stakes are low. Therefore: rule bending takes place at number 10. Technically, A Most Dangerous Year came out on December 31, 2014, factor in that I’m not entirely sure Star Wars cracks my top 10 — so let them share. The Force Awakens makes it up here mostly for its insane visuals. I am a sucker for 3D, and riding down to the surface of Jakku inside a ship with a squad of Stormtroopers (all in glorious 3D) is thrilling. Unfortunately, the story lacks a sense of wonder, much of it feels like recycled bits from the original trilogy. I liken it to a young man dressing up in his father’s expensive suit; it’s a great suit, but a reflection of his father’s tastes, not his own. On the other end of the spectrum is A Most Violent Year; a film that is far removed from the spectacle of CGI and 3D. A Most Violent Year is a slow burner of a film which emphasizes gorgeous cinematography, fantastic performances, and an intense plot. The film’s tale about a man struggling to hold his world together by the seams as life tears everything around him apart resonates with me in a way that almost no other 2015 film does. Mix together the best aspects of The Force Awakens and A Most Violent Year (aside from Oscar Isaac) and you have a definite all-timer — on their own they just crack the top ten (which is still great praise).
Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter is the haunting tale of a young-ish woman who mistakenly believes the buried loot at the end of the film Fargo is real. Kumiko, the film’s wistful protagonist, sets out on a quest to claim a literal treasure, but her journey carries a deeper subtext — by leaving Japan, she’s also distancing herself from marginalization, sexism, and youthful ennui. The film’s stunning cinematography beautifully captures Kumiko’s melancholic world. Rinko Kikuchi turns in a heart-achingly wonderful performance as Kumiko, which is the cherry on top of a film that will remain on viewer’s minds long after the final credits roll.
- Eight: Men & Chicken
The Danish language film, Men & Chicken, is another entry in my top 10 that defies categorization. IMDb lists it as a black comedy, which is true in a very broad sense. It’s clear that the film’s director, Anders Thomas Jensen isn’t afraid to dance to the beat of his own drum. Jensen peppers his film with sci-fi, adds a dash of fantasy, and a slight touch of horror, creating an earnest meditation on the human spirit that is as poignant as anything found in this year’s batch of dramas.
Aside from holding the crown for 2015’s dopest film title, watching SPL 2: A Time for Consequences also happens to be the most fun that I’ve had in a movie theater this year. Think of the film as a combination of The Raid and Max Payne (the game, not that wack movie with Marky Mark). The film’s IMDb page lists it as an action-crime-drama, which does the picture a grave injustice. Referring to this movie as action-crime-drama, is like referring to Jaws as the film with that one hungry fish. I prefer my own label for the movie: Choreographed Insanity. Jing Wu and Tony Jaa crackle with kinetic energy. The duo has lightning flowing through their fists and thunder exploding out of their feet. If you’re a fan of the combination of action and nonsense, then I implore you to watch this film.
- Six: Beasts of No Nation
First-time actor Abraham Attah holds his own against the veteran Idris Elba in Cary Fukunaga’s mesmerizing war film, Beasts of No Nation. Attah is a revelation as Agu, a child soldier on the front lines of a civil war. Children are not supposed to be able to carry the weight of such hefty roles. Attah seamlessly melts into the story, effortlessly transitioning from scenes conveying childlike wonder to exhibiting the cold dead eyes of a killer. The film’s cinematography also deserves top billing. Best known for his work on True Detective’s first season, Fukunaga imbues the film with his now signature hauntingly beautiful style. Despite the gorgeous aesthetics, this one is a tough, albeit worthy watch.