For the past three years, I’ve been ranking every film I see- just the new releases, from January 1st to December 31st. The rankings are subjective, based entirely on how much I enjoyed and/or connected with or appreciated the film rather than on some sort of objective artistic criteria. Basically, this is a list of 140 films released in 2015 ranked according to how much I liked them.
Read the Full 2015 List HERE.
There are some pretty decent films on this list but, most importantly, there’s the second-to-last live-action film of Alan Rickman’s career (the last hasn’t come out yet). Rightly, he plays a king.
Oh, Michael Almereyda, you’re so weird and I love you for it. Further down this list you’ll find another film about a mid-20th century social psychology experiment headed by an enigmatic prestige actor (this time it’s Sarsgaard, the other is Crudup). The Milgram experiment (the subject of The Experimenter) and the Stanford Prison Experiment are often taught side by side in Psych 101 so it’s interesting that they’ve resulted in two so dramatically different films in the same year. Milgram’s experiment, which tested response to authority by tasking volunteers with administering (fake) shocks to a human subject in an attempt to “teach” them, is arguably the more enlightening (and slightly less morally dubious) of the two experiments, making it inherently a slightly less interesting film subject. Almereyda’s response to that is to make it a crazy movie filled with fourth wall breakage, bizarre visuals and, at one point, a literal “elephant in the room”. The perpetually hapless-seeming Jim Gaffigan is perfect casting as the actor playing the “student” pretending to receive the shocks while the subjects of the experiment (the “teachers”) are played by a parade of stars with a single scene a piece (Anton Yelchin is great as a lone dissenter). Sarsgaard is, as always, brilliant and a little bit strange. It’s a really weird movie but it’s bold as hell and that’s rarely a wrong decision.
72. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
The trailer made this look like my favourite film of the year. It wasn’t. I never really cared about anyone (except maybe Jon Bernthal, he was cool). Olivia Cooke is lovely as Rachel and any movie with Connie Britton is good in my books but it wasn’t the revelation I was hoping for.
This well-acted tragedy about a couple who lose their young son in a presumed kidnapping is moving and complex with no right answers and sophisticated character construction that fights the urge to present victims as lilywhite. The plot could use more structure and neither the great Merritt Wever nor Giovanni Ribisi (who shines in one traumatic scene in particular) gets quite enough to do but the film is a strong showcase for Olivia Wilde who delivers a blunt and stricken performance that’s hard to forget.
74. Steve Jobs
In all fairness to this film, it’s mostly my high expectations that killed it. Forgive me if I expect more complicated storytelling than “sometimes geniuses are jerks!” from one of the best reviewed films of the year. Sorry for believing that the greatest screenwriter of his generation wouldn’t write something that screams of “make him more relatable. I know, focus on the daughter!” studio notes. Please excuse my desire to see something more interpretive than fancy framing from one of the most creative directors currently working. Why can’t anyone figure out that Wozniak is the hero worth writing about?! This movie broke my heart a little, and not in a good way. Fassbender was pretty good.
75. The Stanford Prison Experiment
The year of social psychology films continues with this starker and simpler telling of arguably the most famous experiment ever conducted in the field. Billy Crudup is stone cold as the morally ambiguous doctor at the helm with key assists from the great James Wolk and Gaius Charles as his conscience-addled right hand men. The large ensemble of “prisoners” and “guards” is across-the-board strong, highlighted by the always incredible Ezra Miller (of “how is he not in every movie?!” non-fame) as a lone rebellious “prisoner” and Michael Angarano (whom I’m very attached to as young Nick in Music of the Heart) as a particularly brutal “guard”. The screenplay could use more structure and deeper character examination (and the fantastic Olivia Thirlby needs more to do, in life and in this movie) but you get the point.
76. A Little Chaos
This overlooked romantic drama is one of many films this year in which Matthias Schoenaerts plays a dashing romantic period hero. He does it well, all enigma and manly charm. Kate Winslet is winning as a landscape architect who falls for said charms in this lush and tropey guilty pleasure fantasy. Also, Alan Rickman as Louis XIV in one of the last performances of his too-short life; I loved him so.
77. The Intern
This film is total formula but it’s a formula I mostly like and I’m happy to see Anne Hathaway return to the genre in which I think she does her best work.
78. Bang Bang Baby
If I’m being honest, I think I placed this film a bit higher on this list than I should have in a subconscious bid to promote ambitious Canadian filmmaking. It’s an underfunded, underappreciated industry and Jeffrey St. Jules’ bold sci-fi musical is a rare mini-breakout so I really want this film to do well. I wish I’d liked it more.
79. The D Train
This weird high school reunion dramedy shouldn’t be ranked quite so high on storytelling merit alone but the cast is too wonderful to ignore. Jeffrey Tambor, Henry Zebrowski, Kyle Bornheimer, Jack Black, the incandescent Kathryn Hahn (who has literally never been bad in anything) and James Marsden who is basically my favourite person in Hollywood.
80. The Age of Adaline
Blake Lively has a timelessness and serenity that make her the only possible choice for the role of guarded, ageless Adaline in this sweeping romance. It’s a flimsy film, but a lovely one.