The Hypable staff looks back at 2015 and picks our favorite movies.
2015 is at an end, and what a great year for movies it’s been. We’ve had two Marvel films, two Pixar films, a slew of iconic indie films, huge blockbusters like Mad Max: Fury Road and The Martian, and of course, Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
Twelve Hypable staff members contributed to this article, and each had to pick one movie as their favorite of 2015. Therefore, you’ll see a lot of huge hits missing from the list.
If your favorite movie is missing, tell us why you think they deserved a spot in the comments!
‘Steve Jobs’ – Marco Cerritos
The ups and downs of controversial tech innovator Steve Jobs are examined in the all-but-forgotten biopic bearing his name. General audiences didn’t connect with the film due to mishandled marketing and as a result missed the cinematic experience of the year. Michael Fassbender plays Jobs at three crucial points in his life, all right before huge tech launches and each scene carrying the dramatic weight of a nuclear explosion.
Credit is due to director Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire, 127 Hours) for turning Aaron Sorkin’s already magnificent screenplay and giving it the visual flourish to leap off the screen. The film’s rapid fire dialogue cuts so fast and deep it’s the equivalent of a dramatic action film.
Years from now when the dust has settled, no one will remember the controversy surrounding Steve Jobs and that’s when the film will be able to breathe and stand on its own. Great cinema always stands the test of time and this film will not only age well but also eventually find its audience.
‘Inside Out’ – Andrew Sims
Every once in a while there’s a movie that shakes you to your core. It makes you look within. It makes you see things in a different light. It gives you a lesson or two that will stick with you for the rest of your life.
That is Inside Out, Pixar’s first (and best) offering of 2015. The vibrant animated movie looks at the five emotions within all of us, and by the end teaches us that all of our emotions need to be felt, no matter any preconceived “problems” that come with them.
As only Pixar can do, Inside Out offers laughs, tears, and a reason to hug your loved ones. They also deliver another set of memorable characters including Bing Bong, Joy, and Sadness. The movie hit all of us right in the feels and won’t soon be forgotten, and for those reasons, it’s the best movie of the year.
‘Spotlight’ – Danielle Zimmerman
I saw Spotlight by accident. It was the best mistake I ever made. It may not be fast-paced or suspenseful, but my goodness is it beautiful and so well-made. The cast is absolutely brilliant. Rachel McAdams, Michael Keaton, and Mark Ruffalo absolutely nail their parts, bringing so much emotion and nuance to such a small film.
As for the plot itself? Riveting. While I was aware of the issue with priests and children, I had no idea such an epidemic existed. That it was so widespread and kept under wraps. This film could have easily strayed into offensive territory or done the opposite and played it too safe, but Spotlight is such an intriguing and, at times, harrowing look at such an important event in history.
I always measure the quality of a movie by how much I research or look up after I finish watching. Judging by how much digging I did on the newspaper and the film’s accuracy, I have no hesitation in naming Spotlight the best movie of the year.
‘Ex Machina’ – Joshua Nealey
I’d been waiting years for a great sci-fi movie to hit the big screen again, and finally found it in Ex Machina. Starring Oscar Isaac, Domhnall Gleeson and the incredibly talented Alicia Vikander, the film was one of the best of 2015.
As the movie dealt with artificial intelligence, and how it could alter the world as we know it, it still felt personal due to the film’s use of cramped (and underground) sets. Ex Machina deals with human interaction with AI, and we see another whole side of actor Oscar Isaac, who is strangely villainous in his attempt to create the most advanced artificial intelligent woman ever invented.
But it’s actress Alicia Vikander that steals the film from the two male leads, and proves that she’s set to be the biggest new actress of 2016. While she’s the only main character that isn’t human, she’s the smartest and most capable of using her talents to get exactly what she wants. It’s an excellent sci-fi film that will twist your brain around before the end in a time where superhero films are dominating.
‘The Good Dinosaur’ – Karen Rought
I had zero expectations going into The Good Dinosaur. I’m not even entirely sure I had seen a trailer for the movie prior to watching it in the theatre. I just knew it was the latest Disney/Pixar flick, which meant I should probably see it just to stay on top of the latest news.
As it so happens, it turned out to be my favorite movie of the year. The visuals alone make it stand out against so many of its predecessors. The film pauses the action in several places to allow you to look longingly on landscapes so gorgeous they seem real.
But my favorite part of The Good Dinosaur was Arlo himself. A main character with anxiety is not groundbreaking, but it’s refreshing nonetheless. I oftentimes found myself both laughing and cringing with Arlo — I hate bugs about as much as he does. This movie gave us everything we love to see from Disney: stellar humor, emotional moments, cute animals, and a heroic ending that leaves you smiling as you walk out of the theatre.
‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ – Katie Awad
After three decades, George Miller finally dived back into the Mad Max universe with Fury Road. It was definitely worth the wait. I went into Fury Road with a lot of excitement and high expectations. I almost set myself up to be disappointed, and yet, it exceeded my expectations.
Not only does Mad Max: Fury Road have all the sensational car chases, thrilling explosions, and exuberant vehicles you could hope for, it also has a strong, coherent narrative, unlike countless other action flicks. It’s true, the story is fairly simple, but at least it’s easy to follow, with enough nuance to not be banal, and doesn’t drag on longer than it needs to. Just looking at Fury Road is a marvel as well, with gorgeous cinematography that gives this world depth, and stunningly vivid saturation, uncommon in many post-apocalyptic films.
Of course, it also must be mentioned how refreshing it is to see women rule the screen, especially in the action genre. Max may be the titular character, but he takes a back seat to the diverse group of women who lead the charge on this wildly entertaining thrill ride of a film. It’s not one to be missed, and should be watched on the biggest screen you have, in all its furious glory.
‘Trainwreck’ – Brittany Lovely
Trainwreck is the first romantic comedy in recent years to hit every single rom-com trope and still generate genuine moments of heartfelt laughter and tears. Bill Hader’s amazing supporting role as the “guy who makes the girl change” is undercut as Judd Apatow and Schumer steer Hader away from the cliche and the film is better for it.
Neither of the main characters change who they are at their core, but they also enhance what they love about each other in ways that feel earned rather than incorporated for the sake of moving the plot to a satisfying ending. The ensemble of Colin Quinn’s playing Schumer’s crotchety old man and Tilda Swinton’s unrecognizable portrayal of Amy’s editor are merely two of the must-see roles in the film.
In addition, Amy Schumer’s incredible ability to make a film where LeBron James rivals John Cena for breakout comedy athlete of the year is the cherry on the top of the most rewatchable film of 2015. If you thought you were walking away from this movie without a grand romantic gesture, you were wrong. Schumer’s Knick’s basketball cheerleader routine to Billy Joel’s “Uptown Girl,” is a triumph.
‘The Martian’ – Kristen Kranz
When looking at expansive oceans of red sand not only seems plausible, but you can practically feel the heat radiating off it warming your skin, you know you’ve found something special. That’s the exact thought I had walking out of the theater after my first viewing of The Martian.
No matter what the length or subject matter, a good movie will draw you in until you can’t remember what day it is, let alone care about the time. The Martian delighted and entranced me in every way you can imagine. Matt Damon was perfection as the marooned astronaut. The supporting cast shone brightly whether they were floating in a spaceship or tapping their toes against Earth’s solid crust. The directing kept the narrative as easy to understand as rocket science could possibly be without sacrificing any artistic merit.
There wasn’t a weak link to be found in the cast and crew of The Martian and I’m proud to call it my favorite movie of the year. No other film even comes close. The Martian not only got me to the theater, but it got me there twice. If that’s not the mark of the best picture of the year, I don’t know what is.
‘The Age of Adaline’ – Jen Lamoreaux
While I had several favorite movies this year, my lovely co-writers have managed to talk about them much more eloquently than I. However, The Age of Adaline was not something I was dying to see at the cinema, but the trailers caught my eye.
Blake Lively was perfect as the timeless Adaline Bowman, who after a freak accident stops ageing. Adaline quickly learns that she must constantly change and adapt to remain free. In the present, Adaline works as a librarian, and rarely stays in one place longer than a year. At a holiday party she meets a man who begins to change her opinion on being alone. Before long, Ellis becomes a complication. On a weekend visit to his parents, Adaline runs into her past and has to make a decision about her future.
The Age of Adaline has a classic feel to it, and Blake Lively is perfect as the enigmatic Adaline. The movie questions mortality and the burden that comes with outgrowing everyone around you. There is a beauty to this film that is subtle and elegant.
‘The Man From U.N.C.L.E.’ – Marama Whyte
The Man From U.N.C.L.E is never going to win every award, but it’s impossible to watch this movie without a huge smile on your face. As far as 2015 entertainment, you can’t do any better.
Every aspect of the film is electric. From the lavish costumes to the gorgeous cinematography, it’s clear that in The Man From U.N.C.L.E, style is not separate from substance. The soundtrack makes you feel as if you’re about to head off on your own spy adventure, and the cast simply oozes talent and charm (and sexual tension). Every ingredient is carefully integrated together to create a product that is so much more than its very glamorous parts. There’s something special about this film that just makes it, well, cool.
This culturally adored, critically ignored showstopper is non-stop excitement. It isn’t intended to make you cry, or even think especially hard, but it will make you laugh, and smile, and cheer — and if you’re me, it’ll make you see it twice more. It does exactly what it says on the box, but it does it better and with more flair. The Man From U.N.C.L.E. is easily the most enjoyable film of the year, and it doubles as a ‘60s Pintrest inspiration board. What more could you ask for?
‘Kingsman: The Secret Service’ – Natalie Fisher
Based on a comic by Marvel imprint Icon, Kingsman: The Secret Service is an ultra-violent and deeply subversive take on the traditional British spy genre. It’s James Bond meets Scott Pilgrim meets Eliza Doolittle and it’s my unequivocal favorite movie of 2015.
Every moment of Kingsman is a giddy, explosive rush while also remaining surprisingly character-driven. The chemistry between Colin Firth’s Harry Hart, the ruthless, elegant mentor figure, and new Kingsman recruit Gary “Eggsy” Unwin, played with stunning complexity by newcomer Taron Egerton, is off the charts, but beautiful men in beautiful clothes isn’t all this movie has to offer.
It showcases immensely clever and powerful women on the sides of good and evil, adorable puppies, and Samuel L. Jackson in possibly his most ridiculous role to date. There’s a car chase that had me more physically excited than I can ever remember being in a cinema, and there’s a raw moment where Eggsy has a sobbing breakdown which proves how fully-developed these characters and their relationships are.
The class commentary in this movie is also one of its stand-out characteristics: Eggsy’s transition from chav with a heart of gold to bespoke-suited gentleman is never truly Pygmalion-esque — he doesn’t actually buy in. He’s merely able to slip into his posh Kingsman identity and use it as just another weapon in his arsenal, using people’s prejudices and preconceptions to his advantage, and watching him do it is super satisfying.
Believe it or not, Kingsman: The Secret Service took more at the box office than director Matthew Vaughn’s most high-profile hit, X-Men: First Class, and its success has secured a release date for a sequel in 2017.
‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ – Selina Wilken
Full disclosure: We were originally going to post this list last week, and I already had a hard decision to make: Would I go for Spy, Suffragette, Brooklyn, or Ricki and the Flash? I loved them all for daring to do something different; to tell an honest and bold story without relying on blockbuster tricks. But, after much soul-searching, I made my choice: I went with Paul Feig’s Spy, which is just a gut-busting romp of a good time, and hilariously reinvented what is, in my opinion, a very tired genre.
But then we realized that leaving Star Wars: The Force Awakens off this list was pretty counter-intuitive, so we decided to wait. Still, I wasn’t gonna pick it unless I really wanted to. Sure, I assumed I’d love it, but I didn’t assume I’d l-o-v-e it.
But, ta-da: I did. I’ve already written a lengthy review detailing why I believe The Force Awakens is the best Star Wars movie yet, but for the purpose of this list, I’ll tell you why it’s my favorite film of the year: It’s all Rey (and a little bit of Finn and Poe).
This has been one of the strongest years ever for women in film (see Mad Max: Fury Road, MI: Rogue Nation, everything Ava DuVernay is doing, and all the films mentioned above), and I am so glad to see The Force Awakens capping off 2015 by introducing not only a fantastic female Star Wars hero, but just an overall great new lead character that we can all relate to. Daisy Ridley brings a complicated, complex realness to the Star Wars universe, and her Rey made me feel like a part of the story in a way I simply haven’t felt before. (But really, I should have expected no less from J.J. Abrams, the one who gave us Sydney Bristow.)
On top of that, The Force Awakens is just a legitimately fantastic, shocking, powerful cinematic experience. As a long-time Star Wars fan, it was everything I wanted it to be and more.