The Ten Best Films of 2015

This is my 30th annual list, and it’s kind of sobering. It started with a hand-written grouping that I hung above my stock room desk, a job I held for years while supporting myself through various stages of an acting (then broadcasting) career. Soon after, my Top Ten was first featured on my college radio show. Eventually it made it onto a 50,000 watt radio station, via an extremely popular morning show (one that’s still going strong). Then, a few years back I began this blog, and this is the fifth time I’ve featured my Ten Best here. In 2014, I began weekly reviews and features on “America Weekend with Ed Kalegi”. That show has juggernauted in popularity, is broadcast in scores of cities, and has taken on a beautiful and talented co-host in Ms. Christina Stoffo. I’m proud to be a part of it, and looking forward to many exciting new adventures to come in 2016. And I’m humbled by Mr. Kalegi’s unfailing promotion and support. My very first list in 1986 was topped by Oliver Stone’s “Platoon”, and I believe that choice still holds up pretty well–although if you asked me today, I would say “Blue Velvet” was the best film of that year. 1987 was led by “Moonstruck”, and I’m still pleased with that selection, as well. I don’t rewrite the list, so what’s pegged…remains.

So, you see, that’s what many readers don’t understand. Film criticism is a living, breathing thing. It’s rarely set in stone. It morphs, expands, enhances…or, doesn’t age well at all. Not with all films. I’m pretty certain “Man Trouble”, starring Jack Nicholson, is just as awful as it was when I saw it in 1992. And I doubt there will ever be a critical re-evaluation of 2015’s “Pixels” (I haven’t seen…but I’ve heard enough), with Adam Sandler. But consider that 25 years ago, I would have told you that “Die Hard 2” was better than the original. Sounds kind of silly now. But we change, we learn, and (hopefully) get better, at what we put our energies into. I am NOT the same critic I was in 1986. Without modesty, I’ll tell you that I’m much, much better. With modesty, I’ll admit that I still have much to learn. I’ve had some incredibly talented teachers, and I like to believe that I’ve tutored a few, as well. It’s been a long and fruitful journey.

Alright…ENOUGH. You’re here about the movies. 78 I’ve seen from 2015, trouncing the old record of 66. It’ll hit 100 by the time I move away from the previous calendar year, but a deadline is a deadline, and January 31st is my traditional cutoff. I got to most of what I wanted to see, but only 18 in an actual movie theater! Things have certainly changed since the Reagan Era. The other 60 were first experienced on industry FYC screeners, home video, and streaming services. But my coverage has been greatly enhanced by these options. I’ve watched all 8 Best Picture nominees, all 5 Best Animated Feature contenders, and the quintet of Best Documentary Feature selections. And some trouble lies in that last one, because I saw so many excellent documentaries this past season, that I’ve decided there had to be a different way to group them. I hope you appreciate the change, because I’ve often been troubled by the fairness of judging them along the same lines of regular dramatic features. So, I’m trying something different.

My first three films are SO exceptional, that you could gather them up in your hands, through them up into the air, and I’d be perfectly happy with whichever landed win, place, and show. Ultimately, I decided my #1 choice was the “film of the year” in so many ways. I graded it an A- when I reviewed it back in May…repeat viewings showed me the error in my ways. It’s outstanding, and a definite A. But it was a close vote, because #2 has my favorite performance of 2015, and is so nuanced and fine. #3, I just attended yesterday, and I believe it will stay with me the longest. If I had a few more weeks to ponder it, it could’ve landed in the top spot. #4 is the best pure horror film this decade, so far. #5 takes an impossibly complicated subject, and makes it simpler and entertaining. #6 reminded me of my youthful acting days–I knew people like this, as a boy in the 1970’s. #7 is a shot of war-torn realism. I’ve asked–it’s pretty darn accurate I’m told. #8 is a talky, yet riveting, court room drama. #9 was actually up for Best Foreign Film in 2014, but didn’t see full stateside release until the following year. And #10 is my experimentation. We’ll see if the device holds up for next year too. So, here it is, the fruit of my labors…the Ten Best Films of 2015 are:

1. Mad Max: Fury Road

2. Brooklyn

3. Anomalisa

4. It Follows

5. The Big Short

6. The Diary of a Teenage Girl

7. ’71

8. Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem

9. Wild Tales

10. The Look of Silence


Listen to Me Marlon


Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief

Honorable Mention

Boy & the World


The End of the Tour

Ex Machina

Inside Out

The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

The Revenant


Steve Jobs


What Happened, Miss Simone?


The Salt of the Earth



The Worst of the Year

Terminator Genysis (he won’t be back)

Tomorrowland (Coca-Cola rehydrates them!)

Bridge of Spies (Spielberg’s worst, perfunctory Best Pic nom)

Infinitely Polar Bear (you’ll want a bi-polar parent too!)

Trumbo (garish, full-of-shit, simplification)


2 comments on “The Ten Best Films of 2015

  1. I agree with the worst of the tear Mark!,

  2. Thanks for commenting, Barbara! Which ones did you see and hate?


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