From huge box-office hits (Jurassic World) to acclaimed indie films (Room) and all the highly-anticipated, soon-to-be iconic films inbetween (The Revenant, The Hateful Eight), 2015 has been quite the year for movies. As the end of the year approaches, I’m taking a look back at some of my favorite films from the past year:
Mad Max: Fury Road
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As one of the earlier big-budget releases in the year, this film really set the stage for a pattern of huge box office returns and a resurgence of already-established movie franchises. Fury Road was one of my favorite films this year because it perfectly combined insanely choreographed action sequences, beautiful cinematography, and a host of crazy cool characters.
The Stanford Prison Experiment
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Based on the real-life controversial Stanford Prison Experiment of the 70’s, this movie is moody, claustrophobic, and quietly disturbing. The cinematography is dark and monotone, often reflecting the tone of the action, and the cast expertly anchors all of the panic, viciousness, and violence that erupt.
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One of the most unique things about The Martian is that it truly created its own place amongst some of the greatest space movies in history. Where it could have veered off into unrealistic science fiction or hopelessly doomed drama, The Martian is unafraid to explore the full reach of human emotions, and it succeeds in keeping the storyline grounded and actually plausible.
Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck
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For die-hard Nirvana fans, this was probably one of the most exciting releases of the year, and the film’s inventive use of home footage, sit-down interviews and animated sequences narrated by personal recordings from Kurt Cobain himself should place this film on anyone’s top list of documentaries. Tracing the musician’s journey from his troubled youth to his massive success, and interweaving stories from his career and personal life, this documentary is a heartbreaking, all-encompassing, intimate exploration of Cobain, with a notable focus on his life rather than the circumstances of his death.
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The beauty of Ex Machina is really in the horror of it: the film seeks to explore the question of what might actually happen if we one day succeed in creating artificial intelligence, and the answer is not very assuring. The whole movie has an undercurrent of ominous anticipation, and almost every aspect of the film – the characters, the setting, the score – could be summed up as “beautiful but deadly.”
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
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At first glance, it would be easy to compare this movie to The Fault in Our Stars, and although both movies deal with the emotional baggage that comes along with being a teenager and dealing with cancer, that’s pretty much where their similarities end. This movie is charming, quirky, darkly funny, and incredibly moving. Every scene feels completely sincere: from the awkwardness of trying to cheer someone up at their darkest time to the depression and anger that result from undergoing cancer treatment, this movie will leave you laughing, crying and emotionally exhausted in the best way possible.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
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Simply put, this movie is incredible: the score, the action, the visual effects, the editing, and the characters are impeccable, and this movie masterfully revives a franchise that some had feared ruined after the unfortunate trilogy of prequels. For those who grew up watching the Star Wars films, this movie is both familiar and refreshingly new, and will hopefully launch a new set of equally dazzling continuations and spin-offs. For the people out there who aren’t as familiar with the Star Wars universe, this movie is equally enjoyable, having skillfully blended homages to the original trilogy with an exciting new story and set of characters that are straight-up kick-butt. I can promise you, almost nothing can compare to the experience of sitting in a theater and hearing the iconic score begin as the audience erupts into cheers.
This list is really just a taste of all the incredible movies that came out this year. As 2015 comes to an end, I’m excited to catch up on all the great movies I missed, and get excited for all the new movies that will be released in 2016. What were your favorite movies of 2015?