It was a good year for movies. It is usually pretty easy for me to pick a top ten, since I tend to manage about 15 new movies a year and dropping out the handful I didn’t like is pretty easy. This year there were only a few that I immediately dismissed from contention, Spectre and Fantastic Four. Choosing among the rest was somewhat difficult. Still, I am satisfied with this list. As far down as seven entries on this list are excellent films that I might have considered for the top spot in another year. It is a where the top three movies were new entries in movie series dating back to the 70’s. It is a not completely happy trend, but all three were great updates on old formulas.
10: The Peanuts Movie – There were a lot of movies I considered for this last spot, but I had to go with Peanuts. While it is likely the least ambitious of the movies I was considering, but it was also likely the most pleasant. That is not always a good thing, but there is something charming in The Peanuts Movie’s nostalgia. It is familiar, but still enjoyable.
9: Ant-Man – The formula for Marvel’s superhero movies has become all but impossible to notice, but it is no less effective. Ant-Man is a good execution of it, though I can’t help but yearn for Edgar Wright’s version. Still, what we got was perfectly enjoyable, even if it wasn’t quite as spectacular as some of the best Marvel films.
8: Furious 7 – Nothing tops Furious 7 in terms of pure nonsense spectacle, but the movie also had a surprising amount of heart. I don’t know that I would ever actually call this movie good, but it beats all the other pure spectacle films of the year, like Avengers Age of Ultron or Jurassic World.
7: Inside Out – This movie’s placement on this list was the most volatile. I never questioned putting it on the list, but where it fit on the list was very much in question. Here at 7 is the lowest it got, and I am tempted to movie it back up a few spots because this seems too low. Inside Out was Pixar being critically recognized as being back on top of their game (though I am of the opinion that their previous outings, Brave and Monsters University, were as good as any of their previous films) and it really is one of their best. It nails both being a fun movie for kids and a thoughtful movie for adults.
6: The Martian – Matt Damon is really excellent in this and the movie around him is just as good. It is basically Robinson Crusoe on Mars, and executed by Director Ridley Scott with skill. It is simply a fun, thoughtful movie.
5: The Man from UNCLE – This is my dark horse movie. I don’t think many people gave this movie a chance, because it was excellent, but did pretty poor at the box office. I can’t figure out why. It is slick and charming, with just enough action to make everything work. The middle action sequence, the boat chase, is maybe my favorite scene in any movie this year. This is just a pure fun movie.
4: Mission Impossible Rogue Nation – I don’t know that this one if quite as good as the previous MI movie, Ghost Protocol, but it is still an excellent spy movie. There is great chemistry among the stars, Cruise, Pegg, and Ferguson. Really, Rebecca Ferguson is the stand out performer here. I hope to see more of her. The rest of the movie is great as well, with several great set pieces and action sequences.
3: Star Wars the Force Awakens – This movie would probably top the list if it did just a little more new. As good as The Force Awakens is, it is just a little too beholden to what came before it. No one channels nostalgia like JJ Abrams, but this time he seemed to just a bit too reverent to the source material. Still, it was a great to watch a Star Wars movie that felt like a Star Wars movie.
2: Creed – Much like The Force Awakens, Creed also hews very closely to the series originator. In this case, though, it felt like the filmmakers did something new and had something new to say. It is wonderfully acted and directed. It is just a great movie.
1: Mad Max Fury Road – This was not even close. This is by far the best movie of the year. It is relentless and unforgettable. Hardy does some good work stepping into the Max role, but Charlize Theron is impossibly great as Imperator Furiosa. I loved every single second of it. It is just great. I could sit here forever raining superlatives on this film, but I’ll just stop and say that it is the best.