The Best of the Year (2015)


by Ken B.

In 2013, I published a top 10 list. In 2014, I published a top 10 list which was basically a top 17, and in 2015, I have forgone the formalities and decided to list the top 20 movies I reviewed this year. I promise this list will not get any bigger.

Note that a for a film to be eligible for inclusion on this list or the soon to be published Worst list, it needs to be a movie reviewed by me, on this site, in 2015. That means that movies released before 2015 are eligible, if I didn’t review a particular film for the site,  even if it came out in 2015,  it doesn’t count. I’ve done my due diligence this year and made sure to write reviews of all of the “great” movies I’ve seen in the past twelve months, so they are all pretty much eligible.

I will reveal five titles a day from now (December 28) until New Year’s Eve. If you’re reading this list on December 31, 2015, or afterwards, everything is here.  

Let’s get started.

20. God Help the Girl (Stuart Murdoch, 2014, reviewed April 20)

God Help the Girl has this unique, single handed ability to handedly tick off as many people as it enamors. For a fair number of viewers, watching a round of hipster British teens rattle off esoteric emotional descriptions while singing indie songs written by the film’s screenwriter and director, Belle & Sebastian lead man Stuart Murdoch, will be nothing but torture. As far as I’m concerned, I didn’t find it particularly earth-shattering, but there’s cult-audience building aplenty and it won me over.
112 minutes. In English. No MPAA rating (contains profanity).

19. Still Alice (Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland, 2014/15, reviewed March 23)

Julianne Moore has her Oscar now, and at least she got it for a compelling, enrapturing performance like the one she gives in Still Alice. A gutwrenching depiction of a middle aged professional woman diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s, this is the final film that Richard Glatzer directed (with his husband Wash Westmoreland) before his death from ALS earlier this year. There’s a suitability to the idea that this would be his final work, one that magnifies a complex condition and calls attention to those who suffer, but will not be forgotten.
101 minutes. In English. Rated PG-13 (contains intense depiction of illness).

18. North Sea Texas (Bavo Defurne, 2011, reviewed May 21)

A rare example of a film which accomplishes a runtime-long dream state without feeling  unintentionally surrealistic, North Sea Texas unpacks a simple but engrossing love story between two teenage boys in mid-20th century Belgium. It’s slow going, but prospective viewers can easily allow themselves to fall into this world with just the right amount of patience, as one watches the plot build to cataclysmic levels of silent tension, and then releasing it in a wave of emotion which mimics motifs from cinema’s greatest coming-of-age tales.
98 minutes. In Dutch with English subtitles. No MPAA rating (contains sex references and brief nudity).

17. The Babadook (Jennifer Kent, 2014, reviewed June 11)

Is it a horror film or an allegorical examination of grief? Why can’t it be both? Jennifer Kent’s The Babadook exists two or three ticks above the movie that the trailers would have you believe it is, and its stripped down approach to the monster movie structure becomes a stepping stone for bigger questions, elevated to greater highs with exemplary performances from Essie Davis in the lead role and Noah Wiseman as her character’s son, a frightening fictional accomplishment which brings new meaning to the phrase “problem child”.
94 minutes. In English. No MPAA rating (contains both supernatural and realistic violence).

16. Star Wars: The Force Awakens (J.J. Abrams, 2015, reviewed December 24)

Secretly, I’m not sure if I genuinely was dazzled by The Force Awakens or was just overwhelmingly relieved it wasn’t awful. In any case, one can’t deny the forceful impact of what J.J. Abrams has created, sending shockwaves through global culture as the film earns the honor of earning $1 billion worldwide faster than anyone else. Additionally, it overcomes (admittedly valid) comparisons to A New Hope and unveils a result which will serve as a solid mounting point for future installments in the series. Its uniting of old cast members and new faces sells it as a sturdy bridge between yesterday and today.
135 minutes. In English. Rated PG-13 (sci-fi violence).

Click on page two for numbers 15 – 11.