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The 10 Most Outstanding Films of 2015

By The Pajiba Staff | Guides | December 26, 2015 |

By The Pajiba Staff | Guides | December 26, 2015 |

10. Inside Out — This movie, for a movie all about emotions, took me on a ride I wasn’t entirely prepared for. The things this girl (and, really, her controller counterparts) go through are likely to hit you in an all too personal place. As Riley forms her core memories, yours will likely come bubbling to the surface (probably through your tear ducts). As she struggles with too many emotions, yours will feel the pull. The movie is an fun action adventure, but the real adventure is what this movie will do to your heart. Leave your cynicism at home— or bring it, I dare you— and let Pixar do what it does best: destroy you, and emotionally remold you, in the most beautiful way possible. — Vivian Kane

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9. Crimson Peak — Guillermo del Toro’s latest, Crimson Peak, puts the director back at the adult table for the first time since 2006’s Pan’s Labyrinth and reminds us that he still has a keen eye for sumptuous gothic gore and breathtakingly beautiful violence. Visually, Crimson Peak is one of the most impressive films of the year — you never know if you should be terrified of the ghosts or if you should matte them and hang them on your wall — and it also boasts a mostly terrific cast in Jessica Chastain, Tom Hiddleston, Mia Wasikowska and Charle Hunnam. The visuals and the performances are strong enough, in fact, to overlook an otherwise predictable screenplay. You may have seen a version of this story before, but you’ve never seen it look this gorgeous. It’s a real tragic love story. It’s a horror movie with a heart that is beating and throbbing and pumping out beautiful, crimson blood that drips and spurts and flows until the film’s weaknesses are drowned in beautiful puddles of gore. — Dustin Rowles


8. Room — As you might expect, Room is a dark drama that deals with sexual abuse and trauma. Yet it is not bleak. Instead, it’s a film about hope and the healing power of love that is remarkably layered in its details and emotion. Brie Larson delivers a soul-shaking performance (as she did in Short Term 12). Room refuses to lean into the more ghastly details of its story. It’s not about those. It’s about a boy and his ma, and how their relationship saves them both. Rich with emotion as it is hope, Room is a rare celebration of the mother-son bond, intertwined with an escape narrative that will have you holding your breath. In a word, it’s sensational. — Kristy Puchko

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7. Ex MachinaEx Machina bucks all expectations— not that it doesn’t have great effects (because wow is its A.I. depiction seamlessly impressive), or great surprises, but the movie flies in the face of so much of what the sci-fi genre (and, really, most movies) has become by reverting to its simplistic roots. Alex Garland, the writer of 28 Days Later in his directorial debut, has created a movie of ideas. And while it would be fantastic if that’s weren’t such a refreshing rarity, this is the cinematic landscape we’re living in and at least we can appreciate the fact that this specific rarity completely nails everything it sets out to accomplish. — Vivian Kane


6. Carol — Todd Haynes is the ideal fit to direct Carol, an adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s novel about an illicit love affair between two women in early 1950’s America. Immediately in the film you see Haynes’ emotional precision, his sensitivity, as he shows the many ways in which these women have to signal their attraction and desire to each other, the ways they must silence all spontaneity of gesture in public. He shows so well what is going on beneath the immaculate surfaces he presents. In this film, Haynes often depicts his protagonists through misty, dirty or tainted glass, showing them as they present themselves to the world, but also hinting at thoughts and motivations behind these exteriors. His camera picks his characters out at distance or mid-range when they are in public, but these shots give way to some exquisite, passionate close-ups when they are alone and can be themselves. He also adroitly captures the small, significant gestures, expertly picking out the meaning in a hand placed on a shoulder or eyes allowing themselves to rove over a face for four dangerous seconds. He’s significantly helped by the ability and commitment of his actors. Cate Blanchett plays the title character, Carol Aird, a woman going through divorce and a bitter custody battle with her husband. She becomes involved very quickly in a love affair with Therese (Rooney) a young sales assistant and aspiring photographer. Blanchett and Mara do a close to miraculous job here, conveying through an unbelievable precision of gesture all their excitement, anxiety and repressed joy at the outset of this relationship. — Caspar Salmon

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5. Star Wars: The Force Awakens — J.J. Abrams skips all the bullshit, and let’s the story unfold through the characters and their adventures, and it works. Abrams did what Lucas never could with his recent efforts — he made the film fun. Jesus Christ, is it just so much pure fun. There’s a selfless, unpretentious joyfulness to the production, even when the story touches on its darker moments (and it does get quite dark at times). It eschews the ridiculous CGI sets and effects, and it’s amazing how much more intimate and uncluttered that makes the film (and the air-and-space combat is breathless and exhilarating and perfect). It feels like finding a store that sells the most comfortable coat you ever owned, one that you thought long gone. It brings you back to the universe you once loved, wiping clear the darkness that stained it through recent years, bringing it roaring back through a combination of the old and the new, but giving more focus and attention to the new (and rightfully so, because the new leads, both light and dark, are absolutely amazing). It brings it all back around again. Go see it in a crowded theater, and get swept up in it, whoop and holler along with everyone else, and you’ll feel what I felt. It feels like home. — TK

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4. The MartianThe Martian is a perfect science fiction film and a perfect adaptation of a perfect science fiction novel. I loved everything about it from start to finish, both on its own merits, and as an adaptation of one of my favorite novels. This is a story of man versus nature. It’s a story of how the universe is incomprehensibly vast and indifferent to our very existence. We teeter by our fingertips at the edge of a yawning void, and yet we can ignore it most of the time because of the safe nest we inhabit. This is a story of those who venture beyond that haven and push back the darkness. — Steven Lloyd Wilson


3. SpotlightSpotlight offers a thorough and thoughtful documenting of bone-chillingly grim, real events. Yet, you’d be surprised how much humanity and humor can be found in the uncovering of the world’s biggest sex scandal. With a remarkable ensemble that boasts Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, John Slattery, Brian D’Arcy James, and the ever-outstanding Stanley Tucci, Spotlight focuses on the team of Boston Globe reporters who broke the story of the Catholic Church’s long and horrifying history of covering up sex abuse allegations against their priests. Amazingly, despite all of the discussions of abuse, tear-jerking tales, and bureaucratic buffoonery, Spotlight is funny. It’s McCarthy’s proprietary blend of observational wit, profound warmth, and riveting drama that makes Spotlight is brilliant. Hands down, it’s one of the best films of the year. — Kristy Puchko


2. Brooklyn — Director John Crowley paints his film in warm hues that reflect Eillis’s (Saoirse Ronan) warm heart. He steps us into a New York that’s so vibrant, we feel as if we are in her very shoes as she steps into this big, overwhelming world. The script by Nick Hornby elegantly unfurls Eillis’s adventure with tenderness and humor There’s something brave about making a film so intimate in its focus. But beyond brave, Brooklyn is radiant and heart-warming. It’s the kind of movie that’ll soothe your wounded soul on a horrid day, like hot cocoa does on a frigid one. Lively and lovely, Brooklyn is a delight that will bring you to tears, but leave you smiling. Kristy Puchko


1. Mad Max: Fury Road — This is the best of the Mad Max films, improving upon everything that worked in the old Mel Gibson classics, burning off the rest, and turning out one of the best action films I’ve ever seen. And let’s be absolutely clear, this is the action film to put them all to rest. This is a kinetic and destructive cocaine-fueled orgy of action from the title screen to the credits. This is the film that might just kill Michael Bay in abject humiliation, because it’s clearly what he’s always wanted to make when he grew up, and every moment of its glorious transcendence is another bit of evidence of his complete failure as a filmmaker.

Mad Max: Fury Road is a joy of a movie, a perfect action film that fuses astonishing surreality with deeply drawn characters and a world so detailed you feel like you can practically touch it. And there’s a hidden depth to it that makes it resonate, makes you think about its themes and about why the characters do what they do. It’s easy to say that a film has heart, a bit rarer to say one has a brain, but this one has a soul. — Steven Lloyd Wilson

Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.

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