Best Films of 2015 by Ashley Menzel

The Best Films of 2015

2015 was a wonderful year for film with some truly incredible performances and stories. This is the list of films that I feel were the best in 2015. What do you think of my list? Make sure to comment below with your thoughts.

The Martian

10. The Martian

Matt Damon gives one of his best and most entertaining performances yet as astronaut Mark Whatney. The Martian rounds out my top 10 of the year list because of the interesting and intriguing story (who doesn’t love space), and the unexpected but completely entertaining sense of humor of Matt Damon’s character. The story is amazing and hopefully will reignite the interest of Americans to continue space travel and exploration.


9. Dope

Dope is a film that not many people saw, which is very unfortunate. It is such a timely piece that has a great message about race and circumstances. Shameik Moore gives one incredible performance as the awkward and determined Malcolm; a young geek trying to survive and make it out of a tough Los Angeles neighborhood. The film has amazing performances, humor, and most importantly, a great message. If you haven’t had the chance to see this gem, please seek it out.

The Big Short

8. The Big Short

The housing market crisis. Not typically something that one would associate with entertainment and humor, but Adam McKay has done it. The film has an incredible cast with Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, and Christian Bale. What makes this film incredible is the ability of Adam McKay to take an extremely complicated and boring subject matter and make it easily accessible AND entertaining for the everyday person. There is so much complicated jargon that can be tossed about when discussing the housing market crisis, but McKay takes those concepts and explains them in ways that the average person can understand. He uses cameos of famous celebrities to explain complex financial subjects. Using humor, McKay ensues rage in the audience towards big banks.


7. Concussion

I am the first person to say that I am completely over sports films, but Concussion, starring Will Smith is an exception. The film tells the story of Dr. Omalu, the coroner who discovered and blew the whistle on the long-term effects of head trauma for professional football players. The film is about his struggle to fight the NFL into recognizing that their players are being seriously and permanently injured. The story itself is incredibly entertaining, but what excels and entrancing the audience is the performance of Will Smith as Dr. Omalu. The best thing a famous, well-recognized actor can do is disappear into a character. After the first two minutes of the film, Will Smith does not exist. He is only Dr. Omalu. Concussion is an amazing story, featuring the performance of Will Smith’s career.


6. Trumbo

Trumbo is another wonderful example of a well-known actor transforming into a character. Bryan Cranston, best known for Breaking Bad and Malcolm in the Middle has become Dalton Trumbo in this story of lies, deceit and communism in 1950s Hollywood. Dalton Trumbo is an unapologetic communist in a time in which Hollywood was Blacklisting and firing all associated or accused communists or communist sympathizers. The film documents the struggles that Dalton Trumbo and his friends and family face during this difficult time. Bryan Cranston’s performance is a masterpiece and only one of many reasons to see this film.


5. Carol

Carol is a film set in the 1940s starring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara as two secret lovers in a time where it was so taboo. The story documents their meeting, falling for each other and the turmoil that face them as lovers in that time period. The performances by Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara really shine in this film. Some of the most incredibly enthralling parts of this film are just silent and raw emotion pouring from both characters, without saying a word. The film is beautifully shot with great cinematography and is a gem to watch.

Love And Mercy

4. Love and Mercy

An early 2015 release, Love and Mercy, is the story of Brian Wilson from the Beach Boys and his struggle with mental illness. This film is shown from two different portions of Brian’s life. One is set in the 1960s, when he was young and still writing music and in the 1980s as an older man struggling to get out from the grips of controlling people and become his own person. The performances in this film are amazing. Paul Dano, a personal favorite of mine, is a great young Brian, where John Cusack plays an enchanting older Brian. Perhaps the most surprising performance of the film is by Elizabeth Banks who plays Melinda Ledbetter, a woman who comes into Brian’s life when he is an older man, shopping for a car. Another thing that makes Love and Mercy one of the best films of 2015 is the way in which it portrays mental illness. There are scenes in the film that really demonstrate what it feels like to someone who has various mental illnesses. The use of sound and visual aspects in the film really illustrate the struggle that a lot of people face. There is a scene in particular where Brian is sitting at the table with a group of people eating dinner, and the sounds are amplified and really explains the overwhelming emotions that come with psychosis.

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

3. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is without a doubt, one of the greatest films of 2015. It is such an oddball dramaedy featuring Olivia Cooke, Thomas Mann, Nick Offerman and my personal favorite RJ Cyler. It is not your typical story of love and loss, but rather a real look at the lives of teenagers and their struggles with themselves and a friend who is dying from cancer. This film is really made for film lovers, with so many great and hilarious references. The humor in the film is subtle and awkward but this only adds to the realism of viewing this struggle through the eyes of a teenage boy. With one of the most beautiful and heart-wrenching endings, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl stays firmly planted at #3 on my top 10 of 2015.

where to invade next

2. Where to Invade Next

 As someone who is not a huge fan of documentaries, this is one of the absolutely must see films of the year. Michael Moore uses the idea of “invading” countries in order to steal their policies and ideas to use here in the United States. One of the most interesting aspects is that he shows the interviewees from other countries how we do something in the US or tell them what it is like and they are genuinely appalled. The film so clearly shows the audience what is wrong with American society, not just through the eyes of an American liberal, but also through the eyes of the rest of the world. This creates an atmosphere of true self-reflection. Every single American needs to see this film, not for the controversy or not for the fact that it is a Michael Moore film, but just to be an informed citizen of the world. This film brings to light both the negative aspects of American life, but also presents the idea that we once had and used these great ideas and we can once again become a great nation.


1. Room

 Room, starring Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay is a raw and emotionally powerful film about love and sacrifice, and struggle and triumph. Room is the incredible story of Ma and Jack, mother and son living in Room, a small and tiny shed. Ma was kidnapped by Old Nick, who keeps them locked in Room, away from the rest of the world. The film shows their struggles living in Room, both physically and mentally. It is the only life that Jack has known and Ma tries to do her best to care for Jack and herself. Once they escape Room, there are many emotional battles as Jack tries to assimilate to a world he does not know and Ma tries to get back to living with the rest of the world. The film is emotionally riveting and the performances by Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay will leave you speechless.

Honorable Mentions:



Brooklyn is an incredible story of growth and starting over, Saoirse Ronan gives a memorable performance as Eilis, an Irish immigrant living in the United States on her own.

The Walk

The Walk is such an incredible story about the high wire walker, Philippe Petit, who walks across a wire suspended between the World Trade Center towers. Joseph Gordon Levitt gives a wonderful performance, filled with suspense.

Sleeping with Other People

Sleeping with Other People starring Jason Sudekis and Allison Brie is a refreshing new comedy about love and sex, with surprisingly strong emotions.

American Ultra

American Ultra is one of my favorite comedies from this year. The film features Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart as two potheads living in the middle of nowhere who somehow get thrown into this government battle. The film is hilarious and action packed and definitely worth the watch.

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