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The Individual Top Tens of 2015

Yesterday, we released the consensus Top Ten Films of 2015, led by George Miller's "Mad Max: Fury Road." Today, we dig deeper, presenting you with all submitted lists from our brilliant critics and independent contributors. There are over two hundred films cited below as among the best of 2015, displaying both the diversity in quality at the cinema this year and the unique voices that cover it for our site. We asked contributors to submit whatever they liked in terms of length and some submitted just a list, while others went deeper. It's huge but it should give you an overall picture of the year in film, complete with dozens of links back to our reviews. Just for visual purposes, the people who just submitted lists are first, followed by those who went into more detail, both groups alphabetical. Enjoy.

1. "Mad Max: Fury Road"
2. "Mistress America"
3. "Maps to the Stars"
4. "Chi-Raq"
5. "Gett: The Trial of Vivian Ansalem"
6. "River of Fundament"
7. "Baahubali: The Beginning"
8. "Clouds of Sils Maria"
9. "Brooklyn"
10. "What We Do in the Shadows"

1. "The Big Short"
2. "Entertainment"
3. "Mad Max: Fury Road"
4. "Anomalisa"
5. "Son of Saul"
6. "James White"
7. "Amy"
8. "Carol"
9. "Beasts of No Nation"
10. "Call Me Lucky"

1. "Timbuktu"
2. "Horse Money"
3. "What Happened, Miss Simone?"
4. "Sicario"
5. "About Elly"
6. "The Grief of Others"
7. "The Duke of Burgundy"
8. "Tangerine"
9. "Listen to Me, Marlon"
10. "Taxi"

1. "Carol"
2. "Magic Mike XXL"
3. "The Forbidden Room"
4. "Mad Max: Fury Road"
5. "Timbuktu"
6. "The Russian Woodpecker"
7. "Creed"
8. "Blackhat"
9. "Tangerine"
10. "Straight Outta Compton"

1. "Mad Max: Fury Road"
2. "Tangerine"
3. "Creed"
4. "Carol"
5. "Brooklyn"
6. "The Mend"
7. "Girlhood"
8. "Magic Mike XXL"
9. "The Duke of Burgundy"
10. "Eden"

1. "La Sapienza"
2. "The End of the Tour"
3. "Love and Mercy"
4. "Where to Invade Next"
5. "Bridge of Spies"
6. "Truth"
7. "99 Homes"
8. "Güeros"
9. "Tangerine"
10. "Taxi"

1. "Mad Max: Fury Road"
2. "Phoenix"
3. "The Martian"
4. "Timbuktu"
5. "Ex Machina"
6. "A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence"
7. "Bridge of Spies"
8. "99 Homes"
9. "Wild Tales"
10. "It Follows"

Runner-up (no particular order): “What We Do in the Shadows," “The Tribe," “La Sapienza," “The Duke of Burgundy," “White God," “My Mother," “Girlhood," “Beasts of No Nation," “Youth," “Mississippi Grind

Special mention: “Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation," “Spy," “Love & Mercy," “Straight Outta Compton," “Danny Collins," “Amour Fou," “The Lobster," “Taxi," “Crimson Peak," “Sicario”

Documentaries: “The Look of Silence," “Cobain: Montage of Heck," “Amy," “Red Army," “Listen to Me Marlon

Animations: “Inside Out," “World of Tomorrow," “Shaun the Sheep," “Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet," “Song of the Sea

1. "Spotlight"
2. "Inside Out"
3. "Brooklyn"
4. "Matt Shepard is a Friend of Mine"
5. "The Look of Silence"
6. "Mad Max: Fury Road"
7. "Mustang"
8. "It Follows"
9. "About Elly"
10. "Bridge of Spies"

1. "The Assassin"
2. "Jauja"
3. "Tangerine"
4. "Mad Max: Fury Road"
5. "It Follows"
6. "About Elly"
7. "The Iron Ministry"
8. "The Wonders"
9. "Chi-Raq"
10. "In Jackson Heights"

1. "The Diary of a Teenage Girl"
2. "Inside Out"
3. "Anomalisa"
4. "Almost There"
5. "Keeper"
6. "Son of Saul"
7. "James White"
8. "Star Wars, Episode VII: The Force Awakens"
9. "Youth"
10. "Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem"

1. "Brooklyn"
2. "The Look of Silence"
3. "Magic Mike XXL"
4. "45 Years"
5. "Spotlight"
6. "Slow West"
7. "Mommy"
8. "Carol"
9. "Clouds of Sils Maria"
10. "Mistress America"

1. "Mad Max: Fury Road"
2. "Tangerine"
3. "Mistress America"
4. "Brooklyn"
5. "Arabian Nights"
6. "Clouds of Sils Maria"
7. "Timbuktu"
8. "Taxi"
9. "Buzzard"
10. "Listen to Me Marlon"

1. "Phoenix"
2. "Buzzard"
3. "Carol"
4. "Heaven Knows What"
5. "Approaching the Elephant"
6. "In Jackson Heights"
7. "The Assassin"
8. "The Hateful Eight"
9. "We Come as Friends"
10. "Tangerine"

1. "Hard to Be a God"
2. "Anomalisa"
3. "Girlhood"
4. "Horse Money"
5. "Mad Max: Fury Road"
6. "Heart of a Dog"
7. "Heaven Knows What"
8. "Brooklyn"
9. "The Hateful Eight"
10. "Shaun the Sheep Movie"

CHRISTY LEMIRE (read descriptions here)
1. "Mad Max: Fury Road"
2. "Spotlight"
3. "Ex Machina"
4. "Room"
5. "Carol"
6. "45 Years"
7. "Inside Out"
8. "Goodnight Mommy"
9. "Tangerine"
10. "The Martian"

CRAIG D. LINDSEY (alphabetical)
"Clouds of Sils Maria"
"Mad Max: Fury Road"
"Magic Mike XXL"
"The Martian"
"A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence"

Runner-ups (documentary): "3 1/2 Minutes, Ten Bullets," "Amy," "Best of Enemies," "The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution," "Call Me Lucky," "Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck, "Listen to Me Marlon" and "Stray Dog"

Runner-ups (narrative): "The Assassin," "Bridge of Spies," "Mission: Impossible: Rogue Nation," "Mustang," "Sleeping with Other People," "What We Do in the Shadows," "Youth," and, screw it, that movies with the spaceships and light sabers.

1. "The Assassin"
2. "Clouds of Sils Maria"
3. "Horse Money"
4. "Carol"
5. "Jauja"
6. "Experimenter"
7. "Brooklyn"
8. "Arabian Nights"
9. "Phoenix"
10. "Queen of Earth"

Runners-Up: "Timbuktu," "Mustang," "The Hidden Room," "Eden," "Maps to the Stars," "The Diary of a Teenage Girl," "Son of Saul," "Maps to the Stars," "The Princess of France," "Mistress America," "In the Name of My Daughter," "Amy," "Breathe," "Mississippi Grind" and "Heart of a Dog."

Tied For First: "The Big Short" & "Chi-Raq," both all the more ferocious for being as funny and purely entertaining as they are angry

Tied For Second:
"Ex Machina"
"Inside Out"
"The Look of Silence"
"Mad Max: Fury Road"
"The Martian"
"Star Wars, Episode VII: The Force Awakens"

1. "About Elly"
2. "Clouds of Sils Maria"
3. "Girlhood"
4. "Magic Mike XXL"
5. "Mad Max: Fury Road"
6. "Phoenix"
7. "Creed"
8. "By the Sea"
9. "Taxi"
10. "Brooklyn"

1. "It Follows"
2. "Inside Out"
3. "Eastern Boys"
4. "The Wonders"
5. "Creed"
6. "Something, Anything"
7. "Brooklyn"
8. "Mad Max: Fury Road"
9. "Jauja"
10. "The Spongebob Movie: Sponge Out of Water"

1. "Mad Max: Fury Road"
2. "The Hateful Eight"
3. "Bridge of Spies"
4. "Anomalisa"
5. "Spotlight"
6. "Inside Out"
7. "It Follows"
8. "The New Girlfriend"
9. "The Ocean of Helena Lee"
10. "Ex Machina"

1. "Mad Max: Fury Road"
2. "Inside Out"
3. "Spotlight"
4. "Cartel Land"
5. "Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens"
6. "The End of the Tour"
7. "The World of Tomorrow"
8. "Brooklyn"
9. "Slow West"
10. "Goodnight Mommy"

BILL STAMETS (alphabetical)
"The Big Short"
"Cartel Land"
"Embrace of the Serpent"
"Ex Machina"
"In the Crosswind"
"In the Underground"
"Mad Max: Fury Road"
"Where to Invade Next"

1. "Chi-Raq"
2. "Carol"
3. "The Assassin"
4. "The Grief of Others"
5. "45 Years"
6. "Mad Max: Fury Road"
7. "Blackhat"
8. "Crimson Peak"
9. "Experimenter"
10. "Mississippi Grind"

1. "Mad Max: Fury Road"
2. "Carol"
3. "Phoenix"
4. "Son of Saul"
5. "Inside Out"
6. "45 Years"
7. "Brooklyn"
8. "James White"
9. "The Hateful Eight"
10. "Chi-Raq"

Runner-ups (alphabetical): "About Elly," "Anomalisa," "Bridge of Spies," "The End of the Tour," "Ex Machina," "It Follows," "Listen to Me Marlon," "Mustang," "Spotlight" and "Tangerine"

"Crimson Peak"
"Inside Out"
"Mad Max: Fury Road"
"Straight Outta Compton"

KATHERINE TULICH (alphabetical)

"99 Homes"

While "The Big Short" may put the nuts and bolts of the financial crisis into an entertaining package, Rahmin Bahrani’s film, beautifully dedicated to Roger Ebert, cuts right through to the emotional core of the devastating effect it had on the people who lost their homes.


One of the best music docs I’ve seen in awhile - really cuts through to the soul, talent and destructive fragility of late singer Amy Winehouse


Saoirse Ronan really shines in this film as the heart and center of this beautifully told story of 1950’s Irish immigrant seeking a new life in Brooklyn 


Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara as two women discovering their own language of love give flawless performances in Todd Haynes exquisitely made film

"Ex Machina"

This eery futuristic movie stays with you long after you leave the theatre and the now ubiquitous Alicia Vikander stands out in a mesmerizing performance as the sentient robot Ava. 

"Love and Mercy"

Featuring two actors as diverse as Paul Dano and John Cusack to play Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys at different ages was a bold choice that really worked in this loving biopic of the troubled genius musician. 

"Mad Max: Fury Road"

So thrilled this iconic Aussie franchise was restored so brilliantly by director George Miller who proved to Hollywood that old fashioned grunt film making can be just as exciting as the most forward CGI led film.

"The Martian"

Probably the best feel good movie of the year as Ridley Scott and Matt Damon make you yearn for a time when space exploration and the astronauts involved made the world stop, unite and hope."Sicario"

Violent, sadistic, menacing but totally engrossing from the first frame to the last as Emily Blunt, James Brolin and Benicio Del Toro give firehouse performances in Denis Villeneuve's stark look at the cross borders drug wars.

"Star Wars, Episode VII -- The Force Awakens"

All the hype. All the expectation. And thankfully yes it lives up to it all and more. 

Confessions of a Small-Town, Part-Time Cinephile: You might notice that there are several “big” films from the past year that aren’t on this list— notably, “Carol,” “Creed,” “Brooklyn,” “Spotlight,” “Chi-Raq,” and “Crimson Peak.” I live in a small town in Northeast Ohio, which has one two-screen theater playing, on average, two different movies every two weeks. The distance of multiplexes and art theaters from our town, as well as the demands of work & life, means that those films listed above (as well as several others) either haven’t played near me (as in the case, most devastatingly, of what I’m told is Del Toro’s Gothic masterpiece), or have just not been gotten to yet. But I am comforted by the fact that several of my excellent colleagues here at are sure to have them on their lists, and that there are links to the excellent reviews and think-pieces about them elsewhere on this site. I very much look forward to catching up with them all in the coming weeks as they trickle in (and the holidays give me more time for movies), and can’t say if any of them might have broken into my top ten (which is actually a top eleven, because I’m impish, and can’t resist a tie), although I suspect one or two might have. There’s also that little space movie opening on Friday, which I am very much anticipating, although I doubt it would’ve displaced any of the gems I’ve listed below.

Small-town living shapes my cinephilia in interesting ways. It means I sometimes see fewer new releases than other cinephiliacs (to use the title of my favorite movie podcast), see different films at different times than everyone else, and often catch up with movies via streaming and home video. I also spend a lot of viewing time on older films, and periodic obsessions with the runs of certain actors and directors (I was half-tempted to list ten Coppola films here, as my best “film-going” experience of 2015 was catching up with those movies of his I hadn’t seen, particularly “Rumble Fish” and “You’re A Big Boy Now”).

There was a long period when I was bothered by the difficulties that my geographic location presented to my staying in touch with current films; I think I even felt weirdly “guilty” about it, as if being out of the loop meant being away from my “real” moviegoing self. But now, I think of it as an odd advantage: it gives me a lot to look forward to, freedom from whatever suffocating cliquishness might exist in bigger cities, and a perspective whose skewed nature (relative to everyone else’s) means that whatever else my viewing habits are, they are mine to take responsibility for and enjoy. As Roland Barthes said, “My body is different than yours.” Or, in the words of Malcolm, the lead character of “Dope” (one of my favorite films of the year): “I don’t fit in. I used to think that was a curse, but I’m slowly starting to see, that maybe, it is a blessing.”

1. “Love & Mercy”
2. “Ex Machina”
3. “Inside Out”
4. “Mad Max: Fury Road”
5. “Tangerine”
6. “Phoenix”
7. “Bridge of Spies”
8. “The Mend”
9. “Girlhood”
10. “Blackhat”/“Dope” (tie)

Honorable Mention (in alphabetical order): “The Age of Adaline,” “Aloha,” “Ant-Man,” “Clouds of Silas Maria,” “Da Sweet Blood of Jesus,” “Danny Collins,” “Hard to Be a God,” “Magic Mike XXL,” “The Martian,” “Mission: Impossible—Rogue Nation,” “Mistress America,” “Ricki and the Flash,” “Shaun the Sheep Movie,” “Spectre,” “Spy,” “Tomorrowland,” “Trainwreck,” “Tu Dors Nicole.”

1. "Creed"
Ryan Coogler’s love letter to the Rocky franchise exceeded all expectations. It’s a deep, richly rewarding work that warrants more than one viewing. The stand-up-and-cheer moments co-exist with a subversive statement about the next generation of heroes, what those heroes look like and who they will inspire. With Michael B. Jordan and Tessa Thompson as his co-conspirators, Coogler unapologetically gives this mainstream movie an achingly beautiful brown hue—those shots of little Black kids idolizing Adonis Creed onscreen speak volumes without drawing attention to themselves. And series creator Sylvester Stallone rewards the viewer with his finest acting work since he first put on Rocky Balboa’s gloves. Easily the best film, and the biggest tearjerker, of 2015.
2. "Brooklyn"
This is how you do a gorgeously shot love story. Saoirse Ronan is excellent as the Irish immigrant navigating love and uncertainty in New York City. Nick Hornby turns in a nearly perfect adaptation that works even at its most melodramatic. My favorite film of the New York Film Festival, and my favorite romance of 2015 (Sorry, "Carol").
3. "Inside Out"
Pixar Studios hangs a psychoanalyst’s shingle on a movie marquee with this tale of a young girl and the emotions inside her. As gorgeous to look at as it is clever, “Inside Out” takes no prisoners in eliciting an emotional response from its audience. Amy Poehler makes a great lead, and she’s assisted by an equally great vocal cast including Lewis Black, Phyllis Smith and Mindy Kaling. But the film’s MVP goes to Richard Kind who, with one line delivery, completely shatters the composure of adult viewers trying to keep their tear ducts in check.
4. "Straight Outta Compton"
F. Gary Gray’s NWA biopic bends its standard genre conventions into a fiercely political statement on police-civilian relationships and the influence rap artists wielded back when hip-hop music was “CNN for Brown People”. Buoyed by a group of actors who ably handle the dramatic and the musical moments, “Compton” proved that you can make a crowd-pleaser that’s unafraid to potentially offend the crowd it’s trying to please. Filled with equal parts anger and applause.
5. "Call Me Lucky"
Bobcat Goldthwait’s documentary on comedian/activist Barry Crimmins starts out unbearably funny before taking a sudden turn toward a dramatic, redemptive grace that’s uplifting and devastating. No documentary shook me harder in 2015; I was haunted for days by Crimmins’ story and inspired by his activism.
6. "Mad Max: Fury Road"
Leave it to veteran George Miller to teach a master class on how to direct a kick-ass action movie. This installment of the Mad Max series introduces us to the even madder Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron). She’s a hero for the ages, leading her group on an endless series of eye-popping action sequences, all of which you can see clearly and follow easily. No Cuisinart cutting  nor excess CGI here; this futuristic tale is decidedly old-school. It’s the action film of the year.
7. "Tangerine"
Sean Baker’s day-in-the-life tale of two transgender working girls eking out an existence on the streets of L.A. was shot on an iPhone and looks better than many of 2015’s more expensive features. Featuring star-making turns by actresses Mya Taylor and Kitana Kiki Rodriguez, Tangerine slyly promotes the need for representation of all types in cinema. It’s funky, profane, hilarious, knowing and deeply moving. 
8. "Spotlight"
I won’t go as far as saying this is another “All the President’s Men,” but “Spotlight” does share that film’s penchant for making the day to day slog of investigative reporting compelling. Michael Keaton and Rachel McAdams stand out in the large ensemble cast that includes a finely tuned Liev Schreiber and a cranked-up-way-too-high Mark Ruffalo. I found it riveting despite knowing the outcome.
9. "Chi-Raq"
Spike Lee reaches back to ancient Greece as inspiration for his best work in ages, a loony, outrageous satire that somehow manages to work despite its sharp, hairpin turns in tone. Dear White People’s Teyonah Parris holds up the satirical, sex-strike section while Jennifer Hudson and John Cusack (both excellent) keep us from losing sight of the real, urgent issues. "Chi-Raq" is a hot mess, to be sure, but it’s ballsier, angrier, raunchier and more alive than anything I saw in 2015. And it doesn’t give a damn if you don’t like it. I’m still dissecting and processing its imagery.
10. "The Walk"
Robert Zemeckis’ love letter to New York City’s Twin Towers puts a comically over-the-top Joseph Gordon-Levitt on a high-wire 110 stories above Manhattan, then torments acrophobics with a 3-D re-enactment of the events of 2008’s Man on Wire. The storytelling has its flaws, to be sure, but I couldn’t help but surrender to the astonishing movie magic of the film’s digitally recreated spectacle.

Runner-ups (in order): "Bridge of Spies," "I'll See You in My Dreams," "The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution," "Amy," "What Happened, Miss Simone?," "The Farewell Party," "I Am Big Bird," "The Martian," "Shaun the Sheep Movie" and "Magic Mike XXL"

JANA MONJI (alphabetical)
“The Assassin” transports you to a different time: The end of the glorious Tang Dynasty. It re-tells a famous Chinese story about a warrior woman, a trained assassin who is torn between the duties of family, romantic love and master-student relationship. If the ties become too suffocating is it best to flee and find one’s own way? With old stories, it is all about how the tale is told and Hsiao-hsien Hou gives us lovely visuals and the feeling of both the vastness of China and the claustrophobia of court life.

“Beasts of No Nation” provides an innocent’s view of his induction into an army during a civil war in an unnamed African country. The boy, Agu (Abraham Attah), comes under the control of the Commandant (Idris Elba) who rapes him and teaches him brutality. Cary Joji Fukunana wrote and directed this gritty film based on Uzodinma Iweala’s “Beasts of No Nation.”

“The Big Short” may suffer in comparison to “The Wolf on Wall Street,” but writer/director Adam McKay manages to simplify banking, mortgage and stock trading practices and include engaging cameos of celebrities into this account of how a few people profited from the financial collapse of 2008. The editing and pacing are remarkable and the movie manages to be entertaining, informative and enraging.

“Bridge of Spies” is a much better look at spies than the reboot of “The Man from UNCLE” and is based on a real-life events. Tom Hanks is again the All-American hero and the three spies who are involved show the wild range of affairs—a man with actual valuable knowledge, a man who got paid to paint and pass hollow coins and a unwittingly man caught on the wrong side of the Berlin Wall.

“Concussion” takes a look at football and the medical condition that results from the constant head bashing. Will Smith plays a man who at great personal and financial cost took on the NFL and a problem that probably affects more American men than we can ever know since the syndrome cannot be diagnosed on a living patient.

“Creed” is a clever sequel that gives us the old Rocky, retired and alone, and presents us with a new “Rocky” in the form of the illegitimate son of Rocky’s old rival, Apollo Creed. The movie blends both the original theme song with contemporary hip hop tunes. As much as I hate boxing, particularly in light of the issues raised by “Concussion,” I was engaged by “Creed.”

“Inside Out” didn’t have a Disney princess, but it did have an intact family with a real problem—moving into a new school and leaving old friends and an old life behind. This movie was laugh-out-loud funny and deeply touching. Who couldn’t relate to the control centers and tale of parental and childhood angst?

“He Named Me Malala” has some beautiful pastel-like animated sequences, but describes Malala’s personal story about how her hometown changed and came under the control of extremist Muslims. Considering the anxiety raised by the recent incidents in San Bernardino and Palm Springs, this is a timely documentary.

“Mr. Holmes” is a refreshing look at Sherlock Holmes. In recent incarnations, the temptation has been to make Holmes nearly invincible by allowing him to save Irene Adler. Adler doesn’t appear here, but this movie touches upon Holmes inability to understand women as an elderly Holmes revisits his life and the manner in which he lived and finds it wanting.  John Watson isn’t around to whisper “Norbury” to Holmes, but the name of Holmes’ housekeeper (Mrs. Munro played by Laura Linney) should do that to fans of Holmes.

“Racing Extinction” is a beautiful reminder of what can be done to prevent the extinction of animals. From high tech art projects where images are projected on to buildings to working with communities to find other sources of income to recording the last members of species for which  efforts come too late, all these are presented with no punches pulled. We see the gory aspects of slaughter. As someone who lives near a desert, I can't help but think of the possible destruction caused to the delicate balance of nature by movies like "Mad Max: Fury Road” filming in areas that are unprotected or less well monitored than the Southwestern deserts of the U.S. My hero Jane Goodall appears. After watching this documentary, my husband was inspired to give up meat one day a week. I hope it will inspire others.

“Spotlight” reminds us of the need for newspapers or at least news agencies that can pursue and investigate stories about crimes and the common person as opposed to celebrity “news.” One wonders where the money for such investigations will come from now. Great ensemble work by this cast.

These are movies that moved me emotionally or intellectually. I’ve heard good things about “The Revenant,” “Chi-raq” and “Son of Saul” and who hasn’t heard about “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” but I have yet to see these. Only one of these has inspired me to make costumes (not yet done, but in the works).

1. "Gett: The Trial of Vivian Amsalem"
A perfect courtroom movie, a perfect drama; just perfect. Film students should watch it several times and fixate on how the story subtly shifts perspective (visually as well as narratively) depending on whether a character is speaking or listening.

2. "In Jackson Heights"
Frederick Wiseman has been making films for nearly fifty years; this is one of his best films, and maybe his warmest.

3. "Listen to Me Marlon"
There are times during this found-footage film when you really do feel as though Marlon Brando is speaking to you from beyond.

4. "Chi-Raq"
Spike Lee's best film in at least ten years; vital, scathingly funny, brilliantly directed; a satire that, unlike some of his other works, did not feel the need to explain itself as satire.

5. "The Look of Silence"
Completes "The Act of Killing" by looking at the atrocities from the side of those who suffered.

6. "Mad Max: Fury Road"
A poem of mayhem and honor, equally indebted to video games and ancient myths.

7. "Horse Money"
A dream film par excellence, and also the capper on one of the greatest and most original actor-director relationships in modern cinema.

8. "Creed"
Much too sincere to be written off as a sequel or reboot, this is not merely a great sports film and a great urban melodrama, but a healing movie that shows what The United States will need to become in order to survive.

9. "Mission: Impossible: Rogue Nation"
Tom Cruise can do anything. You knew that!

10. "Ex Machina"
Lots of critical backlash on this one, but I still think it's a perfect merger of tense, clever, impeccable directed popular storytelling and real science fiction that has ideas and explores them thoroughly. The much argued-about final scene is utterly justified. This is a slave revolt movie; our heroine is correct not to want to take the chance of jeopardizing her freedom.

Runner-ups (in order): "Blackhat," "Hard to Be a God," "Matt Shepard is a Friend of Mine," "Peace Officer," "Carol," "Jauja," "Danny Collins," "White God," "Magic Mike XXL" and "Mississippi Grind".

1. "Mad Max: Fury Road"
If there were are lingering doubts that Miller could return to the post-apocalyptic saga that he last explored 30 years earlier and come up with something that could hold a candle to the previous installments, they were instantly dispelled with an opening sequence that instantly joined the ranks of the great action set-pieces of recent years in terms of technical precision and sheer kinetic thrills. And yet, as stunning as this sequence was, the film only got better as it went on thanks to its stunning visual style (ace cinematographer John Seale came out of semi-retirement to shoot the film and his genius is evident in virtually every frame), a screenplay with more depth than one might expect from a film of this sort (even the scantily-clad babes who are at the center of the story prove to be more than just eye candy), magnetic performances, and one jaw-dropping stunt after another. After all the years of rumors and false starts, not to mention one of the most arduous productions of recent memory, this instant classic not only lived up to the hype, it exceeded it and demonstrated that a film can be both an epic-sized blockbuster and a genuine work of art.

2. "The Hateful Eight"
Because much of the delight to be had from Tarantino's latest comes from the surprises, both narrative and stylistic, that he has in store for viewers, I will need to tread very lightly on what it is that makes it so damned entertaining. Fusing elements of the Western and an Agatha Christie-style locked room mystery, Tarantino spins a grandly entertaining story that includes a number of nifty narrative tricks (while still playing fair with viewers throughout) that pay off so splendidly that the tension and intrigue continues to build even after all the dramatic cards appear to have been shown. Beautifully shot in the glory of 70mm, expertly directed, and filled with alternately hilarious and shocking dialogue, this is the kind of go-for-broke filmmaking that leaves viewers practically giddy with excitement and ready to see it again as soon as the end credits finish.

3. "Bridge of Spies"
Spielberg's latest effort, recounting the story of a Cold War-era American lawyer (Tom Hanks) who successfully defends a Soviet spy (Mark Rylance) in court and is then employed by the government a couple of years later to arrange an exchange with the USSR to trade the spy for downed American pilot Francis Gary Powers, is his best film since his criminally underrated "A.I. Artificial Intelligence." Much of this is due to the screenplay by Matt Charman and Joel & Ethan Coen that miraculously manages to mine the material for suspense and more sardonic laughs than one might expect. Perhaps inspired by the material, Spielberg relaxes the stultifying style that has hampered his recent efforts for a more blessedly loose take on the material that is further bolstered by strong performances from Hanks and Rylance. In the end, this may be a history lesson but the end result is so entertaining that you will hardly even notice.

4. "Anomalisa"
A man (David Thewlis), who is so thoroughly alienated with the world around him that he is unable to forge meaningful contact with anyone, goes out of town on a business trip, meets a woman (Jennifer Jason Leigh) who actually stands out from the crowd and forges a real connection with her over the course of an evening. This description may make it sound like just another instantly forgettable indie drama but in the hands of Charlie Kaufman, the man behind such mind-bending works as "Being John Malkovich," "Adaptation," "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" and "Synecdoche, New York," it becomes the most original and genuinely touching film of the year. 

5. "Spotlight"
Having begun 2015 by releasing what would prove to be one of the year's very worst movies, the inexplicable Adam Sandler fable "The Cobbler," McCarthy (whose previous films have included "The Station Agent," "The Visitor" and "Win Win") responded in the most unexpected and welcome of ways by ending the year having directed and co-written one of the very best films as well. This chronicle of an investigative reporting unit of the Boston Globe who uncovered a scandal involving pedophiliac Catholic priest that would prove to be the mere tip of a horrifying iceberg involving the entire church hierarchy was itself a model of great journalism. Throw in great performances by one of the year's strongest casts and McCarthy's commendable work behind the camera and the result is a film that deserves to be spoken in the same breath as such classic cinematic celebrations of journalism as "All the Presidents Men" and "Zodiac." 

6. "Inside Out"
Considering that this is probably the title on this list that everyone reading has seen (especially if you have kids), you don't really need me to testify at length about how wonderful this effort from Pixar, their best in years, was. All I will say is that in a filmography that is already overloaded with films that take truly inspired ideas and executing them in the most flawless and exciting manner imaginable, this is one of Pixar's prime accomplishments and a work that is destined to live on for a long, long time in the hearts and minds of anyone who sees it.

7. "It Follows"
Writer-director David Robert Mitchell has created one of the most genuinely unnerving American horror films in a long time (the bravura opening sequences packs more scares in just a few minutes than occurred in the "Paranormal Activity" saga entire). It's one that pays homage to the classics of the genre (with "Halloween" serving as a particular touchstone with its hypnotic camerawork and driving musical score from Disasterpiece) while still going off in new and unexpected directions that are further underscored by a wonderful central performance from Maika Monroe. Yes, there were a lot of bad horror movies this year (I'm looking at you, "The Gallows") but this one is so great—even for those who usually don't have a taste for such things—that it is enough to renew your faith in the entire genre.

8. "The New Girlfriend"
Still reeling from the recent death of her best friend, a woman (Anais Demoustier) checks in unexpectedly on the now-widowed husband (Romain Duris) and his infant daughter and finds him dressed in his late wife's clothing—he claims that it is a way to help calm the baby but as things progress, it becomes far more than that as it changes both their lives in wildly unexpected ways. With its combination of potentially volatile story elements—including offbeat comedy, melodrama, undertones of suspense and an extremely fluid contemplation of contemporary sexual mores—this is a cinematic high-wire act in which even the slightest misstep could send the entire thing crashing to the ground in a mess of smutty farce and mawkish soap operatics.

9. "The Ocean of Helena Lee" 
Set on California's Venice Beach in the early Seventies, this incredibly evocative drama quietly observes 12-year-old Helena (Moriah Blonna) as she navigates her imminent passage into adolescence and tries to figure out her place in both the world and her own personal story while simultaneously dealing with the passing of her mother (singer Maria McKee) and the inability of her otherwise loving father (Tom Dunne) to finally grow up and take responsibility for himself. More in the meditative mold of Terrence Malick or the more personal works of David Gordon Green than that of a typical coming-of-age saga, this is one of the most mesmerizing observations of the perils and pleasures of growing up.

10. "Ex Machina"
This trippy futuristic drama follows a computer programmer (Domhnall Gleeson) who is selected by the reclusive genius boss (Oscar Isaac) to journey to his remote mountain retreat to participate in an elaborate experiment involving what may be the first true example of artificial intelligence—housed, perhaps inevitably, in the form of a gorgeous female robot (Alicia Vikander). Of course, nothing is as it seems to be and it is a delight to see how Garland (an acclaimed writer making his decidedly assured directorial debut) takes familiar elements and spins them out in smart and thought-provoking new directions. This is genre filmmaking at its smartest and most innovative.

As it turns out, 2015 was a good enough year at the movies that if every title on my Ten Best list were to suddenly be erased from existence, my ten runner-up titles could have made for a more-than-satisfactory example of cinematic excellence. Consider these ten titles, presented in alphabetical order, to be a ten-way tie for #11: Asif Kapadia's "Amy," Adam McKay's "The Big Short," Michael Mann's "Blackhat," John Crowley's "Brooklyn," Spike Lee's "Chi-Raq," David O. Russell's "Joy," David Cronenberg's "Map to the Stars," Ridley Scott's "The Martian," Mark Burton & Richard Starzak's "The Shaun the Sheep Movie" and Danny Boyle's "Steve Jobs."

Chaz Ebert's recent piece, "Listening with My Heart: 16 Movies to Remember," made me smile. Not only was it a fine read, its approach came very close to what I intended to do with my 2015 list. Any 1 to 10 ranking seemed impossible to attempt; I decided not to try it. Instead, here are 10 films seen this year which have lingered after leaving the theater, and sometimes even returned to me many months later. Let me add that a few I haven't caught yet (e.g., "Carol," "Creed," "The Big Short," "45 Years") might have been here.

In no particular order:
"White God"
"Ex Machina"
"The Martian"

1. "Spotlight"
There is something utterly enthralling about watching people who excel at their jobs. Given the ramshackle state of journalism at the moment, director/co-writer Tom McCarthy’s account of how the Boston Globe’s crack investigative reporting team unveiled the venal depths that the Catholic Church resorted to while covering up its pedophile priest crisis is akin to showing how Da Vinci painted the “Mona Lisa.” The film itself is also a near-perfect model of its kind, a procedural that puts its faith in its abundantly human characters who are richly rendered by the year’s best ensemble cast. 

2. "45 Years"
What starts off as a comfy tea cozy of a domestic drama about a long-delayed anniversary celebration for a retired British couple slowly evolves  into a devastating horror movie, complete with a ghost of sorts hiding in the attic that is straight out of a gothic romance.  But what is most haunting are the shifting waves of emotion that flicker upon the faces of two terrifically matched veteran actors, Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay, at the apex of their abilities as performers. 

3. "Amy"
Most of us have seen more than enough rise-and-fall sagas of showbiz excess and the damage that often accompanies fame. And certainly singer Amy Winehouse’s reckless disregard for her own well-being was heavily chronicled by the media before she succumbed to alcohol poisoning at age 27 in 2011. But what documentarian Asif Kapadia does with countless interviews and rare private footage that few have done before is to create a portrait so achingly intimate that for a while it feels as if this torchy songstress who burned up the pop charts like a flamethrower is still alive again. 

4. "Room"
A small wonder overflowing with giant emotions about a mother and son whose love allows them to survive years of living in a confined space and whose unbreakable connection to one another proves their salvation when they must cope with the harsher realities of the outside world.

5. "Inside Out"
The moment I knew that whoever spawned this amazing journey to the center of a prepubescent girl’s brain was a genius? When they had her play hockey—not field hockey, but ice hockey. Thank you, Pete Docter and Pixar. And thank you for casting Lewis Black in the role he was born to play—Anger.

6. "Grandma"
“You need to be able to say ‘screw you’ sometimes.” With those resonating words of hard-won wisdom, Lily Tomlin won me over in her first film lead since 1988’s “Big Business” as a testy feminist lesbian who would do anything for her pregnant teen granddaughter—including swallowing her pride and awkwardly asking for financial help from some estranged sources.

7. "Mad Max: Fury Road"
The odds were against this much-stalled fourth installment that finally arrived three long decades after the third. But at age 70, filmmaker George Miller managed to not only turbo-charge his dystopian fantasy for the 21st century, but also delivered a feminist-leaning enterprise with the best female action hero since “Alien’s” Ripley, Charlize Theron as the mighty Imperator Furiosa.

8. "I’ll See You in My Dreams"
Blythe Danner is so relaxed and radiant in this dramedy about a late-life reawakening of a set-in-her-ways widow, you can even say she glows. Whether dealing  with male admirers young (Martin Starr as her shy pool boy) or old (Sam Elliott, seductive ‘stache and all), Danner provides a superbly confident performance that deserves to  be required viewing in acting schools.

9. "Shaun the Sheep"
Imagine if Charlie Chaplin had a woolly outer layer, a devious knack for barnyard high jinks and a jaw that unhinged whenever he sheepishly smiled. British stop-motion animation house Aardman might be best known for its man-and-dog team Wallace and Gromit, but Shaun and his flock are shear genius as well. 

10. "Clouds of Sils Maria"
Be prepared to enter a heady high-altitude Alpine trance while witnessing a finely aged Juliette Binoche as a Euro re-invention of Margo Channing  coming to terms with a new generation of thesping rivals; a never-better Kristen Stewart finally putting a stake in her tween-bait vampire-lover past as her devoted assistant; and Chloe Grace Moretz playing a cagier version of  Lindsay Lohan better than that woeful actress ever played herself.

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