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By Matt Rodriguez

Matt's Top 10 Films of 2015

2015 was a fantastic year for cinema. I watched hundreds of movies, so whittling them all down to my 10 favorites was a difficult task, especially since there were so many great films this year. While my Top 10 films are below, I want to give shoutouts to a few other honorable mentions that didn't make my list but were quite close; Creed, The Hateful Eight, Son of Saul, Beasts of No Nation, Anomolisa, and The Big Short. Now, without further adieu, here are my Top 10 films of 2015...



10. Straight Outta Compton

Before Straight Outta Compton I only knew of NWA. I knew the group was one of the pioneers of gangsta rap but that’s about where my knowledge ended. After watching the film, I had a great appreciation for them and the industry in general. F. Gary Gray does an amazing job at telling not just NWA’s story but the story of everyone involved. It’s a biopic that doesn’t overly pander to its source material and delivers a great and entertaining story. What pushed it into my Top 10 specifically were the performances from O'Shea Jackson, Jr., Jason Mitchell, Corey Hawkins, Aldis Hodge, and Neil Brown, Jr., who all create one of the best ensembles of the year.



9. The Revenant
Leonardo DiCaprio really wants that Oscar. And I think he’ll finally get it this year. The Revenant is a bone-chillingly savage tale of revenge where not even nature itself can stop Leo from getting that Oscar his vengeance against those responsible for killing his son and leaving him for dead. Alejandro González Iñárritu, who won Best Picture last year for Birdman, may have another winner in his hands. It’s an absolutely beautiful, if not brutal. The camera work is amazing as Iñárritu favors long, sweeping shots over quick cuts. I also enjoyed how the camera got up close with the characters, often so close their breath fogs up the lens. It makes the film all the more personal.



8. The Martian
There was a lot of excitement when it was first announced that Andy Weir’s The Martian was being adapted into a film. I heard nothing but praise for the novel and after reading it myself, was one of the believers. Film adaptations rarely live up to their novel counterparts, but amazingly The Martian recreates its story almost perfectly. Sure, there are some things left out, but that is to be expected. The two biggest elements of the novel, the science and the humor, are present and are done wonderfully. For the most part it’s a one man show, and Matt Damon absolutely nails it.



7. Room
I knew nothing about Room going into the theater other than the fact that a mother and her child are living together in a single, small room. The first half of the film explores this, with Brie Larson and the young Jacob Tremblay taking center stage. Brie Larson is fantastic as a mother struggling to take care of her child while being held hostage, but I was more impressed with Tremblay’s performance. He commands the screen despite his young age; it’s no surprise that the film is seen from his point of view. What I also really enjoyed about Room is that the second half of the film shows what it’s like after the two leave the confines of the room they’ve been living in for years and try to readjust to living in the real world again. This is one film you won’t be forgetting any time soon.



6. Inside Out
Pixar are some of the best storytellers in Hollywood, and Inside Out is one of their best and most original. Even though it revolves around the inner emotions of a little girl, I wasn’t prepared for how hard-hitting it would be. You will both laugh and cry as it connects with you on every level. It’s elementary enough for children to understand, yet also deeply complex for adults to question. Most importantly of all, it teaches us all that it’s okay to feel joy, sadness, anger, fear, disgust, and any other emotion that you might hold deep down inside you.  



5. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
If John Hughes was still alive and making films today, one of them would have been Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. It’s a coming of age film that resonates with younger audiences, but will have older generations reminiscing on their own high school years. Thomas Mann and Olivia Cooke are absolutely wonderful together and bring a sense of realism to the film that rarely is present in the genre. I foresee big things for both of them in the future.



4. Sicario
No other film on my list is as disturbing as Sicario, a film which dives head first into the world of the Mexican drug cartel. In an odd contrast, it’s also one of the most beautifully shot films of the year. It’s an absolutely unforgiving film that continues to increase in tension from the moment it begins. Sicario also happens to feature my favorite scene of the year involving the CIA extracting a high value target out of a Mexican prison and taking him back over the border. It’s one of the few films that will leave you absolutely speechless when it’s over.



3. Mad Max: Fury Road
Mad Max: Fury Road is the most entertaining film you’ll watch all year, period. George Miller has perfected the action genre, and Fury Road is a nonstop action thrill ride that pumps up the adrenaline to 110% and doesn’t let up the throttle. Action scenes have become stale and repetitive over the years, but Miller just comes in and changes the genre for the better. Fury Road is now the baseline that all future action films will be compared against.



2. Ex Machina
2015 has been a stellar year for Oscar Isaac, Alicia Vikander, and Domhnall Gleeson, and Ex Machina is responsible for kicking it all off. It’s a sci-fi film that strives to answer the question, “What makes us human?” by exploring the minute differences between humanity and artificial intelligence. It also features one of the greatest dance sequences in all of cinema. With Ex Machina, you never truly know what’s going to happen next. It’s a stunning directorial debut for Alex Garland, and I eagerly anticipate what he does next.



1. Spotlight
There are few films that leave as big a lasting impression as Spotlight. It’s a gut-wrenching look into the sex abuse scandal that rocked the Catholic Church in Boston, and a thrilling exploration of investigative journalism. With an ensemble cast consisting of Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, John Slattery, and Brian d'Arcy James the film simply lays out all the facts before you and allows you to come to your own conclusions. It continues to dig deep and only stops when it gets to the cold hard truth. There’s nothing quite like it this year, and that’s why it’s my top film of 2015.