The 20 Best Movies of 2015

Read more about the full list here:
  1. 20.
    James White
    Christopher Abbott and Cynthia Nixon are equally riveting as a son and mother attempting to cope with both the death of their father/husband and an increasingly dire cancer prognosis in Josh Mond’s piercingly intimate indie debut.
  2. 19.
    The intimacy of Mustang’s framing and the casual realism of its young actresses creates a feeling of connection that keeps the film from becoming some dour drama about patriarchal cruelty.
  3. 18.
    The Martian
    The Martian is not a difficult film. It’s a crowd pleaser, but it comes by its snappy sensibilities honestly and Ridley Scott again proves that he can direct the hell out of a sci-fi adventure.
  4. 17.
    Approaching The Elephant
    Beyond the car-crash fascination of it all, Approaching The Elephant has a lot to say about squaring big theories against harsh realities; plenty of ideals get tested, even if the students never do.
  5. 16.
    The Forbidden Room
    A hilarious and edifying intervention against “slow cinema,” The Forbidden Room is filled to the brim with stories, which keep rudely tumbling over top of each other like monkeys in a barrel.
  6. 15.
    Crimson Peak
    Unsuccessfully marketed as a horror movie, this lush, florid Gothic romance represents the high-water mark for director Guillermo Del Toro’s gifts as a pure stylist. Like fine licorice, this is an exquisite experience for those who might already have a taste for it.
  7. 14.
    45 Years
    45 Years shatters the comfy fantasy of happily growing old together, even as stars Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay, in two of the year’s most quietly devastating performances, sketch a whole lifetime of cohabitation in their scenes together.
  8. 13.
    Hard To Be A God
    One of the filthiest-looking films ever made, this staggeringly realized, nearly three-hour Russian sci-fi nightmare plunges viewers into the day-to-day life of a backwater planet stuck in the Middle Ages.
  9. 12.
    Bridge Of Spies
    As with Lincoln, the director assembles each scene with such verve that the ebb and flow of negotiation becomes as compelling as the more cloak-and-dagger material. Add this to the increasingly crowded field of Spielberg’s best.
  10. 11.
    Inside Out
    Take that rather sophisticated theme, add in the magnificent candy-colored design of Riley’s headscape and some assured visual storytelling—rendering white-knuckle action sequences as melancholy poetry—and the result is another Pixar masterpiece.
  11. 10.
    A theater production reconceived for the screen, this melancholy yet often riotously funny tale of a customer-service guru (voice of David Thewlis) who travels to Cincinnati for a lecture and meets a highly unusual woman (voiced by Jennifer Jason Leigh) is vintage Kaufman, and uses its puppets in ways that even those familiar with the source material couldn’t possibly anticipate.
  12. 9.
    Led by Saoirse Ronan’s magnetic performance, it’s a film of sharp, authentic details regarding the immigrant experience, the ups and downs of blossoming love, and the conflict between individual desire and familial expectations and obligations. It’s a heartstring-tugging depiction of the push-pull between the staid comfort of the past and the thrilling unknown of the future.
  13. 8.
    Carol, like its namesake, is pure seduction, a midcentury love story whose every element—from its carefully arranged period detail to its gorgeously grainy 16mm cinematography to the unforgettable swell of Carter Burwell’s score—seems calibrated to allure. It’s love at first sight, Todd Haynes style.
  14. 7.
    The Assassin
    A beautiful royal returns to the kingdom she was sent away from as a child, equipped with a special set of skills and bent on vengeance. Sold by its North American distributors as an action epic but purely an auteur work, The Assassin offers up more memorable images than any other movie released this year.
  15. 6.
    What makes Sicario truly remarkable, though, is the way that it deliberately, perversely diminishes ace FBI agent Kate Macer (Emily Blunt) over the course of the narrative, after she volunteers to join a task force seeking to root out the head of a Mexican cartel. It’s magnificently served by director Denis Villeneuve, who sustains a nearly unbearable level of tension for the duration.
  16. 5.
    The Look of Silence
    Many directors make films that are moving, or thought-provoking. Joshua Oppenheimer’s documentaries are both of these things, but they’re also something far more rare: They’re actually, historically important. If The Act Of Killing was a sobering reminder that history is written by the victors, The Look Of Silence is an elegy for the forgotten.
  17. 4.
    The Duke Of Burgundy
    The Duke Of Burgundy is less concerned with sex per se than with the inherent difficulties involved in sharing your life with another person, which sometimes requires a sincere effort to share their interests even when you’re not especially interested. It’s not every film that can achieve overpowering emotional catharsis using water sports as a metaphor.
  18. 3.
    It Follows
    David Robert Mitchell’s steady camerawork, beautiful ambiguities (like whose form the force is assuming and whether that form has any connection to its victims), and sense of humor make for a surprisingly rewatchable horror movie—and a relevant one, too.
  19. 2.
    A modern masterpiece of suspense capped off by one of the greatest endings in recent memory, German director Christian Petzold’s complexly shaded noir thriller takes an unbelievable pulp premise and underplays it. it’s both an engrossingly suspenseful genre piece and a disquieting commentary on identity and the aftermath of the Holocaust.
  20. 1.
    Mad Max: Fury Road
    Fury Road bucks just about every trend in big-budget franchise filmmaking: It’s a self-contained joy ride through its creator’s limitless imagination. And beneath its layers upon layers of awe-inspiring imagery beats the heart of a surprisingly subversive entertainment, one that dares to put its mythic hero (Tom Hardy, a fine substitute for Mad Mel) into the passenger seat, while a metal-armed Charlize Theron leads the charge against misogyny incarnate.