Best Movies of 2015

On Sunday night, the Academy awarded Oscars to their favorite movies of 2015. The show came pre-packaged with controversy over racial disparity in the nominations. This was the elephant in the room as host Chris Rock took the stage. Many speculated how Rock would address the controversy. He responded by spending his entire opening monologue on the subject.

Rock didn’t take a side. Instead, he praised and mocked both sides. The opening wasn’t as dynamic as most Oscar beginnings. There’s something to be said for the showmanship of a Billy Crystal or a Neil Patrick Harris. Still, Rock played to his strengths as a stand-up comedian and delivered the goods.

From there, things got weird. The direction of the show was uneven at best. There were awkward transitions, and more bits than usual that failed completely. And then came the awards themselves. The Oscars aren’t always known for surprises, but this night was full of them. Ex Machina defied the odds to win Best Visual Effects, Mark Rylance beat locked-in Sylvester Stallone for Best Supporting Actor, and Spotlight came out of nowhere to win the biggest award of all: Best Picture. The show ended with “Fight the Power” over the closing credits, which proved on social media to be as divisive as the show itself.

And just like that, the year in film came to an end. Now, it’s our turn.

Cinema Faith’s 2015 top ten list began all the way back in January with one entry: Black Sea. That film was kicked off the list in a hurry as additional entries showed up. Each list is a fight to the finish – movies stay on or bounce down all year until the lineup is finalized after the Oscars. We encourage you to check back often. 2016 is up and running!

There are many Oscar movies on the list, but also a few that were snubbed. The Oscars hold no sway over the entries. Spotlight isn’t on our list, and Sicario has been in our top three since October, despite not scoring any major nominations. No matter what the Academy says, we believe these are the ten best movies of 2015.

The films below represent ten diverse journeys. We hope you’ll take the time to travel down each one. From the streets of Philadelphia to the streets of Brooklyn. From the mind of a 12-year-old girl to the heart of a drug war. From the portrait of a marriage to the portrait of a crisis. Ten stories. Ten departures. Enjoy the ride.

With this list, we officially say goodbye to the year 2015. A new chapter in film has already begun. Where will we travel to next?


  1. The Revenant
  2. Inside Out
  3. Sicario
  4. Amy
  5. 45 Years
  6. The End of the Tour
  7. Room
  8. Brooklyn
  9. Creed
  10. The Big Short
  • DocRLS

    Pretty good list. If you spent 10 days watching those 10 movies (like any of us have time for that) it would be a cinemaphile’s dream. I haven’t yet seen some on the list (Amy, 45 Years, Brooklyn and Sicario — color me ashamed as Amy and Sicario has been available via streaming for a long time — grin). But I WOULD put Spotlight high up on that list and I would rank Inside Out a lot lower (pop psychology for the masses/children).

    End of the Tour was unrelentingly depressing — especially knowing the ending from the beginning. Is there a person in 2015 cinema (and in real life) who more needed faith in their life than David Foster Wallace? What a hopeless movie. It would definitely not have been in my Top Ten. Creed was pretty good but I do not understand how you have that on your list and not Spotlight. (Isn’t God wonderful that we all have such different tastes?) But I absolutely agree that Revenant was the best of the best.

    • I’m in the minority that actually found The End of the Tour inspiring. To me, the film was about the plight of the artist, and all the joy, stress, pressure, excitement, insecurity, and pleasure found in crafting something truly original. I didn’t look at the final scene as David Foster Wallace in the afterlife; it felt more like Tuesdays With Morrie – a guy letting loose on the dance floor because that’s the only place he feels safe.

      I certainly see the other interpretations in retrospect. I just didn’t get that vibe on my first viewing. You said it though – praise God for different tastes. How boring this life would be if we all thought the same!

    • I will say DFW was a guy who wrestled with faith more than people acknowledge — I love his comment that we all worship, that there is no such thing as an atheist because even they have idols, and he was a church member (I know suicide is generally considered an absolute denial, but I am not convinced by this, and think there is more hope for his soul than we will ever know). I did not find the movie depressing necessarily, and I know I knocked it in my review for the ending, but I actually did find the movie to have a lot of hopeful moments, and beautiful insights into the honest problems.

      • DocRLS

        I do not doubt anyone’s faith (as if it is mine to do so) on the basis of their taking their own life. I have seen firsthand on several fronts how devastating and overwhelming organic depression can be and it does not always respond to even the best medical therapies (which are unavailable, in our society, to many if not most mentally ill.) And those with severe depression often do not have motivation to seek that therapy even if they can afford it. It does sound like DFW had good psychiatric treatment but of his own volition he was not always compliant.

        But the fact that he went dancing in the basement of a church once every few weeks hardly qualifies as having a substantial and helpful faith life. Maybe DFW had more exposure to the teachings of Christ than I am aware (I read that he twice attempted to join the Catholic Church) — obviously you have read him and know much more about him than me. But it IS depressing to me that nothing in his life could spare him the premature end of a brilliant (God-given) mind.

        I have just today reread your excellent, thoughtful and obviously knowledgeable review of Tour and so appreciate your take on it. I love My Dinner with Andre and can see the comparison. But… I don’t think I will ever watch Tour again. It is just too bleak an outlook, too tortured a mind… and where are the answers? Where is the hope? Dancing in a Mennonite church did not help him, nor his marriage… his life seemed so purposeless and lonely. He seemed to get very little satisfaction from teaching or even from his writing. His life was plagued by drug and alcohol abuse. His alleged behavior with women betrayed the liberated mind he is purported to have had. (But let me be clear that I have committed, in my mind, worse sins. The hope in my life is God’s grace and forgiveness.)

        Glad I saw it once, but do not consider it one of the 10 best from this last year.

        • Yes, some really good points. I don’t disagree — I did watch it a couple times, and that sense of false hope weighs heavier in each viewing.
          I think that is fair (your assessment of the movie, not sure I disagree with you either). To clarify my point on his relationship w/ Christianity from what I have read/heard/watched of his writings, interviews, etc. he did attend a church on a regular basis… he writes about that in his essay on 9/11, how he goes over to the house of an older woman from his church to watch everything unfold on television. In one of his interview on KCRW’s Bookworm this is brought up at relative length: how surprising a person of his caliber would go to church and identify with Christianity… it was kind of sad the implications of Siverblatt’s framing of the question, but was also cool to hear DFW not really back away from it either.
          Still, what I really like about Tour is that it introduces people to DFW, to explore his work, which I have found to have an incredible (positive) impact on my faith. I get the not wanting to watch it again 🙂
          Another, underrated, moment is the prayer of St. Ignatius in his bathroom. I think that reflects a lot of insight into the actual struggle DFW had; I think the drugs and alcohol exacerbated this desire to accomplish, this weight of expectation that his genius warranted and crushed him with.
          Also, even conversations that stem from that movie such as this, are a reason I still like it… it makes me stretch and grow.

    • I’m with you on Inside Out… wasn’t really a fan. I feel like Walker Percy would have a merciless take on its self-help roots.