Half-Year Mark: Cole’s Picks for the Best 2015 Films


Slide1Cole Clay // Film Critic

In the exceptional film HIGH FIDELITY, John Cusack’s character, Rob Gordon, is obsessed with making lists– top five lists to be exact. That’s what I am here to do today, bringing you the top five best films of the 2015 (so far).

When the year started the future didn’t look so bright. January, aka “Dump Month,” is when Hollywood purges all of the crap that didn’t make it out the previous year, and usually there is one or two decent gems in there (THE GREY, THAT AWKWARD MOMENT). In 2015, we didn’t have that luxury. Instead, we got a mustachioed Johnny Depp running around Europe like a fake Clouseau and Kevin Hart singing in a terrible Yiddish accent with THE WEDDING RINGER. Have no fear, because it always gets better smaller films like THE DUKE OF BURGUNDY and AMIRA & SAM helped cleanse our pallets of the junk food found in the local mega-plexes.

I’d love to go over each of the films I’ve seen so far this year, but as any journalist knows, the struggle with carpel tunnel is real. In that case, here are the five best of the year, five honorable mentions and, of course, five of 2015’s biggest turkeys.

Director: Brett Morgen
Cast: Kurt Cobain, Courtney Love and Krist Novoselic

Many of us people born prior to 1990 have a love and affinity for Nirvana’s music, but I personally forgot how deep that ran until view Brett Morgen’s documentary MONTAGE OF HECK. Many even felt that even though they had never met Kurt, they knew him personally– everybody wanted a piece of him in some way, shape or form. Morgen (THE KID STAYS IN THE PICTURE, 2002) was given unfiltered access to Kurt’s artwork, personal recordings and diaries from spouse Courtney Love and daughter Frances “Bean” Cobain who also serves as an executive producer on the film.

What Morgen was able to capture truly broke my heart. Not only was I weeping at points throughout the film, but it effected my mood for the rest of that week. This visceral documentary will forever be a document to Cobain’s memory, which is let’s face it– just plain cool.

dope_ver24. DOPE
Director: Rick Famuyiwa
Cast: Shameik Moore, Tony Revolori, Kiersey Clemons, Zoë Kravitz and narrated by Forest Whitaker

It’s got the style, lacks the class, but has all the ingredients to be a teen classic. Director Rick Famuyiwa’s tale of life in South Central Los Angeles sound familiar? Well, it should. DOPE has a certain level of respect for the hood movies of the 90’s – such as BOYZ IN THE HOOD and MENACE II SOCIETY – but instead of tearing down those conventions, Famuyiwa (THE WOOD) plays with what made that film movement resonate with the youth of that era.

Shameik Moore’s turn as the forever geeky (but in my eyes eternally cool) Malcolm may not be a star-making-performance because he still has room to grow as an actor, which made his performance feel more real. Famuyiwa’s hand gets a little too heavy at the end of the film with his take on social injustices, but it’s too strong of a film to waver any of the Pharrell’s sick beats he made for the soundtrack.

9318d710-b21a-11e4-a2cc-bd1352ee928a_TWK_Tsr1Sheet5_RGB_0210_1_Web3. TRAINWRECK
Director: Judd Apatow
Cast: Amy Schumer, Bill Hader, Brie Larson and LeBron James

Judd Apatow (KNOCKED UP) is the hero of modern American comedy– no ifs, ands, or stoner jokes about it. Working off of a script written by Amy Schumer (INSIDE AMY SCHUMER), the duo create a slice of life comedy that is in the vein of Apatow’s other works (except it’s twenty minutes shorter).

Although this film hasn’t come out yet (caught the “work in progress” cut at SXSW), it’s by far, going to be the best comedy of the year for many reasons: the cameos are killer (Lebron James and John Cena in particular), the emotions feel real, and finally, it’s got the golden Apatow touch. True, I’m a little biased, but see for yourself on July 17.

mad_max__fury_road_20152. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD
Director: George Miller
Cast: Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, and Hugh Keays-Byrne

FURY ROAD is a completely empowering and awe-inspiring action film. Director George Miller’s magnum opus would be the best film of 2015 if our winner didn’t evoke a surge of child-like wonder into my consciousness. OK, onto FURY ROAD. The character of Mad Max hadn’t made it into the cultural conversation since Tina Turner strutted across the silver-screen in 1985’s BEYOND THUNDERDOME.

If you haven’t seen FURY ROAD yet, it’s essentially Cirque du Soleil with cars. This operatic action spectacle is truly a film that comes along once every 20 or so years. What more else is there to say– go see this movie (but skip on the 3D if possible).

Screen shot 2015-06-18 at 9.53.06 AM1. INSIDE OUT
Director: Pete Docter and Ronaldo Del Carmen
Cast: Amy Poehler, Phyllis Smith, Bill Hader and Lewis Black

Without argument, it’s Pixar’s best film to date. Why the hyperbole you ask? Well, if you have seen this brilliant look into the mind of an 11-year-old girl you wouldn’t be asking this question. It’s a film filled with wonder, delight, fear, joy, sadness and a little anger… wait, I’m just naming characters.

Honorable Mentions:


Worst of the Year:


About author

James C. Clay

James Cole Clay has been working as a film critic for the better part of a decade covering new releases, blu ray reviews and the occasional drive-in cult classic. His writing is dedicated to discovering social politics through diverse voices, primarily focusing on Women In Film and LGBTQ cinema.