Here is my list of the most enjoyable films I saw during 2015. This is just how much I enjoyed them, not rated as I would rate an Oscar® winner, but in my rough order of preference. This list doesn’t include two films I haven’t seen, “Brooklyn” and “Room.” Everyone I’ve spoken with (not critics) say they are both very good.
1. Testament of Youth: Based on the true exploits of an English woman during WWI, if there was ever a better actress in Hollywood than Alicia Vikander, I haven’t seen her.
2. The Gift: Hitchcockian brilliance from writer/director/co-star Joel Edgerton; the tension never lets up.
3. Far From the Madding Crowd: Blew me away.
4. Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom: This documentary of the Ukraine Revolution is the most captivating action film you will ever see, and it’s all shot on site as the events are unfolding.
5. Ex Machina: Alicia Vikander shines as a robot.
6. Woman in Gold: Another true story with very little Hollywood added; if it weren’t for Alicia Vikander, Helen Mirren would be the best actress Hollywood has ever seen.
7. Amy: Terrific documentary about Amy Winehouse.
8. Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of the National Lampoon: Also wonderfully funny.
9. Mad Max: Fury Road: One of the pleasant surprises of the year for me. A more peripatetic, high octane, testosterone-fueled chase film you will rarely see.
10. Spy: After a slow first hour, Melissa McCarthy sparkles in a riotous last hour.
11. Star Wars: The Force Awakens: Much better than I expected with star turns by veteran Harrison Ford and newcomer Daisy Ridley.
12. The Martian: I never dreamed watching a guy stranded on Mars for several hours could be this good.
13. The Salt of the Earth: This is not just a wonderful documentary about one of the greatest social photographers of the generation, Sebastiâo Salgado, it’s a picture of the brutal life of survival in the worlds far beyond our shores.
14. Pitch Perfect 2: Highlighted by outstanding production values and upbeat, entertaining music, this sequel far outpaces the original, which I despised.
15. Irrational Man: Hitchcock would have made this story a tense thriller; Woody Allen makes it a light-hearted comedic presentation, despite the dark undertones.
16. The Salvation: A Danish film with an international cast headed by Danish superstar Mads Mikkelson, this is in the grand tradition of Sergio Leone and his Spaghetti Westerns set in the American Old West but shot in Europe.
17. Child 44: A tense thriller set in Soviet Russia in 1953, it’s one of Tom Hardy’s many terrific performances of the year.
18. Jurassic World: How can you go wrong with Spielberg’s dinosaurs? This is better than the original.
19. Cop Car: This one really snuck up on me. I liked just about every minute of it.
20. Run All Night: Nonstop Liam Neeson action highlighted by tension-enhancing music, exceptional cinematography and good dialogue.
21. Deli Man: 160 years of tradition of the Jewish delicatessen; who knew!
22. Humpback Whales: This exceptional view of these magnificent mammals in IMAX 3D is an exhilarating film-viewing experience you can get nowhere else. I hated to see it end.
23. In the Heart of the Sea: Spellbinding tale of the story of the destruction of the whaling ship, Essex, in 1820, upon which Moby Dick was based; I was rooting for the whale.
24. The Letters: An eye-opening different take on Mother Teresa.
At the Movies