8. Steve Jobs
Both Danny Boyle and Aaron Sorkin have been involved with Academy Award winning films. They’re widely considered two of the most consistent workers in the film industry. Even if they release something that isn’t quite up to their standards, it’s still a good movie. The thing about Steve Jobs, however, is that it wasn’t even a disappointment in comparison to Boyle and Sorkin’s other films.
While it wasn’t quite up to the standards of Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire or Sorkin’s The Social Network, it was still a phenomenal movie that ranks among the best of the year. Sorkin’s script (which also managed to get snubbed) ranks among the best of the year, and Boyle’s direction is as great as ever. The magnificent cast, led by the always excellent Michael Fassbender, was also far from a letdown.
So why didn’t the film gel with Academy voters? Unfortunately, it didn’t really gel with anyone. This isn’t to say that the people who saw it disliked it. Rather, it’s implying that nobody was willing to see it in the first place. Filmed on a modest $30 million dollar budget, Steve Jobs wasn’t even able to earn back its budget. Despite rave reviews and record-breaking limited release box office numbers, Steve Jobs tanked when it went wide. Stiff competition, bad marketing, and a lack of interest in the overall subject were likely the biggest reasons.
While poor box office numbers don’t always hurt movies (like in the case of 2011’s Hugo), there was also a ton of competition when awards season rolled around. Steve Jobs couldn’t compete with bigger names like Mad Max: Fury Road or Spotlight. Still, it’s well worth a watch regardless of how you feel about the man.
9. Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens
A movie of this size is bound to have plenty of haters. No movie that makes as much money as The Force Awakens will leave everyone perfectly content. People will shout that it’s overrated, and that’s absolutely fair when you consider the people who claim that it’s the best movie ever made. It’s far from the best movie ever made. What it is, however, is one of the most satisfactory Star Wars sequels that fans could ask for. Given the reputation of the prequels, it makes sense that plenty of fans approached the film with caution.
JJ Abrams left some viewers unhappy as a result of the film’s familiarity and failure to take risks, but most people who watched it felt it was the best Star Wars film in over thirty years. While the film was admittedly imitative of the original series, it was still a thrilling entry in the series thanks to likeable new characters, gorgeous visual effects, and the welcome return of key cast members. The darker tone was also welcome, as it assured fans that they shouldn’t expect anyone like Jar Jar Binks to come in and offer some “comic relief.”
The film was an absolute smash at the box office. It’s currently the third highest grossing film worldwide, and its performance in the United States is almost hard to fathom. Unfortunately, the Academy had plenty of other blockbusters to choose from. Considering the fact that The Martian and Mad Max made their way into the best picture field, it could be argued that there wasn’t enough room for another big budget genre film.
Creed is the best Rocky movie since the original debuted all the way back in 1976. It’s also proof that Ryan Coogler, who made his debut in 2013 with the indie smash hit Fruitvale Station, is a force to be reckoned with. Putting Stallone in a new role and focusing on a new character helps keep things fresh. After numerous sequels that fail to spice things up, the Rocky formula was in desperate need of a change. Rocky Balboa was definitely well made, especially when compared to the sloppy fifth entry, but it still felt been-there-done-that.
Creed doesn’t reinvent fighting movies by any means, but it does bring new life to a franchise that needed it. Adonis Creed, played by Fruitvale Station alumn Michael B. Jordan, is a delightful addition to the Rocky universe. He’s a character with enough unique personality traits to differentiate him from Rocky Balboa. In addition, while Rocky is the same guy we know in love, it’s a nice change of pace seeing him take a supporting role as a trainer. Sylvester Stallone’s portrayal of the character may be the finest of his career, proven by the fact that he recently picked up the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor.
It’s unfortunate that this was such a competitive year. Under different circumstances, Creed would almost definitely have posed a bigger threat at the Academy Awards. While it wasn’t exactly an Oscar behemoth, it did help Coogler land a job as the director of Marvel’s Black Panther. We can assume that’s probably good enough for him.
11. The Hateful Eight
Tarantino’s latest is his most divisive in years. It certainly didn’t garner the same kind of praise as his last two efforts, which went on to earn plenty of award recognition. Because of that, it’s understandable why The Hateful Eight didn’t do great with Oscar voters. While plenty of people really enjoyed it, there was a chunk of people who found it to be rather disappointing.
The Hateful Eight’s violence seems less necessary than usual and the length of the film could have been trimmed, but The Hateful Eight is an absolute blast from beginning to end. The whodunnit premise and minimalist, stage-like approach was creative and fun. While it’s hard to claim that any Tarantino movie is reserved, this one is about as close as it gets. The film’s smaller scale has left some people who want a more epic movie bored, but those that love dialog-driven movies will delight in Tarantino’s dynamite script.
The cast, as with all Tarantino movies, is excellent. Samuel L Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Walton Goggins are all at the top of their games. Other supporting cast members also help bring the film to life. Leigh managed to earn an Academy Award nomination, but that was one of the few nominations Tarantino’s latest could manage.
This is a movie that you should see at your own risk. If you aren’t a Tarantino fan, this one will not change your mind. In all honesty, it’ll only add fuel to the fire. People who enjoy Tarantino should, on the other hand, will find this to be another hit. It’s not as consistent as his other films, but it’s a unique experiment worth checking out.
12. It Follows
Let’s face it: critics aren’t fond of the horror genre. It’s not like it’s unwarranted. Statistically speaking, horror movies are consistently among the lowest rated films. They frequently pander to the lowest common denominator while holding the audience’s hand until the very end. They rarely take risks and often rely on checklist of formulaic clichés. Sinister 2, Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension, The Gallows, The Lazarus Effect, and Poltergeist are just a handful of critically-condemned movies that were released in 2015. However, not every horror movie was an absolute mess. Movies like We Are Still Here, The Final Girls, and Spring helped prove that the horror genre isn’t completely hopeless. However, if you’re looking for 2015’s definitive horror masterpiece, look no further than It Follows.
It Follows isn’t just a great horror movie – it’s a great movie, period. Similar to 2014’s The Babadook, It Follows isn’t afraid to play with symbolism and thematic depth. This isn’t the brain-dead horror movies to which audiences have become accustomed. Rather, this is a film that begs to be analyzed. While it wants to scare you, it has more interest in making you ask questions.
The unique concept about a teenager who finds herself constantly being followed as a consequence of her sexual interactions, could have easily been lazy, preachy, and ham-fisted. Director David Robert Mithcell seems to know better, luckily. It Follows doesn’t shove numerous themes down your throat. Rather, it approaches the concept with a subtlety that’s nearly impossible to find in any other film in the genre. While it might not please fans of modern horror movies, viewers looking for a little experimentation will be delighted by the film.
13. Love and Mercy
Just because Straight Outta Compton came out the same year as this one doesn’t mean there isn’t room for two terrific music biopics. Love and Mercy takes on one of the most iconic musicians of all time – Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys. While some people only know Brian Wilson as the most important member of one of the most important bands, others may know about his struggles with mental illness and drug addiction. Regardless of your prior knowledge about the guy, Love and Mercy does a great job of educating viewers about the hardships Wilson went through in his life. Not only is the film mostly accurate, it’s also incredibly gripping.
Paul Dano and John Cusack play a young Brian Wilson and an older Brian Wilson respectively. They both do a fantastic job, with Dano delivering one of the best supporting performances of 2015. Elizabeth Banks also does a great job playing Wilson’s love interest. While Banks has a reputation for her comedic roles, she shows off her dramatic acting chops with ease in the film.
This is a film that could have easily messed a lot of things up, but it manages to be a sensitive and touching look at Wilson’s life. Unfortunately, there was too much competition for the film to garner a single Academy Award nomination. While its exclusion from Best Picture is mostly reasonably, Dano’s snub is downright inexcusable.
Movies that do well at Sundance rarely do well at the Academy Awards. Dope helps prove this to be year. Despite earning plenty of praise at the Sundance film festival, it failed to be remembered when awards season rolled around. Out of every film on this list, this is the one that happens to be the the least surprising in terms of how well it did at the Academy Awards. It didn’t receive any attention from precursor awards, and pundits didn’t even consider it a possibility. This is why it deserves a spot on the list. The other films at least got some attention from awards. Dope was ignored entirely.
This coming-of-age crime comedy is hilarious and surprisingly deep. The story of high school geek turned drug dealer is laugh out loud funny as well as downright feisty. Rick Famuyiwa proves to be more than an adequate director for this indie comedy. In addition, Shameik Moore’s performance has been described as “starmaking.” While this is smaller than a lot of the movies occupying this list, it’s still a wonderfully entertaining watch worth your attention.
Foreign movies rarely make the cut for Best Picture. Amour’s inclusion back in 2012 was an anomaly to say the least. If you also consider the fact that Germany decided not to choose this as their Best Foreign Language Film submission, then it becomes pretty clear that Phoenix was dead on arrival. The good news is Phoenix has been getting some necessary attention ever since it was added to Netflix Instant. The Holocaust drama is one of the most riveting and complex looks at morality to come around in 2015.
The concept could have easily been butchered. The film revolves around a Holocaust victim (played by Nina Hoss) who decides to undergo facial reconstruction surgery after a messy injury. While her face is mostly healed as a result of the procedure, it looks completely different from before. As a result, she’s almost completely unrecognizable to anyone unaware of the surgery. This includes her husband, who reveals a dastardly plan to her without knowing who she really is. In the wrong hands, this is honestly something that could come across as rather silly or over-the-top, but director Christian Petzold makes every scenario work.
If there’s one reason the film stands among the best of the year, it’s Nina Hoss. Hoss brings an emotional intensity that’s necessary to successfully captivate the audience. If Hoss fails keep to keep the audience’s interest, there’s little point in watching a film that’s so devoted to her character. As previously stated, Hoss absolutely manages to keep audiences on their feet. Outperforming every one of her peers, Hoss brings this movie to life in a way that no other actress could.