The best movies of 2015:
10. At Number 10, the rousing, gritty, thoroughly entertaining “Straight Outta Compton.” Director F. Gary Gray and the stellar cast remind us of NWA’s legacy as groundbreaking rappers — and important street journalists.
9. Number Nine is a little movie doing pretty decent box-office business: “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” J.J. Abrams saved the day for millions upon millions of fans who have been mired in the Dark Side after those underwhelming prequels, counting the minutes until the Force returned. Loved Harrison Ford’s crusty reprise, and Daisy Ridley’s breakout performance as a girl-power badass.
8. My Number Eight film of the year is “Spotlight,” one of the best movies about investigative newspaper journalism since “All the President’s Men.” Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo and Rachel McAdams, among others, are so authentic I’d believe they were journalists if I bumped into them in the Sun-Times newsroom.
7. I’m surprised there isn’t more love and admiration for my Number Seven movie, “Sicario.” It’s a devastating look at the war on drugs. Emily Blunt and Benicio del Toro are outstanding.
6. Quentin Tarantino’s “The Hateful Eight” checks in at Number Six. Shot in glorious 70mm and featuring a typically eclectic Tarantino cast, this is a darkly funny, intricately woven and, yes, fantastically bloody Western.
5. At Number Five, that rare action film that’s getting serious awards buzz, and deservedly so. We’re talking “Mad Max: Fury Road,” George Miller’s outrageous, audacious, wildly great apocalyptic adventure. Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron excel.
4. Next up, “The Big Short.” Adam McKay somehow found a way to turn the brilliant but hardly visual book about the mortgage crisis by Michael Lewis into one of the most entertaining films in recent years. Pitch-perfect casting, with Christian Bale, Ryan Gosling and Steve Carell all doing nomination-worthy work.
3. My third favorite movie of the year is only in a select few theaters right now, but you’ll want to check it out now or when it comes your way in January. “The Revenant” is a beautiful, haunting, sometimes jaw-dropping epic of the frontier. Leonardo DiCaprio nails one of the most challenging roles of his career, and there’s Tom Hardy again just ripping up the screen as one of the more intriguing villains you’ll ever see.
2. At Number Two, “Inside Out,” one of the smartest animated films ever made. It’s colorful and funny and sweet and heartwarming — but it’s also an amazingly complex journey through the human mind. This film deserves not only a best animated picture nomination, but a nod as one of the best pictures of the year, period.
1. And my Number One film of 2015, and one of the very best films of the decade, is “Room.” This is a disturbing, magical, heartbreaking, uplifting, fantastical modern fairy tale with some dark edges and some moments of pure, spiritual sunlight. I loved every inch of this movie.