Variety of genres make list of top ten movies

This past year saw films of great depth and intensity

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The year 2015 came and went, but it’s not too late to take advantage of the great movies featured during the past 12 months. While a small number of franchise mega-hits drove the record-breaking $11 billion box office, the year had a deep slate of quality movies, from huge blockbusters to small indies.

While existing intellectual property-based filmmaking will likely remain dominant for the near future, this year showed that franchises can produce films that stimulate the mind and the senses. Smaller movies likewise provided a source of great stories, but Netflix’s entrance into movie-making may suggest big changes are coming for the industry in order to attract audiences increasingly prone to digital outlets. Whittling down the list was difficult, but ten movies from 2015 stood above the rest.

“Brooklyn” – This film is a delightful and romantic story about an Irish immigrant girl who moves to New York in the 1950s to make her own life, but is later called back to her homeland. The tone stays light as a feather, and Saoirse Ronan’s lead performance provides a clear window into Eilis’s heart. Watch it with a date.

“Creed” – “Creed” sets the playbook punch by punch by reviving a played-out franchise with a new sharp and more relevant style. Whether it’s Michael B. Jordan’s wonderful and heartfelt performance as Adonis Creed, Sylvester Stallone’s soulful return as Rocky or Ryan Coogler’s exhilarating direction, everything combines to make a new underdog story that sits alongside Stallone’s original classic.

“Ex Machina” – This gripping, sci-fi psychological thriller shows not all quality mature dramas need to be crammed towards the end of the year. The story sees an everyday coder whisked away by his eccentric boss for a Turing Test of his AI creation, Ava. What results is an intelligent narrative, paced to perfection and full of twists and turns. While it starred three of the most talented, ubiquitous actors of the year, Alicia Vikander stands out in a star-making performance as the curiously seductive AI.

“Inside Out” – This story of an 11-year old girl’s emotional chaos just may be Pixar’s best film ever, which is really saying something. Riley’s mind overflows with creativity due to some of the most memorable and moving characters of the year. Movies made for all ages don’t have to be dumbed down and can be more artistically rich than most adult movies.

“Mad Max: Fury Road” – The most over-the-top insane movie of the year isn’t only one of the most visually stunning but also, surprisingly, one of the most substantive. The film centers around a single long road chase driven by a story of female liberation with quality acting and mind-blowing stunts. It also has a flamethrowing guitar player. What else do moviegoers need?

“The Martian” – Ridley Scott’s sci-fi adventure about an astronaut stranded on Mars is more than a Robinson Crusoe story. Matt Damon is excellent and surprisingly hilarious as the isolated botanist, but the movie’s endless optimism, teamwork focus and can-do attitude put it above and beyond other survivor stories. It will boost any pessimist’s faith in humanity.

“Room” – The story of a mother and son’s imprisonment in a garden shed for years is life-affirming. Brie Larson delivers magnificent and emotional work, while nine-year-old Jacob Tremblay steals scenes as Larson’s son, seeing the world for the first time. The context is very disturbing, but the story never gets lost in its own darkness and has beautiful moments of light. It will change viewers’ perceptions of simple things, like trees and the sky.

“Spotlight” – This film is an excellent depiction of the dedicated journalism behind groundbreaking stories that expose the lies and failings of authority. “Spotlight” depicts the story of the Boston Globe spotlight team who uncovered the Catholic sex abuse cover-ups. The movie relies on the audience to respect and trust the actual journalistic process of brick-by-brick sourcing and story-building. The ensemble propels the narrative forward through a gradually dissipating haze.

“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” – The most anticipated movie of the year lives up to the hype, sending the “Star Wars” saga back into light speed. The struggle between the dark side and the light is timeless, but with instantly classic characters like Rey, Finn and Kylo Ren joining veterans like Han Solo, it’s hard to not be thrilled. With J.J. Abrams at the helm, the movie is a brilliantly executed adventure. The film captures a sense of energy and excitement so many movies of this kind fail to achieve. While its ultimate legacy will depend in large part on its successors, “The Force Awakens” is undeniably a wonderful experience.

“Steve Jobs” – This remarkable movie captures the titanic man through three small windows. The unorthodox structure of the setting before three product launches leads to enormous narrative and developmental depth. The screenplay by Aaron Sorkin is sizzling, and Michael Fassbender as Jobs is a wonder. While it unfortunately bombed at the box office — blame 2013’s “Jobs” for getting there first — this movie proves to be the definitive dramatization of Jobs’ life and career.

Honorable Mentions: Beasts of No Nation, The Big Short, Carol, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, Spy and Straight Outta Compton.

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