Calling this list “The 10 Movies I Most Remember at the End of 2015” sounds unglamorous, but it’s accurate. Nobody knows what the “best” 10 are, unless he has seen all 2,000 that came out internationally. And “top 10” only makes sense in terms of box office. So here’s my pick for the 10 likeliest to emblazon themselves in my memory – and maybe yours.
1) “Inside Out” – Pixar has never made a better movie than this seriocomic look inside the head of a preteen whose world collapses when her dad’s unpromising job takes him to San Francisco. The end of childhood and the understanding that sadness has a place in every life has seldom been so beautifully observed.
2) “Spotlight” – A gripping recreation of the Boston Globe’s investigation of priests abusing underage parishioners. This story of a tragedy long neglected and covered up has no heroes, and director Tom McCarthy speeds it along. If the Academy Awards rewarded “ensemble casts,” this would be a shoo-in.
3) “Room” – A mother and her 5-year-old son, long held captive by a creepily amiable guy in his backyard shed, escape and have to adjust to life in the outside world with grandma. This sleeper hit with critics and audiences features the best performance by a young actor (Jacob Tremblay, 8 at the time) in recent memory.
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4) “The Big Short” – Adam McKay, known for the loosely funny comedies “Anchorman” and “Talladega Nights,” somehow got Hollywood to take him seriously as the writer-director of a drama about the financial collapse of 2007. You won’t see a heavy topic dealt with more entertainingly for a long time to come.
5) “Bajirao Mastani” – Sanjay Leela Bhansali wrote and directed my favorite foreign film of the year, a visually opulent story of a Hindu warrior whose love for a Muslim woman tore his family apart. It works on a grand scale, like a massive opera about war and romance, yet also touches us on an intimate level. The musical numbers are intoxicating.
6) “End of the Tour” – A Rolling Stone reporter (Jesse Eisenberg) latches onto melancholy author David Foster Wallace (the amazing Jason Segel) on a book tour. Understated and psychologically penetrating in depicting the world of a man whose acclaim and talent couldn’t keep him from suicidal depression.
7) “Ex Machina” – The most thoughtful science fiction film of the year, with Oscar Isaac as a wealthy inventor who summons acolyte Domhnall Gleeson to a remote island to take part in an experiment – which includes a seemingly vulnerable robot (Alicia Vikander) who may be capable of returning human emotions.
8) “Son of Saul” – A Hungarian Jew leads fellow prisoners into the gas chambers at a Nazi death camp, then disposes of their bodies. When he finds the corpse of his illegitimate son, the benumbed man insists on a proper Jewish burial. Heart-breaking, of course, and a uniquely eye-opening look at the camps.
9) “Brooklyn” – Saoirse Ronan steps into the front line of contenders for a best actress Oscar as a young Irish woman in 1952 who emigrates to America. There she’s drawn to an Italian plumber, but she’s also called back to responsibilities and a suitor back home. Touching, small-scale, old-fashioned storytelling.
10) “The Look of Silence” – Many documentaries are about courage or a quest, but this stands out. An Indonesian optometrist confronts aged, right-wing rulers who committed mass murder in the 1960s in the name of anti-Communism – including the cheerful customer who killed the optometrist’s brother.
Honorable mention in alphabetical order: “Amy,” “Chi-Raq,” “Cinderella,” “Finders Keepers,” “Labyrinth of Lies,” “Mad Max: Fury Road,” “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl,” “Meet the Patels,” “Mr. Holmes,” “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” “The Tribe.”