Personal Picks 2015

Updated: Jan. 2, 2016
Initial post: June 2, 2015

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Here’s a list of my favorite films, performances, screenplays, etc. from 2015. My personal picks neither correlate with my Oscar predictions nor express a desire to see every listed film, performance, screenplay, etc. recognized at the Oscars. Again, my picks represent my favorite films, performances, screenplays, etc. – nothing more, nothing less.

Of course, this is all subject to change, as I hope to update this page at least once a week. If you’re curious about which films from 2015 I’ve seen, I’ve included a list at the bottom of this page.

Best Film

  • Inside Out
  • Cinderella
  • NEW!!! The Diary of a Teenage Girl
  • Ex Machina
  • Trainwreck
  • Spy
  • NEW!!! Spotlight
  • NEW!!! Room
  • Pitch Perfect 2

Best Director

  • Kenneth Branagh for Cinderella
  • Alex Garland for Ex Machina
  • Pete Docter for Inside Out
  • NEW!!! Marielle Heller for The Diary of a Teenage Girl
  • Elizabeth Banks for Pitch Perfect 2
  • George Miller for Mad Max: Fury Road
  • Paul Feig for Spy
  • NEW!!! Lenny Abrahamson for Room
  • NEW!!! Thomas McCarthy for Spotlight

Best Original Screenplay

  • Alex Garland for Ex Machina
  • Meg LeFauve, Josh Cooley, and Pete Docter for Inside Out
  • Paul Feig for Spy
  • Amy Schumer for Trainwreck

Best Adapted Screenplay

  • NEW!!! Marielle Heller for The Diary of a Teenage Girl
  • NEW!!! Emma Donoghue for Room
  • Chris Weitz for Cinderella
  • Kay Cannon for Pitch Perfect 2
  • Jesse Andrews for Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

Breakthrough Filmmaker

  • Alex Garland for directing Ex Machina*
  • Amy Schumer for writing Trainwreck
  • NEW!!! Marielle Heller for writing and directing The Diary of a Teenage Girl
  • Elizabeth Banks for directing Pitch Perfect 2
  • NEW!!! Lenny Abrahamson for directing Room
  • NEW!!! Emma Donoghue for writing Room
  • James Kent for directing Testament of Youth
  • David Robert Mitchell for directing and writing It Follows
  • Rick Famuyiwa for directing and writing Dope

*Garland also wrote Ex Machina, but he previously wrote 28 Days Later, Never Let Me Go, and Sunshine, among others

Best Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture

  • Pitch Perfect 2
  • Ex Machina
  • Spy
  • Cinderella
  • Inside Out (voice)
  • NEW!!! Chi-Raq
  • NEW!!! The Diary of a Teenage Girl
  • NEW!!! Room
  • Trainwreck
  • Testament of Youth
  • NEW!!! Spotlight
  • NEW!!! The Big Short
  • Clouds of Sils Maria
  • Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
  • The Overnight
  • It Follows
  • NEW!!! Joy
  • NEW!!! Straight Outta Compton
  • Mad Max: Fury Road

Actor of the Year

  • NEW!!! Cate Blanchett for Cinderella and Truth
  • Alicia Vikander for The Danish Girl, Ex Machina, and Testament of Youth
  • NEW!!! Kristen Wiig for The Diary of a Teenage Girl and Welcome to Me
  • NEW!!! Brie Larson for Room and Trainwreck
  • Elizabeth Banks for Love and Mercy, Magic Mike XXL, and Pitch Perfect 2
  • NEW!!! Dakota Johnson for Black Mass and Fifty Shades of Grey
  • NEW!!! Meryl Streep for Ricki and the Flash and Suffragette
  • Taron Egerton for Kingsman: The Secret Service and Testament of Youth
  • NEW!!! Bradley Cooper for Aloha and Joy
  • NEW!!! Joel Edgerton for Black Mass and The Gift

Best Body of Work

  • NEW!!! Cate Blanchett for Cinderella and Truth
  • Alicia Vikander – The Danish Girl, Ex Machina, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., and Testament of Youth
  • Elizabeth Banks – Love and Mercy, Magic Mike XXL, and Pitch Perfect 2
  • NEW!!! Meryl Streep for Ricki and the Flash and Suffragette
  • Zoë Kravitz – Dope and Mad Max: Fury Road

Best Actress in a Leading Role

  • Alicia Vikander for Ex Machina
  • NEW!!! Bel Powley for The Diary of a Teenage Girl
  • Melissa McCarthy for Spy
  • Amy Schumer for Trainwreck
  • Kristen Wiig for Welcome to Me
  • Alicia Vikander for Testament of Youth
  • Lily James for Cinderella
  • NEW!!! Sandra Bullock for Our Brand is Crisis
  • Amy Poehler (voice) for Inside Out
  • Blythe Danner for I’ll See You in My Dreams
  • NEW!!! Brie Larson for Room
  • NEW!!! Teyonah Parris for Chi-Raq
  • NEW!!! Carey Mulligan for Suffragette
  • NEW!!! Alicia Vikander for The Danish Girl
  • NEW!!! Jennifer Lawrence for Joy
  • NEW!!! Saoirse Ronan for Brooklyn
  • Juliette Binoche for Clouds of Sils Maria
  • Dakota Johnson for Fifty Shades of Grey
  • NEW!!! Meryl Streep for Ricki and the Flash
  • Rebel Wilson for Pitch Perfect 2
  • Anna Kendrick for Pitch Perfect 2
  • Hailee Steinfeld for Pitch Perfect 2
  • NEW!!! Julia Roberts for The Secret in Their Eyes
  • NEW!!! Lily Tomlin for Grandma
  • NEW!!! Mia Wasikowska for Crimson Peak
  • Charlize Theron for Mad Max: Fury Road
  • Elizabeth Banks for Love and Mercy
  • NEW!!! Rebecca Hall for The Gift
  • Emma Stone for Aloha
  • Lin Shaye for Insidious: Chapter 3

Best Actor in a Leading Role

  • NEW!!! Eddie Redmayne for The Danish Girl
  • NEW!!! Michael Fassbender for Steve Jobs
  • NEW!!! Jacob Tremblay for Room
  • Domnhall Gleeson for Ex Machina
  • Oscar Isaac for Ex Machina
  • Paul Dano for Love and Mercy
  • NEW!!! Jason Bateman for The Gift
  • NEW!!! Steve Carell for The Big Short
  • NEW!!! Michael B. Jordan for Creed
  • Thomas Mann for Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

Best Actress in a Supporting Role

  • Cate Blanchett for Cinderella
  • Phyllis Smith (voice) for Inside Out
  • Olivia Cooke for Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
  • NEW!!! Jessica Chastain for Crimson Peak
  • NEW!!! Angela Bassett for Chi-Raq
  • NEW!!! Kristen Wiig for The Diary of a Teenage Girl
  • NEW!!! Kate Winslet for Steve Jobs
  • Kristen Stewart for Clouds of Sils Maria
  • Chloë Grace Moretz for Clouds of Sils Maria
  • Rose Byrne for Spy
  • Allison Janney for Spy
  • Miranda Hart for Spy
  • NEW!!! Isabella Rossellini for Joy
  • NEW!!! Elisabeth Röhm for Joy
  • Anna Camp for Pitch Perfect 2
  • Elizabeth Banks for Pitch Perfect 2
  • Brittany Snow for Pitch Perfect 2
  • Chrissie Fit for Pitch Perfect 2
  • Birgitte Hjort Sørensen for Pitch Perfect 2
  • Jada Pinkett Smith for Magic Mike XXL
  • Andie MacDowell for Magic Mike XXL

Best Actor in a Supporting Role

  • Richard Kind for Inside Out
  • Richard Madden for Cinderella
  • Martin Starr for I’ll See You in My Dreams
  • NEW!!! Emory Cohen for Brooklyn
  • NEW!!! Michael Cyril Creighton for Spotlight
  • Bill Hader for Trainwreck
  • NEW!!! Édgar Ramírez for Joy
  • Kit Harington for Testament of Youth
  • David Cross for Pitch Perfect 2
  • Harrison Ford for The Age of Adaline
  • Michael Sheen for Far from the Madding Crowd
  • Matthias Schoenaerts for Far from the Madding Crowd
  • Keegan-Michael Key for Pitch Perfect 2
  • LeBron James for Trainwreck
  • John Michael Higgins for Pitch Perfect 2

Breakthrough Performance

  • Alicia Vikander for Ex Machina
  • Amy Schumer for Trainwreck
  • Lily James for Cinderella
  • Olivia Cooke for Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
  • NEW!!! Jacob Tremblay for Room
  • NEW!!! Michael Cyril Creighton for Spotlight
  • NEW!!! Jason Mitchell for Straight Outta Compton
  • NEW!!! O’Shea Jackson Jr. for Straight Outta Compton
  • Thomas Mann for Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
  • Dakota Johnson for Fifty Shades of Grey
  • Richard Madden for Cinderella
  • NEW!!! Rebecca Ferguson for Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation
  • Maika Monroe for It Follows
  • Shameik Moore for Dope
  • NEW!!! Olivia DeJonge for The Visit
  • NEW!!! John Boyega for Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens
  • NEW!!! Daisy Ridley for Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens
  • Chrissie Fit for Pitch Perfect 2
  • Cara Delevingne for Paper Towns
  • Taron Egerton for Kingsman: The Secret Service
  • LeBron James for Trainwreck
  • NEW!!! Hailey Gates for Ricki and the Flash

Breakthrough Actor (includes bodies of work)

  • Alicia Vikander – The Danish Girl, Ex Machina, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., and Testament of Youth
  • NEW!!! Dakota Johnson for Black Mass and Fifty Shades of Grey
  • Taron Egerton for Kingsman: The Secret Service and Testament of Youth

Best Original Song

I’m basing my judgments of these songs on how (well) the song is used in the film and, to a lesser degree, on how the song stands on its own. For instance, “See You Again” is a fantastic song, but since I’ve yet to see Furious 7 and have no plans to do so, I’m not including it here. Similarly, “Earned It (Fifty Shades of Grey)” and “Love Me Like You Do” are great songs, but they feel shoehorned into Fifty Shades of Grey and don’t work well in the film, so they’re not here, either. Also, I (may) include songs that appear too far into films’ end credits for Oscar consideration.

  • “Flashlight” from Pitch Perfect 2
  • “Salted Wound” from Fifty Shades of Grey
  • “Crazy Youngsters” from Pitch Perfect 2
  • “I’ll See You in My Dreams” from I’ll See You in My Dreams
  • “Who Can You Trust” from Spy
  • “Start Again” from The Age of Adaline
  • “Mean Ol’ Moon” for Ted 2

Best Original Score

  • Rich Vreeland, a.k.a. Disasterpeace, for It Follows
  • Tom Holkenborg, a.k.a. Junkie XL, for Mad Max: Fury Road
  • Patrick Doyle for Cinderella

Best Incorporation of Music into a Motion Picture

Here, I judge how well preexisting or new songs are incorporated into films and/or unique ways that original scores are incorporated into films.

  • Pitch Perfect 2
  • Mad Max: Fury Road
  • Amy
  • Cinderella
  • NEW!!! Chi-Raq
  • Dope
  • Love and Mercy
  • NEW!!! Spotlight
  • NEW!!! The Danish Girl

Best Sound

  • Mad Max: Fury Road
  • NEW!!! Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens
  • NEW!!! The Martian
  • Chappie
  • Jurassic World

Best Cinematography

  • Haris Zambarioukos for Cinderella
  • John Seale for Mad Max: Fury Road
  • John Toll for Jupiter Ascending
  • Mike Gioulakis for It Follows

Best Costume Design

  • Sandy Powell for Cinderella
  • Kym Barrett for Jupiter Ascending
  • Jenny Beavan for Mad Max: Fury Road
  • NEW!!! Michael Kaplan for Star Wars: Episode VII – The For
  • Salvador Pérez Jr. for Pitch Perfect 2
  • Consolata Boyle for Testament of Youth
  • Janet Patterson for Far from the Madding Crowd
  • Angus Strathie for The Age of Adaline
  • Christine Bieselin Clark for Spy
  • Christine Eyer for Dope

Best Film Editing

  • Ex Machina
  • Mad Max: Fury Road
  • Unfriended

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

  • Mad Max: Fury Road
  • Cinderella
  • Jupiter Ascending
  • Spy
  • Terminator Genisys

Best Production Design

  • Dante Ferretti for Cinderella
  • Mark Digby for Ex Machina
  • Ralph Eggleston for Inside Out
  • Colin Gibson for Mad Max: Fury Road
  • Hugh Bateup for Jupiter Ascending
  • Kalina Ivanov for Poltergeist
  • Scott Chambliss for Tomorrowland
  • Kave Quinn for Far from the Madding Crowd

Best Visual Effects

  • Ex Machina
  • Mad Max: Fury Road
  • NEW!!! Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens
  • Jupiter Ascending
  • Cinderella
  • NEW!!! The Martian
  • Ant-Man
  • Ted 2
  • Tomorrowland
  • Jurassic World
  • Chappie
  • Poltergeist
  • Avengers: Age of Ultron

List of Films from 2015 I’ve Seen – with Letter Grades!

I don’t have any numbers in mind with these letter grades; I’m keeping it simple: “A” means excellent, “B” means above average, “C” means average, “D” means below average, and “F,” which I’ve thankfully yet to use, represents total failure. Unless otherwise noted, I’ve seen each film once.

  1. The Age of Adaline: C
  2. Aloha: D-/D
  3. Amy: B
  4. Ant-Man: B-
  5. Avengers: Age of Ultron: D
  6. NEW!!! The Big Short: B
  7. NEW!!! Black Mass: C-/C
  8. NEW!!! Bridge of Spies: C+
  9. NEW!!! Brooklyn (x2): B
  10. Chappie: C+/B-
  11. NEW!!! Chi-Raq: B/B+
  12. Cinderella (x4): A
  13. Clouds of Sils Maria: B
  14. NEW!!! Concussion: C/C+
  15. NEW!!! Creed: B-
  16. NEW!!! Crimson Peak: B/B+
  17. NEW!!! The Danish Girl: B
  18. NEW!!! The Diary of a Teenage Girl: A-/A
  19. Dope: B-
  20. The DUFF: C+
  21. Ex Machina: A
  22. NEW!!! Fantastic Four: D-/C+
  23. Far from the Madding Crowd: B-
  24. Fifty Shades of Grey: D+/C-
  25. Focus: C
  26. The Gallows: C/C+
  27. NEW!!! The Gift: B
  28. NEW!!! The Good Dinosaur: B-
  29. NEW!!! Grandma: B-
  30. I’ll See You in My Dreams: B-
  31. Inside Out (x3): A/A+
  32. Insidious: Chapter 3: D
  33. It Follows: B
  34. NEW!!!: Joy (x2): B/B+
  35. Jupiter Ascending: C-/C
  36. Jurassic World C-/C
  37. Kingsman: The Secret Service: B-
  38. Little Boy: D-
  39. Love and Mercy: C+/B-
  40. Mad Max: Fury Road (x3): B
  41. Magic Mike XXL: D-
  42. NEW!!! The Man from U.N.C.L.E.: C
  43. NEW!!! The Martian: B-
  44. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (x2): C+
  45. Minions: D
  46. NEW!!! Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation: B-
  47. Monkey Kingdom: B
  48. NEW!!! Mr. Holmes: C/C+
  49. NEW!!! Our Brand is Crisis: C+/B-
  50. The Overnight: B-
  51. Paper Towns: C+/B-
  52. NEW!!! Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension: C
  53. NEW!!! The Peanuts Movie: B-/B
  54. NEW!!! The Perfect Guy: D+/C-
  55. Pitch Perfect 2 (x5): B/B+
  56. Poltergeist: D
  57. NEW!!! Ricki and the Flash: B
  58. NEW!!! Room: B+
  59. NEW!!! A Royal Night Out: C-
  60. NEW!!! The Secret in Their Eyes (x2): B
  61. Seventh Son: D
  62. NEW!!! Shaun the Sheep Movie: B+
  63. NEW!!! Sicario: B-/B
  64. NEW!!! Sisters: C-/C
  65. Spy (x2): B+/A-
  66. NEW!!! Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens: B-
  67. NEW!!! Steve Jobs: B
  68. NEW!!! Suffragette: B
  69. Ted 2: C-
  70. Terminator Genisys: D-
  71. Testament of Youth: B
  72. Tomorrowland: C/C+
  73. Trainwreck (x2): B+/A-
  74. NEW!!! Trumbo: C
  75. NEW!!! Truth: B+
  76. Unfriended: B
  77. NEW!!! Vacation: D
  78. NEW!!! The Visit: B-/B
  79. NEW!!! War Room: C-
  80. Welcome to Me: C

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