Best of 2015: The 10 (or 20) best movies of 2015, according to Indie Focus writer Mark Olsen

Nick Cannon stars in "Chi-Raq," a welcome return to form for director Spike Lee.
(Parrish Lewis / Roadside Attractions / Amazon Studios)

Anyone who would say it was a weak year for movies wasn’t looking in the right places. From the furiously sprawling to the finely detailed, there was a wide array of work hitting screens at both the multiplex and the art house this year that felt vital, wildly plugged-in and deeply engaged with the world.

“Mad Max: Fury Road”: An astonishing feat of filmmaking and storytelling, “Fury Road” runs in parallel as an incredible action film and a bracing political allegory. Relentless and exhilarating, it’s fun too.

READ MORE: Why ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ is the movie of the year

“Carol”: Charged by romance and longing, “Carol” is quietly heartbreaking for anyone who ever struggled to be with the one she or he wants. The performances by Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara are exquisitely detailed.


“Tangerine”: Shot with wit and beauty and an iPhone, this is a film in which style and story come together perfectly for a street-level tale that is part buddy comedy, part window on an unseen community.

“Ex Machina”: Bold, brainy filmmaking that explores the meaning of human consciousness via shifting power dynamics in which the audience can unexpectedly root for a robot.

“The Assassin”: Like stepping back in time, this steady, detailed story of complex intrigues in feudal China explodes into dazzling choreographies of action.

“The Diary of a Teenage Girl”: A bracing story of self-discovery, resilience and growth that also served as a bold declaration for the fresh talents of actress Bel Powley and filmmaker Marielle Heller.

“Creed”: Just when it seems there are no new twists to the saga of Rocky Balboa, writer-director Ryan Coogler injects fresh energy into this unexpected triumph.

“While We’re Young”: Noah Baumbach remains an exceptional, insightful chronicler of his times in this comedy of generational tension and change.

“Chi-Raq”: Told largely in verse, this charged satire takes on big topics with wit and wisdom. A welcome return to top form from Spike Lee.


“Results”: Andrew Bujalski’s low-key comedy features Kevin Corrigan, Cobie Smulders and Guy Pearce as three people discovering they are in a triangle of love, money and personal fitness.

It was such a good year for movies, in fact, that these films could have easily been cycled into a top 10. A second, unranked roster:

“The Big Short,” “Clouds of Sils Maria,” “Eden,” “The Hateful Eight,” “Heaven Knows What,” “99 Homes,” “Sicario,” “Trainwreck,” “Mistress America” and “Welcome to Me.”