Flavorwire Staffers’ Favorite Films of 2015


Our film editor Jason Bailey’s towering list of the 25 best films of the year went up yesterday, but since every Flavorwire staffer at one point or another had a film they couldn’t stop talking about, we wanted to give everyone a chance to wax poetic. While some of the year’s more expected favorites — Mad Max, Spotlight — made their way onto the list on multiple occasions, there’s an overwhelming number of smaller indie picks here that are just as worthy, from The Diary of a Teenage Girl to Queen of Earth. Click through to see everybody’s favorites.

The Duke of Burgundy (dir. Peter Strickland)

The most gorgeous film ever made to credit a “human toilet consultant,” Peter Strickland’s The Duke of Burgundy cocoons us in its sensual and sensory pastiche about a sadomasochistic couple, styled in the heart of 1960s and ’70s Euro sex cinema, à la Jean Rollin and Jesús Franco. Power games and erotic performances aside, it’s love and obsession that drives The Duke of Burgundy’s otherworld — not only between women, butterflies, and moths, but also between creator, exploitation fetishes, and a desire to explore the interiority of a woman’s world. — Alison Nastasi, Weekend Editor

Queen of Earth (dir. Alex Ross Perry)

Alex Ross Perry’s psychotic non-thriller Queen of Earth is not the best film of the year, but it is my favorite film simply for the imprint it’s left on me. Elisabeth Moss is given all the room she needs to prove, once again, that she’s one of the most gifted actors working today. That’s saying nothing of Katherine Waterston, who brings her blasé severity crashing against Moss’ dizzying insanity time and again, disorienting us to the good and the bad of their relationship. Their duet is a thing of beauty, and the film mostly disarms the audience while providing very little in the way of narrative assistance. This could be frustrating, and it is. But it is not only frustration: it’s also beautiful and poignant and lingers in the mind like a smoke bomb. And then there’s the hair-raising soundtrack by frequent Perry collaborator Keegan DeWitt, which amps up (or fabricates) the tension several levels. — Shane Barnes, Associate Editor

Nasty Baby (dir. Sebastián Silva)

Nasty Baby‘s plot line and atmosphere pleasantly mimic many Brooklyn indies — movies whose demographic focus and lightly melancholy tone lead you to believe they’ll only depict characters being malcontent as they navigate the minute difficulties or unwavering banalities of their privilege. But as Nasty Baby follows three seemingly lovely young Brooklynites (a gay couple played by director Sebastian Silva and TV on the Radio’s Tunde Adebimpe and their friend, Kristen Wiig) while they try to collaborate on art and baby-making projects, the movie drastically and brilliantly switches tone to become one of the most trenchant and horrifying depictions of the tensions underlying gentrification in film. It’s a warm and funny, then uneasy, then disturbing, then completely chill-inducing genre experiment. — Moze Halperin, Associate Editor

Hitchcock/Truffaut (dir. Kent Jones)

At risk of repeating my own year-end best-of list, I’ll adopt the strategy or taking the request literally – as the year’s “best” film and my “favorite” of the same period are often very different things. And honestly, my “favorite” film, the film that gave me the most pleasure and that I’m most likely to revisit frequently in the years to come, is probably Kent Jones’ wonderful documentary history/adaptation of the essential movie lover’s text, Francois Truffaut’s book of interviews with the Master of Suspense. Breaking down structure, editing, and camera placement with not only the original participants but a murderer’s row of modern acolytes, it’s like the best film-nerd rap session you’ll ever eavesdrop on. — Jason Bailey, Film Editor

Spotlight (dir. Tom McCarthy)

There were so many smaller films I loved with all my heart in 2015 — Grandma, Mistress America, Carol — but I have to say, Spotlight is going to take my top honor because I was so delighted and surprised to watch a major movie that was actually intelligent and gripping without relying at all on things (beyond the Catholic Church’s reputation) exploding. I like action films as much as the next older millennial, but I’d almost forgotten that movies like Spotlight existed. I was happy to be reminded of how riveted I could be by a film that did all the work of sweeping and moving its audience with no gimmicks. — Sarah Seltzer, Editor-at-Large

As an old newspaper man, it’s likely that I could sit through hour upon hour of people sitting and standing in rooms talking, provided the story was about hero journalists. Spotlight isn’t quite that long, but it’s very much a white-knight journalism narrative, following the titular special investigative unit at the Boston Globe that broke a widespread abuse-coverup scandal in the Catholic Church. But its all-star cast — featuring Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, Stanley Tucci, and an inspired weirdo performance from Mark Ruffalo — carries the film through tense scenes of journalists fighting bureaucracy and corruption to speak truth to power. It won’t make you feel good, but it might give you hope that not all is lost. — Matthew Ismael Ruiz, Music Editor

The Diary of a Teenage Girl (dir. Marielle Heller)

It had been so long since I’d read Phoebe Gloeckner’s graphic novel/memoir hybrid The Diary of a Teenage Girl that I didn’t quite remember, going into the theater, what I had loved so much about it. But first-time filmmaker Marielle Heller reminded me immediately that this was a wholly unique story about adolescent female sexuality, one that centers desire and curiosity and intelligence while also showing us that title character Minnie (Bel Powley, in one of 2015’s best performances) is both making mistakes and being repeatedly, dramatically failed by the adults in her life. Her story isn’t a tragedy or a cautionary tale, though. Minnie is an aspiring comics artist (like Gloeckner was) who’s obsessed with Robert Crumb, and it shows in her creativity, hunger for new experiences, and spectacularly ’70s-San Francisco outlook. This is the kind of movie we rarely get to see because it’s so hard for women directors to get their films made. And it’s a reminder — though we shouldn’t need one — of what we’re missing. — Judy Berman, Editor-in-Chief

Mad Max: Fury Road (dir. George Miller)

The erudite Jason Bailey can tell you all about the best films of 2015, but as far as my favorite goes, it’s hard to go past the exuberantly unlikely return of the Mad Max franchise. I love the original, and I went into Fury Road hoping that, if nothing else, it wouldn’t be bad. It’s certainly not that — as it turned out, it’s a relentless sensory overload of a film, an action move that manages to be as smart as it is spectacular. And it’s a whole lot of fun, too. — Tom Hawking, Deputy Editor

An unusually packed holiday season means there’s still so much left to see — Sisters! Joy! The Revenant! — but out of all the films I managed to fit in during the first eleven-twelfths of the year, none has stuck with me quite like Fury Road. Like It Follows, my personal runner-up, Fury Road creates a universe that’s both a handy metaphor for its feminist themes and a compelling mythology in its own right. George Miller’s post-apocalypse has grown progressively more elaborate with each installment in his franchise, and with an assist from the practical effects at his disposal in 2015, Fury Road takes place in a world as dynamic as it is dense with offhand detail. And it never does so at the expense of its story, giving our era both the heroine and the converted MRA antihero it deserves. — Alison Herman, Associate Editor

The Assassin (dir. Hou Hsiao-Hsien)

I’m still catching up on a lot of films, but the best I’ve seen so far is The Assassin by Hou Hsiao-Hsien. It’s among the most visually arresting and materially beautiful films I’ve seen in years. Also: don’t listen to anyone who tells you there isn’t a story. Films aren’t Victorian novels, first of all. Anyway, it’s a martial arts movie. — Jonathon Sturgeon, Literary Editor