2015 is dead, long live 2015.
To celebrate what turned out to be a truly great year in film, The Daly Planet will be spending the next week talking about the best and worst 2015 had to offer. Each day we will share another list (we know how much you love lists) which will culminate with a look forward to 2016 and the movies we’re most excited about in the coming year.
Starting it off today is our top five most surprising movies of 2015. These are films I would have never guessed I would have liked as much as I did. I came into each of these with really low expectations and left happily surprised at how good they turned out.
- Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation – Read our review here!
I’m pretty sure Mission: Impossible movies haven’t been good since the original. Which is why I was so shocked when I left Rogue Nation trying to figure out if I actually liked it more than the 1996 classic. It took five films for the series to finally figure out what it is, but we’re here. Rogue Nation is the classic Tom Cruise stunt show that we’ve all grown to expect, but it’s also a surprisingly confident action film as well. Ethan Hunt’s team has never played off each other better and newcomer Rebecca Ferguson is a joy to watch. With news that both Ferguson and director Christopher McQuarrie are back for the sequel (the first time a director has repeated in franchise history), I find myself excited about another M:I movie for the first time…ever?
4.The Martian – Listen to our podcast here!
I enjoyed the novel The Martian was based off quite a bit. It’s a classic story of man overcoming adversity and the combined spirit and passion of mankind. I also recognized that it had a lot of items that made it inherently difficult to adapt to film. The book is really nerdy, spending tons of pages specifically describing the scientific ways in which stranded astronaut Mark Watney continues to survive. A good movie could be made here, but it would have to cut out the science stuff and focus on the emotional heart of the story. Unfortunately director Ridley Scott is a robot who doesn’t really understand human emotions, which is why it’s so surprising that The Martian turned out as good as did. Matt Damon uses all of his natural charisma to create a charming, hilarious, and identifiable character in Mark Watney. The Martian is the movie that last year’s Interstellar was trying so hard to be: an inspiring tale of space travel and then lengths at which people would go to help each other. I strongly believe that when the Astronauts of tomorrow are asked why they pursued the career, many will cite The Martian as the origin of their love for space.
- Kingsman: The Secret Service
As I mentioned in my review of Spectre, I’m not really in on the whole James Bond scene. So I wasn’t too excited about Kingsman, a riff on the gentlemen spy genre. What I forgot about is director Matthew Vaughn and his incredible ability to completely dismantle a genre while crafting a complex movie with a powerful message. Kingsman is exactly that. A movie that simultaneously pokes fun at every James Bond trope while deeply discussing the continuing processes of classism/elitism. And it’s absolutely great. The more I think and read about the film, the more I like it. With great performances by Colin Firth, Sam Jackson, and newcomer Taron Egerton and quite possibly the best action scene ever, Kingsman: The Secret Service came out of nowhere to surprise me.
2 . Ant-Man – Read our review here!
You can’t really blame me for not having a lot of faith in Ant-Man. It’s a lesser known, weirder character in the Marvel Universe. Original writer/director Edgar Wright left the project after he couldn’t get the movie he wanted made. The deck seemed stacked against Marvel’s next character. And then miraculously, Peyton Reed’s Ant-Man turned out to be good. Not only was it the best Marvel film in a year that also had an Avengers movie, but it was also one of my favorite Marvel movies ever (second only to last year’s Guardians of the Galaxy). The film is a small heist comedy film that proves that a superhero movie can be whatever it wants as long as they have engaging characters and a solid story; a refreshing and surprising notion considering the sheer amount of these things that are going to be coming out in the next few years.
- Magic Mike XXL – Read our review here!
I know, right? If you would have told me in January that one of my favorite movies of the year would be about a group of male strippers, I would have laughed at you. But Magic Mike XXL is just THAT good. It’s a movie like no other, with no real conflict to speak of. A group of male strippers are heading to a stripper convention in Myrtle Beach. Not to win a contest, save a business, or anything really. Just one final hurrah before they all go chasing other dreams. Magic Mike XXL is just pure, simple fun. But it’s also more than that. It’s a movie about treating people, especially women, with the respect and love they deserve. I completely agree with everything said in Cyndee’s review. While, as a straight male, I don’t appreciate it on quite the same level, I know a good movie when I see it. Magic Mike XXL is surprisingly great and worthy of praise.
So what do you think? Were any of you also surprised about how good these movies turned out? What was your most surprising movie of 2015? Let us know in the comments below!