A little over 300 films have debuted in the United States so far in 2015, and one can presume that anywhere from 300 to 450 more will see release before the end of the year. That’s a lot of movies – up by about 150 releases since 2010 – and really only a handful of those are sequels or franchise monoliths like Jurassic World or Avengers: Age of Ultron. Though superheroes, dinosaurs, and cartoons still rule the box office, the cinephile event of the year was an auteur-backed action film with minimal use of CGI, namely Mad Max: Fury Road, one that still managed to land in the top-ten grossers of the year. That being said, and as great as George Miller’s wild tempest of a film is, there’s no denying that it also benefitted from name recognition, as did 4/5 of the films that comprise the top 25 box-office grossers of 2015.
As the aforementioned number suggested, however, there were plenty of other fish in the sea, depending on how close you live to a major metropolitan area. And considering the advances of VOD, even that isn’t necessarily a factor anymore. Regardless of how they’re been released and seen, the best films of 2015 hinge on challenging perspectives on everything from nationalism (Red Army) and masculine control (Ex Machina) to femininity (Spy) and emotional maturity (Inside Out), each one unafraid to touch on abstract concepts or bypass mainstream ideas of morality. Above all else, these films showed genuine ambition in their writing, aesthetics, and, often enough, both, as did the other films our staff picked out as the very best films of the year thus far. And with another 300 or so films yet to see release this year, there’s a pretty solid chance that these remarkable films might not even make our end-of-year lists, which is a sure sign of a great year at the movies. – Chris Cabin