Clockwise from left, some of the films that surface on this year's industry top 10 lists: "Inside Out," "Phoenix," "The Assassin," "Anomalisa," "Son of Saul," "Court"
Clockwise from left, some of the films that surface on this year's industry top 10 lists: "Inside Out," "Phoenix," "The Assassin," "Anomalisa," "Son of Saul," "Court"
The Best Films and TV Shows of 2015, According to Indiewire's Staff

Michael Barker


Co-President, Sony Pictures Classics

"Umberto Eco says, 'The list is the origin of the culture.'  And culture wants 'to make infinity comprehensible' and 'to create order...We like lists because we don't want to die.'"
Manohla Dargis, The New York Times 

"Astonish me. rattle me. Change the way I see."
The New York Times' Ben Brantley on what he says when he enters a theater

"If you can't come up with a 10 best list in 2015, you haven't seen enough."
Eric Kohn, Indiewire

2015 has been rough. Shattering events abroad and at home, smarmy political debates, transition in the motion picture business, all marks of troubled times.

But something strange just happened. After making this top 10 list, I find myself sincerely optimistic about the future. There are so many movies, plays, and television shows that didn't make it here that would have easily had a spot in previous years. Per usual Sony Pictures Classics movies are exempt.


1 - "The Assassin"  
A stunning work of art.

2 - "Inside Out" 
If you know someone who doesn't like this movie, don't trust them. Has great emotional intelligence including a profound meditation on sadness.

3 - "Kriemhild's Revenge"/"The Revenant"
One made in 1924 the other in 2015, two of the finest revenge movies and action movies ever. The restored version of Fritz Lang's movie played to an exhilarated crowd at the Telluride Film Festival — massive battle scenes with no special effects (I wonder how many real deaths occurred in the making) and the kickass, take-no-prisoners heroines. Then three months later, Alejandro Iñarritu provided another jaw-dropper with even more realism, only this time with seamless special effects (bear fights, a horse going over an ice cliff falling on a tree!), glorious widescreen natural lighting (the  focus-puller deserves 10 Oscars), and perfect performances from Leo, Domnhall Gleeson, Will Poulter, and for my money the best performance of the year, Tom Hardy.

4 - "Hamilton"
It's as good or better than what you've heard. Restores your faith in the American musical. Makes you live with the fact that our great multi-cultural country was started by a bunch of greedy white guys.

5 - "Star Wars: The Force Awakens"
Terrific. "Star Wars" finally enters our everyday world as well as our imagination.

6 - "Brooklyn"
Solid on all counts. A positive immigration story, so necessary.

7 - "The Tribe"


Words fail here. Like no other movie. You may not speak to me again but guaranteed to blow your mind.

8 - "Heaven Can Wait"/"La Otra" 
One restored masterpiece and one lost Mexican treasure. Ernst Lubitsch's "Heaven Can Wait" (1943) proved just timeless at the New York Film Festival and the discovery of Robert Gavaldon's "La Otra" (1946) was a revelation at Thierry Fremaux's Lumiere Festival in Lyon.

9 - "Cinderella"
It's time to give Ken Branagh his due. Over the course of the last year and a half, I have seen him give us a major "Macbeth," a staggering performance in the final episode of "Wallander" (it foreshadows the great Lear to come), recently in London in "A Winter's Tale" with the best Leontes I've ever seen, in repertory with a precisely directed and performed hilarious farce "Harlequinade," AND "Cinderella." This is a beautifully directed movie offering surprise after surprise,
like the genius of casting Cate Blanchett as a sympathetic wicked stepmother.

Ms. Blanchett reminds us what an amazing year it has been for so many actors. This year, she gave us three of her finest performances to date. Ditto Mark Ruffalo. Ditto Tom Hardy. Then you have Alicia Vikander, who gave excellent performances in eight (!!!!) movies this year. How crazy is that?

10 - "Justified" (6 seasons) 
My favorite binge-watch of the year. Let us remember Elmore Leonard for the worlds he created and how they thrilled us time and time again. Only he could have created nut jobs like Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins) and anti-heroes like Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant). Sixty-five hours of entertainment in 2015. Think about that.

"I really like film critics, even when they make my blood boil." --Michael Barker

2015 was another year of loss. Losing a friend like Richard Corliss is impossible for me. He was a film critic I adored. He loved so many movies, plays, and books. He extolled me in his quiet way when he thought I was doing something right, made me whither when he occasionally chastised me (always in the guise of barbed humor). No one could speak as long he could without taking a breath. He is the only film critic who argued with me in song and poetry. He is appreciated by filmmakers and personalities from ever corner of the world, but especially Asian and Iranian filmmakers because he was there first for them. Sometimes he was way off-base (he once told me he hoped I would become a future Jeffrey Katzenberg). To watch Richard and Mary banter in the flesh was better than any romance on screen. They remain as formidable a team as any couple I've ever encountered.  I loved the guy.

Which brings me to my wish for 2016. I really like film critics, even when they make my blood boil. I would not be asked to write this if film critics had not influenced my life before or during my career. To David Thomson (you must read his fine new book, "How to Watch a Movie"), Joe Morgenstern, Ken Turan, Manohla Dargis, A.O. Scott, Stephen Holden, Amy Taubin, Eric Kohn, Armond White, Chris Vogner, Leonard Maltin, Michael Phillips, Jim Hoberman, Amy Nicholson, Alessandra Stanley and so many others too numerous to mention here: Please keep fighting the good fight and long may you survive. That is my wish. I want 2016 to give you greater distinction and stability. A continuing film culture of quality cannot survive without you.