10. INSIDE OUT / ANOMALISA (tie)
If you still don't think animation is an art form, try Pete Docter's Pixar masterpiece about the emotions that rule us. Or get lost in the radiant sadness of Anomalisa, a stop-motion game-changer from co-directors Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson about a one-night stand between a weary married self-help guru (David Thewlis) and a bouyant woman (Jennifer Jason Leigh). What Leigh does with her voice to create character is some kind of miracle. So's the movie.
9. STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS
Here's the last movie I saw in 2015. J.J. Abrams' continuation of the Star Wars saga is popcorn-movie nirvana buttered with style and soul. Watching two generations of jedis blend brings an audience close to euphoria.
8. THE MARTIAN
His space crew abandons astronaut Matt Damon on Mars. The Golden Globes think it's a comedy. I think it's an exuberant take on the science of the unknown and a chance to celebrate the vibrant, virtuoso talent of director Ridley Scott.
Yeah, Sean Baker's indie sensation is the movie shot on tricked-up iPhones. But the tech stuff is only part of what amazes. Academy prudes might not respond to live-wire performances from transgender actresses Mya Taylor and Kitana Kiki Rodriguez, as two L.A. hookers working on Christmas Eve. But what's your excuse?
6. STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON
Meet N.W.A., the five gangsta rappers who blew out of Compton in the 1980s. O'Shea Jackson Jr. plays his dad, Ice Cube, and Jason Mitchell nails the torment in Eazy-E. And when N.W.A. rage in "Fuck Tha Police," director F. Gary Gray hits a nerve for right now.
Can a movie romance charm its way to greatness? This one can. Much credit to director John Crowley and screenwriter Nick Hornby for keeping sappy out of this tale of an Irish girl coming to American in 1951. Saoirse Ronan, 21, illuminates every frame. She's an enchantress.
4. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD
A hallucinatory milestone from director George Miller, who, at 70, proves himself the most vital action director in movies today. Tom Hardy excels as the futuristic road warrior, but Charlize Theron steals the show as a force of feminist nature. That's Miller for you, making a woman the redeemer in his world of fire and blood.
In 1950s Manhattan, glam Cate Blanchett fixes her gaze on naive shopgirl Rooney Mara, and both turn a period piece into a timeless cry from two defiant hearts. Todd Haynes' film is perfect in every way, especially Blanchett, who just may be the best actress on the planet.
2. STEVE JOBS
This galvanizing take on Apple's contentious genius debuted to raves. Then the tide turned when the film failed to attract crowds. Screw Aaron's Sorkin's volcanic script, Danny Boyle's audacious direction and Michael Fassbenders' career-best acting in the title role. In an alarming trend, commercial failure again taints artistic success. But it's amazing.
No 2015 movie left me more choked up or rapt with admiration than Tom McCarthy's ode to old-school investigative reporting. Kudos to the year's best acting ensemble: Michael Keaton, Liev Schreiber, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, John Slattery and Brian d'Arcy James. At The Boston Globe in 2002, the Spotlight team nailed the Catholic Church for its legacy of child abuse and cover-ups. And the movie sets a new gold standard for 21-st century cinema about journalism.