The Best Movies of 2015

  • Publish Date: January 5, 2016
  • Comments: ↓ 3 user comments

Carol is the best-reviewed movie of 2015

Image
2015 96 Carol
2014 100 Boyhood
2013 97 12 Years a Slave
2012 95 Zero Dark Thirty
2011 95 A Separation
High Scoring Movies by Year
(Minimum 7 Reviews)
2010 95 The Social Network

It's official. Carol, a 1950s-set lesbian melodrama starring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara—and the first theatrical feature from director Todd Haynes (Far From Heaven) in eight years—is 2015's highest-scoring movie, edging out a number of strong contenders including best picture favorite Spotlight, Charlie Kaufman's animated Anomalisa (which had the Metascore lead until very recently), and British drama 45 Years.

In fact, 2015 appears to have no shortage of good films. Out of the 634 films released during the last calendar year to receive at least 7 reviews from professional critics, 61 received a Metascore of 81 or higher, the cutoff we use to indicate "universal acclaim" from reviewers. That's both the highest total and highest percentage (over 9.6%) of great films in years.

In fact, the numbers get even more impressive when you focus only on those elite films that scored 90 or higher. There were 11 such films in 2015, and if that sounds like a high number, it is. As you can see from the chart below, we have never before recorded a double-digit total of 90+ releases in a single calendar year; the previous high was 8 in 2013.

Total number of films scoring at least 90, by year

Just over 50% of films released in 2015 were reviewed positively by critics (scoring 61 or higher). That is a huge increase over 2014's success rate of 44.4%. The average Metascore for all films released last year also edged up to 58.7 (from 56.3 in 2014), and the number of horrendously awful films scoring below 20 was cut in half, from 14 in 2014 to just 7 last year. (One of them, though, may just be the worst film of the century.)

The year's best films

Below are 2015's highest-scoring overall films, followed by separate lists of the year's best movies in a variety of categories.

Highest-Scoring Movies Released in 2015

Movie still
Movie Score Watch Now
1Carol96  
245 Years94  
3Inside Out94 Buy From Amazon Instant Video 
4Spotlight93  
5Sherpa93  
6Timbuktu92 Buy From Amazon Instant VideoWatch on Amazon PrimeBuy From iTunes 
7Anomalisa92  
8The Look of Silence92 Buy From iTunes 
9Jafar Panahi's Taxi91  
10Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem90 Buy From Amazon Instant VideoWatch on Amazon PrimeBuy From iTunes 
11Hard to Be a God90 Buy From Amazon Instant VideoBuy From iTunes 
12Son of Saul89  
13Of Men and War89  
14Gangs of Wasseypur89 Buy From Amazon Instant VideoBuy From iTunes 
15Mad Max: Fury Road89 Buy From Amazon Instant VideoBuy From iTunes 
16Phoenix89  
17Western89  
18Democrats88  
19Brooklyn87  
20The Diary of a Teenage Girl87  
21Listen to Me Marlon87  
22The Duke of Burgundy87 Buy From Amazon Instant VideoBuy From iTunes 
23Dreamcatcher86  
24Room86 Buy From Amazon Instant Video 
25Tangerine85  
26Girlhood85 Buy From Amazon Instant Video 
27Amy85 Buy From Amazon Instant VideoBuy From iTunes 
28Horse Money84 Buy From iTunes 
29Heart of a Dog84  
30The Fool83  
31The Salt of the Earth83 Buy From Amazon Instant VideoBuy From iTunes 
32'7183 Buy From Amazon Instant VideoBuy From iTunes 
33Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck83  
34Seymour: An Introduction83 Buy From Amazon Instant VideoBuy From iTunes 
35The Forbidden Room83  
36Blind83 Buy From iTunes 
37James White83  
38It Follows83 Buy From Amazon Instant VideoBuy From iTunes 
39Court83  
40Arabian Nights: Volume 2, The Desolate One82  
41The Second Mother82 Buy From iTunes 
42The End of the Tour82 Buy From Amazon Instant Video 
43Office82  
44Creed82  
45Steve Jobs82 Buy From Amazon Instant VideoWatch on Amazon Prime 
46Approaching the Elephant82 Buy From iTunes 
47Eden82 Buy From Amazon Instant Video 
48Experimenter81 Buy From Amazon Instant Video 
49Mustang81  
50Coming Home81  
51Bridge of Spies81 Buy From Amazon Instant Video 
52Shaun the Sheep Movie81  
53Twinsters81 Buy From Amazon Instant VideoBuy From iTunes 
54Sicario81  
55The Big Short81  
56Arabian Nights: Volume 1, The Restless One81  
57A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence81 Buy From Amazon Instant VideoBuy From iTunes 
58Goodnight Mommy81 Buy From iTunes 
59In Jackson Heights81  
60Two Step81 Buy From Amazon Instant VideoBuy From iTunesWatch on Hulu 
61Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens81  
62The Martian80 Buy From iTunes 
63Arabian Nights: Volume 3, The Enchanted One80  
64We Come as Friends80  
65Love & Mercy80 Buy From Amazon Instant VideoBuy From iTunes 
 Theeb80  
67Iris80 Buy From Amazon Instant VideoBuy From iTunes 
68Winter on Fire: Ukraine's Fight for Freedom80 Netflix  
69Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief80 Buy From Amazon Instant Video 
70White God80 Buy From Amazon Instant VideoBuy From iTunes 
71The Assassin80  
72Finders Keepers80 Buy From Amazon Instant Video 
73Welcome to Leith80 Buy From iTunes 
74Stray Dog79  
75The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution79  
76Counting79 Buy From iTunes 
77Hitchcock/Truffaut79  
78Beasts of No Nation79  Netflix  
79Tu Dors Nicole79 Buy From Amazon Instant VideoBuy From iTunes 
80Don't Think I've Forgotten: Cambodia's Lost Rock and Roll79 Buy From Amazon Instant VideoBuy From iTunesWatch on Hulu 
81The Pearl Button79  
82Li'l Quinquin79 Buy From Amazon Instant VideoBuy From iTunes 
83Clouds of Sils Maria78 Buy From Amazon Instant Video 
84Queen of Earth78 Buy From Amazon Instant Video 
85Christmas, Again78  
86Breathe78 Buy From Amazon Instant Video 
87Ex Machina78 Buy From Amazon Instant VideoBuy From iTunes 
88The Tribe78  
89Meru77 Buy From Amazon Instant VideoBuy From iTunes 
90The Gift77 Buy From Amazon Instant VideoBuy From iTunes 
91Paddington77 Buy From iTunes 
92Mississippi Grind77 Buy From Amazon Instant Video 
93Wild Tales77 Buy From Amazon Instant VideoBuy From iTunes 
94Best of Enemies77  
95Buzzard77 Buy From Amazon Instant VideoWatch on Amazon PrimeBuy From iTunes 
96The Hunting Ground77 Buy From Amazon Instant VideoBuy From iTunes 
97Mediterranea77 Buy From Amazon Instant VideoBuy From iTunes 
98Prophet's Prey77  
99Güeros77 Buy From Amazon Instant Video 
100Grandma77  


For this and all tables in this article, only movies with seven or more reviews released in the United States between January 1, 2015 and December 31, 2015 were considered. Re-releases are excluded. The Metascore is a weighted average of scores from top professional critics, on a scale from 0 (bad) to 100 (good). Although scores have been rounded to the nearest whole number, movies are ranked prior to rounding. All scores in this article are from January 4, 2016.

Best 2015 Films by Genre

Movie still
2015's Best Dramas (English-language, live action)
1 Carol 96   
2 45 Years 94   
3 Spotlight 93   
4 Brooklyn 87   
5 The Diary of a Teenage Girl 87   
2015's Best "Dramedies" (English-language, live action)
1 Tangerine 85   
2 Buzzard 77  Buy From Amazon Instant VideoWatch on Amazon PrimeBuy From iTunes 
3 Grandma 77   
4While We're Young76  Buy From Amazon Instant VideoWatch on Amazon Prime Buy From iTunes 
5I'll See You in My Dreams76 Buy From Amazon Instant Video 
2015's Best Comedies (English-language, live action)
1Mistress America75 Buy From Amazon Instant Video 
2Spy75 Buy From Amazon Instant Video 
3What We Do in the Shadows75 Buy From Amazon Instant VideoBuy From iTunes 
4Trainwreck75 Buy From Amazon Instant VideoBuy From iTunes 
5Results73 Buy From Amazon Instant Video 
2015's Best Documentaries
1 Sherpa 93   
2 The Look of Silence 92   
3 Of Men and War 89   
4 Western 89   
5 Democrats 88   
2015's Best Foreign-Language Films (Narrative films only)
1 Timbuktu 92  Buy From Amazon Instant VideoWatch on Amazon Prime 
2 Jafar Panahi's Taxi (aka Taxi Tehran) 91   
3 Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem 90  Buy From Amazon Instant VideoWatch on Amazon Prime 
4 Hard to Be a God 90  Buy From Amazon Instant Video 
5 Son of Saul 89   
2015's Best Sci-Fi, Fantasy, and Superhero Films (English-language, live action)
1 Mad Max: Fury Road 89  Buy From Amazon Instant VideoBuy From iTunes 
2 Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens81  
3 The Martian80 Buy From iTunes 
4Ex Machina78 Buy From Amazon Instant VideoBuy From iTunes 
5Predestination69 Buy From Amazon Instant VideoBuy From iTunes 
2015's Best Horror Films and Supernatural Thrillers
1It Follows83 Buy From Amazon Instant VideoBuy From iTunes 
2Goodnight Mommy81 Buy From iTunes 
3Spring69 Buy From Amazon Instant VideoWatch on Amazon PrimeBuy From iTunes 
4The Harvest68 Buy From Amazon Instant Video 
5Crimson Peak66 Buy From Amazon Instant Video 
2015's Best Mysteries and Thrillers (English-language, non-supernatural)
1 '7183 Buy From Amazon Instant VideoBuy From iTunes 
2Bridge of Spies81 Buy From Amazon Instant Video 
3Sicario81  
4Two Step81 Buy From Amazon Instant VideoBuy From iTunesWatch on Hulu 
5Queen of Earth78 Buy From Amazon Instant Video 
2015's Best Westerns
1Jauja77 Buy From iTunes 
2The Revenant75  
3Slow West72 Buy From Amazon Instant VideoWatch on Amazon Prime 
4Bone Tomahawk71 Buy From Amazon Instant VideoBuy From iTunes 
5The Hateful Eight69  
2015's Best Animated Films
1 Inside Out 94  Buy From Amazon Instant Video 
2 Anomalisa 92   
3Shaun the Sheep Movie81  
4Paddington77 Buy From iTunes 
5Boy and the World76  

What about the year's worst movies?

Oh, we haven't forgotten about those. The lowest-scoring films released in 2015 can be viewed in the gallery below:

What are your favorites?

What are your selections for the best and worst movies of last year? Let us know in the comments section below. If you are looking for even more of 2015's best movies, be sure to check out our compilation of over 200 film critic top 10 lists as well as our 2015 Film Awards Scorecard.

Comments (3)

  • DanBurrito  

    I've noticed that on your "Worst Movies" list, "The Ridiculous Six" is at number 6. Very funny Metacritic.

  • thedemonhog  

    You do not count 'The Big Short' as a dramedy?

  • DanBurrito  

    What in the world is "Paddington" doing in the "animation" category? Yes, it was a very good movie but a movie with only one CGI character in an otherwise live-action world hardly qualifies as an animated movie. Other than that, this is a good list.

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