Hollywood dominated 2015 with some superb movies, transporting moviegoers to other worlds, gazing into the future, reflecting on the past, and even showing some familiar character faces. In the order of their release, below are the Press’ favorite 2015 movies.

ExMachinaIGNEx Machina
The sci-fi thriller assesses the world’s first artificial intelligence. Almost completely covered in CGI effects, Alicia Vikander delivers an impressive and eerily life-like portrayal as the AI. Joined by programmer Caleb Smith (Domhnall Gleeson) and the oddball AI creator Nathan Bateman (Oscar Isaac), the story takes a bit of a weird turn. Ultimately, the film explores the current and controversial relationship between man and machine.

MadMaxWebsite (1)Mad Max: Fury Road
Continuing director George Miller’s 30-year-old franchise, the Road Warrior returns to a simple chase plot through his barbaric and outlandish apocalyptic nightmare. Beautifully choreographed but intense action sequences (literally) drive the story forward, leaving the worldbuilding and character development to the stunning visuals, leaving the unnecessary explanations in the desert Wasteland’s dust. Charlize Theron’s one-armed Furiosa steals the spotlight sometimes from Max (Tom Hardy), but their journey is exciting and fun. Open-minded audiences will finish this film exclaiming, “What a day! What a lovely day!”

TheMartianWebsiteThe Martian
Matt Damon is stranded in space … again. This time he’s on Mars and needs to grow food and water on a planet where nothing grows, establish contact with Earth, and ultimately, “science the shit out of this.” What’s expected to be a predictably depressing survival movie surprises with a comically sarcastic and optimistic main character and overall tone. Even more interesting, the scenario is realistic and backed 100 percent by NASA, which “coincidentally” announced that water was found on Mars just around the film’s release. Check out the Press’ complete review here.

SpotlightWebsiteSpotlight
Okay, maybe we journalists are a little biased here. We like to think our job is hard work, but few can compete with The Boston Globe’s investigations and disturbing revelations into the cover-ups of sexual abuse within the Catholic Church. The dramatized retelling of the widespread scandals enlightens viewers to the infuriating process of investigative journalism when impeded by opposition. Releasing this film when religious skepticism is at an all-time peak seemed like curious timing, too.

This photo provided by Disney shows, Adam Driver as Kylo Ren with his Lightsaber in a scene from the new film, "Star Wars: The Force Awakens." The movie releases in the U.S. on Dec. 18, 2015. (Film Frame/Disney/Lucasfilm via AP) ORG XMIT: CAET177
This photo provided by Disney shows, Adam Driver as Kylo Ren with his Lightsaber in a scene from the new film, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” The movie releases in the U.S. on Dec. 18, 2015. (Film Frame/Disney/Lucasfilm via AP) ORG XMIT: CAET177

Star Wars: Episode VII: The Force Awakens
Let’s be honest, we all saw this one coming. Star Wars is back! Maybe not quite more powerful than we could possibly imagine, but still back! Clashing lightsabers, one Millennium Falcon, and some screeching TIE Fighters returned fans old and new to a galaxy far, far away. Does it surpass the original trilogy? Hell no! But the new characters separated themselves from the original cast enough to claim the story as their own and set the stage for the now highly anticipated Ep. VIII in 2017. Check out the Press’ nostalgic review here.

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