My final semester of seminary has been one of the toughest of the last four years, so I’ve been neglecting whatever I could neglect…but now, with the Oscars hard on us, the deadline is here for my annual round-up of the year-end best films of some of my friends and peers (see previous years).

Observations:

  • This year I think there’s more overlap amongst our lists than ever before. 4 of the 5 top-named films are on my personal top 5 — and my other top-5 film is in an 8-way tie for 7th place.
  • In particular I don’t think I’ve ever agreed so extensively with Kenneth Morefield (who notes at 1More Film Blog that his list this year is more populist than usual). 5 of his top 10 are in my top 10, and 3 more are in my honorable mentions. (I suspect that Ken’s no. 2 film, Our Little Sister, would have been a strong contender for my top 10 if I’d managed to see it.)
  • Here are the top vote-getters (adding my own top 10 to the lists below, and with my own ranking for each of the films below wherever they appear):
    • 8 votes: Mad Max: Fury Road (no. 4); Spotlight (no. 5)
    • 6 votes: Inside Out (no. 2)
    • 5 votes: Brooklyn (no. 1), Phoenix (runner-up)
    • 4 votes: The Big Short (runner-up)
    • 3 votes: About Elly (runner-up); The Assassin (runner-up); Carol; Love & Mercy (runner-up); Mistress America; Steve Jobs (honorable mention); Timbuktu (no. 3)

Annual disclaimer: As always, the lists below are all from film writers who are Christians, and whose film writing is informed by their faith. This doesn’t mean that I agree with or endorse all the films listed below, nor is it any slight to the work of many of my friends and peers who are not Christians. It’s simply meant to offer a cross-section of thoughtful Christian film writing.

Last year I had nine lists; this year I have ten so far — but the makeup has changed a bit. A couple of my friends didn’t do lists this year, and I’ve added a few new ones. One happy outcome is that I no longer have an all-male lineup; I’ve added three women this year. I’d be happy to add more, but there’s a big difference between three and none.

Why does this matter? Because men and women experience life differently, are treated differently, think differently, notice differently and write about film differently. What’s more, men think and talk and write differently when women are involved in the conversation than when they aren’t. I want to read film criticism by women in part because it makes me a better critic. Certainly I know I benefit from my lady Suz’s perspective on films, when I’m lucky enough to have it (which isn’t often enough).

This year’s roundup begins with Alissa Wilkinson of Christianity Today, who took a unique tack to the year-end list project with a list of 20 films, all unranked, in various categories. Usually I only post the top 10 films no matter how long the list is, but since it would be arbitrary to pick half of Alissa’s films, here they all are. (Most of the links below offer thoughtful comments on each film; I recommend visiting them all.)

Alissa Wilkinson (Christianity Today)

  • Who’s at Fault When Institutions Are Broken? Spotlight (no. 5); Mad Max: Fury Road (no. 4); Best of Enemies; Chi-Raq
  • The Housing Crisis Was a Failure: The Big Short (runner-up); 99 Homes
  • The Meaning of Life (via Animation): World of Tomorrow; Anomalisa
  • Get Off My Lawn: While We’re Young; Clouds of Sils Maria
  • Music Done Differently: Straight Outta Compton; Love & Mercy (runner-up); Girlhood (honorable mention)
  • Life, Death, and Trauma: Room; Macbeth; Timbuktu (no. 3)
  • The Look of Love: Brooklyn; Carol; 45 Years
  • Can You Be Great and Good? The End of the Tour; Steve Jobs (honorable mention)

Sister Rose Pacatte (SisterRoseMovies.net) has a top 10 with a no. 1 film and nine unranked films:

  • No. 1: Room
  • The Big Short
  • Bridge of Spies
  • He Named Me Malala
  • The Look of Silence
  • Mr. Holmes 
  • Son of Saul
  • Spotlight
  • Trumbo
  • The Wrecking Crew

Jeffrey Overstreet (Looking Closer) has a top 25 with runners-up:

  1. About Elly (runner-up)
  2. Timbuktu (no. 3)
  3. What We Do in the Shadows
  4. Something, Anything (honorable mention)
  5. Inside Out (no. 2)
  6. Mad Max: Fury Road (no. 4)
  7. Carol
  8. The Assassin (runner-up)
  9. The Salt of the Earth
  10. Brooklyn (no. 1)

Kenneth R. Morefield (1More Film Blog) has a top 10:

  1. Love & Mercy (runner-up)
  2. Our Little Sister
  3. Brooklyn (no. 5)
  4. Mad Max: Fury Road (no. 4)
  5. Spotlight (no. 5)
  6. (Dis)honesty: The Truth About Lies
  7. The Big Short (runner-up)
  8. Creed (no. 9)
  9. Paddington (no. 10)
  10. Stations of the Cross (runner-up)

Victor Morton (Rightwing Film Geek) has a top 10 with honorable mentions in various categories:

  1. Approaching the Elephant
  2. Inside Out (no. 2)
  3. About Elly (runner-up)
  4. The Duke of Burgundy
  5. Jafar Panahi’s Taxi (honorable mention)
  6. Phoenix (runner-up)
  7. 45 Years (runner-up)
  8. Mistress America
  9. Brooklyn (no. 1)
  10. It Follows

Joel Mayward (Cinemayward.com) has a top 10 (though one of them, no. 3, is a 16-minute short):

  1. Mad Max: Fury Road (no. 4)
  2. About Elly (runner-up)
  3. World of Tomorrow
  4. Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem (honorable mention)
  5. Inside Out (no. 1)
  6. Phoenix (runner-up)
  7. The Assassin (runner-up)
  8. Something, Anything
  9. Spotlight (no. 5)
  10. It Follows

M. Leary (formerly of Filmwell) has a top 10 with addenda:

  1. L’il Quinquin
  2. Horse Money
  3. Experimenter
  4. Hard To Be A God
  5. Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem (honorable mention)
  6. Mad Max: Fury Road
  7. Jauja
  8. Phoenix (runner-up)
  9. Man From Reno
  10. Steve Jobs (honorable mention)

Christian Hamaker (Schaeffer’s Ghost) has a top 20 with various addenda:

  1. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
  2. Mistress America
  3. Steve Jobs (honorable mention)
  4. Spotlight
  5. Anomalisa
  6. The Diary of a Teenage Girl
  7. Slow West
  8. Winter Sleep
  9. Time Out of Mind
  10. Phoenix (runner-up)

Rebecca Cusey (The Federalist) has a top 10:

  1. Mad Max: Fury Road (no. 4)
  2. 13 Hours
  3. The Big Short (runner-up)
  4. The Kingsmen
  5. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
  6. Joy
  7. Spotlight (no. 5)
  8. The Martian (no. 7)
  9. Inside Out (no. 2)
  10. Trainwreck

Evan Cogswell (Catholic Cinephile) has a top 10 with honorable mentions and more:

  1. Inside Out (no. 2)
  2. The Assassin (runner-up)
  3. Phoenix (runner-up)
  4. Love & Mercy (runner-up)
  5. Mistress America
  6. Man From Reno
  7. Mad Max: Fury Road (no. 4)
  8. Carol
  9. Clouds of Sils Maria
  10. Spotlight (no. 5)