We all knew 2015 was going to be a big year for movies but few expected how big. Star Wars and Age of Ultron were smashes but we also had Jurassic World and Mad Max Fury Road becoming major surprises as well. There have been action hits, comedy classics and even some nice drama to add to a great year of cinema. True, some duds like Fantastic Four but the good has more than outweighed the bad. With huge box office numbers, there was a lot for moviegoers to enjoy in 2015 and picking the best of the bunch is a tough chore.
Some are fantastic action sequences that push the boundaries of cinema in amazing ways. Others are a bit quieter but still effective and played for laughs. All are powerful in their own ways and showcase how great movies can be and provided moviegoers with some terrific segments. Quite obviously SPOILER alerts for these films and figuring the best out is tough but still so many to note. Just missing the cut were the “I Want It That Way” dance from Magic Mike XXL and Bing Bong from Inside Out. Here are the 15 best movie scenes of 2015 that remind you why being in a theater can never be beaten.
Once more, obviously SPOILERS for these films.
15 The Party - Age of Ultron
You’d expect the Avengers sequel to be highlighted by one of the big battle scenes or action pieces. However, the real highlight comes early in the movie as the Avengers gather for a big party scene and we see them cutting loose, having a good time, chatting it up and enjoying themselves. It’s just so great from the way War Machine (Don Cheadle) tries to tell his own action stories to Thor bantering and the requisite cameo from Stan Lee. The best bit is when Tony (Robert Downey Jr.) tries to prove Thor’s hammer can be lifted, first with his gauntlet, then working with War Machine. The others try with Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) acting like he’s about to Hulk out but the rest aren’t amused. The most brilliant is how Captain America (Chris Evans) actually does seem to move it an inch to Thor’s concern, then relief when it doesn’t happen. It ends with Ultron’s first attack but it’s nice to see Earth’s Mightiest Heroes be normal people for once and that it’s the character, not the action, that makes a Marvel movie shine.
14 The Final Chase - Mad Max: Fury Road
Trying to nail the best action scene of Fury Road is nearly impossible considering the whole movie is one long chase sequence. But the final run as Max (Tom Hardy) and Furiosa (Charlize Theron) lead their allies in one run toward the Citadel is nothing but balls-to-the-wall action and George Miller makes it shine wonderfully. You have fistfights on trucks, guys sent flying around, Max lifted on a pole as a tanker explodes into flames, runs through a valley and Furiosa doing her own best to smash guys apart. The hard-rock score enhances it all as the tension mounts, leading to a bold sacrifice of a key character and the villain literally losing face before his men. It’s a bold sequence that has to rank as one of the best action pieces ever filmed and never lets you down from its pure insane joy.
13 Thomas the Tank Fight - Ant-Man
Leave it to an offbeat Marvel movie to provide the most offbeat fight scene ever. At last, Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) confronts evil industrialist Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) who’s donned his own size-changing armor of Yellowjacket. The two go at it in an up and down battle…while both are the size of insects and all in the play room of Rudd’s daughter. Thus, the two fly about, Yellowjacket firing lasers while Ant-Man hits back with punches, all as they’re jumping around a Thomas the Tank Train set, cars flying about with explosions and such. The big moment comes when the engine bears down on a trapped Yellowjacket only for the camera to pull back to show the train just knocked over with little sign of the true struggle going around. It’s totally wild but it all works, pure comic book action and yet another sign of how Marvel can make nearly any character work brilliantly on screen.
12 The Second Fight - Creed
The Rocky movies are famous for showing fights in clear-cut battles with quick editing to enhance the experience. But this new follow-up does away with all that wonderfully. Facing off against Leo Sporino in Mexico, Adonis Johnson (Michael B. Jordan) is dead-center as the camera follows him entering the ring, the intros and then the fight itself. There are no cuts, just the camera circling around as the fight goes on, closing in on Adonis getting advice from Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) and then right back to the battle. For a few moments, Adonis’ entire world is the ring and the movie wonderfully showcases that, one of the best boxing matches ever caught on film and kudos to Jordan making it all work in a believable manner to enhance this “rags to riches” storyline so well.
11 Vienna Opera House Fight - Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation
The trailers for the latest Tom Cruise adventure highlighted moments like hanging outside a plane, a motorcycle chase and an underwater vault. But the true highlight was the sequence of Ethan Hunt tracking a killer at a Vienna opera house. Spotting a target whose flute doubles as a rifle, Ethan attacks and they engage in a thrilling fight in the rafters, leaping around, slashing with a knife, jumping from one scaffold to another. It’s excellent already but the opera itself makes it better, the music reaching its crescendo as Ethan finally defeats his foe and grabs the flute rifle as he sees the mysterious Ilsa (Rebecca Ferguson in a stunning dress) with her own rifle as well as another killer in the control room. With only one bullet, Ethan does the only thing he can: He shoots the target himself (wounding of course) to get him to safety. So many larger than life stunts but this simple choice provides the true thrills and reminds you why Cruise makes this wild series work so well.
10 The Rules - It Follows
It’s hard to imagine a first time being worse than this. Jay (Maika Monroe) has just had sex with boyfriend Hugh (Jake Weary) and is enjoying the afterglow when he slaps a chloroform-soaked rag over her face. Waking up tied to a wheelchair in an abandoned building, Jay is told that she’s just inherited a curse, Hugh sorry but he had to do this. Those cursed see an entity that appears as a naked woman slowly walking toward them. Hugh pushes Jay along as he explains how the entity can appear as anyone, always walking but it will never, ever stop unless Jay passes the curse along by having sex with someone else. If she doesn’t, she dies as does Hugh and his voice-over mixes with the shots of this creepy woman following along at a slow but unrelenting pace and the camera fixed to the front of the wheelchair lets us see Jay’s confusion giving way terror as she realizes the mess she’s in. The best horror movie not just of this year but of several, it shows and tells to its captive audience to set a fantastically creepy tone.
9 The Rescue - The Martian
It’s all built up to this. After nearly two years stuck on his own on Mars, Mark (Matt Damon) is about to use an old lander ship to effect his escape and rendezvous with another ship in orbit. After tearing apart the lander to save weight, literally duct-taping screens on, Mark takes off into space only for his meeting ship to be a tad off course. His solution is what he terms “going Iron Man,” popping a hole in his suit and letting the pressurized air spin him across space, finally landing into the arms of Melissa (Jessica Chastain) and Mark is overjoyed at the first human he’s seen in so long. Packed with drama but also humor (Mark telling the guys “I’m just selfish, I want all the memorials to just be for me”), it’s a terrific sequence courtesy of Ridley Scott, the payoff of the brilliant movie and makes you realize there’s still wonders to be had in space travel on film.
8 Bear Attack - The Revenant
Tracking shots have picked up steam in the last few years and this is one of the best of this year. Alejandro G. Inarritu offers up a gripping tale as Hugh (Leonardo DiCaprio) is left alone in the wilderness, fighting his way through the elements and enemies to try and get back to civilization. Walking through a forest, Hugh admires the scenery, a quiet moment to showcase beauty in the wild, taking in some cubs… and then he’s tackled by a monstrous bear out of nowhere and spends the next few minutes desperately trying to survive. The CGI is fantastic as you can’t tell that’s not a real bear, it looks so real as it chomps and slashes away and DiCaprio’s performance sells his terror and agony fighting for his survival, left for dead but rising up to stab the bear when it comes back to finish the job. It’s worth every ounce of hype as a stellar sequence that reminds you that nature can be far more terrifying than any sci-fi or comic book monster.
7 The Church Massacre - Kingsman the Secret Service
Matthew Vaughn loves to give moviegoers fresh takes on action sequences and this may well rank as his best. Attending a meeting of a hate group inside a church, Harry (Colin Firth) is about to leave when the church is used as the testing for Valentine’s (Samuel L. Jackson) “hate broadcast.” It starts with Harry shooting a woman in the head and then all hell breaks loose. People begin smashing each other left and right, stabbing, punching, shooting and more, it’s a complete bloodbath. Through it all, Firth, one of the last guys you’d buy as an action star, is leaping about, unloading his gun, stabbing people in the head with debris, smashing them with a candleholder and more. The cuts are frenetic but work to show the insanity and having “Freebird” playing through it all is the icing on the cake. A sensational piece that makes the entire movie violence shot beautifully.
6 The T-Rex vs Indominus - Jurassic World
Jurassic World had flaws but you can’t argue the climax among them. As Owen (Chris Pratt) tries to defend a pair of kids from the Indominus Rex, the vicious super-dinosaur created for the park and its raptor buddies, Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) gets an idea. Running to a long-hidden gate, Claire opens it with a torch and with a roar emerges the Tyrannosaurus Rex from the original movie who’s been locked up for the last twenty years. Stomping onto the park square, the T-Rex charges and battles the Indomunius, the two monstrous beasts going at it hard, the T-Rex proving itself tougher despite the Indomunius being bigger. Eventually, the T-Rex sends the other dino into the nearby lagoon where the even more monstrous Mosasaurus emerges to swallow it up. Proof that you just can’t beat the original when it comes to being the baddest dino on the block and a triumph of modern CGI clashes.
5 Mexico City Mission - Spectre
The James Bond movies set the standard for opening action sequences and this is one of the best yet. It stars with Sam Mendes doing a single-camera take of a man in a skeleton costume walking with a beautiful woman through the streets of Mexico City during the Day of the Dead festival. We follow them through a hotel, up an elevator, a steamy kiss and then the woman in bed and surprised when the man removes his costume to reveal himself as a suited Bond (Daniel Craig) who says “I’ll be right back” before heading out onto the roof of the building. Bond is spying on a meeting but it goes badly, an explosion that takes out a building and knocks him on a couch. Chasing his target on foot, Bond sees the guy getting into a helicopter in the town square and hops after him, the chopper flying about above the terrified crowd. It ends with Bond finally managing to toss the guy from the copter and take off into the distance. It’s a sequence that has you marveling “only Bond” and why he’s lasted so long.
4 The Walk
Every now and then, there comes a single scene that can only be done justice via IMAX. Such a case is in Robert Zemeckis’ tale of Phillipe Petit (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) who in 1974 walked a one-foot wide tightrope between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. Having built up to it for the entire movie, Zemeckis allows the actual walk to be a standout as he showcases how it felt for Petit to do this, out in the air with almost nothing preventing a 130-story fall to the streets below. Gordon-Levitt handles it excellently as he goes back and forth, the tension mounting over 17 minutes as he even lies on the cable at one point as people just watch in awe. Even though we know Petit survived the walk, the effects sell the sheer danger of it all and only Zemeckis could pull off such a visual tour de force.
3 The Border Crossing - Sicario
Car chases are one thing but this drama showed the tension in taking things slow. Transporting an important prisoner from Mexico into the U.S., Kate (Emily Blunt) is in the van as they find themselves in bumper-to-bumper traffic trying to get into America. Alejandro (Benico del Toro) notices a car pulling up near them, then another behind them and tells Kate to get her weapon out. The other agents raise their rifles but are told to stay in the vehicles. The tension mounts more and more as a couple of men exit from one car and the agents follow suit. Kate stares, not believing this is happening as the two groups face off, the music swelling up until finally, one gangster raises his gun and he and his buddies are blasted away. It’s a genius touch how it looks clear-cut and methodical from Alejandro’s view while to Kate, this looks like pure insanity to do this with hundreds of civilians around. Sometimes, it shows that you don’t need cars moving to make a traffic piece compelling.
2 The Last Ride - Furious 7
From the start, the major question about this latest entry in the action franchise was how it would deal with the tragic death of Paul Walker, who had shot most of his scenes before his fatal car accident in 2013. The tension was high with fans wondering if Brian would be killed off as well and it was teased in the film with several close calls. In the end, however, Brian survived, returning home as Mia (Jordanna Brewster), reveals they’re expecting a second child. Watching them together, Dom (Vin Diesel) realizes this is Brian’s life now and he has to let their criminal ways go. He decides to go on a private drive and as he pulls up at a light, another car joins him. Thanks to some CGI, Walker is there, grinning brightly as he and Dom start off driving. A montage plays of various top moments from the entire series of Brian as Dom’s voiceover states that no matter where their paths take them, they’ll always be brothers. As the cars race to a fork in the road, Brian turns off toward the sunset as the haunting theme of “When I See You Again” plays over it all. A beautiful send-off for Walker and his character and how this bromance was always the heart of the action spectacular.
1 Rey vs Ren - Star Wars: The Force Awakens
In a film packed with one amazing scene after another, it saves the best for the climax. In the snowy forests of Starkiller Base, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), having just killed his own father, Han Solo, faces off against Finn (John Boyega) in a lightsaber fight, the two going at it before Ren knocks the saber away and slashes Finn across the back. Holding out his hand, Ren tries to summon the saber (once Luke’s) into his hand but it seems to resist. He pulls and it flies out…and spins right past Ren and into the waiting hand of Rey (Daisy Ridley). As John Williams’ iconic “Force Theme” plays, Rey ignites the saber and battles it out with Ren.
At first, Ren has the advantage as they fight across the snowy plains and rocks, clashing against each other as Ren says he can teach Rey the Force. Remembering words given to her before, Rey closes her eyes and when she opens them, she’s attuned and takes the fight to Ren, kicking him down, slashing his outfit and finally creating a massive scar across his face as he can't believe the tables are turned. A quake separates them as they glare at each other, each knowing this isn’t over. A terrific turning point for the new saga that sets Rey up as a hero and one of the best moments of the entire series as well as one hell of a fight.