John’s top 10 movies of 2015

These were my 10 favorite movies of 2015:

1. “Spotlight” — This chronicle of the Boston Globe’s 2001-02 probe of rape allegations in the Catholic Church is a thank-you letter to the dying art of investigative journalism. An all-star cast of actors including Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams and Liev Schreiber does a marvelous job of capturing the small details of how reporters live and behave – particularly Ruffalo, whether he’s boiling hot dogs for dinner of scrounging through his bag for a pen. Meanwhile, the case itself works as a meat-and-potatoes procedural potboiler. (Full review.)

2. “Creed” — If we end up getting a bunch more sequels, this seventh entry will go down as the transitional movie in the “Rocky”/”Creed” boxing saga, as writer-director Ryan Coogler brings a fresh vibe while honoring the traditions. Here, Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) is the grizzled old trainer and Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan), son of Apollo, is the hungry young fighter. Coogler brings a viewer right into the fights with lingering, uninterrupted shots – inviting us to enjoy the thrills and confront the sport’s violence at the same time. (Full review.)

3. “Ex Machina” — Artificial intelligence is such a well-worn genre that it’s hard to believe the material could feel fresh again. But that’s what happens in writer-director Alex Garland’s film, which is driven by meditative performances by Oscar Isaac, Domhnall Gleason and, in a mesmerizing breakthrough, Alicia Vickander as the cutting-edge robot. Like all films in this genre, we ask “What does it mean to be human?” But here, we might not like the answer. (Full review.)

4. “Maggie” — Arnold Schwarzenegger gives the most understated performance of his career in this slow-burn horror film where he plays the father of a girl (Abigail Breslin) who is slowly turning into a zombie. Director Henry Hobson’s beautifully grim film starts slow but gradually gets under a viewer’s skin — we grow to love the characters at the same rate we realize how hopeless their situation is. (Full review.)

5. “It Follows” — Writer-director Robert Mitchell spices up the coming-of-age genre with a crazy but fascinating horror concept where teens who have sex are stalked by a demon unless they pass on the curse. This film with an old-school look and sound is propelled by both the fresh concept and a sympathetic turn by up-and-comer Maika Monroe. Similar to “Ex Machina,” it serves as a foundation for post-film “What does it all mean?” discussion. (Full review.)

6. “Jurassic World” — The fourth film in the saga is the best since the original as the filmmakers deliver a bevy of fan-pleasing sequences, from dive-bombing pteranodons to the series’ first aquatic dinosaur (a mosasaur) to a soldiers-vs.-dino skirmish to the epic final clash between a T-rex and the new star, the genetically engineered Indominus rex. (Full review.)

7. “Pitch Perfect 2” — This sequel hits all the right notes as it mocks the absurdity of the notion of an international a cappella competition. For example, Elizabeth Banks and John Michael Higgins play a cappella competition podcasters. It smoothly blends lots of diverse elements, ranging from catchy tunes to fart jokes. It helps that the viewer sees the action though the wide eyes of the new Barden Bella played by the adorable Hailee Steinfeld, who also starred in “Barely Lethal,” which just missed my top 10. (Full review.)

8. “Ted 2” — This sequel in Seth McFarlane’s talking teddy bear series follows the same formula as the original, but it’s a winning one. There are a lot of snort-worthy gags, such as Ted and John (Mark Wahlberg) desperately destroying John’s pornography-laden computer, and series newcomer Amanda Seyfried slots in nicely as a lawyer who shares the duo’s affinity for marijuana. Plus, there’s a nice dash of sociopolitical commentary as Ted seeks the right to get married. (Full review.)

9. “Terminator Genisys” — Emilia Clarke is winsome as she fills Linda Hamilton’s and Lena Headey’s big shoes as one of the most iconic female action stars, Sarah Connor. Much like the 2009 “Star Trek,” the fifth big-screen “Terminator” entry uses the flexible rules of time travel as a way to give the series a fresh start. Meanwhile, Arnold Schwarzenegger – who fights his “younger self” from the 1984 movie in a fascinating exercise in digital compositing — proves that while he’s old, he’s not obsolete. (Full review.)

10. “Insurgent” — In the genre of young-adult dystopian novels adapted into big-screen blockbusters, I prefer the “Divergent” series to the more lauded “Hunger Games.” The biggest reasons are the appealing lead, Shailene Woodley, and the sense of mystery about who is pulling the strings of this totalitarian government, and what their goals are. (Full review.)

What were your favorite movies of 2015? Share your lists in the comment thread below.