The 9 Best-Reviewed Movies Of 2015 Prove It Was A Banner Year For Women In Film

2015 has come to a close, which means it's time to look back at the year that just passed. It was a year that saw the rise of Amy Schumer, the fall of Bill Cosby, and the public transition of Caitlyn Jenner. It was also a big year for movies, with 2015 especially being great for women in film. In fact, when compiling a list of the best movies of 2015 according to critics' reviews, I noticed that nearly all of them centered around women in their respective lead roles, signifying that the Hollywood playing field may finally be on the road toward leveling the gender gap that has plagued the industry since, well, forever.

I also noticed that the best-reviewed films of the year aren't necessarily the same ones in the running for Best Picture at the Oscars. Some are in the conversation, of course, but several aren't being talked about, leading to an interesting dichotomy between what critics say they like when a movie comes out compared to how their opinions change come awards season. Now, as for how I compiled my list, I looked at the two biggest review aggregators on the internet: Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic, and what each of their top five films of the year were. Rotten Tomatoes uses a weighted formula that takes into account the number of reviews each film gets, while Metacritic does not count the total reviews as a factor, but they do count certain critics' scores more heavily, meaning the two publications' lists are quite different. Then, as a third source, I looked at the films that appear most frequently in critics' year-end top ten lists — which is also compiled by Metacritic without adding their own spin on it. With these three sources at my disposal, here are what I found to be the nine best-reviewed films of 2015.

1. Mad Max: Fury Road

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The sci-fi sequel of a middlingly popular '80s franchise shocked the world this year on its way to becoming the best-reviewed film of 2015, taking the top spot on Rotten Tomatoes' list and appearing on more critics' top ten lists than any other film. A big part of the reason for the film's success was the performance of Charlize Theron as Furiosa, who almost immediately became one of the most-iconic feminist characters ever put to film.

2. Carol

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Taking the title of Metacritic's best-reviewed film of the year is probably the best-reviewed film ever to focus on a lesbian relationship. Carol features outstanding acting from Cate Blanchette and Rooney Mara in its lead roles as forbidden lovers in 1952 America.

3. Inside Out

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Pixar's latest masterpiece is the only film to appear in the top five in all three of my sources, yet it's somehow considered a long shot to even earn a Best Picture nomination at the Oscars. That's a shame, as the story of 11-year-old Riley and the emotions in her head is one of the most inventive films I've ever seen.

4. Spotlight

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Considered the current frontrunner to win the Oscar for Best Picture, this ambitious film tells the real life story of the Boston reporters who exposed the Catholic Church's sexual abuse scandal in the early 2000s, and features an ensemble cast consisting of Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, and Rachel McAdams.

5. Brooklyn

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In the fourth female-centric film on the list, Saoirse Ronan plays an Irish Immigrant in 1950s New York who becomes torn between her new home and her old; as well as the men vying for her affection on each side of the Atlantic.

6. 45 Years

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Earning much smaller fanfare than the other films on the list is this indie British drama, which just had its U.S. release on December 23 despite premiering in the U.K. back in August. The movie offers an in-depth look at the struggles of a marriage, as a couple on the verge of celebrating their 45th anniversary face a great strain when the frozen, preserved body of the husband's ex-girlfriend is found fifty years after her disappearance, rekindling old feelings.

7. Anomalisa

The latest from acclaimed writer Charlie Kaufman (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), this stop-motion animated film for grown ups definitely has a bit of an uncanny valley effect going on with its almost-human puppets, but in spite of that, it's being praised for capturing the human experience perhaps better than any other film this year.

8. Star Wars: The Force Awakens

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Clearly not content with merely shattering box office records at a blistering pace, the newest Star Wars movie is also one of the year's best-loved films and has force-pushed its way into the Oscar conversation. Obviously Disney's decision to cast Daisy Ridley as the hero in the new trilogy proved to be the right call.

9. Shaun The Sheep

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Easily the most surprising entry on the list, this claymation British film is based on the TV series of the same name, which is itself a spinoff of the Wallace and Gromit franchise. Add in the film's familiar-sounding plot of farm animals going on an adventure in the big city, and it hardly sounds like the formula for a critical darling. But the movie's humor and heart won over critics in droves, earning it a bonkers 99 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

There were a lot of great films in 2015, and several that didn't make it onto this list, but the selection here provides a pretty good sample of what theater-goers were treated to this past year. Brilliant action, compelling dramas, fantastic animated films, and some of the strongest female characters Hollywood has ever created were all in abundance this year, so here's hoping for more of the same in 2016.

Images: Warner Bros. Pictures