Must-See: These 9 Movies From 2015 Totally Blew Us Away

Can’t decide what to watch tonight? Senior culture editor Briony Smith shares this year’s top flicks that sure to win your five-star rating

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George Miller brought back jaw-dropping non-CGI effects—including custom-made cars—in Mad Max: Fury Road

Features

It Follows
STIs are stressful enough: imagine a sexually transmitted monster. This stylish, eerily eraless and legit-scary horror illustrates the perils of rumpy-pumpy, as a group of teens bands together to save their pal from a relentless STM that appears in varying forms. Features a haunting score by Disasterpeace.

The Duke of Burgundy
Two women—both stunning and dressed like they live in a Saint Laurent campaign—engage in highly erotic SM hijinks in a chic secluded villa, but all is not as it seems. The twist is that this gorgeous, languorous work is the smartest film about relationships (kinky and non) in ages.

Mad Max: Fury Road
Picturing a loud, bloody bro-fest? This is 2015’s most fantastic—and feminist—film. Seriously. Tom Hardy may have the titular role, but Charlize Theron’s steel-armed Amazon and lady-warrior squad are the true heroes. Director George Miller said he wanted to make a “silent film with sound;” this throbbing action epic has heart that speaks to us all.

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Shy strongman Chris Schoek stars in the stand-up-and-cheer doc Bending Steel

Documentaries

Bending Steel
I’ve watched many thousands of films in my life, and Bending Steel is the most inspirational I’ve ever seen—and it’s finally available to the public. Step right up, folks, and watch awkward NYC trainer Chris Schoeck try to go pro as an old-timey strongman. His journey to overcome his shyness and perform feats of strength onstage climaxes in the most crowd-pleasing ending of all time.

Finders Keepers
This one has a real lulu of a premise: a Southern hustler purchases a meat smoker at an auction, only to find a human leg inside. The limb’s previous owner wants it back, but the buyer isn’t returning his prize without a fight (he wants to turn the body part into a tourist attraction). What starts out as hilarious down-south shenanigans transforms into a touching tale of family struggle and redemption.

The Hunting Ground
Fair warning: I cried all the way through this film. But watching it is also deeply necessary. Documentarians Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering’s previous doc The Invisible War tackled rape in the military and inspired real-world policy change. They take on U.S. campuses this time, interviewing 70 survivors to expose the hypocrisy and horrors of how colleges deal (or don’t) with the rampant assaults that happen every day.

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3 TIFF Triumphs to Check Out Now

Spotlight
Be prepared to bite your nails to the quick as a team of Boston Globe investigative reporters (Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams) works frantically to break a huge story of Catholic clergy sex abuse and cover-ups. The real-life journalists won the Pulitzer for Public Service; if there is justice, this film will also win big come awards season.

Legend
TWO TOM HARDYS! TWO TOM HARDYS! TWO TOM HARDYS! If you insist on more info, fine: Hardy (♥) performs a dual role as twin gangsters the Kray brothers. The chiller straight one runs their ’60s London criminal empire with boo Emily Browning at his side, while simultaneously trying to manage his volatile, fight-prone queer brother.

James White
Christopher Abbott has hopscotched from Marnie’s ex on Girls to Oscar contender, thanks to his brazen performance in this unflinching drama, shot mostly in close-up. Abbott plays a flaky hipster who must return home and man up when his mom (the also amazing Cynthia Nixon) is stricken with cancer. Cute rapper Kid Cudi co-stars and wrote the score as well.

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