We asked our reviewers to compile lists of the top five music and movies they enjoyed most in 2015. Some couldn’t help but add one or two extra titles, some offered reasons for their choices, and some actually stuck to the descriptors “top five” and “list” and “2015.” All of them generously offered their ideas for us. Check back next week for our reviewers’ picks for top books of 2015.

Top Five Albums of 2015

From Philip Christman, who teaches English at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor:

  1. No Cities to Love by Sleater-Kinney (Sub Pop). In 2001, the members of Sleater-Kinney played backup on the Go-Betweens' Friends of Rachel Worth, a stunning new concept in rock: the non-embarrassing reunion album. Something must have rubbed off. Or maybe Carrie Brownstein is just incapable of being other than awesome.
  2. No Song No Spell No Madrigal by The Apartments. Songwriter Peter Milton Walsh lost his young son in 1999. This album, as gorgeously gloomy and romantic as anything in its genre, is a gathering of the songs he's written in the past sixteen years, during most of which he was convinced he'd never record again.
  3. The reissue ofMadvillainy by Madvillain (Stones Throw). No one should take my opinion on hip-hop seriously, but this surreal masterpiece, given a well-deserved 10-year anniversary treatment by its label this year, is one of my favorite records in the entire genre.
  4. 1865: Songs of Hope and Home from the American Civil War by Anonymous 4 (Harmonia Mundi). Early-music ensemble Anonymous 4 has announced that they won't be taking their angelic voices on the road anymore after the current concert season. I'll be listening to their recordings of Hildegard von Bingen, David Laing, and—in this case—Civil War-era folk songs even more to salve my wounds.
  5. Render by Roomful of Teeth (New Amsterdam). At least I still have Roomful of Teeth, a vocal octet in the prime of their existence, whose taste in new works helps show that music is still in its prime too.

From Paul Delger, a motivational speaker and freelance writer in Kanawha, Iowa:

  1. Saints and Sinners by Matt Maher (Essential Records)
  2. Exhale by Plumb (Curb Records)
  3. Beautiful Offerings by Big Daddy Weave (Fervent Records)
  4. Pocketful of Faith by Tim Hughes (Integrity)
  5. How Can It Be by Lauren Daigle (Centricity)

From Robert J. Keeley of Holland, Mich., professor of education at Calvin College:

  1. Venus by Joy Williams (Columbia). Williams shows that without her Civil Wars partner she is still a great vocalist and capable of making gripping albums on her own.
  2. Double Live by Glass Hammer (Arion Records). A great live double album by one of the best bands in the progressive rock scene. In true progressive rock fashion, this double includes only seven songs—that’s how long they are—but each of them matches or bests the studio versions.
  3. Psalms by Sandra McCracken (Towhee Records). Beautiful renditions of psalms; her best album yet.
  4. Citizen by Billy Sherwood (Frontiers Records). Sherwood, a long-time producer and artist who was tapped to replace the late Chris Squire in Yes this year, also released what may be his best album.
  5. What’s Inside: Songs from Waitress by Sara Bareilles (Epic). A wonderful song cycle that features stellar writing and great vocal performances from Bareilles.

Honorable mentions:

  1. 25 by Adele (XL Recordings). Too new to determine if it unseats one of the others on the list, but the long-awaited followup to 21 is as good as people had hoped it would be.
  2. The new remix of1 by The Beatles (Capitol). Not new material but still one of the best albums in my collection.

From Greg Veltman of Calgary, Alta., who lives with his wife in an intentional community called The House of Commons. He is working on a Ph.D. in Higher Education through Azusa Pacific University:

  1. Carrie & Lowell by Sufjan Stevens (Asthmatic Kitty)
  2. Beneath the Skin by Of Monsters and Men (Republic)
  3. Every Open Eye by Chvrches (Glassnote)
  4. Dark Bird Is Home by Tallest Man on Earth (Dead Oceans)
  5. Coming Home by Leon Bridges (Columbia)
  6. Ibeyi by Ibeyi (XL Recordings)
  7. Another Eternity by Purity Ring (4AD Records)

From John Williamson, research and program coordinator for the Student Activities Office at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Mich.:

  1. Carrie & Lowell by Sufjan Stevens (Asthmatic Kitty)
  2. To Pimp a Butterfly by Kendrick Lamar (Aftermath)
  3. Every Open Eye by Chvrches (Glassnote)
  4. Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit by Courtney Barnett (Mom and Pop)
  5. Before the World Was Big by Girlpool (Wichita)

Top 5 Movies of 2015

From Philip Christman, who teaches English at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor:

  1. Out 1: Spectre. Jacques Rivette's legendary 12-hour-long experimental film is finally released in the United States, saving us all from having to watch YouTube clips of grainy videotapes of European TV showings from the 80s.
  2. Mad Max: Fury Road (Warner Bros). A generous, egalitarian vision of the world, conveyed via the most beautifully insane action set pieces conceivable by a human mind.
  3. Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Disney/Lucasfilm). Star Wars and Alien were great in part because their rich tapestry of unexplained details invited the viewer's imagination to fill in. Both were ruined by the literal-minded nature of their prequels, but The Force Awakens sets up a whole new series of wonderful imponderables while drawing four fascinating new characters into the mix.
  4. Roar (Olive Films). This restoration/rerelease is, in its own way, an experimental film. Featuring Tippi Hedren, her then-husband and director Noel Marshall, and her unfortunate children (young Melanie Griffith!) in a 1981 homemade "action-comedy" which stars real lions . . . who repeatedly maul the actors and destroy sets beyond recognition. The film, buried on its release and reissued this year, has the sort of total, Ed Wood-like commitment to its own lunacy that turns bad films into masterpieces of a kind.
  5. Bitter Lake (BBC). Adam Curtis's documentary is what all TV news would be if its purpose were actually to inform.

From Josh Larsen of Chicago, Ill., editor of ReFrame Media’s Think Christian digital magazine. He also writes about movies at LarsenOnFilm.com and cohosts the “Filmspotting” podcast.

  1. Ex Machina (Lionsgate)
  2. White God (Magnolia Pictures)
  3. Mad Max: Fury Road (Warner Bros.)
  4. Inside Out (Disney/Pixar)
  5. Chi-Raq (Amazon Studios)

From Kristy Quist of Grand Rapids, Mich., Tuned In Editor for The Banner:

  1. Inside Out (Disney/Pixar)
  2. Spotlight (Open Road Films)
  3. The Martian (20th Century Fox)
  4. Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Disney/Lucasfilm)
  5. Room (A24 Films)

From Greg Veltman of Calgary, Alta., who lives with his wife in an intentional community called The House of Commons. He is working on a Ph.D. in Higher Education through Azusa Pacific University:

  1. Ex Machina (Lionsgate)
  2. Love & Mercy (Lionsgate)
  3. Inside Out (Disney/Pixar)
  4. Mad Max: Fury Road (Warner Bros.)
  5. The Martian (20th Century Fox)
  6. Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief (HBO Documentaries)

From John Williamson, research and program coordinator for the Student Activities Office at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Mich.:

  1. Spotlight (Open Road Films)
  2. The Martian (20th Century Fox)
  3. Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Disney/Lucasfilm)
  4. Mad Max: Fury Road (Warner Bros.)
  5. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (Fox Searchlight)