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When Labor Day came to a close Monday, so did the summer movie season. A summer that saw Universal Studios rake in a massive haul and not only take home top movie honors box office wise with Jurassic World, they also have already set the all-time record in terms of single-year gross by a studio. They’ve still got three months to pad that lead, by the way. The summer movie season of 2015 gave us our fair share of heroes, small and large. It gave us a story about N.W.A that turned them into the most highly acclaimed music biopic ever. It also showed us that not everything with a Marvel attachment to it (yes, Fantastic Four) ends in box office gold. With the summer movie season done, it’s time to reflect and look back at the five best films of the summer. All apologies to films like Dope, Inside Out and Southpaw who just missed the cut.

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05. Jurassic World
Worldwide Box-Office Earnings: $1.6 billion

Jurassic World was pure nostalgia for anybody born before 1993. Any person who has seen the original trilogy definitely was in a theater somewhere in the country that weekend. I mean, Jurrasic World ran the box office for about a month. My mom never goes to the movies; she was live at 5 for Jurrasic World. The reboot confirmed that Chris Pratt is not only a leading man in Hollywood; he’s in complete control of two franchises and can laugh his way to the bank to boot.

Put Pratt in a world where you’ve got a Mosasoraus, a genetically modified Velociratpor/T-Rex combo in the Indominous Rex, the return of the king T-Rex and three lovable Velociraptors and you were asking for money to be printed. The thrills were kept at a high, fans bought in to the fear of IR and how the lingering theory of dinosaurs being used as weapons for warfare was a nice touch. Why is it #5? A far too predictable story. Overall this film was amazing though. Colin Trevorrow and the producers at Universal could have a classic on their hands. It definitely fit well in the series, and I’m sure the sequel will be no different.

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04. Mad Max: Fury Road
Worldwide Box-Office Earnings: $374 million

Mad Max was amazing, a visual masterpiece with so many side characters you could root for beyond Max, Nux and Furiosa. I was happy we got a continuation instead of a reboot. Lately, these reboots have been make or break (oh hai, Fantastic Four). I loved the original trilogy, but I’m a millennial. Our generation is kind of lazy and they don’t understand Max as much as the generations before did. In my opinion, Max was an amazing adventure that took you to depths of your mind that you have never imagined.

The psychological mind battering camera angles and insane imagery all played apart in this. George Miller being the genius that he is simply gave us what we’ve been missing, a bit of insanity with subtle worldly influences to deliver the goods. You’ve got Immortan Joe, Stalin of the desolate land, Hitler of Armageddon and a perfect foil to the nobility and moral fight Theron and Max laid out. Mad Max had ideals of feminism, communism, marxism, monarchism and other theorems stretched throughout it, making it arguably the smartest wild ride you had this summer.. The Feminism standpoint stood out to me among others. No, it wasn’t full on 100% Feminism, but it used bits and pieces. You’d argue this would be #1 at least, right? Well … about that …

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03. Avengers: Age Of Ultron
Worldwide Box-Office Earnings: $1.4 billion

Most would rate Avengers as maybe the fifth best movie of the summer. Some would even dare argue it was the best ride they had in the movies this summer. Let us begin with the bad, which there isn’t much. I like my veggies before my dessert. There just simply wasn’t much complexity to the story with Avengers: Age of Ultron. I know; it was an action film packed w/ superheroes. I just feel Ultron was created too fast, and he became evil too fast. The plot doesn’t develop at a pace where you can indulge everything. That being said, the movie was amazing. Hulk versus Hulkbuster had to be the fight of the year. We got to finally see Vision, some Ulysses Klaw, our first taste of Black Panther, bits and pieces of “Hell” which is going to be a big part of Thor: Ragnorok.

What comic book movies or studios anyway have learned is that strong actors are needed in order to bring life to characters. James Spader as Ultron conveys such a love/hate/mesmerizing presence. The best kind of evil is the evil that can bend your will into rooting for it (see Pablo Escobar in Narcos). Joss Whedon definitely knew what he was doing casting Spader. I feel like AOU was better than the original Avengers because of Spader and Scarlett Witch. Witch definitely opened a gateway for us to continue or journey to the Infinite Stones. You know what really made this film amazing? The 10 seconds or so we finally get Josh Brolin off of that chair! “Fine, I’ll do it myself.” might just be the greatest movie line of 2015. Of course next to, “Chewie, we’re home.” that is. The saga continues with the Marvel universe.

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02. Straight Outta Compton
Worldwide Box-Office Earnings: $168 million

Even with all of the inaccuracies, those who know the greater sins of N.W.A denouncing it, and some sects of the public thinking there were going to be shootouts at theaters that showed it, Straight Outta Compton was the second best film of the summer, if not the entire year. The movie wasn’t 100% accurate, but most biopics take liberty with certain issues or topics. There was so much more to this film though. The portrayal of the police in this film, and the amount of people that can relate to this film was what F. Gary Gray and company honed in on and succeeded. This is what made this film #2 to me.

The backstory of N.W.A’s and in particular black and brown Angelos treatment by the police is what grabbed my attention. Of course, I know about N.W.A and the history of Compton. California is a huge influence to me personally from my music background. The scenes that popped: Cube getting harassed and slammed on a cop car in front of his mother, the final confrontation that led to “F**k The Police”, the Rodney King verdict and subsequent Los Angeles Riots. That’s what made this film psychologically resonate so well with its audience. Even if it was meant to entertain, Straight Outta Compton touched plenty of emotions and gave people a visual representation of something that felt so common and nowhere near distant. Straight Outta Compton owned August and it currently owns the silver medal in terms of our summer rankings. But, number one?

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01. Ant-Man
Worldwide Box-Office Earnings: $384 million

Seven years. 12 films. Unparalleled dominance. Even the supposed “set up” movies like Ant-Man turned out to be standout films on their one. For a movie that felt more like a heist movie than a simple superhero flick, Ant-Man answered all the critics who thought it was going to be Marvel’s first genuine “flop” since The Incredible Hulk back in 2009.

What the film accomplished maybe far better than any other Marvel film to date is humanizing its main characters. Hank Pym wants to change the world and fears going too far because he lost his wife that way. Scott Lang merely wants to be a hero for his daughter. Even if Corey Stoll happened to play a paint-by-numbers villain in Yellowjacket, he still got to have a few inhumane moments to zero-in on his nastiness. Couple that with great side characters in Michael Peña and T.I. and you’ve got an enjoyable popcorn flick. The bonus is how Ant-Man told two stories, one general linear tale of building a hero and a secondary one where Marvel’s upcoming Civil War lies. The surprise of the summer was the best film of the summer, at least to me.

Rascal F. Kennedy is a musician living in Southeast, Houston. Find him and debate his movie opinions on Twitter.

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