Every year is a good year for movies, provided you’re willing to wander a little off the beaten path. But in 2015, it was hard to go more than a few steps without hitting something major, something essential. More even than usual, the year’s best films took different shapes, sizes, and routes to eyeballs. Multiplexes were unusually rich with adventurous big-budget movies, as Hollywood handed the keys to the castle to real artists. At the same time, fine smaller films from all over the globe made their way from festivals to theaters and on to streaming platforms, where any viewer with a working web connection could get a taste of something different. What the 20 films below have in common, beyond the strong impression they made on our ballot-filing critics, is a general habit of saying something significant about the here and now, even when transporting audiences to a subatomic there; a fantastically reproduced then; and a lawless, post-apocalyptic later.