Top Ten Best Movies of 2016
2016 was a great year for cinema, with a great and diverse selection of films released in the last twelve months. This may mark the most difficult list I’ve ever had to make for my end of the year countdowns, and selecting the best of the year was no easy feat. Here are my picks for the top ten best films of 2016.
Note: While I did review The Revenant, and I did give that film an A+, the film technically is a 2016 release, and does not qualify for my list this year.
Hunt for the Wilderpeople
10 Cloverfield Lane
Southside With You
Star Trek Beyond
The Jungle Book
Rules Don’t Apply
Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk
The Birth of a Nation
The Light Between Oceans
The Neon Demon
The Magnificent Seven
13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi
The Finest Hours
The Edge of Seventeen
Elvis & Nixon
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Eye in the Sky
- Hell or High Water
Hell or High Water is the type of badass, character driven film that feels like it came from a different era. The film borrows more than a few elements from the Coen Brothers, namely the quirky characters, stark landscapes, dark humor, and bold color pallets, but it’s done with an intensity and simplicity that gives the film its own identity. Chris Pine and Ben Foster are remarkable as two brothers on a spree of bank robberies, but the film’s standout is Jeff Bridges, who gives a hilarious side performance as an eccentric Texas Sherriff. Hell or High Water strips away clichés and tells a story of ambition, proving to be entertaining until the end with an emotionally fulfilling finale.
- Sing Street
Sing Street isn’t technically classified as a musical, but it might as well be; it’s a narrative drawn and progressed through music. Each track is a literal evaluation of the themes and characters, pushing the movie forwards through song and giving it a raw, kinetic energy. The soundtrack to John Carney’s film isn’t just a supplement, it’s everything, and the fantastic music adds to an already great story. Sing Street may be this generations great music movie, not just because it has great songs, but because it understands what music is; a forum of expression that allows for the unspoken to be heard. That may sound pretentious, but the film is anything but; in fact, there’s a broad appeal to the story that’s not exclusive to music, or even art. Sing Street is about moving forward, and the film’s success may be indicative of such progress in the industry.
- Midnight Special
Stanley Kubrick once said that a films “should be a progression of moods and feelings”, and his quote pertains to the type of filmmaking seen in Midnight Special. There’s a dreamlike quality to Midnight Special, with stunning visual effects and haunting musical score help Nichols in harnessing this surrealist fantasy. Yet while the film provokes many questions, it explains only certain portions of its own mythology, leaving a sense of wonderment and fulfillment behind the end of the film. What Nichols has done has created a striking and modern sci-fi classic that feels both adaptive to modern culture, yet effortlessly timeless.
Jackie is one of the most unconventional and effective biographical films of the past decade, a far departure from the overtly familiar award season bait like Loving or Lion. The film is a towering character study of a fascinating historical figure with a brilliant performance by Natalie Portman, who completely owns the role and is worthy of next year’s Academy Awards. Pablo Larrain gives searing spectacle into loss, American royalty, and the power of leadership.
- Everybody Wants Some
Richard Linklater’s films have been popular do to their humanist quality; there’s a sense of reality and coming of age that allows the films to connect with the audiences on a personal level. Everybody Wants Some is an epitome of everything that Linklater does best, featuring a memorable cast of characters and a witty, wry sense of humor. In addition to the non-stop hilarity, there’s an interesting message about competition and masculinity, and a great coming of age story about its eccentric characters. While the film may seem meandering to some, simply imitating life is where Linklater shines, and it’s the simple observations that he makes his films unique. I can’t say there’s anything particularly “deep” about this film, but I’d also be lying if I said this wasn’t one of the most pleasurable film going experiences of the year.
- The Nice Guys
“You know who else was just following orders? Hitler!”
The Nice Guys feels like one of those films that the industry doesn’t make anymore, in which a talented director is given the extent of the studio’s resources to create a character vehicle. Writer and director Shane Black uses the ’70s setting to create a throwback buddy adventure that benefits from the excellent chemistry between Ryan Gosling and Russel Crowe, and goes all of in Black’s stylistic elements. I saw this three times in theaters, and each time I grew a deeper appreciation for just how clever the film was. Seriously Warner Brothers. You don’t have to make any more DC Movies, just make more of these.
- Captain America: Civil War
Captain America: Civil War is not just the best film produced by Marvel Studios, but one of the most important studio films in the blockbuster era. While it is undeniably part of a globally significant brand, finally there is a blockbuster that isn’t focused on world building as it is in character building. Not only is it a great example of what a comic book movie can be, but it serves as a reminder that eight years on, the Marvel universe is still relevant. In a world of shameless pre planned franchises and endless reboots, Captain America: Civil War is a testament to what can be achieved in a cinematic universe. These characters have been established over time, and the film exploits their depth and life to maximum dramatic impact. What Marvel has accomplished with this, there best film to date, is nothing short of remarkable, and considering their track record, that is saying something.
The last few years have been quite a renaissance of modern science fiction filmmaking, with films like Gravity, Interstellar, The Martian, Ex Machina, and Midnight Special proving that originality is not dead. To say that Arrival is another film to rank among these is almost a disservice; the film isn’t just an instant sci-fi classic, but one of the most emotional films of the year. I was expecting to be blown away by Villeneuve’s visuals, clever plot twists, and forward thinking concepts about humanity. I wasn’t expecting that I’d leave the film emotionally devastated, because even though this is a science fiction film about aliens, it feels like one of the most human movies I’ve seen.
- La La Land
La La Land is a triumphant masterpiece, one of the best films of the decade and the best movie musical in decades. Whiplash mastermind Damien Chazelle tells this beautiful story with dazzling visuals and perfected set pieces crafted with ultimate precision. There’s not one false note here; every scene has purpose, every action has consequence, and every moment aims to entertain as the film leads to its beautiful and heart wrenching finale. It seems like the film loves itself almost as much as it knows the audience does, and its striking confidence is perfectly placed; the film is told in an old fashioned way, but doesn’t shy away from the bleakness of life or dismay realities.
- Manchester by the Sea
With Manchester by the Sea, writer/director Kenneth Lonergan has crafted the perfectly timeless drama, something that feels raw and essential. As a director, Lonergan focuses on the unspectacular. The film feels like a slice of life, but the expert camerawork and faint, beautiful score add the necessary elements to make each scene as powerful as possible. Additionally, a brittle sense of humor adds even more realism to the story. Manchester by the Sea is a revelation, the perfect combination of brilliant performances and emotional maturity. It’s tear-jerking, hilarious, and completely moving in a way cinema perhaps hasn’t seen since Richard Linklater’s Boyhood, another film that took the stories of normal people and made it into a dramatic feature that will stand the test of time.