Early on in 2016, there was a fear that there were simply not that many good movies coming out this year. There appeared to be loads of sequels and remakes and not a lot of original content, but man was that viewpoint wrong. 2016 ended up being a very good year for films, with large amounts of original films being made, specifically in the indie genre. Not to say there weren’t any big budget successes, there was just a nice mix. So, here we go, with the top ten best movies from 2016.
Ten spots are just not enough to recognize all the great movies I saw this past year. There are movies like “Green Room” that surprised me and stayed with me long after I watched it. There are films like “Jackie” that were beautifully acted and tremendously directed. There’s “The Edge of Seventeen” that was just so much fun to watch that I had to at least recognize it somewhere. There’s “10 Cloverfield Lane”, a smart, engaging thriller that did exactly what it had to do and so much more. There’s “Zootopia”, a beautifully done animation with poignant themes and a lot of heart. And, finally, there’s “The Lobster”, a movie so weird and so funny, that I truly have never seen anything like it.
Top 10 Movies of 2016
10.) “Kubo and the Two Strings”
Because of the tremendous year that animated films had in 2016, I had to put at least one on the list, and “Kubo and the Two Strings” just edges out “Zootopia” for the ten spot. “Kubo” features terrific voice work, absolutely beautiful stop motion animation, but, above all, it is incredibly unique. This is an animated film like no other, with lively landscapes and amazingly well-done villains, and it all leads to a wonderful experience when watching. “Kubo” has the humor, it has the heart, and it deserves more attention than it received.
Ava DuVernay’s chilling documentary about how a clause in the 13th amendment has led us through centuries of racism is one of the most powerful documentaries I have ever seen. The way DuVernay implements a flare to this story, all while sticking to the facts makes for a documentary that is constantly gripping and constantly entertaining. The style in which this Netflix original goes into the depths of the problem of mass incarceration is stunning and should deliver a wake-up call to those who don’t realize the state of the prison system in America today.
8.) “The Witch”
Tense is an understatement when discussing Robert Eggers’ directorial debut starring Anya Taylor-Joy. This film is damn terrifying without ever having to use cheap jump scares or any other lazy method. This movie sets a mood so well and sticks with it, and then it just builds and builds and builds until the excellent payoff at the end. “The Witch” had me in awe from start to finish and was a bright spot very early in the year.
7.) “Everybody Wants Some!!”
Speaking of bright spots early in the year, this Richard Linklater film was the brightest of them all. The pure enjoyment of this movie, which barely even has a real plot, is something that can’t be beaten. All of the main characters are just so full of life, and the entire movie just has this mellow, down to earth feel, and it was so refreshing to watch a film that was fun before anything else. The comedy just works, and the dialogue is excellently written, and I found myself falling in love with “Everybody Wants Some!!” over and over again.
6.) “Hell or High Water”
One of the best acting ensembles of the year mixed with a gorgeous direction and a constantly compelling storyline, and we have “Hell or High Water”, one of the most surprising films of 2016. The way director David Mackenzie perfectly mixes two equally intriguing storylines into one film is genius, and he does so by always keeping the story rooted in realism, and by always making the dialogue progressive and interesting to listen to. Each scene adds a new layer to the characters, and the action sequences are an absolute thing of beauty, so it is easy to say that I was blown away by nearly everything “Hell or High Water” had to offer.
5.) “Manchester By The Sea”
Brutally emotional, but always completely genuine, almost no film can reach the amount of heartbreak that you feel throughout Kenneth Lonergan’s “Manchester By The Sea”. Incredibly well directed and well written, Lonergan fills each of his characters with life and makes them all feel so realistic given their circumstances. Casey Affleck gives a performance for the ages here, and Michelle Williams, Lucas Hedges, and Kyle Chandler aren’t all that far behind him. This movie has one of the most powerful moments in cinema history in it, but also features beautifully done humor and sentimentality throughout, and this is truly a film that won’t soon be shaken.
4.) “Captain America: Civil War”
The best movie in the MCU to date has to be high on my list, and here it lands at number four. “Civil War” managed to balance the load of every superhero, while also balancing a villain excellently in the process. The action scenes were things of beauty, the performances were all as great as always, and even the arguments in policies and concepts had me constantly going back and forth, and that is something most Oscar films can’t even do well. This was everything that “Batman v. Superman” failed to do, as “Civil War” nailed each part of a movie filled with loads of detail, and for that, it has to be appreciated.
Denis Villeneuve never lets me down, as this may just be his best film yet. This incredible science drama/thriller features breathtaking imagery and score, a direction that is simply some of the best this year, and powerhouse performances, specifically from Amy Adams. Villeneuve finds a way to make humans the most interesting elements in a movie about aliens, and the way he does that is masterful. “Arrival” is gripping from start to finish, has a lot of heart, and also has a powerful message without ever going over the top. This film blends genres with ease and is certainly a movie worth seeing more than once.
2.) “La La Land”
Damien Chazelle topped my list in 2014 with “Whiplash”, and he nearly does it again here with “La La Land”. Almost certainly the greatest musical of all time, Chazelle gets two phenomenal performances from Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, and creates a movie that is intoxicating to watch, and left me wanting more and more. The dance numbers are brilliantly choreographed, the music is beautiful, the cinematography is gorgeous, and the storyline works together so superbly with the musical elements that it often left me in awe. All this, and then the perfectly executed conclusion, makes “La La Land” a truly special film, and one that was oh so close to the top of this list.
While “La La Land” broke the barriers of what a musical could be, it was “Moonlight” that broke the barriers of almost everything filmmaking, and is a beautiful, powerful film with a lasting impact. Barry Jenkins perfectly directs the story of a boy turned man named Shairon in three evenly powerful stages of life. Each of the three stages of this film are equally impactful, and each display mesmerizing cinematography that focuses in on the facial expressions to grab emotions, while also having a remarkable score and beautifully done lighting. The performances by each member of this all Black cast are exceptional, and the way themes of morals, sexuality, addiction, and self-expression are shown in this masterpiece of a film is something that cannot be shaken easily. The subtleties in the direction and filmmaking are what sets “Moonlight” apart, as there are dozens and dozens of little things that all feel so huge when looking back at the movie, as they each tell so much about the story and the characters that simply thinking about this film leaves me speechless. Barry Jenkins dared to make a story about a type of lead character that has never been truly depicted on screen before, and he did it with such perfection and with such a phenomenal grip on everything from the camerawork to the acting to the sound to the story itself, that I have to say that “Moonlight” was the best movie of 2016.
Do you agree? Disagree? What was your favorite movie of 2016? Comment below with your thoughts.