Top 42 Films of 2016

  1. MoonlightMoonlight: This was easily the best movie of the year, stylistically flawless and beautiful storytelling as we see our main character at three different stages of his life. The acting is amazing across the board, especially Naomie Harris as the mother and Mahershalla Ali as the lovable drug dealer, Juan, who becomes a major influence on our protagonist Chiron. This film was made with so much love for the material that it translates on screen, and there has never been any cinematic piece resembling the transformation of Chiron who is a gay black young man living in an urban ghetto of Miami in the 80s. This is such a self-assured work and Barry Jenkins is a director to keep an eye on.
  2. toni-erdmann-7-rcm0x1920uToni Erdmann: A German-Austrian comedy about a prankster father and his estranged daughter who is a career woman and doesn’t have time for family may not sound like the most original set up for a movie, but this really is a unique film that is hilarious and emotionally charged until it transforms into something inexplicably absurd and yet profound by the third act. It was the biggest surprise of the year.
  3. arrival-movie__507092_Arrival: Dennis Villeneuve is always guaranteed a top 3 spot on my list every year as he continues to be one of the most talented filmmakers. This is such a thoughtful and gorgeous movie that is scifi at its core. Amy Adams was fantastic in this role and the film simply wouldn’t work without her. I can’t wait to see what Villeneuve does with Blade Runner.
  4. under-the-shadowUnder the Shadow: This was my favorite of the year until Oscar season came through; this is a fantastic Iranian ghost tale about a mother and daughter in the backdrop of the 80s Iran-Iraq war and it is as good as 2014’s The Babadook.
  5. hmaThe Handmaiden: A Korean maid, who gets hired by a rich Japanese woman, is part of a long con to get her inheritance in this twisted, sex infused and beautifully crafted thriller. Park Chan Wook makes yet another visually arresting and wholly entertaining movie; I fell in love with this film just from seeing the trailer which was edited to perfection.
  6. manchesterbythesea_trailerManchester by the Sea: This movie is an emotional gut punch that seems almost unfair to recommend since it’s so heavy handed and manipulative yet the performances are so believable that it is earned. Casey Affleck puts in the performance of a lifetime playing this broken character and there is a point in the movie where it was simply overwhelming and gut wrenching to watch him interact with other characters, especially towards the end of the film with Michelle Williams.
  7. hero_elle-2016Elle: This is the first of two Isabelle Huppert films on this list and it is no wonder why she is possibly my favorite actress working today; no one commands the screen quite the way she does and her role in this demented and exhilarating film as the head of a gaming company is as memorable as her role in Michael Haneke’s The Piano Teacher.
  8. la-la-land-featured-2La La Land: Damien Chazelle makes yet another classic, though I still like the pure kinetic energy of Whiplash better. There is a lot to admire here, the great performances by Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone that make you wonder if there was ever another notable character in the film, there was not, and the cinematography is great just from that ambitious opening scene in LA traffic. It is a miracle this movie got made in 2016, and it should be a privilege to get to see this in theaters and forget about reality for two hours.
  9. 1482136460715Paterson: Jim Jarmusch operating at a poetic, cinematic level of his other film Ghost Dog; there is little to no plot and yet this film doesn’t need plot to show you the world through the eyes of Adam Driver’s character, Paterson, who is a jolly bus driver in Paterson, New Jersey who loves writing poems about the beauty in the mundane.
  10. XXX _HELL OR HIGH WATER _10710.JPG LHell or High Water: This is a phenomenal western thriller with a great story and strong performances from Chris Pine, Ben Foster and Jeff Bridges.
  11. american-honeyAmerican Honey: This is a great road movie that is mesmerizing piece of filmmaking; it is shot like a Terrance Malick film with great performances from new comer Sasha Lane and Shia Labeouf.
  12. greenroomGreen Room: An exhilarating thriller by Jeremey Saulnier with his follow up to 2013’s equally excellent Blue Ruin. R.I.P. Anton Yelchin.
  13. aarontaylorNocturnal Animals: I also reviewed this on the blog, simple and absorbing piece of filmmaking with Michael Shannon stealing the show.
  14. maxresdefaultThe Witch: This film was absolutely brilliant. Here is a horror film that is more concerned about the buildup and the chaotic self-destruction of our main characters rather than the supernatural.
  15. hunt2-master768Hunt for the Wilderpeople: Taika Waititi, New Zealand’s prolific director, makes this crowd pleaser about a kid and his foster dad becoming the subject of a manhunt.
  16. maxresdefault (1).jpgI, Daniel Blake: I already wrote my review for this powerful film which I will probably never watch a second time.
  17. the-salesman.jpgThe Salesman: Asghar Farhadi’s films are often situational and emotional rollercoasters, this film evolves into Dennis Villeneuve’s Prisoners by the third act and it has great performances from its leads.
  18. thumbnail_23889.jpgSing Street: Nostalgic School of Rock vibes, all day.
  19. maxresdefault-2The Nice Guys: Speaking of nostalgia, here is a movie that has a whole lot of it. I adore this movie, it is simply a blast to watch a movie in the present day that is a love letter to something like Robert Altman’s The Long Goodbye and other 70s film noir. Ryan Gosling is absolutely hilarious and should be in more comedic roles.
  20. e9b96aff2d254f321634bd876b55a8c392ebf46fEverybody Want Some! : Richard Linklater has made some of my favorite movies of all time (Before Trilogy, Waking Life, Boyhood), but I didn’t think I needed to see a nostalgic movie about a college baseball team from the 80s. I was wrong, this movie is hilarious and as poignant as a movie about college kids figuring out life should be.
  21. maxresdefault (3).jpgKubo and the two Strings: This had some of the most interesting animation I had seen in quite some time and the story is beautifully told.
  22. captainfantastic2.jpgCaptain Fantastic: I already reviewed this on the blog. I was surprised Viggo got an Oscar nomination in this overlooked and fantastic film.
  23. 960.jpgLove and Friendship: A cunning Kate Beckinsale in a delightful Jane Austen adaptation – need I say more?
  24. hero_swiss-army-man-2016-2Swiss Army Man: I still don’t know what to make of this movie, but it caught me completely by surprise and it’s ridiculous in every sense of the word.
  25. the-birth-of-a-nation-movie-armie-hammer-nate-parker.jpgThe Birth of a Nation: A confident and impressive, but flawed, debut by Nate Parker.
  26. 13th-netflix-ava-duvernay13th: Insightful and affecting documentary from the director that gave us Selma.
  27. hero_10-Cloverfield-Lane-2016.jpg10 Cloverfield Lane: John Goodman was great in this film, and until the third act it was riveting stuff, any film where the characters are in a contained environment is perfect for tension.
  28. zootopia_photo.jpgZootopia: I already reviewed this, but it was funny and thoughtful (when it didn’t need to be).
  29. hacksawnew.jpgHacksaw Ridge: This is a film of two halves, first half is campy, clichéd set up for Andrew Garfield character that is still admirable and Forrest Gump-esque. The second half is the polar opposite set in hacksaw ridge smack in the middle of the war zone, and this movie has some of the most brutal battle sequences some of which reaches a certain level of absurdity courtesy of Gibson. But at the center of it all is an inspirational film about the human spirit and about Desmon Doss whose story is just too hard to believe it‘s true.
  30. silence-movie__250232_Silence: This is Scorsese not at his best, but his most personal. The film raises a lot of interesting and important questions about religious imperialism repeatedly, but it is far too long. Andrew Garfield is out of his depth in this role since the whole film rests on his shoulders, and there is very little of Adam Driver unfortunately. My favorite parts of Silence besides the cinematography were the Japanese actors especially a commanding performance by Issey Ogata who plays inquisitor Inoue and who at one point in the film seems to physically deflate from his seat in response to Andrew Garfield’s remarks.
  31. hero_tower-2016The Tower: This documentary is part animation part eyewitness accounts about one of the first major school massacre in the University of Texas in the summer of 1966. The animation works so well since it feels like the people caught up in the massacre are retelling the story in a dream form of sorts and it pulls you in completely. As for the entire film, it doesn’t focus on the shooter but rather reaffirms belief in humanity as we see real life people being heroes on different instances; it is a bold and powerful little film.
  32. lovingLoving: Jeff Nichols’ film is about an interracial couple in the 1960s, Mildred and Richard Loving, who have to move from their home state in a small town in Virginia because they’re not allowed to be a married couple in that state. It is a quiet and moving film about the power of love with great performances from Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton.
  33. hero_Deadpool-2016-2.jpgDeadpool: This movie is just a blast to watch beginning to end; meta AF.
  34. jackie-movieJackie: This was a very effective biography centered on Jackie Kennedy and her complex role as a widow portrayed expertly by Natalie Portman with a layered and showy performance that can be distracting at first.
  35. rehost%2f2016%2f9%2f13%2fc528a54d-fb74-492d-b4a1-31b78cb79981Captain America Civil War: This movie made me feel like a kid again. The set up for some of these super hero movies has become almost indistinguishable, but it really doesn’t matter when a movie is this fun and when there is no competition in sight. DC movies this year have been some of the worst movies I’ve seen in the past few years, Suicide Squad was abysmal and rests comfortably at the top on my list of the worst movies of 2016.
  36. hero_The-Invitation-2016.jpgThe Invitation: This film is a movie in a long list of movies set in a house where the protagonist with a dark past is reuniting with friends and family causing him to reexamine his life over an awkward dinner. The last shot of this film is simply superb.
  37. its-only-the-end-of-the-worldIt’s Only the End of the World: This is directed by Xavier Dolan whose last film, Mommy, was one of my favorite films of 2014. The film is based on a play and it is about a famous writer who returns to his hometown to see his family for the first time in 12 years to announce his death. That is all set up in the opening two minutes and the rest is a close and uncomfortable look at a dysfunctional family and starring the biggest French actors, Vincent Cassel, Lea Sedoux and Marion Cotillard who make it all bearable, but it certainly won’t be everyone’s cup of tea.
  38. 1280x720-53aKrisha: This is yet another film about an estranged family member, Krisha (a woman in her 60s), reuniting with her family at her sister’s house after a long absence. This is a highly experimental film; the opening shot is a close up shot of Krisha’s face and it is absolutely disturbing. The rest of the film is her trying to prove to all her extended family that she is a changed woman, but the whole thing feels like a pressure cooker as the audience waits for Krisha to implode. Awkward family dinners make for a great horror flick.
  39. things_to_comeL’Avenir (Things to Come): Isabelle Huppert had a big year with Elle and Things to Come, the only thing those films have in common is the presence of a black cat. She plays a philosophy professor dealing with family issues and is a more relatable character than her usual roles. It is not a remarkable film and I wouldn’t be half as interested as I was if Huppert hadn’t been in it, but she is simply magnificent in everything she does.
  40. screen-shot-2016-08-12-at-10-59-35-pmThe Love Witch: I can’t quite explain why this made it on my list or what this movie is even about, but in a nutshell it is about a love witch who is searching for her soulmate, the ideal man, by making men fall in love with her. This was more of a guilty pleasure and it was hilarious in all its technicolor goodness.
  41. left_to_right_inma_cuesta_as_ava_and_adriana_ugarte_as_young_julieta__el_deseo._photo_by_manolo_pavon_courtesy_of_sony_pictures_classics-h2016_.jp_.jpgJulieta: Perhaps not the most exciting Pedro Almodovar movie, it doesn’t even feel like an Almodovar movie but it still an interesting and beautifully shot movie about a mother reminiscing about her youth and her relationship with her daughter.
  42. 960-1Midnight Special: This is Jeff Nichols second film on this list, it is a beautifully imagined scifi/ road movie about father and son being pursued by the government. This was one of the most surprisingly underrated films of the year given its impressive cast: Joel Edgerton, Michael Shannon, Kristen Dunst and Adam Driver.



One Comment Add yours

  1. Benn Bell says:

    Good list. Spot on!


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