This year marks another year where I felt my understanding of film grew exponentially. I saw fourty-four 2016 film releases this year, both in theaters and at home. That’s more new movies per-year then I’ve seen in my entire life. So, if nothing else, I think 2016 was an educational year for me.
Let’s get right into the list! Bear in mind, this is all my personal opinion. There were still a lot of movies I heard were great but didn’t get around to for one reason or another. There are also some movies on here I didn’t actually review in my blog, but I’m going to talk about on here, anyway.
Star Trek Beyond
Rouge One: A Star Wars Story
The Top Ten Best Movies of 2016
#10: The Nice Guys
If I’m being brutally honest with myself, The Nice Guys is my guilty pleasure movie of 2016. It’s very clear that this was originally supposed to be a TV Pilot script Shane Black reworked into a movie; The Nice Guys has very obvious pacing issues that prevent me from calling it a “great” movie. It’s a shame this didn’t end up being a TV show because I would’ve watched it to death. The Nice Guys is a kind of laid-back, naturally enjoyable movie we just don’t get enough of nowadays. In a world where every action movie follows the “Go big or go home” principle, The Nice Guys provides a refreshing change of pace by purposefully making the stakes as low as possible and replacing it instead with three legitimately well written characters who are endlessly watchable. It’s also just hysterically funny to boot. Shane Black’s still probably best action comedy writer working today, and this has jokes I’ll still be laughing at for years. Not enough people saw this movie, and if you haven’t yet, I can’t recommend it highly enough.
#9: Kubo and the Two Strings
2016 was a great year for animation. Disney virtually dominated the scene with quality content from both Pixar and their normal animation brand, and I heard even the new Illumination movies weren’t awful. But my favorite animated movie of the year was the only one that got mostly snubbed at the box office; Kubo and the Two Strings. Kubo‘s not only just a really solid and enjoyable adventure movie with good characters and action set-pieces to boot, but it’s a veritable technical masterpiece. If this is the new high watermark for Laika’s further projects, I can’t wait to see what this studio does next. Kubo is awesome and my pick for the best animated movie of 2016.
#8: Hail, Ceaser!
Even when the Coen Brothers are just jogging in place, no-one does filmmaking today better in my opinion than the Coen Brothers. They’re just that good! I can’t think of any other writers or directors better at making human nature watchable and humorous more than the Coen Brothers, and I honestly don’t know if history will give us any pair like this ever again. Case-in-point, Hail! Caesar, is by no means their best work or even their best comedy, but it’s still head and shoulders above most other comedies that came out this year. And hey if it wasn’t for this, we probably wouldn’t have Alden Ehrenreich as our new Han Solo, so you can thank this movie in a few years.
#7: Hunt for the Wilderpeople
If you, like me, are a fan of Napolean Dynamite, I’m guessing you’ll really enjoy this little gem. Hunt for the Wilderpeople is a really sweet, ernest, and funny little comedy from What We Do in the Shadows director Taika Watiti. (And if you didn’t know already he’s directing Thor: Ragnerok which is awesome.) I don’t wanna spoil the experience of just watching this, but the dialogue and writing is legitimately funny, the performances are great, and it got to me in a way few movies did this year. I loved it, and I hope you do, too.
#6: Captain America: Civil War
Make no mistake, the superhero genre craze isn’t going to last forever; largely in part to how every other studio is attempting to replicate Marvel Studios’ exact formula and failing drastically. Eventually, the general public’s just going to lose interest and this will go back to being a niche genre, and there’s at least going to be one movie by Marvel pretty soon that’s going to rub a lot of people the wrong way. So, it’s important to appreciate just how well Marvel’s doing at this while we can, and it’s nice to be reminded why the whole Marvel Cinematic Universe “experiment” is working. If Dawn of Justice was superhero movies at their worst, Civil War is superhero movies at their best. It’s just about the most complex juggling act anyone in Hollywood today would dare attempt; balancing and interweaving multiple character story threads into a story that feels grounded, believable, and emotionally impactful, and Civil War does it well enough to make you believe Joe and Anthony Russo can do it again in Avengers: Infinity War. Civil War is a reaffirmation that the superhero genre still has a lot to offer, and that’s why it makes it onto my number six slot.
#5: La La Land
I usually have interesting love/hate relationships with musicals and movie-musicals in particular, but I think it’s safe to say I can enjoy them when they’re good. La La Land is really, really good. And believe me I don’t wanna overhype it more than it already is getting overhyped, but I can’t deny there probably wasn’t another movie in 2016 that made me as happy leaving the theater as La La Land. Is it a little too artsy, and a little too lightweight, and is it entirely possible I won’t feel remotely the same way in about a year? Sure, but I don’t care. The music’s great, the writing’s great, the direction’s great, the performances are great, it’s just a fun time all around, and I loved it from beginning to end.
What can I say? It feels like the cultural footnote Moonlight will and already does represent for many people far outweighs any of the opinions I already have on it. So, yeah, the only thing I can do is just add that I think Moonlight’s a really beautiful, really well directed, and well constructed little movie. I hope it wins as many awards as it can, and I’m really glad I was able to see it in a theater.
#3: 10 Cloverfield Lane
10 Cloverfield Lane is still my favorite surprise-success story of 2016. This one literally came out of nowhere and was all the more successful for it. 10 Cloverfield Lane is an awesome little claustrophobic, Hitchcockian psychological thriller that works in all the right places. It’s tense, creepy, gritty, and totally awesome. And, suffice it to say, John Goodman’s terrifying character and performance will make you never see him the same way again. (Assuming you haven’t already seen Barton Fink.) Dan Trachtenburg has hit the scene for me in a way few directors could ever hope for, and it’s going to be really interesting where he goes from here. If the Cloverfield series really does end up being this sort of Twilight Zone anthology series of sorts, I can only hope they all keep this consistent quality. But even if they don’t, we’ll still have 10 Cloverfeild Lane and I’m all the happier for it.
#2: Hell or High Water
Hell or High Water is the kind of movie you look at and say, “They don’t make ’em like that anymore.” A contemporary Western piece more or less resembling the broad outlines of a typical crime Western, the devil really is in the details for this one. It’s atmospheric in a way few movies are. It’s slow moving, true, but it’s almost the kind of movie you want to wallow in. The excellent script, the cinematography, the performances, the direction, it all blends together to make an experience I really, really dug. I’d say it’s somewhere halfway between Unforgiven and No Country for Old Men in terms of gritty, modern westerns. (Even though it’s probably considerably more lighthearted than either.) It’s probably not everyone’s thing, but I loved it and totally recommend giving it a shot.
In the end it really wasn’t that tough of a call for me. Arrival is the smartest, most well put together film I saw this year. It feels like a legitimate sci-fi classic in the making along the likes of 2001: A Space Oddessy and Inception. It’s got a lot to say about humanity, and it’s saying it better than anything I’ve seen in a long time. Dennis Villeneuve is now my new favorite director working today, and I absolutely cannot wait for Blade Runner 2049 and whatever else he’s gonna do in the future. I cannot recommend Arrival highly enough, and that is why it is my favorite movie of 2016.
Well it’s time to put 2016 behind us and look forward to the coming releases of the year. Thank you all so much for sticking with me another year, and I hope I continue to do better in 2017. What were your favorite movies of 2016? Feel free to let me know in the comments below, and I’ll see you all soon.