Another year in film has come and gone and it’s time to look back on the year. I’ll be doing a few best of, and worst of lists in various categories to wrap up 2016. Most top ten lists you’ll see are peoples favorites of the year and others lists includes some of the most well made films of the year. My list will include a combination of my favorites and films I thought were supremely well done. I haven’t seen everything that saw release in 2016 so this list (obviously) will include things I have seen. So let’s dive in to the best that 2016 had to offer.
Sully is a film that doesn’t demand your attention. But, Clint Eastwood’s latest film came and went from cinemas without much fanfare. However, if you missed it, you missed a good one. A reliably excellent performance from the great Tom Hanks and an equally as brilliant turn by Aaron Eckhart made Sully a film that shows at 86, Eastwood can still craft good films.
9. Hacksaw Ridge
Mel Gibson returned to the directors chair after a ten year absence. Needless to say, his return was triumphant with the gritty and harrowing Hacksaw Ridge. Gibson knows how to direct compelling action and this film has no shortage of solid action. Gory but truthful, sentimental but never cliche, Hacksaw Ridge is a film that won’t soon be forgotten among the classics of its genre. Oh, and lets not forget, the film features a career best performance for Andrew Garfield.
8. Nocturnal Animals
I struggled a little bit with thinking about putting this on my list in the first place. The unfortunate reality of making these lists is something great usually gets left out. Nocturnal Animals is a film that gets better the more you reflect on it. Aside from its very, lets say, unusual opening credits, this is a film that seamlessly blends three narratives together, that is not easy. Some films have trouble with one. At its core are the brilliant performances by the stellar cast including the criminally underrated Michael Shannon. Director Tom Ford did a remarkable job with this film.
7. Hunt For The Wilderpeople
I stumbled across Hunt For The Wilderpeople on iTunes late one night a month or so back. The film is directed by Taika Waititi (set to helm the upcoming Thor: Ragnarok) and stars of note only Sam Neill. This is one of the best comedies of the year. It uses sweet and heartfelt humor to go along with a silly premise. Yet, everything in this film works. It is hysterically funny and filled with charm. It’s also fairly offbeat which in the end helps it to steer clear of the usual coming-of-age cliches.
If there was a film more topical than Moonlight this year, I didn’t see it. The flawlessly executed effort by director Barry Jenkins is low on this list for the amount of praise I’ve given it, if only for my lack of desire to re watch it. That is not a slam on the film whatsoever. Moonlight is a deeply human story about the struggles a young boy struggling to come to terms with his identity. The three actors who portray the main character in the film are nothing short of spectacular. You’ll see Moonlight mentioned many more times over the coming months as awards season ramps up.
It seems anytime Denis Villeneuve makes a film, it somehow makes its way on to this list. Arrival is a movie that is destined to become a sci-fi classic. Villeneuve’s assured hand as a director makes this film work on every level. The gorgeous cinematography, an ethereal score and impressive performances (particularly Amy Adams) anchor Arrival. Whether it’s last years Sicario, or films like Enemy, Villeneuve has established himself as a filmmaker we can expect great things from as his career continues to progress. It just may be a sci-fi film the Academy can’t afford to snub.
4. Everybody Wants Some!!
I don’t know if it was just the former college baseball player in me, but Everybody Wants Some!! is a film that I found to be relatable and hilarious. Richard Linklater calls this film the “spiritual sequel” to the 1993 classic Dazed and Confused. Though I didn’t grow up in the 80s, the films soundtrack and production design make you feel transported to the decade. The film follows a group college baseball players during their first week at college and the debauchery that ensues. Everybody Wants Some!! relies on character over plot to drive the story forward rather than vice versa. Linklater’s newest film flew under the radar, but it’s certainly one of the best of the year.
3. La La Land
In a film somewhat about heartbreak and crushed dreams, I oddly found myself grinning from ear to ear for this entire film. La La Land is a movie experience of a bygone cinematic era. A full fledged musical and epic romantic story, the film sparkles from start to finish. From its brilliant opening number, to its old school film feel, La La Land was one of the most enjoyable films in 2016. Director Damien Chazelle certainly has a passion for music, maybe jazz in particular, and though this film is not as good as Whiplash, it shines as a brilliant follow up for Chazelle. Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling have magnificent chemistry and they shine in every scene.
2. Hell Or High Water
Simply put, 2016 had two perfect films and Hell Or High Water is one of them. Brilliantly crafted and extremely poignant, this is a film you need to see. It serves as a neo-western, a crime drama and family drama this is a film that hits the mark in every way. The always impeccable Jeff Bridges gives an Oscar worthy performance in this film as does Ben Foster. The real star is Chris Pine. While his performance compared to that of Bridges’s or Foster’s isn’t that good, it is a major step forward for Pine who has proved he has dramatic chops. David Mackenzie directs this film with incredible skill and takes time to study each character. Hell Or High Water is a film that more people should see, if not for its cinematic value, but its timely message of greed.
1. Manchester By The Sea
Grief has never been portrayed better on film than it was in the remarkably powerful Manchester By The Sea. This film is a new American cinematic masterpiece, and is the most real and deep human story I’ve seen in years. The film balances dark but effective humor, and a real honest look at the way we handle death. The dialogue never feels like a scripted film. Rather, we feel like a fly on the wall during a tragic moment in this family’s history. Director Kenneth Lonergan pulls the best performance of the year out of Casey Affleck and every other cast member is just as solid. Manchester By The Sea is an exquisite, devastating and beautiful story of grief that not only is the best film of 2016, but one of the best of decade.
The Nice Guys
Captain America: Civil War
Eye In The Sky
Swiss Army Man
Don’t Think Twice