It’s that time of year again (or rather it’s long overdue)! Where I take my favorite films of the year, and arbitrarily order them to my liking for all of you to read. I’m quite needy, right? Not only that, but they’re never as easy as one might expect them to be, and 2016 was no exception.
Once again, like the Top 15 of 2015, this list is a collection derived from both the caliber of the films and how they impacted me on a personal level.
We Need Movies video with elaboration and additional points here!
So naturally, there will be some surprises. But first–
All of the 2016 films in order of which I’d viewed them:
Hail, Caesar! | Deadpool | Zoolander 2 | The Witch | 10 Cloverfield Lane | The Brothers Grimsby | Pee-Wee’s Big Holiday | Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice | Hardcore Henry | Demolition | Zootopia | The Jungle Book | Midnight Special | Keanu | Captain America: Civil War | Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising | The Nice Guys | X:Men Apocalypse | Pop Star: Never Stop Never Stopping | Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows | The Lobster | The Conjuring 2 | Finding Dory | Independence Day: Resurgence | The BFG | Swiss Army Man | Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates | Ghostbusters | Suicide Squad | Lights Out | Sausage Party | Kubo and the Two Strings | Don’t Breathe | Hell or High Water | Don’t Think Twice | Seed: The Untold Story | The Neon Demon | Deepwater Horizon | Miss Peregrine’s Home for the Peculiar Children | Miracles From Heaven | Keeping Up With the Joneses | Doctor Strange | Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk | Arrival | Jackie | Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them | Nocturnal Animals | Yoga Hosers | Office Christmas Party | La La Land | Rogue One | Passengers | A Monster Calls | Paterson | Sing Street | The Love Witch | Manchester By the Sea |
The Ones That I Missed…
Fences | Moana | Hidden Figures | Loving | 20th Century Women | Live By Night | Silence | Moonlight | American Honey | Elle | Hunt for the Wilderpeople | Sully | Pete’s Dragon | Hacksaw Ridge | Christine
10. The Nice Guys–
My Blu-Ray collection has pared down over the years to feature only my absolute favorite films ever, and this year’s Top Ten definitely will join that limited collection (if they haven’t already). These films will all be re-watched at least a few times, and in my busy world, that’s no small feat.
This sentiment is proven by the hilariously brilliant “buddy cop” comedy, The Nice Guys. Shane Black has nailed the subgenre from his years writing such hits like Lethal Weapon, The Last Boy Scout, and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (which he also directed).
Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling’s chemistry is dynamite, and the film twists and turns their relationship, testing the strength of which during its runtime.
And on the scale of insanely annoying to amazing, the child actress in the film is… Pretty good! Look, I appreciate Shane Black’s need to make kids funny and way more adult than they are typically portrayed, but man, some of them still possess a hint of annoying.
9. Sing Street–
This film almost eluded me. I caught it on Netflix in the last moments of 2016 on New Year’s Eve, and boy, am I glad I watched it.
Writer/Director John Carney finishes his music-related movie “trilogy” (after Once and Begin Again), and it’s one of the few period pieces that I enjoy… Hmm, maybe I’m biased to the 80s?
Sing Street has to be one of the best coming-of-age stories in quite some time; it’s relatable, powerful, and inspirational, all while having a killer 80s-driven original soundtrack. John Carney can write some freaking music, and he can clearly make a damn good film.
I’ll be watching him closely to see what’s next.
8. Midnight Special–
I’ve been following Jeff Nichols since I saw 2011’s powerful Take Shelter thanks to its praise on the podcast, Filmspotting. And while I haven’t seen Shotgun Stories yet, (and his newest, Loving, I know that this film is one of my favorites.
Yes, Mud is fantastic, but I loved that Midnight Special is Nichols’ first foray into Sci-Fi and man, does he nail this small concept, high stakes film. I said it before, and I’ll say it again, but this film represents the kinds of films that I would love to make: high concept, low budget, and with lots of heart.
You could call this film a superhero movie, and sure, it’s a few steps away from being a hipster solo X-Men movie, but what sets it apart from the repetitive world of that genre, are its roots in reality: faith, purpose, and security.
It really encourages me to catch up with Shotgun and Loving, because he’s truly one of the most underrated writer/directors out there.
7. Nocturnal Animals–
This film has one of the most jarring opening credits crawls that I have ever seen. I mean it. But the film is a stunning look into a relationship that falls apart, and the shattered remnants of each person’s prognosis once it’s over. Plus, it has the best reading-in-bed scenes that I’ve ever seen too. I know that sounds like a joke, but they’re immensely effective as watching Amy Adams reads her ex-husband’s novel.
Told in three intertwining tales: Their relationship in the past, her life in the present while reading his book, and her interpretation of the book’s story.
Tom Ford proves he can successfully jump from fashion designer to filmmaker and not falter on his sophomore effort, but flourish instead. I look forward to his hat-trick.
6. Hell or High Water–
A stunning modern-day Western set against the backdrop of a desolate, financially-burdened stretch of land in Texas would be one way to describe Hell or High Water.
Another? A social commentary on the banks of the United States eating away at the middle class, one foreclosure at a time.
The film written by Taylor Sheridan (Sicario) and directed by David Mackenzie (Starred Up), offers a look at two pairs of individuals caught up in the shortcomings in the human character of a chain of Midland Banks in Texas. One duo, two brothers (Chris Pine and Ben Foster) who steal from this chain of banks to retain their deceased mother’s home; and the two officers of the law who are simply just doing their jobs (Jeff Bridges and Gil Birmingham). The two pairs come to a head in the practical debate of the proper way to approach such heinous practices at the hands of the aforementioned financial institution.
Jeff Bridges got nominated for the Best Actor Oscar, and it’s no surprise why. What IS a surprise is that Ben Foster hasn’t won yet.
5. Kubo and the Two Strings–
Talk about a crime. Kubo and the Two Strings was highly underrated in its box office haul. Laika Studios, known for their stop-motion trio of Coraline, ParaNorman, and The Boxtrolls, delivers a masterful look at the Hero’s Journey and how to effectively speak to the parental audience of the film more than the children. Hmm, maybe that’s why it didn’t do so well…
Still, if you haven’t seen this film, please do, you will marvel at its message and linger on its themes. As much as I would like to see this win the Best Animated Picture Oscar, I’m glad that at least three of the biggest animated films of 2016 had positive messages (Zootopia and racial harmony; and Finding Dory with its Disability Acceptance).
But it should win, and it would make me happier than most if it did.
4. Don’t Think Twice–
Learn to fail. Or at the very least, learn to be OKAY with failure. That’s a good message to absorb because while it’s crucial that you reach for the stars and give it your all when it comes to your dreams, know that there is a strong possibility that you may fail.
One of the characters in this film – Keegan Michael Key’s Jack – does the opposite of that, and gets hired as a main player on the SNL doppelgänger, Weekend Live. Meanwhile, the rest of his improv troupe wrestles with their own doubts and faces their fear head-on: “What if I’m not going to make it?” And each of their reactions to such a thought is eye-opening, if only for their validity.
To me, that message was loud and clear, as I saw Don’t Think Twice less than two months before I moved out west to Los Angeles to pursue my goal of being a writer/director. I do believe, however, that to achieve success, one must work as hard as they possibly can, possess talent, and come across a bit of luck.
Hell, even some of the people will all of those things don’t make it! But it’s important to try, because regretting decisions and hating yourself for it, is a far worse feeling to own.
3. A Monster Calls–
Alright, so I already lauded a film on this list for being one of the best coming-of-age films ever made, and yes, I use hyperbole a lot, and that may diminish my believability, but these are seriously BOTH some of the best C-O-A films out there.
A Monster Calls is about a boy whose life is crumbling around him. His mother is dying of Cancer, his grandmother and he do not get along, and the school bullies target him exclusively. To combat these ever-present challenges, Conor creates a monster as an embodiment of his anger, his pain, and his grief.
The film is based upon a novel by Patrick Ness (who also wrote the screenplay) and is one of the most powerful examples of grief that I have ever seen. To witness someone come to terms with the realization that a family member is whittling away in front of them due to a horrid disease known as cancer is troubling, but necessary. I tend to love films that speak to me on some personal level and having undergone treatment for cancer, I found this film heart wrenching and profound.
2. La La Land–
I fought internally with myself on whether or not this film would take the top spot, and after lots of thought, I decided to place La La Land at Number 2.
La La Land is undeniably one of my favorite films of the year (it’s on this list of course). But more so because it came at the time when I needed it the most: after moving to Los Angeles to pursue my dreams, foolish as they may seem; for my heart that aches, and to prevent dying with a flicker. I fucking love “The Audition.”
I was never much of a fan of musicals, and always hated the period pieces, so the initial trailer turned me off. But then I realized that the music was catchy, they didn’t sing throughout it all, and… it was present day? Oh, then sign me up.
It’s no wonder why the film won so many Golden Globes and (predicting the future here), won so many Oscars; La La Land is a once in a generation movie, and will go down as one of the most classical musicals, sure, but also of this century. They’ll still be talking about it when 100 Years is released in 2115. “Hey, you remember that one random musical that won all of those awards almost a hundred years ago? Yeah, me neither.”
Yes, my number one film is that other Amy Adams film, Arrival. This sci-fi masterpiece based upon a short story called The Story of Your Life by Ted Chiang is a touching, emotional, and realistic look into what would happen if aliens really came down to Earth to communicate.
I particularly enjoyed the use of intertwining story edits, namely about the time that her daughter died of some rare disease, and then, of course, the encounter with the vessels, known as “heptapods.”
The message here is one of hope. The human race is rather fickle and emboldened with a sense of superiority, and when opposed against another human being, they tend to measure that power in competition, often resulting in the deaths of myriad populous.
When an alien species arrives on Earth, the humans ostensibly come together to analyze the “threat” and to determine their reasons for visitation. However, before too long the heads of each State come to blows over communication and sharing of their individual findings, resulting in a standstill of disastrous proportions.
The differing opinions of the many Governments of the world wreak havoc, as one country decides to declare war. I’d LOVE to believe that we’d work together to come to a common ground with the alien race, but in reality, this exact thing would happen in real life. And hell, even if we DID, then we’d still treat the aliens as an enemy and hatred would only recalibrate its aim.
So there you have it! The love overdue, highly ignored Top Ten Films of 2016! What are yours? Stay tuned for We Need Movies’ take on this list, as well as Brandon’s list. Comment below with your picks.
Seriously, anyone. Comment here, please. Thanks!