2016 is a year that most people probably want to forget. But, I’m not here to talk about that. I’m here to talk about the ultimate escape – going to the movies. And this year, like most, had its fair share of great works, as well as a few duds as well. And while in my personal opinion I thought this was an overall weak year for films, the one’s that I’d consider my favorites are ones that will stick with me for a while. So, without further ado, let’s recap the best and worst the year had to offer in film.
(Note: I still haven’t seen all the films I wanted to see before making this list (A Monster Calls, Silence and Live By Night, to name a few), so this will be updated accordingly. For a list of all the films I saw from this year, check out the entire list here.
Best Films 0f 2016
La La Land
Damien Chazelle’s modern throwback to classic cinema in the 50’s is what a Hollywood love letter should feel like. Harkening back to a simpler time while grounding itself with enough modern sensibilities so that it doesn’t get lost copying rather than homaging, La La Land is a cheerful, if somewhat cynical musical that will not only have you tapping your feet, but also leaving with something to chew on afterwards.
Tom Ford’s cold, calculated tale about revenge feels like it was made for me. Like a cross between a classic Hitchcock thriller and the surrealism from a David Lynch film, Nocturnal Animals seamlessly jumps back and forth between the two intertwined tales, creating an intense and thought-provoking film. It helps that the entire ensemble shows up with outstanding performances, the standout being Aaron Taylor-Johnson. Overall, a trippy, nerve-wracking film noir with a hint of trashy pulp that does the job and then some. Extra points for having the most bizarre opening credits sequence I’ve seen in quite some time.
What a beautiful story. Filmed in Miami, this three-part story is expertly crafted by Barry Jenkins and throws us right into the story of Chiron (played by three different actors who, interestingly, weren’t told how each other approached the same character), and boy, is it a marvel. The last section alone is worth the price of admission. Moonlight is a heartbreaking look into the life of a young man trying to find himself and discovering his sexuality in a drug-filled environment.
Swiss Army Man
Possibly the most overlooked film of the year, simply because most took one look at this crazy beast of a film and just saw it as “that farting corpse movie”. While there is a farting corpse here, the film from Daniels is so much more than that – a portrait of loneliness, friendship and accepting the absurdities of life. Even though you might find yourself muttering “What the fuck?” to yourself multiple times during Swiss Army Man, you’ll be glad you gave it a chance (hopefully).
A film about language and learning to communicate with others is a film we were in desperate need of today, we just didn’t know it. After films like Prisoners, Incendies, and now this, I think it’s safe to say that Denis Villenuve is one of my favorite filmmakers working today. It should also be noted that there isn’t a single “action scene” in this alien invasion film, which is mind-blowing to me.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
A film that a lot of people didn’t like, but one that I absolutely loved and will defend for the foreseeable future. Zack Snyder’s grand, epic take on these two titans meeting for this first time is fresh, exciting and something new in a superhero genre that’s starting to get a bit stale in my opinion. I understand some of the critiques this film has gotten (if you’ve only seen the Theatrical Cut of this film, do yourself a favor and give the Ultimate Edition a chance), but it’s visually stunning, daring and uses today’s bleak world as the backdrop for these characters, creating a universe that feels realistic while also feeling fantastical as well. A film, just like Snyder’s Watchmen, that I think is just too ahead of it’s time.
In a year where there was not only a Finding Nemo sequel but also a new Laika film as well, Disney Animation stepped up their game and actually outdid both with this fun, but surprisingly deep animated comedy. Half the time, it’s a fun ride for the whole family, while the other half plays like a dense noir mystery. It also isn’t afraid to dive right into topics such as racial inequality and misrepresentation. Like I said, some heavy stuff, but it pays off for the newly-revived studio in what might be their best film yet (sorry, Wreck-It Ralph).
This Irish film is yet another coming-of-age story, but where this one strives is in it’s characters, the core of this film. As someone who isn’t a huge fan of musicals, the ‘Drive It Like You Stole It’ scene is easily one of my favorites from the year. It’s cute, fun, and has a ton of heart. And somehow, we got a phenomenal performance out of Jack Reynor, who was…eh…not so great in his “debut” in Transformers: Age of Extinction. So that’s another positive, right? (P.S., this is now on Netflix, so you really should check it out).
Kubo and the Two Strings
Kubo and the Two Strings is not only a great animated film, but it’s a great film in general. Dark, engaging, but most importantly heartfelt, this stop-motion film from Laika is one of their best films to date, with badass character designs, action and a story that both kids and adults can admire.
The Edge of Seventeen
This film came out of absolutely nowhere. Produced by Simpsons creator James L. Brooks, this high-school drama succeeds where similar films failed – it actually portrays the life of a high-schooler in a realistic way. Despite some generic coming-of-age trappings it finds itself in, you won’t find a more relatable film about teenagers this year. Shame this one didn’t break out as much as it could have, because Hailee Steinfeld really killed it here.
Honorable Mentions: Don’t Breathe, Hacksaw Ridge, The Nice Guys, Star Trek Beyond, Popstar
Worst Films of 2016
This is what burning money looks like. As a huge fan of Seth Rogen and his previous work, I couldn’t have been more disappointed.
If you wanna watch a movie where you see Robert De Niro masturbating and watching porn, a close-up of De Niro’s penis, gay people getting made fun of, Zac Efron passed out on a beach with a bottle of vodka up his ass, a minor grabbing and sticking his head in Efron’s crouch, De Niro saying “nigga”, have Efron constantly get poked in the ass by his grandfather, a cop taking a picture of her bush and showing it to the audience and a horrendously uncomfortable sex scene to finish off the film, then Dirty Grandpa is for you. (I hope Dirty Grandpa isn’t for you.)
So forgettable I forgot I saw this earlier in the year until I sat down to make this list.
Fifty Shades of Black
The Purge: Election Year
I get it, these films are meant to be dumb B-movies, but when a film wants to make a political statement as badly as this one does, it’s hard to take it seriously when a character tries murdering someone over a candy bar. Don’t get me wrong, I went it wanting to like this installment (I really dug The Purge: Anarchy), but this one is just a disaster.
Even though we all saw it coming, I was really hoping that Zoolander 2 wasn’t going to suck. I absolutely adore the first film, but just like Dumb & Dumber Too, this comedy sequel takes everything funny about the film film and overdoes it to the point where the filmmakers become the butt of their own jokes. Even with Stiller behind the camera, this film ended up being much worse than it should have been.
Independence Day: Resurgence
You won’t find a more soulless film this year. All the awesome special effects couldn’t save this hotly anticipated sequel from feeling so…uneventful. Roland Emmerich made an awesome film with the first Independence Day, but he should have never made this one.
Huntsman: Winter’s War
Speaking of sequels that shouldn’t have been made, this quasi-sequel/prequel/reboot was so confused about it was supposed to be that it failed at being any of those things. Emily Blunt and Charlize Theron kick ass per usual, but this truly generic and boring film lives and breathes by their performances, not much else.
Alice Through The Looking Glass
The only reason this isn’t lower on this list is because I didn’t hate it as much as I thought I would. That being said, it’s still atrocious.
This one hurts. Mike Flanagan is a capable filmmaker (as evident by his work on Oculus and this year’s underrated Ouija: Origin of Evil), so it’s a shame that this home invasion thriller just falls flat on its ass. Granted, I seem to be in the minority on this opinion (somehow the film has a 100% Rotten Tomatoes score), but believe me when I say this is no different from the other mindless horror films that we always complain about.
(Dis)honorable Mentions: The Jungle Book, Ride Along 2, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot
Best TV Shows of 2016
American Crime Story: The People vs. OJ Simpson
FX’s spinoff of its popular anthology series American Horror Story got off to a fantastic start with what I think is one of the best seasons to a television show that I’ve ever seen. With an all-star ensemble where every single actor exceeded expectations, this controversial tale got the story treatment it deserved and more.
Bojack Horseman (Season 3)
I’m so glad I stuck with Bojack Horseman. Not only is this Netflix’s best television show to date, it’s one of the most refreshing and heartbreaking shows you’ll come across. Now, this may sound ridiculous if you haven’t already seen the show, as it just appears to be another animated comedy show. But man, it’s so much more than that, and Season 3 is probably the most heartbreaking of them all.
Westworld (Season 1)
With one of the best pilot episodes I’ve seen, Westworld certainly got things off on the right foot. Set to be the next “big thing” for HBO after Game of Thrones is over, this new sci-fi series is propelled by it’s intricate world-building and a cast that is totally game (pun intended). It started to get a little too complicated for its own good towards the end, but the final moments put right back in my place, eagerly anticipating the next season.
Stranger Things (Season 1)
Thankfully, I got to Stranger Things before it turned into a cultural phenomenon. This mix of Stephen King with Spielberg was the perfect formula for this small-town mystery, even if the later episodes showed that they didn’t quite have the budget to pull off what they wanted to. That being said, the show got surprisingly tense and emotional, essentially turning it into a more accessible Twin Peaks for today’s audiences.
Game of Thrones (Season 6)
After a somewhat rough (and predictable) start, I was wondering why many had considered the latest season of Game of Thrones to be one of its best. Then I got to “The Battle of the Bastards”. Then I shut up.
And now for some Fun Awards:
- Casey Affleck – Manchester By The Sea
- Andrew Garfield – Hacksaw Ridge
- Ryan Gosling – La La Land
- Ryan Reynolds – Deadpool
- Paul Dano – Swiss Army Man
- Emma Stone – La La Land
- Amy Adams – Arrival
- Hailee Steinfeld – The Edge of Seventeen
- Emily Blunt – The Girl on The Train
- Mary Elizabeth Winstead – 10 Cloverfield Lane
Best Supporting Actor
- Ryan Gosling – The Nice Guys
- Aaron Taylor-Johnson – Nocturnal Animals
- John Goodman 10 Cloverfield Lane
- Daniel Radcliffe – Swiss Army Man
- Aaron Eckhart – Bleed For This
Best Supporting Actress
- Naomie Harris – Moonlight
- Imogen Poots – Green Room
- Laura Linney – Nocturnal Animals
- Angourie Rice – The Nice Guys
- Jena Malone – The Neon Demon
- Sing Street
- Star Trek Beyond
- The Edge of Seventeen
- 10 Cloverfield Lane
- Suicide Squad
- The Witch
- Hail, Caesar!
- Triple Nine
- American Honey
- La La Land
- Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
- The Reveal – Arrival
- Epilogue – La La Land
- Warehouse Fight – Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
- Battle of Okinawa (Doss’ First Day) – Hacksaw Ridge
- Opening Number – La La Land
- Holland March – The Nice Guys
- Mia – La La Land
- Bruce Wayne/Batman – Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
- T’Challa/Black Panther – Captain America: Civil War
- Darth Vader – Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Most Anticipated Films of 2017
- Baby Driver
- Untitled PTA Fashion Movie
- Under the Silver Lake
- Blade Runner 2049