2016 was a pretty shitty year: we lost a lot of talented people and a lot of bad decisions were made around the world – this may be why looking over my finalised list for the best films of the year there is a clear abundance of “feel good” flicks.
It took a while but here they are, my sixteen favourite films of 2016. Enjoy!
16. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
I had to put this on the list for sentimental reasons alone. It’s pretty crazy thinking that they made a film out of Star Wars’ most talked-about plot hole – the fact the Empire built a weapon with such an obvious vulnerability. This was the ultimate fan film, weaving in so many franchise references it’s a surprise they didn’t call it Star Wars 3.5.
15. The Fits
People with OCD might appreciate the cinematography in The Fits a little more than others. Every shot is perfectly centred and symmetrical, with director Anna Rose Holmer making the most of her confined school setting. 11-year old Royalty Hightower deserves all the credit she gets, bringing a physical presence to this role that most veterans couldn’t match.
14. Green Room
One of Hollywood’s biggest losses this year was Anton Yelchin, who after watching this, you’ll realise had so much more to offer. This is Jeremy Saulnier’s follow up from Blue Ruin, one of the best debut films of the decade. It’s the most intense and claustrophobic-inducing periods you’ll experience.
13. Manchester By The Sea
The only reason this one isn’t higher is because it’s hard to love a film that makes you feel so damn depressed. I’ve always considered Casey Affleck one of the best actors working today ever since Gone Baby Gone, but this will have him acknowledged among the greatest.
12. Captain America: Civil War
Somehow the Russo brothers managed to pull together over 10 superheroes in one film and still make it work – while still ensuring this a Captain America film and not another Robert Downey Jr show. They even introduced a new Spider-man in only 10-minutes of screen time and somehow made him the most perfect adaptation to date.
11. Hell or Highwater
For anyone who has been waiting for a good western, this is about as close as you can get. Set in modern Texas it’s driven by two career-best performances from Chris Pine and Ben Foster. The art of this is in its subtlety, never getting too outrageous. The cinematography and score are among the best of the year.
10. Everybody Wants Some!!
This is the spiritual sequel to Dazed & confused, which is probably the film I’ve seen more than any other. Because it focuses on the one baseball team, the characters aren’t as diverse in their representation of various social groups, but watching it you start to feel like “one of the gang” The cast are likeable, the soundtrack is memorable and Richard Linklater has cemented himself as the most reliable source of “comfort food” type films.
9. Sing Street
This film could have gone the other way if the songs (and the accompanying music videos) weren’t so perfect. It comes from the same director as Once and Begin Again, with a change of setting to ‘80s England. It’s probably the most uplifting film on this relatively uplifting film list.
As one of my top five comic book characters since forever, I’ve been waiting a long time for this adaptation – and even after watching him butcher The Green Lantern this film was enough to make me appreciate Ryan Reynolds a whole lot more. It not only did the character justice but opened him up to a whole new audience of non-MCU fans. Let’s just hope they don’t suck the life out of it with too many sequels, as they did with the rest of the X-men universe.
7. Hunt for the Wilderpeople
Before stepping up to direct Thor: Ragnorak, his most commercial film yet, director Taika Waititi revisited similar ground to his 2004 film Boy, with this indie gem. Driven by the breakout performance from Julian Dennison and grounded by an adorably-grumpy Sam Neill – it is funny, moving, sad, quirky and unexpectedly over-the-top in the best possible way.
6. Captain Fantastic
A hit at Sundance, this is better the less you know about it. The performances from the kids are all incredible and Viggo Mortensen is the glue that keeps the entire thing from being a drawn out gimmick. I never thought I could enjoy a rendition of Sweet Child O’ Mine as much as I did here.
Isabelle Hupert has been a French icon for a long time, but watching this intense and very dark thriller, I want to go back and watch her entire filmography. It tackles rape and gender abuse in a way which doesn’t shove it in your face but uses incredibly dark humour to really resonate.
It’s surprising for Hollywood to release a genuine sci-fi film, particularly one that doesn’t involve an abundance of gun-fire and explosions at the hands of aliens and/or robots. Director Denis Villeneuve did the same thing with Sicario last year, bringing some much needed style and substance to the over-played cops versus cartel actioner, yet this time with science fiction. This feels like an independent film or Philip K. Dick novel because it’s largely all about the concept, but even more powerful with performances from Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner and Forest Whitaker. As with Sicario again, the score here is unforgettable.
This film hits like a gut punch, and the feeling lingers for days after. The cast, which changes throughout three different times within the main character’s life, are truly exceptional – but it’s the tone, visual style and slightly off-beat editing that makes this a cinematic masterpiece.
2. La La Land
Believe the hype. As much as people might think they’ll hate this film, it’s hard not to fall in love. Gosling and Stone are as loveable as ever and the music is catchy, with Damien Chazelle (almost) outdoing his previous effort Whiplash – putting together the ultimate homage to art forms of the yesteryear.
1. Toni Erdmann
At just under 3 hours in length, this feels like the ultimate reward for anyone willing to give it the time. It’s unlike anything I’ve seen before and goes in places you will never see coming – for example, a slapstick naked work party featuring a giant hair-monster… but it all feels like it makes sense in the moment.
Jackie, Moana, Weiner, Hail, Caesar!, 10 Cloverfield Lane, Doctor Strange, The Jungle Book, Midnight Special, Paterson, A Bigger Splash, Star Trek: Beyond, Neon Demon, Lo & Behold, Reveries of a Connected World
Edge of Seventeen, Zootopia, I, Daniel Blake, The Witch, American Honey, Supersonic, The Handmaiden, The Lobster, Little Men, Camera Person, Loving, Hacksaw Ridge, Blood Father, Born To Be Blue, Sausage Party, Tower, Sully, Kubo and the Two Strings, Eye in the Sky, Silence
Best of the Silver Screen:
Luke Cage, The Night Of, Westworld, Game of Thrones, The Crown, The Night Manager, Brooklyn 99, Rick & Morty, Bojack Horseman, Black Mirror, Stranger Things, Silicon Valley, Atlanta, OJ Simpson: Made in America
Most Anticipated Films of 2017:
Wonder Woman, Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2, Thor: Ragnarok, Beauty and the Beast, Dunkirk, Spider-Man: Homecoming, T2 Trainspotting, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, Baby Driver, Star Wars: Episode VIII, Logan, Downsizing, Blade Runner 2049, Alien: Covenant, The Dark Tower, The Founder