2016 had a lot of ups and downs but one of the ups was that I went out and saw the most films I’ve ever seen in a year at the theater (26). 2016 in film was a very good year. When compiling this list, there were only 5 I crossed off that had no chance of making the list (I’m looking at you Independence Day: Resurgence). Since this is my first official “best of” list, I just want to point out that this is my list of the films I enjoyed the most, so of course there will be snubs in many eyes. This was a very tough list to make and I will add honorable mentions at the beginning. I think this list will kind of give an inkling into what I am a fan of and am not a fan of. So without further ado, here is my inaugural best of list for my favorite films of 2016.
The Jungle Book
The Top 10
10) Star Trek: Beyond
Of the 3 new Star Trek films since the reboot in 2009, this film is my favorite. I’m not the biggest Star Trek or Star Wars person but I love sci-fi action films (ask me about Guardians of the Galaxy!). I felt this was the best paced Trek film of the three and introduced a new character that I loved seeing, that of Sofia Boutella’s Jaylah. Pine, Quinto, and Urban all give great performances and Justin Lin put together a fun film here.
9) Doctor Strange
Ever since this film was announced, I was very much looking forward to it. I didn’t know anything about Doctor Strange and I haven’t seen Benedict Cumberbatch in a whole lot but just understanding what Doctor Strange was about was enough for me. I thought this film pulled off the mysticism area of the MCU quite well. Cumberbatch was fantastic as Steven Strange, Tilda Swinton was great as The Ancient One, and the film as a whole was a blast to watch. Even though the sequel most likely won’t come until 2019, I’m looking forward to it.
8) 10 Cloverfield Lane
This was a film I saw twice in theaters and have seen three times now, and it gets better each time. I love movies that take place in confined spaces, whether it’s a room in 12 Angry Men or in an airplane like Red Eye. There’s something about characters literally stuck in a situation with seemingly no way out and that’s what this movie did great. Put John Goodman in anything and I’ll probably watch it. Mary Elizabeth Winstead played the heroine and John Gallagher Jr. as Emmitt could have gone south but he did great (and also did great work on the shortlived series The Newsroom on HBO.
7) Hell or High Water
I follow a lot of movie news and the one movie that kept getting mentioned month after month was Hell or High Water. I never saw a trailer for it, didn’t really know a whole lot about it, and went in blind to watch it. What I saw blew me away and one that I look forward to seeing again soon. The story is something we’ve seen in some form many times but the acting is what drove the film. Jeff Bridges as the old grizzled Texas ranger who’s getting ready to hang up the boots has one more case to solve involving these bank robbers, played by Ben Foster and Chris Pine. The performances are worth watching this movie alone and the final scene of dialog was some of the most tense stuff, and most well written stuff, I’ve seen this year.
6) Don’t Breathe
This was the only horror film I was this year and it was well worth it. Another film that got great word of mouth, I bit and again was just blown away. It’s not a jump scare movie, it’s a movie full of tenseness and unease. Yet again, another simple story of a group of people robbing places, this time it’s people’s homes. The movie lays out the reasons these people are robbing these houses (tough times) but when they decide to rob a house only occupied by an old blind man and his dog, you and these characters are taken by surprise and it’s an intense thriller from there on out. Like 10 Cloverfield Lane, this is another movie that’s basically in one location the whole movie and it is unsettling. I love this movie and it’s one of the best horror films I’ve seen in years. With word of a sequel on the way, it will be one of my most anticipated films of that year.
5) Captain America: Civil War
I’m shocked this film is so low on my list, but that just speaks for the quality of films that came out this year. This is the conclusion to the Captain America trilogy and each one has been better than the predecessor. There’s really nothing more I can add to this film that others have already said. The airport scene is worth the price of admission alone. I never felt like this movie dragged at all. The characters have all been built up so well up to this point that you can invest in them all. It is one of the best Marvel films so far and the bar has been set quite high for Infinity War.
Documentaries are usually more hit than miss for me and this one was one that should be shown in schools. Ava DuVernay, who directed Selma last year, directed this powerful documentary about modern day slavery occurring in our prison system via mass incarceration. I don’t want to say a whole lot about this one other than it is absolutely a film worth your time just from a historical standpoint and clearly lays out the unfairness and unjust situations in which many African American men are in jail.
Last year, Inside Out was not only my favorite Pixar movie but close to being my favorite animated film. This year Disney did it again with Zootopia. This is what an animated movie for adults is. Zootopia cleverly puts animals in situations where people of different races would be and what entails is an amazing look into how people can treat each other just by judging them on what they look like and who they are. I recently watched this film a 2nd time and it it was even better. It’s a funny film with great animation and a great message
2) Hacksaw Ridge
Wow. This was a film that made me, in the rare case, dust my eyes a little bit. I’m not a soulless, heartless person (that I know of) but most times when watching films and there is that emotional scene that should cause a reaction, I don’t really emote through the eyes with a salty discharge. This movie did that. Andrew Garfield deserves a nomination for Best Actor for his portrayal of real life hero Desmond Doss. The fact that this is based on a true story is even more incredible. The director of this film is Mel Gibson and while he’s had his fair share of being a terrible person, Gibson directs this film as one of the most brutal war films ever made. There are some grim and gruesome shots in this film that really make you feel you’re watching a documentary. This film could have been just a good war film but it’s Garfield’s performance that steals the show and makes you invest in Doss as a person. He’s a lovable person that has a very good reason for believing in what he does. As far as a dramatic film, this was easily my favorite of the year.
1) The Nice Guys
A lot of people say that Hollywood doesn’t do original movies anymore. The Nice Guys was an original film, but people didn’t go to see it. It didn’t do well at the box office. That is a damn, damn shame because this movie was SO GOOD. I recently watched Youtuber Chris Stuckmann’s Best Films of 2016, linked here, and The Nice Guys was his favorite film and I share his settiments exactly. This is a film that was throughly entertaining with potential of a franchise according to director Shane Black. That unlikely won’t happen due to the box office performance of this film. Black directed and wrote the screenplay to one of my favorite films, Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang and it was one of my favorites due to the dialog. Black’s screenplay had me in stitched in that film and he did it again here. Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe are dynamite in this film with off the charts chemistry. Angourie Rice, who is Austrailin, pulls off one the best American accents I can recall as Ryan Gosling’s daughter Holly. It’s a 70’s action-comedy mystery film, which isn’t necessarily a type of film that comes out a lot these days. I adore this movie and it’s a shame people didn’t see it. I was one of those people that didn’t go to see original stuff and so when I heard about this film and seeing the trailers, I saw it and I will continue to support original films like this because of the payoff.