Top 10 Movies of 2016

top16

It’s already that time again. The time of the year where critics and bloggers throw together lists of the movies they felt shined the brightest during the past year. Sure, some turn their noses at these things, but I’ve always enjoyed them. Why not take time to promote the movies you feel were the real treats of the past 365 days. So here I go, reflecting back on 2016 and sharing my picks from what the year had to offer (At least out of what I’ve seen. Sadly, frustrating release schedules means anticipated films such as “The Salesman”, “Lion” and “Silence” have yet to open near me).

As usual I’ll begin by showing some love to the movies that just missed my top 10. Here are my #11 – 20 picks:

  • #20 – “The Confirmation” [REVIEW]
  • #19 – “Captain America: Civil War” [REVIEW]
  • #18 – “The Conjuring 2” [REVIEW]
  • #17 – “Francofonia” [REVIEW]
  • #16 – “Sully” [REVIEW]
  • #15 – “Hail, Caesar!” [REVIEW]
  • #14 – “L’attesa” [REVIEW]
  • #13 – “Captain Fantastic” [REVIEW]
  • #12 – “Hunt for the Wilderpeople” [REVIEW]
  • #11 – “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” [REVIEW]

And now my Top 10 movies of 2016

lovefriend#10 – “Love & Friendship” I admit, I was a little caught off guard by this wonderful Jane Austen period romp from Whit Stillman. I didn’t quite know what to expect going in. After seeing it I still find it to hard to fully describe. It feels every bit at home in an Austen world, yet there is such a striking uniqueness about it. There is hardly any semblance of stiff, sudsy drama. In its place is a biting sense of humor that will require a finely tuned ear and multiple viewings to fully appreciate. Add to it a remarkable eye-opening performance from Kate Beckinsale and hysterical supporting work from Tom Bennett. Don’t miss this one. [FULL REVIEW]

 

thinktwice#9 – “Don’t Think Twice” This smart and witty comedy-drama from writer/director Mike Birbiglia is a movie more people need to seek out. Centered around a tight-knit Brooklyn based improv troupe, “Don’t Think Twice” delicately examines the fine line between collaborative loyalties and personal career ambition all within the difficult profession of making people laugh. Its great cast of characters are fleshed out through some strong performances and Birbiglia’s thoughtful yet cutting script. There is such an honest and passionate approach from all involved and you see it throughout the entire film. [FULL REVIEW]

 

 

midnight#8 – “Midnight Special” Jeff Nichols’ unique foray into science fiction earned a spot on this list the moment I left the theater back in April. “Midnight Special” dabbles in several other genres making it impossible to pigeonhole and so many of its moving parts click perfectly. Michael Shannon is superb and the weight he brings to the central father/son relationship is undeniable. And that’s where this film hit home for me. It portrays a father’s love and self-sacrificing devotion to his son. It just happens to be in a clever sci-fi setting. Yet another winner from Jeff Nichols. [FULL REVIEW]

 

 

train#7 – “Train to Busan” Think about this – a zombie outbreak on a speeding train. Doesn’t sound like your normal ‘Best of the Year’ type of movie, does it? As it turns out, this South Korean horror-thriller from director Sang-ho Yeon may have been the most exciting, hair-raising experience I had with any 2016 movie. The film’s pitch-perfect pacing keeps the stakes high and the tension even higher. But it’s more than a conventional zombie flick. There are several deeper running themes that the film handles deftly and intelligently. That’s one of many reasons it stands out so distinctly within its cluttered genre. [FULL REVIEW]

 

 

innocents#6 – “The Innocents” I haven’t seen many conversations about the best foreign films of 2016 that has included “The Innocents”. Such a shame. This penetrating French-Polish drama from director Anne Fontaine tells a World War 2 story that has largely remained untold. The film is written, directed, shot, edited and mostly performed by women giving this devastating story a powerful female perspective. Adding to that is the superb lead performance from Lou de Laâge, one of my favorites of the year. Navigating its troubling subject matter can be uncomfortable, but the payoff is well worth it. [FULL REVIEW]

 

 

anthro#5 – “Anthropoid” It’s a movie that came and went with little fanfare but deserved a lot more attention than it got. “Anthropoid” is a patient historical thriller that bucks popular formulas in its telling of the World War 2 assassination attempt on Reinhard Heydrich in Nazi occupied Prague. Sean Ellis worked as director, co-writer, and cinematographer and consistently keeps his film rooted in reality. There’s no gloss, melodrama, or embellishment. Just a powerful story that is immaculately shot and brimming with slow-boiling tension. It also features what is easily the best shootout of the year. This is a gem. [FULL REVIEW]

 

 

lala

#4 – “La La Land” After 2014’s “Whiplash” it was obvious writer-director Damien Chazelle had a deep, sincere affection for music. That love was cemented with this year’s bold, audacious and utterly delightful “La La Land”. I was never caught up in the pre-release hype like many, but Chazelle shattered my expectations by creating a sensory production soaked in color, style and energy. It calls back to the time when music and song had a much more profound cinematic voice yet this is more than a simple nostalgia trip. It’s fresh, ambitious entertainment with a sweet romantic center and far more great moments than shortcomings. [FULL REVIEW]

 

fences#3 – “Fences” As a movie fan nothing is better than watching great actors and actresses work especially when they are given meaty, robust material. “Fences”, the film adaptation of August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize winning play, features two of the year’s most electrifying performances (Denzel Washington and Viola Davis) and an absorbing story grounded in real-life, kitchen table drama. Washington (who also directs) doesn’t shy away from the story’s stage roots. His film embraces it by trusting the richness of the material and the talents of its stars.  The result is a powerful experience that will gnaw at you for days. [FULL REVIEW]

 

hacksaw#2 – “Hacksaw Ridge” In 2016 Mel Gibson returned to directing in grand style. The true story of Desmond Doss is a profoundly moving tale of heroism and conviction. Gibson’s approach to it is both beautiful and abrasive. The first half’s simple, idyllic perspective crashes against the second half’s brutal reality of war. Many have struggled with the shifting tones and graphic violence, but this is a film of contrasts and Gibson doesn’t shy away from it. A fine performance from Andrew Garfield and Oscar-worthy work from Hugo Weaving are just icing on the cake. [FULL REVIEW]

 

 

arrival#1 – “Arrival” The biggest and brightest surprise of my movie year came in the form of Denis Villeneuve’s cerebral take on the ‘Alien Invasion’ angle. “Arrival” is a beautiful film, but it’s a far cry from the ‘blow your hair back’ sci-fi many were expecting. In fact you could call it the anti-blockbuster. Packing a truly piercing performance from Amy Adams and a blindsiding emotional punch, “Arrival” subverts numerous genre conventions. It turned out to be one of those special experiences that has stayed with me to this day. It’s also another affirmation of Villeneuve’s position as one of our very best filmmakers. [FULL REVIEW]

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95 thoughts on “Top 10 Movies of 2016

    • Thanks. So Arrival had that same effect on you? It has stuck with me and my love for it was cemented after a second viewing. It ended up being my only 5 star review of the year. But far more 4.5 scores than I expected.

      • Oh I got misty too. I just sat there staring at the credits. Another thing I loved was how unexpected it was. I thought it sounded interesting but I never anticipated such a powerful emotional response. Villeneuve has become a force.

  1. What a unique top 10 list, Keith! So many lesser-known films that I haven’t seen on many other critics’ lists. I have so many new films to add to my watchlist now. And I know Arrival will be near the top of my list when I make it!

    • Thanks so much Brett. This was a strange year. For more than half of it I could barely muster a top 5. Then suddenly I began to find one good film after another. I only gave one 5 star review this year but far more higher reviews than usual. This was the first time since I have been doing this that every one of my #11-20 were 4.5 star reviews.

      So Arrival made a lasting impression with you as well?

      • I feel the same way. I was genuinely concerned that I wouldn’t be able to construct a Top 10 list that I could stand behind, up until about November. I think I gave more positive reviews for films in the past two months than I have all of last year.
        Arrival made a tremendous impression on me. Such a subversive, thoughtful, and masterfully-crafted sci-fi film. Denis Villeneuve continues to outdo himself!

    • For some reason I thought you had seen Arrival. That just means you have something wonderful ahead of you. Just don’t go in expecting a conventional sci-fi movie. It truly is an anti-blockbuster film that I truly, truly love.

  2. I for one love these lists! It’s always interesting to see others’ thought processes, and it normally adds a few new movies to my watch list too. There are so many great movies that have been pushed into January in the UK!

    • You sum it up perfectly. It is such fun to compare films but also see what resonated with others. And as you touched on, it’s always nice to find new films to add to your watch list.

      As for release schedules, they are so frustrating. Over here several movies open on two screens in December just so they can be considered a 2016 film. Then most of us don’t get to actually see them for a month or so later.

  3. Never even heard of over half of them movie pictures. You didn’t even mention the good ones like Madeas Halloween and Zoolander 2. When Trump takes over he is going to go back to when them pictures were good, like them flicks you went to the back room of the video store to take a peek at.

  4. I am really impressed to see “Love & Friendship” and “The Innocents” on your list, and nice how you have there both mainstream action and “off-the-beaten-track” indie films.

    • Thanks for the comments. It really has been that kind of year. Many big budget films floundered for me while smaller films flourished. It sounds like you have seen The Innocents? That’s really encouraging. It feels like that movie has largely gone unnoticed which is a real shame.

  5. Nice list Keith. Still have to catch up on a couple of 2016 films before I write up your own, as I’ve only seen La La Land and Midnight Special on your top 10. The former I loved and is definitely a top contender for being the best of the year. The latter… I didn’t like it too much. I’ve enjoyed Jeff Nichols’ other films but Midnight Special didn’t have much of an impact on me.

    • Thanks man. Always appreciate your thoughts. La La Land was a huge surprise for me. Never expected to love it like I did. And even though I had a few issues with it, its magic (I know, and overused adjective) covered them all.

      I’ll admit Midnight Special’s sci-fi element is a little flimsy (even though I liked it). What really struck home with me was the father/son dynamic at its core. I really went for it.

      And you still need to see Arrival?

      • I’m not a musical guy but I loved just about every second of La La Land. I left that movie with a big smile and can’t wait to see it again.

        As for Midnight Special, while I liked the father/son dynamic, it felt like something was missing and didn’t feel the same way as a Stephen King book does for me. I wouldn’t say it was a bad movie but I was disappointed.

        I do really want to see Arrival but have had an on-and-off cough for the past several months that has prevented me from going to the movies often. I do want to see that soon, alongside Toni Erdmann, Silence, and Manchester by the Sea.

      • Sadly I gave up on seeing several I really wanted to prior to putting this together. Silence, Elle, Lion, The Salesman and several others. But who knows when they open here. It’s really frustrating.

    • I’m (obviously) a big fan of it. I hadn’t even heard of it until I saw it pop up on PPV. Ended up watching it twice. If you get a chance check it out. Well worth it.

      • I did, and you’re right.
        I like Mike Birbiglia so it’s been on my radar, but I don’t think it came here in theatres (it was at Tribeca but I had a conflict with something else!).

      • That’s great to hear. I don’t think many people know it exists. I love it though and it certainly opened my eyes to Birbiglia.

    • Hope you get to see both films soon. They are well worth checking out. But you’ve seen Train to Busan and Midnight Special? What did you think of those two?

  6. I agree with CAPTAIN FANTASTIC. I liked CAPTAIN AMERICA 3, ROGUE ONE and THE CONJURING 2, but not enough to say that I agree with their inclusion. I didn’t like or dislike SULLY and HAIL, CAESAR!.

    It’s been confirmed that ARRIVAL, FENCES, HACKSAW RIDGE, LA LA LAND, will be released here between now and the Oscars. I’ll try to see them all before the ceremony. I don’t know when/if DON’T THINK TWICE, HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE and MIDNIGHT SPECIAL will be released but, if they are, I’d like to see them as well.

    “anticipated films such as “The Salesman”, “Lion” and “Silence” have yet to open near me”
    I have seen LION. I loved it!

    • Release schedules drive me insane. I don’t get them and they routinely annoy me. Great to hear you’ll be able to see Arrival, Fences, Hacksaw, and La La Land soon. Also great to hear that Lion is so good. I’m so anxious to see it. But usually what happens here is a handful of anticipated movies that desire Awards attention will show on two screens for a week in cities like LA or NYC. Then they say it qualifies as a 2016 movie. When it comes to other movies, I have no idea how they come up with their release schedule. I just know it’s frustrating.

  7. Frustrating is the word–if I drove down to Phoenix I could watch a lot more of the films you listed. I know you drive a long way to see a film. I am looking forward to Lion and Fences. Hoping to see La La Land on Monday. Happy New Year, Keith.

    • Happy New Year to you too. REALLY interested to read your thoughts on La La Land. It’s funny, I thought I had my Top 10 fairly cemented. Last Tuesday I went and watched both Fences and La La Land. They blew my Top 10 to bits. I guess that’s a good thing though.

      So what are your thoughts on the movie year as a whole? Interesting, so many of the big budget blockbusters disappointed. That left me at first feeling as if this was a down year. But as I begin prepping this list I noticed that I had more 4.5 star reviews this year than in any year since I started this thing. Where many blockbusters let us down smaller movies and foreign films really shined.

  8. Great list although I haven’t seen some of the films you’ve mentioned, such as Fences and La La Land. I’ll hopefully get round to seeing them soon.

    • Both of those had a big impact on my list. I had my list together (for the most part). But then I went and saw both of these films Tuesday and they completely blew up my Top 10. I guess that’s a good thing.

  9. Nice one, man! Many of these I still need to check out. My theater blows and didn’t get any of your top 10, but I’m really looking forward to checking out Hacksaw and Arrival.

    • Oh man, that stinks. I get what you’re saying. I actually have no decent theater within 50 miles. Needless to say I do quite a bit of driving. Definitely look for Arrival. So, so, so good.

  10. Dam it, I really have to get around to seeing Arrival. Seems like it’s *everyones* favourite of 2016.
    You summation of Anthropoid has me intrigued – I’d never even heard of it before, so to see it ranked so highly I’m pleasantly surprised, and somewhat disappointed in myself for not knowing about it!

    • Arrival is superb. It also is completely different that I expected. Anthropoid didn’t stay in theaters long and never got much attention. I loved it. It’s a tense slow boiler but I enjoyed every second of it. Got the bluRay for Christmas. Really anxious to see it again.

  11. I love that Arrival is your #1. Such a fantastic movie.

    Just saw Fences last night. Powerful, indeed. Washington and Davis are both masterful. And yes, it sticks with you.

    I’ve only seen two other movies in your top 20 (Rogue One and CA: Civil War), so I’ve got lots of catching up to do.

    • Haven’t seen Hacksaw Ridge? I’ve been surprised at how many haven’t seen it. It’s a little divisive but it struck home with me. Arrival had to be #1. My only 5 star review this year but it deserves every star.

  12. It feels really strange to be saying this but I have only seen one of the films that has made your top 10 list and that is number 1 with Arrival. I can totally understand why you have chosen that one! Although I am guessing that some of the films must not have been released yet in the UK.

    • You’re probably right. Those frustrating release schedules rear their ugly heads again. I get so annoyed at them. I’m glad you liked Arrival. It was an emotional experience I couldn’t shake.

  13. Love and Friendship was a movie I didn’t think I was going to like, but it really impressed me too. Upset that Last Train to Bussan never came to my city and that the only way I can see it on the big screen is when the English Language remake gets made. Many of your choices will be on my best list

    • I FINALLY caught Train two weeks ago on PPV. Loved it. Really wish I could have seen it on the big screen. As for Live and Friendship, I would’ve completely missed it if not for word-of-mouth. It’s one I just couldn’t keep out of my top 10. Don’t you think Kate Beckinsale’s performance should open a few eyes?

  14. Pingback: Bye bye 2016! End of year recap & musings on favorite films we saw this year

  15. Lots of films you have brought some attention to. I hear a lot about Korean cinema, especially the horror genre, I should make a more determined effort to see some of these films. I admired Fences but it seemed so stage bound to me that it hardly felt like a movie. Denzel did his best as a director but the dialog is completely like a play. I did love the two actors trading those lines Viola Davis is excellent. Hacksaw Ridge was one of the most emotional movies I saw this year. Arrival is the kind of Science Fiction film I love, smart answer constructed in such an interesting way. I still need to catch up with Midnight Special. Keith you have great insight and I continue to enjoy your writing style very much. Have a Great new year. Hope to keep talking films with you.

    • Thank you so much. Coming from you is a high compliment. I ALWAYS appreciate you points of view. Let’s keep doing it in 2017!

      I see where you’re coming from with Fences. It fully embraces its stage roots. Perhaps too much. But it really wasn’t an issue for me mainly because I was so enthralled in and moved by the story and performances. And I’m so glad to hear from someone else who appreciated Hacksaw. I’m surprised at how little I’m hearing about it. I too found it profoundly emotional. Midnight Special is interesting. I completely went for it but some have seen it as pretty lightweight. I disagree. I loved its central relationship and overall uniqueness.

  16. Wow! Hacksaw Ridge at the #2 position? Nice!! I gotta say that movie blew me away but in the end too many other things cropped up and it slipped down a little for me, probably would be in my top 20 however. And I totally, totally approve of your pick for #1. Arrival was a f**king moving film experience. I had goosebumps leaving the theater on that one. Happy New Year, my friend! Tremendous list. I need to go back and catch up with your review of Train to Busan. I saw it pop up in my feed last week or whenever it was and never got around to it. Now that it’s on your end-of-year list, I need to read that!

    • Happy New Year and THANK YOU for all of the support and great discussions. Always love seeing your name pop up.

      I’m not seeing a lot of love for Hacksaw which is a shame. I really love it. And high-five on Arrival. It’s a movie I never could shake. Such an unexpected emotional gut punch. I’ve seen it twice and it has been equally moving both times. And I would love to hear your thoughts on Train! Kind of a surprise inclusion for me but I had to be truthful. I thought it was incredible!

  17. Awesome list Keith! Arrival will definitely be on my top 10 as well. I take it you haven’t seen Moonlight yet? It’s SO good, definitely one of the most emotional experience for me, and the one I’m rooting for at Oscar. Glad to see “Love & Friendship” made your list. Not sure yet how I feel about La La Land, I like it but not sure where it will land in my top 10. Hunt for the Wilderpeople will definitely be in my top 5.

    • Thanks Ruth. Love hearing such enthusiasm for Arrival. Villeneuve has really placed himself among directors I must see. There are several movies I appreciate but I just ran out of room for. I know Moonlight will get a ton of attention this Awards season. It seams most people really went for it. Just finished a second viewing of “La La Land” I really wish I had moved it higher. It has stuck in the back of mind for days since first seeing it and even has me more enthusiastic after a second viewing. I absolutely adore that thing.

  18. Pingback: Top 10 for 2016 | ASSHOLES WATCHING MOVIES

  19. I see we have a lot of choices in common, plus there are several here I’m keen to see, including Francofonia, Fences and La La Land. I remember your review of Anthropoid too, and have that one on a list somewhere! I watched The Wait the other day after publishing my list, and really enjoyed it. It would have been in there for sure!

    • Oh The Wait is superb. I hated to have it as low as I did. I feel it deserves so much more attention. I’m seeing La La Land again tonight. Such a rousing, joyous, and infectious film. I don’t think Chazelle’s amazing accomplishment can be overstated. So you’ve heard of Francofonia? That does my heart good. What about The Innocents? NO ONE seems to have watched that film.

      • Yeah I think The Wait is definitely one of those needing a push. I’m glad that I’ll be able to have a (now rare) night at the cinema this Friday to see La La Land. Might try and fit in a double bill with Silence…but have a feeling that’ll be one of those ‘one week and gone’ movies over here. I haven’t seen The Innocents but have heard good things. I was impressed by Lou de Laâge in The Wait and I see she is in that, too.

      • I definitely wish more people were talking about The Innocents. La La Land is the hot topic after last night’s Golden Globes. Anxious to get your thoughts on it. I’m so excited to see Silence but it still hasn’t opened wide here. It’s really frustrating. I will say this, you won’t see a more varied double bill than La La Land and Silence! 😁

      • That’s true! Actually I think I’ll have to do Manchester By The Sea and La La Land. Still varied and I know which one I’ll try and watch second! I will definitely seek out The Innocents

      • Sounds good. If you don’t get a chance to write about The Innocents at least come by and tell me your thoughts. That film needs more attention.

  20. Nice variety there! I loved La La Land and really really liked Arrival as well. I’ve never heard of Train to Busan, but it sounds intriguing for sure.

    I’ll search your reviews for your thoughts on them as soon as I submit this comment, but did you see The Lobster, The Witch, or Manchester by the Sea? They were three of my favorites.

    • I loved The Witch and I absolutely hated bumping it off my list. Manchester is also very good. Unfortunately I just couldn’t get into The Lobster. I may need to give it a second viewing. My love for La La Land has steadily grown with each viewing. I think I could bump it up a little higher on this list and be completely fine with it.

      • That’s understandable. There sure were a plenty of good movies this year.
        The Lobster is admittedly a very strange one, but here’s hoping you like it a little more if you see it again.
        And yeah, La La Land gets better and better!

      • It was a really good year. In fact this was the very first year-end list I’ve done where all twenty films I mentioned got at least a 4.5 score. Those last three months were fantastic.

  21. Great list! My favorites on your list included: Hacksaw Ridge, Fences, La La Land, Midnight Special, Love & Friendship, Hunt for the Wilderpeople, and Captain Fantastic.

    • That’s a pretty good group to mutually love. I haven’t seen Hacksaw on many lists at all which surprises me. And it looks like Love & Friendship isn’t getting any awards buzz. That’s a shame. Have you seen The Innocents? I feel I’m pestering people about that film but I truly believe it’s worth championing.

    • Thanks so much. Funny you mention it. Last night I was telling my wife that Fences was still swirling in the back of my mind. I am so hungry to see it again before it leaves theaters.

  22. Wow—I’ve only seen one film out of your entire top 10! Though, pretty much all of those films are on my to-watch list. Especially Arrival. More sci-fi, please thank you very much 2017.

    • No way! Only one? That was Midnight Special, right? Arrival is sooo good and I promise you will love it. Also look out for La La Land. It is so worth all of the awards attention it is getting.

  23. OMG – I’ve only seen two of your Top Ten! I suppose most aren’t out in the UK yet, though. Can’t wait to finally watch La La Land in the next week! I badly wanted to see Train To Busan but nowhere near me was showing it… Great list! I’ll be adding these to my “watchlist”. : )

    • Only two? Oh goodness. You have some really good ones ahead of you. Train to Busan is superb! Catch it as soon as you can. Have you heard of The Innocents? No one is talking about it.

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