It’s that time of year again! Time to reflect-back on the past year of film and decide on my fifteen favorite (and five honorable mention) films from 2016. As always, the list was difficult to put together but I feel as if this year required even more deliberation that in years past. So here we go, sound-off in the comments with your agreements and disagreements, and we can all look forward to 2017!
First, the honorable mentions (in alphabetical order): COLLATERAL BEAUTY, DEADPOOL, KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS, SAUSAGE PARTY, and ZOOTOPIA!
It may seem odd to include three animated films (Kubo and the Two Strings, Sausage Party, and Zootopia) in the honorable mentions, but this was an incredible year for animation as a whole. All of these films managed to captivate audiences in their own respective ways; not to mention offering us the most insane and jaw-dropping scene of the year! Deadpool burst-into theaters in February and became a Worldwide phenomenon; combining a perfect mixture of action, humor, and excellent storytelling. Last but not least, the recent Collateral Beauty is filled with heartfelt emotion and beautiful symbolism, led by Will Smith’s superb performance and coupled with a strong supporting cast. These are just a few of the films that were unfortunately left-off of my Top 15 list!
TOP 15 FILMS OF 2016!
Based on the true story of Richard and Mildred Loving’s unfortunate relationship, the film follows their hardships and struggles as they attempted to prove their love for one another during a time where it was against the law. Featuring strong performances from Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga, Loving serves as a reminder of the errors in our Nation’s past and the crazy things we do for love and the ones we love. As inspiring as it is heartbreaking, the film is another piece of beautiful cinema that should be experienced by all!
- THE NICE GUYS
Shane Black’s dark-noir comedy about two private investigators in 1970s Los Angeles as they investigate the disappearance of a girl and the death of a porn star is another film that hasn’t left my mind since I saw it. Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe share a remarkable, hilarious chemistry that offers joke after joke without getting stale. The Nice Guys also happens to feature one of the funniest lines of dialog from 2016 too! One of the most memorable, outrageous comedies of the year, The Nice Guys has something for everybody to enjoy!
- NOCTURNAL ANIMALS
From the moment its’ bizarre opening begins, Tom Ford’s uncomfortably-tense and unsettling thriller grabs your attention and refuses to let go for the next 116 minutes! With an all-around strong cast, Nocturnal Animals’ ending (and its’ preceding events) is open to interpretation. One of the darkest films of the year, Nocturnal Animals’ striking visuals, stunning events, and ambiguous ending certainly leave you coming back for more!
- HIDDEN FIGURES
Soaring from the performances of its’ three main female leads, the story of how one woman at NASA (who not only helped-get a man into a space but was instrumental in its success) broke-down barriers as she made history is quite the late-holiday treat! Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monáe are charming and heartwarming, alongside a strong supporting cast that nails the social element of the film. A story as powerful and important as this should have been a more focused-on moment in our Nation’s history, but it finally gets-its’ due credit thanks to Hidden Figures!
Based on the stage production from August Wilson, Denzel Washington brings the story of the Maxson’s family and their hardships to the big screen! Denzel Washington and Viola Davis add commanding and award-worthy performances alongside a strong supporting cast in one of the best ensembles of the year! Featuring plenty of social topics that are still culturally-relevant today, Fences combines powerful storytelling with impressive performances in one of the most endearing and powerful films of 2016!
One of the most heartwarming and powerful films of the year, Lion made me feel so many emotions that I wasn’t expecting. Boasting impressive performances from Dev Patel, Nicole Kidman, and newcomer Sunny Pawar, the film is a beautiful reminder of the power love and family hold over us all. Based on the incredible true story of Saroo Brierley, the film’s cinematography and editing accompanies the film’s performances delightfully, making Lion yet another great film that 2016 has given us!
Disney continues to out-do themselves, bringing us the beautifully-animated and powerful story of a Polynesian princess as she must save her island against all odds. Moana is filled with lovable and fun characters, catchy and meaningful songs, and it has a resounding message for children (and people) of all ages! In a year filled with so many strong animated films, this one stuck out the most for me; a film that audiences can connect-with that also leaves you with a gigantic smile on your face!
I expected to enjoy Denis Villeneuve’s science-fiction journey, but I didn’t expect for it so be so well-crafted and engaging. Amy Adams leads the way with her stellar performance, with Jeremy Renner expertly-bringing his humor to the story as well, featuring impressive cinematography and cinematic events. Thought-provoking and entertaining, Arrival saves itself from becoming just another film about aliens and, instead, focuses on Mankind’s actions to their arrival on Earth. This film hasn’t left my mind since I saw it in theaters and it is certainly deserving of its’ place inside of my Top 10 Films of 2016!
Centered-around the days after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, Jackie tells a familiar story but from a point-of-view we’ve yet to see; Jackie Kennedy’s. While focusing on one of the darkest time periods in our Nation’s history, the film showcases a lot of what the public didn’t see, Jackie’s relentless love for her husband and her reasoning behind the decisions she made on those sorrowful days. Natalie Portman fuels this introspective biopic with her stunning portrayal of the former First Lady; thoroughly deserving of the Best Actress award with her heartbreaking, emotional performance. Both educational and riveting, Jackie gives us a rare, insightful cinematic glimpse into our Nation’s history!
- HELL OR HIGH WATER
One of the most surprising hits of the year, Hell or High Water artfully combines crime and family in a way that will have you cheering-on the “bad guys” in this modern-day Western. Chris Pine, Ben Foster, and Jeff Bridges deliver some of the most authentic and fun performances of year in this entertaining tale of two brothers who rob banks in Texas. Set in the beautiful country, Texas back-drop, the film offers non-stop entertainment and plenty of fun and is one of the biggest surprises and memorable films of 2016!
- HACKSAW RIDGE
Hacksaw Ridge is a return-to-form for director Mel Gibson. The film offers some of the most visceral and real action sequences, up there with the likes of Saving Private Ryan in both its no-holds-barred style and impactful-authenticity. Andrew Garfield gives a tour-de-force performance as Desmond Doss, with Sam Worthington and Vince Vaughn bringing their bravado to the film as well. Based on an incredible true story of courage and determination, Hacksaw Ridge is fully-deserving of its place as one of the best and most emotionally-powerful films of 2016!
- ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY
Following a brand new story that’s full of memorable characters both new and old, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story reminds us why exactly we fell in-love with the Saga. Filled with plenty of ground and aerial action, emotion, and Star Wars-ness, the film works on its’ own merits while neatly-fitting in its place beside the 1977 film that started it all. With expert direction from Gareth Edwards, the film combines new and old with precision, leaving the audience thoroughly entertained and begging for more!
Following the life of a young, African-American Miami boy struggling with his identity throughout three different time periods in his life, Moonlight is another great film in 2016! With Barry Jenkins’ direction and the groundbreaking cinematography of James Lawton, the film has a unique, extra dimension that resonates with the viewers. Filled with tremendous performances from Mahershala Ali, Naomie Harris, and a few others, it’s one of the best ensembles of 2016! The film’s edgy subject matter is sure to resonate with plenty of viewers who have ever had doubts about themselves or their own image and it certainly proves that film and film-making can always find something powerful and new!
- MANCHESTER BY THE SEA
Kenneth Lonergan’s depressing tale of sorrow and despair is filled with so much sadness and heartbreak that it hurts, but it also offers its fair share of laughs to offset the morose tone. But therein lies the power of the film; filled with emotion so real, you feel the character’s pain. Manchester By the Sea is propelled by its stunning, raw-human performances: Casey Affleck has all but guaranteed a Best Actor win (and deservedly so), Michelle Williams steals the few scenes she has, and Lucas Hedges bursts-onto the scene in a very prominent way as well! Certainly a Best Picture contender, Manchester By the Sea is definitely a film not to be missed!
- LA LA LAND
Far and away my favorite film from 2016, Damien Chazelle’s (Whiplash) dazzling, musical masterpiece of young love is nothing short of extraordinary. Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone share a remarkable chemistry that is truly palpable; their character’s emotions feeling naturally and incredibly-authentic. Set in modern times, La La Land serves as a beautiful love letter to old-time Hollywood with its’ stunning set design and cinematography. The film’s songs are well written and memorable and the choreography is stunning. I can’t remember the last time I felt this way after seeing a film, but it is a feeling that haven’t lost since I left the theater and I hope all of you experience La La Land, destined to join the ranks as one of Hollywood’s greatest musicals of all time!
It truly has been a great year for cinema! From comedies, to blockbusters, to the smaller, dramatic films; 2016 was filled with so many memorable films! Sound-off in the comments about which films you agree and disagree with! See you in 2017!