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Best Movies of 2016

Updated on January 25, 2017

2016 was a great year for film. Of the recent movies that were released a number of them were expected to do well and there are some that came out of nowhere. A few actors delivered multiple performances in some of the top movies, Amy Adams, in Arrival and Nocturnal Animals as well as Ryan Gosling in The Nice Guys and La La Land all four of which of which made my list. Andrew Garfield in Silence and Hacksaw Ridge two films that were right on the cusp of my list gave impressive performances in phenomenal movies this year as well. Other films that came close to making my list were Hidden Figures, Moana, Lion, Sing Street, Loving, Captain America: Civil War, Doctor Strange, and10 Cloverfield Lane. The following is a list of 18 movies which rated at 9.5 or better on my scale of 10 in order in which they were released.


Deadpool February 12

A character that was horribly miswritten in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Deadpool tells the story of a former Special Forces operative Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) who now works as a mercenary. His world comes crashing down after finding out he has terminal cancer. Evil scientist Ajax (Ed Skrein) who is supposed to be helping to cure him, tortures, disfigures and transforms him into Deadpool. With help from mutant allies Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand), Deadpool uses his new skills to hunt down the man who nearly destroyed his life. It took years to get made but fans of Marvel's merc with a mouth Deadpool gets the film they've been waiting for. Full of action, one-liners, and fourth-wall breaking Deadpool is true to his comic book counterpart and makes good on the leaked test footage that got this film made.

The Witch, February 19

The Witch first received acclaim at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival- winning the Best Director Prize. Robert Eggers direction and writing, Jarin Blaschke's cinematography, Craig Lathrop's production design, and Mark Korven's music, all plot to make a film of excellent creativity. It is flawlessly made and an unnerving new thriller, the deeply-rooted in the ideas of witchcraft, and dark enchantment. The Witch tells the story of William(Ralph Ineson) a farmer who with his wife Katherine (Kate Dickie) and four kids move to a secluded area after being banished from the plantation In 1630s New England. When the youngest child Samuel abruptly vanishes. The family points the finger at Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy), their daughter who was looking after him before he vanished. With doubt and neurosis mounting, twins Mercy (Ellie Grainger) and Jonas (Lucas Dawson) suspect Thomasin of witchcraft, testing the family's confidence, devotion, and love of each other. It is a departure from jump scare cliche of horror movies. The Witch is chilling and a new entry into the genre of horror.

Zootopia March 4

On its surface, Zootopia is a kid-friendly animated comedy. The film tells the story of Judy Hopps voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin becoming the first rabbit to join the police force in the All Animal Town of Zootopia. She comes in contact with a Shifty fox name Nick Wilde voiced by Jason Bateman. The after a rocky star the two have to work together to solve the case of 14 predators who have gone missing. Zootopia though is more than just that. It deals with some adult concepts. They take on racial profiling while also telling the story about being whatever you want to be if you're willing to be dedicated and work to get it. Jenny too must learn to reevaluate her own preconceived notions. The animation as well was impeccable all the way to the details of the animal fur as technology has come a long way. Zootopia is a warm-hearted yet extremely clever, and exceptionally done film for people young and old.

Midnight Special March 18

Midnight Special is a mysterious sci-fi adventure about Roy (Michael Shannon) a man who saves his son Alton (Jaeden Lieberher) from a cult in Texas, who worship Aton Because he has superpowers. Accompanied by Lucas state trooper (Joel Edgerton), the two go on a cross-country journey while being hunted by federal agents, who think Alton might be a threat. Midnight Special is unpredictable and unlike anything I've seen. The best part may have been the soundtrack which immerses you in every scene. Writer/director Jeff Nichols of Mud and Take Shelter fame, add another entry to his impressive filmography. He shows his diversity and continues to be one of the best independent filmmakers.

The Jungle Book, April 15

One of the most visually stunning movies of the year The Jungle Book is a testament to modern technology. Directed by Jon Favreau and filmed on sound stages at L.A. Center Studios the film uses CGI to bring and Indian jungle to life in a modern adaptation of Rudyard Kipling works. It tells the story of Mowgli a young boy raised by wolves. When threatened by a scar-faced Bengal tiger, Shere Khan (Idris Elba) Mowgli most leave home Guided by a straightforward jaguar Bagheera (Ben Kingsley) and a free-wheeling bear Baloo (Bill Murray), he meets many animals along the way, including a slithery python and a smooth-talking orangutan. En route, Mowgli learns significant life lessons as his epic voyage finding himself and adventure in the process

Green Room, April 15

Green Room is the story of a punk band who takes a show at a neo-nazi bar. After seeing something they weren't supposed to see they end up stuck in the green room. Before long, the bandmates are battling for their lives as they try to get away from the club. That unnerving situation would be enough to evoke chills. The best performance may have been Patrick Stewart as Darcy Banker the skinhead's leader. Stewart gives a performance unlike any other in his career. As Darcy, he is cold and methodical. Anton Yelchin gave a stellar performance as Pat, bassist of the Band. Director Jeremy Saulnier creates a delightfully savage, pressure-filled film. That rapidly and effortlessly it gets under your skin.

The Nice Guys May 20

After his last feature film 2013 Iron Man 3 director Shane Black returns to form with The Nice Guys. Taking place in 1977 Los Angeles, The Nice Guys tell the story of immoral enforcer for hire Jackson Healy played by Russell Crowe and a hard-lucked private investigator Holland March played by Ryan Gosling who fall into a conspiracy while investigating the apparent suicide of well know pornstar. Black like in his past works of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and Lethal Weapon directs two leads (Gosling and Crowe) that have outstanding chemistry. Black who also wrote the film was able to blend slapstick comedy and action as he has done in previous films. The Nice Guys is a fresh, witty, offbeat action that would have been my favorite movie of the the year if not for the next film on my list.

Hell of High Water august 12

The movie Hell or High Water is a tale of two Texas brother's who turn to bank robbing after the death of their mother in fear of losing the family home. Chris Pine, Ben Foster, and Jeff Bridges deliver incredible performances in this modern day Jesse and Frank James style Western. It uses masterful storytelling and bursts of action to create a cinematic masterpiece. The cinematography put you in the heart of west Texas with sweeping shots and saturated colors. In this film, you are rooting for both sides and can understand and reason with antagonizing forces. If I had to choose this would probably be my favorite film of 2016.

Kubo and the Two Strings august 19

Another film that wasn't just great for an animation film was Kubo and the Two Strings directed by Travis Night. Kubo's (Art Parkinson) peaceful world comes slamming down when he unintentionally summons a vindictive soul from the past. Forced to leave his home, Kubo unites with Monkey (Charlize Theron) and Beetle (Matthew McConaughey) to decipher a secret legacy. To save his family Kubo must use magic to battle the Moon King (Ralph Fiennes) and other gods and monsters. While trying to and solve the mystery of his fallen father, the greatest samurai warrior the world has ever known. The animation almost origami-like tells a story of fantasy and adventure amazing from start to finish.

Don’t Breathe August 26

In the year that so many horror films were released maybe there was none better than Don't Breathe. Three Detroit youth in search of Quick Cash decide to break into the home of a military veteran will they believed to have $300,000 in cash in his home in the process getting more than they bargained for. Director Fred Alvarez of Evil Dead Fame directs this suspenseful, chilling thriller. Like the title of the movie you find yourself holding your breath as tight as some of the characters. Jane Levy gives a great performance as Rocky a young woman who wants to move her and her little sister to California for a better life and Stephen Lang does a great job of being terrifying even for a blind guy. It leaves you questioning who you should root for if anyone during every tension-filled minute.

Moonlight October 21

Moonlight is the story of a young man growing up in Miami during the height of the "War on Drugs" era. Broken into three parts Chiron(Trevante Rhodes as Adult, Ashton Sanders as Teen, Alex Hibbert as Child) must manage his broken home life, being frequently bullied at school, while pondering his own sexuality. Moonlight is impeccably directed by Barry Jenkins, who uses craftsmanship as the ideal expression for conveying these extreme subjects. So much thought and care is given to every shot, and with outstanding cinematography that makes you feel without telling you how to. The best thing about this movie may be that the acting doesn't feel like acting. You believe the characters, what a sensational motion picture.

Arrival November 11

The concept of an alien invasion has been done over and over again in cinema but Arrival offers something different. It is not your typical aliens invade, then we must build our defenses to prevent a hostile takeover. In Arrival, a linguist (Amy Adams) and a theoretical physicist (Jeremy Renner) are called to communicate with Aliens after they plant ships in different areas around the world. Denis Villeneuve who directed one of my top films of 2015 Sicario uses great direction and amazing cinematography to tell a story about time and space. This non-linear film will challenge you and leave you thinking long after you've watched it.

The Edge of Seventeen November 18

The Edge of Seventeen is a coming of age story about Nadine a self-centered awkward teenage girl who like many teenage girls, thinks life is awful and everything sucks after a family tragedy. It's a well-written rate R comedy with great dialogue that is far from politically correct. Nadine who is wonderfully portrayed by Hailee Steinfeld who uses her mockery, eccentricity, and selfish attitude to get through life. Woody Harrelson stole the show as Nadine's guidance counselor. I didn't expect much from this movie because I didn't care much for director Kelly Fremon Craig's last film Postgrad but this turned out to be one of my favorite films of 2016.

Manchester by the Sea November 18

Though I felt this movie is amazing I would not recommend this to everyone.Mmanchester by the Sea is a downer. It's very realistic and not resolved neatly. It was a phenomenally acted movie with the backdrop Manchester, Massachusetts. Casey Affleck gives a heartbreaking performance as Lee Chandler a janitor who has to return home to Manchester after his brother Joe(Kyle Chandler) has a heart attack to find he is left to be his nephew Patrick's guardian. Upon his return, he is haunted by the tragic events that caused him to move away. Director Kenneth Lonergran tells a story that is sometimes hard to watch, in a good way and leaves you in an emotional wreck afterward.

Nocturnal Animals November 18

After reading a novel written by her ex-husband (Jake Gyllenhaal), art-gallery owner (Amy Adams) becomes greatly worried that their marriage was the inspiration behind the story. The film jumps between reality and the novel with a story in a story style. Adams and Gyllenhaal were great in their portrayals but Aaron Taylor-Johnson may have had the best performance playing and irredeemable character in the novel. If you want an upbeat, heartwarming style of film Nocturnal Animals isn't for you. It's attention grabbing and very dark. Tom Ford the director of this film continues to prove he a man of many talents.

La La Land December 9

La La Land is an ode to old Hollywood musicals from the mind of Academy award-nominated director of Whiplash, Damien Chazelle.Jazz pianist Sebastian Wilder (Ryan Gosling) and an aspiring actress Mia Dolan (Emma Stone) fall for each other but sometimes ambition can get in the way of love. Stone and Gosling give heartfelt performances over the backdrop of Los Angeles. La la Land is able to recapture the nostalgic charm of old Hollywood without feeling dated. It is not the best singing or dancing in a musical because it's more than just a musical. It is an emotional rollercoaster similar to the feeling you may sometimes experience when in love.

Rogue One December 16

Disney's first attempt at Star Wars Anthology films was a success with Rogue one A Star Wars Story. A group of rebels who come together to steal the plans of the world destroying weapon change the course of a rebellion. This is the first Star Wars film to feel like a war film. It is also the first that doesn't feature a light side force user. Jyn Erso played by Felicity Jones follows in the tradition of strong female characters in the Star wars franchise. You get the action and Landscapes of scenery you'd expect from Star Wars film and also some darkness you might not expect from this Disney property. Rogue One is a perfect Prequel to episode 4 and *spoiler alert* has perhaps the best scene of Darth Vader in any Star Wars movie.

Fences December 16

Based on a 1983 August Wilson play by the same name Fences is more than a filmed play. Directed by Denzel Washington who also stars in it. Washington and Viola Davis give powerful performances as Troy and Rose Maxson two characters they won Tony Awards for in their 2010 revival of the play and their chemistry was evident. In the film, Troy Maxson former baseball player who never made it to the major leagues because of integration seems to take out his frustrations on his family, mostly his son Cory (Jovan Adepo) who he sees a lot of himself in. Trying to be a good father and husband he has to try to get by in 1950's Pittsburgh. Like a play, it is only shot in a few locations making it personal and full of feeling.


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    • Laura335 profile image

      Laura Smith 

      24 months ago from Pittsburgh, PA

      Great list. You helped to explain some of the movies I keep hearing about but haven't been spelled out very well in their trailers. I have a lot of these on my to-watch list before the end of Oscar's season.


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