Best Movies of 2016


This is my Favorite Movies of 2016 list (along with a second opinion from Liz and Eric Sweeney). As all lists are, this list is highly subjective and probably has a few dumb movies on it. What can I say? It’s a sickness. Even then, there are still quite a few movies that I haven’t gotten around to seeing yet, so no internet yelling about your favorite film being excluded if it appears on the haven’t seen yet list at the bottom*. If it didn’t make that list, then have at it with the internet yelling. Also, all this year’s favorite movies are in movie montage mashup form if that’s your preferred manner of taking in best of lists.

There were way too many articles written about how 2016 was not a banner year for movies, so no need to cover that, but there were still some good ones if you sifted through the Suicide Squads garbage. Starting with:

la_la_land_ver21. La La Land – There were more socially relevant movies this year that I would encourage people to see, but in terms of pure cinematic enjoyment, La La Land is my favorite movie of the year. It’s vibrant, it’s intoxicating, it’s ambitious, and most of all, it’s fantastic. It’s what you hoped it was when you saw the trailer, a movie that justifies going to the movies. Emma Stone has been great in the past, but I think this marks her as a bonafide movie star. And I guess at this point it’s also fair to say Damien Chazelle is no fluke. Go see La La Land and good luck not humming City of Stars for the rest of the week. (Trailer)

Best Scene: Tell us a story

Watch This if You Like: Color Palettes, Singing in the Rain, Whiplash

hunt-for-the-wilderpeople-poster-52. Hunt for the Wilderpeople – Hunt for the Wilderpeople utilizes the dry Kiwi wit that the Flight of the Conchords cultivated so well, and mashes it into a heartwarming tale of misfits on the run. I smiled for most of this movie. It’s a movie made with love. You genuinely grow to care about the characters (Sam Neill is reliably great and Julian Dennison is a breakout star), the soundtrack is catchy and much like La La Land, seeing this in a packed theater was a joy. Not much else to say. (Trailer)

Best Scene: Ricky in the Wild

Watch This If You Like: What We Do in the Shadows, Flight of the Conchords, Boy

sing_street_poster3. Sing Street – Spiritual companion to his earlier faux musical masterpiece ‘Once‘, Irish director John Carney returns with another faux musical masterpiece of sorts in Sing Street, a movie that plays like a mashup of the best bits of ‘Once’ and ‘The Commitments’. This poppy 80s homage is full of feel good moments where the sentiment is actually earned, not crammed down your throat by an Illuminati focus group trying to win Will Smith an Oscar (I miss you old Will Smith. Sure, I want you to win an Oscar someday, but I also want you to make movies where you actually appear to be enjoying yourself). Like #1 and #2 on this list, Sing Street also has a stellar soundtrack. (Trailer)

Best Scene: Playing the Prom

Watch This If You Like: Once, The Commitments, Almost Famous, nearly unintelligible Irish brogue

rogueone_onesheeta4. Rogue OneRogue One is the sort of bleak Star Wars movie you thought Disney would never make. It’s not particularly family friendly, the ubiquitously dour tone won’t sell many action figures and it actually feels a bit too socially relevant for summer blockbuster fare (the rebellion morphs from the original trilogy’s unquestioned heroes to a more nuanced depiction of ruthless, desperate, gray area insurgents and extremists). Despite all that, a thrilling final hour rescues an uneven first hour to make a solid initial entry into the Star Wars standalone films. This is the movie that Suicide Squad desperately wanted to be, but instead of enjoyable characters like K-2So and Chirrut Imwe, we got a team of blandos, a stereotype parading itself as a giant crocodile and an utterly forgettable Joker. (Trailer)

Best Scene: The Assault on Scarif

Watch This if You Like: Empire Strikes Back, War Movies, The Dirty Dozen

hell_or_high_water-poster5. Hell or High WaterThere’s something at first glance that makes this movie look like it should have gone straight to video. Like one of those Bruce Willis movies you’ve never heard of that you stumble upon on Netflix in the New Release section. You know the type. Bruce Willis probably has a weird wig on, and maybe Adrien Brody is in it, too, and it’s probably about a heist, or cops, or corrupt cops pulling a heist. Either way, Hell or High Water isn’t that. It just has the initial appearance of sludgy C-minus material thrown together for actors in the twilight of their careers. But in reality, you get a slow burn, bare bones No Country For Old Men homage set in the dry flats of West Texas. And it’s propped up by the best script of the year. There’s not a single line that seems out of place in this movie. It doesn’t hurt that all the performances are great, too. (Trailer)

Best Scene: I’ll Give You Peace, Old Man

Watch This If You Like: No Country For Old Men, Texas, Great Dialogue

nice_guys_ver2_xlg6. The Nice Guys – Shane Black continues his streak of great scripts with this punchy 70s action comedy steeped in the tradition of Lethal Weapon, LA Confidential and Kiss, Kiss, Bang Bang. If it weren’t for Hell or High Water, I’d say this would be the best script of the year. Who knew Ryan Gosling had such great comic timing? Who knew Shane Black could write such witty banter? Who knew Russell Crowe could be so surly? Oh wait. (Trailer)

Best Scene: Take Your Daughter to Work aka The Party

Watch This If You Like: Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang, Lethal Weapon, LA Confidential

green-room7. Green RoomA tense, brutal, skins vs punks showdown set in the backwoods of Oregon that wears its love for John Carpenter on its sleeve. This is not a movie for the squeamish or Star Trek fans who want to preserve a wholesome image of Patrick Stewart. It was sad to lose Anton Yelchin this year, but his talents were on full display in this movie. He was great, and he will be missed. (Trailer)

Best Scene: Couch Ninja

Watch This If You Like: Blue Ruin, Assault on Precinct 13, Extreme violence, John Carpenter, Patrick Stewart making you uncomfortable, Crusty punks

arrival-poster8. Arrival – The ending of this movie just wrecks you. How sad, but in a wonderful way. Arrival is thinking man’s sci-fi, pulled from a short story by Ted Chiang once deemed unfilmmable because of its convoluted and dense content. Director Denis Villeneuve, who was tasked with unravelling that complex narrative, did so with a level of quality that has to mark him as one of the best directors working today. Villeneuve has me excited for next year’s BladeRunner 2049, a movie I probably wouldn’t care about otherwise. (Trailer)

Best Scene: A Mother’s Love

Watch This If You Like: Contact, Hard sci-fi, Amy Adams, The feels

moonlight-poster-lg9. Moonlight – 
A somber meditation on identity, adaptability and the moments in life that haunt us. This is such a deeply personal film that it almost feels like an intrusion to watch it. But it’s wonderfully subtle, never holding your hand or forcing anything on you. I don’t think I can remember a movie outside of Terrence Malick‘s catalog that felt simultaneously so natural and yet so surreal at the same time. At the very least, Maherssala Ali and Naomie Harris deserve award recognition for their performances. (Trailer)

Best Scene: The Reunion

Watch This If You Like: Great Storytelling, Terrence Malick

train-to-busan10. Train to Busan – Zombies on a train! By all rights, this should be schlocky nonsense, but it’s actually quite good. It borrows elements from World War Z, 28 Days Weeks Later and Snakes on a Plane, all while cobbling together a product that’s superior to all the movies it pilfered from. I look forward to Hollywood completely blowing the unnecessary English remake of this superb Korean thriller. Mark your calendars, skip it and see the original. (Trailer)

Best Scene: Journey to the front of the train

Watch This If You Like: 28 Weeks Later, Snakes on a Plane, World War ZSnowpiercer

handmaiden_poster_2764x4096_1200_1778_81_s11. The HandmaidenChan-Wook Park returns to form with this visually sumptuous gothic drama about a handmaiden’s scandalous relationship with a Japanese heiress. In this entry, Park trades his traditional stamp of gratuitous violence in favor of a string of graphic sex scenes that are bound to unnerve more prudish sensibilities. But where other lesser filmmakers would use blasts of violence and sex for pure shock value, Park’s excesses always drip with the mark of a true artist, crafting these as moments of inevitable catharsis and awakening for his characters. Don’t be fooled by the violence/sex/gut churning moments. Chan-Wook Park is a master level director. (Trailer)

Best Scene: She’s Always Been Rotten

Watch This if You Like: Lady Vengeance, Raise the Red Lantern, Gothic Horror, In The Mood For Love

manchester12. Manchester By the Sea – A naturalistic endeavor from filmmaker Kenneth Lonergan that examines the damage grief can do after great tragedy. Credit to Lonergan for writing a script that has a lot of legitimately funny moments, considering how heavy the subject matter is in this film. Casey Affleck and Michelle Williams are great. They will probably win awards. They probably deserve to. (Trailer)

Best Scene: (Tie for most devastating) ‘Police Station Visit’ and ‘Chance Encounter on the Street’

Watch This if You Like: Boston Accents, Being Emotionally Devastated

kubo_and_the_two_strings_ver1213. Kubo and The Two Strings – I haven’t seen any of Laika’s other films, but my first experience with the studio was certainly a positive one. Kubo is a stop motion animated film that has often been called the ‘Zelda’ movie, because it’s probably the closest anyone is ever going to get to a Zelda movie. Either way, it’s the best animated movie I saw this year (although I still haven’t seen Moana or Your Name). The animation is stunningly gorgeous. (Trailer)

Best Scene: The Night Calls Out To You

Watch This If You Like: Coraline, Zelda, Kung Fu Panda, Stop Motion Animation


10-cloverfield14. 10 Cloverfield Lane10 Cloverfield Lane is a surprisingly good high concept bottle episode of a movie. I know people had issue with the ending, which I understand, but I can’t say it bothered me all that much. John Goodman is just too good in this movie for a questionable ending to sully the entire experience. I would encourage any Hitchcock fan to give this a shot. Previous Cloverfield 1 viewing not required. (Trailer)

Best Scene: Any scene where John Goodman loses it

Watch This If You Like: Hitchcock, Tense Thrillers, John Goodman Dancing


the-shallows-poster15. The Shallows – The Shallows is the best shark movie in quite some time. I know that isn’t saying much, but there were some genuinely terrifying moments in this film. I should also mention that I am irrationally terrified of sharks though, so my judgement probably can’t be trusted with this one. But one of the main characters in this movie is a seagull. And his name is Steven Seagull. So, you should probably just go ahead and see this movie. (Trailer)

Best Scene: Buoy showdown

Watch This If You Like: Jaws, The Reef, Open Water, Movies with GoPros in them

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