2016 has given us a good year of movies. It is almost Oscar season, so I thought it would be perfect to rank my top ten movies of the previous year. Included in this list are films I thought to have made the biggest impact of my movie-going experience of 2016. These are films that will probably never be made again in the later years to come. So here they are from 10-1 (including some honorable mentions.)
#10. ‘Doctor Strange’
Benedict Cumberbatch proves once again to be an amazing actor when he sports Vincent Price facial hair and the levitating cape to take on the role of Marvel’s very own Doctor Steven Strange. The Marvel Cinematic Universe is known for bringing wise cracking humor and amazing Oscar-nominated visual effects. ‘Doctor Strange’ delivers on that reputation once again with the wonder of mysticism and trippy visuals to make you feel as if you’ve literally seen something out-of-this-world. It manages to be a stand-alone addition to the cinematic universe of Marvel while being impressive, hilarious, and even surprisingly emotional. I would like to see more of Doctor Strange in the near future.
Disney usually makes the most beautiful animated movies in cinema history. ‘Moana’ once again proves why the “House of Mouse” is the king of animation. The studio keeps churning out movies left and right. With two movies this year, I wasn’t sure how Disney could keep up. It didn’t work when Pixar released two movies last year (‘Inside Out’ and ‘The Good Dinosaur’; with the former surpassing the latter.) Luckily, I had hopes for ‘Moana’ and I was blown away by its realistic backdrop, fun characters, and amazing musical numbers. ‘Moana’ is proof that Disney improves on its craft, and will prove the naysayers wrong.
#08. ‘The Edge of Seventeen’
Writer-Director Kelly Fremon Craig may be the female equivalent to John Hughes with this fresh, albeit at times cliché look at the struggles of being a socially awkward teen in high school. ‘Edge of Seventeen’ speaks to those who have experienced this type of failure while trying to fit in with the cool kids. Hailee Steinfeld brings on the angsty attitude as seventeen-year-old Nadine, who is relatable as she is likable. You are there with her, and the film makes sure you know that. You laugh at her struggles while also caring for her. It is one of those movies that is charming while it is heartbreaking. If John Hughes were still alive to this day, he would have appreciated the special feeling that ‘Edge of Seventeen’ gave me (and almost everyone who watched it).
#07. ‘Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising’
I don’t care what anyone thinks. ‘Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising’ is proof that even an unnecessary sequel can work and overcome its predecessor. When a cash grab comedy such as this one succeeds at being a funny satire at this generation’s obsession with technology, while also being a touching film about the true meaning of friendship and what it means to be an adult; you know it did its job well and deserves to be on this list.
#06. ‘Don’t Breathe’
Horror is slowly being tainted year after year, with scenes of gratuitous sex, buckets of blood and gore meant for shock value, and jump scares galore just to get a reaction. In comes Fede Alvarez’s ‘Don’t Breathe’ to be the saving grace of a genre that has strayed its path. What works about ‘Don’t Breathe’ is its amazing cinematography and camerawork that puts you in this dark house where a blind man (Stephen Lang) resides; it adds to the quiet tension which gives you a feeling of nervousness while you watch these three young robbers (Jane Levy, Dylan Minnette, and Daniel Zovatto) traverse this area. ‘Don’t Breathe’ also shows somewhat of a two-sided battle. We understand the motivations for these characters and why they are the way they are. This could also be a realistic horror movie. I am not lying when I say that ‘Don’t Breathe’ is real horror and deserves to be seen by cinephiles and horror lovers alike.
#05. ‘Special Correspondents’
Say what you want about this Netflix original movie, but I believe that ‘Special Correspondents’, starring Ricky Gervais (who also wrote and directed this film) and Eric Bana as two disgraced newscasters desperate to get the best story possible – leading to hilarious results, is an example of relevant social satire. It is a film that has those elements of a great comedy while sprinkling a dash of meta-humor to add to its over-the-top nature. It may not be on anyone’s top ten list, but it definitely is on mine.
Speaking of social commentary, in comes ‘Zootopia’; Disney’s smartest animated feature about bunny cop Judy Hopps (Voice of Ginnifer Goodwin) and cunning con artist fox Nick Wilde (Voice of Jason Bateman) as they reluctantly team up to solve a missing animals’ case. This film is loaded to the brim with lovable characters that kids are sure to love, but ‘Zootopia’ also has a dark undertone about relevant social and political issues that adults are sure to take in, especially considering what the media has shown us this year. ‘Zootopia’ is one of Disney’s most mature efforts and its themes definitely show.
#03. ‘The BFG’
I will never understand why Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of Roald Dahl’s most beloved children’s novel was a box-office disappointment, but all I can say is that this film holds a special place in my heart, and is sure to make others feel like children again. Mark Rylance does fantastic as the title giant; he brings a charm to the character that no other actor could possibly match. ‘The BFG’ is also loaded with impressive visual effects that are sure to be nominated for an Oscar. If there is no reason for you to check out ‘The BFG’, then I can say that there will be no other film quite like it. Give it a shot!
#02. ‘Eye in the Sky’
It has considered by some (including myself) to be a political version of ’12 Angry Men’, where one major decision could make a difference. While ’12 Angry Men’ dealt with whether a defendant is innocent or guilty, ‘Eye in the Sky’ deals with whether to strike a missile on a shelter in Kenya, where bombers are planning their attack, especially with a little girl selling bread by that exact area. The film shows us the likes of Helen Mirren, Alan Rickman, Aaron Paul, and many others as they have to make that decision. Once we see the ending, we feel the emotion these characters go through during this turmoil and end up in a state of awe. ‘Eye in the Sky’ won’t get an Oscar nomination, but it does gain a special spot on this list.
What easily became one of my favorite movies of 2016 also decided to gain the top spot for my updated version of this list. ‘Moonlight’ is a film that is truly deserving of its Oscar win for ‘Best Picture’, though it deserves every Oscar it was nominated for. To those who were devastated at the surprise flub for ‘Best Picture’ (one of my honorable mentions ‘La La Land’ was announced minutes before this film was.), it seemed like the Academy was catering to the whole African-American community. While it could have been possible (since people of color were added into the Academy’s roster.), I don’t feel that is the case. Sure, ‘Moonlight’ has the makings of Oscar bait (Gay character struggling with being different, place of poverty, and an entirely African-American cast.), but I feel that this was a great film that happened to have those elements and become an Oscar-winner. ‘Moonlight’ was given credit where credit was due and deserves to be seen by every individual. What this film does is portrayed as realistic, bold, and heartbreaking. Something that every great movie needs to be. Move over, ‘Eye in the Sky’, ‘Moonlight’ is the real ‘Best Film of 2016’!
‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’
It turns out that a great ‘Harry Potter’ movie may also be the most political. In David Yates’ and J.K. Rowling’s latest collaboration, ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’, Harry Potter’s Wizarding World (as it is famously called) sets itself in New York, where beasts from author and journalist Newt Scamander’s (Eddie Redmayne) bag of wonders escapes. Run amok to find them, he teams up with the likes of a muggle banker named Jacob (Dan Fogler), and two Witch siblings named Tina (Katherine Waterston in her best performance since her turn in ‘Steve Jobs’ from 2015) and Queenie (Alison Sudol in a delightful performance) to look for them. ‘Fantastic Beasts’ is a quote “Fantastic” return to a series that feels as if there was nothing left to tell. Rowling has found a way to turn her book (which was used as a study journal for the students of Hogwarts to read) into an adventure for the whole family with drama, comedy, and a message added in for good measure.
Taraji P. Henson, Janelle Monae, and Octavia Spencer (in another Oscar-nominated performance.) star in ‘Hidden Figures’. The biopic about the African-American women hidden behind the shadows of NASA due to racism , only to become a major factor to help the late John Glenn orbit around space. It wouldn’t have been possible without the likes of Katherine Johnson (Henson), Dorothy Vaughn (Spencer), and Mary Jackson (Monae), who made that effort, and the film serves as a testament to those of the past who suffered racial prejudice, and sexism. This year has not been easy in the political run, and only ‘Hidden Figures’ is one of those movies to step in and say “enough is enough.” As thought-provoking as it is, ‘Hidden Figures’ is also sweet, funny, and amazing.
‘La La Land’
A modern-day movie musical blended with elements of classic Hollywood in order to give us a Strawberry-flavored smoothie of a film that gives us great cinematography, choreography, and Oscar-worthy performances by Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone; who once again show us great chemistry.
Desmond Doss’ story is told with brutal war scenes, an amazing performance by Andrew Garfield, and direction by Mel Gibson; who has shown a true return to form. War is hell, and ‘Hacksaw Ridge’ shows it.
‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’
While Gareth Edward’s addition to the ‘Star Wars’ universe may feel like a cash grab from a studio recently bought by Disney, I was proven wrong with ‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’. It gives us the look and feel of a true prequel to the original ‘Star Wars’ trilogy with its cinematography and effects. We can now forget the prequel trilogy even exists.
It’s a short movie directed by the great Clint Eastwood, but ‘Sully’ starring Tom Hanks as the title pilot who made a last-minute attempt to land in the Hudson river where everyone miraculously survived, gives us a look on whether or not the real Sullenberger was truly a hero or a fool with events that flash back and forth between that eventful day. It is also a story that deserved to be told in film form.
When ‘Suicide Squad’ was officially released, it received mixed reviews from audiences, and mostly negative from critics. I was one of those critics who got into the action, humor, and characters this film had to offer. The DC universe has a bad reputation, which made me thankful for this movie. We are given depth to these characters and feel their struggle. Harley Quinn, Katana, and Captain Boomerang may also be the best characters in this film.
‘Ratchet & Clank’
Another under-appreciated film that 2016 had to offer. ‘Ratchet & Clank’ proved that not all video game movies are duds. We got animation similar in style to the video game, meta-humor that managed to make me laugh, and characters that are fun for an animated feature.
‘Swiss Army Man’
Whether you love it or hate it, ‘Swiss Army Man’ is a notable mention for its originality, performances by Paul Dano and Daniel Radcliffe, and a message of living in the moment and embracing your positive side.
‘The Neon Demon’
Nicolas Winding Refn’s ‘The Neon Demon’ is the modern-day ‘Suspiria’; a painting of beauty where every stroke of the brush is as grotesque as it is gorgeous. Some people will be turned off by its style, but those film buffs will appreciate the style that Refn brings to the screen.