2016 was the single worst year of my life, but at least I was able to get some good movies out of it. I was unable to see a fair chunk of the Oscar darlings this year, so if you’re wondering why films such as Moonlight, Fences, Manchester By The Sea, Jackie, and Nine Lives aren’t present, that would be why. So without further ado, here are my ten favorite films of 2016.
10. Hail, Caesar!
An odyssey through the studio system in the Golden Age of Hollywood, the Coen Brothers may have made their best comedy yet with this film. Roger Deakins’ cinematography is as good as its ever been, Carter Burwell’s score is a beauty, the cast is absolutely spectacular (with Channing Tatum and Alden Ehrenreich being clear highlights), and it’s just plain delightful.
Moana is proof that “formulaic” doesn’t equal “bad”. From the animation to the music to the amazing voice acting, the film is an absolute triumph and deserves to be watched on the largest screen possible.
A visual album as strong as any of her past works, Lemonade was where Beyoncé Knowles transcended pop-stardom and went straight to icon status. Made with a small army of directors and filled with the fury of a thousand suns, Lemonade is one of the most raw and honest pop releases to come around in ages. And with the threat of the Orange Oaf coming into office, the fact that the biggest musician in the country is a strong black woman leaves me with a certain degree of comfort.
7. Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping
After viewing Hot Rod, MacGruber, and Popstar all in one year, I think it’s safe to say that the members of The Lonely Island are comedic auteurs. They have a real talent for packing short runtimes (Popstar is only 86 minutes long) with as many jokes as they can, and in all honesty, this may be their masterpiece. Filled with pitch-perfect satire and some of the best comedic music I’ve heard in ages (“Finest Girl” is amazing, and “Karate Guy” may be my favorite song of the year period), it’s a surefire cult classic in the making.
6. The Invitation
This was the welcome return of one of my favorite directors, Karyn Kusama (Girlfight, Jennifer’s Body), and it is her best work yet. Kusama’s use of claustrophobic settings and her camerawork (just look at the shot above) are absolutely impeccable, and Theodore Shapiro’s tense score is easily one of my favorites of the year. If this didn’t hit your radar, check it out on Netflix, it’s worth a watch.
5. Hunt For The Wilderpeople
I don’t have much to say about this one that hasn’t already been said by literally everyone else on the Internet, so instead I’m just gonna post the scene that still was taken from and just revel in the greatness of it.
4. The BFG
In my opinion, this is the most slept-on movie of the year. This is Spielberg’s most gentle film, with its middle third being constructed of scenes so wonderful that they almost match the best of Studio Ghibli. Despite that, the film manages to keep the Dahl-ness of the original book intact, with the giant designs pushing the acceptable levels of grotesqueness for a PG rating and the book’s memorable breakfast scene being faithfully presented in its entirety. Call it “minor Spielberg” all you want, I love this movie.
3. Sing Street
Sing Street, John Carney’s third unconventional musical, may be his best. It’s a love letter to how one feels about music as a teen and how it can bring happiness to a terrible life. Music is the one bright spot in the world for these kids, brought to the forefront by being set in the poverty and drabness of it’s 80’s-Ireland setting. I’ve championed this movie to multiple people on the site, and our very own Kevin Kuhlman has written an article about it, so if you want to read more, I’ll just link his post here.
2. La La Land
I literally just saw this one today, and I’m still not entirely sure what to say about it asides from “it was really fucking great”. Damien Chazelle’s sun-drenched tribute to Jacques Demy and jazz is one of the most lively and emotional movie experiences of the year, and if it weren’t for a different film I saw a week prior to this one, it would have topped my list.
1. Pete’s Dragon
I talked a bit about David Lowery’s Pete’s Dragon earlier on the most recent “Things We’re Digging” article, but that simply didn’t feel like enough. Lowery’s film is an absolute delight for a number of reasons: it’s a tearjerker that isn’t manipulative, the closest thing to a villain the story has redeems himself at the end, Elliot himself is a marvel, and the soundtrack and score are excellent. It’s my favorite film of the year.
Some other movies I loved that didn’t make the list: The Witch, The Neon Demon, Star Trek Beyond, The Jungle Book, and Kubo and the Two Strings.