I swear if you still think 2016’s been a bad year for movies after this I’m gonna punch you in the nose.
2016 has been such a bizarre year for film. After a quietly impressive start, things took a turn for the worse during one of the most underwhelming summer blockbuster seasons in the last decade – causing many movie pundits to maintain a completely level head and declare the death of cinema as we know it. What was so infuriating about the knee-jerk response wasn’t just the hyperbole – it was the fact it simply wasn’t true. 2016’s been one of the best years for movies in recent memory – you just needed to know where to look…
Manchester By The Sea – Kenneth Lonergan’s quietly affecting, lowkey emotional rollercoaster is blessed with some brilliant turns from Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams, Lucas Hedges & Kyle Chandler.
10 Cloverfield Lane – A Hitchcockian thriller imbued with added sci-fi flavour. This film was the perfect embodiment of everything great about JJ Abrams’ mystery-box marketing – and announced Dan Trachtenberg as a director to watch. Long live the Cloverfield anthology franchise!
The Edge Of Seventeen – One the most delightful cinematic experiences of the year and a fine showcase of Kelly Fremon Craig’s immense talents as a writer/director – with a wonderful lead turn from Hailee Steinfeld too.
Certain Women & Paterson – Two of 2016’s most underrated features, Kelly Reichardt & Jim Jarmusch’s films were a pair of quiet and often darkly humorous reflections on the little things that make us human. Full of great performances, both indies had the capacity to make you laugh or cry in at any given moment.
Green Room – Jeremy Saulnier’s beautifully shot, brilliantly acted neo-nazi thriller was easily one of the most intense and chilling cinematic experiences of 2016. What a year it was for horror-themed movies in general!
Moana – A delightful family adventure full of wit, heart and some incredible music. The film’s eponymous protagonist is arguably Disney’s most endearing heroine to date.
Civil War/BvS/Rogue One – I suppose it’s only fitting that the year’s three most-anticipated blockbusters ultimately resulted in three of my favourite experiences in a movie theatre in 2016. They each had their ups and downs, but my word did their third acts pack a punch. This is what blockbuster cinema is all about.
I did my best to watch as many films as I could (I even attended London Film Festival) – but international release dates got the best of me. As a result, I wasn’t able to see the following:
20th Century Women | The Boy And The Beast | Elle | Fences | Hacksaw Ridge
| The Handmaiden | Jackie | Krisha | Lion | Loving | Patriots Day | Silence | Toni Erdmann
10) Hunt For The Wilderpeople
Director: Taika Waititi | Studio: The Orchard
Arguably the most creative comedic director to grace Hollywood since Edgar Wright, Taika Waititi’s satirical, self-deprecating humour here left me laughing until my sides hurt. Wilderpeople was a beautifully-shot storybook adventure that delivered as much heart and pulsating action as it did humour. It was a genuine delight.
Memorable Moment: Aunt Bella singing happy birthday to Ricky (and Ricky singing happy birthday to himself), while Hector looks on forlornly. “Trifecta” is a genuine contender for one of the best original songs of the year…
9) The Nice Guys
Director: Shane Black | Studio: Warner Bros
The Nice Guys succeeds on the strength of Shane Black’s phenomenal dialogue, and Ryan Gosling & Russell Crowe’s dynamic chemistry. Though it’s one the year’s funniest movies, it’s still a detective tale at heart. Black creates a rich, enthralling world of pornos and parties, and populates it with some truly wonderful characters.
Memorable Moment: The entire conversation between March, Mr. Healy, Chet and a disturbingly knowledgeable young boy who’s incredibly proud about the size of his dick. Wonderful. Just… wonderful.
Director: Barry Jenkins | Studio: A24
A film that’s primarily about the acceptance of (and finding) one’s identity. Moonlight explores a struggle we can all empathise with – regardless of ethnicity or sexual orientation. It’s executed so powerfully by Barry Jenkins and his cast that it leaves a lasting impact on the viewer – one that clings to you for months after watching it.
Memorable Moment: Mahershala Ali’s Juan teaching a young Chiron how to swim. I’m pretty cinema was invented solely to capture moments like this.
7) The Witch
Director: Robert Eggers | Studio: A24
I still remember spending much of The Witch shaking, with my hands half-covering my face. Robert Eggers’ slow-burn of a directorial debut chilled me to the bone – and I love it for it. The fact it was shot so gorgeously just made it all the more difficult to look away (no matter how much I wanted to). It was a beautiful nightmare.
Memorable Moment: Wouldst thou like to live deliciously? Thou would, Black Phillip. Thou most certainly would.
6) Everybody Wants Some
Director: Richard Linklater | Studio: Paramount/Annapurna
Loved by some for its throwback to early 1980’s college nostalgia, hated by others for its focus on typical ‘dude-bro’ antics – I enjoy Linklater’s latest cult-classic-in-the-making for both reasons. When it came to the latter, it rarely ever glorified the arrogance of alpha male jocks, but rather subverted it slightly – finding heart or humour in their actions without ever falling into mean-spirited territory. And the ensemble cast was fantastic.
Memorable Moment: It’s both to this movie’s credit and my own inconvenience that there’s no genuine standout scene. It’s more of a collection of consistently entertaining hijinks – and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
5) American Honey
Director: Andrea Arnold | Studio: A24
It’s never wholly pleasant viewing, but American Honey is another fine example of how – through great acting & excellent direction – I learned to love a group of characters I ordinarily would’ve hated. Arnold’s 160-minute-long exploration of modern day youth may seem like an odyssey – but it’s worth every single second of your time.
Memorable Moment: The penultimate scene, set to the sound of Raury’s “God’s Whisper”, and the sight of the crew dancing over a campfire – perfectly capturing the raw, animalistic energy of these characters.
4) Sing Street
Director: John Carney | Studio: The Weinstein Company
An utterly delightful coming-of-age musical that hit all the right comedic and dramatic notes, Sing Street was the feel-good-film we all needed this year. The film’s incredible soundtrack will likely go down in history as one of the strongest in recent memory, while the young cast were all fantastic. I wore a huge grin throughout.
Memorable Moment: The grand finale was enough to make your heart swell, but it was the dedication that followed that made me bawl: For Brothers Everywhere.
3) Swiss Army Man
Director: Dan Kwan & Daniel Scheinert | Studio: A24
I don’t think I could ever sum up this movie better than I did after first seeing it back in early October, so here it is: “Basically two guys called Daniel made a movie to cover for all the times they’ve ever farted in public and in the process created the most hilarious, heartwarming and transcendent cinematic experience of the year so far.”
Memorable Moment: The bus scene. She smiles. And you feel a strange tingle up the back of your neck. Something carnal inside you causes your body to break out in sweats. You feel like the luckiest man in the world… I don’t understand how a movie about a farting corpse can make me feel so alive.
2) Your Name
Director: Makoto Shinkai | Studio: Toho
I guess I stumbled into this one – without realising just how much of a long-term effect it would have on me. Your Name is, in so many ways, a not-so-typical romantic comedy that’s elevated by its gorgeous animation, intense sorrow and emotion, and a warm, humorous beating heart. It was a dream I never wanted to wake up from.
Memorable Moment: Kataware Doki. The meeting at twilight is one of the most heart-achingly beautiful things I’ve seen on the big screen this year. Radwimps’ score takes the moment from touching to masterful.
1) La La Land
Director: Damien Chazelle | Studio: Lionsgate/Summit
Yeah. Was it ever going to be anything else? I adored every single little thing about this film. The fifties-throwback production design infused with a modern twist. Chazelle’s dynamic lens gliding over a myriad of all-singing, all-dancing delights. An incandescent Emma Stone’s captivating chemistry with a charming Ryan Gosling. Justin Hurwitz’s magical musical masterpiece of a soundtrack. And of course…
Memorable Moment: The epilogue in all its symphonic & bittersweet glory. Simply sensational.