As in every other year it’s hard to decide what the 20 best films of 2016 are. It’s not a list for everyone but it’s a list with something on it for everyone. I would love to hear what you think and what your best films of 2016 are.
Just as a side note. Not all movies in the current award season are available such as Midnight, Silence or Manchester by the Sea. So while considered highly among many professional critics here in Australia among amateur bloggers it’s not really a consideration.
Here are Steve’s 20 Best Films Of 2016
20. Nocturnal Animals
As the name suggests this is a dark one to watch. The story of a family being kidnapped is remembered through the course of a novel manuscript. A play on the power of memories and the way they haunt us. It feels a little bit like a David Lynch with its moodiness but feels more coherent overall.
19. A Star Wars Story: Rogue One
It’s hard not to acknowledge some of the flaws in Rogue One but for everything it does wrong, it still does a whole lot right. An act in fan service that makes for an exciting standalone chapter between Episode III and IV particularly in its final act.
18. Captain Fantastic
A family moves off the grid and into the wilderness. When a death in the family returns them to civilization their odd way of raising their children. A deeply moving about family. A great performance by Viggo Mortensen anchors a delightful experience for all.
17. Don’t Breathe
A truly terrifying film that takes place in the confines of a blind veteran’s house. It is beautifully shot playing with sounds and a lack there of. It is one of the tensest thrillers in years. It is wonderfully plausible and clever and while a somewhat gross twist is a bit out of place, if you like a thriller this should be on your must see list.
16. Captain America: Civil War
A much better Avengers film than anything bearing the title, Civil War introduces a number of cool new characters while shaking up the Marvel film universe. It never quite goes far enough or takes enough risk but it still manages to be surprising that Captain America is the most interesting of these films
15. Kubo and The Two Strings
The makers of Boxtrolls and Coraline, manage to translate their quirky story telling and visuals and for once provide it with a bit of heart. Creative and truly original it might be a little bit too much for little children but for everyone else something special.
14. American Honey
A tough watch but a fascinating one. When Star, a young woman living on the edge of poverty decides to follow a group of travelling magazine and partying sales team she discovers a much bigger world. It’s a beautifully shot that meanders around, not trying to force a story and will frustrate some as it doesn’t seem about creating arcs and closure. It’s the best Shia Labeuf has been in years and newcomer Sasha Lane is brilliant.
13 Midnight Special
Somewhere between science fiction and road tripping thriller, this story of a boy and his two protectors, is extremely mysterious without offering a lot of answer. Yet its perplexing nature doesn’t get in the way of a taught and exciting ride
The most normal and coherent Oliver Stone has been a while coincides with one of his movies too. The story of Edward Snowden is probably a little bit too conventional and even comes across a tad heavy on the love story side of things. Yet Joseph-Gordon Levitt transforms himself with a solemn performance and a fascinating story that is deeply relevant
11. The Jungle Book
Disney continue to be hit and miss with their live action reboots of beloved properties. Jungle Book is however one of the hits. Taking the whimsical nature of the original cartoon and turning into a darker and sometimes more savage version that feels more akin to Kipling than Disney. It’s also some of the most dazzling visual effects of the year
10. The Wailing
A small town cop is called to a village that has seen a massacre taking place by an unstable villager. It is blamed on magic mushroom. It soon becomes a question of possession, a mysterious Japanese hermit and many more twist. An absolutely gut-wrenching experience. Not exactly scary but oppressive. Not for the faint of heart. This South-Korean gem also has one of the most powerful scenes in a movie this year. If you watch it will the one with the rooster crowing.
9. The Witch
Set at the time of what we would associate with The Crucible. A pilgrim family is forced to start a farm on the edge of a forest haunted by a Witch. Terrifying in ways you couldn’t possibly imagine in main stream horror. This is a tale of isolation, of religious fanaticism and the more conventional element of being terrified in the woods. It is truly a staggering achievement and one you may not want to watch alone.
8. Your Name
In a really good year for animated movies, Your Name stands surprisingly above all. This is not necessarily a children’s cartoon but is more akin to Japanese anime. I suspect that it has much of its origin creatively there. A comet is passing over the night sky and a city boy and a country girl swap bodies. What starts as a comedy soon becomes powerfully moving and exciting. A killer soundtrack also.
7. Hell or High Water
A taught action movie about two brothers who perform a series of robbers to overcome their financial problems. It bears some similarities with No Country for Old Men but has a more direct and less Cohenish narrative. Casting is brilliant and the final scene between Chris Pine and Jeff Bridges is the best.
6. Sing Street
Another movie about the joy of music from the talent behind Once and Begin Again but this time from a different era of nostalgia the eighties. It’s about love, great music and starting a band. It is little more than a coming of age story on some level but the great original music, quirky characters and earnest and effecting setting make it something special.
5. The Nice Guys
Shane Black has made something of a fuller body of work since coming to direction as well as script writing. The Nice Guys makes the delightful and unexpected pairing of Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling into a dark comedy with a hint of a heart of gold. One is the muscle, the other PI and their pairing sees them investigating the murder of a famous porn star. Chemistry and style to boot.
4. The Handmaiden
Chan Park Wook for a moment disappeared to Hollywood to make Stoker but has return to his South Korean roots to make this erotic thriller. A wonderful use of perspective with many twists it is at times darkly comic. It will be too erotic for many but it is also probably the least violent that Wook has been in years. It is film-making that will leave you guessing till the very end.
3. Hunt for the Wilderpeople
A foster child and his carer are forced to go on the run in the New Zealand wilderness. A brilliant comedy with Sam Neil and new talent Julian Dennison, it is also deeply moving. It’s hard to pinpoint why this works so well but is also nigh impossible to not feel and laugh throughout. Some picturesque scenery as well.
2. La La Land
From its opening traffic jam to its wonderful epilogue La La Land is a celebration of the old Hollywood artist dream of making it big while still having your integrity intact. I found myself in love with the optimism and magic of what this film was putting down. It captures a particular era of filmmaking while doing its own thing.
One of the greatest examples of science fiction in recent years. It exudes intelligence and emotion without succumbing to the need for the bombastic. Amy Adams is our hero and a linguist who is tasked with communicating with new arrivals. It plays with emotions as well as humanities struggle to communicate while being untrusting. It is a layered film that is beautifully shot. Something special indeed.
Hacksaw Ridge came out this year and while it’s unfair to slam a film for a director’s personal behaviour and politics it’s also equally difficult to celebrate it too. Hacksaw Ridge is a good but it’s like putting Chinatown on a list and ignoring Polanksi’s personal antics.