It is officially 2017! So with 2016 finally wrapped up, it is time to make a good ol’ “best movies of the year” list. This is literally my favorite list to do! One of the main reasons I made a blog in the first place was to be able create my own personal end of the year lists based on all the films I have seen in the given year and share it with everyone. I love making these kind of lists, because it is a great way to look back at all the memories and great movies I have seen over the past year. It may have been a pretty down year for a lot of people for reasons I won’t get into, but I think overall, it has been a solid year for film. As far as the big-budget blockbuster movies go, it has been up and down. We were treated to a couple really good early superhero movies, a pretty awful summer of blockbuster movies, but ended with a solid Marvel movie and Star Wars movie. As far as independent cinema went this year, it has been very good! There have been a lot of small-budget films that have come out and ended up in a lot of people’s best of the year lists. Now, the way I do my best of the year list may be different from a lot of people’s best of the year lists. I pretty much base my entire list on 4 main characteristics:
Quality: How well made it is from the directing, writing, cinematography, acting, etc.
Originality: How different it is from other films in the past/present or in its genre.
Memorability: How much I remember the movie after watching it for the first time, and how well people will remember it years down the road. (I may have made that word up)
Likability: How much I personally liked it. It’s my list after all! Also would I want to watch it again. Is it re-watchable?
If I were to do this list based purely on the quality of the film and how critics reacted to it, than films like Jackie, Paterson, and The Handmaiden would probably make it on the list. If I were to base this list solely on originality than films like Swiss Army Man, Nocturnal Animals, and Knight of Cups might make it on here. If this list were based on the most popular films of the year or “the most talked about” than films like Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and Doctor Strange might find a spot on this list. However, based on the four main characteristics, I have somehow narrowed down all the films I have seen this year to just 10 with plenty of honorable mentions to honorably mention. So without further ado, here are my picks for the 10 best movies of 2016:
Honorable mentions: Moana, The Lobster, Kubo and the Two Strings, Hunt for the Wilderpeople, Zootopia
10. The Neon Demon
Listen, I’ll be the first one to admit that this movie is kind of f***ed up, and is certainly not for everyone. This film has actually been on a lot of people’s worst of the year lists. I can’t say I blame them really. However, with all that being said, this list cracks my top 10 for two big reasons: Originality and Memorability! This film is like nothing I have ever seen before. There are scenes in this film that are so crazy that literally left my mouth wide open in utter shock and surprise. This film also gave me possibly my favorite theater going experience. Watching this film in the theater, with only one other person in the room (this movie did horrible at the box office), was certainly a memorable experience. This film contained probably the best cinematography I’ve seen all year that certainly helped enhance the theater going experience. It also had a story that was full of twists and turns that left me at the edge of my seat pretty much the entire run. And of course an ending that is one I will never forget. So, even though I could probably name a few flaws in its story and direction, The Neon Demon is still one of the most memorable movies of the year, and one of the films that challenged me the most and one I continue to think about to this day. So with that, The Neon Demon kicks off my list of the ten best films of the year.
Changing how superhero films could be made, and how a film could be promoted, Deadpool certainly was one of the biggest surprises of the year. Director Tim Miller and the film’s star Ryan Reynolds did the smart thing of never taking their film too seriously. They were ok with making fun of the standard superhero clichés, overuse of comic-book films in today’s society, and the advertising process that can go a long with it. Reynolds even was able to make fun of himself and the fact that he failed in attempt to make a superhero film before with Green Lantern. Deadpool cracks this list because it did things we have never seen before in the superhero genre, and has the chance to be extremely influential to how we see superhero movies and comedies down the road. 2017’s Logan may not get its R-rating if it wasn’t for the massive box-office success Deadpool got this year (7th highest grossing movie of the year). This film might be the best comedy, or funniest, of the year, and it just so happens to be a superhero movie. Deadpool is certainly one of the best and most popular pop-culture figures of recent memory, and the fact that he got his start in the year 2016 is more than enough a reason he deserves to be on this list. By the way, the film wasn’t bad either. It offered an edgy script, great action, and a pitch-perfect performance from Ryan Reynolds, that earned him a Best Actor nom at the Golden Globes.
8. Manchester by the Sea
On a more serious note, Manchester by the Sea is the next movie on my list and is easily one of the best dramas of the year. The film manages to be a fictional story with fictional characters and have it seem like a real story with a camera just following these people around in their everyday lives. Kenneth Lonergan’s script is my favorite of the year. He managed to create these characters that seem so real with incredible dialogue that never seemed too dramatized or imaginary. This is how real people talk and act. Despite its long runtime, the story managed to be very compelling from beginning to end and never dragged. This is how to tell a story! Also the performances were phenomenal from a career best performance from Casey Affleck to a breakout performance from Lucas Hedges. Also Michelle Williams gives a great supporting performance that will probably earn her an Oscar nomination.
7. Captain America: Civil War
The Russo brothers teamed up once again to create another Captain America film, after the extremely successful Winter Soldier film, that might be better than their predecessor. Civil War probably has wound up as the most popular and talked about film of 2016, and also managed to please both fans and critics. Even though I gave this film a high rating of 4.5/5, it only sits at #7 just because I didn’t enjoy it as much the second time as I did the first time. However, it is still one of my favorite movies I’ve seen this year. Civil War contains fantastic action sequences and memorable characters old and new. It has a pretty great villain (for Marvel purposes) in Zemo and the two new additions of Black Panther and SPIDERMAN that were both successful and extremely memorable. They will both rightfully get their own movies in the upcoming two years. And that airport sequence might have been my favorite movie scene of the entire year. Certainly the most entertaining! Overall, this film really exceeded my expectations and managed to make me feel like a kid again. It somehow was able to successfully juggle all these characters and create a steady storyline that never took a wrong turn. I am very excited to see what Marvel has in store for us again, and how the Russo brothers will create the Infinity War films. Also I am super stoked for the upcoming three Marvel films of 2017! I can confidently say at least one of them will be on my best of 2017 list, but I don’t wanna jinx it so I will stop typing…
6. The Nice Guys
Russell Crowe is back and Ryan Gosling is a comic genius. Two things I learned after watching The Nice Guys in theaters earlier this year. One thing I already knew was that Shane Black could write a witty script and direct the hell out of a movie. And he certainly did those two things in this film. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is one of my favorite movies of all time, and I pretty much felt the same way about this movie as I did with that one when I first saw it. The film’s lack of originality might of hurt it a little bit just based solely on how it is like a lot of other Shane Black films, and story wise like a lot of other detective films. However, it is easily one of my favorites of the year, and one that I can see myself coming back to time and time again. It has this “timeless” feel to it. I could see Gosling and Crowe do an entire television series together as these two characters. They were so good and their comedic presence was phenomenal when they were on-screen together. I wish this movie would have done better at the box office, because it might not get a sequel now. However, there’s no denying that this movie was well-made and very entertaining. Also Angourie Rice might be my choice for most surprising break-out performance of the year!
5. Hell or High Water
As someone who is not a big fan of westerns (and small-budget ones especially), I can admit I came into this movie with very low expectations. But man did this film really blow me away! It is so good on so many levels. The directing by David Mackenzie in this film is absolutely phenomenal. He manages to create a compelling story and give the audience an incredible feel for the setting of the film, even though it is a low-budget with minimal set design and locations. The entire movie pretty much takes place in one location in a small town in West Texas, but Mackenzie is able to do so much with the camera. I love how this film begins and it immediately gets your attention. This film really is a crime thriller that is disguised as a western! Also the writing is phenomenal by Taylor Sheridan and each one of the performances from the leads were great. I expected good performances from Ben Foster and Jeff Bridges, but Chris Pine really blew me away. I never knew he had that acting ability. Overall, this film was a pleasant surprise for me and managed to not only be very well made in quality (directing, writing, acting) but also say something important about the economy we live in today, and how the banks are ripping off a lot of family owned farms and small businesses.
Now, it is time to get to my BIG 4 of 2016. I ranked all four of these films with a score of 4.5 or higher!
4. Sing Street
This year has been full of surprises. If someone told me that a film based in Dublin during the 1980s would be at #4 in my best of the year list, than I would think they were crazy. I really don’t like 80s music, but I do love John Carney as a filmmaker. I adored his two previous films Once and Begin Again, so the fact that Sing Street has made it this high on my list may not be a surprise after all. To put it simply, Sing Street just was so delightful to watch and had a great message and an uplifting ending. This is the reason I love to watch movies! To be immersed in a story with likable characters and to feel great and inspired by the end of it. I certainly felt that way about Sing Street. The music and characters are all so fantastic and memorable and helped this film really stand out for me. It exceeded my expectations in a year that was full of movies that did not surprise me or just plain disappointed me. So with that, Sing Street earns its spot at #4 on my list.
I haven’t had the time yet to review this movie yet, with all the end of the year lists and last-minute cramming of Oscar nominated movies I’ve watched this past month, it certainly has been hard to get a review out. With that being said, Moonlight absolutely blew me away. It was so well made. As far as pure quality in a film, I would probably say Moonlight is the best I’ve seen. The directing, writing, editing, cinematography, music, and acting were all absolutely phenomenal! Pretty much everything that was done into making this film was as good as it could have been and more. At the end of the day, the story this film is telling is very simple, but the way this film is structured and how it was created is very different and original. The director, Barry Jenkins, said in a recent interview that he was inspired by a lot of foreign films when becoming a director, and it really shows in Moonlight. The way this film is shot and directed is very unconventional and different from anything you will ever see in an American coming-of-age story. It is also a film that challenges you and begs for repeat viewings. I was simply just blown away and deeply moved by this film, and really can’t recommend this movie enough to anyone who hasn’t seen it yet. It deserves all the praise and acclaim it has received so far.
Dennis Villeneuve’s latest masterpiece is one for the ages. This is one of those movies I’ve seen this year that I continue to think about to this day. I debate with myself just what it meant and what it was trying to say, and that is just one of the biggest compliments you can give a film. Arrival has everything you would want in a theater going experience. Beautiful cinematography and special effects, a very interesting story that will surprise you, and an ending that is not too predictable and will have you debating with your friends what it actually means. Arrival is, in a way, much like Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar, where it is not just a typical science fiction film, and has more to say about human relations and life. However, it exceeds Interstellar, because it has far less plot holes and a more condensed story arch. Amy Adams gives one of the best performances of the year (and maybe her career), and this film contains some of my favorite cinematography I have seen all year. It is simply a film that needs to be seen on the big screen in theaters, but also could be enjoyed just as much in the comfort of your own home.
1. La La Land
With The Nice Guys at #6 on my list, and La La Land at #1, 2016 was certainly the year of the Gosling. Yes, this may be obvious that La La Land sits at the top of my best of the year list, especially if you have read my review for it (the only 5/5 I’ve given all year), but this film really sets the standard for what I look for in a great film. The only thing it probably lacks out of in my four main characteristics is originality. It is an homage to the classic Hollywood romance/musicals of the golden age, but there’s no denying how original it is compared to every film that has been released in the modern age of film. It more than makes up for the low originality with high quality, memorability, and likability. Damien Chazelle has managed to create a film that can be timeless and an instant classic, but also really took the time and effort in creating it. Much like Moonlight, this film really couldn’t have been made any better. The directing, writing, cinematography, music, and two lead performances are all top-notch. I think the chemistry between Stone and Gosling is fantastic. This is the third film they have been in together, and it really shows in this film. Also the music is very memorable with musical numbers that really stand out from one another. Out of all the films I have seen this year, this is the one I can comfortably say is one of my favorite movies possibly ever. I’ve seen it twice in theaters now and enjoyed it more the second time than the first time. There are just so many great moments and scenes. There’s nothing I would change about it, so with those reasons, La La Land sits on top of my best of the year list for 2016.
It has been a great year to watch and review movies, and I look forward to what 2017 has to offer!