2016, more than most years in cinematic history, has had rather wild ups and downs with its released films.
The biggest concept of the year, especially the Summer, has been remakes, reboots and sequels, and disappointingly, most haven’t had the pay off expected. That isn’t because nobody saw them, it’s just because they’re bad. Really, 2016 has been a stale cup of hot chocolate with the occasional marshmallow popping up here and there.
If I was writing this list, say, in 2014, it would have been hard, but funnily enough I actually had to put films I wouldn’t have even considered for this list in, particularly #10 and #9. That’s because there was a terrible lack of great films this year (although, from number 6 and above are some truly exceptional movies), and filling in ten spots was quite an effort. The aforementioned #10 and #9 are really a result of having to choose ‘what are the least mediocre’ from a bucket of mediocre movies.
Anyway, let’s get into it. Also, keep in mind that La La Land definitely would have had a spot on this list, but unfortunately I wasn’t able to watch it.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
#10: The Jungle Book
Even though this is only #10, I will say this: The Jungle Book was, for a large chunk of the year, my favourite cinematic experience (until Doctor Strange came along), and I truly appreciate that.
Jon Favreau helmed a project that oozed of Jon Favreau, and I think that’s The Jungle Book’s biggest plus point. I dragged this movie down to this spot only because it’s a remake, and I am not the biggest fan of the concept of remakes, but Favreau managed to make this stand out from the original because he put his own mark on it.
Oh, and did I mention that it looks spectacular? Well, it does.
#9: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Perhaps the biggest reason this movie is here, at this spot, on this list, is because I had no expectations whatsoever going into it. Harry Potter has a place in my heart (a rather big one), but I was skeptical about the idea of having a new franchise on film. Whenever something like this happens, a voice in my head always tells me it’s for the money. And really, it is. That makes me think a project lacks heart, and the best thing I can say about this movie is, it didn’t.
It was an originally written screenplay by JK Rowling herself, and David Yates’ fabulous, beautiful directing, screamed out that Rowling was really having fun with it. Accompany that with some strong performances, particularly from one of my favourite actors, Edward Redmayne, and along came a movie that I walked out of smiling a little wider than I expected to, and that made me excited for the future prospects of this prequel-ish story arc.
#8: The Fundamentals of Caring
And on we head into independent filmmaking territory.
The Fundamentals of Caring is an exquisitely innocent Netflix original movie starring Paul Rudd, Craig Roberts and Selena Gomez, written and directed by Rob Burnett. The story follows a retired writer who, despite warning signs, decides to step up as caretaker for a disabled teen who is the opposite of adventurous. Essentially, it’s a road trip movie, which progresses into a love story at the same time, as Selena Gomez comes into the frame.
I watched this movie because I really like independent films, and when this was on Netflix I played it hoping for the best. It isn’t by any stretch, a classic, but it is a pretty memorable movie, at least for me.
While at the surface it has appeal, there’s really more to this film that you discover as you go along, particularly about Paul Rudd’s character. Even more so, this is a coming of age tale (which I am a huge fan of) and the main character’s age perhaps made the entire film quite relatable for me.
Overall, I do think this gem is worth checking out, especially for people who love to take a break from the mainstream and enjoy simple, focused film.
I watched this movie just yesterday, and it managed to sneak its way onto this list.
Moana, by all accounts, is gorgeous. The animation in this film really overdid itself, and Disney are getting to closer to one day making animated films that are seemingly not animated.
Even more so, there is heart to this movie. I won’t really explain the plot because it’s a little too complicated to explain (it’s presented well), but the message behind this film is one I can fully understand and one that I think needs to be promoted more: If you’re going to be safe all the time and not take risks, can you truly discover who you are?
A story that factors around that has to be great, and it was. Paired with amazing voice acting, creative storytelling and good music, there’s a recipe for success. Exploring the culture that it did also made for a fresh breath in this film, and the symbolism in the ending (no spoilers) makes this a film that I think deserves to be remembered.
Nothing is more synonymous to the phrase ‘passion project’ as this movie is.
After years of trouble, Tim Miller and Ryan Reynolds pushed and pushed for this film and Fox reluctantly gave them a small budget for it. It turned out to be so good that a sequel was immediately greenlit.
Deadpool understands Deadpool so well, and that really comes down to the people behind it, particularly Ryan Reynolds. Sure, the story wasn’t the most extraordinary, but the way the film was made, in its simplicity and cleverness, make it something special. Reynolds’ best performance ever, accompanied by a cracking script, aided Deadpool in taking the world by storm.
Well, I suppose the marketing campaign helped a bit too.
#5: The Nice Guys
Set in the 1970s, The Nice Guys is the most underrated movie of the year.
Starring Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling, and directed by Shane Black, The Nice Guys is a mystery that follows a missing persons case and a murder case, eventually converging the two.
In a Summer that had films like Independence Day: Resurgence and Jason Bourne, The Nice Guys was easily a stand out, with a Shane Black staple evident. The chemistry between Crowe and Gosling sells this film more than anything, and it made for a truly fun movie, with plenty of re-watch value because it’s pretty smart too.
In a Summer of mostly let-downs, The Nice Guys stood above the rest as an original, funny, retro-feeling film.
Disney hit a home run several times this year, and its first was a masterpiece.
Zootopia is as funny as it is real. When I say real, I don’t mean talking animals are, I mean the themes explored in the film are.
Disney, especially in the recent past, has a history of producing films that deal with real world, real mature areas of debate or concern, and Zootopia (in a commendably smart way) deals with stereotyping and underlying racism. Kids’ movie, still.
While Zootopia’s story was indeed an enthralling one, it really was a by-product of the context. In fact, everything, from the setting to the characters, was a by-product of the context, and the film managed to speak to its audience about what it was trying to convey in a beautiful way, creating a reflection of the real world and leaving an impact in theatres around the world.
#3: Captain America: Civil War
I think it’s at this point that I’ve divided anyone that’s reading this article. Anyway, I’ll stick to my opinion.
My most anticipated movie of the year did not disappoint me. It certainly didn’t.
Based off Marvel’s mega crossover disappointment (yes, I said disappointment. It was all build up that fell flat on its face), Civil War, from a decade ago, Captain America: Civil War is more of a sequel to The Winter Soldier than anything else, and that’s a good thing.
The Russo Brothers understand what is needed in the modern comic book movie: Layers. The Winter Soldier was a grounded, political thriller with superheroes in there. Civil War was a story of clashing ideologies, real world implications, friendship, loyalty, betrayal and the question of ‘what is right?’, with superheroes in there. The Russos don’t use superheroes as gimmicks, they use them as people. And that is where Civil War came in, hitting all the right chords.
Sure, there is marvelous action (some of the best ever seen, in fact), amazing character introductions and all, but there is depth to this movie. Plenty of it. That’s what makes it memorable. The last fight between Tony Stark and Steve Rogers would have been bland without a film carrying as much weight as this did building up to it. You leave this movie feeling as though you have just watched real people have a conflict and be torn apart.
What sets this movie apart is its purpose. You understand everyone’s purpose. Juggling this many characters can be difficult but its done so well that it’s seamless. You’re witnessing this divide and you are conflicted within yourself, as the movie presents the moral rights and wrongs of both sides to a point where you just don’t know what to think.
This was more than just a comic book movie.
#2: The Lobster
We’re back in independent film territory. I had a hard time choosing between 1 and 2, but I decided to put personal preference first. That being said, this is probably the better made film of the two.
Also, this was released in some places last year and some places this year, but I’ll count it as a 2016 film.
The Lobster is quite possibly the strangest film you will ever watch in your entire life. There is no other way to put it.
This is a sci-fi movie, strictly speaking. The story of The Lobster begins with Colin Farrell’s character checking into a hotel (after his wife has left him), in which if you do not find a partner within 45 days, you will be turned into an animal of your choosing because you are deemed unfit to be a human being if you cannot find someone for yourself.
That’s all I’ll say.
The Lobster is a cold movie. When I say cold, it feels cold, and that’s because it’s a cry at modern love and acceptance. The idea that you are seen as below others if you don’t have a partner is played with, and it’s done in a truly terrifying way. The irony is that in this film, in a way, you are scared of the idea of love. That is so brilliant.
All the performances in this movie are robotic, and that’s not a critique. It really sold the idea that this is a world that is unforgiving and people have just come to accept that. The music in this movie makes it more of a piece of art, edited in a way that allows it to blend in and adds a layer to the movie.
I really don’t know how to express this film in words that do it justice, but it is so impactful that if it was a mainstream film that was at the scale of, say, Captain America: Civil War, it likely would have left a mark on the world.
And now, I present to you my number one movie of 2016…
#1: Suicide Squad
Nah, I’m just kidding. This was a terrible movie.
To be real:
#1: Sing Street
Call me biased to the Irish, I don’t care.
Sing Street is what I’ll remember 2016 for, at least cinematically. This was John Carney’s third film about music, the first being Once and the second being Begin Again, and they’ve only been progressively getting better with each one.
Sing Street is set in 1985 Dublin, and is the story of a secondary school boy starting a band to impress a girl. It’s that simple.
I love Sing Street because Sing Street loves itself. It’s a movie about music and it uses music to its advantage. Most original tracks are composed by John Carney himself and he’s got real talent. The music is made a by-product of the story and every song that is in this film furthers the story and is there for real reason (unlike Suicide Squad). And it’s great music too! I still listen to it.
Along the film you journey with this teenager as he learns how to be a successful musician and goes through the ups and downs of doing everything for this girl he likes. It’s such an innocent, yet beautiful, tale of growing up, standing out, chasing your dreams, blindly doing stupid (not necessarily bad) things for love, and discovering yourself.
A lot of people love this film but I don’t think quite as much as I do. It’s a film that gives aspiring artists inspiration and expresses that you need to get things done for yourself to make it big and achieve what you want to achieve, no matter what it is. I love that.
So that’s it for 2016. Not the best of year for films, but there were some that deserve to be recognized years and years from now.
What will 2017 hold? There are some really big titles on the slate. Let’s just hope they live up to expectations.
Thank you for reading my posts throughout this whole year. I wouldn’t be writing if it wasn’t for my audience, regardless of how small. See you next year.