BEST OF 2016
Top 10 Films of 2016

Well, they can’t all be winners. After two years filled with an embarrassment of riches, in which at least thirty or forty films could have contended for our top spot, most of 2016 offered up event movies and chamber dramas that landed with equal thuds. Even our superheroes, as evidenced by two movies of drastically differing quality, Batman vs. Superman and Captain America: Civil War, couldn't stop beating the shit out of each other. And we all fought about movies, specifically about the Ghostbusters reboot and Birth of a Nation, neither of which turned out to be worth the fuss.

So I think it’s amazing that this list, culled from votes from our writers and editors, lists none of those highly contentious films, and is topped by a movie that you’re probably not imagining as you read this. I, personally, have never been more surprised by a result in the five years that we’ve been doing these polls. Our number one film was released very early in the year, and had almost dropped off the radar, but it kept showing up in everybody’s list, never in the number one spot, but always there. In fact, the top four movies listed here all ended up tied, which led to a tie-breaker vote, and our eventual champion. Sometimes, in a year this shitty, you just need something fun, and no movie was more fun or surprising in 2016.

And here’s hoping, in so many ways, that 2017 has something better in store for us.

Matthew Guerruckey, Film Editor

THE DRUNK MONKEYS

TOP 10 FILMS OF 2016

10. CHRISTINE

Image © The Orchard/Curzon Artificial Eye

Image © The Orchard/Curzon Artificial Eye

Christine is a movie that hurts to watch, because it feels so topical. I could not help but find myself cringing at how much I identified with Christine Chubbuck, a news anchor who killed herself on-air in 1974. Lonely, ill, frustrated with her boss’s desire to ensure ratings by making the news “grittier”, an already “unapproachable” Christine further shuts down. In a toxic, misogynistic work environment with a need for increased sensationalism, it could be 1974 or 2016. There’s no difference. It is a beautifully shot and hauntingly grim movie; not without its humorous moments, but man. Heavy stuff. Heavy.

Kolleen Carney, Editor-in-chief

First place votes: Kolleen Carney

9. THE NICE GUYS

Image © Warner Bros.

Image © Warner Bros.

The Nice Guys isn’t the most original show in town. So what? In terms of summer 2016 movies, it has an excellent shot at being one of the best films of the season. I’m even willing to put Shane Diesel’s (Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang and Iron Man 3) intensely enjoyable 70’s crime drama throwback on the list of the best movies of 2016. Sure, it’s a little early, but this is the kind of intensely addictive, straightforward action film a lot of us have been waiting for. That is, if you sometimes feel a little burnt out on the superhero genre, which seems to be the only reliable game in town for those who crave blistering fight sequences, sharp visuals, and some sort of sense of humor.

Gabriel Ricard, staff writer

8. MOONLIGHT

Image © A24

Image © A24

Moonlight is a story of identity and sexual awakening split into a three-part narrative structure, which follows the same young man through different stages of his life. Had any of the sections been their own full-length movie, they would have qualified as the best film of 2016, so to have all of them function as a cohesive, transcendent, whole seems almost unfair. Mahershala Ali, also excellent this fall in the Netflix series Luke Cage, only appears in the first section of the film, but his cool mixture of honor and regret gives the movie its depth of soul.

Matthew Guerruckey, Film Editor

First place votes: Gabriel Ricard

7. THE WITCH

Image © A24/Universal

Image © A24/Universal

2016 was a down year for “big” horror films. Fortunately the smaller ones more than made up for this. The Witch is everything you want in a horror. Scares big and little, a creepy premise, phenomenal acting, and historically accurate 17th century Puritan speech.

First place votes: Taras D. Butrej

6. KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS

Image © Laika

Image © Laika

“If you must blink, do it now,” so begins one of the most extraordinary adventures in recent cinema, the stop-motion marvel Kubo and the Two Strings. The film speaks in the language of myth and dream, at once defying narrative structure and paying tribute to the subconscious origins of all stories. With the decline of Pixar more apparent with each movie, we turn to Laika Studios, who last gave us 2014’s bizarre, underrated Box Trolls, for work that matches innovative visuals with unpredictable narrative.

Matthew Guerruckey, Film Editor

5. MANCHESTER BY THE SEA

Image © Amazon

Image © Amazon

At the core of every narrative about depression is a question that few filmmakers dare to say aloud: what do you make out of a life that you wish was over? Kenneth Lonergan’s heartbreaking Manchester by the Sea doesn’t back away from that challenge, or from presenting the audience with a multi-faceted lead character (Casey “I’m the Talented One” Affleck, in his best performance yet). By the rules of traditional film narrative, the ending is a downer, but if your life has been touched with trauma or regret, you’ll appreciate it for the life-affirming miracle that it is.

Matthew Guerruckey, Film Editor

First place votes: Ryan Roach

4. HELL OR HIGH WATER

Image © CBS/Lionsgate

Image © CBS/Lionsgate

Hell or High Water shows an America not often seen in cinema, one that’s a corpse in a bed made of rotting dreams. For sale signs dot the terrain. Angry graffiti covers the walls. Polite talk masks very real rage. Poverty is tucked inside everyone’s wallets. The characters are funny, but tragedy hovers over the film, and the laughs come even as you suspect the story can only veer into sadness. The film is not just a political statement; it is a presentation of a harsh reality that demands change.

Donald McCarthy, staff writer

First place votes: Donald McCarthy

3. DEADPOOL

Image © 20th Century Fox

Image © 20th Century Fox

Ryan Reynolds’s unrelenting enthusiasm to play an assassin seeking revenge on the scientist who cured his cancer, but turned him into a monster, is infectious to the extreme. As long as the films themselves can keep up with him, we’re looking at a franchise that should be able to widen the range of superhero movies in the best way possible.

Gabriel Ricard, staff writer
 

2. ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY

Image © Lucasfilm/Disney

Image © Lucasfilm/Disney

Coming off the highly anticipated but somewhat formulaic The Force Awakens, Rogue One showed that Lucasfilm will not be afraid to try out new ideas and take some risks. Without spoiling the ending, Rogue One takes a route that very few blockbusters have previously taken, increasing the stakes for future movies.

Director Gareth Edwards, along with his cinematographer Greig Fraser, crafted some of the most beautiful images in the saga’s history. In particular, their work on the scenes on Scarif present visuals never before seen on Star Wars, rivaling the haunting beauty of Kamino and the vast landscapes of Tatooine. Edwards also delivered some fan service, managing to thread the needle by having it please both longtime fans and those who simply wanted a great story.

Showing that Star Wars can be anything it wants, Rogue One promises that many more Star Wars films will be appearing on year end lists as they continue to expand the boundaries of the fictional universe.

Donald McCarthy, staff writer

First place votes: Dani Neiley
 

1. 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE

Image © Paramount Pictures

Image © Paramount Pictures

In the “Cloverfield” film universe, 10 Cloverfield Lane is the “bottle episode”, a small set of characters bouncing off each other in a confined space. But like the best TV bottle episodes, Community’s “Competitive Calligraphy” or Breaking Bad’s “Fly”, the movie rises above its claustrophobic settings with sharp writing and exceptional acting. If you’re surprised that John Goodman is this good, then you haven’t been watching movies for the past thirty years, but John Gallagher Jr. and Mary Elizabeth Winstead rise to meet his intensity, with Winstead in particular giving the best performance of her career. I don’t know exactly where she’s going at the end of this movie, or what she’ll be facing, but I’d be more than happy to follow her into battle. In a year of underwhelming franchise detritus and self-important vanity projects, 10 Cloverfield Lane was a welcome shot of fun and excitement, and our pick for the best film of 2016.

Matthew Guerruckey, Film Editor

LISTS OF NOTE

Taras D. Butrej, Film Critic

  1. The Witch

  2. Demon

  3. Hush

  4. Zootopia

  5. The Nice Guys

  6. The Purge: Election Year

  7. Hell or High Water

  8. Midnight Special

  9. Deadpool

  10. 10 Cloverfield Lane

Gabriel Ricard, staff writer

  1. Moonlight

  2. Midnight Special

  3. La La Land

  4. Hell or High Water

  5. Green Room

  6. Kubo and the Two Strings

  7. The Nice Guys

  8. Everybody Wants Some

  9. 10 Cloverfield Lane

  10. Deadpool

Kolleen Carney, Editor-in-chief

  1. Christine

  2. The Little Prince

  3. Hush

  4. Deadpool

  5. Resurrection of Jake the Snake

  6. The Nice Guys

  7. Finding Dory

  8. Pee Wee's Big Holiday

  9. Pete's Dragon

  10. Clown