200,000 Flickcharters Worldwide Rank Movies 18 Million Times to Find The 20 Best-Loved Films of 2016
18,635,787 times. All throughout the year, people around the world have clicked and tapped between two movies over 18 million times to determine the greatest films of the year, and of all-time. That’s over 50,000 movie rankings a day from over 200,000 Flickcharters around the world. The results are a mix of critical darlings, cineplex blockbusters, and a few surprises!
Remember – this is NOT just the bloggers’ picks – this is the result of your rankings, our rankings, and each and every Flickcharter’s rankings all over the world aggregated together to form the combined chart of the highest ranked, most-loved, and best movies of 2016.
Out of 992 total movies released in 2016, as of today, here are your current picks for the Top 20 of 2016…
20. Hail, Caesar!
The Coens’ newest outing is their most divisive since Burn After Reading. Hail, Caesar! A Tale of the Christ is 1951’s prestige picture for Capitol Pictures in the world of Hail, Caesar!, and its star, Baird Whitlock (George Clooney) has been kidnapped in the final days of production. It’s up to real-world Hollywood fixer Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin) to recover Baird and manage the day-to-day operations of Capitol’s different Hollywood soundstages. Of course, Hail, Caesar! wouldn’t be a period-appropriate Coen film without a nod to noir, so Mannix is secretly conflicted about the work he does for his client.
Most viewers seem to agree that it’s on the soundstages where the real magic of Hail, Caesar! happens. It’s there that spurs-and-saddles actor Hobie Doyle (future Han Solo Alden Ehrenreich) must suit up for the English chamber-drama Merrily, We Dance. And it’s there that Burt Gurney (Channing Tatum) must tap dance through one of the greatest sailor musical numbers of all time, “No Dames.” These sequences, among others, are done with such genuine love for these second-tier Hollywood films of the era that they inspire affection in return. I’ve heard multiple people comment that they wish the Coens had just made one of those movies instead, because they’re so charming and so darned funny.
Yet the framing narrative of Hail, Caesar! is just as inventive and valuable. For one thing, it’s very funny. A scene where Mannix convenes various religious authority figures to discuss the depiction of God in Hail, Caesar! A Tale of the Christ is one of the funniest and truest-to-life scenes the Coens have ever written, and a red carpet premiere date between Hobie and Carlotta Valdez (Veronica Osorio) makes me smile wide. Beyond the laughs, the Coens’ handling of Mannix and his secret doubts, the kidnappers, and Capitol Pictures itself works as an incredible criticism of capitalism, American exceptionalism, communist rhetoric, and show business. It’s brilliant, self-reflective stuff, and the standard of excellence I’ve come to love from the Coens. I’m sure it’s not a surprise that it’s also my favorite film of the year. – Alex Lovendahl
19. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
While the idea of a new addition to the Harry Potter universe was met with what could best be called ecstatic skepticism, the resulting film finds its own footing and sense of self under that weight of expectation. Anchored by a quietly charming, deceptively sweet performance by Eddie Redmayne and driven forward by Katherine Waterston’s commanding performance as his hyper-focused guide to American magic, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them smartly doesn’t try to tap into the same childhood wonder as its predecessors. Instead, it opts to engage with adult frustrations that never lose track of what makes Rowling’s world feel so warm, familiar, and wondrous. As a consequence, the movie feels very much of a piece with the Potter universe while opening it up to new perspectives, possibilities, and suggestions, with a select few sequences even reaching the same giddy heights that made the Wizarding World so beloved in the first place — the bedroom suitcase sequence captures the whimsy of discovery as well as Harry’s first trip to Diagon Alley, and the blue dragon-bird-lizard-thing scene attains a visual beauty that might not have parallel in the first 8 films). Bonus points go to Dan Fogler (who gets a double bonus for Comeback Role of the Year) for injecting much-needed looseness, heart and old-timey NY spunk, and to Ezra Miller for nearly saving an ultimately unsatisfying plotline that also happens to feature Colin Farrell. – Austin Wellens
18. Swiss Army Man
In a year in which so much was sequelized, prequelized and safely market-tested, Swiss Army Man was a blast of weird air. No descriptor better befits a movie about a suicidal man and his farting corpse best friend than “weird,” but how about “profound,” “moving,” “life-affirming” and just plain “joyous”? Paul Dano (the man) and Daniel Radcliffe (the corpse) are not only the year’s unlikeliest duo but also its funniest and sweetest. The corpse teaches the man to value his own existence, his body providing unexpected and essential deserted island survival techniques, while the man teaches the corpse about the world as the corpse takes on the persona of a wide-eyed infant. The mad geniuses behind this movie — Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, Dano who continues to go outside the box, and Radcliffe who continues to move away from Harry Potter — have given us an exquisite gift in the spirit of Michel Gondry. It was a dose of the heartfelt and unconventional at a time when we desperately needed it. – Derek Armstrong
17. Hunt for the Wilderpeople
Every few years we need to be reminded that Sam Neill is nothing less than a kiwi Clint Eastwood with a sense of comic timing. He can play dark, silly, regal, cunning, or, as he does here, grizzled as a prickly pear with the goldest of hearts. Hunt for the Wilderpeople is kind of a latter-day The Outlaw Josey Wales for young adults, except instead of the Union Redlegs we’re fleeing, it’s the entirety of Western institutions. The amazingly relaxed Julian Dennison plays a young teenage foster child who has been sent to Sam Neill’s farm as a way of spitting him out the end of the child welfare system. When the foster mother dies, Sam and the boy take to the proverbial “bush” as a mutual expression of how the non-bush world has failed them emotionally and spiritually.
There is the inevitable softening of a once-contentious pseudo-father-son relationship, but in typically non-American fashion this is done with a minimum of narm and only the most economical, plot-driven use of montage. The success of Wilderpeople shows that we still respond to simple, archetypal stories even when they are stripped of the painfully-tired visual and character cliches that, until now, seemed part-and-parcel. Director Taika Waititi has brought funny, fresh eyes to the problem of telling old stories, and that alone should herald great things for his treatment of next year’s Thor: Ragnarok. – Doug Van Hollen
Disney’s latest release tells the story of Moana (voiced by newcomer Auli’i Cravalho), a young woman who reluctantly accepts a role leading her community despite dreams of traveling “beyond the reef,” and who ultimately goes on an epic journey to find the demi-god Maui (a delightfully enthusiastic Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) to force him to restore the heart of the ocean. If that sounds like a very “Hero’s Journey” framework, consider that a) it’s a retelling of a Polynesian heroic myth, and b) this narrative familiarity creates space for Moana to create one of the most giving, open, and honest films of the year. Moana doesn’t just come to terms with her place on the island, she thrives. We see her run the island at least as well as her father, we see his pride in her success, and we see her deep-rooted sense of community, the real love she feels for everyone around her and the care she takes in providing for them without ever losing track of just how much she’d love to get away. Her dad isn’t an imperious “No-you-cannot-have-your-dreams” figure, and Moana doesn’t mope. Everyone is doing their best according to their best intentions — even, as we eventually learn, Maui. The story arc might be familiar, but it’s rarely told with this much compassion, thought, and humor. (Thankfully, no crotchety islanders say, “But she’s a giiiiiirl.” Moana’s leadership is never questioned.)
15. Star Trek Beyond
There are two types of stories that Star Trek does better than other brands of science fiction: allegories of current social issues and commentaries on the nature of humanity. The fact that Star Trek Beyond‘s story falls into the latter category already gives it a step up on its predecessors in the “Abrams-verse,” but the clever script from Simon Pegg and Doug Jung goes even further. Every character beat in the film is played perfectly, bringing Chris Pine and his crew more in line with the characters that were first embodied by William Shatner, et al., 50 years ago. Beyond remains firmly rooted in the franchise’s past — both its own and the “Prime” timeline of the original TV and film series — and moves forward by bringing the action away from Earth for the first time in this trilogy. It’s all wrapped in a colorful, fun, and exciting package by director Justin Lin, who proves that he can deliver jaw-dropping spectacle without losing focus on his characters. Trekkies can be a hard lot to please, but this particular Trekkie believes that we could not have asked for a bigger, better event for the franchise’s 50th anniversary.
And may I just say, never before has a Beastie Boys song been so perfectly used in a science fiction film. – Nigel Druitt
14. The Jungle Book
Essentially the only human on screen for 105 minutes, Neel Sethi‘s Mowgli should be the lasting takeaway from The Jungle Book. As CGI goes, the creatures here are mostly believable, especially Lupita Nyong’o‘s mama wolf Raksha, Bill Murray‘s blithe bear Baloo, and Ben Kingsley‘s paternal panther Bagheera. Scarlett Johansson‘s giant snake Kaa and Christopher Walken‘s unsettling take on King Louie are weaker, but good and bad alike, the creatures of Jon Favreau‘s Jungle Book (the fourth major adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s classic) revolve tightly around Sethi’s determined and defiant human center. That real (or real-ish) human dimension is all the more essential since even the movie’s lush jungle setting is a product of zeroes and ones. It’s hard to complain; the digital scenery is spectacular, from the waterfall to the watering hole to the dense, flammable canopy. Yet any potential sequels, and Andy Serkis‘s unrelated (but probably very similar) motion-capture adaptation scheduled for 2018, will need to find their own compelling Mowglis to give meaning, growth, and emotionality to their computerized Aesopian creations. – David Conrad
13. Sing Street
John Carney’s films have always found a way to bridge love, sentimentality, and music with varying degrees of success. His previous film, Begin Again, bordered on cloying, while his breakthrough Once captured the intersection of music and budding romance. With Sing Street, though, Carney melds these elements into his finest and seemingly most personal film yet. Carney captures the feeling of first love, and the dedication to doing whatever it takes for love, and utilizes his original score better than ever before. Through our main character Conor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) and his band Sing Street, we see the way 80s culture, music, and styles influence worldviews. Underneath the surface story about love and the desire for love, Sing Street shows how the entertainment we consume creates the people we become. Carney doesn’t just create a “boy meets girl” story, he creates a story about the media we fall in love with as youths that can transcend into lifelong cultural building blocks. – Ross Bonaime
12. Kubo and the Two Strings
Laika Entertainment has become a force in Western animation. Their art style grows out of the studio’s dedication to tinkering through mixed-media stop motion. Each scene is a combination of clay, fabric, metalwork, papercraft, 3D printing, and even electrical engineering. Their new film leaves the civic settings of prior hits Coraline, ParaNorman, and The BoxTrolls to follow its titular character, Kubo, on a quest to claim his father’s mystic armor.
Kubo and the Two Strings left me awestruck for a few reasons. One was that its animation is so ambitious and remarkable that I genuinely wondered how on earth it was achieved. The film is a story of monsters and vistas and remains stunning throughout. Yet the film really claimed my heart with its incredibly powerful telling of Kubo’s life before the quest. Kubo is a storyteller, using a magic sort of origami to win people’s hearts during the day before returning home each night to care for and be cared for by his mother. This opening sequence, which lasts about half an hour, tells a story that is powerful in its domesticity and that resembles many of the older Japanese tales that inspired it. Quality presentation throughout Kubo and the Two Strings kept me from blinking. – Alex
11. Finding Dory
A new Pixar movie is always cause for anticipation, even when it’s a sequel. Yet the lead-up to Finding Dory brought with it a special kind of nervousness, at least for me. Cars 2 had taken a secondary, comic-relief character from its predecessor and put him in the lead, and this had resulted in one of the studio’s weakest efforts, an obvious cash-grab that works well enough as a James Bond spoof but pales in comparison to some of Pixar’s past masterpieces. Now the studio was trying it again, but with the lovably memory-challenged Dory from my favorite animated film of all time, Finding Nemo. I, therefore, approached Finding Dory with apprehension and lowered expectations. For the first ten minutes, I worried that Pixar had created nothing but a rehash of Nemo.
I was, delightedly, wrong. Finding Dory forges its own path, paralleling the first film while exploring its themes of family and loss from the opposite side: the wayward child trying to find her way home. Released as it was during the year of my first child’s birth, Finding Nemo resonates with me as a parent more than almost any other film. Under returning director Andrew Stanton’s expert handling, Finding Dory is an excellent companion piece that couples typically stunning Pixar animation with new characters to love, referencing, complimenting and perhaps even exceeding Nemo in glorious ways. – Nigel
10. La La Land
La La Land is an update, more than a callback, to the Technicolor-era Hollywood movie musical. Only a couple of numbers – primarily the last one, with its Art Nouveau Parisian backdrops and choreography that summarizes the film through dreamy abstraction – really commit to the old Gene Kelly playbook. The rest of the film is a self-consciously modern tale of romance and ambition set amid the nostalgic world of a movie studio lot and anachronistic jazz clubs. Emma Stone‘s character works on the Warner Brothers lot as a barista, a job popularly associated with Millennials who write screenplays between brews. She wears cool-yet-retro sundresses and wants to be an actress. Ryan Gosling is a brooding, unrecognized artist whose rudeness, in director/screenwriter Damien Chazelle‘s hands, comes off as mysterious and alluring. His concerns about authenticity versus popularity in the world of jazz have a sounding-board in the person of John Legend, not quite a comic Donald O’Connor analog, but a strong third wheel nevertheless. These characters answer their phones, play modern tunes, and get stuck in traffic on the L.A. freeway in recurring signs of the times, but the biggest update to the Donen/Minnelli musical movie formula is a spoiler: the way Stone and Gosling’s relationship turns out. The movie finds a memorable culmination to their arcs that feels true to both characters even as it divides audiences. – David
9. Hell or High Water
Hell or High Water is not a typical western. For one thing, it’s set in Texas and looks like it; most classic westerns opted for the most dramatic landscapes of the mountain west, even when they claimed to take place in the Lone Star State. For another, it’s set in the present day. Nevertheless, the movie is best enjoyed as a modern western, in the spirit of Bad Day at Black Rock. The central characters of Hell or High Water are the bank-robbing Howard brothers (Chris Pine and Ben Foster) and the sheriffs on their tail (Jeff Bridges and Gil Birmingham.) Our robbers are not quite villains, and our sheriffs are not quite picturesque models of morality. Pine’s Toby Howard is a classic blue-eyed thief, robbing to pay alimony and buy out the mortgage on the ranch for his kids. Meanwhile, his brother Tanner is the best kind of loyal ex-con.
What makes this movie distinctly a western, rather than simply a crime movie, is how much detail goes into defining the environments that are home to these outlaws and sheriffs. The Nick Cave score contributes to the desolate dryness of the earth surrounding these small towns. Graffiti outlining the abandonment sensed by three-tour veterans of the Iraq War hangs on the wall across from the bank, specifically targeted because it isn’t lucrative enough to afford cameras. This is the movie in which I see Rust Belt America as a new Old West, and when a “Don’t Tread On Me” flag appears midway through the film, it just makes sense, and demonstrates the movie’s comfort with its characters. – Alex
8. 10 Cloverfield Lane
Of all the ways we thought the Cloverfield franchise might start to bloom, this, for better or worse, was not it. An astonishingly patient, taut, claustrophobic thriller, it plays with your plot and character assumptions as much as it does with your franchise expectations. The film’s origins as a non-Cloverfield film show in every seam, but unless you came specifically to get more answers about the Cloverfield universe (like I did), you’ll find yourself forgetting that there even is a universe outside of that bunker. The rigorous, suffocating world building is due almost entirely to the tectonically powerful chemistry between the three leads, John Goodman, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, and John Gallagher, Jr., who, despite playing clear genre archetypes, each find astonishing new layers and make them transparent to the camera. The film’s (somewhat maligned) ending succeeds in doing what is quickly becoming J.J. Abrams’s trademark: inspiring adrenaline-fueled puzzlement, so YMMV depending on whether that’s your jam. In fact, the whole film takes pleasure in making it hard to relax or catch your breath, the result being a strung-out full-body terror-numb that we didn’t know it was possible to enjoy, until now. – Doug
A cursory internet search for Zootopia quickly reveals that Zootopia caught a lot of attention for its allegory regarding xenophobia and race relations. Its story invokes concerns about predator vs. prey species relations, police profiling, and media exacerbation of social issues. I happen to think it’s quite great at that, especially for a kids’ film, and doesn’t stop shy of using real-world language that we need to understand is unacceptable.
That’s not enough to make Zootopia my favorite modern Disney film. Rather, it’s the fact that the movie works as a great detective caper, a whodunit with genuine stakes, strong characters, and real comedy. I think about Officer Judy Hopps and Nick Wilde often, mostly because they’re a fun duo with a good rapport. The animation is expressive and the virtual cinematography is dynamic, with striking zooms and a strong sense of motion throughout. Some probably worry that the story goes over kids’ heads, but, you know what? When I saw Zootopia in the theater for the second time, the kids got up and couldn’t stop dancing and smiling at the movie’s closing dance party, and their joy was infectious. A great film for all ages. – Alex
6. The Nice Guys
There may not be a movie this year more open to becoming a franchise than The Nice Guys. Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe) is the alcoholic muscle hired to keep anyone looking for a missing girl away, including private eye Holland March (Ryan Gosling). When they end up working together to find the missing girl and uncover the secret behind the death of a porn star, they make a good team, and March’s pre-teen daughter, Holly (Angourie Rice), keeps sneaking along like Trixie in “Speed Racer” until finally joining them.
The biggest difference between The Nice Guys and a lot of buddy cop movies is that The Nice Guys is more comfortable with being explicit. The entire mystery hinges on subversive messaging sneaking into sexually explicit films. The team goes to a porn mansion party, cussing, fighting, and trying not to do those things around the young girl. The slick execution of The Nice Guys, though, is even more notable than its upgrades to an old formula. Crowe and Gosling have fantastic chemistry, and Shane Black’s direction and writing make this a tight comedy vehicle. The Nice Guys is darned fun, and I’d watch these guys take on the L.A. crime scene for years to come. – Alex
5. Doctor Strange
Doctor Strange has no right to be as good as it is. It’s a miracle that the Marvel Cinematic Universe is 14 films in and still managing to produce quality film after quality film. Complaints have begun to arise that the MCU cookie-cutter formula has become stale and lacks creative vision. There is some merit to that argument. Yet the fact that you can take a director like Scott Derrickson and couple him with great actors and produce an entertaining, magical film is a testament to the MCU’s stability. Doctor Strange extends the MCU into the world of magic after mostly limiting itself to advanced technology and biological enhancements as the source of power for its heroes and villains (Thor excepted). This provides an electric combination of elements that allows Derrickson to experiment with inventive, psychedelic visuals.
Some consider Doctor Strange too much a knockoff of Inception (or filmmakers like Buñuel, if you take it to its root), but Derrickson still manages to put his own spin and showcase how magic is different in this world. Despite following a somewhat predictable storytelling arc for a superhero origin tale, Benedict Cumberbatch proves a capable and charismatic lead and is complemented by the talented Tilda Swinton and Chiwetel Ejiofor. Like many MCU films, Doctor Strange suffers from a fairly weak villain in the form Mads Mikkelsen’s dark wizard, but the film smartly doesn’t seem as focused on taking down on a bad guy as on exploring what it means to be a hero. It also touches on the theme of time in several creative ways, culminating in a subversive ending that is actually clever and doesn’t involve a bunch of meaningless CGI battles. If anything, Doctor Strange proves that the MCU has plenty of gas left in the tank and plenty of creative directions to go in, despite the reuse of many elements. – Connor Adamson
4. Rogue One
Rogue One is a new kind of Star Wars movie. It is a war film (with a darker, bleaker tone than previous Star Wars films) which follows a thrilling mission set in the context of a larger conflict (in the vein of Saving Private Ryan or Black Hawk Down). While most war films draw upon the rich backstory of military history here on Earth, Rogue One constructs its narrative within the Star Wars saga. As a lifelong fan of the original trilogy whose excitement for new Star Wars films was severely dampened with the release of the prequel trilogy almost twenty years ago, then re-kindled with new hope by The Force Awakens in 2015, I knew that Rogue One‘s success was not a sure thing. What all previous Star Wars films, good and bad, have in common is that each is an episode in the larger story radiating backward and forwards from the initial movie in 1977. Rogue One fits inside that arc as well but manages to successfully tell its own self-contained tale. We go into Rogue One knowing how it must end (because we know how Star Wars starts) but that doesn’t lessen the drama of what transpires for those involved in the story. There are a few familiar faces peppered throughout, but the main focus is on a new cast of characters (with a more diverse flavor than previous films) who find themselves fighting for survival and meaning amidst the galactic struggle between the Empire and the Rebellion. Rogue One has some impressive visuals, and the look of the film is a perfect balance between the “lived-in” realism of the original trilogy and the fantastical CGI of a modern blockbuster. The score doesn’t break much new ground, but it is a solid reworking of the original themes composed by John Williams. A new Star Wars movie is a big deal, and since Disney took over the franchise, their plans to churn out one new film per year were met with some trepidation by many fans. I’m pleased to report that, at least so far (based on The Force Awakens and Rogue One), they are taking Star Wars in interesting and exciting new directions. – Ben Shoemaker
There’s a lot to like about Arrival: typically atmospheric direction from Denis Villeneuve; striking visuals coupled with a fresh take on alien invasion films; a strong, Oscar-worthy lead performance from Amy Adams; a poignant take on love, loss, and life.
What really stood out to this sci-fi fan, however, was the film’s fascinating take on communication, and a human attempt to decipher an alien language that could not seem more impenetrable. In typical genre fashion, the aliens arrive, we don’t know why they’re here, the government wants to wipe them out, but not only do the aliens want to talk to us, they’re doing so in a fashion that is not so easily bypassed by some Star Trek-style miraculous translator mechanism. We actually get to see Adams’ and Jeremy Renner’s characters puzzle out a dialogue using the aliens’ unique written language. That’s a great touch that grounds the film in something close to reality. This, in turn, amplifies the audience’s connection to the film’s emotional core, making it resonate as one of the best and most touching films of the year. – Nigel
1. Captain America: Civil War
The fourth highest-grossing superhero movie ever made and the top grossing film of 2016, the third installment in Captain America’s sub-franchise joins together the (increasingly uncompelling) plot lines of his two previous films with the Avengers’ (increasingly water-thin) threads to make an exponentially more emotional and satisfying film than we’ve gotten from mainstream Hollywood for a while. What especially deserves applause is that the new heights achieved by Captain America: Civil War are not simply due to bigger threats, higher stakes, and CGI-er explosions. Instead of simply turning the same ol’ dials farther, Civil War uses the combinatorial powers of characterization and intercultural/political struggles to deepen the meaning of each violent act on the screen. A remarkable balance is struck between the emotional complexity of the conflicts between the characters and logistical simplicity of where battle lines are drawn. And despite an increasingly long roster of well-cast, well-crafted heroes, not a single mask, cape, or web is wasted, nor underused. Contrary to the Guardian’s assessment of this film as an unnutritious “aspartame rush,” Civil War represents a new standard in protein-completeness for action films of all kinds, one that I pray to Vision they can maintain. – Doug
So – what do you think of how the year ended up? Were there any of your favorites missing? Do you think this is all wrong and needs to be completely rearranged? Rank all the 2016 movies! Make your voice heard and change it! Don’t forget that you can also further filter the chart to get the best of 2016 combined with your favorite actors, directors, genres, and franchises. You have the power to refine the charts and decide which films should represent the best cinema has to offer from 2016.
This post is only accurate up to the minute this post was published, so if you’re coming to this post after the fact and want to see how things have shaken up, you can always check the daily stats at http://www.flickchart.com/charts/2016.
Want to see where the rest of the year’s best films ended up? You can also check out:
- The Top 50 Movies of 2016
- The Top 100 Movies of 2016
- The Best Action Films of 2016
- The Best Comedy Films of 2016
- The Best Horror Films of 2016
- The Best Sci-Fi Films of 2016
- The Best Drama Films of 2016
- The Best Animated Films of 2016
The list above is created by the aggregate rankings of all of Flickchart’s users, which change on an almost daily basis as more movie rankings are made. Here, we have a few picks from our bloggers of 2016 films that don’t quite make the Top 20 (at least, not yet), but we still feel are worthy of recognition.
Hacksaw Ridge is another in a long line of films that portray the horrors of war. If the infamous first 20 minutes of Saving Private Ryan disturb you, then the last third of Hacksaw Ridge will wreck you, particularly given director Mel Gibson‘s flair for filming cinematic carnage.
Yeah, yeah, war is bad. That’s not why Hacksaw Ridge is special. This movie had me even before its lead character made it to the battlefront. As portrayed here, Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield) was a man of supreme conviction, not only on the battlefield, but in every aspect of his life. A man who knew what he wanted, what he believed, and what he should do, and he applied his principles to every facet of his being. And his God rewarded his courage and integrity with every prayer atop the Ridge. Whether you believe in such a higher power or not, Desmond’s strength of character could and should be an inspiration to us all. – Nigel
Every once in a while, there are films that transcend film to become pure beauty, a complete work of art. For recent examples of this, I’d cite The Tree of Life, Boyhood, and The Social Network: films that are borderline perfect, presenting a world, a story, or a unique point-of-view unlike we’ve ever seen in cinema. For 2016, that film was Moonlight.
It’s easy to see a film receive so much praise — in the way Moonlight has — and think there’s no way a film could deserve such accolades. But with only his second film, Barry Jenkins tells three stories from one person’s life and creates a fully fleshed out human, one that we can understand and sympathize with, in a way I rarely feel while watching a film. Jenkins, with cowriter Tarell McCraney, create a highly conflicted person that doesn’t know who he is, while surrounded by people who know himself better than he does. Moonlight certainly has moments of darkness, but yes, like moonlight, there’s a warmth and beauty that permeates throughout.
Jenkins injects enough kindness and compassion through the people that love Little/Black/Chiron to give the boy hope as he tries to come to conclusions about himself. Moonlight is a gorgeously shot, perfectly executed story about finding oneself in a world that can be so confusing and troubling. In a year like 2016, Moonlight is a film we needed: a story of hope when all seems lost. – Ross
Manchester By The Sea
December is the time of year when all the studios start throwing Oscar bait into theaters. You look at a trailer for Kenneth Lonergan’s Manchester by the Sea and it seems to stick to that Oscar-bait formula, full of dramatic moments and actors going to melodramatic extremes. While some of those elements are indeed present in the film, Manchester by the Sea breaks the mold by having no dramatic structure and simply being one of the most raw films to hit cinemas in. . . well, ever. This is a film that tosses away the pretenses of movie, for good and for bad. There are no dramatic character arcs, no great turns in the story, no theatrical revelations. We simply look into the lives of the characters, with an eye toward realism. As a result, sometimes scenes linger on for longer than traditional editing would call for. If that is a flaw, I still couldn’t help but admire what the film had gone for and how it embraces traditionally “flawed” storytelling to tell this story as it ought to be told.
This film is dominated by a fantastic performance from Casey Affleck that evokes a bitter and hurting relative or friend you may have. If you know that person, then Affleck’s character will feel like someone you understand intimately. He also has a great chemistry with Lucas Hedges who plays Lee Chandler’s teenaged nephew. Hedges is a natural actor who benefits form this type of material. I’ve not yet even mentioned Michelle Williams or Kyle Chandler, who both deliver great performances as well. Williams is in the film far less than you might think, but she is perfect when she does show up. Manchester by the Sea may not be quite the masterpiece some would declare, if only because it’s playing by different rules than most films; characters don’t really change at all, creating a very static experience for many. But what you get in exchange for that as an audience member is one of the most raw and visceral experiences you will have in a movie theater. It’s a film that will root you in your seat and refuse to allow you to turn away. For that alone, this film is one of the best of the year. – Connor
The Lobster might be the most specific film I’ve ever seen; specific in its affect, specific in its effect on you depending on exactly who and where you are in life when you see it, specific in its language and tone and outlook to a degree that would justify someone disliking or even hating it. But if you get it, then it gets you. It gets you with its ability to constantly pull up just short on jokes and let your momentum carry you over the laugh. It gets you with its sardonic, broad canvas commentary on social pressures both against and in favor of stable monogamous relationships, and all the baggage they carry. It gets you with its razor tipped exploration of loneliness, anxiety, fear, and all the things, beautiful and horrible, they lead us into. It hits you as a showcase of how extraordinarily talented writer/director Yorgo Lanthimos and performers Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, John C. Reilly, Ben Wishaw, Lea Sedoux and Olivia Colman are, and good golly are they ever. No film (except maybe Hail, Caesar!) this year made me laugh as often and as hard, and no film made me reassess myself more thoroughly. I’ve seen it twice at this point, but I’ve thought about it at least weekly since that first screening, and expect I’ll keep thinking about it as the months and years roll on. – Austin
Everybody Wants Some!!
Linklater has linked his new film to his previous successes Dazed and Confused (the first day of summer vs. the first weekend of college) and Boyhood (the story of a boy growing up to arrive at college.) But Everybody Wants Some!! is a remarkably different film. Those prior films have a quality of being a fly on the wall, observing something magical and watching it happen over time. To enjoy Everybody Wants Some!!, you need to get into the head of its protagonist and ride along the excitement of being the new guy in the baseball house, for all the hilarity, fun, and cringeworthy juvenilia involved. When Jake (Blake Jenner) arrives at Southeast Texas, he has a lot to learn, and he has to pick and choose what the right stuff to learn will be.
I think Everybody Wants Some!! is a remarkable look at that collegiate moment. Its ensemble cast occasionally behaves repugnantly, occasionally act like real people who don’t know why they’re acting so superior, and habitually drink too much and get too high. By getting into the head of the protagonist, it allows you to understand the way he will become like the still-juvenile upperclassmen. But, in the meantime, you get to enjoy Jake’s naive sweetness, his burgeoning relationship with the charming, smarter Beverly (Zoey Deutch) and some good outfits and dancing. – Alex
The Handmaiden is an almost X-rated smorgasbord of historical anguish, sexual subversiveness, and gory revenge. It’s also a sumptuous period piece with enough costumes and antique fixtures to make a PBS fan swoon. Doing so many different things so well, it’s no wonder it hasn’t quite found its audience. Yet over the months and years to come, Park Chan-wook‘s fresh, daring, unforgettable masterpiece will climb on Flickchart until it rivals the director’s legendary and oft-imitated Oldboy. Kim Tae-ri and Min-hee Kim give all-in performances that are not to be missed, conveying authenticity and individuality in every laugh and sneer and inch of skin, while Jung-woo Ha and Jin-Woong Jo play wicked heavies who grow more interesting with each sadistic twist. Addictive, sprawling, pretty, sordid, and historically conscious, The Handmaiden is my personal #1 of 2016. – David