Top 10 Movies of 2016

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The 2017 Academy Awards are finally upon us, and this year we can safely praise the industry for not imitating #OscarsSoWhite. The hashtag heard round the world last year explained the lack of diversity in Oscar nominations, but not this year.

The Academy has nominated four Best Picture movies about people of color (Fences, Hidden Figures, Lion and Moonlight), seven acting nods for performances of color as well as nominations in categories such as directing, screenplay and cinematography.

This year it really comes down to two movies. One focuses on black America and personal diversity while the other is about following your dreams. Moonlight and La La Land are undoubtedly the two movies to beat.

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While I’m fearful that the overrated La La Land will sweep the Oscars, Trevor Dueck argues that “two white tarts dancing and singing in Hollywood might have come out a year too late.” I’m not so sure about that though.

As the director of Moonlight Barry Jenkins explains, “They could not be more different films. I don’t think a love for one has to be to the rejection of the other. I can only speak to the film I made, which was made in the service of shining a light on a character who is often marginalized. Where that falls in the context of the awards season, I can’t say. But I love that regardless of where we are right now, a year and a half ago, we sat down to make this thing, and that’s exactly how I felt and it’s how I feel now.”

Everyone knows my stance on the undeserving Goliath that is La La Land (see here), but this feel-good musical has earned a whopping 14 nominations, a record only shared with All About Eve and Titanic. WTF, right? Even the LA Times asks who will survive the onslaught of La La Land? After sweeping the Golden Globes, it’s proven to be an unbeatable force.

But there were more great movies this year than those two. Many of those movies were ignored by the Academy entirely but were some of my favorites of the year.

Here are my top 10 personal favorite movies of 2016!

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Plot: “A national manhunt is ordered for a rebellious kid and his foster uncle who go missing in the wild New Zealand bush.”

DirectorTaika Waititi

Actors: Sam Neill, Julian Dennison

Bottom Line: This under-seen indie is both hilarious and heartwarming with the brilliant duo Sam Neill and Julian Dennison. Director Taika Waititi scores yet another hit on his resume with this one.

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Plot: “A hopeless man stranded on a deserted island befriends a dead body and together they go on a surreal journey to get home.”

Director: Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert

Actors: Paul Dano, Daniel Radcliffe

Bottom Line: This movie’s concept may seem strange, but if you give it a chance, you’ll thoroughly enjoy the experience. Radcliffe is certainly not Harry Potter anymore and gives one of the most exceptional performances of 2016.

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Plot: “A divorced father and his ex-con older brother resort to a desperate scheme in order to save their family’s ranch in West Texas.”

Director: David Mackenzie

Actors: Chris Pine, Ben Foster, Jeff Bridges

Bottom Line: This was a total slow-burner for me, but once the movie accelerated, it was an incredible ride to be on. Tremendous performances by the entire cast, especially by Ben Foster. Where’s his Oscar nod?

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Plot: “A family in 1630s New England is torn apart by the forces of witchcraft, black magic and possession.”

Director: Robert Eggers

Actors: Anya Taylor-Joy, Ralph Ineson, Kate Dickie

Bottom Line: Audiences either loved or hated this one, and I absolutely loved it. It has one of the best ensemble casts with an ending that will leave you questioning the entire movie. Shoutout to Black Phillip.

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Plot: “After he is diagnosed with ALS, former professional football player Steve Gleason begins making a video diary for his unborn son, as he, his wife, and their friends and family work to raise money for ALS patients as his disease progresses.”

Director: Clay Tweel

Actors: Steve Gleason, Michel Gleason, Scott Fujita

Bottom Line: I questioned whether or not to put a documentary on a top 10 movie list, but I couldn’t exclude this one. This isn’t a doc about football nor about living with ALS. Gleason is about being human and learning how to survive under extraordinary circumstances. This is necessary life viewing.

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Plot: “In the forests of the Pacific Northwest, a father devoted to raising his six kids with a rigorous physical and intellectual education is forced to leave his paradise and enter the world, challenging his idea of what it means to be a parent.”

Director: Matt Ross

Actors: Viggo Mortensen, George MacKay, Samantha Isler

Bottom Line: Viggo Mortensen tremendously leads this movie that delves into a territory I’d be most uncomfortable with – an existence void of the toxic influences of society. The horror! Right?

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Plot: “A punk rock band is forced to fight for survival after witnessing a murder at a neo-Nazi skinhead bar.”

Director: Jeremy Saulnier

Actors: Anton Yelchin, Imogen Poots, Sir Patrick Stewart

Bottom Line: There are some movies that make you question where you stand on Darwin’s survival of the fittest theory – Green Room is one of them, and I don’t think I’d survive. Sir Patrick Stewart (Darcy) 30 pages deep into reading the script, stopped reading to immediately set his home security alarms and open a bottle of scotch before finishing the script. This movie is brilliantly intense.

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Plot: “A five-year-old Indian boy gets lost on the streets of Calcutta, thousands of kilometers from home. He survives many challenges before being adopted by a couple in Australia; 25 years later, he sets out to find his lost family.”

Director: Garth Davis

Actors: Dev Patel, Nicole Kidman, Rooney Mara

Bottom Line: One of the more unbelievable and uplifting true stories I’ve seen on screen, Lion delivers a story on hope and family led by a tremendous cast. If we needed a feel-good movie in 2016, look to Lion to be that movie.

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Plot: “When twelve mysterious spacecraft appear around the world, linguistics professor Louise Banks is tasked with interpreting the language of the apparent alien visitors.”

Director: Denis Villeneuve

Actors: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker

Bottom Line: If E.T.’s landed on Earth tomorrow, what would you do? If you had the option to change the course of your life, would you do it? Arrival is the most cerebral experience of 2016, and the intimate nature of the film has everything to do with that.

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“Moonlight’s commercial and critical success was one of the cracks in the wall that allowed light to shine into this sometimes pitch-dark year.” via Slate

Plot: “A timeless story of human self-discovery and connection, Moonlight chronicles the life of a young black man from childhood to adulthood as he struggles to find his place in the world while growing up in a rough neighborhood of Miami.”

Director: Barry Jenkins

Actors: Mahershala Ali, Naomie Harris, Trevante Rhodes

Bottom Line: Barry Jenkins is the first black writer-director to be nominated for Best Picture, Director and Screenplay for Moonlight…how great is that? Being poor, black and struggling with sexual identity are things I know absolutely nothing about. What I can relate to in Moonlight is identity and how society can negatively affect personal development in crucial stages of life. It’s bold exploration of personal adversity is exactly what the world needs to see right now.

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There you have it – my personal top 10 favorite movies of 2016.
What movies made your list that didn’t make mine??

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46 thoughts on “Top 10 Movies of 2016

  1. Fantastic top 10 list, I love the diversity in it 🙂 I enjoyed many of the films you selected and a few will make my top 10 as well! I couldn’t make it through Green Room though, just didn’t like it somehow. I’ll be posting mine tmr!!

  2. the farting corpse come on! People especially colored and the rest they cant just sit back and do nothing! Yes we still diversity but it will happen when the stories black white yellow red happen. when people WORK for it it just isnt given to them

  3. I haven’t seen Gleason but I love every other film on your list! All were either on my own list or in honorable mentions.

    I wish Swiss Army Man would’ve gotten an original screenplay nod, but I can accept that it was probably too weird for the academy.

    I’d lol so hard if Moonlight won Best Picture. It deserves it.

  4. Awesome picks! I’m in the total minority for Hell or High Water. The pace at the end picked up, sure, but I didn’t think the script or performances were particularly unique or Oscar-hype worthy, except for a few scenes with The Dude. I’m squeezing in Moonlight at the last second before the Oscars and can’t wait!

    • I’ll be honest…I almost turned off Hell or High Water, because I was so bored. But, once it picked up, I was into it. Ahhh enjoy Moonlight! My boyfriend thought Moonlight was “just okay” … so there are definitely varying opinions out there!

  5. Great list! Nice to see genre films on here – some lists focus too much on art films at the exclusion of movies that are “crowd pleasers” – I have tried to like “LaLa Land” twice – but I just don’t like the trajectory of the story.

  6. Awesome list. It will unfortunately serve as more of a “need to see” list for me, but I have heard great things about all of these. Our differences on La La Land almost could not be more subjective. (e.g I think the songs are well crafted and catchy, you do not). I also have Manchester by the Sea in mine. But still, I enjoyed the list!

  7. It’s great to see both Green Room and The Witch here; both are fantastic movies and amongst my favorites of 2016. I still need to see Moonlight though, been wanting to watch that for a while…

  8. So glad to see Hell or High Water and The VVitch here those will definitely be in my top 10 of the year once I manage to make my list which is gonna take a long while…I’m just too preoccupied doing the important work of getting people to ask me for nudes of the most wonderful actor in the world. As for Arrival…no, no.

  9. Great list! Moonlight is just outside my Top Ten. It’s great. It just didn’t reach masterpiece level for me. My list is coming Monday or Tuesday, so I’ll hold revealing my fave of the year, but Hell or High Water and Arrival will be around somewhere. Green Room, Hunt for the Wilderpeople, and Swiss Army Man all ended up being movies that didn’t quite meet expectations for me, but all are solid. And I’ve yet to see Captain Fantastic, mostly because I got a goofy sort of vibe from the trailer and then read this. With Viggo getting so much love and so many praises, including yours, I will probably see it anyway now though. Definitely need to see Gleason.

    Great post!

  10. I like you shine a light on under-seen smaller films such as Wilderpeople. Taika Waititi is a talent. Glad to see Moonlight, Hell or High Water and Arrival made the cut. Those are also in my top 10.
    I’m with you La La Land is overrated, it just feels so…inconsequential for a Best Picture favorite.

  11. Interesting list, Courtney, with some that would definitely make mine. Swiss Army Man and Hell or High Water were superb. Arrival was also a solid piece and it’s great to see Captain Fantadtic feature so highly. That’s still my favourite film of the year, followed closely by I, Daniel Blake.

    I see you are another who appreciates Moonlight. I have to be honest here, I reckon Moonlight is as overhyped as La La Land. It didn’t work for me. Sorry! 😦

    • Moonlight didn’t work for my boyfriend either, who is also a cinephile. I don’t think there’s one movie that 100% blew me away and shook me to the core. I haven’t felt that way in years, but I don’t think I’d say Moonlight is AS overhyped as La La Land…a record breaking 14 nominations….no…

  12. No La La Land?? Haha jk…Great list! Moonlight and Arrival were my number 2 and 3 on my list. Also very happy to see Swiss Army Man on there. A very unique film that definitely deserves more praise.

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