Hey everyone. Now that my worst list of 2016 has been finished, I can end on a positive note. Just like with the worst list, this is my own opinion. You may be surprised to find some of these films on this list and you may be surprised at what is not on the list. If you didn't like these films, that's perfectly fine, but I really did and that is why they are here. Again, I did not see everything from 2016, but I saw most of what was out. Similar to what I did with the worst list, I will have five honorable mentions and then launch into my top ten favorites. Here goes:
Honorable Mentions (5-1):
I know I am going to get some flak for this. Not a lot of people enjoyed this film. I had a great time with it, though. It was funny without being over the top, had a good dose of heart, and it had nice nods to the original. I still enjoyed the original more, though. That is a high bar to top, but it did come close and I wish more people enjoyed it as I did.
4. The Jungle Book
I would say this is the best of the Disney live action remakes. It was visually stunning, but I appreciated how well the characters were explored. Also, the newcomer playing Mowgli, Neel Sethi, did a pretty good job.
This was a lot of fun. The journey Disney brought us a very entertaining story. The people from Disney that have worked on Wreck It Ralph, Frozen, Big Hero 6, etc. are on a roll, with two of their films having come out this year. I thought the way they accurately portrayed Hawaiian culture in the film was good to see. Not only that, but it had some catchy musical numbers. I can go either way with musicals. Sometimes the songs can come across as annoying and a bit out of place, but that was not the case here. Also, the animation was beautiful. The water looked as though you could reach out and touch it.
2. Kubo & the Two Strings
Laika animation tends to have strong films. This one, however, on both an animation and storytelling standpoint, was superior to all of them. The animation was extraordinary and the small aesthetic details that most did not pick up on such as the slow, calm movement of the river and the breeze that passes through grassy fields. In addition to the animation, the story was far more emotionally charged than one would expect and the mature themes of the film were refreshing to see in an animated film.
I know a lot of people put this film higher on their lists. I really wanted it to be in my top ten this year, but I saw ten that were better. This is a great film though. I would consider this an X-Men film even though it is technically a spinoff. While I still consider Days of Future Past my favorite X-Men film, Deadpool is a close second. It was very funny and it was always awesome to see the titular character break the fourth wall. It also took some notes from Guardians of the Galaxy and had a sweet soundtrack. It was also a great satire on superhero clichés. He referenced a bunch of the other previous superheroes as well as making hilarious X-Men references.
10. Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them
The fantasy film set in the world of Harry Potter but with new characters was quite enjoyable. I may be a bit biased because of my nostalgia for all things Harry Potter, but I was a bit worried prior to seeing it that it could suffer from prequelitis like the Star Wars prequels did. Thankfully, it did deliver. It explored all of the characters quite well, even the side characters. Dan Fogler did a good job as the side character, Jacob Kowalski. His story was quite interesting and I felt bad for him for most of the film. I was afraid he might become an annoying sidekick like Jar Jar Binks, but he was a likable sidekick that had a good balance between being useful and being the comic relief. It was also cool to see small references to Harry Potter like the house elves in the bar and the Deathly Hallows necklace. All in all, it was very fun and is a film you can watch and understand whether you are familiar with Harry Potter or not.
9. Hacksaw Ridge
Hacksaw Ridge was a surprisingly great war film. Normally, war films run the risk of being divisive; they can appear simultaneously as propaganda ploys that glorify war and films that depict how ugly war is. This film is exclusively the latter. The entire message of this film is one of love and how war is extremely frightening for everybody involved, whether they show it or not. The performances were great all around. Andrew Garfield’s portrayal of Desmond Doss was awesome. His desire to be a medic and his refusal to fight or even hold a weapon got him in trouble, but he never caved in to authority figures and stuck to his beliefs, which is a great message in a film of this nature especially. I was a bit nervous seeing Vince Vaughn in this film since he is mainly a comedic actor and I was previously unsure of his ability to shine in a dramatic role, but he pulled it off and it was the best performance I have seen from him. Mel Gibson’s direction of this film was great. I found this to be the best war film I have seen since Saving Private Ryan.
8. Manchester by the Sea
This film is filled with tragedy, but the film does have the ability to balance it with some humor. When the tragedy does strike, however, it strikes hard. The main character, Lee Chandler, played by Casey Affleck, is a troubled loner who is a bit of an asshole. As the film progresses, though, his cantankerous demeanor becomes understandable. He finds himself having to care for his teenage nephew after his father passes away, but as the film progresses, there are glimpses into his past that make us feel much worse for him. The nephew, Patrick, played by Lucas Hedges, appears an ordinary teenager, but that is what makes the film special. It was interesting to see the ordinary events he went through as a teenager. Stories like this bring the audience back to those times in our lives and makes it that much more relatable. The performances were great especially from the two aforementioned actors. It would not be surprising at all if either of them win at the Oscars. This is not a drawback on the film’s part, but it leaves its audience with a heavy heart by the end. When I came out of this film with a couple friends, we were in such somber spirits that we wanted to lighten our moods somehow, but the ice cream place across the street was closed.
This is a film based off a play of the same name. It primarily takes place in the same spot for the entire film, but the film is incredibly well directed. The film centers around a family in the 1950’s. The father, Troy Maxson (Denzel Washington), is attempting to raise his family to the best of the ability but his bitterness at not being allowed to play baseball in his youth eats at him. It is interesting to see the consequences of this. It was a white-knuckled and riveting film in its entire runtime of two and a third hours. The performances of all of the actors, especially as tragedy and family drama ensues is incredible. Denzel Washington has a decent shot at winning best actor, but Viola Davis is also extremely likely to win best supporting actor. She holds nothing back in her performance as his long-suffering wife. Now, I am wondering where that was in Suicide Squad.
6. Captain America: Civil War
This is obviously noticeably different from the last couple films, but this was almost my favorite superhero film of all time (The Avengers is still my favorite). I am a nerd, so I have seen all of the Marvel Cinematic Universe films (and pretty much every live action comic book film that came out since I was born). As I have kept up on them, I knew that the conflict between Captain America and Iron Man was building up. The political situation surrounding the Avengers introduced in this film was the straw that broke the camel’s back. It was extremely exciting to see that conflict come to a head, but taglines such as “Team Cap” and “Team Iron Man” previously encouraged its audience to pick a side. What is great about this film was that it made it extremely difficult to pick one side. There were some moments in the film where I felt bad for both of them. The previous story arcs of all of the characters were also built up even more in this film. It took me a while to decide whether or not I liked Civil War better than The Avengers, but I still gave The Avengers the edge, because the assembly of all of those characters for the first time is extremely difficult to top.
5. Finding Dory
While not quite as good as Finding Nemo, there is a lot to be gained from this film. It is unfortunate that this wasn’t considered for best animated feature. The animation was gorgeous and the story was very compelling. As Dory attempted to find her parents, there were moments in the film that made me feel bad for her. I might be biased because I have Autism, but I appreciated this film a lot, because I see it as commentary on what having a disability is like. Even though Autism and Short Term Memory Loss are two different disorders, I did relate to the emotional problems she faced in the film. It was also cool to see some throwbacks to Finding Nemo and it was a cute film.
Spots six through four on my list have gone to Disney films. I found Zootopia to be the best animated film of 2016 and I really hope it wins in the best animated feature category. It was the perfect film for kids and adults. It is far more mature than the trailers made it look. Before it came out, I thought it would still be good, because it was done by the same people from Disney that did Wreck It Ralph, Frozen, and Big Hero 6. I did, however, think it would mostly be about animals taking the place of humans and not much more. Disney went into very deep issues in this film and I applaud them for being brave enough to address contemporary issues such as prejudice, racism, etc. It is one of those films that kids will enjoy and adults can enjoy the aspects that kids might not be old enough to understand. Zootopia is also a film for parents to discuss with their kids, because the themes introduced might be too complex for them to comprehend. Still, this is a film that deserves to be remembered for years to come.
3. La La Land
Realistically speaking, this will probably win the best picture award with its record-tying 14 nominations for that category. Like I said with Moana, I can go either way with musicals. The musical numbers in this film felt like they were all appropriately utilized. The chemistry between Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling was strong. There weren’t any moments between them that felt forced. I appreciated that the message of this film can be interpreted many ways. In my case, I interpreted it as a film about how far passion can take you, which is a message more films should convey.
2. Hidden Figures
Just like it was with the worst of 2016 list, it was a tossup for me between what I was going to put in my second and first place slots. On the opposite end of my grading scale, if I give something an A+, that means there were no flaws, it cannot be topped, and it is now a new all-time favorite of mine. I gave two A+’s this year and this is one of them. This is a special film. Due to its time period, the segregation and racism issues simultaneously infuriate the audience and give them a reason to root for the underdogs. The story itself was quite interesting, because it is a story in which many aspects of the film evolve throughout. There was frustration with the math calculations for NASA as the math continued to change and it was interesting to see the racism and segregation situation gradually transform for the better throughout the film. Seeing the home lives of the central characters also enhanced the film and made the characters relatable as there was an appropriate balance exhibited between their home lives and work lives.
1. Ride Along 2
Ride Along 2 was a great sequel that everybody including myself wanted really badly. It was fun seeing Kevin Hart and Ice Cube get back together. It was hilarious and I am looking forward to a third installment with all of my heart.
Just kidding. In all fairness, though, I thought Ride Along 2 was decent. The banter between Kevin Hart and Ice Cube was funny as it was in the first one and there was promise, but it still had a lot of flaws and some sophomoric humor holding it back. Here is my real number one pick from this year.
While I gave both this and Hidden Figures an A+ and they are equally amazing, this is one that I was more in the mood to watch when I made this list. Arrival is not your typical alien invasion film. This film can be thought of as War of the Worlds meets Inception. It defies the clichés of recent alien invasion films and does so in an extremely profound way. This film throws a lot at you and there is no dull moment. There are many parts of this film that will confuse you if you tune out even for a second. It is very well thought out and there is fantastic cinematography.