2016 is finally drawing to a close and with the end of every year comes all movie reviewers unveiling their lists for their 10 favorite movies of that year. In my opinion, 2016 has been the weakest year for movies in my time of reviewing films, but that doesn't mean that there still weren't some great movies that deserve to be talked about. This is my personal, subjective list for my 10 favorite movies to come out this year, and I can only hope that we're all mature about someone else's personal picks. All of that said, let's get on with the list.
10. The Nice Guys
Starting off this list is the surprise of the Summer, Shane Black's neo-noir mystery comedy. Not only is this movie carried by two great comedic performances from Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe, but it has a genuinely intriguing story, hilarious physical comedy from Gosling in particular, and a great supporting performance from young Angourie Rice. This movie as a whole is just a tightly written, well directed homage to the old comedies and mysteries of the past and you can see Shane Black's passion oozing out of every single shot. The sad thing is that not a lot of people saw this film, but it was one of the better movies to come out in the Summer and I really hope there's enough done to ensure a sequel.
9. 10 Cloverfield Lane
This is another movie that really surprised the hell out of me. Its entire production was kept under wraps for a long time, to the point where nobody even knew it existed until it's first trailer was released just two months before the movie even came out. This movie deserves points for that achievement alone, but it just so happens that this movie is also a tense, claustrophobic, and tightly directed thriller that keeps you guessing all the way through. John Goodman gives a performance that helps in keeping you on edge throughout the film, but Mary Elizabeth Winstead also deserves props for playing the confused audience surrogate, as does John Gallagher Jr. for playing a more comedic and sympathetic character. The ending of this movie is a subject of some debate, but the more I watch it the more I realize that it ties into what the movie had been hinting at in the build up, solidifying it as a genuinely great thriller for the year 2016.
This is a movie that I've seen fairly recently, so it's still very fresh in my mind, and it's only gotten better with each passing thought. I love when a movie takes its time to be an interesting character study and that's what "Moonlight" did very well. You're basically watching the struggles of one child as he tries to find his place in life and while it's a slow burn, that doesn't automatically make it boring. It's actually quite interesting to watch the three segments of this film and how they all interconnect to tell Chiron's story. Like I said in my review, this movie is very much relevant in today's divisive climate and I think any decent person can watch this movie, sympathize with Chiron, and actually learn a thing or two about the struggles of minorities in this world. Mix that in with terrific performances from every single actor and you have a film that's worthy of all of the awards buzz it's receiving.
That's right, after talking about the touching, emotional film in "Moonlight", I'm gonna talk about the R-rated, raunchy comic book movie that is "Deadpool". For years this movie was trying to be made and Ryan Reynolds and crew were trying to make up for the mistake that came out "X-Men Origins: Wolverine". Reynolds' enthusiasm for this movie showed in his outstanding comedic performance, but director Tim Miller also showed his passion for the source material by sticking true to the character of Deadpool with all of the dirty jokes, fourth wall breaks, and meta humor that the character is associated with. In terms of making an adaptation that sticks to the spirit of the comics, this movie could not have done its job better.
6. Hacksaw Ridge
There's no denying that Mel Gibson isn't the best role model for a younger generation. He's done and said some things in the past that I won't defend, but in separating the art from the artist, "Hacksaw Ridge" deserves to be applauded as a great war drama. Andrew Garfield gives one of the year's best performances as Desmond Doss, the World War II medic who served his country not by taking lives, but saving them. This is an emotional and inspiring film that also doesn't shy away from the ugliness of war, but it also uses war as a way to show the perseverance of the human spirit, doing what you can to be the moral compass in such a nasty, unnecessary conflict. 2016 was a year that needed some optimism and this movie delivered exactly that with its depiction of a true hero.
5. Captain America: Civil War
This is is thirteenth installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and it's right up there with some of the best movies in this franchise. The MCU has been building up to some type of conflict within the Avengers and that's what we got in this movie that depicts a compelling argument from both Steve Rogers and Tony Stark's side of things. It's a very interesting and engaging story of conflict and betrayal, but it also stays true to being a continuation of "The Winter Soldier" story and it never feels unfocused or convoluted. All of the right elements were in play to keep this movie entertaining from beginning to end, and it all culminated in two great fight sequences. The airport fight scene which has already gone down as the single greatest action scene in comic book movie history, and the final fight scene that's emotional as well as necessary for setting up the future of the Avengers. Also a plus is that we got our first look at a new Spider-Man as well as Black Panther. Those two additions only added to what was already a great installment in the MCU.
Next on the list is one of the smartest science-fiction films that I've ever seen. Again, we have a movie that is slow-paced, but it actually adds to the experience as a whole. Director Denis Villeneuve crafts a true think-piece of a movie that explores the meaning of language and how it has such a huge impact on humanity, while also taking what could be a basic alien invasion movie and turning it on its head by making a slow, yet engaging story with zero predictability to any of it. It's not so often we see films where the director actually trusts its audience by not spelling out every little detail, but "Arrival" is one of those films and by the end once everything has been revealed and you're given time to think about what you've just seen, the movie just gets better and better. This is yet another notch in the belt of Villeneuve's impressive film-making career.
This was a great year for Disney, as well as animation films in general, and "Moana" ended up being my favorite animated movie of the year. Disney movies have mostly succeeded in being mature, well constructed movies for people of any age, and "Moana" continues that streak by creating a truly beautiful depiction of the Polynesian tribe as well as having great voice actors in Dwayne Johnson and newcomer Auli'i Cravalho, a heartfelt story that'll connect with any person of any age, amazing animation, and plenty of memorable songs that I guarantee will stick with you long after you've seen the movie. I got more emotion and pleasure out of this movie than any other CGI animated Disney movie of the decade, and that's saying a lot considering how stacked that lineup is.
2. Hell or High Water
Coming in as the runner-up for my favorite movie of the year is one of the few brights spots in what was otherwise a disappointing Summer movie season. Like with "Moonlight", this movie took its time to be a character study, only this time it juggles Chris Pine, Ben Foster, and Jeff Bridges and it manages to make all of them interesting characters. I was able to instantly latch onto these characters for one reason or another and it leads to a simple journey between all of them, a journey with a message about today's wealth inequality. And I grant you that this movie does have some small scenes of action and those are also great to watch, but at its core, it's about the bond between people, whether it be between the two brothers played by Pine and Foster, or the two cops played by Bridges and Gil Birmingham. This is a modern western and it's a damn great one at that.
1. La La Land
I'm legitimately shocked that I can love a musical this much. I'm not a huge musical guy, but there's something about "La La Land" that just really struck a chord with me. The actual musical scenes are fantastically edited and well choreographed with all of the care and precision in the world put into them, but this movie's story about achieving your dreams is what really pulled me in. It's a love story, but it actually addresses the harsh realities about love, as well as the fact that in order to achieve your calling in life, sacrifices must me made. That may seem a depressing lesson for some, but it's still completely relevant. Not everything in life works out exactly how you may plan and you have to prepare for that. But this movie still takes the time to be very sweet, incredibly energetic, and plenty optimistic when it needs to be. What Damien Chazelle has done is created a musical that will go down as a movie classic in the future, no question about that. There are scenes in this movie that are pure cinematic magic to behold, what with the poignant story, the song and dance sequences, and the outstanding chemistry between Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. Chazelle made my favorite movie of 2014 with "Whiplash", and now he's made my favorite movie of 2016.
So there's my list. Like I said before, 2016 wasn't the strongest year for movies, but there were still some gems in the mix of mediocrity and disappointments. And now that I've done my list for the best movies of the year, tomorrow comes my list for the worst movies of the year. That's where we truly get to see the very worst that the vitriolic 2016 had to offer. But in the meantime, enjoy this list for the great movies and be sure to chem them out if you haven't already.