Year in Review: The Best Films of 2016

Christian Ziko ’20/ Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer

The time has come to bid this year adieu and welcome in 2017, a year that’s posed to bring a treasure trove of great movies from the likes of Paul Thomas Anderson, Christopher Nolan, Danny Boyle, and Woody Allen. But it would be a shame to move on without pausing to reflect on the triumphant cinematic year that was 2016. While this list is by no means all encompassing (from Rogue One to Yoga Hosers, Lights Out to Nocturnal Animals, there were plenty of excellent films that barely missed the cut), these are the ten films that we will be rewatching for years to come.

 The Nice Guys

Ryan Gosling and Russell Crow in The Nice Guys. Photo Credit: Warner Brothers Pictures.

2016 was a good year to be Ryan Gosling (though aren’t they all?). While everyone is rightfully buzzing over his performance in La La Land, it would be a shame to forget this hilarious buddy comedy from director Shane Black. Gosling shares the screen with Russell Crowe in the year’s most quotable film, about two private detectives teaming up to investigate the suicide of a porn star. Blending outrageous physical comedy with razor-sharp banter between its two leads, this movie is awesome and stuff.


Marion Cotillard in Allied. Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures.

A slightly controversial choice here, as Robert Zemeckis’ latest received a lukewarm critical reception, but good luck finding a more fun cinematic experience than Allied. This twisty period thriller is textbook course in filmmaking, beautifully directed by one of the medium’s living legends. The costumes and art direction are beautiful, and Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard make for competent romantic leads. The twists never stop coming, and the ending is as poignant as it is shocking. If you’re seeking some escapism on a cold winter night, Allied is nothing short of perfection.

Café Society

Kristen Stewart and Jesse Eisenberg in Cafe Society. Photo Credit: Amazon Studios.

Woody Allen is making a strong case that 80 is the new 40. The legendary hyphenate, now in his sixth decade of filmmaking, has delivered his best movie since 2011’s Oscar-winning Midnight in Paris. A bittersweet romantic comedy with an A-list cast, Café Society was a delightful addition to a summer filled with lackluster blockbusters. It was Woody Allen’s first film to be shot digitally, rather than on film, and the results are beautiful. His use of color enhances every scene without ever distracting from the plot. Rather than playing shuffleboard and complaining about millennials, Woody Allen is spending his golden years refining the movie formula that he perfected in the 1970s. Keep up the good work, sir.

Sing Street

Ferdia Walsh-Peelo and Kelly Thornton in Sing Street. Photo Credit: The Weinstein Company.

 After the indie-flick-turned-Broadway-smash Once and the criminally-underrated Begin Again, John Carney has carved out a niche for himself as a maker of emotional indie films set in the world of music. While his first two musicals dealt with people finding redemption through music later in life, Sing Street refreshingly focuses on youth. An exceptional coming of age story and tribute to garage bands everywhere, Sing Street is the kind of movie that restores your faith in humanity, bringing back your best memories in the process. Even if you were never in a band, it is impossible not to see some of your high school friend group in the film’s charming cast. And it’s a John Carney movie, so it obviously comes with a great soundtrack too.


Amy Adams in Arrival. Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures.

 Arrival is the film that Interstellar desperately tried and failed to be. A thinking man’s science fiction movie, Dennis Villenueve’s latest effort raises deep questions about life on earth without ever losing its human touch. The audience is never alienated by the film’s message, because the characters and story are given top priority. Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner both give rich performances that stay grounded in reality and stay clear of melodrama. An ultimately uplifting film about the ability of cultures to come together for the greater good, it is safe to say that Arrival is like nothing we have ever seen.


Zootopia. Photo Credit: Walt Disney Studios.

While Moana was a fun family flick with a killer soundtrack, cinema history will be much kinder to 2016’s other Disney movie. Zootopia combines beautiful animation and an insane attention to detail with a timely message that manages to be inspiring without taking any political sides. Although you’d be forgiven for missing this one, as whoever was in charge of the film’s marketing deserves to be shot. Advertisements for the movie portrayed it as a generic kids’ movie whose sole purpose for existing was animal puns. Don’t be fooled. An instant family classic, Zootopia will make you laugh, cry, and think, regardless of your age.


Mahershala Ali in Moonlight. Photo Credit: A24.

Once in a while we encounter a film that is so much greater than the sum of its parts. A film that is the result of one director’s unique vision, and could never be replicated. The kind of film that everybody aspires to make, but nobody else could. Moonlight is one of those films. A tale of self-discovery with minimal dialogue and plot, Barry Jenkins’ sophomore film is a journey in every sense of the word. It is hard to imagine a filmmaker creating a greater connection between the audience and his characters than Jenkins does here. After seeing everything through his eyes, we do not just feel for his protagonist, Chiron, we are Chiron. The film takes a leaf out of the Zootopia playbook, presenting a subtle social commentary for those interested, but does not cram its opinions down your throat. The combination of an excellent coming-of-age narrative, gorgeous cinematography in which black skin is a perfect reflector of light, and a master class in subtle acting make Moonlight a must-see.

Swiss Army Man

Daniel Radcliffe in Swiss Army Man. Photo Credit: A24.

If there was an Oscar for the biggest gap between the ridiculousness of a film’s premise and the quality of the final product, Swiss Army Man would be a shoe-in. This fantastic story of a suicidal man’s friendship with a flatulent corpse is a modern day fairy tale. The first fifteen minutes are rather unfortunate, but if you make it through them you’ll be treated to a moving inquiry into what it means to be human, executed with a level of creativity unseen in any other 2016 film.

Manchester by the Sea

Casey Affleck in Manchester By the Sea. Photo Credit: Amazon Studios.

Less of a movie and more of a gut-wrenching slice of humanity projected on a screen, Manchester by the Sea is a triumphant example of what can be accomplished with realism in film. A simple story about simple people trying to do the right thing in a time of turmoil, Manchester by the Sea is sent into the stratosphere by Casey Affleck’s career-making performance and writer/director Kenneth Lonergan’s incredible attention to detail. A masterpiece in every sense of the word.

La La Land

Emma Stone in La La Land. Photo Credit: Summit Entertainment.

When Whiplash was released in 2014, 29-year-old writer/director Damien Chazelle made us wonder if he could be a generation-defining cinematic visionary. With La La Land, he erased all doubt. “Triumph” does not even begin to describe this film, which manages to capture the spirit of old Hollywood musicals like Singin’ In The Rain without copying anything that they did. It feels uniquely modern, and adds a layer of depth not previously found in movie-musicals. Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling prove once again that their onscreen chemistry is second to none, and that they each have a song-and-dance capability to match their acting chops. Simultaneously delightful and heartbreaking, La La Land is an instant classic. Show this film to anyone who has the gall to claim that “they don’t make movies like they used to.”



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