So here we are at the end of the year, the sound of fireworks still ringing in our ears, the excess of Christmas just a faint memory, and the realisation just dawning that you probably won’t get your money’s worth out of that gym membership you bought for your New Year’s resolution. However, it is also a time of reflection, a look into the past and the hope for the future, and while 2016 has been referred to as a dumpster-fire year, there were some great moments in film, and this is what we are celebrating today.
So far in our end of year countdown we’ve looked at the Most Disappointing Films of 2016 (Click here to see), and we’ve looked at the Highly Commended films of 2016 (Click here to see), but now it’s time for the grand finale with our Top 10 Films of 2016.
Before we start we are going to take a few moments to clarify our criteria for the entries on this list so you understand why a film may or may not appear here. First, it has to be one of the 57 films we review in 2016 (To see all the films we reviewed this year Click Here). Now this means a couple of things, first you may see some films here that were released in 2015 where you live, but were not released until 2016 here, as well as this, a number of the film in contention for Oscars this year like Lion, Manchester by the Sea, and Moonlight have not been released yet here, as such they won’t appear on this list (we will hopefully be reviewing them later in January).
Now just a warning we will be discussing these films, and some of them are still in cinemas, so be careful because spoilers are incoming. So without any further ado let us begin the Top 10 Films for 2016.
Ok straight of the bat we cheated a little bit hereby giving number 10 to both Zootopia and Moana, however, when it came time to put this list together they were both sitting here and we found it difficult to separate them. Also, well it’s our list so we can kind of do what we like. In many respects, Zootopia (Review) is the film we needed in 2016 it also might be the film whose message we ended up completely ignoring. That it is better to work together than apart, people can find real strength in comradery, and we shouldn’t let politicians play on the fears that could divide us for their own benefit. This is, of course, all built within Disney’s trademark charm, with some great characters all living in the wonderfully realised city of Zootopia. It was a beautiful film to watch and we highly recommend you pick it up or catch it on a streaming service. On the other side is the last film we looked at in 2016 Moana (Review), the story of a young girl fighting against the odds to protect her people and her home. Now this in itself is an interesting concept, but Disney takes this concept and sets it within the framework of Polynesian mythology, which is a fascinating area to explore, and so few Hollywood films explore this. This is coupled with some of the best songs Disney has produced in a long time and some of the most stunning animations we have ever seen #HowDidTheyGetTheWaterThatGood #IMeanHaveYouLookedAtIt make Moana a must watch while it is still in the cinemas. Both of these films are well worth the price of admission and are a great start to our Top 10 list.
9) The Revenant
Ah, The Revenant (Review) what a fantastically interesting film you were. Besides being the first film we reviewed in 2017, it ended up being a film of many things, it was the film Leo finally got his Oscar for his performance, it was the film that asked the question can you cauterise a neck wound with gunpowder, and the film that was the poster child for a difficult production shoot. However, all of that was worth it when we got to see the final product in all its glory. That opening sequence of water flowing over the roots of the trees in the forest whilst we pan across to our hero taking aim at a deer. Or just that opening battle one take shot during the retreat to the boat made it clear in the first 10 minutes that this was going to be the film that won the Oscar for best cinematography. Leo throws everything into the film that charts the course of betrayal, loss, grief, and revenge. As well as this, for the second year in a row after Mad Max (Review) Tom Hardy mumbles his way through a film and it is the better for it, which is perplexing, but nevertheless fascinating to watch. You should watch The Revenant for many reasons but if nothing else you should watch it for the case study in cinematography that it is.
8) 10 Cloverfield Lane
This is one of the surprise entries for us this year, we did not expect a quasi-sequel of a notable but mediocre horror/monster flick would be as good as it was. There are so many things this film gets right, the acting of the three leads is spot on, and that is really important when they are basically the only people on screen. From this point onwards we will never see John Goodman in quite the same light, we have seen him do angry before, but never menacing, and it is terrifying. There is a sequence around the kitchen table at dinner which is so full of foreboding tension that you focus on every action waiting for the moment that everything explodes. Know for many people the films falls at the final hurdle but for us it didn’t, sure it was unfortunate that with the title of the film you kind of saw that surprise ending coming, but even here 10 Cloverfield Lane (Review) is telling the story, the story of someone who is sick of reacting, and is instead taking agency over her life and her actions. Honestly we can recommend 10 Cloverfield Land on the back of John Goodman’s performance alone, but it is so more than that, and since it was the first feature film for director Dan Trachtenberg it was astounding, and we can’t wait to see what happens when they give him a big budget to work with.
7) Pete’s Dragon
This is an odd choice we know, and we’re sure it probably won’t end up on a lot of peoples Top 10 list, but Pete’s Dragon (Review) more than just about any film this year broke into our calloused hearts and showed what it was like to feel again. First, it would be remiss to mention that this is a Disney film where the Step-parent is not a villain, this on its own is refreshing but the rest of the film is a wonder to behold. All of the cast is put their hearts and souls into this film and it shows, from the start to the end. As well as this, it makes the most of its locations, it has a solid story, and honestly quite real reactions to what would happen if people found a dragon living in the forest. At the heart of the film is the relationship between Pete and his Dragon Elliot and if that didn’t work well then the film would be a failure. Oakes Fegley does a remarkable job of selling the emotional journey of his character, and confidently interacting with a CGI character which can stump even seasoned performers. They also excelled with Elliot the Dragon, and while he’s more of a giant dog with wings than a dragon in the traditional sense, Elliot is still amazing. He has a really unique style and I like how they matched his personality to his design, or his design to his personality, whichever way they did it.
Yes Deadpool (Review) is crass, and that’s putting it mildly, yes it is juvenile, yes it is pandering to an audience that is too young to go see it legally, but boy was it a fun ride. Deadpool is probably the most divisive film on this list with people tending to either love it or loathe it, sometimes for the very same reasons. However, for us, it succeeded in bringing a fresh take to the Superhero genre in a year where many of the non-Marvel films floundered. Where Deadpool works the best is the interactions between him, the morally upstanding Colossus, and the sardonic Negasonic Teenage Warhead. It is also due in part to the years of work star Ryan Reynolds and director Tim Miller put in to get the project out of development hell. Look Deadpool is the kind of film where he chases a bad guy down with a Zamboni for fun whilst also commenting on the different casting of Professor X throughout the years and already you know if this is a film that you want to go see or a film that you want to avoid and your gut will probably be right here. However, for us it was a riot of fun in a world of dower seriousness and he would highly recommend it.
5) Hunt for the Wilderpeople
Hunt for the Wilderpeople (Review) is without a doubt the sleeper hit of 2016 because it came out of nowhere smashed into our lives and made us better for it. So how do you describe Hunt for the Wilderpeople?, well it’s chase film, a coming of age film, it’s a look at the colonial legacy in New Zealand, it’s a survival story, it’s a look at the relationship between media and fame, and much, much more. However, mostly it is the story of two people who dislike to tolerate each other who find a deep respect for each other’s strengths and ability to grow. Where the Hunt for the Wilderpeople works is in its casting, everyone is bringing their A-Game to this film, from Sam Neil’s stoicisms to Rima Te Wiata’s infectious energy, to Rachel House’s absurdity that manages to walk the line and not fall into farce, and Julian Dennison nailed the lovable yet troubled Ricky. Because this casting works, it means the humour gets more laughs, the sadness hits harder, and the absurdity makes you sit back and go … wait what? Hunt of the Wilderpeople is one of those films that stays with you and is one we have been raving about all year and has us excited to see what director Taika Waititi does with Thor later in the year. If nothing else will convince you to give it a look, then here is the Ricky Baker Happy Birthday Song.
4) Star Trek Beyond
We have not been a fan of the Star Trek reboots, sure they had good casting, and Michael Giacchino’s score was one of his best, but when it came down to it, the movies were lacking a strong narrative, they were lacking a soul, but it was so good to see that the third time was the charm with Star Trek Beyond (Review). There is a lot to unpack here, from the big bad’s philosophy of using the openness and tolerance of the Federation society to attack it, the simply bonkers Yorktown Space Station, the respectful way they incorporated Leonard Nimoy’s passing into the film, the amazing moments of humour, and indeed some of the best special effects in the franchise’s history. But where Beyond differs from its two previous entries is in how it understands that it is a Star Trek film, and like First Contact and Wrath of Khan, you can have an action Star Trek film but it still needs to be a Star Trek film. Here we feel Beyond nailed it as a Star Trek film because of the strong writing and directing team of Justin Lin, Simon Pegg & Doug Jung, who are all new to the series, but they bring an energy and understanding to the movie. Simon Pegg knows more of about Star Trek than almost anyone else and you can see those touches throughout the film. It was a joy to watch and I really hope Paramount uses this a jumping off point for the movies in the future.
3) Captain America Civil War
For years now we have been watching the heroes of the Marvel Cinematic Universe bond over the potential destruction of Earth. The question is then – were people ready to see that all fall apart, and could they find an adequate reason to drive a wedge among the Avengers, and on both fronts, the answer with Captain America Civil War (Review) was yes. For many of the cast, this is their 5th (or more) film, so they have a familiarity of their roles that lends confidence to their performances. You can feel the anguish of Iron Man with the direction of his life and you sympathise with the emotional place he finds himself in. Indeed we care about these characters (because we have such a long history), so it has much more impact when they do fight because we know them. This is also reflected in the main theme of Civil War and that is family, what would you do to avenge your family, what would you do to protect your family, and what happens when those two meet. Look if you just want to see the different Avengers fight each other and see what would happen when Ant-man took on Iron Man, well then you have that and spades, if you want to see a political thriller about mistaken identity well then you have it, and if you want to see Captain America gratuitously stretch every muscle in his body to keep a helicopter from taking off then you’re in luck. However, for us, the reason why it is so high on our list is that final fight, the raw emotion, the motivations and the pain were everything we wished was in Batman v Superman (Review) and it is a new benchmark for the genre as a whole.
2) Hacksaw Ridge
At last, we reach the number one film of 2016 and trust me and if you had said at the start of 2016 that a Mel Gibson film would be our number one, we would have thought you were having a laugh, but here we are. There are a number of reasons why Hacksaw Ridge (Review) is our number 1 film of 2016. First is the story, Hacksaw Ridge at its heart is a biopic about Desmond Doss the first conscientious objector to be awarded a Medal of Honor, and this story in itself is compelling enough to be here. It tells a story about faith and Doss’ personal journey within it, without getting moralising or forcing in a life lesson. It shows the courage to stand up for what you believe in when you are literally being beaten into submission. Andrew Garfield gives the performance of his career here, it would be very easy for Doss to be played as too earnest, too naïve, too yokel and while the film does skirt those extremes it never gets there, instead what we have is a very determined, very devoted and very compelling character to which Garfield deserves all the Oscar buzz he is getting for this role. All of this is framed around the Battle of Hacksaw Ridge, the battle in which Doss earned his Medal, and Hacksaw Ridge depicts this battle in all its horror. In this film, you will see the brutality of war in every way, and that is because it is so well acted, choreographed, and filmed. These were not small simple battle sequences that would have been easy, well easier, to film, they are extensive sequences full of explosions, flames, and bullets. From a simple technical perspective, it is amazing how some of these sequences were captured on film, there are many things you can say about Mel Gibson, but he knows how to film a battle. In the end, we were not expecting to be taken on an emotional ride, to have every moment of the battle feel full of fright and trepidation, to have a clear and earnest discussion about faith, and to show a remarkable story about the very definition of courage under fire.
In many respects, Arrival (Review) is an interesting counterpoint to last year’s The Martian (Review). Both Sci-Fi films are helmed by incredibly intelligent protagonists, trying to solve a very difficult problem, with acute time pressures. But where The Martian focuses on biology and chemistry, Arrival focuses on the power of language and emotion. Besides this fascinating juxtaposition, Arrival was also a film of beautiful cinematography, that first time we see the spaceship in the middle of the field as the clouds roll down the hills is without a doubt our shot of 2016. As well as this, you have Jóhann Jóhannsson’s haunting score which at times blares out at you invoking the same apprehension as the characters on the screen, and yet at times it is almost angelic with choirs singing in the background. All of this is complemented by the story which even though I said there would be spoilers here, I’m still not going to spoil it here because you need to see it blind, but what I will say is that it will be emotionally captivating for you. Arrival is a smart movie and a showcase in how Amy Adams is one of the best actors working in the business at the moment.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
What were your Top 10 of 2016?, let us know in the comments below, feel free to share this review on any of the social medias and you can follow us Here. Check out all our past reviews and articles Here, and have a happy day.