A power ranking of my ten favorite films of the year – and the complete list of all the films that didn’t make the cut.
It’s that time again, can you believe it? Two quick reminders:
- I’m using release dates from IMDb. So if The Lobster falls between the cracks, don’t blame me.
- This is a ranking of the movies I personally saw. So don’t get uppity with me just because you can’t find a specific movie somewhere. Having said that, I don’t update these rankings after they’re published so even if I see a 2016 movie after the fact, oh well, it didn’t make the totally arbitrary deadline.
- If you can click on a movie title, it means I wrote a review for it. Go ahead and click away! What have you got to lose!?
That was three things, not two. Just making sure you’re paying attention.
I’m sorry but I can’t even pick a tenth movie. It was up in the air between Captain America: Civil War, Deepwater Horizon, Doctor Strange, Sausage Party, and The Neon Demon. There are serious flaws with each one in my opinion and I don’t think any of them deserve to make my list.
This was an off year for me. The number of films I saw didn’t differ much from previous years, but the overall quality of them definitely fell. Usually, creating this list isn’t too difficult, but everything below the Pantheon has been a struggle (as you’ll see).
Let’s hope 2017 isn’t the same.
9. The Accountant
This film’s greatest strength might be how good it is compared to the expectations most people probably had before seeing it. While it’s not a perfect product by any means, Ben Affleck delivers a nuanced performance that is accompanied by a nice blend of seriousness, humor, and unexpectedly badass action sequences, and it looks like there’s a genuine possibility this could end up being some kind of franchise.
Even though The Accountant doesn’t have the same adrenaline-filled high compared to a movie like Hardcore Henry or even John Wick, the added substance here is what makes this a superior film. Plus, the highly-functioning autistic protagonist could be the hero we need in this day and age – maybe more so than Affleck’s other 2016 hero in Batman v Superman: I Left the Movie Theater with the Worst Headache of My Goddamn Life.
Look, any movie that drops a disconcertingly catchy song about a girl asking to get fucked like Bin Laden deserves to be on this list. Also, we’re talking about The Lonely Island, who have a certain method of approaching comedy that doesn’t change very much in Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping.
This mockumentary about a singer/rapper named Conner4Real often goes over-the-top in parodying not only the music industry, but perhaps all of popular entertainment in itself. It also does a pretty funny job of showing the rise and fall of a pop star and it’s easy to see how someone like Justin Bieber might have served as inspiration for this kind of thing.
Andy Samberg leads the way with a typically charming performance, but the real stars of this movie are the original songs. They’re super catchy, super funny, and it’s a damn shame the aforementioned Bin Laden song hasn’t gotten traction during awards season.
The plethora of celebrity cameos in this movie round out a solid movie that succeeds in what it sets out to do, but doesn’t have the same resonance as other movies with similar goals. But that’s okay, because I see Popstar on my list, and not those other movies. Ha!
A quietly competent film buoyed by another strong performance from Tom Hanks and a steady directorial hand from Clint Eastwood. Sully is the equivalent of a Buick: reliable, subtly confident, and doesn’t take anything off the table any more than it needs to.
While some aviation-based films like Flight relish the gut-wrenching sequences in the air and milk them for all they’re worth, Eastwood and pilot Chesley Sullenberger (he consulted… for obvious reasons) decide to focus on the power of humanity rather than gratuitous special effects and cheap thrills.
It’s a move that pays off, giving us one of the year’s most sneakily satisfying films.
The most refreshing superhero experience since Guardians of the Galaxy comes from Ryan Reynolds, who also graciously provided us with one of the worst superhero experiences in 2011’s Green Lantern. Nevertheless, Deadpool is the character Reynolds was born to play and his performance has led to critical acclaim.
The R-rated adventure goes against the grain in a myriad of ways, with one common one being Deadpool breaking the fourth wall (addressing the audience or acknowledging there is an audience to begin with) and saying something snarky.
Really, the only losers here are the furious parents who chose to take their very underage children to see this movie, only to realize there’s literally a sex montage with each act taking place on a different holiday. Also, did I mention this is R-rated?
Sorry parents, it’s your loss. I can only imagine there’ll be a sequel. We can only hope future installments are just as good as this one.
No joke, the hardest I laughed in a movie theater this year was during the DMV (Department of Mammal Vehicles) scene in Zootopia with the sloths. Even when I think about it now, it’s maybe one of the funniest things I’ve seen in a movie. On a broader scale, Zootopia is an ambitious animated film that explores important – and timely – themes like stereotypes, discrimination, and determination.
Like most animated movies, it tries to serve both the kids and the adults in the audience, and in both cases it really delivers. The animation is excellent, the voice acting is engaging, and the characters are both fun and relatable. Most of the humor is easy to understand for kids, but there’s also a lot of more subtle opportunities to make jokes older audience members would appreciate.
It’s a genuinely fun movie to watch, no matter how old you are.
4. Hell or High Water
Chris Pine and Ben Foster deliver the best acting of their careers with a helping hand from a rumbling Jeff Bridges and a bemused Gil Birmingham in this modern Western heist drama. There’s a rough beauty to how the complex story is shown in such a well-crafted and efficient way, thanks to a phenomenal screenplay by Taylor Sheridan.
The storyline is tight and brisk and the cinematography is simply sublime. The pacing is balanced, allowing us to lean forward in tense anticipation during the heist scenes while also allowing us to fully appreciate the scenes where Bridges and Birmingham get to exchange some of the best banter of the year.
I suspect this movie slipped under a lot of people’s radars. That’s a shame, because despite its seemingly ho-hum marketing campaign (I remember thinking I wasn’t interested when I watched the trailers), it’s actually one of the best films of the year.
3. Sing Street
This feel-good, coming-of-age tale takes place in the delightful year of 1985 in Dublin, Ireland. We follow a boy named Conor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) who transitions from private to public school. It’s rough at first before he sees a girl off in the distance. Lo and behold, he’s completely smitten and now he must somehow win her over. But how…?
I know, start a band!
Inspired by the likes of Duran Duran, The Clash, and other great bands of that time, Conor and his friends end up creating a band with undeniable potential. With a lovable cast and a story you immediately want to see end happily, Sing Street is a charming little flick with a big heart.
Director Denis Villeneuve continues his strong run as one of the premiere directors of our time in a comprehensive piece of cinema that uses an alien “invasion” to lead the audience to places nobody could have seen coming. This is a movie that addresses a lot of deep and profound questions, juxtaposing the concept of extraterrestrial life with humanity’s existential ponderings.
The complex storyline is almost singlehandedly carried by my future bae, Amy Adams, as well as a throbbing, tense atmosphere and one of the best original scores of the year from composer Jóhann Jóhannsson. All those factors elevate the film’s twist from simply provocative to a complete emotional and mental experience.
Arrival is a can’t-miss film. So don’t miss it, jeez.
1. La La Land
It’s the only movie I saw in theaters twice this year and the second time was such a struggle because of how emotional everything is. After you’ve seen the infamous gut-wrenching ending sequence the first time, you can’t stop your heart from breaking into a million shimmering pieces as you watch everything all over again.
La La Land is the very definition of a memorable movie, filled with vibrant colors, glowing dreams, and the harsh slap of reality that says success can come at a hefty, hefty price. As an added plus, it’s a legitimately catchy original musical and I’ve heard lots of people say they’ve been listening to the soundtrack on repeat and letting themselves get caught up in the ensuing emotional rollercoaster.
Hell, it inspired me to take up the piano again so I can come closer to becoming a Korean Ryan Gosling (and finding my Emma Stone, um, without the [spoiler]).
Here’s to the fools who dream. Congratulations La La Land, you’re my Movie of the Year.
Bad Santa 2
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
Bleed for This
Captain America: Civil War
Jack Reacher: Never Go Back
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
Ride Along 2
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
The Brothers Grimsby
The Magnificent Seven
The Neon Demon