It’s the end of another year, and 2016 has come and gone so quickly. However, there have been a lot of really good movies released since January, so it’s time to look over the year’s best efforts with my annual end-of-year list: the top 10 best movies of 2016.
(Disclaimer: I haven’t seen some big hitters from Oscars season due to release schedules, so don’t expect to see the likes of La La Land, Moonlight, Manchester By The Sea, Silence, A Monster Calls, Patriot’s Day or Fences here.)
But first, here are the movies that couldn’t quite squeeze into my top 10 best movies of 2016, but I loved them so much I couldn’t go without giving them an honourable mention. Let’s go!
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story – Visually exhilarating with an exceptional finale, an excellent Star Wars film.
Captain America: Civil War – The best Marvel movie to date, with amazing action and an engrossing story.
The Nice Guys – Both brilliantly stylish and absolutely hilarious from start to finish, a brilliant buddy cop movie.
Eddie The Eagle – Uplifting, hilarious and truly wonderful throughout, also one of the year’s biggest surprises.
Storks – One of the best animated movies of the year, brilliantly funny, crazy, heartwarming and so adorable.
Deadpool – Hilarious and totally off-the-chain, with a unique take on the superhero genre that we all loved.
Captain Fantastic – The perfect sort of indie movie, a fascinating drama that’s both funny and full of heart.
The Fundamentals Of Caring – Emotionally gripping comedy-drama from Netflix that really surprised me.
Pride And Prejudice And Zombies – Utterly hilarious with brilliant action and performances , a great parody.
Your Name. – A visually beautiful anime with an emotionally engrossing story and an astonishing finale.
10. Deepwater Horizon
Peter Berg has been going from strength to strength over the last few years, and his first entry in 2016, Deepwater Horizon, is yet another exhilarating depiction of a true story.
Based on the events that occurred when the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded in 2010, the film is a massively exciting affair, one full of explosions and all sorts of patriotic allusions to the real American heroes who saved the day. In that, you’d expect it to be the sort of stuff you get from Michael Bay, but this film is actually very different.
Its second act is brilliantly exciting, but Peter Berg’s genius is keeping everything very down-to-earth. Yes, it’s got the look of a big-budget blockbuster, but the story at the centre of it all is very tender and respectful to the true events, with a fascinating insight into the build-up to and aftermath of the disaster. With excellent performances across the board that help to make the film brilliantly accessible, Deepwater Horizon does pretty much everything right.
Clint Eastwood and Tom Hanks are two people you can always turn to and be sure of getting a great film, which is exactly the case with Sully, the film adaptation of the ‘Miracle on the Hudson’ in 2009.
Principally memorable because of the most realistic and emotionally astonishing depiction of a plane crash ever seen on film, this movie is actually a consistently intriguing affair, complete with an incredible central performance by Tom Hanks, supported brilliantly by Aaron Eckhart, and stunning directing from Clint Eastwood.
The story unfolds in a non-linear fashion, going back and forth between the day that the emergency landing happened and the subsequent legal and media frenzy surrounding Captain Chesley Sullenberger. However, that works really well throughout, as you begin to pick up more and more details that swing you from side to side as to whether the captain’s decision to put the plane in the Hudson River was the correct one, making for an absolutely fascinating and often emotionally arresting watch.
8. Eye In The Sky
Eye In The Sky is a film that got a lot of rave reviews upon release, but seems to have been forgotten over the rest of the year, something I don’t think it deserves.
In what is one of the most riveting depictions of the people working behind the front lines in modern warfare I’ve ever seen, the film focuses almost entirely on tense and high-stakes discussions between politicians and members of the military surrounding the consequences of launching a drone attack on a civilian area to take out a most wanted criminal.
The fact that there’s next to no action in the film, and yet it’s such an enthralling and edge-of-your-seat experience, is testament to how good the dialogue, directing and acting is. Helen Mirren, Aaron Paul, Barkhad Abdi and Alan Rickman in his final live-action role are all truly excellent, making for a film that consistently makes you bring into question your own opinions on the legal, political and moral consequences of war again and again, which made Eye In The Sky easily one of the most riveting films of the entire year for me.
7. Central Intelligence
The film that topped my top 10 comedies of 2016 list may look a little out of place among the year’s big hitters, but I can’t find it in my heart to deny how funny and entertaining Central Intelligence was.
I’ve long been a sceptic of Kevin Hart’s seemingly endless run of comedies, and I’ve never seen Dwayne Johnson really carry an entire film well, but this film proved me completely wrong, and I couldn’t have been happier.
A completely off-the-wall and relentlessly hilarious comedy, Central Intelligence did exactly what I wanted it to from start to finish, make me laugh. Kevin Hart and Dwayne Johnson are an absolute dynamite duo in the lead roles, whilst director Rawson Marshall Thurber mixes the film’s hilarious comedy with genuinely exciting action sequences, all playing out within a surprisingly enthralling and unpredictable crime story. It’s by no means the year’s most original or innovative film, but as far as getting the job done and giving me two hours of pure entertainment, few films can top Central Intelligence.
6. Hacksaw Ridge
Whilst Eye In The Sky was providing a thrilling look into life behind the front lines, Mel Gibson’s Second World War drama Hacksaw Ridge was one of the most exhilarating war movies I’ve seen in years.
Starting off incredibly strongly in similar vein to the likes of Forrest Gump, the film excellently depicts small-town life during wartime, as well as providing a surprisingly humorous take on army training camps, but it’s the way that Hacksaw Ridge so brilliantly transitions into its second act, set on the battlefields of Okinawa, that makes it such an immediate classic.
Bursting into action around the hour mark with a relentless and gritty battle sequence, the film fast becomes an exceptional depiction of both the hell of war and the bravery of the men who put their life on the line for their country. Mel Gibson’s directing of the battle sequences make the film nothing short of a masterpiece of war cinema, whilst Andrew Garfield’s central performance helps to keep the uplifting and fascinating true story going strong right to the end. A movie for fans of war films and excellent cinema alike, Hacksaw Ridge is without a doubt one of the best movies of 2016.
5. 10 Cloverfield Lane
At the beginning of 2016, nobody knew 10 Cloverfield Lane even existed. However, after the film was released almost out of the blue, I was absolutely thrilled.
The best thing about this film is that it’s just so unnerving at every moment. Following a young woman who wakes up in an underground bunker with a man who tells her she has been saved from a major disaster, 10 Cloverfield Lane is a masterpiece of playing tricks with your mind and making you feel more and more uncomfortable in a painfully claustrophobic environment.
Expertly directed in every shot by Dan Trachtenberg, and featuring two exhilarating performances from Mary Elizabeth Winstead and the terrifying John Goodman, the film is easily the most haunting and scary film I’ve seen all year, and with its ingeniously written story that keeps a film set entirely underground fascinating, as well as the incredibly brave but thrilling ending, 10 Cloverfield Lane isn’t just better than its predecessor, it’s one of the most memorable movie experiences I’ve had in a long time.
To put a film as original and intelligent as Arrival down in fourth place feels like a horrible disservice, but there are still some really brilliant films to come.
That said, there’s no way we can talk about 2016 without mentioning Arrival. Easily the year’s most engrossing screenplay, Denis Villeneuve’s film was utterly enthralling at every moment, thanks to his uniquely dark and hard-hitting take on science-fiction.
In fact, the film is barely a sci-fi at all, rather an intense drama that looks deep into the concept of humanity and language. With an exceptional central performance by Amy Adams that brings incredibly powerful stakes to the film, and the mind-bending, cerebral unpredictability of its non-linear story, everything about Arrival was absolutely jaw-dropping to witness, surely cementing its place not just as one of the best films of 2016, but one of the best of the decade.
3. Nocturnal Animals
Yet more brilliance starring Amy Adams in 2016, this time in the form of Tom Ford’s unique story-within-a-story drama: Nocturnal Animals.
In what is without a doubt the year’s most ambitious but well-written story, Tom Ford weaves together three tales of a woman’s regrets about a past love, the story of that past love, and a fictional retelling of a horrific crime. Of the three stories, the crime, starring Jake Gyllenhaal, is easily the most gripping and often harrowing to watch, however the way that Tom Ford manages to tie it together with the film’s two other stories is quite exceptional to see.
Incredibly atmospheric at every moment, Nocturnal Animals is an absolute feast for any film lover, complete with amazing performances, directing and writing. It’s such a complex and unpredictable film that there’s no way you can fully grasp it upon first viewing, however the fact that it’s such an engrossing film that leaves so much unsaid means it’s the perfect candidate for countless rewatches, in order to find all sorts of new gems of information to better understand the film’s brilliant originality and intelligence.
If there’s a film this year that really made me feel sick inside at times, then it’s Paul Verhoeven’s intense thriller Elle.
The story of a woman who is brutally raped in her own home and then refuses to report it to the police, instead searching for the perpetrator herself, Elle is an utterly intoxicating watch complete with totally unpredictable twists and turns, brutal, fiery and raw emotion at every moment, and some of the frankest and most graphic sequences of any movie this year.
It may sound unpleasant at first, and believe me, there are some moments in this film that are almost impossible to stomach, but the beauty of Verhoeven’s Elle lies within the exceptional central performance given by Isabelle Huppert. Throughout, the story changes from brutal and dark thriller into a bizarre and almost darkly comedic film, and Huppert powers through every moment with a mesmerising performance, portraying a woman who you can’t ever really decipher, thereby making the film’s mystery plot so much more, as her performance brings into question the social and personal consequences of a horrific crime like the one shown here.
Elle is definitely not for the faint-hearted, but it’s a completely enthralling and intoxicating way to spend 130 minutes of your life, and it will certainly not disappoint when it comes to providing a thrilling and hard-hitting mystery.
1. The Little Prince
In a year with so many ups and downs, there’s one film that has constantly stood out in my memory as a pure work of art. An uplifting, emotionally enthralling, completely unique and truly poetic film called The Little Prince.
Exceedingly beautiful in every sense of the word, The Little Prince stands head and shoulders above every other film I’ve seen in 2016. Its animation is pristine, its score exquisite, and its story a perfect antidote for all the negativity that anyone may feel, as it brought joy, hope and passion to my heart at every moment.
Based loosely on the classic French story, the film mainly revolves around the life of an 8 year old girl whose childhood is taken away by her mother’s pushy planning for her future success in life. However, as we watch her befriend a kind old man, the film takes an astonishing turn, becoming one of the most beautiful and elegant stories I’ve ever seen, whisking you away to a faraway land as if it were the greatest dream you could ever imagine.
Taking on an incredibly relevant topic in its first act with exceptional maturity, the film is an absolute work of art, and as it evolves into more of a fairytale later on, it simply becomes more and more gorgeous. I’ve seen it twice as of now, and on both occasions have been reduced to a blubbering mess of tears, not because of anything sad about it, but because it’s simply such a powerfully positive and pure film.
The only sad thing about The Little Prince is that it’s been criminally overlooked. It hasn’t been in many top 10 lists this year, and will likely be overlooked for awards consideration. However, it’s available to stream on Netflix across the world, as well as on DVD and Blu-Ray, so I urge you to take an hour and a half out of your day and watch this masterpiece of animation. It’s a film that will move people of all ages, and it certainly touched me in a way I’ve never felt before, which is why it’s my pick for the best movie of 2016.