With award season in full bloom and about to peak with the Oscars taking place next Sunday for the 89th time, our sort of overdue last end of year list presents our favorite movies of 2016, mixing the mainstream with the indie, and the first-rate with some godawful B-movies which we believe in a few years time, we'll be remembering more fondly than some of the prestigious award winners.
Warning: the list may contain traces of Academy or other award nominees and/or winners. Discretion is advised.
30. Manchester By The Sea
Every year there is a fine movie that gets the title of the overrated movie of the year. Two years ago that film was Boyhood, last year it was probably Spotlight. The honors for 2016 went to Manchester By The Sea, a nice film overall, but which if it wasn't for mega star, Matt Damon being its producer, it would have been just an enjoyable indie drama and not one of the Oscar frontrunners and major hits of the year.
Since the events occurring in Sully are so recent and so well known, there's really not much to point out about the film, except that it feels accurate, that it was masterfully directed by Clint Eastwood and that it features the American treasure that is Tom Hanks in grey hair and mustache. Surely it can't be more exciting than the actual events, but it's still cool.
28. The Girl On The Train
Naturally you'd prefer the book as anyone would, but while there's not much to go crazy about the film, there is not much to hate either. Emily Blunt and Justin Theroux are quite good in it, as is pretty much everyone else, comprising an overall enjoyable thriller to pass a couple of hours with.
27. Midnight Special
Part drama, part action movie but predominantly a sci-fi film, the truth is that Midnight Special's premise was too cool and its team of actors too good for the result we were left with in the end, and although for a thriller it doesn't thrill much, it's still fine and it's still entertaining, and Michael Shannon is fantastic in it, as usual.
Holidays includes the talents of a group of acclaimed and upcoming directors, coming mainly from the horror genre. That group includes Kevin Smith, Dennis Widmyer, Kevin Kolsch and much more and it's an anthology film that in each of its segments it messes with the folklore and the traditions of some symbolic holidays.
Another case of an anthology horror flick, this time in only four segments, Southbound is directed by a bunch of VHS alumni who do a great job in merging those extravagant fantasy tales into a super weird but coherent movie.
Circle has an excellent premise about a group of people who are held captive in an unknown environment and are getting executed one by one with the group as a unit selecting who is going to go next, almost in the style of game show. The movie may be falling a little flat on its attempts on social commentary and character development, but it's a fine indie sci-fi flick that's worth the watch.
23. The Purge: Election Year
Who would have thought that three movies in, the concept of the Purge would continue to produce such delightful flicks as Election Year, the most violent and goriest of the three. Despite that all Purge movies can't help but involve politics, they still don't take anything too seriously, and that's possibly the most interesting and fun element about them.
For a film about Nazis, this is probably the least savage it can get, and its intrigue is based mostly on the clever and quite realistic and down-to-earth writing behind this inspired by true events story, as well as on some very well delivered performances by Radcliffe, Toni Collette and Chris Sullivan.
21. Cafe Society
Cafe Society is maybe the best Woody Allen film of the last five or six years and it is not a surprise he did so well on this one, mainly because both Hollywood and the 1930s have always been sort of his thing. The movie's wonderful cast pulled through this one quite incredibly too.
20. The Wailing
Evil spirits and serious voodoo shit in a small South Korean village, a film with great direction and a nice plot with a lot to interpret, and some comedic relief in between the horror stuff that may or may not be working always as a lightening factor, and without which we might have had a much better film in our hands.
19. Sing Street
Although from the very start Sing Street feels set up based on stereotypes, and although there are indeed a few anachronisms that might ruin the experience for the nerds, it is overall a fine, enjoyable movie hinged on popular culture and so many and much intense references on the music of the eighties and its flamboyant fashion, with its original songs not sounding bad at all.
18. They Look Like People
A nicely done indie horror flick, They Look Like People works great with its much interesting characters and reveals to the world an upcoming filmmaker, Perry Blackshear, whom we bet we'll be seeing more of in the future and on bigger projects.
17. 10 Cloverfield Lane
An 180-degree turn from the type of film the previous Cloverfield movie was, 10 Cloverfield Lane does a fantastic job in maintaining the suspense throughout its entirety, keeping the audience guessing and ending it all in a phantasmagoric high. John Goodman is the man.
A bit slow and at moments kind of impassive and dry, are words that can be used to describe other films in a negative manner, but for Equals the very same words report some of the film's strongest qualities, which it uses in favor of its own overall deadpan somberness. It's surely one of the most notable dystopian sci-fi dramas in recent memory and it can't help but bring to mind the eccentricity of 1984 and the coldness of THX 1138.
15. Don't Breathe
A fantastic home invasion movie by Evil Dead reboot director, Fede Alvarez, who does a great job in creating the tension and the dark and fierce atmosphere in the story. You can't mention Don't Breathe without also pointing out the brilliant performance by Stephen Lang who stands out more than anybody and anything else in the film.
14. Triple 9
Featuring ace performances from everyone in the all-star macho cast, undoubtedly great direction and cinematography, Triple 9 is a corrupted cop drama/action flick, that did not receive as much attention as it deserved, but it showcased once more what an amazing filmmaker John Hillcoat is.
13. The Neon Demon
Not so much for its story nor the characters, but mostly for its alluring cinematography and art direction, Nicolas Winding Refn's latest film, like his previous two, is a grower and a fine example of the director's highly stylized aesthetics and vision, and it's backed by one of the most interesting original score music of the year, courtesy of Cliff Martinez who made his contribution a critical part of the film.
12. She Who Must Burn
Going into it expecting some cheesy stereotypical horror and ending up getting the sickening scary film that She Who Must Burn truly is, was such a welcome and positive surprise. Larry Kent's freaky film about religion and fanaticism, with its crazy good cast and its shadowy mood, could have used some more appreciation and a bigger audience, but then again the world is far from perfect.
11. Green Room
Green Room was this year's punk rock film that thankfully didn't over-stylize anything. Blue Ruin director, Jeremy Saulnier hit another homerun with Green Room, the story of an underground punk band which gets trapped into a skinhead club where there's lots of violence, murder, suspense and some real and gritty punk rock playing loudly in the background.
10. The Neighbor
The Collector / The Collection director, Marcus Dunstan, once again saddles Josh Stewart with a kick ass character role, and with the help of a great rest of the cast, deliver one of the year's grittiest, most tense, violent and entertaining thrillers, which would only require you not to go into it expecting another Collector movie.
9. In A Valley Of Violence
Ti West tries his hand at a western, a fun loose take on the plot of First Blood and John Wick, with an impressive all-star cast and some perfect use of vintage cinematography. Given the components, it's not much of a surprise how this turned out that well. After all, the entire name, Ti West, is in "spaghetti western"...
A cult classic since its inception, J.G. Ballard's masterpiece of a book didn't get made into a film neither in the late seventies nor in the early 2000s when the first couple of attempts to do so were made, but Ben Wheatley finally did some excellent work with Hiddleston in the lead. High-Rise is not nearly a pretty film, but its dark, much bitter and brilliant story makes as much sense these days as it did in the seventies when it was written. It leaves a weird aftertaste for sure, but not all art has to be beautiful anyway.
7. Train To Busan
It seems like the best zombie flick of the last half a decade did not come from neither Hollywood nor as an indie European or American film. Surprisingly South Korean film, Train To Busan, claims that title, a film that has all the elements of a zombie virus classic, top class action, disgusting gore, interesting characters and which it never plays nice, not even through it well executed melodramatic parts.
6. The VVitch: A New England Folktale
Whether it's because of the antiquated dialect, it's natural lighting and environment or the actual story's extremity in regards to how religion worked for some people in 1630, The VVitch was proven to be a knockout film and one of the year's darkest, best executed and worthily most talked about.
5. The Invitation
Aeon Flux and Jennifer's Body director, Karyn Kusama, delivered her weirdest and most intense film so far, which largely leans on its captivating characters and the entire cast's splendid performance. Despite the somewhat predictable outcome, that insane dinner party and the behaviors of its participants in The Invitation are still a thrill to watch.
4. Hell Or High Water
2016's best western and probably the year's grittiest action movie too, features some excellent performances by its three main protagonists, some witty one-liners and it provides a much helpful push for David Mackenzie into the big leagues, finally ten films into his directing career.
Despite those outwardly forced drama parts, Arrival shines mostly because of the excellent use it makes of time as a concept, as well as due to the brilliant design of everything that concerns the film's alien life. Right before the long awaited, Blade Runner, Denis Villneuve is consecutively delivering one great film after another, with Arrival being the one that forces him the furthest into the mainstream.
Adam Driver plays a driver named Paterson who lives in Paterson, NJ. A pretty much genre-less film, Paterson flows more like its main subject, poetry, and once more it screams loud volumes about the genius behind Jim Jarmusch's hell of a beautiful mind.
1. Nocturnal Animals
This being only his second attempt at feature filmmaking, Tom Ford verifies that he has much to offer in this field as well, next to his main thing, fashion. Half of it plays like an arthouse drama, while the other half is more like a modern crime western, Nocturnal Animals is stylish as it is thrilling and suspenseful, and it is scored by Abel Korzeniowski's fantastic original music, which sort of brings to mind the elegance of old Hollywood. It may be that part of the press and much of the audience didn't seem to like the fact that the film leaves much room for interpretation, but like it or not, it does, masterfully so, excellently thought and executed by Ford, who had the support of a mighty fine cast, led by once Oscar-nominee and recurrently Oscar-snubbed, Jake Gyllenhaal.