So here we are, we’re at the end of 2016. This has been a pretty messed up year all around, with Brexit, Trump, the deaths of numerous icons, an insane year all around. For film it was a mixed bag as well, so many films this year forgot the basic tenants of editing and cohesion and I left the cinema more times than I wanted to in a state of rage and disappointment. However, this has also been a great year in film if you know where to look and for me personally it took a whole new level as I went to the Toronto Film Festival, had an amazing experience there and, as the icing on the cake, met one of my favourite writers, Charlie Brooker after seeing two episodes from the new series of Black Mirror on the big screen in Toronto. As per tradition, it’s time for me to go through my ranking of films this year, doing brief run downs of my top 10, then ranking all the films I saw this year, giving brief thoughts on those I didn’t get around to reviewing. Also this year, my other year end lists are going to be at the end of this post, so if you’re looking for them, scroll down to the bottom of the page. With that said, here are my top 10 films of 2016.
10. Green Room – One of the best thrillers and action films of the past year this is a film that runs with its premise, creating a very tense, engaging film. The characters are all memorable, aided by excellent performances, especially from Anton Yelchin, Patrick Stewart, Macon Blair and Imogen Poots, it’s very intelligent, the characters never doing anything stupid and thinking through everything around them and the violence is used in just the right way, a great mix of exploitative and horrifying.
9. Swiss Army Man – One of the most unique films I’ve seen in a long time, the whole premise of Daniel Radcliffe playing a corpse with insane powers made it a film that I wanted to see but also was afraid would fall apart under the weight of its own absurdity. However, the film we got was a touching, dark, funny film about the nature of life and love with Paul Dano and Daniel Radcliffe giving some career best work.
8. Room – It’s hard to explain the power that Room has without spoiling the film, something that the trailers couldn’t follow so I’ll keep this brief. This is a film that turned a really dark, depressing story into a story of hope, it’s themes of motherhood and the power of the relationship between a mother and son, anchored by astonishing performances from Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay, making an incredibly moving film with moments that hit you square in the gut, with it’s brilliant script going into ideas on how a child views a confined world and how it has to change and the direction from Lenny Abrahamson making great use of the confined space of the titular Room for story growth adding to the power of the film.
7. Your Name – Over the past year I’ve been getting a lot more into anime and I’m thankful that this was the first anime film that I saw in the cinema. This is a very heartwarming and entertaining film with absolutely gorgeous animation (the comet in particular being a highlight) with some of the best characters of the year with Mitsuha and Taki, their arcs being very relatable and tying into brilliantly executed themes regarding the nature of time, memory and dreams.
6. Captain America: Civil War – Whenever I see any complaints about how bland superhero films are and how the growing tendancy of Hollywood to make cinematic universes is destroying film I’ll point to this film as a reminder of just how good the cinema we can get out of it is. This film builds on all of the other films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to create a very intelligent, character driven superhero film where the stakes get more personal as the film goes on, making it more powerful than a lot of the other MCU films and it has some of the best action scenes in superhero films both entertaining and heartbreaking.
5. Creed – I thought this would be a pretty good film when I first heard about it and saw the trailers but I didn’t realise just how good Creed would end up being. It takes what could have been just another generic boxing film and fills it with themes of loneliness, regret and legacy with Michael B Jordan being very compelling as Adonis and Sylvester Stallone giving probably his finest performance as Rocky Balboa whilst the way Ryan Coogler directs the boxing scenes does the best job of any boxing film of putting you inside the ring since Raging Bull, the one take style helping to show off the skill of the fighters whilst the use of montages and the steps highlight the theme of legacy.
4. The Witch – It’s very rare for a horror film to actually scare me nowadays, usually it’s only one horror film per year and this year that honour easily goes to The Witch. Most horror films, even the ones that do scare me don’t normally get a physical reaction from me but when I saw The Witch for the first time I was shaking in my seat because of how effective a horror film it was. The film plays on paranoia, making it so that, even though you know there is a witch, you’re most scared of the family, afraid of what their paranoia will get them to do, with the performances selling the paranoia and fear, particularly from Anya Taylor Joy and Ralph Ineson.
3. I, Daniel Blake – Probably the most topical film of the year, Ken Loach came out of his retirement to make this blistering take on the British welfare system, taking apart the rampant bureaucracy and the uncaring attitude where people are just numbers on a screen, showing the reality most people on benefits face instead of the scaremongering we get from the Daily Mail and The Sun, with the performances from Dave Johns and Hayley Squires mixing in equals amounts heartbreaking sadness (especially the food bank scene) and humour to create well rounded characters and a very compelling story.
2. Arrival – I was blown away when I first saw this film at the Toronto Film Festival and saw it 2 more times since then and each time I’ve grown to love the film more and more. This is one of the most intelligent sci-fi films to come out in the past few years, going into the nature of time, communication and memory and the need for cooperation and how lack of communication and cooperation will destroy us (a message we needed after this year) with Amy Adams giving the best performance of her career as Louise Banks whilst the direction from Denis Villeneuve, along with the cinematography and music, highlights the alien nature of the heptapods and helps lead into the themes of the film, a perfect example of visual storytelling.
1. Son of Saul – Easily the most powerful film of the year, this is a film that makes you truly understand what it was like for people forced to live and work in Auschwitz. The simple decision to have the camera follow the main character Saul entirely in close up does the best job any film has done at putting you in the mindset of people in Auschwitz, showing how close they are to the attrocities and how much they have to distance themselves from what they see to survive with an incredible central performance from Geza Rohrig cementing it. This is one of the hardest films that you will ever watch but from that hard watch comes one of the most powerful cinematic experiences you will ever witness.
As usual, here are the rest of the films that I saw in 2016, with links to reviews for those already reviewed and my brief thoughts on the films I didn’t get around to reviewing.
11. Anomalisa – A film that reminds you of the power that stop motion animation has, it is a poweful exploration of mental illness along with being a bit of a takedown of toxic masculinity and the need for perfection. The whole story makes stop motion the perfect format for the story and the performances from David Thewlis, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Tom Noonan help tie the film brilliantly together.
14. The Beatles: Eight Days a Week – The Touring Years – This documentary does a brilliant job of getting you in the mindset of the time, doing the best job of any documentary of showing the extent of Beatlemania, the pressure it placed on The Beatles, their growing dissatisfaction with touring and move towards the studio and the personalities of the Four shining through (the interviews with comedians helping to exemplify the comic personalities of The Beatles). The use of footage of the tours is excellent, giving a great insight into what was going on, with the restoration of the footage and use of unseen footage helping to give you a view into the life of The Beatles. This is also a masterful piece of editing in a year where so many films have been plagued by terrible editing.
16. Sing Street – This is just a fun heartwarming film that loves the music of the 80s and shows how music helps people to find their identity and place in the world, the original songs written for the film adding to this creating some really fun moments.
17. Bone Tomahawk – A great horror western this takes the traditional tropes of the Western, flipping them all on their heads to create an engaging, darkly funny and horrific film, the violence being both sudden and prolongued, both forms generating equal amounts of horror with the performances from Kurt Russell, Patrick Wilson and Richard Jenkins helping to create this atmosphere.
19. Hardcore Henry
20. Victoria – This is a brilliantly intense thriller that takes the gimmick of being shot entirely in one take on the streets of Berlin and runs with it, the long take capturing the feeling of a night out gone horribly, horribly wrong, making use of the streets of Berlin for tension whilst the dialogue being mostly in English highlights how out of place Victoria feels in Berlin whilst the shift from a more light hearted film to a tense crime thriller plays out very naturally, neither half of the film feeling out of place with the other, helping to create a unique cinema experience.
21. Hail Caesar
24. The Big Short
25. The BFG
26. High Rise
27. Rogue One
28. Tale of Tales
30. Kung Fu Panda 3
31. The Nice Guys
32. Doctor Strange
34. Elvis and Nixon – I didn’t really expect much from this film but I came away having had a lot of fun. Sure it focuses too much on Alex Pettyfer’s character and it doesn’t focus enough on the actual meeting but when it focuses on Elvis and Nixon the film shines due to the fun performances from Michael Shannon as Elvis and Kevin Spacey as Nixon, both creating the image of the people they portray without actually looking like them.
35. Finding Dory
37. Star Trek Beyond
39. The Jungle Book
40. Our Kind of Traitor – Very well directed and having some great performances from Ewan McGregor, Damian Lewis and Stellan Skarsgaard, it does a great job of translating Le Carre to the screen with a very engaging plot about money trafficking and how the Russian mafia is getting into bed with the British government and the diplomatic difficulties resulting in getting someone to testify against them although there are issues with the film through Naomi Harris’ character and the poor writing for her.
41. Imperium – A great intense thriller with a strong central performance from Daniel Radcliffe and very timely themes about how neo Nazis are one of the biggest threats in modern American society but it does get a bit convoluted at times and some of the more interesting ideas about conversion to neo Nazi ideology are rushed through.
42. The Infiltrator
44. My Scientology Movie – A bit of a mixed bag of a film. Whilst not as engaging as Going Cear or the TV documentaries Louis Theroux made (his one on Jimmy Saville this year was much more compelling) there are some excellent moments. The parts where he recreates elements of Scientology are engaging but not really interesting, it’s when Theroux is accosted by Scientologists that the film becomes great, some brilliant insanity you could not make up being seen here and these elements are always where Theroux shines as a documentary maker.
45. Midnight Special
47. Keanu – Definitely a mixed bag, when the film focuses on the two lead characters it works really well due to the excellent chemistry that Keegan Michael-Key and Jordan Peele have with each other and this is used to create some inspired comedy and dramatic moments (mainly their extended tribute to the late George Michael) but when it focuses on the plot it gets bogged down in uninteresting characters and gangster cliches that you wish for scenes with Key and Peele which talk about anything over than the gangster plot.
48. The Angry Birds Movie – I thought this was a lot better than it had any right to be. The voice acting is pretty solid throughout, the animation is excellent, being very lively and colourful whilst handling the dramatic moments well, it’s pretty funny and does a good job of translating the game to the screen but the plot seemed a bit off, the characters were unlikable and it felt too mean spirited on a whole.
49. Triple 9 – Whilst it has some good performances and decent action scenes this is just another run of the mill cops and robbers film, adding nothing new or interesting to the table that you haven’t seen a million times over. Plus, while most of the performances are decent some of the actors are underutilised (most notably Norman Reedus and Chiwetel Ejiofor) whilst getting pretty bad performances from Gal Gadot and Kate Winslet.
50. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies – When the film goes all out with the idea of doing a retelling of Pride and Prejudice in a world with zombies you get some very entertaining moments and the cast are definitely game (especially Lily James, Sam Riley and Matt Smith) but the actual zombie plot is convoluted, the characters aren’t that interesting and the action scenes later on in the film are pretty dull.
52. A Bigger Splash – Whilst the performances from Tilda Swinton, Ralph Fiennes and Matthias Schoenaerts are strong and the overall plot is engaging, the characters don’t quite connect for me, some elements of the film feel rushed, Dakota Johnson felt miscast and the overall tone didn’t quite work for me, I can’t really explain why, it just didn’t work.
53. Youth – Despite an excellent performance from Michael Caine and having some really creative moments (most notably conducting the cows), this film overall felt really pretentious and self indulgent at times with characters that felt really unlikable, and not in a way I feel was intended.
54. The Legend of Tarzan – Whilst well directed and having a pretty interesting premise, the acting overall is pretty bland, Alexander Skarsgaard looking the part of Tarzan but being pretty boring, the plot elements regarding Jane contradict themselves at every opportunity, Christoph Waltz is a forgetable villain and it feels rushed, the most interesting elements of the film regarding Tarzan in contact with those he knew growing up being overlooked, with this also leading to the wasting of Djimon Honsou.
58. London Has Fallen – Suffers the same problems that Olympus Has Fallen faced in that it’s just a dull, predictable action film with pretty lifeless performances from Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Angela Bassett and Morgan Freeman. The dullness itself is enough to make it a bad film but throw on top the overt racism towards Muslims and it goes from just another bad B movie to an offensively bad movie.
59. The Revenant
60. The Do Over – Whilst better than Sandler’s previous Netflix film, this is still a terrible film. The plot is overly convoluted and, whilst some of the twists do work, there are too many narrative conveniences and areas where the actions of the characters contradict what they should do in the plot, along with the character arcs feeling very lazy, not aided by bad acting from David Spade and Adam Sandler.
62. Dirty Grandpa – A completely vile film to watch that seems to glorify the objectification of women and the use of dangerous drugs whilst the attempts to tell a heartfelt story are undercut by characters that are either bland (see Zoey Deutch), annoying (see Jason Mantzoukas) or completely unlikable (see Robert DeNiro) and a script that is insulting to just about everyone.
63. Suicide Squad
This year, I’m also going to be putting my extra lists in this post, I won’t be giving my full thoughts on why I chose the list order as I don’t really have the time. So here are my other lists for 2016 in film, the rule for the first three lists being that I can only choose one example per film.
Top 10 Scenes
10. The Comet – Your Name
9. Confrontation with ‘Squirrel Busters’ – My Scientology Movie
8. Bargain with Dormammu – Doctor Strange
7. Food Bank – I, Daniel Blake
6. Smithers’ Son – The Hateful Eight
5. Vader Attacking the Rebels – Rogue One
4. Adonis’ First Fight – Creed
3. Would That It Were So Simple – Hail Caesar
2. Attack on Jimmy’s Lab – Hardcore Henry
1. Airport Fight – Captain America: Civil War
Top 10 Female Performances
10. Tessa Thompson – Creed
9. Selma Hayak – Tale of Tales
8. Laia Costa – Victoria
7. Mone Kamishiraishi – Your Name
6. Jennifer Jason Leigh – The Hateful Eight/Anomalisa
5. Mary Elizabeth Winstead – 10 Cloverfield Lane
4. Anya Taylor Joy – The Witch
3. Amy Adams – Arrival
2. Hayley Squires – I, Daniel Blake
1. Brie Larson – Room
Top 10 Male Performances
10. Tom Hiddleston – High Rise
9. Samuel L Jackson – The Hateful Eight
8. Robert Downey Jr – Captain America: Civil War
7. Ralph Ineson – The Witch
6. Michael B Jordan – Creed
5. Jacob Tremblay – Room
4. Dave Johns – I, Daniel Blake
3. David Thewlis – Anomalisa
2. John Goodman – 10 Cloverfield Lane
1. Geza Rohrig – Son of Saul
Most Anticipated Films for 2017
14. Kong: Skull Island
13. Get Out
12. Thor: Ragnarok
11. Trainspotting 2
10. War for the Planet of the Apes
9. John Wick: Chapter 2
8. The Lego Batman Movie
7. Free Fire
6. Paddington 2
5. Star Wars Episode 8
3. The Death of Stalin
2. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
1. Baby Driver