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My Favorite Films of 2016

Updated on February 6, 2017

Being a full-time student + working part time at an assisted living facility = me having very little time to write.

My list for the best of 2016 is about a month overdue, but since I’ve already dedicated an article to the movies I hated the most last year, I think it’s fair to write one about the movies that were more rewarding to watch and talk about.

Here are my favorites of 2016, starting with the…

Honorable Mentions:

Don’t Breathe- I enjoyed it more the second time, but I still really HATE that turkey baster scene!!!

Midnight Special- a superb sci-fi film with excellent performances, an engaging story, and an ending which, thankfully, doesn’t over-explain things.

Lights Out- For a movie that barely runs 80 minutes, it packs quite a surprising punch.

Ouija: Origin of Evil- I can’t believe this movie is on this list, given how bad the first movie was. But this was a surprisingly very good horror thriller that belongs in the Blu-ray collection.

The Nice Guys- A just plain fun film that I would love to see a sequel to!

Southbound- A criminally overlooked and surprisingly thoughtful horror anthology.

10 Cloverfield Lane- In spite of a semi-weak finale, I loved it!

Now on to the main event. Here are the 10 films that I loved the most from last year.

10. The Witch- I don’t know what it says about me that I was personally able to relate to a horror movie about a coven of witches terrorizing a 17th-century family, but that’s just one of the many surprises to be had with Robert Egger’s stunning debut feature. It tells a well-developed and engaging tale about a family torn apart by the patriarch’s fanatical ways, and when it comes to delivering the scares, it really gets under the skin. A lot of people didn’t really care about it, and the first time I watched it, I didn’t think too much about it. It wasn’t until I went out and watched it again that it really hit me.

9. The Lobster- Outside of my favorite animated film this year (which I’ll get to momentarily), I don’t think any movie made me laugh as hard as this movie did. The Lobster takes place in a future where, if you’re single, you’re sent to a retreat where you’re given a certain amount of time to find a romantic partner. If you can’t find one in the time allotted, then you’ll be turned into an animal of your choosing. There is a resistance group living in the woods near the retreat, and they turn out to be no better than the people they fight. Droll, satirical, and funny as hell, The Lobster not only had me laughing until tears were running down my face, but it also gave me something to think about after it was over. It’s quite a special movie (although it may not be for all tastes).

8. Sing Street- What a lovely film this is! From director John Carney, who made Once (aka my favorite film of 2007), Sing Street tells the charming, 1980s-set story of a young Irish teen named Connor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, fantastic) who quickly forms a band to impresses the girl he sees standing across the street from his school every day (a character named Raphina, who is played by the sublime Lucy Boynton). It’s a simple story of boy meets girl, boy loses girl, and boy gets girl, but it’s that very simplicity that’s so touching and wonderful. There are moments of cynicism sprinkled throughout, but the movie itself is not even sort of cynical. And the songs? Pure bliss! The movie is now available to watch on Netflix instant.

7. The Blackcoat’s Daughter- Oh, this movie disturbed me. From director Osgood Perkins, The Blackcoat’s Daughter tells the story of two young woman trapped at their boarding school over winter break, and another story of a young woman (who had just escaped from a mental asylum) hitching a ride with an older couple. I’m not saying anything else about the plot other than that. While there is no force on earth that could ever get me to watch it again, The Blackcoat’s Daughter is a spellbindingly atmospheric horror thriller that is literally impossible to forget. I would say that it's the best movie that I hated watching. (Note: Yes, the movie is scheduled to get a limited theatrical release this year, but the movie has gotten pushed back so many times that I’m not sure if I believe it. Besides, I saw it in 2016, so therefore, it’s on this list).

6. Hell or High Water- A superb noir western with some of the best cinematography of the year, Hell or High Water tells the story of two brothers who go on a robbing spree, stealing from the very bank that stole from them, and using the money to pay off their family ranch before it forecloses by the end of the week. Jeff Bridges turns in one of his best performances as the Texas Ranger hot on their trail, and the final scene he shares with Pine is easily one of the best scripted moments of 2016. Pine and Foster are two excellent actors, but they turn in career best performances as the two brothers at the heart of the story, and the film’s violent climactic showdown is an absolute knockout.

5. The Invitation- The year’s best and most haunting horror thriller, The Invitation tells the story of a woman and her new husband throwing a reunion party for her old friends after she disappeared for two years. The woman’s ex-husband Will (Logan Marshall-Green) senses that something else is going on at the party, something potentially dangerous. Is he right? You’re not going to get a peep out of me. Director Karyn Kusama manages to create moments of skin-crawling dread without resorting to gore (although things do get bloody near the end), and the final shot she gives the film still haunts me, and it’s been well over 8 months since I’ve seen the film.

4. Eye in the Sky- A Hitchcock-ian military thriller that is (thankfully) without a political agenda and respectful of the soldiers who fight in the War on Terror, Eye in the Sky also marks the final screen appearance of the great actor Alan Rickman, who sadly died last year from cancer. He’s excellent (as always), and so is the rest of the cast (especially Aaron Paul and Phoebe Fox, who play two drone pilots who are asked to do something they've never been asked to do before) in a movie that asks some very tough questions to which I still don’t have any answers to.

3. Zootopia- I loved every single second of this gorgeously animated, uproariously funny, yet surprisingly thoughtful animated jewel. I actually went to see this movie without having seen the trailer first, so when a particular scene set inside a DMV came along, I was caught completely off guard. The visuals are breath-taking, the voice acting is note-perfect, and the story has some pretty weighty themes about social prejudices. Yes, that sounds pretty heavy for a kids film, yet the movie pulls it off in a surprisingly enjoyable yet thought-provoking way. To reword an old Roger Ebert saying: I loved this movie. Loved, loved, loved, loved, loved it!

2. Manchester by the Sea- And speaking of Ebert, I remember hearing him say once that movies can be a machine used to generate empathy for other. With that said, I have no doubt in my mind that he would have adored Manchester by the Sea. This is one of the most sincere and empathetic films to deal with loss and grief that I’ve ever seen. Casey Affleck deserves the Best Actor Oscar for his work as Lee Chandler, a cynical maintenance man for an apartment complex who learns that not only did his brother recently die of a heart attack, but that he’s also been made the sole guardian of his nephew as well. Michelle Williams also deserves an Oscar for her work as Lee’s ex-wife Randi (I’m gonna be mad if she doesn’t win), and the scene she shares with Affleck later in the film is such a masterpiece of acting, writing, and directing that it breaks my heart every time I think about it. This is a quietly powerful motion picture, and it would be my choice for the best of the year were it not for….

1. Arrival- No other film from 2016 had the effect that this movie did (Granted, I still haven’t seen Moonlight or La La Land). Beautiful, challenging, sublime, and heart-breaking. These words and more can be used to describe the landmark epic that is Arrival. Although advertised as another alien invasion movie, the movie itself is so much more than that. It is a rumination not only language and how important it is to how we interact with others and develop as a species, but also on the nature of time. The final five minutes of this movie are the best final five minutes of any movie that I’ve seen in the past couple of years. Amy Adams has never been better, and neither has Jeremy Renner or Forrest Whitaker (and I love both of those actors). The Blu-ray comes out on February 14th, and you can be darn sure that I’m getting it, not only to experience this masterpiece again (which is something I’ve desperately wanted to do since I first finished watching it), but to also provide a more detailed and in-depth analysis for the film. Words cannot even begin to describe what this movie means to me. It represents everything that I love about the movies and more.

The trailer doesn't even begin to do this movie justice!

So, what were your favorite films from last year? Leave a comment down below and let me know.

I hope the new year has been treating everyone well. If not, here's hoping it gets better for you. Later.

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