This year saw the domination of Disney, two critically panned DC movies, and the return of horror. All in all, it was a pretty good year at the box office, even if the summer blockbuster season was a little lackluster. (Ok, it was really lackluster.)
Let me start off by saying that not all my picks are “genre” or “geek,” although I’d argue La La Land is as genre as they come; it’s so good that I couldn’t leave it out.
I didn’t see every movie there was to see in 2016, so there are a lot excluded from this list. However, I have every intention of seeing films like Midnight Special, Hell or High Water, American Honey, and Moonlight.
There are other movies that I loved but aren’t on the list: The Lobster, The Conjuring 2, The Nice Guys, Captain America: Civil War, Doctor Strange, Finding Dory, and so on. If you haven’t seen the movies below, definitely check them out. And if you have any suggestions, leave them in the comments down below.
Hunt for the Wilderpeople
Ricky Baker (Julian Dennison) and “Uncle” Hector (Sam Neill) embark on a life-changing journey through the dangerous New Zealand bush. What would normally be a predictable, clichéd adventure is a hilarious, heart-breaking film about a curmudgeon learning to accept a misunderstood youth. Taika Waiti directs—a name you’ll soon be familiar with as he’s directing Thor: Ragnarok.
It’s hard to understand why The Witch is so good until you actually watch it. It’s a little slow and it’s a little hard to keep up with the jargon. But stick with it, and you’ll quickly realize why it’s such a masterpiece. And, boy, that ending will make your skin crawl. It’s been a long time since a movie has stuck with me so long after seeing it. Watch it and find out why.
La La Land
La La Land is the rare movie that exceeds expectations; it’s better than you’ve heard, a wonderful, gorgeous, heartfelt cinematic delight. It tells the story of two struggling artists who fall in love in Los Angeles. If that sounds like a typical love story that’s because it is. But La La Land is told in such a fresh, beautiful, and sophisticated way that you won’t be able to resist falling in love.
That Darth Vader scene. Those gorgeous visuals. K-2SO. Rogue One was always fighting an uphill battle but director Gareth Edwards managed to craft a thrilling, violent, and realistic portrayal of way. This is the Star Wars movie we’ve been waiting for, a story from the street level about regular people fighting against the Empire’s oppression. If this is the quality to expect from future Star Wars spinoffs, we’ll gladly take more.
10 Cloverfield Lane
An unexpected thriller with an unexpected twist. 10 Cloverfield Lane is the second movie in the larger Cloverfield universe, but it’s a much more claustrophobic and tense story about a young girl who is held against her will by an abusive psychopath. The movie is a slow burn at first but eventually explodes into mayhem. It’s smart and solidly crafted, and will have you sitting at the edge of your seat.
Nothing about Arrival’s marketing could prepare you for what an amazing, timely, and impactful movie it truly is. Based on Ted Chiang’s “Story of Your Life,” Arrival features beautiful cinematography, incredible performances, and an ending that will have you thinking long after it’s over. It’s no wonder the movie has been nominated for numerous Golden Globes.
Endlessly funny and exactly what we wanted from a Deadpool movie. Ryan Reynolds was clearly born to play the Merc With a Mouth, who has been vindicated for his previous appearance in Wolverine. The action is superb, the humor is top-notch, and it left us wanting more. Hopefully, the sequel won’t have such a cliché story. But we can forgive a few minor discrepancies if only to see Deadpool and his tiny hand.
Kubo and the Two Strings
Probably this year’s most underrated and underappreciated movie of the year. Laika previously wowed audiences with Coraline and Paranorman, but the studio outdid itself with its latest stop-motion film. Not only is Kubo a beautiful experience but it has a great cast of characters, a touching story, and a lovely message. Also, the Sisters are some of the most frightening villains we’ve seen in a long time.
When I saw the marketing for Don’t Breathe, I thought it would be another hum-drum horror movie, one that uses gore to shock and offend audiences. There is a little bit of that but, for the most part, it’s a smartly crafted thriller that uses light, sound, and sight to build tension and suspense. The thriller/horror genre needs more movies like this.
Zootopia looks like every other cutesy animated film with talking animals. But it’s anything but ordinary. Under its colorful veneer is a smart and funny film about accepting those who are different from us. Considering some of the events that are going on around the world, Zootopia is a timely reminder that love and acceptance trumps hate.