The Top 10 Best Films of 2016!

With 2016 quickly slipping into the past, after a summer of hits and misses and an autumn of thrilling surprises, 2017 is ready to stretch our expectations even further as a slew of intriguing projects await. But before completely leaving 2016 in the dust, it's only necessary that I run through some of my favorite films of the past year. From indie gems that strayed into dark and strange territories to massive blockbuster hits that sold me on more than just their shiny exteriors, 2016 gave us plenty of fantastic films among its many forgettable ones. With that, here are my top 10 films of 2016:

10. Hardcore Henry - Kicking off the list, we have what I thought to be one of the best action films of the year, in April's Hardcore Henry. While its plot may have dragged on like it was written by a 10-year old, and its main protagonist barely had his own face, Hardcore Henry delivered some of the most visceral action sequences I've ever seen on the big screen. With its first-person perspective offering moviegoers a fascinating and revolutionary new method of filmmaking, this inventive and partially-memorable action film was one I'd watch again anytime.

9. Swiss Army Man - Next up, we have the indie comedy I was most excited to see this year, Swiss Army Man. With its plot of a stranded man on an island who discovers a not-all-the-way dead body and enlists in his help to survive sounding like something only a person on drugs could concoct, this sensational and hilarious odd-ball comedy actually delivered a great handful of surprises. With great performances from leads Paul Dano and Daniel Radcliffe, and a visual experience full of strange humor and lovable antics, Swiss Army Man was another indie gem that gave me hope in the future of storytelling.

8. Sing Street - With his last project in 2013's musical comedy Begin Again offering up a memorable peek inside the struggles of modern-day musicians, director and musician John Carney returned to his Irish beginnings once more to deliver Sing Street. Yet another indie film that piqued my interest with its simple story and musical focus, Sing Street managed to string me along not only with its authentic 80s soundtrack, but also with its unique and heart-felt cast of characters.

7. 10 Cloverfield Lane - Next up, comes one of the best sci-fi thrillers of the year in the spiritual successor to 2008's Cloverfield, 10 Cloverfield Lane. With an elegant mix of low-budget filmmaking and blockbuster appeal, this alien-invasion-turned-psychological-nail-biter managed to become one of the year's most secretive and highly-anticipated projects. With brilliant performances all around from its trio of stars (including John Goodman and Mary Elizabeth Winstead), and a premise that reels you in and never lets go, this lasting installment in the Cloverfield franchise has me eagerly awaiting the next.

6. Captain America: Civil War - While I could have easily put Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice or Deadpool on this list as my favorite superhero film of the year (more likely the latter), the third installment in Marvel Studios' Captain America trilogy ended up being the king of them all this year. Delivering an Avengers-scale adventure, while also retaining a focused and fluent political basis around its central hero, Civil War was one of the best movie-going experiences I had this year. While its highly-anticipated battle between Iron Man and Captain America might have sold me from the start, the film also succeeded greatly in introducing the likes of Black Panther and Spider-Man into the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

5. The Lobster - Another inventive and absurd independent project that graced the screen this year was the fantastic dystopian comedy, The Lobster. While it may have won over the Cannes Film Festival back in 2015, the film didn't make it to the U.S. till the summer of 2016, finally offering its insane premise to American eyes. While some (including my family) barely saw this as anything more than an absurd idea from a foreign director, I looked upon the film as I do most dystopian films, as a peek inside a not-so-distant future. While turning single people into animals may not be on our agenda anytime soon, The Lobster nonetheless delivered a bleak yet breathtaking experience with some effective performances.

4. Kubo and the Two Strings - One of the more recent films I finally watched in 2016 was the captivating animated adventure of Kubo and the Two Strings. The latest stop-motion feature film from the production company Laika, Kubo once again brought the ambitious tales of Laika's top storytellers to life, as its dynamic animation style graced the screen with a quest of pure movie magic. With vibrant characters and a wholesome tale of family and friendship, Kubo was an awe-inspiring kids film with plenty under its surface. 

3. Manchester by the Sea - One of the last films I saw in 2016, the heart-wrenching (and heart-warming) drama of Kenneth Lonergan's Manchester by the Sea slides in at #3 with its profound storytelling and riveting character development. With its beautiful blend of emotional melancholy and happiness, and its captivating performances from Casey Affleck and Lucas Hedges, this low-key masterpiece offered one of the most dramatic, and all-together human, films of the year.

2. Arrival - While films like Interstellar and 2001: A Space Odyssey may rest at the top of my list for the best (and most ambiguous) science fiction films I've seen, 2016 gave us yet another mind-boggling sci-fi adventure in Arrival. While this film may have stayed off my radar for most of the year, I was instantly intrigued by its director, Denis Villeneuve, the man behind such films as Prisoners and Sicario. While Villeneuve might be somewhat new to the sci-fi genre, he ended up delivering one of the year's most interesting films. Tackling a sudden alien invasion by trying to learn their language, Arrival painted a brilliant portrait of the importance of language in society, while also delivering an enthralling mystery with a fantastic lead in Amy Adams.

1. La La Land - While I might not be the biggest fan of cinematic love stories like The Notebook or Titanic, #1 on my list has to go to Damien Chazelle's mystifying musical La La Land. An intoxicating and soaring adventure of love and music in modern Los Angeles, Chazelle's brilliant follow-up to 2014's Whiplash managed to reel me in with its vibrant atmospherics, as well as its powerful performances by leading lovers Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling. Offering a somewhat melancholy portrait of jazz, ambition, and dreams, La La Land was a magical movie-going experience that deserves to be seen over and over again.  

Honorable Mentions (Here are the lot of films that didn't make the list, but I still enjoyed thoroughly nonetheless)

Deadpool - Delivering one of the most unique superhero films of the decade, Deadpool was a fantastic passion project that quickly manifested into one of the most hilarious (and best marketed) film of the year. With gripping action, a slew of meta jokes and other hijinks, and a phenomenal performance by Ryan Reynolds, Deadpool offered up a major game changer for the superhero genre, a trend that might carry over into March's Logan. 

The Edge of Seventeen - With sharp wit and a John Hughes-esque feel to it, the coming-of-age comedy, The Edge of Seventeen, delivered yet another brilliant teen-focused comedy-drama that drew my attention this year. Much like 2015's Me and Earl and the Dying Girl reeled me in with its satirical comedy and dramatic underlying plot, The Edge of Seventeen presented a decent story of best friends and the things that divide them, anchored by a witty lead in Hailee Steinfeld.

The Nice Guys - Another somewhat winning role for actor Ryan Gosling this year was his turn as a down-on-his-luck private eye in Shane Black's The Nice Guys. Delivering a great display of Black's signature buddy-cop traits from films like Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and Lethal Weapon, The Nice Guys may not have been the most game-changing crime comedy of the year, but it was certainly one of the funniest.   

Bleed for This - Probably one of the most well-executed biographical projects I saw during the year, the Miles Teller starrer, Bleed for This, managed to deliver not only a great performance from the actor, but also a captivating story of champion boxer Vinny Pazienza. While it might collide at some points with other boxing films like Creed, Southpaw, and even Rocky, Bleed for This was still an inspiring tale of redemption and strive.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story - While I might have blindly put 2015's The Force Awakens high on the list of best films of the year then, I restrained myself from doing the same this time with 2016's Rogue One, even if I did enjoy the two almost equally. Still, while it may not have made the list, this ambitious Star Wars spin-off did offer a phenomenal experience in the theater, as fans got a taste of the captivating adventure that unfolded just before the 1977 classic.

If you got through all that, congratulations, you finally made it to the end. With my list now complete, and my fingers ready to fall off completely, I want to know what your favorite films of the year are. What made your top 10 list of the best (or worst) films of 2016? Let me know by commenting below, and remember to check back here for a whole new year of reviews and other exciting things!


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