2016 was a dumpster fire of a year. Luckily, movies persevered and some truly great films were sent our way. In fact, there were so many good ones, I could not honestly keep the list to 10. So, here’s my Best 12 movies of 2016, in no particular order except for the last. It’s the top 12 because one for every month, or whatever other justification makes it easier for you. Check out our reviews, linked in red!
- Rogue One
This is the best Star Wars film since The Empire Strikes Back. Even if you don’t care about Star Wars, go see a fantastic scifi/action film led by a woman and supported by a highly diverse and talented cast.
Absolutely beautiful animation that surrounds one of the most thoughtful and complex Disney films to date. If there was ever a way to teach children about systemic racism and ingrained prejudice, this is it, all while still being funny.
- La La Land
A gorgeous film with fun music and another great example of Stone/Gosling chemistry. Director Damien Chazelle shows an absolute mastery over the integration of camera, theme, music, and color.
Horribly funny and violent, Deadpool shows what happens when you have a creative team that is absolutely in love with their project and has nothing to lose. Ryan Reynolds is as funny as he’s ever been, and the action is choreographed beautifully.
One of the most fascinating films of the year, it is unique and powerful, thematically deep, and features a woman in a scifi movie that is hers, through and through. Hollywood, take note.
- The Nice Guys
This is easily one of the funniest films of the year, which makes it even more criminal that is was completely overlooked. Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe make a great pair, utilizing their opposite-ends-of-the-spectrum personalities to portray some of the best characters this year. Director Shane Black uses their style and humor to subvert, and offer a completely new view of the detective/noir genre.
Moana is one of the strongest movies in the Revival Era of Disney. It is beautiful, fun, and subversive. You should absolutely see it, especially because Moana is the most revolutionary Princess Disney has ever produced.
- Kubo and the Two Strings
Incredible animation from Laika Entertainment (of Coraline and ParaNorman fame), Kubo is a well-crafted fairy tale, with storytelling and color at the core of both the plot and the construction of the film. It’s worth seeing for the technical aspects alone.
Denzel Washington directs the adaptation of the play he and Viola Davis both starred in, with both delivering what are probably their best performances to date. It is intimate and incredibly powerful, crafting an entire world primarily within a backyard.
Natalie Portman takes the mythical figure of Jackie Kennedy, and Camelot as a whole, and reduces it to a deeply intimate portrayal of a grieving wife and worried mother, while also showing the hysterical vanity behind this complex figure. Everything is in service to Portman’s performance, and it deserves to be seen.
- Hidden Figures
It’s incredibly heartfelt and honest, with Taraji Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monáe giving some of the strongest performances of the year. This is the type of movie that should and will be shown in school for decades to come. Cross your fingers for the Oscar nomination it so deserves. Also Mahershala Ali.
- Moonlight: Best Film of the Year
This is the best film of the year, no doubts about it. Utilizing three different actors to play the same character across separate ages, Moonlight tells a story about nothing and everything. It is intimate without reaching the point of voyeuristic. It’s gorgeously filmed, using color and music in conjunction with thematics in a way that only La La Land came even close to replicating this year. Also Mahershala Ali.
- Edge of Seventeen
- Civil War
- The Jungle Book
- 10 Cloverfield Lane
Things I haven’t seen yet that might’ve been amazing so take what I say with a grain of salt:
- Swiss Army Man
- Manchester by the Sea
- Hell or High Water
- Hunt for the Wilderpeople
- Green Room
- Queen of Katwe
- Hail, Caesar!