With 2016 rapidly coming to a close, and awards season almost upon us, it’s time to take a look at the films released in 2016. What were the best movies of the year? What were our favorites? In fact, 2016 featured a quite a few stellar films. A number of tough decisions needed to be made to narrow the field to just the top 10 movies of the year.
1.) La La Land
La La Land is one of the films dominating the early awards season hype as 2016 comes to a close. After watching the musical, the fun and nostalgic La La Land deserves all of the praise being sent its’ way.
The narrative follows aspiring actor and playwright Mia (Emma Stone), and jazz musician Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) as they negotiate a relationship through the peaks and valleys of trying to make it big in Hollywood.
La La Land is a stunning, classically structured musical from writer and director Damian Chazelle. The talented director not only succeeds in his ambitious treatment of the musical genre, but also crafts a visual treat for audiences. Every frame is a technicolor work of art. Be sure to check La La Land out if you haven’t.
Indignation is a beautiful period romance which premiered as summer came to a close. The narrative followed Marcus (Logan Lerman), a working class young boy from New Jersey. As Marcus enrolls at a small Ohio college during the politically turbulent years surrounding the Korean War, he meets and falls head over heels for a fellow student (Sarah Gadon). The couple struggle against his inexperience, her turbulent past, and his complicated family.
The film features stellar performances by its young leads, particularly the relative newcomer Lerman. It’s a powerful work of drama, with interesting and layered characters. However, it’s a shame that due to it’s late August release date, the film will likely be absent this award season.
3.) Hell or High Water
The film not only features award worthy performances from Pine and the always amazing Foster, but is also a stunning work both narratively and visually. Hell or High Water comes from Scottish director David Mackenzie, and paints a stark, but beautiful picture of the economically depressed midwest. However, the strength of the performances are a selling point of the picture, and here’s hoping that Ben Foster gets the award season love he richly deserves.
4.) Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Word of mouth for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story has been positive, straying between “It’s Better Than Empire Strikes Back” to “Holy cow! It’s just as good!”. The movie marks as the first deviation from the commonly accepted Star Wars narrative timeline to examine the Rebel mission (referenced in A New Hope) to steal the Death Star plans from the Empire.
The film, which comes from upcoming director Gareth Edwards is a stellar addition to the franchise. Not only does it feature savvy writing to tie the film into a pre-established timeline, but it features amazing performances by its’ stellar cast (led by Felicity Jones and Diego Luna). The film has also gained attention for its’ stellar special effects. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story found a flexibility in the franchise, and hopefully there’s plenty more films like this to come.
Jackie is a little film which came out of the film festival circuit, and peaked at the perfect time. The narrative follows Jackie Kennedy (Natalie Portman) in the days following the assassination of her husband, John F. Kennedy (Caspar Phillipson).
The film features a stark departure from the traditionally swelling, emotional tone of biopics of this sort. Portman puts forward a very studied, realistic interpretation of the elegant First Lady’s isolation. The normally refined, polished Jacqueline Kennedy finds herself a widow struggling to work out her next first step in life, as well as that of her children.
Jackie will definitely be a presence during awards season. In fact, Portman has already been nominated for a Golden Globe, and will likely contend for an Oscar at this year’s show.
6.) Sing Street
Sing Street is a tiny Irish film which hit cinemas during the first half of 2016. The narrative follows a group of public school students in 1980s Dublin struggling through personal and family drama to start a punk/glam rock band.
The film comes from John Carney, who brought musicals Once and Begin Again to the screen. Sing Street is likable and fun. The music numbers are catchy, and you want root for these likable youngsters to succeed. Keep an eye out for well-known Irish actors Maria Doyle Kennedy and Aidan Gillen in supporting roles. If you’re in any way a fan of musicals, check out this small film. You won’t regret it.
Deadpool was a breath of fresh air to come out of Hollywood in 2016. The film, which had been hugely hyped since rumors of it first broke on social media, definitely lived up to all the praise it received. Deadpool has also managed another unlikely feat. The superhero movie crossed the seasons and secured a rare Golden Globe nomination for a movie released during the first half of the year.
The story follows Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds), a bounty hunter who’s devestated by a cancer diagnosis when his life is finally on the way up. He goes to a secret, shadowy government organization to find a cure, but when his body is subjected to the rigors of torture, he’s turned into Deadpool.
Deadpool not only managed to thrill nerds the world over, but wowed general audiences alike. Much like its’ hero, the film did all this while it was breaking all the rules. A sequel is currently in the works, due for release in 2017.
8.) Cafe Society
Filmmaker Woody Allen has been on quite the hot streak, and his period romance Cafe Society continues his trend of solid movie making. The story follows Bobby (Jesse Eisenberg), an aspiring writer in Hollywood during the 1940s. As he grows in the happening industry, he plays at romance before eventually trading everything in for a life in New York City.
Cafe Society is yet another beautiful period film coming out of Hollywood in 2016. Allen continues to show why he’s been a movie making force for the last forty years, as he manages to capture the most beautiful light possible in every scene. The movie captures a traditional Allen-esque tone through the solid performances of character actors like Jesse Eisenberg, the always amazing Corey Stoll and Steve Carrell.
9.) Hail, Caesar!
If Hail, Caesar! doesn’t sound familiar, it’s due to the small film’s April release date. The story follows the employees of a Hollywood movie studio in the 1950s. Everything is thrown into chaos when its’ leading star Baird Whitlock (George Clooney) is kidnapped by a shadowy organization.
The film, which comes from the creative genius of the critically acclaimed directors Joel and Ethan Coen, is a unique and interesting depiction of this period in Hollywood history. It features colorful performances by Hollywood A-listers like: Channing Tatum, Scarlett Johansson and Tilda Swinton. Hail, Caesar!, also features up and coming actor Alden Ehrenreich in his breakout performance as singing cowboy Hobie Doyle. The actor was later cast to play Han Solo in an upcoming Star Wars anthology film. The quirky and fun film was a joy to watch, and here’s hoping for more like this from the Coen’s.
10.) Manchester By the Sea
Manchester By the Sea has been the latest film to dominate awards season discussions. After watching Manchester By the Sea, it definitely deserves a spot on the year’s Top 10 Lists. The film follows Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck), a maintenance man forced to return home to care for his nephew (Lucas Hedges) after the death of his brother (Kyle Chandler).
The film is a tricky one. A fair warning: This is far from a fun or entertaining movie; rather weighty and depressing seems a more applicable description. At the same time, Manchester By the Sea features an intense and brooding performance by Casey Affleck. The actor shines in the material, and will definitely be a presence (if not the victor) at the 2017 Oscars. Director Kenneth Lonergan has only directed a small handful of films, but in this work he crafts a picturesque depiction of costal Massachusetts. The visuals are some of the most interesting parts of the film.
All in all, 2016 has been yet another record setting year in the U.S. box-office. What were your favorite movies of 2016?