In a year that was shaping up to be horrendous, the creative smaller films ended up saving 2016 from the uninspiring blockbuster crop of superheroes, sequels, and remakes. The documentaries were particularly good, but I’ll save those for a different list. While the year as a whole managed to find interesting perspectives through the independents, I still was left somewhat dispassionate for the best. My favorite movie this year probably wouldn’t be my favorite in previous years and wouldn’t even crack my top six from last year (Ten Best Movies of 2015). Still, I am very pleased with these films and the top five are especially strong. While flawed, I respect the creativity and messages that are being shared. Ultimately, my ten best movies of 2016 are comprised of the ones that truly moved or inspired me in a positive way.
Click on the title links for full review.
Special Recognition: ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY – I probably shouldn’t use my time to promote something so big, but I just love what Disney is doing with the Star Wars universe. Sure, bringing back dead actors through CGI is a little creepy and the constant nostalgia reminder is excessive, but I can’t help having so much fun seeing ROGUE ONE. It cleverly tied up an age old problem with one of my favorite films and was extremely entertaining, which is more than I can say about nearly every other big budget film this year.
Honorable Mention: A MAN CALLED OVE (Sweden) and TONI ERDMANN (Germany) – Both foreign films have a touching message about kindness, happiness and relationships. I might give the edge to A MAN CALLED OVE because of its cleaner nature and shorter runtime (TONI ERDMANN comes in just under 3 hours). Both films are sweet, funny and heartfelt. They are two of the year’s best, definitely worth seeing.
10. ARRIVAL – I was not expecting this science fiction film from Denis Villeneuve to make much of an impression on me. The director has kept me at arms length with some of his choices but is recognizably talented. To my surprise, ARRIVAL took a different approach in the alien visitor genre. Using a more personal touch through the lens of Amy Adams, the film focuses on communication and the importance of applying it to not only in our worldly politics but also our lives.
9. DON’T THINK TWICE – I’ve always had a fondness for the art of improvisational comedy. Mike Birbiglia improves on his previous writing and directing effort for an inside look at the struggles of making the jump from a Second City type of career to a Saturday Night Live gig. It’s warm and funny dealing with the complex emotional issues of support and jealousy when following one’s passion with the people you love.
8. LION – A moving true story about a little boy who gets lost from his family in the streets of Calcutta and eventually getting adopted to a loving family in Australia. Despite a little redundancy in the middle, LION is a heart warming story about love, hope, and family.