2016 was a great year for movies. Despite a not so strong year for blockbusters, there was something for everyone: from weird comedies to horror films, from character drama to animated movies, there were so many good movies this year it’s hard to count them all. I went to the theaters so many times and had so many fantastic experiences but a few stand above everything else. Here’s a list of my ten best movies of 2016.
Honorable Mentions: There are a few movies I feel I need to mention before getting on with my top 10: “La La Land”, Damien Chazelle’s amazing celebration of art through a musical that features an amazing performance by Emma Stone, “Hunt for the Wilderpeople”, Taika Waititi’s hilarious and ridiculous coming-of-age comedy about acceptance set in the forests of New Zealand, “The Invitation”, Karyn Kusama’s incredibly tense dinner party thriller, and “Kubo and The Two Strings”, Laika’s great adventure story about grief that evokes a feeling you normally only get in classic role-playing games. Now, onto the list:
10. “Train to Busan”
Yeon Sang-ho made something that felt impossible in 2016: an excellent zombie movie that still feels like a fresh take on the genre. “Train to Busan” is an action-horror film and it’s maybe the best of those I’ve ever seen. It has gorgeously choreographed action scenes, a very tense atmosphere, scary zombies (some of the scariest zombies ever put on-screen), and the cast of interesting characters it’s very easy to root for led by a great performance by Gong Yoo and an extremely likable performance by young Kim Su-an.
9. “American Honey”
Andrea Arnold made what really feels like a very unique coming-of-age story. Sasha Lane, an actress with no experience, is cast as Star opposite Shia LaBeouf, giving the best performance of this life, and both carry the film so well. The film tells a story of working class American teens that would rather leave their home and work an awful job, just to see the world and be part of something. But in “American Honey”, Arnold never tries to tell a tragic story. It’s full of hope and strength and growth giving Star a chance to just be which is why it’s best scenes feel so powerful.
8. “The Fits”
Anna Rose Holmer’s directorial debut starts out as a pretty standard coming-of-age story of a young girl boxer wanting to start cheerleading, but it slowly but surely devolves in the best surrealist movie of the year. Carried by the excellent very young Royalty Hightower (Hollywood’s new best name) and gorgeously shot by Paul Lee, “The Fits” will slowly but surely draw you in its increasingly weirder world.
“Arrival” is the best sci-fi film of the year. Amy Adams stars as linguist charged with communicating with aliens following the first contact. It’s a gorgeous, beautiful film that asks the question “How could we communicate with something completely difference as us?” and tries it’s best to answer it. Fundamentally, “Arrival” is a story about hope. hope that humanity can survive through empathy and understanding,. It inspires to better human beings and its trust in humanity is why it’s so great.
6. “The Edge of Seventeen”
“The Edge of Seventeen” feels very much like a classic teen coming-of-age comedy: it’s set in high school and stars a teen girl who never could really fit in, but how Kelly Fremon Craig’s directorial debut differentiates itself from other teen comedies is the sheer quality of its writing and Hailee Steinfeld fantastic performance. This film is charming, it’s hilarious (Woody Harrelson nails every comedic one-liner), and its portrayal of teenage awkwardness is one of the best ever.
5. “A Bigger Splash”
In “A Bigger Splash” everyone wants to have sex with each other. A half mute rock star (Tilda Swinton), her boyfriend (Matthias Schoenaerts), her old producer and lover (Ralph Fiennes) and his daughter (Dakota Johnson) all have desires and Luca Guadagnino shows these desires so well through his use of the camera. “A Bigger Splash” gives us very selfish characters that visibly care only about themselves and the strong performances, particularly Swinton and Fiennes, and the cinematography makes their desires so tangible.
“Moonlight” is as close as a movie can come to perfection. The performances, the writing, and its gorgeous cinematography make Barry Jenkins film an incredible experience. “Moonlight” is the story of Chiron through three periods of his young life as he tries to deal with discovering his homosexuality while dealing with his dysfunctional household. The three actors that portray him (Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, and Trevante Rhodes) all give amazing performances, his emotions and his growth always feel so real. It’s a very simple, beautiful story that’s just so well told.
“The VVitch” is a coming-of-age story about a young girl’s journey to accepting herself while living with overbearing parents. It’s also an incredibly tense horror film about paranoia set in 17th century America. Robert Eggers wrote and directed a unique horror story that scares and unsettles by using its setting so well. It’s a very inspiring story that leaves you completely embracing its witchcraft.
2. “Swiss Army Man”
“Swiss Army Man” is a delight to watch. It’s a hilarious movie that features the best use of farting I’ve ever seen in a film. The Daniels director debut is a very unique experience, a story of friendship and adventure featuring a man and a dead body. Daniel Radcliffe’s performance as a slowly reanimating cadaver with superpowers is my favorite of the year. He’s a pleasure to watch and the slowly developing relationship between him and Paul Dano’s character is simply beautiful.
1. “The Handmaiden”
“The Handmaiden” is everything I love about movies. Park Chan-wook’s erotic thriller about a thief (Kim Tae-ri) and con man (Ha Jun-woo) plan to steal everything from a young heiress (Kim Min-hee) is a master class in storytelling. It will make you reevaluate everything you think you know about the film multiple times, sometimes only with a simple movement of the camera. It’s not only one of the best movies of the year, it’s also one of the most entertaining. It gives you characters to love and root for and the payoff is extraordinary. Added to that, every frame is gorgeous and all the performances feel absolutely perfect the whole way through. It’s without a single doubt my favorite movie of the year.