Top Ten Films of 2016


It’s time for me to finally let go of 2016 by officially announcing my top ten films of 2016. I’ve said this multiple times at the beginning of 2017, but I just don’t think 2016 deserves to be known as a bad year for movies. I think it was a bad year for blockbuster films, but at the end of the year there were so many great films to watch.

Still, though, you may be surprised to learn that this is the first year where I found room for documentaries on my list. In fact, there are two great documentaries on my Top Ten-list. This really was a terrific year for documentaries.

UPDATE: Originally, Weiner (a fantastic documentary) was my honorable mention of 2016. However, after seeing Moonlight, I updated the list. That caused Weiner to fall off the honorable mention spot, and Hacksaw Ridge to fall off the top ten list.

Then, in November of 2017, I finally got the chance to see Jim Jarmusch’s Paterson. That film definitely deserved a spot on my top ten, and that made Hacksaw Ridge fall off the honorable mention spot. Thus Captain America: Civil War became the new honorable mention.

H.M. – Captain America: Civil War – Directed by Anthony Russo & Joe Russo

Release Poster - Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Release Poster – Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

From my review:

Captain America: Civil War is amazing. It is absolutely impressive from start to finish. Marvel Studios gave the Russo brothers the reins to the Marvel Cinematic Universe when Joss Whedon left after Avengers: Age of Ultron was completed, and it might be the best decision they’ve made since they chose Robert Downey, Jr. to play Tony Stark.

#10 – 13th – Directed by Ava DuVernay

Release Poster - Netflix
Release Poster – Netflix

From my review:

It will anger its audience, but also bring some to tears. When I saw it I was both angry and devastated. It is both important and powerful and comes at the right point in time. By being a Netflix Original Documentary, DuVernay’s 13th also has the opportunity to be viewed by a large group of people. If you have a Netflix account, then you have no excuse. You have to see it.

#9 – Paterson – Directed by Jim Jarmusch

Theatrical Release Poster – Amazon Studios & Bleecker Street

Jim Jarmusch’s Paterson is a wonderful drama about poetry, rhythm, staying in your lane, and the mundane as a whole. It says a lot about a lot of things without feeling the need to raise its cinematic voice. For some it will be a dull experience, but if you go into it with the right mindset, it’s going to reveal itself as an almost flawless film.

#8 – Sing Street – Directed by John Carney

Film Poster - The Weinstein Company
Film Poster – The Weinstein Company

From my review:

Sing Street is like a light but powerful pop song that you can’t stop dancing to. A familiar, but refreshing, and cheerful film that you have to see.

#7 – Silence – Directed by Martin Scorsese

Theatrical Release Poster - Paramount Pictures
Theatrical Release Poster – Paramount Pictures

From my review:

Silence is a film you admire more than you love. It’s not something you’ll want to go through more than once, but you may feel like you need to. It is definitely not a perfect film, it isn’t easy to watch, and I probably wouldn’t recommend it to everyone. But it is a must-watch for cinephiles everywhere. All art is subjective, and I don’t think Silence will work for everyone. But for me, this is a brutal and astonishing triumph in filmmaking.

#6 – Manchester by the Sea – Directed by Kenneth Lonergan

Theatrical Release Poster - Roadside Attractions
Theatrical Release Poster – Roadside Attractions

From my review:

Manchester by the Sea is a remarkably strong film about how you live with grief and guilt, and what happens when life keeps moving forward while you are alone, empty, and lost. It is a film that deals with an aimless and somewhat impassive person who is suddenly forced to rejoin the community that made him who he is.

#5 – Hell or High Water – Directed by David Mackenzie

Theatrical Release Poster - CBS Films; Lionsgate
Theatrical Release Poster – CBS Films; Lionsgate

From my review:

These characters feel very genuine and true to life – you know these kinds of people – and that’s a testament to both Taylor Sheridan’s script and all of these wonderful performances. The robbery scenes are thrilling, tense, and surprising.

#4 – Arrival – Directed by Denis Villeneuve

Theatrical Release Poster - Paramount Pictures
Theatrical Release Poster – Paramount Pictures

From my review:

I clearly loved Arrival, and, now that I’ve thought it over a little bit, I think that it might be my favorite Denis Villeneuve film yet. It also might be my favorite alien encounter film of all-time. I do think it’s a film you need to watch more than once, and I look forward to getting that chance at some point in the future.

#3 – Moonlight – Directed by Barry Jenkins

Release Poster – A24

From my review:

Director Barry Jenkins and cinematographer James Laxton have made a luscious and mesmerizing motion picture that is as impressive and intimate as it is important.

#2 – O. J.: Made in America – Directed by Ezra Edelman

Release Poster - ESPN Films
Release Poster – ESPN Films

From my review:

O. J.: Made in America is a modern documentary masterpiece that details the peak of the infotainment era, the rise of a role model, the loss of racial identity, and a star’s tragic and sinful fall from grace. It is one of the best documentaries I’ve ever seen.

#1 – La La Land – Directed by Damien Chazelle

Theatrical Release Poster - Summit Entertainment
Theatrical Release Poster – Summit Entertainment

From my review:

La La Land made me feel alive, and it made me believe in the medium again, in part, thanks to the honest and bittersweet nature of the final act. It is the second Chazelle film in a row that has made me desperate for an encore. I, honestly, can’t wait to see it again. Perhaps it’s not the most unique film of 2016. It’s not the most original film of 2016 either. But make no mistake, this is my favorite film of 2016. Dare to dream.

And that’s that, really. Now it feels more appropriate to look ahead to future films that will, perhaps, one day earn a spot on my yearly Top Ten Films of the Year-list, only time will tell if my most anticipated films will be on next year’s list, but, right now, I’m excited to find out what’s going to be 2017’s big surprise hit.

What was your favorite film of 2016? Sound off in the comments.

– Jeffrey Rex

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