Whilst I haven’t seen all the films this year has had to offer, 2016 has been an exceptional year for film. Selecting and ordering a list consisting of only 10 titles is no easy task, but after weeks of deliberation and continuous re-ordering, I can bring to you my personal favourites from this year. Please note that this list contains films released during any point in the U.K during this year, so likely picks such as Moonlight, La La Land and Silence won’t be included here.
#10 – The Nice Guys
The prospect of a Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe comedic buddy-movie might have initially seemed to be an unlikely pairing, but thankfully Shane Black’s 2016 comedy hit the ball out of the park. Its action-comedy orientated narrative is guided seamlessly by the terrific partnership of Gosling and Crowe, helped by an exceptionally funny script written by an equally brilliant duo of Black and Bagarozzi. The Nice Guys is undeniably one of this years most hilarious films, landing the entry spot of my Top 10 list.
#9 – Rogue One
Last year’s release of the highly-anticipated return to the Star Wars franchise The Force Awakens helped to reassure fans that all was not lost for the esteemed movie universe. This was only strengthened by this year’s release of Rogue One; a worthy stand-alone addition to the Star Wars franchise, bringing forth an air of freshness to a galaxy far, far away. Its central focus on authenticating galactic warfare through its use of intelligent cinematography will keep you hooked through the movie’s entirety, and if you’re not already invested by the return to the Star Wars universe, the return of Darth Vader will undeniably do so. For a more insightful review, please feel free to read my review here.
#8 – The Girl With All The Gifts
Returning to the horror sub-genre that we have all grown to love, The Girl With All The Gifts is a zombie film that distances itself from its predecessors. Much like Boyle’s 28 Days Later, McCarthy’s British-set film is a suspense-building masterclass, achieved primarily through the graphical and often unsettling images unravelling before our eyes. The film is reinforced by solid performances from all the cast on offer, but what is most interesting, is that we are shown this zombie-ridden world through the eyes of someone who should be the antagonist; a young child desperate to cling on to humanity, yet held back by her lust for human flesh. It’s no easy task to make a genre that has existed for decades feel different, and The Girl With All The Gifts does so superbly. Again, you can read my review here!
#7 – Nocturnal Animals
With Nocturnal Animals being only Tom Ford’s second film, you could say it’s a surprise that it’s as good as it is. The overall aesthetic and feel to the film is resoundingly beautiful, with Ford’s keen eye for detail maintaining its consistency throughout. But what really makes the film stand out is its performances on display, from Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Jake Gyllenhaal in particular. Nocturnal Animals guides you along on a handsomely crafted journey of self-discovery, with a few traumatic kicks thrown in here and there. Its visuals are aesthetically pleasing and its progressive narrative will maintain your investment, but it’s the film’s artistic and atmospheric undertone that will leave you in awe. It truly is a delight to behold. Read my review here!
#6 – Hunt For The Wilderpeople
“Change begins at the end of your comfort zone.” Roy T.Bennett’s wise words encourages those who seek new adventures, and for me, stepping away from the mainstream film industry and into more independent territory allowed me to experience one of the year’s funniest comedies. Set in rural New Zealand, Hunt For The Wilderpeople is an inspired piece of film, borrowing elements from Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom and Edgar Wright’s Cornetto trilogy. But more importantly, Waititi’s film is a wonderful adventure guided by the lifting on-screen relationship between Sam Neill’s Hec and Julian Dennison’s Ricky, accompanied with some truly hilarious and heart-wrenching moments. If you’re looking for a fun, adventurous narrative with genuine performances, Hunt For The Wilderpeople is undeniably for you.
#5 – I, Daniel Blake
Ken Loach’s return to cinema after a 2-year break brought us I, Daniel Blake, a British-set drama that tells the story of Daniel Blake, a victim of Britain’s uncompromising welfare system. Loach’s disappointment at British culture is once again evident, shown through the heart-breaking hurdles that those at the bottom of the UK’s social class system must battle in order to acquire any sort of income to help ease their troubles. This is a film pouring with realism, through the non-professional cast on offer and the real life troubles that these people experience on an every day basis; and a wonderful performance from Haley Squires will have you sobbing in your seats. Have a tissue box ready, because you’ll be both crying of laughter and sobbing with tears.
#4 – Under The Shadow
Venturing outside Western filmmaking territory opens the door to world cinema, and Anvari’s spine-chilling horror Under The Shadow is undoubtedly the best foreign film of this year. Set during the on-going conflict between Iran and Iraq, Anvari’s film very much throws you into a war-zone, where a mother and daughter fight for survival against the supernatural ‘djinn’ spirits. Inspired by the same subconscious grief between mother and child and the supernatural that Jennifer Kent’s The Babadook has become renowned for, Under The Shadow is a malevolent and sinister experience, reinforced by an eerie undertone that lurks throughout the film. It’s terrifying, creepy and suspenseful – what else do you need in a horror?
#3 – Hell or High Water
Kicking off my top 3 is David Mackenzie’s heist-drama Hell or High Water, a film at the time of my review thought to be my favourite from this year. Written superbly by actor-turned-writer Taylor Sheridan, this is a film bursting with interesting characters, especially in the form of the Howard brothers, played remarkably by Chris Pine and Ben Foster. The dialogue is the biggest driving point for the narrative, with Sheridan’s genuine and often humourous dialogue seeping through the screen. Hell or High Water truly is a film that has everything; it has humour, drama, suspense, and a bittersweet denouement that’ll resonate with you after your viewing, but most of all, it feels remarkably unforced and fluent. A masterclass on perfect pacing.
#2 – Room
You’re probably wondering why this film made this list. Despite Brie Larson’s Oscar-winning performance in this year’s Academy Awards, Room was not released in the UK until early 2016, making it eligible for my list.
Abrahamson’s Room is one of those films that hits you in the chest during your viewing and stays with you forever. Its narrative deals expertly with themes of human entrapment, institutionalisation and familial bonding through unconditional love. The on-screen relationship between mother and son is an unprecedented achievement in the eyes of film, a genuine relationship achieved through months of pre-production meetings with Larson and kid-wonder Jacob Tremblay. It simply feels real, with the events on screen sending you on a rollercoaster of emotions. Watch it, engage with it, and treasure it. It’s going to be a classic to look back on in future years.
2016 brings with it a catalogue of worthy titles to be considered for a top 10 list, but unfortunately only 10 films can be selected. So if you get a chance, make sure you also watch these films, too:
- Creed (Ryan Coogler; Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone)
- Captain America: Civil War (Anthony and Joe Russo; Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr.)
- Deadpool (Tim Miller; Ryan Reynolds, Ed Skrein)
- 10 Cloverfield Lane (Dan Trachtenberg; John Goodman, Mary Elizabeth Winstead)
- Hush (Mike Flanagan; Kate Siegal, John Gallagher Jr.)
- Zootropolis (Byron Howard et al; Ginnifer Goodwin, Jason Bateman)
- The Hateful Eight (Quentin Tarantino; Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell)
- The Revenant (Alejandro G. Iñárritu; Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy)
#1 – Arrival
Topping my list is Denis Villeneuve’s sci-fi masterpiece Arrival, another body of work that only cements Villeneuve’s reputation for being one of the best directors from this generation. Superceding his previous achievements, Arrival is undeniably his Magnus Opus so far, a remarkable triumph with Sicario and Prisoners being truly effective films in their own right. Keeping consistent with his thought-provoking style, Arrival is equally as enigmatic as Enemy, keeping your interest but also trusting the intelligence of the viewer. But what makes Villeneuve’s 2016 film as perfect as it is, however, is that it distances itself from the everyday alien-abduction flicks, highlighting instead the pivotal importance of language and human cooperation. Amy Adams’ career-best performance as the primary protagonist helps bring a human balance to the alien-driven narrative, crossing both literal and symbolic borders to discover the reason why these aliens have come to earth. It’s visually stunning, intelligent and pulsates with its resonating soundtrack, but most importantly – it’s my favourite film of the year.
Critically-acclaimed missed opportunities
Unfortunately by trying to juggle with studying, working and fitting in a social life somewhere along the line, I wasn’t able to see all the films that this year has had to offer. So if any of the below films are on your list but sadly not on mine, feel free to continuously nag me on twitter until I see them!
- Captain Fantastic
- Toni Erdmann
- American Honey
- The Wailing
- Edge of Seventeen
- Sing Street
- The Lobster
- Train to Busan
- The Jungle Book
- Kubo And The Two Strings