Friday, January 6, 2017

The Countdown - The 25 Best Films of 2016


   Now that my worst films of 2016 list it out there, it's certainly time to look on the brighter side of 2016 films. While big budget blockbusters were vastly disappointing for the year for the most part, the smaller, indie films thrived, producing some fantastic and truly special films. From awards season heavy hitters to the smallest of horror and drama you could imagine, these are the best films of 2016.

First off there are a few films that were good but not enough to make the full list:

   Honorable Mention:

The Monster
A small contained horror film that oozes this primal, elemental fear. The pitch black of the night shrouds the creepy monster in mystery in this classic throwback to the various monster films of old.

American Honey
Offering a different type of coming of age tale, American Honey paints the picture of a downtrodden part of America. Various locations scattered across the film are poor and dirty, but the strange chemistry and love between stars Sasha Lane and Shia LaBeouf still manages to shine.

Fences (Review)
I wanted to include this in my list, but I saw it late and I had already put together the graphics. It still would’ve been near the bottom, but there is no denying that the two performances from Denzel Washington and Viola Davis are among the best of the year.

And now the 25 Best Films of 2016:

Green Room
Talk about a hardcore, heavy metal horror film. Green Room is wickedly horrific but immense amounts of fun all in the same package. It also brings one of the last performances of Anton Yelchin as he leads his ragtag band against neo Nazis led by Patrick Stewart and if that doesn’t sound like a great movie I don’t know what does.

Everybody Wants Some!!
The spiritual sequel to his 1992 film Dazed and Confused, Richard Linklater moves up a decade and tells the story of a college baseball team. There isn’t a whole lot of plot to the film but instead it follows this team on their exploits before school begins. From the music to humor and everything in between, Everybody Wants Some!! is just a damn good time.

The Edge of Seventeen
This is one of those films that just came out of nowhere and is completely heartfelt and sweet. The Edge of Seventeen is a throwback to the John Hughes films of old remade for modern times and it’s so relatable to the experiences of today’s world. Not only that, but with this film it’s clear that Hailee Steinfeld is a star waiting to happen. (REVIEW)

The Nice Guys
The good old buddy cop style film is what Shane Black does best. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is one of my favorite films of all time but this is arguably just as good if not better. Insanely fun to watch, The Nice Guys is filled to brim to action and great interactions between Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling with some of the best chemistry between actors from the entire year.

The Invitation
The Invitation was neck and neck with another film for my favorite horror of 2016 but the other got the slight edge. The film is even more of a slow burn than the entry later on this list but it’s got a bigger payoff. I don’t want to say a lot about The Invitation at risk of spoiling anything, but I will say it features the best ending shot of the entire year and it's certainly worth catching on Netflix.

The Lobster
One of the most unique films of 2016 (if not the most), The Lobster takes a very original idea and creates this dark comedy that manages some emotional beats as well. It’s not the same humor that people are used to and not everyone will love it, but if you move past your expectations, you’ll find a weird but lovable film in The Lobster.

The Witch
An atmospheric horror film unlike any other, The Witch is eerie and strange. It’s a slow burn so don’t expect the cliché jump scares, but if you invest your time in this film be prepared for a deeply unsettling and creepy film that will stick with you long after the credits roll. Again at risk of spoilers that's all I'll reveal as your experience of the film is truly what makes it great. (REVIEW)

While one of the smallest films on this list, Kicks manages to capture such a feeling of fear in this tale of growing up. It’s centered on a pair of shoes but the deeper themes about someone’s progression within their environment are just incredibly well done. It's a unique film with some solid performances and a different perspective on what someone finds important.

It’s hard to place my finger on what I exactly enjoyed about Indignation. It’s a good movie without a doubt but something about the film just hit me. It’s beautifully shot and has some great performances with some hard-hitting scenes. With Logan Lerman just chewing up certain scenes, Indignation is certainly worth checking out just to see what he can do.

I mean of course this is on my list. In terms of re-watchability, Deadpool is definitely up there. Tim Miller and Ryan Reynolds took my personal favorite comic character and adapted him almost perfectly for the big screen and I cannot wait to see what they do next (unfortunately without Tim Miller). Deadpool is a rare example of what can be done without having massive budgets or studio support and that R-rated blockbusters still have a place in today's world. (REVIEW)

Talk about returning to your roots. Disney animation steps up here and harnesses some 90s Disney for an adventure and musical for the modern age. The songs are catchy (though maybe not as much as Frozen) and the characters are enjoyable to watch in their journey across the sea. Moana continues the Disney trend of strong female characters with Moana, one who is perfectly suited for the hall of Disney royalty. (REVIEW)

In a story that certainly deserves to be told, director Jeff Nichols makes a subtle and relevant film. The performances from Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga anchor the emotion here for a historical drama that is touching and sensitive to the real life couple without becoming over the top or trying terribly hard for that award winning scene. Jeff Nichols has slowly become one of my favorite directors and if he keeps making films like Loving, he will likely stay. (REVIEW)

Doctor Strange
It’s truly amazing how Marvel continues to make solid adaptations of the weirdest and strangest comic book characters they have. Doctor Strange is no different as they take the complete mind trippy nature of the comic and translate it into one of the most visually stunning films of the year. Benedict Cumberbatch is perfectly suited for the character and it'll be interesting to see his world eventually merge with the rest of the expansive MCU. (REVIEW)

Hacksaw Ridge
Mel Gibson’s triumphant return to the director’s chair produces one of the most brutal war films since Saving Private Ryan. The real life story of the pacifist Desmond Doss, played brilliantly by Andrew Garfield, is a backdrop for a film that truly paints war as the horror that it is. Hacksaw Ridge is a testament to the power someone can have without a desire for violence, a message that more should hear after the year that was 2016. (REVIEW)

Kubo and the Two Strings
Perhaps the only film on the list that benefits from knowing how it was made, Kubo and the Two Strings is a true masterpiece of animation. The story is fairly paint by numbers but it’s easy to forgive when the characters are enjoyable and incredibly fun to watch. I encourage everyone to watch this film, stay for the credits, and proceed to be blown away by the amount of work put in by the studio, Laika. (REVIEW)

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is a near perfect way to create a prequel. It can be enjoyed by the casual fan who has seen the original 1977 film maybe once or twice or by the person who has read or seen every canon entry available. And while the film as a whole is a well-made look into a different part of the universe, the third act is truly spectacular and the best climax of the entire year. Not to mention that one particular scene, perhaps one of the better Star Wars scenes, is mind-blowing and those of you that have seen it know what I'm talking about. (REVIEW)

Captain America: Civil War
I mean is there any movie that satisfies fan boy desires more than Captain America: Civil War? All the heroes we know, plus Black Panther, plus Spider-Man, and they're all fighting? What else could you ask for? Marvel has nailed most of their films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe but the third Captain America film takes it to a whole new level, bringing all the nerdy goodness you could want with some thought provoking themes as well. (REVIEW)

Hell or High Water
First of all, who doesn’t love a good western? Hell or High Water is just that, but with a modern sensibility. The film is a simple story that delves into character moments rather than big shootouts and beautiful cinematography instead of mindless action. Throw in great performances from the cast and Hell or High Water becomes a must see of 2016.

Sing Street
There is something to be said about music’s ability to bring a story together. Sing Street, while not the big, over the top musical, provides heart and charm in spades. The young cast works well together amidst a backdrop of growing up and finding yourself and all while a lovely soundtrack fills in the cracks for a film that’s truly something special.

Manchester by the Sea
No other film in 2016 feels as real as Manchester by the Sea. Each and every scene feels like the audience is peering into the lives of these people and their lives, as if this isn't something that should be observed. Anchored by award worthy performances from Casey Affleck and Michelle Williams, Manchester by the Sea is deeply emotion must-see. (REVIEW)

Another film that just pulls on every emotion you could ever imagine Moonlight is one of the most interesting pieces of storytelling of 2016. Telling the story of one man through three separate time periods in his life, the film feels like three separate films in one, each crafted even more brilliantly than the last. And despite featuring this story of a man struggling through his circumstances, it somehow is relatable for everyone in some shape or form, a true testament to the work of director Barry Jenkins. (REVIEW)

As if Disney didn’t have enough going for it in 2016 (see list above), they also released a little animated film known as Zootopia. Not only is it wonderfully funny and gorgeously animated; it also has some fairly deep themes for a supposed children’s movie. Its hands down my favorite animated film of the year, and fought for the number one overall spot as well. If you haven't seen Zootopia by now, please I urge you to make it a priority. (REVIEW)

Hunt for the Wilderpeople
While it’s not completely shocking that Taika Waititi’s Hunt for the Wilderpeople ended up being one of my best films of the year, last year’s What We Do In the Shadows was near perfect and high on last year's list. But the talented filmmaker has outdone himself here, uniting his comedic skills with a heartfelt message for a truly magical, and massively quirky, experience.

La La Land
Few films can match the true levels of fun and heart that La La Land provides for the two-hour runtime. Bringing the punch back to musicals in a big way, La La Land features focused direction from Damien Chazelle, charismatic performances from Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, and beautiful music, both songs and score, that all come together to form a true contender for every award and heart. (REVIEW)

And the #1 best film of 2016....

For a film that contains some fairly strong sci-fi elements, Arrival also features immense amounts of emotion that few films in 2016 can match. The beautiful performance from Amy Adams brings it all together in a thought provoking and moving film. If you have seen this film and enjoyed it (hell even if you didn't), I urge you to check out the rest of director Denis Villeneuve's filmography. He brings it time in and time out and will, if he stays the course, become one of the greatest directors we have working today. Because of his work coupled with the wonderful script, no other film will stay with you as long or get even better and better upon repeat viewing than Arrival. (REVIEW)

   So those are my best films of 2016. 2017 is sure to be another great year for film and you'll get to see my most anticipated for the year later this week, but until then look out for numerous reviews. So what did you think of the list? Anything I left off? Or included that just doesn't belong? Be sure to subscribe, share, comment below and as always return to I Am Sam for weekly reviews and insight.

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