Top Ten Films Of 2016

Top 10

2016 did not disappoint with films this year. With the age of binge-watching in full swing, studios are finding it tough to get people into cinema seats as the content, storytelling and originality that is becoming available in platforms such as Netflix and Amazon Prime, and premium channels such as HBO and AMC, is surpassing the level of highly-promoted films released in cinemas. We’re even seeing big Hollywood stars venturing more and more into doing a mini series than they would have ten years ago. Yet we are still getting gems released and 2016 had an abundance of them. Here are my top 10 films of 2016 which I can’t stop thinking about. Leave in the comments section below on what your favourite films of 2016 were, and any you feel should’ve made it in my list!
Note: Some of these are yet to be released in the UK but I was fortunate enough to catch them at special screenings this year.

Honourable Mentions: The Revenant, Creed

10. The Nice Guys

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The second best buddy comedy of the year (No. 3 takes the title) is also Shane Black’s best work since 2005’s “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” (sorry guys but Iron Man 3 was average at best). Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling play Healy and March, two private investigators looking into the death of a pornstar, and a missing teenage girl in 1970s sun-soaked, drug-fuelled Los Angeles. Set to an amazing soundtrack, Black’s writing is funny and sharp, delivered perfectly by Crowe’s punch-first-talk-later enforcer, and Gosling’s dim-witted private eye. Who knew they could do comedy? Also, where else will you see Crowe and Gosling having a conversation with a human-sized bumble bee?

Favourite Quote: “So you’re telling me you made a porno where the plot is the point?”

9. Kubo and the Two Strings

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2016 was a “meh” year for animation, with okay sequels in Kung Fu Panda 3 and Finding Dory, and mediocre/watchable releases from DreamWorks and Illumination such as “Trolls” and “The Secret Life of Pets”. But two stood out from the rest. Disney’s “Zootopia” tackled the subject of discrimination and prejudice in the form of animated animals. But it was “Kubo and the Two Strings”, the story of a young Japanese boy on a quest to find a magical suit of armour (with the help of Monkey and Beetle) to defeat The Moon King, which left a longer lasting effect on me. With the right balance of love and darkness, it’s ultimately a tale about what lengths a mother would go to to protect her child. With stellar voice work from Art Parkinson (Kubo), Charlize Theron (Monkey), and Matthew McConaughey (Beetle – standout), Laika studios’ stop-motion animation is a beauty to behold and unlike anything else you’ll see this year.

Favourite Quote: “He looked into my eyes and uttered four simple words. These words changed everything… You are my quest”

8. Captain America: Civil War

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In the last decade alone we’ve had OVER FIFTY superhero movies, with a fifth of them being from the juggernaut that is Marvel Studios. The once formulaic superhero movie plot has become a lot more meatier in terms of character studies, making you as a viewer invest more in these “super” beings but also question the ideals they hold, and there wasn’t any other superhero drama this year that did it better than Civil War (its really Avengers 3). Based loosely on the incredible comic book series, Captain America (Chris Evans) is at odds with Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), as Stark believes that The Avengers should be put in check under government law due to the unnecessary human whiplash that occurs whenever they go saving the day. Thus a division occurs within The Avengers. Not as great as The Winter Soldier (still my favourite Marvel movie), but still has moments of pure spectacle (with a scene-stealing Tom Holland as Spider-Man) that fulfils any superhero fans’ heart. The airport scene alone is worth the price of the cinema ticket!

Favourite Quote: “It’s your conscience. We don’t talk a lot these days.”

7. The Hateful Eight

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Ah Mr Tarantino. I have been your follower ever since I first watched “Pulp Fiction” all those years ago. Whenever you release a movie, there isn’t any other way to describe it other than an event and boy was “The Hateful Eight” worth the wait. It was close to not being made at all, as the original script was leaked in 2014 before it went into production. But after doing a live theatre reading of the script with actors who most would end up in the final film, QT changed his mind (thank the lord!) and ended up making this cold, tension filled, three-hour long, western epic. The story of eight shady characters holed up in a cabin whilst a blizzard is happening outside is told in classic Tarantino fashion: non-linear chapters, rhythmic dialogue, a stellar cast, an incredible score by legendary composer Ennio Morricone (his first in 35 years), and blood. A…lot…of…blood.

Favourite Quote: “Move a little strange, you’re gonna get a bullet. Not a warning, not a question…a bullet”

6. The Big Short

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In the months between 2011 and 2012, I did my Masters degree on Global Banking and Finance. Of course, a major chunk of it was dedicated to the 2007-2008 financial crisis and the subprime mortgage crisis, a fascinating insight into the arrogance of banks which led to affecting millions of people all around the world. So when I heard the director of Anchorman was adapting a best-selling book about this subject, with a perfect cast that consisted of Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, and Brad Pitt, OH GREAT ODIN’S RAVEN did it grab my attention. The subject its dealing with is complex, but Adam McKay makes sure his audience don’t drown in finance jargon, with well-placed cues to explain it to us in the form of celebrities. It is very funny but it also makes sure that the viewers understand that this is no laughing matter, as millions of people did lose their homes because of big banks becoming too greedy for their own good.

Favourite Quote: “If we’re right, people lose homes. People lose jobs. People lose retirement savings, people lose pensions. You know what I hate about f**king banking? It reduces people to numbers. Here’s a number – every 1% unemployment goes up, 40,000 people die, did you know that?”

5. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

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In my glowing review of “Rogue One” which you can read here, I called this “…the best Star Wars film since The Empire Strikes Back” and I still support that statement. The journey of Jyn Erso (a perfectly cast Felicity Jones) and a group of rebels who go on to steal the plans to the Death Star is brought to epic, pulse-racing life by director Gareth Edwards. The characters are compelling, with Chirrut and K-2SO as standouts, and the CGI is a technological achievement. But its the final 45 miunte long battle which takes place in both the planet Scarif and space which will be remembered as one of the greatest war sequences shot in film history. Its brutal and relentless, echoing Saving Private Ryan and Platoon. Have I also not mentioned the terrifying return of Darth Vader to our screens as well?

Favourite Quote: “I’m one with the Force. The Force is with me”

4. Arrival

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At the beginning of 2016, I predicted “Rogue One” will definitely be my favourite science fiction film this year. Nine months later, I was lucky enough to be able to attend a few gala screenings at this year’s BFI London Film Festival, and “Arrival” was one of them. Two hours later and an ending that blew my tiny mind, I said to myself “This may be one of the best science fiction films I’ve ever seen”. Based on the novella “Story of your Life” by Ted Chiang, it tells the story of 12 extraterrestrial spaceships (or “shells”) suddenly appearing in random cities around the world. The world doesn’t understand why they are here and whether they are a threat to human kind. The US army hire a professor of linguistics, Louise Banks (Amy Adams) and Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner), a theoretical physicist, to find a way of communicating with these beings and to help answer these questions. Directed by Denis Villeneuve (who also directed “Sicario” & “Prisoners”, and is quickly becoming one of my favourite directors right now), Villeneuve has created a subtle,  nuanced thinking-man sci-fi film which isn’t really about an alien invasion, but about the power of language and how communication is the most powerful form of action. No wonder I’m so excited to see his Blade Runner sequel next year! But this film wouldn’t have truly reached its heights without Amy Adams. The FIVE-TIME (!) Oscar nominated actress will surely become the SIX-TIME Oscar nominated actress next year, as she is the soul of this film and this really is her most vulnerable performance yet.

Favourite Quote: “If you could see your life from start to finish, would you change things?”

3. Hunt for the Wilderpeople

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Meet Ricky Baker (Julian Dennison), a 12-year old Tupac Shakur loving juvenile and orphan, who gets forced by child services to live with his aunt Bella (Rima Te Wiata) and her husband Hector (Sam Neill). As the film unravels, Ricky and Uncle Hec find themselves going on the run in the wild New Zealand bush and become part of a national manhunt. This is not only the funniest film of the year, its the best comedy in the last decade. There are endless jokes and quotes in this film that will make you cry with laughter, delivered by the amazing Sam Neill and the revelation that is Julian Dennison. The quick back-and-forth between Ricky and Hector is so wonderful, I can imagine both the actors must’ve found it so hard to keep a straight face when delivering their lines. And man that script. Written and directed by Taika Waititi, with a budget of only $2.5 million, it would be an absolute shame if his screenplay isn’t nominated come Oscar time. No wonder its become the highest grossing New Zealand film ever!

Favourite Quote: “Faulkner is cauc-asian” – well, they got that wrong because you’re obviously white”

2. Manchester by the Sea

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The second of the three films that I attended gala screenings for in this year’s London BFI Film Festival is also the film that made my brother and I, two fully grown adults in three-piece suits cry like babies…i mean cry man tears in a dark cinema. Being released here in the UK on 13th January 2017 (look out for my review around that time), Manchester is a tale about a man who’s brother dies from a long-standing illness and is now forced to take care of his nephew in Manchester, Massachusetts. Whats so striking about this film is how natural the conversations feel between the characters, making you feel so much more empathetic towards them, and adds more depth to the wounds these characters have in them. Beautiful writing and direction from playwright Kenneth Lonergan, with perfect performances from Michelle Williams, who is flawless like she is in all her films, and in his first ever role, Lucas Hedges has stapled himself as a future actor to look out for. But its Casey Affleck’s film, and it is the best performance I have seen all year by any actor or actress. It is moving, nuanaced, subtle and heartbreaking. Affleck wears an armour of pain throughout the film. Pain that I could feel as it was fully subjected to me throughout the running time, and not many actors could do that. Get ready to take tissues with you to watch this film come January.

Favourite Quote: “I said a lot of terrible things to you. My heart was broken, and I know yours is broken, too”

1. La La Land

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Damien Chazelle’s “Whiplash” was my favourite movie of 2014. I went to its UK premiere at the 2014 BFI London Film Festival and it was something that had captured me by the throat the moment I heard the drum beat in the opening credits. I love that film so much, when the film was released on Blu-ray, I bought a copy for myself and I watched it once everyday for the next seven days. When I first heard Chazelle’s next project was a musical based in LA about an aspiring actress (Emma Stone) and a struggling jazz musician (Ryan Gosling), all the way back in 2015, I was counting down the days till the moment I could watch it. How poetic it was that I was able to nab a ticket to the UK premiere at this year’s BFI London Film Festival, two years after seeing Whiplash. I had already heard and read great things about it in other film festivals this was unveiled at so my expectations were high. They were so high, that sense of “Oh God what if this turns out to be terrible?!” was lingering like a leech on my skin. The lights turn down in the cinema hall…the sun-drenched view of LA appears on the gigantic screen…the opening song kicks in and explodes like beautiful fireworks. From that moment on and for the next two hours, I had only one expression on my face: a wide-eyed smile. This film is the definition of joy. The definition of what it feels like to be a dreamer. Anyone can grab their dreams, have their true calling if they never give up. Its a musical masterpiece and a film so needed in a year of so many shocking events that have occurred in 2016. Its a film you want to watch again and again and again. It comes out here in the UK on January 13th 2017, and I can’t wait to write a full review for you and for this definite Best Film winner in next years’ Oscars.

Favourite Quote: “Maybe I’m not good enough!”

 

8 thoughts on “Top Ten Films Of 2016

  1. Not a bad effort, Mabs, but you’ve made one statement which made me literally spit my morning coffee all over my desk in disgust.

    Rogue One is a terrible film.

    1. The idea that a throwaway line in A New Hope should be made into a 2hr movie is symbolic of the attitude that Disney has had since buying LF: “let’s see if this old cow has some more milk left in her”.

    2. The acting in some instances is, quite literally, appalling. Diego Luna may be the worst actor ever included in the brand (including both Mark Hamill and Hayden Christensen), whilst Jordan from Rizzle Kicks provides an exceptionally bad cameo with no real purpose (Americans won’t have the foggiest who he is and he’s hardly going to kick-start a glittering career). I could go on for pages and pages on this point, but will limit myself to those two staggering examples.

    3. Peter Cushing is dead. This is not a new development. Let’s try and keep him that way.

    4. Who invited Bruce Lee?

    5. Why, when the rest of the universe is struggling and straining to defeat the empire’s amazing weaponry, don’t they just kick the storm troopers to death? Seems to work for Chirrut with precious little explanation. He doesn’t break the armour; on some occasions he doesn’t even kill them, but nevertheless he is one with the Force and the Force is with him (who’d have thought it).

    6. How can you have a Star Wars without Jedi? Seriously! Fucking Jedi, man!

    7. I’ve recently started to struggle with the notion that Hayden Christensen is inside the Darth Vader suit. I know it’s petty, but it’s hard to be scared of something that hides one of the least intimidating people on the planet inside.

    8. Forrest Whitaker should shoot his agent.

    A: “Hey Forrest, I’ve landed you a major role in Star Wars”
    FW: “Sweet. This is going to be much more of a big deal for my legacy than my Oscar”
    A: “I know; how cool is this? You don’t pay me enough *smug chuckle*”
    FW: “So, did you get me one of the long-running parts where you develop an emotional connection over time and discover some amazing things about my character?”
    A: “No, you’re a terrorist who was once a good guy and then goes back to being a good guy.”
    FW: “Oh, so you see me progress into darkness and then back out again. Very deep; really challenging my range…”
    A: “No, the audience will see about 3 seconds of you being a good guy at either end of you being a bit of a douche. Oh, and there’s no decline into darkness, you just sort of go away for 15 years or so.”
    FW: “Well…”
    A: “You’ll have to use a respirator for most of your appearances too, because of your troubled past that the audience don’t know about.”
    FW: “Ah, right, is it at least one of those cool respirators like Darth Vader has to use?”
    A: “No, it’s like the ones they put over your face if you’ve had a panic attack in McDonalds.”
    FW: “Fuck.”

    9. When the Empire meet Galen and his team of scientists, why do they not go inside at any point. It’s pissing it down with rain; do the sensible thing. As an added aside, when the Death Star is blown up later on, the Emperor is going to be totally pissed off with the fact that they’ve just killed all of the scientists that built the original.

    10. Carrie Fisher coming on at the end to pick up her appearance fee is such a play at pandering to fans of the original that it made me sick to my stomach.

    Apart from that and the other 100 shit-notes that I made whilst watching it, it’s a classic; one for the ages.

    Peace out.

    Jono

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey Jono,

      Firstly, thank you so much for reading my review! Even if you don’t agree with how much I loved the film compared to how much you hated it, it really means a lot that people are reading something that I am very new at, and at least is wanting to talk about it! Your response is very fair and I would like to give my response back to each of the points you made (even if some of them are just downright hilarious :)). So:

      1. Well it may be just a throwaway line from the opening crawl, but the first paragraph of A New Hope’s opening crawl starts by stating that the Rebel’s won their first battle against the imperial army AND stole the death star plans. Wouldn’t you want to have the presented in any sort of medium and find out how they did it? Its such a major turning point for the fight for fight against the Empire, to me I’ve always wondered how they did it. Also, maybe it is a cash-grabbing ploy by Disney, but I’d rather be watching this than another Transformer movie…wouldn’t you agree?

      2. I actually found the acting to be really good (except one which I pointed out already in my review) and Diego did great with what he had to portray as Cassian. I partially-agree Mark Hamill was bad, as he was awful in A New Hope, but did get better as the original trilogy went on. Hayden was awful and thats why I get angry sometimes just watching the prequel trilogy. I really had no idea that Jordan from Rizzle Kicks was in it. If you say his acting was bad then I will agree with you there because as you can tell, it was forgettable to me.

      3. Peter Cushing is dead yes…for many many years. But I was so glad to see Tarkin was part of this film because he was vital to A New Hope and it would’ve been strange to not see him there at all.

      4. Bruce Lee’s fighting style is Wing Chun and Jeet Kune Do. For Chirrut Imwe, Donnie Yen created a new type of martial arts. So Bruce Lee wasn’t in this film, his master Ip Man was πŸ˜‰

      5. Because they have blasters on them and unless they are trained in some sort of fighting technique like Chirrut is, as he is a Guardian of the Whills and protector of the ways of the force, they will die….very quickly. Would you pick a fight with someone where you had no training whatsoever and your opponent has a laser gun?

      6. Star Wars Universe is not just about Jedis and Siths (have a look into the books, comic books, video games). Its also about the normal people/aliens that live in this vast galaxy, the ordinary folk who can be heroes. I was glad that they put aside the Skywalker saga story for this film. Thats for the episodic films, not for the stand alone ones. I wouldn’t recommend you going to watch the Han Solo standalone film if you’re expecting Jedis again in that film…

      7. Well just don’t think about it would be my recommendation, because I don’t. Maybe it was Ray Parker who played Darth Maul who was in that suit? That’s a better image in my head πŸ™‚

      8. There have been some reports that his agent tricked him into doing Rogue One because he told Forrest that its actually his character from “The Last King Of Scotland” but in space, so thats why his acting was so out there in Rogue One.

      9. Well, Krennic is an intimidating General who’s purpose of visiting Eadu was to find out whether he’s been betrayed by Galen, so his mindset wouldn’t really care if its raining. To add to the Emperor getting pissed off that his scientists have been killed. Well it didn’t stop them in creating a new one during the event’s of Empire and return of the Jedi?

      10. I don’t know if you’re being sarcastic here or you genuinely didn’t know that that was CGI Carrie Fisher at the end, not the 60 year old one…

      Apart from that, thank you so much for taking your time to read the review and hopefully you’ll enjoy more of the things that I put up on “Mabs Does Movies”

      Kindest Regards,
      Mabs

      Like

  2. This is a great list! As I was reading, I was trying to think if I’d seen any movies this year that I’d put on a Top Ten that you didn’t mention. Only one came immediately to mind and that was ‘The Witch.’ As horror films go, I think it was brilliantly done, giving the viewer even more to think about after it was done than it had jump scares to startle.. Also, I really appreciate your mix of both “arty” films and “blockbuster” films on this list. Too often when I read Top Ten lists they are films that are in select cinemas for a week and a half and then disappear until DVD and streaming services. Now, don’t get me wrong. I love many of those films! But there’s also something to be said for the “BIG” pieces of popular culture that we all share. I respect the fact that your list includes both, giving an authentic picture of the movie theatre experience we all share.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Michael. Thanks for reading my post and appreciating my mixture of big Hollywood blockbusters and small unique gems. I believe that if you’re a true admirer of films then you should respect all of them and always be open minded. Having said that, I have heard great things about The Witch but I’ve never really been a lover of horror films other than the classics that came out in the 70s and 80s. I will of course add this to the list and hopefully get around to watching it πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I was never a lover of horror films until I started dating my girlfriend who LOVES them…so now I watch them all the time :). It is creepy so, be ready/warned of you watch it. As to being open-minded about film, AMEN! I couldn’t agree with you more!

        Liked by 1 person

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