The best films of 2016

2016 was one crazy year that we can’t wait to leave behind after this week. This year in movies has been somewhat of a mixed bag from surprisingly excellent films to big-budget disappointments. Nonetheless, it was a memorable year. My selection for the best films of 2016 are comprise of films from different genres whether it is a modern American western, an animated musical or a German comedy. Without any further ado, here are my picks for the best movies of the year: 

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1. Moonlight

Based on an unproduced autobiographical play from playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney, writer-director Barry Jenkins tells a relatable yet unconventional coming-of-age story about the life of a young queer black man growing up on the streets of Liberty City in Miami. Jenkins utilized a terrific ensemble with outstanding performances and a sharply-written script to make Moonlight a moving, multi-part portrayal of a young man’s self-awareness as he becomes a young adult.

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2. The Lobster

The Lobster is the most original and unique romantic film to grace the silver screen since 2004’s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos (Dogtooth), the movie is set in a dystopian future where single folks are rounded up and sent to a hotel where they must find a mate within 45 days or they are transformed into a beast of their choosing. Once you are fully emerged into this world, the strange premise is brilliantly executed complete with some awkward moments that will make you laugh. The Lobster has a fantastic cast that includes John C. Reily, Lea Seydoux and Ben Whishaw, but it is Colin Farrell and Rachel Weisz who deliver fantastic performances as two people who fall in love with one another in a bizarre world.

MANCHESTER BY THE SEA, from left, Casey Affleck, Lucas Hedges, 2016. ph: Claire Folger. © Roadside

3. Manchester by the Sea

The latest film from Kenneth Lonergan is from a complete downer as Manchester by the Sea could be one of the funniest movies about grief. Anchored with terrific performances and outstanding dialogue, Casey Affleck plays a emotionally isolated man who finds himself the guardian of his nephew (Lucas Hedges) after the death in the family.

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4. O.J.: Made in America

It would be easy to dismiss this five-part, nearly eight-hour film as just another documentary about O.J. Simpson’s 1994 trail for murder of his ex-wife Nicole Brown and waiter Ron Goldman. However, filmmaker Ezra Edelman uses the trail as the foundation for this thorough examination of the circumstances that lead to Simpson’s acquittal from police brutality to America’s obsession with fame.

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5. La La Land

Writer-director Damien Chazelle channels his inner Jacques Demy to create an original and exceptional musical  that oozes with pure musical that glee. Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling sing and dance their way on to the silver screen as a starving actress and jazz pianist who are the “ones who dream, foolish as they seem.”

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6. Hell or High Water

Filmmaker David Mackenzie follows up his 2014’s prison film Starred Up by teaming up screenwriter Taylor Sheridan (Sicario) to make a relevant modern day western. Chris Pine (in his best performance to date) and Ben Foster play brothers who are robbing banks in order to save their family’s ranch. Jeff Bridges is the grizzled lawman on the verge of retirement whose intent is to capture and bring them to justice.

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7. Toni Erdmann

This father/daughter escapade from German filmmaker Maren Ade is a fearless and hilarious motion picture anchored by two fantastic performances from Peter Simonischeck and Sandra Hüller. Winifried (Simonischeck) is a middle-aged piano teacher who decides visit his emotionally distant daughter Ines (Hüller) while she is on a business trip in Bucharest. This film is as humane and funny as the relationship between Winifred and Ines, especially when the former inserts himself in the latter’s business affairs by donning a disguise complete with a bad wig and fake teeth.

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8. Moana

On the surface, Walt Disney Animation Studios’ latest film seems to retread the same formula as its predecessors with a story about a young girl leaving her family to head on an adventure. Moana puts a spin on that template by telling this particular story by drawing from real Polynesian history and folklore, along with utilizing the help Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, Te Vaka frontman Opetaia Foa’i and Grammy-winning composer Mark Mancina for the movie’s fantastic and unique soundtrack.

Production still from set of CHRISTINE, 2015

9. Christine

Rebecca Hall delivers her best performances to date as Christine Chubbuck, a 1970s TV reporter who ended up killing herself on live television. Filmmaker Antonio Campos hones in on the many factors that lead to Chubbuck to make her fateful decision whether it crippling battle with depression or her frustration of trying to advance her career.

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10. Green Room

After witnessing a shocking crime, a punk band struggles to survive the night at a neo-Nazi skinhead bar led by the club owner (Patrick Stewart). Writer-director Jeremy Saulnier’s follow-up to his breakthrough film Blue Ruin is a bloody, claustrophobic and shocking experience in the vain of John Carpenter’s  Assault on Precinct 13.  

Honorable mentions: A Bigger Splash, Captain America: Civil War, The Edge of Seventeen, Elle, Everybody Wants Some, The Fits, Jackie, Kubo & The Two Strings, Love & Friendship, The Neon Demon, Paterson, The Salesman, Sing Street, Under the Shadow, The Witch

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