My Top Movies of 2016

Here’s my personal list of the top movies of 2016. But before I get to the list, a few quick caveats:

  • There’s more than one reason for a film not to make my list. It doesn’t necessarily mean that I thought it was badly done, though that’s entirely possible. Some are fine, but fairly forgettable. Others I simply haven’t seen. Sometimes that’s by choice (due to lack of interest, subject matter, etc.). And sometimes it’s because I just haven’t had the chance to catch that particular movie yet (such as a few well-reviewed late year releases like La La Land, Loving, and Manchester by the Sea). I wish I had the opportunity to see more films close to their release than I do, but such is my stage of life.
  • While I think all these films are worthwhile, it doesn’t mean I think they’re perfect or that I endorse everything about them. For example, a movie might have an engaging story and be well acted, but feature a worldview that’s muddled or otherwise problematic. But in the short descriptions I include below I’ve mostly focused on strengths rather than any shortcomings the films might have.
  • Finally, just because I like a movie doesn’t mean that you will, or that everyone should see it. It’s always wise to do a little research into the subject matter and content before you choose to watch.

Without further ado then, in alphabetical order:

Arrival

What would we do if advanced, otherworldly beings showed up on our planet? It’s a familiar theme, but Arrival’s take is well-executed, encouraging the viewer to think more about human nature than the aliens. Add in some interesting questions that arise from the dimension of time, and you get a film that will keep engaging you after the closing credits.

Eye in the Sky

What kinds of challenges do we face in attempting to fight a global war on terrorism? Eye in the Sky doesn’t choose sides so much as it forces you face the difficult ethical questions yourself. I wrote more about it here.

Hell or High Water

A modern day western of sorts, this movie can nudge up against caricature at times. But the characters mirror real humanity: flawed and compelling. Jeff Bridges and Chris Pine are both excellent, particularly as the film draws to its close.

Hunt for the Wilderpeople

The funniest movie on my list. Place a decidedly suburban problem child on the run in the wild New Zealand bush with his gruff and reluctant foster uncle and the let the hijinks ensue. And the film has plenty to say about love and family.

Kubo and the Two Strings

Kubo had me from its very first line of dialog. You’ll have a hard time finding a film that better illustrates the value of story, music, and family. And the animation is captivating. It’s likely to appeal to the whole family.

Life, Animated

One of the best documentaries I’ve seen in some time, Life, Animated is a testament to just how fundamental stories are to human life. If you aren’t moved in some way by this one, you might be a stone.

Love and Friendship

I’ve learned to associate Jane Austen with wonderful language, understated humor, and real insight into the human condition. Love and Friendship, based on Austen’s novella “Lady Susan,” is no exception.

Midnight Special

A film we screened for Talking Pictures at The Crossing, Midnight Special boasts several strong acting performances and a willingness to entertain a reality beyond our normal perceptions. And at its core, it’s a moving meditation on what it means to be a parent.

The Music of Strangers

A documentary treating Yo-Yo Ma’s project of gathering a world-spanning group of musicians to collaborate and perform, this film underscores the fact that music and art is fundamental to human nature and, as a result, a powerful connective force.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

It’s no mean feat to introduce almost an entirely new set of compelling characters into the well-loved Star Wars universe to tell a story only hinted at previously, especially one with darker tones and a costly, poignant ending. Rouge One deftly accomplishes all that and throws in plenty of down-the-pipe cinematic excitement to boot.

Others just outside the cut: Dr. Strange, Hail Caesar.

One Comment

  1. diane d. said:

    great list, nathan! i’ve seen two (star wars, of course) and almost saw a third, so now i need to check out some of these before the oscars!

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