For 2016, my overall viewing was down, but I was still able to see a lot of really good movies. I would go so far as to say that I saw more excellent movies than I was expecting to. Of course, there are always those that I miss and I have to say that the late year crop of Oscar-type movies have not really excited me. Whether my lack of interest is due to the change in my viewing habits or taste, or that it is a weaker than usual Oscar class, I do not know. In the end, I don’t think it matters. The fact remains, I saw 19 movies that racked four stars or higher over the year. Below are said movies, all of which were seen in a theater.
Last thing before the list, my comments will likely be brief as my writing has been a bit lacking the past handful of months. In any case, rest assured, these are movies I wholeheartedly recommend!
19. Sing Street. I remember just really being drawn into this music themed film from the makers of Once. The music was great as was the story of the boy from the fractured home who starts a band to get the attention of a mysterious girl.
18. Zootopia. This one was a big surprise, it was not a straight comedy as these types of films tend to be. Sure, it has its laughs, but it has a good mystery too it and plenty of action. This is a fully fledged world that I would not mind seeing a sequel to.
17. The Jungle Book. Here is another that proved to be a big surprise. The lead actor did a great job and the CG animal creations were pretty spectacular. It was a lot more effective and involving than I was expecting it to be.
16. Kubo and the Two Strings. This is one that I expected to be good. Laika has yet to disappoint. They make intelligent films for the family that are just gorgeous to watch.
15. The Conjuring 2. I think I still like the original more, but this one still manages to deliver the goods, scares, and character. For mainstream horror, this is definitely in the upper echelon.
14. Demolition. There was a trend to 2016, lots of unexpectedly good films. This is just another one to add to the list. It is a film that looks at emotional deconstruction and discovering self. I didn’t expect much either, but it is worth the time.
13. Sausage Party. This movie had me in tears of laughter. I was shocked by the vulgarity, surprised by the intelligence, and blown away by the comedy. I have no idea where it falls in the pantheon of comedies and such, but there is no denying how much fun this movie was, and surprisingly smart. Definitely not for kids.
12. The Girl on the Train. When I first saw the trailer for this, I felt a bit of deja vu. I was reminded of the great Gone Girl. I was happy to discover that this was not that, but it was still a well crafted and acted thriller. Definitely worth watching.
11. Hacksaw Ridge. Over the years, my interest in war movies has dropped somewhat, much like my interest in what passes for the Oscar-type of movie. With that said, I checked out this Mel Gibson helmed film and was very happy with what I found. This is a very heroic tale and depicts some of the most violent battles I have seen in a theater.
10. Swiss Army Man. One of the most bizarre films I have seen in a mainstream theater in some time. It is also wildly creative, weird, and fun. It is a love story that involves a character who is dead and can be used in many ways, like a Swiss Army knife. Description defies, you should just check it out and see if it suits you.
9. The Lobster. Speaking of bizarre, here is another one that falls in that category. I love this movie so much. It has a strange stylized approach to everything and has this strange story of how people relate and if you don’t find a partner you will be turned into an animal. See it to believe it.
8. 10 Cloverfield Lane. A name only sequel to the monster movie, this one gives us a bottle movie, an effective thriller that may or may not be what it seems. John Goodman gives an amazing performance as a paranoid, yet insightful, villain.
7. The Invitation. This slow burn horror/thriller is downright intense. It draws you in and slowly reveals itself for what it really is. It is a frightening film and very well written and constructed. I wasn’t sure how interested I was at first. Glad I checked it out.
6. Don’t Breathe. I knew I wanted to see this as soon as I saw the trailer, even though I thought the trailer gave away too much. Turns out it didn’t. This movie goes to unexpected dark places. It is grim, thrilling, and I found no one to be likable. Graphic, intense and one of the best horror films of the year. From Fede Alvarez, who helmed the recent Evil Dead film.
5. Shin Godzilla. This was simply phenomenal, the return of Toho’s most famous monster in an amazing film that plays as part satire of political red tape and as a reintroduction to Godzilla as a truly terrifying creature.
4. Train to Busan. This is what World War Z wanted to be. Mix that with 28 Days Later and maybe a pinch of Snowpiercer and you get this movie. This is a non stop wonderful film. It is not really new, but the emotional involvement and the way the tale is told, it is one of the best around.
3. The Green Room. Here is another one that sort of came out of nowhere. A punk band goes to play an impromptu gig at a nazi bar that happens to be a stash house. One of the guys sees something he shouldn’t and we get a standoff between the band and the gang. This is an amazing film that continues to surprise as the ante is continually raised.
2. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. It may not be a necessary story, but it was an exceptionally well told one. Of course, my affinity for Star Wars may play a piece, but so what. This is a war movie and one which did not disappoint and always affected me each time I saw it. It also flows right into A New Hope and just expands the universe. Love it.
1. The Witch. This is a beautifully shot exercise in the slow burn tradition. This movie is not about the gore (although it does have some blood) and violence, it is not about the jump scare or the creepy faced killer, it is about the people and their lives and the ways in which they are tested. While I am not nearly as well read as I should be, the movie has the feel of a literary ancestral tree more than a cinematic one. Don’t get me wrong, the movie is utterly gorgeous, but the way it moves, the way the characters are written and react, feels more like a book come to life than anything else. I am not sure that makes sense, but I think you understand what I am saying. A divisive film, to be sure, but one that dug its hooks right into me.
That wraps up this very hastily written list. I hope you found some value in it.