Movies in 2016 were a mixed bag. There was a lot of crap out there, especially during the summer. But why dwell on the negative? There were also some really, really good films out last year. And so, here are the top ten films I saw in 2016 that I really liked.
And yes, I know whenever anyone posts a list like this, they risk scorn from others who might not agree. So, bring on the hate, but before that happens, please keep a few things in mind:
The list is just movies I liked. How I felt about them individually is the only criteria for this list. If this was a Top Ten Movies list instead of My Top Ten Favorite Movies, there would be other criteria besides just my personal opinions.
Since this is only my opinion, comments about how the list is wrong really don't make sense. As the Dude might say, "Yeah, well, you know, that's just, like, your opinion, man."
Just because a movie isn't on this list doesn't mean I didn't like it. I had to stop at ten, and that was really hard. How hard? I wanted to make this a top five, and I just couldn't bring myself to do it.
These are only for movies I saw in 2016. If I had seen Fences in 2016, it would most likely have made the list. But I didn't, so it didn't, so there you go.
The order is least to most favorite, but it only goes for today. Check back with me in a few weeks. I might have changed my mind by then.
And so, starting at Number 10:
10. The Witch – A rarity in modern horror films: a slow burner thick with atmosphere and dread. Perhaps too slow for some moviegoers, but I enjoyed watching the plot develop slowly over the course of the film, even though it lacked the crash-bang ending that most audiences seem to crave these days. But no one can argue how the film was beautifully and realistically shot.
9. Jungle Book – A technical wonder, to be sure, but also a classic story given its full due by a talented directory like Jon Favreau. Stunning effects that pulled me into the story, not distancing me from it like many effects-heavy films tend to do. And you couldn’t ask for a better voice cast, or a better young actor in the role of Mogli.
8. Doctor Strange – A promising start to a new era of magic in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Benedict Cumberbatch was as perfect in the role as I expected. I know some people feel Strange gained his power too quickly over the course of the movie, but I would remind them that Strange is still not Sorcerer Supreme by the end. He has quite a long way to go, and I look forward to the journey.
7. Deadpool – This movie is a testament to the power of fandom and what can be accomplished when true fans of the source material work on a film (a lesson, alas, the good people at Warner Bros have yet to figure out). True, having an indestructible hero and a villain that never really feels like a threat tends to drain all the dramatic tension out of the plot, as it did in Deadpool, but Ryan Reynolds going through his paces was just plain fun to watch, and so I found myself not caring as much as I would with other films. It shouldn’t work, but it does. Boy, does it ever.
6. Zootopia – Although 2016 was a horrible year for summer blockbusters, it was a boon for animated features, and Zootopia is a good example of why. Solid storytelling, beautiful animation, and note-perfect voice acting made this film a favorite of 2016 and an almost immediate purchase for me when it came out on Blu-ray.
5. Nice Guys – This was one of the big flops of 2016, but so undeserving of the title. A love letter to the ’70, Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe just shine in this Shane Black-written and -directed movie. It deserved a bigger audience than it got, but I only hope people will revisit the film on DVD and Blu-ray, because they certainly missed out by not seeing it in the theater.
4. Conjuring 2 – Another atmospheric horror film that rises above the hack-and-slash herd. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good 80s cheesefest or a horror film of a more brutal stock, but it’s great to run into a textured movie with great mood-building, solid characters I can actually care about, and a satisfying ending that doesn’t leave me drained and depressed. That, and can also deliver the scares. Again, the pacing may not be to every horror aficionado’s taste, but I enjoyed it a lot, and one of those rare cases where I thought the sequel outshone the original.
3. Kubo and the Two Strings – Another animated feature, a stop-motion film done at a scale to boggle the mind. Although I’m not usually a fan of 3D, it really served this film and I was fortunate to see it that way. Again, top notch story with solid characters. Unfortunately, Kubo, like Nice Guys, didn’t get the audience it deserved. Definitely worth a look.
2. Captain America: Civil War – If there ever was a movie that worked so hard to give its fanbase everything they ever wanted, it was Captain America: Civil War. Along with giving my inner nerd a pixie stick sugar rush (Cap! Iron Man! Scarlet Witch kicking much ass! Black Panther!!! SPIDER-MAN!!!), it set the bar for ensemble superhero movies. That many characters in one movie and everyone was still represented pretty well. Honestly, I expected Ant-Man to be a blink-and-you'll-miss-it cameo. You won't miss his appearance. No, you won't.
AND THE NUMBER ONE SPOT GOES TO...
1. Moana – I was intrigued by the first trailer, but didn't see much more on the film until I saw it in the theater. If anyone would have told me this would be the film that would take my top spot for 2016, I wouldn't have believed them. The film looks good, but that good?
I owe you an apology, imaginary Nostradamus. You were right, I was wrong.
I loved everything about this film, start to finish. I loved the story. I loved the art direction. I really loved the characters. And the music? When it isn't playing in my iPod, it's playing in my head. In my opinion, it's the best animated film I saw in 2016, and perhaps the best animated film of 2016, in what was the best year for animated features in a long time. Maybe Finding Dory was better, but I didn't see it, so I can't say. But it would have to be pretty damned good to unseat Moana for me.
So that's it, My Top Ten Favorite Movies for 2016. I don't know about you, but I can't wait for 2017.