Jeremy’s Top Ten Films Of 2016

2016 has been an interesting year for films. On one hand, we’ve had a lot of franchise installments and comic book movies, which some have complained, saying that they have over-saturated the market and made movie-watching boring, while on the other hand we’ve had some truly inventive films. We’ve had surprise hits that are now re-defining genres, plus we’ve have some sequels that have managed to top the original films in every way possible. We’ve also had breakout indie films that stormed the box office and reminded the world that people still love coming to the movies, while we’ve also unfortunately had some solid summer blockbusters that have fizzled out due to a lack of interest and poor marketing.

I both love and hate compiling a top ten list of the year, because I always feel like I’m simply judged by the numbers I put next to each of my reviews and not the words that I write. I find it completely boring writing up a list of my highest ranked films simply on a technical level, because I feel like that takes away from the flavor that I bring in my reviews and my tastes, which are without a doubt different than many others.

Which is why I always like to remind readers that this list is simply mine. It’s my top ten films of the year, which include personal enjoyment, rewatchability and yes sometimes my “official” score or rating. I am in no way saying that these films are more deserving or better than films on other people’s lists, but I am saying that these are films that I think deserve all the praise that they’ve received or are awaiting to receive.

But before we dive into them full-on I must also include a few honorable mentions and a small list of films that I haven’t been able to catch, but have been surfacing up on many others’ year-end lists.

Moonlight has been said to be quite the film and I unfortunately haven’t had the time to sit down with it. Also, Ben Affleck‘s Live by Night hasn’t opened up in Minneapolis yet, which means that will be a 2017 viewing for me and lastly, Denzel Washington‘s Fences is the last film on my must-see before it’s too late list, which unfortunately won’t be accomplished until after this post.

It’s also worth noting that I love variety. I may hold one film higher than others, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t constantly re-visit films with lower scores when I’m in the right mood for it. 2016 to me has been a year of flexibility. Directors have managed to remind us what it means to make a “comic book movie” or even a sequel or franchise-starter.

Films that didn’t quite make my top ten, but totally deserve mention include Damien Chazelle‘s lovely and touching La La Land, the hilarious, but horribly titled Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates, the clever and also hilarious Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping, Fede Alvarez‘s nail-biting Don’t Breathe, Clint Eastwood‘s heroic and tense Sully, David Yates‘ surprisingly impressive HP follow-up Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Mel Gibson‘s well-constructed war film Hacksaw Ridge, the creepy and jump-scare-filled Lights Out, London Has Fallen aka a sequel that’s just as entertaining as the previous film, Sing, which is tied with Zootopia as the best animated film of the year and yes even Zack Snyder‘s misunderstood and under-rated Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (Ultimate Cut). All of those films possessed something special in one way or another and I just couldn’t continue constructing a list without mentioning them at the very least.

Moving on to my top ten films of 2016.

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10. Manchester by the Sea

Kenneth Lonergan‘s Manchester by the Sea deserves to be on just about every top ten list of the year, because it features the year’s best male leading performance, Casey Affleck. The film is an emotional tale of regret and redemption as Affleck’s character re-pieces together his life after a series of unexpected events. Affleck’s performance is beyond brutally honest and complex and Lonergan captures it with a collection of heart-wrenching moments that will absolutely bring you to tears at one point or another.

I found myself struggling to accept the film’s abrupt ending and lack of closure, but I did appreciate Lonergan’s comfort in handling such complex characters with such class and skill. Manchester by the Sea isn’t a perfect film, but it comes extremely close, thanks to Lonergan and Affleck’s commitment to the project.

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9. Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising

I found Nicholas Stoller‘s Neighbors to be a mostly disappointing comedy that had moments of laughter, but mostly just felt like an average effort by more-than-talented people. Fortunately for me, the sequel delivers in more ways than one and here I sit adding it to my top ten films of the year list.

Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising is that rare sequel that manages to top the original in every single way, wisely amping up the jokes, the story and the stakes in a way that feels like a natural progression, only a heck of a lot more funny.

Some might question my decision to include it so high (or low?) on my list, but I’ve honestly re-watched this film multiple times and each time I’ve managed to find new things to laugh at and enjoy. 2016 hasn’t had a ton of solid comedies and when one makes me laugh as hard as this film then I must take note and spread the word, especially if its a sequel to a film that I never cared for in the first place.

Click here to read my full review.

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8. Captain America: Civil War

Marvel and I have been on a hot and cold streak ever since they started pumping out multiple films a year, each adding to their ever-growing extended cinematic universe. Their biggest on-screen disappointment for me so far has been Captain America.

I never cared for the first or second Captain America films, yet Civil War has restored my faith in the character, while also reminding me that Marvel knows best when it comes to mega team mash-up films, featuring tons of loved characters, while also introducing new ones.

Anthony and Joe Russo‘s Captain America: Civil War is the most satisfying Marvel mash-up yet, managing to be the best Captain America film, while also dealing with conflicts, characters and action on the same scale as a full-blown Avengers film.

I dug it as an Avengers 2.5, but I also respected its ability to keep a focus on Captain America.

Click here to review my full review.

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7. Deepwater Horizon

Peter Berg is a director that generally struggles balancing themes and patriotism. He hasn’t really made a great film since The Kingdom. He’s mostly made garbage like Lone Survivor and Battleship, which each had their own set of problems.

Imagine my surprise when I walked out of Deepwater Horizon both moved and amazed at what Berg has managed to create. Deepwater Horizon isn’t just another “based on a true story” cash-grab and instead a film that even-handedly tackles greed and heroics in a disaster movie formula that’s both emotional and large-scaled.

This is Peter Berg‘s most lean and well-rounded film yet and one of my favorite theatrical experiences of the year. I saw the film at on the largest IMAX screen in MN and I can’t really think of any better way to experience such a large and loud film.

Most will write this one off immediately as just another “Go America” Peter Berg film, but I urge you to give it the time that it deserves. It’s the very definition of well-done Blockbuster filmmaking that’s both impactful and approachable.

Click here to read my full review.

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6. Doctor Strange

Marvel has managed to crack my top ten not once, but twice. And that’s because Doctor Strange is their most original film since Guardians of the Galaxy.

Doctor Strange is another home run hit for Marvel, successfully managing to introduce us to the mystical and magical roots of the character, while also engaging us with non-stop action sequences that are well-crafted and highly creative.

I hope Marvel continues to hire such talent like Scott Derrickson and C. Robert Cargill to script and direct their films, because I can totally get behind creative and smart comic book adaptations that remind us that there’s still plenty of life left in this ever-expanding sub-genre of films.

Click here to read my full review.

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5. The Nice Guys

I feel like my review caption best describes my love for this year’s funniest on-screen duo of actors…

The Nice Guys is without a doubt Shane Black’s best film yet, thanks to the one-two punch of Black’s witty script and Gosling/Crowe’s fantastic performances. It’s a lovable piece of 70s buddy cop cinema that’s insanely funny and energetic.

Honestly, Shane Black delivers yet again and it shouldn’t come as a surprise, especially with the talent of Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe to back him up. I’m still bummed that this one didn’t find a bigger audience theatrically, but I guarantee that more and more people will discover this one at home and fall in love with it instantly. It’s as memorable as they come and features one of Ryan Gosling‘s best performances yet.

Click here to read my full review.

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4. Warcraft

Moon and Source Code helped introduce the world to one of the best sci-fi directors working in the field today — Duncan Jones. When they fist announced that he was going to be bringing the popular video game Warcraft to the big screen I got nervous, but then instantly excited.

Warcraft is the year’s best blockbuster, featuring original characters, a massive scope and solid directing by Jones. His attention to detail and respect for the property helped make the film an exciting event, not too different than when the first Lord of the Rings film hit the screens.

Warcraft is unique and exciting, blending together fantasy and magic in a way that’ll surely please fans of the video game, yet impress those looking for an action adventure film with a massive scope and lots of characters.

I still can’t believe Warcraft bombed stateside, yet people are still forking over money for yet another Transformers. Seriously folks, we messed up big time by not supporting such a creative and potentially-awesome series of films.

Click here to read my full review.

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3. Deadpool

It’s kind of hard to start capping off my end of the year list without including Deadpool. I still stand by my initial review blurb…

Tim Miller’s long-awaited Deadpool does the foul-mouthed wise-ass comic book character justice, thanks to a clever script and an enormous amount of passion and energy from star Ryan Reynolds.

Deadpool only gets better with multiple viewings, reminding us that a well-written script, solid direction and a truly dedicated cast really can turn “just another comic book movie” into one of the most original films of the year.

I don’t exactly need to remind people of its awesomeness though and thankfully so, because Deadpool is one of the highest grossing films of the year! All with an R-rating!

Click here to read my full review.

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2. Hell or High Water

David Mackenzie‘s Hell or High Water is an unflinching heist film, grounded in Western Texas realism and soaked with raw and uncertain performances by Chris Pine, Ben Foster and Jeff Bridges. This isn’t just my favorite film of the summer, but also my hands down second best film of the year.

It’s a film that’s almost hard to explain just how great it is and that’s because of how effective, yet simple it is. David Mackenzie‘s direction, the performances and the ability to shoot a modern day Western with real-world consequences helped set up Hell or High Water in a way that barely got topped.

I hope most discover this one as a curious Redbox rental, because it really is one that’ll catch you off guard and impress the hell out of you.

It’s that good.

Click here to read my full review

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1. Arrival

If anyone dares to say that film as an art form is dead or dying then I urge you to shut them up and sit them down in front of a screen that’s playing Arrival. There’s so much to love about this film and so much to discover with each viewing. I occasionally struggled sorting out the rest of my top ten films of this year, but I had no problem placing Arrival, because I truly believe that it is a perfect film and the very best of 2016.

Denis Villeneuve‘s Arrival is an astonishing piece of sci-fi, delicately blending together love, life, communication and connection in a way that transcends the medium of film. Arrival is the defining film of 2016.

I mean every word of that last paragraph and I hope that my praise at the very least helps push you over the edge of skipping it or giving it a rental, because it deserves your attention.

Click here to read my full review

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2016 is pretty much done, which leaves us patiently awaiting 2017. I honestly can’t fire off all of the films that I am most excited for just yet, but I can say that I am looking forward to starting off my year with Live by Night and then easing into The LEGO Batman Movie, followed by Kong: Skull Island and eventually Alien: Covenant.

Until then, I wish you a happy New Year and hope that you enjoyed reading my top ten films of 2016.

I’m very interested to hear what everyone else has to say, so please chime in below with your own list and reasoning. Or simply tell me why you agree or disagree with my list.

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