Best of 2016

The lists have nearly halted, and I couldn’t be happier to announce that this could very well be the last update for 2016.  And for the first time ever, we have over 1000 lists – 1040 to be exact.

More than ever, it seemed like everyone wanted to provide their say on what the best films of 2016 were – perhaps this shows just how good of a year it was for movies.  Although there were many great films, three films stood out, each appearing on at least 40% of critics’ lists.

Barry Jenkins’ beautiful Moonlight was the clear favorite, appearing on over 60% of the lists.  The marquee at the theater in my hometown described the film as “a Frank Ocean song put into film”, which I think really captures the beauty of the film.

Kenneth Lonergan’s heartbreaking Manchester by the Sea and Damien Chazelle’s musical La La Land round out a very strong top three.

50. Moana (54 lists; 2 top spots)


“Moana has a lot of the hallmarks of your classic Disney adventure – the goofy animal sidekicks, the feel-good messages – but its heroine is something new, a smart and fiery deviation from your standard European lovestruck princesses.”- Devin Coggan, Entertainment Weekly

49. A Bigger Splash (55 lists; 5 top spots)


“To speak or stay silent? Excess or restraint? Honesty or discretion? It’s clear which is right and which is wrong, but “A Bigger Splash” manages to infuse even the most straightforward questions with vicariously alluring ambiguity.” – Ann Hornaday, Washington Post

48. Swiss Army Man (57 lists; 2 top spots)


“Impossible to categorize, this stunningly original mix of the macabre and the magical combines comedy, tragedy, fantasy and love story into an utterly singular package that’s beholden to no rules but its own.” – Jeannette Catsoulis, New York Times

47. Krisha (58 lists; 2 top spots)


“Impossible to categorize, this stunningly original mix of the macabre and the magical combines comedy, tragedy, fantasy and love story into an utterly singular package that’s beholden to no rules but its own.” – Jeanette Catsoulis, New York Times

46. 10 Cloverfield Lane (68 lists; 2 top spots)


“10 Cloverfield Lane does what it needs to do: make you sit and squirm and want very badly to know. It has the appeal of suspense radio plays from the ’30s and ’40s and even a touch of Orson Welles’s most infamous Mercury Theater broadcast.” – David Edelstein, New York Magazine

45. Midnight Special (69 lists; 1 top spot)


“Four films into his career, Jeff Nichols seems incapable of making a bad movie, or even an uninteresting one. At a time when most indie filmmakers gauge success by the speed of their graduation to Marvel blockbusters, he continues to forge his own path.” – Tim Grierson, The New Republic

44. I Am Not Your Negro (74 lists; 3 top spots)


“By weaving in old speeches, pieces from other books, and even some visual juxtapositions that maybe only he fully understands, the director makes a persuasive, intuitive case for Baldwin as a poet and a prophet.” – Noel Murray, AV Club

43. The Neon Demon (74 lists; 4 top spots)


“There’s no denying the beauty of Refn’s images, even if his puerile instincts are at odds with his obvious pretensions. Those who cry it’s shallow and ugly won’t be wrong; others will love it for those very reasons.” – Adam Graham, Detroit News

42. Hacksaw Ridge (76 lists; 5 top spots)


“Hacksaw Ridge is being touted as Gibson’s comeback. Is it also an atonement? What’s clear is that Gibson has made a film about family, faith, love and forgiveness all put to the test in an arena of violent conflict – a movie you don’t want to miss.” – Peter Travers, Rolling Stone

41. Hail, Caesar! (78 lists; 2 top spots)


“If the Coen brothers’ dramas are cautionary tales, their comedies are veritable how-to guides for people who can’t help but enjoy a mirthless chuckle at the humility of human existence. Yeah, the joke is on us, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t funny.” – Dave Ehrlich, Slate

40. The Edge of Seventeen (79 lists; 1 top spot)


“When you leave the theater, you feel as though you’ve finished a road trip through some of High School Film Land’s best-loved attractions… But each stop is ever so slightly better than you remembered. Not another teen movie, indeed.” – Katy Waldman, Slate

39. Things to Come (79 lists; 2 top spots)


“One can place Hansen-Løve’s films within a tradition of sporadic and inconvenient character-centric narratives, which can create a vivid sense of life by sidestepping causality; her movies phase and accumulate instead of moving in straight lines.” – Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, AV Club

38. The Fits (79 lists; 3 top spots)


“Neither cutesy nor needlessly bleak, the debut narrative film from writer-director Anna Rose Holmer possesses a refreshingly intimate, honest tone about adolescence. The modesty of this movie’s design has its own sneaky power.” – Tim Grierson, The New Republic

37. Aquarius (79 lists; 4 top spots)


“At the center of this emotional maelstrom is the 65-year-old Braga, herself a living legend and bridge to the past. In a long film of many turns, her performance – weathered, proud, sensuous, fragile – captivates and brings us into her world.” – Bilge Ebiri, Village Voice

36. Sully (80 lists; 1 top spot)


“Good people doing their jobs thoughtfully and at the height of their abilities, working together under unprecedented and extraordinary circumstances. Sometimes all of those things come together to create a miracle, and “Sully” is a warm reminder of that.” – Katie Walsh, Tribune News Service

35. Weiner (82 lists)


“According to “Weiner,” some politicians are pathological creatures, wrapped in their egos, secure in their narcissism and addicted to constant attention. Yeah, well, tell us something we don’t know. Somehow, though, this new documentary manages to.” – Stephen Whitty, Newark Star Ledger

34. Captain America: Civil War (82 lists; 2 top spots)


“Fun, happily, is one of the many ingredients in copious supply here. When you include Paul Rudd as Ant-Man, how could it not be? Then again, there isn’t a lot of room for him, so he’s kind of wedged in there, but it’s pretty swell when he’s around.” – Bill Goodykoontz, Arizona Republic

33. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (87 lists; 5 top spots)


“Rogue One is groundbreaking for the Star Wars franchise, a rousing side story that blows the doors wide open for future installments of the series. That it stands on its own as a slam-bam action thrill ride is a bonus.” – Adam Graham, Detroit News

32. 13th (91 lists; 3 top spots)


“Directed with calm passion and controlled outrage, the movie – named after the amendment which outlawed slavery, but left a significant loophole when it came to criminal convictions – is a study in profits. And power.” – Stephen Whitty, New York Daily News

31. Cemetery of Splendor (96 lists; 13 top spots)


“Weerasethakul films the Thai landscape and village spaces, their tones of light and color, with a poised and painterly eye, keeping the camera still and the action quiet as if to invite elusive spirits to inhabit the image.” – Richard Brody, New Yorker

29. Kubo and the Two Strings (97 lists; 4 top spots)


“Yet wizardly art direction isn’t the film’s most striking quality. It’s the endearing, playful, touching, cantankerous and sometimes frightening individuals who supply this spectacular story about friendship, courage and sacrifice with its life force.” – Colin Covert, Minneapolis Star Tribune

29. The Nice Guys (97 lists; 4 top spots)


“It creates great on-screen chemistry between Gosling and Crowe – as brute adversaries who partner up as private eyes to solve a criminal conspiracy. And it blows your mind with its sense of absurdity – even while making the crime caper count.” – Bruce Kirkland, Toronto Sun

28. Fences (97 lists; 6 top spots)


“As you watch “Fences,” there’s never a doubt that these lives matter, and that’s a good and noble thing, but you’re also aware (maybe too aware) of how much the movie itself wants to matter.” – Owen Gleiberman, Variety

27. Nocturnal Animals (97 lists; 9 top spots)


“All the more impressive for being two movies in one: the kind of “sad people in nice houses” tale you might expect from the couturier-turned-filmmaker, and a down-and-dirty West Texas revenge thriller that calls to mind Sam Peckinpah.” – Alonso Duralde, TheWrap

26. Silence (101 lists; 10 top spots)


“Scorsese has flirted with and danced around the subject in many of his other films… but of his explicitly religious dramas, specifically including Kundun and The Last Temptation of Christ, this is, by a considerable distance, the most eloquent and coherent.” – Todd McCarthy, Hollywood Reporter

25. Hunt for the Wilderpeople (107 lists; 7 top spots)

Film Review Hunt For The Wilderpeople“Laugh-out-loud funny one minute, achingly sad the next, “Hunt for the Wilderpeople” takes the audience on a rollicking yet poignant journey through the New Zealand backcountry in the company of a pair of engagingly eccentric characters.” – Soren Anderson, Seattle Times

24. Deadpool (109 lists; 5 top spots)


“It’s a film that’s amused with itself, but thanks to a screwball screenplay by Rhett Rheese and Paul Wernick and a charmingly snarky lead turn by Ryan Reynolds, that amusement is both thoroughly earned and completely contagious.” – Alonso Duralde, TheWrap

23. 20th Century Women (110 lists; 7 top spots)


“When 20th Century Women concerns itself with the utterly human question of personal satisfaction, it’s huggable: the kind of movie you wish more directors had the courage to grab for.” – Joshua Rothkopf, Time Out

22. Loving (117 lists; 6 top spots)


“Watch how Edgerton’s Joel, a stoic man of few words, puts an arm around Mildred without seeming to think about it, naturally wanting her near; watch how Negga lets her performance speak through her expressive eyes, always looking for Richard.” – Moira McDonald, Seattle Times

21.  Love & Friendship (124 lists; 5 top spots)


“Love & Friendship has the air of one of those movies where you sense the actors had the time of their lives on the set, what with getting to wear the garb of the time and reciting such sublime dialogue and performing such exquisitely choreographed scenes.” – Richard Roeper, Chicago Sun-Times

20. Cameraperson (124 lists; 8 top spots)


“Cameraperson makes a strong argument to assert the person behind the camera – who they are, how they live, and how they interact with others as a crucial focal point in the process of filmmaking.” – Katie Walsh, The Playlist

19. Sing Street (126 lists; 8 top spots)


“The beguiling modesty of the film ends up being even more important than its music or incredibly likable characters. Like most of the bands it honors, “Sing Street” may be a bit disposable, but its electric emotions linger like a warm memory.” – Tim Grierson, The New Republic

18. Everybody Wants Some!! (130 lists; 4 top spots)


“The film – which is being marketed as “a spiritual sequel” to Linklater’s Dazed And Confused (and a “more chill” Animal House by the director himself) – meanders from minor adventure to minor adventure, with exchanges of amiable dude existentialism.” – Jim Stotek, Toronto Sun

17. Zootopia (132 lists; 3 top spots)


“Heavy with pop allusions and references to other crime underworld movies, including The Godfather and Chinatown, Zootopia is impressive in its visual conception and scope: At once straightforward and densely layered with wit and incident …” – Michelle Orange, Village Voice

16. Green Room (135 lists; 6 top spots)


“It doesn’t take a big budget and loads of special effects to create a genuinely scary movie. It just takes – as writer/director Jeremy Saulnier ably demonstrates in Green Room – an intriguing premise, a taut, sinewy script and a solid cast.” – Bruce Demara, Toronto Star

15. American Honey (141 lists; 9 top spots)


“At 162 minutes, “American Honey” may test some viewers’ patience, but for this one, it paid off with an unflinching portrait of middle America, a love letter to the open road and a dynamic newcomer in Sasha Lane.” – Sara Stewart, New York Post

14. Certain Women (148 lists; 11 top spots)


“The cumulative power of Reichardt’s film, beautifully acted by Laura Dern, Michelle Williams, Kristen Stewart and Lily Gladstone, is undeniable and quietly devastating.” – Peter Travers, Rolling Stone

13. The Witch (187 lists; 5 top spots)


“Building his film on the diabolical aftershocks of Puritan repression, Eggers raises The Witch far above the horror herd. He doesn’t need cheap tricks. Eggers merely directs us to look inside. Be warned: It’ll scare the hell out of you.” – Peter Travers, Rolling Stone

12. O.J.: Made in America (192 lists; 19 top spots)


“Edelman helps us understand why the O.J. verdict was inevitable; it was, in essence, a grand act of jury nullification. O.J. was no longer a person, but a symbol; a “vessel” for civil rights issues, as activist Danny Bakewell describes in the film.” – Sarah Weinman, The New Republic

11. Paterson (193 lists; 15 top spots)


“Paterson himself is deathly allergic to pretension, and the film inhabits his sensibility. It’s A Portrait Of The Artist As A Working-Class Stiff, arguing for the mundane beauty of all our lives.” – Mike D’Angelo, AV Club

10. Jackie (194 lists; 6 top spots)


“Portman’s been a committed, in-the-moment actress since she was a skinny kid running after Leon: The Professional but Jackie is an accomplishment on the Oscar-winning order of Black Swan.” – Stephen Whitty, New York Daily News

9. The Lobster (197 lists; 13 top spots)


“Mr. Farrell, a habitual over-actor, is especially affecting because you can sense his effort to restrain himself. Rachel Weisz … is perfectly cast as the only person in this world with the normal capacities for warmth, empathy and desire.” – A.O. Scott, New York Times

8. The Handmaiden (219 lists; 16 top spots)


“Starts out looking as if it’ll be a deeply serious (and seriously depressing) tale of a Korean “comfort woman” forced to service the occupying Japanese military. After about five minutes of grandiose solemnity, Park drops the charade.” – Mike D’Angelo, AV Club

7. Elle (234 lists; 17 top spots)


“Leads its audience through a meticulously constructed maze of ambiguity, scrambling our assumptions and expectations at every turn, dispensing discomfort and delight and daring us to distinguish one from the other.” – A.O. Scott, New York Times

6. Toni Erdmann (242 lists; 43 top spots)


“Ade begins with a fairly simple dynamic and then proceeds to tease out every possible facet, taking her characters to truly unexpected places and ending on a note of disarming irresolution.” – Mike D’Angelo, AV Club

5. Hell or High Water (316 lists; 19 top spots)


“Texas is as much a riveting character in [this] fascinating crime drama as the brothers turned bank robbers at its heart or the laconic lawman who coolly follows them across the sun-hardened landscape like a hunter on the trail of his next kill.” – Cary Darling, Fort Worth Star-Telegram

4. Arrival (371 lists; 43 top spots)


“The revelation here is Villeneuve, who expands on the symphonic pacing showcased last year in the drug war drama Sicario. Even though the concept of Arrival is far-out fiction, Villeneuve treats it with no less detail or urgency.” – Peter Hartlaub, San Francisco Chronicle

3. La La Land (436 lists; 99 top spots)


“If you haven’t succumbed to the joyous magic of La La Land by the end of the Fred-and-Ginger-flavored “A Lovely Night,” well, then, pick up your Official Curmudgeon badge and head for the exit.” – Steven Rea, Philadelphia Inquirer

2. Manchester by the Sea (505 lists; 68 top spots)

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

“No film this year has moved me more with its humor, heart and humanity. Engrave the name Casey Affleck on the Oscar for Best Actor right now, so extraordinary and engulfing is his performance.” – Peter Travers, Rolling Stone

1. Moonlight (641 lists; 162 top spots)


“Moonlight takes the pain of growing up and turns it into hardened scars and private caresses. This film is, without a doubt, the reason we go to the movies: to understand, to come closer, to ache — hopefully with another.” – Joshua Rothkopf, Time Out