This past year was filled with many great and also disappointing films. Instead of merely focusing on the negative, I have decided to praise some of my personal favorite films of the past year.
If a film you enjoyed is not on here, it’s probably because I haven’t seen it yet.
These are some buzz-worthy films I have yet to see:
- Rouge One
- Manchester by the Sea
Now for some of my personal favorite films of 2016:
When this movie was released I had no idea it was coming out, so this was a pleasant surprise. It actually beat out Moana as my favorite animated film of the year, which I was not expecting. The film contains several powerful messages, which everyone of all ages should consider. Though the film is a bit on the nose at times (or should I say…on the snout?), its lessons are both timely and timeless. I’m also very pleased with how the film was able to build a very believable and well thought-out world (or city) for a film that doesn’t even clock in at ninety minutes. Judy Hopps is a great role model for children, more than recent and popular Disney characters like Anna and Elsa.
A horror movie of a different sort, Anthropoid tells the story of two Czech resistance fighters’ attempt to assassinate a leading member of the Nazi Party in the middle of WW2. This film was largely ignored upon release here in the states and it’s a shame that this film has flown under so many people’s radars. It just might be that people are starting to get tired of only seeing historical movies about WW2 or viewers are tiring of listening to clearly British actors attempt to sound vaguely “European,” but this film definitely deserves a larger audience. While the first act of the film is rather slow, Anthropoid has at least three incredibly effective and suspenseful scenes: the first is the assassination attempt, another involves a surprise visit and a cyanide capsule, and the third makes up the film’s brutal final act. History buffs need to check this movie out, it is well worth the time.
5. The Witch
I’ve seen many horror movies and few of them legitimately scare me. This film is a terrifying exception. From the first few frames until the last few seconds of the ending credits, I was on edge and as the film crawled towards the climax, I was constantly in this state of dismay and dread. Some of the images in this movie will make you sick without being gratuitous. As a film lover, there’s much to love about The Witch. The music, especially the score in the film’s final moments, made my skin crawl. If you’ve seen the ending of this film, you know which song I’m talking about. The characters were fascinating and expertly played. I was also impressed at how good the younger actors were while having to speak in an old fashioned New England dialect which does not come easy to most people, much less child actors. This film also has the best and most unsettling performance by an animal in any horror movie. Also from a historical standpoint, the script is composed of actual text written during the 17th century, adding an uncomfortable level of accuracy and believability to a film that is also disquietingly realistic (minus the whole talking goat and evil witch thing.) After two decades of predictable horror movies, The Witch and last year’s It Follows are hopefully just the start of a new wave of good horror movies.
4. Green Room
There were a lot of great thrillers this year, especially ones that flew under the public radar. In fact, I had a difficult time choosing between The Witch, Don’t Breathe, and my number four pick Green Room as my favorite thriller of the year. In all honesty, the only reasons Green Room isn’t higher on my list is that I feel the first twenty minutes of the film are rather slow and the characters are rather one note. Ignoring that, this is an excellent film that didn’t get nearly enough attention as it deserved when it was first released! The film is notable for being the last film of Anton Yelchin’s career before his untimely death in a freak accident, and though he does give a stellar performance, the film is much more memorable even if one ignores Yelchin’s passing. Once you past the rather meandering first twenty minutes of the movie, the film suddenly kicks in to gear and constantly has you on the hook. Who knew Patrick Stewart could be so creepy while doing so little? In fact, everyone in this film turned in solid performances and this is just more proof that Imogen Poots is one of the most underrated young actresses in recent memory.
3. Don’t Breathe
Another unexpectedly effective thriller that borders on horror movie, Don’t Breathe is easily one of the most suspenseful movies of 2016. It also boasts one of the most memorable and fascinating villains/anti-heroes of the year. In fact, the two main characters are really intriguing, as is the concept of the film itself. The script flips your expectations and makes you wonder who is in the right and who is in the wrong. I don’t want to give too much away because the film is best seen with fresh eyes, unspoiled by trailers, but I will say that this gem flips the home invasion subgenre on its head. It will leave you, quite like the characters, breathless.
2. La La Land
I had a difficult time deciding between my number 1 and number 2 spots since I love both films to pieces. The only reason La La Land isn’t number 1 on this list is because the film is a study of style versus substance. Still, I love this movie. La La Land is a tribute and throwback to old Hollywood musicals, the kind that would feature Gene Kelly or Judy Garland. Though the songs are rather hit and miss—the soundtrack is not for everyone and our two leads aren’t terribly good singers—but what the film lacks in memorable lyrics, it more than makes up for with its score and choreography. Damien Chazelle is certainly a force to be reckoned with after directing this film and my favorite film of 2015, Whiplash. He has a command on cinematic pacing and language that few directors of his age group have in this day and age. I can’t wait to see what he has in store for us in his next film.
Before I unveil my favorite film of 2016, here are some honorable mentions that didn’t quite make the cut:
- The Girl on the Train
- Captain America: Civil War
- The Neon Demon
And my favorite film of 2016 is:
This long awaited drama from Martin Scorsese is well worth the wait. The film is nearly three hours long and has a rather slow pace, while peppered with scenes of truly disturbing violence, this film is not for everyone, in fact it will test the audience’s endurance as much as the characters’. Yet, if you can sit through the film, you will find that it is a deeply rewarding film that engages viewers in a complex moral and ethical argument: Would you sacrifice everything that you love to save someone else? I’ve noticed that many people online have had a difficult time understanding the main characters’ actions. Since the protagonists are Jesuit priests on a mission in Japan, where Christianity is forbidden on the threat of death, many viewers don’t understand why the two priests are so conflicted over the film’s moral dilemma. As someone who was raised in a semi-religious household, the film’s themes of faith struck a cord with me in ways most religious films don’t. If you’re a Christian and want to see a film that challenges you and causes you to truly think about you religion, watch Silence instead of the recent forgettable Pure Flix films. Silence a brutal and trying film, but one that is worth the effort and your patience. The best way to view the film is to ask yourself if you would spit on everything you ever loved in the hopes of helping others. Would you settle for a lifetime of misery if it saved someone else? Finally: is it better to die for what you believe in or to live believing in nothing at all?