Favorite Films of 2016
Although we are now a few weeks into 2017, some may still be hesitant looking back to 2016, considering the loss of a tremendous number of icons. From Prince to Princess Leia, there was an enduring hole in our hearts throughout the year. But for all we lost in the entertainment world, we were also given some fantastic films that should not go unrecognized. Although we saw the passing of some legends, new stars were born. We even saw Peter Cushing return from the grave in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, so CGI (computer-generated imagery) provides us with a new hope (pun intended) that our deceased idols may continue to grace the silver screen.
Every year has some great movies and some terrible ones, and 2016 was no exception. What follows are what I believe were the best films of the year. As a disclaimer, this is merely my layman’s opinion. Many critics and average moviegoers alike will have different sentiments, which is perfectly fine. I should also mention I have not seen every movie that was released last year, unfortunately including some of the most critically-acclaimed features. Now that I have given my best excuses, let’s get into the list.
5. Sully 8/10
Sully is based on true events that occurred in 2009 when a plane lost power in both engines and had to make an emergency landing on the Hudson River. Miraculously, everyone survived, so on the surface, the pilot was a savior. However, information shows that his decision to make that landing may have unnecessarily put the lives of the passengers in jeopardy. Although everyone lived, the morality of making that decision when it could have been the wrong call, coupled with the insurance issues on the plane itself, makes this case much less cut-and-dry than it may seem. At the center of it all is the pilot, Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, brilliantly played by Tom Hanks. Aaron Eckhart also shines as Jeff Skiles, the co-pilot, who stands by Sully no matter what. Neither of them asked to be put in such a situation, but they must learn how to cope with the fame and the scrutiny while also trying to find their own peace of mind. Director Clint Eastwood continues his stupendous streak of bringing American heroes’ stories to the cinema.
4. Lion 8/10
Based on the memoir A Long Way Home, which would have been a much less misleading title, Lion opens in an undeveloped Indian town and introduces viewers to Saroo, a five-year-old boy from a poor family. One night, Saroo goes with his older brother to work in the nearby city but they get separated and Saroo wanders onto a train that takes him hundreds of miles away. As a mere child who speaks a language very few others can understand, Saroo cannot find his way back, but after facing many challenges, he is adopted by a wealthy Australian family. 25 years later, Saroo is an educated young man going to college when he is introduced to a new technology called Google Earth, which convinces him that there may be a chance to find his long-lost family. Dev Patel gives an outstanding performance as adult Saroo, perfectly portraying a man torn between two worlds. Whether or not one is familiar with the presented cultures or lifestyles, everyone can relate to Lion’s core message about what defines home. Director Garth Davis delivers a story of belonging and quite an advertisement for Google Earth.
3. Arrival 9/10
This is not Amy Adams’s first experience with extra-terrestrials, but she does not fall in love with a hunky Kryptonian this time around. Arrival, directed by the extraordinary Denis Villenueve, takes the most realistic and cerebral approach to an alien invasion that I have ever seen. Adams is exceptional as Dr. Louise Banks, a linguist recruited by the army to establish communication with alien visitors and figure out their intentions. Understanding the language of an entirely different species takes time, but with every moment that passes, fear of the unknown nudges humanity closer to violence. Arrival starts off with a premise that has been used countless times and makes it into something profoundly original. Not only does it have the hallmarks of being an instantly classic sci-fi flick, but it also conveys a deeper meaning of transcending cultural barriers to ensure a better future.
2. Moonlight 9.5/10
Moonlight is the story of a boy named Chiron growing up in a harsh neighborhood in Miami. The film is separated into three segments, each chronicling a time in Chiron’s life, from childhood to adolescence to adulthood. The entire cast is superb, but Naomie Harris delivers a standout performance as Paula, Chiron’s mother, as we see her evolve from abusive and neglectful, to loving and penitent over the course of her son’s life. Director and Writer Barry Jenkins presents audiences with a stunning coming of age tale that serves as a commentary on race, family, sexuality, and nearly everything in between.
1. The Nice Guys 10/10
Almost nobody (myself included) expected much from The Nice Guys, but Shane Black’s edgy comedy-thriller was one of the biggest and most pleasant surprises of 2016. The film stars Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe as an unlikely duo of detectives for hire who get tangled up in a vast conspiracy involving the Justice Department, the Auto Industry, and–you guessed it–a porno. The witty dialogue, chemistry between the two leads, and great action sequences make The Nice Guys a movie for the ages.
Honorable Mention: Deadpool 7.5/10
Dedicated fans know that Deadpool had been in the works pretty much since Ryan Reynolds first played the character in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Because that movie was such a catastrophe, the people ached for an accurate representation of the Merc with a Mouth, and we finally got it in 2016. Reynolds plays the character perfectly, fourth-wall breaking and all. The movie is filled with raunchy humor and gruesome violence, yet still manages to be the perfect Valentine’s Day film. Fox knew they were taking a risk with an R-rated comic book adaptation, which eliminates a large portion of the target demographic, but the results speak for themselves. Deadpool was the 6th largest grossing movie of the year, proving once and for all that superhero movies are not just for children and that having loyalty to the source material can pay off, literally. The upcoming Logan and the director’s cut of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice are both sporting R-ratings, so I think we will be seeing the effects of Deadpool on comic book films for years to come.