It’s Easter gosh darnit!, that means that it’s time to talk about all those good movies that came out last year. Procrastination – my constant foe. When creating a list of the year’s best movies, I wanted to showcase the year’s BEST movies, which is why I haven’t limited this list to just ten. Also, this list is defined by all films released in the UK in 2016, so you won’t see Oscar qualifying holdovers like La La Land or Manchester By The Sea on this list.
If you’ve came here from my Worst Films Of 2016 list, then this list will have a different style to it. You see, I believe in the miracle of popcorn entertainment, so this list will not feature an honourable mentions category. This list will include, along with the best films of the year, a group of films which I would say to check out, that aren’t necessarily the best of the best, I just had a very good time watching them. A lot of exposition for something benignly simple: I lyk dees movehs.
The Neon Demon
18, Dir Nicolas Winding-Refn
Arthouse, arthouse, thy kingdom for arthouse.
The Neon Demon is one of those rare films that take advantage of cinema. Most films released nowadays can easily be watched on a television or even a computer screen without missing some of the thematic experience – The Neon Demon relishes the uses and possibilities of a dark room, sitting with people that you don’t know and the perfection of projection. I like the real stuff: Hipster runs through my veins.
12-A, Dir Drake Dormeus
Equals is a Sci-Fi film for people who are tired of Sci-Fi films.
Through utterly gorgeous cinematography, a subtle soundtrack and nuanced performances, Equals holds more emotion that most families.
Equals builds a universe that is clearly thought out, everything and everyone is deftly defined with vision. I can tell that in a few years time, this movie will be a cult classic.
15, Dir Ewan McGregor
Oh, American Pastoral, how you shy away in the corner. Oh, American Pastoral, how you yearn to be the next actor driven piece to shine a shimmering smile at the awards ceremony. Oh, American Pastoral, why did more people go to see Jack Reacher: Never Go Back?
American Pastoral, brought to you by diminishing returns on non-superhero movies.
This film takes it’s time with narrative and character, neither seem forced or rushed just to fill everyone in so that some big set-piece can happen – as we all know, a modern day audience can’t concentrate on something where the characters are having meaningful and entertaining interactions.
With all this being said and without meaning to spoil this film, I do think that some people can find one character to be so annoying and so irritating, that they’ll just sigh and stop listening whenever the character comes on screen. Personally, I loved that this character was so irritating but I can see how some viewers may be deterred. Apart from that, American Pastoral is a solid addition to anyone’s collection.
15, Dir James Watkins
Growing up in the 2000s in Britain, two movies were top of the heap and by top of the heap, I of course mean that they got constantly rerun on ITV 2. These two movies were: Taken and The Transporter. Heaven be damned, a French set action movie is clear for success.
Bastille Day is the hidden away action film which wowed the seven of us who watched it. Featuring the most taught and tense action scenes of the year accompanied with sequences which are so smile enticingly awesome that you can’t resist; such as a scene wherein Idris Elba sticks his arm out and knocks someone off of a fast moving scooter before slamming the person onto the ground, shoves a gun in his face and says: “I’m reckless and irresponsible.” How can you not adore this movie?
15, Dir Sean Ellis
Anthropoid, Anthropoid, Anthropoid, you had no right to be as good as you were. From a director with a pretty bad filmography, with two lead actors who haven’t had the highest success rate and it follows that whole “based on true events” shlock that plagues films in irrevocable cliche.
Despite starting off slower than someone who just passed their driving test because they were friends with the instructor, Anthropoid builds and builds and builds to a climax of shrapnel and sympathy. The stunningly stoic cinematography gives this film a layer of texture that other, more mainstream movies would avoid – Shots are either sharply short or extensively elongated, all of which going for a voyeuristic handheld approach.
Also, Anthropoid features one of the year’s best scores. It pulses and booms with spectacle and subtlety.
15, Dir John Hillcoat
Look at that cast and tell me that you’re not in the slightest bit interested…
Crooked cops are a highly cinematic prospect, the people who protect you are also the people who want to harm you, Triple 9 takes this in its stride as it creates a weaving narrative that enthrals and exclaims.
One of the many things that pushes Triple 9 over the edge over ‘just another cop movie’ is the setting. The city of Atlanta pulses in a putrid gritty texture that heightens the neon bathed and excessively colourised action. The image you can see in this poster is a key example of this; the scene features a stolen safe releasing clouds of thick red smoke, all the while speeding down a highway. It is scenes like this which prove John Hillcoat as a prominent director.
If Triple 9 were to be released later on in the year, I do think that it just might have gotten some much deserved awards attention.
Swiss Army Man
15, Dir Daniel Kwan & Daniel Scheinert
Brian Wilson from The Beach Boys is on the verge of committing suicide when Harry Potter washes upon the shore, who of course transforms into a farting jetski – With this new found companion, Brian Wilson from The Beach Boys goes on a magical quest to proclaim his love to Ramona Flowers.
This movie is AWESOME!
15, Dir Tom Ford
The best thing that I have to say about Nocturnal Animals is that I can’t describe it.
The vast majority of people who have seen Nocturnal Animals know of its surreal brilliance and non-linear wisdom.
There are some people who absolutely despise this film, and that is perfectly fine. Ask any major film critic, or just some person who thinks he is edgy just for knowing who Roderick Jaynes is – that person will probably tell you of films that they despise, yet the whole world loves.(Like myself with my ‘controversial’ opinion on Star Wars: It’s fine.) It is okay to have a controversial opinion. It is okay that you might find Nocturnal Animals rather dry and pretentious in the same way that I can find Batman V Superman boring and muddled.
I told you that I can’t describe Nocturnal Animals, I just rambled about personal opinions for a bit.
18, Dir Jeremy Saulnier
Green Room is one bag of pork scratchings away from wearing Slipknot T-Shirts un-ironically.
Filled with more than enough graphic violence to make a grown man wince, Green Room is a film that rewards watching with friends. You’ll gasp, you’ll flinch, you’ll cheer. Each scene slowly cranks up the intensity until it rises to a loud and lively crescendo. Also, Patrick Stewart is a nazi.
Jeremy Saulnier’s direction lends a lot to people like Tarantino and Winding-Refn, which would explain the gruesome, yet inspired ways in which characters are killed – And these are characters here, not just cookie cutter horror movie cliches that go from plot point to plot point without the grace of a rendered screenplay.
Did I mention that Patrick Stewart was a nazi?
12-A, Dir Jeff Nichols
In 2016, one piece of Science Fiction based around youthful innocence will reach a wide audience and dazzle everyone from young to old. That piece of Science Fiction was of course Stranger Things. Anyway, Midnight Special is pretty good.
Jeff Nichols is one of my favourite directors at the moment because of the way in which he shines through his films. Through his filmography, you can see the way in which he has changed through out the years – Seek that adage about art being an extension of the soul.
Let me address the one, the only, the mayo chicken legend that is Michael Shannon. Movement is the thing that separates film from photograph, this is something that Michael Shannon understands as he hardly moves. If you see Michael Shannon moving in a scene, that means that you should run. He’ll get an Oscar one day… one glorious day.
12-A, Dir Denis Villeneuve
As Arrival arrived in theatres, so did the acclaim and accolades.
You never quite know what you’re going to get with a Denis Villeneuve film. You may get a haunting and chilling suburban thriller like Prisoners, or a dark mind-bending character study like Enemy, or a gut punchingly emotional middle-eastern tragedy like Incendies.
Arrival is probably Villeneuve’s most mainstream movie as it can be watched by some audiences can watch it as a film about aliens coming to invade us – all the while some audiences will seek deeper themes in the film. I won’t delve into those themes because this blog post has taken far too long already.
I, Daniel Blake
15, Dir Ken Loach
I, Daniel Blake is one of the first films of which I have used the term: “ethereal” to describe it.
I distinctly remember my experience of going to watch it. It was on a day off from college when I looked upon the Cineworld website, to my surprise I discovered that I, Daniel Blake was showing in Boldon. With this, I left my house and traversed an utterly soul crushing transit system and ran to the cinema. I bought my ticket after the film had started and entered the screening as the trailers were coming to an end. The lights went down in a theatre with me and about five others, the film started to a good few laughs. The film ended with myself in emotional paralysis. I could not bring myself to my feet, and it seemed that everyone else in that theatre felt exactly the same way.
One of the hardest things for a film to do is to unite people. Just look back to something like Ghostbusters and how people ripped eachother apart, now look to I, Daniel Blake and see the legion of people united in what this film portrays. Young and old, intelligent and not, there are thousands of people who have found themselves in the same position as Daniel Blake – For a piece of fictitious media, that level of audience investment must be applauded to the stern direction of Ken Loach and the superb, rigorously precise script by Paul Laverty.
Do yourselves a favour and go watch these movies.