By Eddie on 19/12/2016
I can’t sugar-coat it, 2016 wasn’t a great year for films.
There were more than a fair share of letdowns, overhyped and forgettable movies thrown our way in a year that saw an incredible amount of big blockbusters, remakes and reimagining’s fail in their quest to find something new to say and something new to wow us with, but amongst all the rubbish there were still a number of gems that showcased originality and inventiveness is far from dead in the movie-making marketplace.
It’s always great to be surprised by films and a number spoken about in the lists compiled below did this, and while it’ll be great for 2017 to have a higher strike rate of successes, we can be thankful for the class of 2016 that kept our movie faith alive and well.
Happy reading, happy watching and here’s to 2017!
For Jordan’s take on the best and worst of 2016 CLICK HERE
Disclaimer – please note that the films below go off Australian release dates and as per usual a number of these films would’ve screened elsewhere in 2015. Due to our cinematic circumstances there are also a number of high profile films such as Silence, Jackie, Moonlight etc. that have yet to publicly screen and therefore are not to be found in this article.
10 Best of 2016
10. Hacksaw Ridge
One of the greatest war films of this generation, Hacksaw Ridge marks the return of Mel Gibson behind camera and acts as one of the director’s finest achievements in his telling of the true story of American soldier Desmond Doss. The film features some of the most intense and realistic battle scenes ever produced on screen. Read my review here.
9. The Witch
A unique, terrifying and unsettling experience, The Witch marks down one of the best horror experiences in years and suggests that director Robert Eggers is an upcoming filmmaker to keep a very close eye on. Read my review here.
A beautiful Australian made documentary about the Nepalese Sherpa’s that have a strong affinity with Mount Everest, Sherpa is arguably the year’s best documentary feature film and a must watch for any fan of the medium. Read my review here.
A touching tale of romance, growing up and learning to live in a whole new world, Brooklyn takes a rather generic seeming story and turns it in something else thanks to pitch perfect delivery and some terrific turns from leads Saoirse Ronan and Emory Cohen. Read my review here.
6. Pete’s Dragon
A family film that acts as a great experience for both the young and the old, David Lowery’s reimagining of the little known Disney original is the year’s best film for the whole family and an unsuspectingly emotional experience that may leave the most hardened of viewers with tears in their eyes. Read my review here.
5. Hell or High Water
Following on from his incredible prison drama Starred Up, Scottish director David Mackenzie turns his sights to the dusty plains of the Texan landscape with this blackly funny and brilliantly acted heist drama that is one of the year’s most memorable pieces of filmmaking. Read my review here.
4. The Revenant
The hype was real for this big-budgeted and long gestating Western with a difference but famed director Alejandro G. Iñárritu and his acting team up of Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy delivered in stunning fashion with a starkly beautiful film punctuated by brutal acts of violence and a tale of vengeance that will be discovered for years yet to come. Read my review here.
At present time it seems as though Denis Villeneuve can do no wrong, and for us film fans that is something we should be forever thankful for. Continuing on his hot streak of films, Arrival is a thinking man’s Sci-Fi with a strong emotional underpinning and this unique experience is made all the better by a standout Amy Adams performance that deserves some awards season recognition. Read my review here.
2. Son of Saul
One of the most effective tales centred around World War 2 ever told, Son of Saul is a true masterpiece made all the more stunning by the fact its lead Géza Röhrig is a first time actor and it’s director László Nemes is a first time feature length filmmaker. Whilst bleak beyond words, Son of Saul is filled with human elements that make its gut punches all the more powerful as we become aware of where Saul’s journey is heading. Read my review here.
1. La La Land
Authentic movie magic, La La Land is a film that provides the feeling of pure unbridled joy. Damian Chazelle’s unique musical set in the sundrenched landscape of Hollywood is deserving of all the praise it has received and still to get and in a year of rather dull experiences, this wondrous journey stands head and shoulders above the pack. Read my review here.
10 Worst of 2016
10. The Girl on the Train
Considering the hype that was being generated for this adaptation, the end results of The Girl on the Train make for one incredibly disappointing outcome and this non-thrilling thriller and un-mysterious mystery is easily one of the year’s worst experiences. Read my review here.
9. Jane Got a Gun
A doomed western that at one stage or another was regarded as one of the great un-made scripts in Hollywood, Jane Got a Gun squandered a good cast and a reliable director in the form of Gavin O’Connor (although he was a last minute ring-in) but this dull tale of revenge is an utterly forgettable experience. Read my review here.
8. The Forest
One of those cheap and nasty horrors that should’ve never seen the light of day, The Forest is a dire experience with not a scare in sight. When horror’s like this stop being made, the world will be a better place. Read my review here.
7. Our Brand is Crisis
What should’ve been a funny and insightful political satire is instead an arduous wannabe comedy that has unlikeable characters, tiresome jokes and offers about as much political insight as Donald Trump at a presidential debate. Read my review here.
6. Lights Out
The short film that Lights Out is based upon showcases just how downright unsettling this story can be but in adapting his previous work, director David F. Sandberg loses focus on a muddled story and a feature film that puts all its eggs in one basket and never gets close to matching the scares provided in 2 minutes over an 80 minute runtime. Read Jordan’s review here.
Want to see how you waste the talents of Oscar Isaac? Then Mojave is your answer. A misguided thriller that has far too much overblown dialogue and a collection of unbelievable and odd events, Mojave is a low point for all involved and easily Isaac’s worst performance in quite some time. Read my review here.
4. The Sound and the Fury
Who will stand up and stop James Franco? The busiest man in Hollywood recruits his friends to adapt this well renowned William Faulkner story and the results are anything but inspiring. With Franco himself going all out in his portrayal of mentally handicapped Benjy Compson, The Sound and the Fury is good enough reason to wish the wannabe filmmaker would stop his ventures altogether. Read my review here.
3. The Shallows
One of the most boring, unbelievable and infuriating thrillers I’ve seen in years, this Blake Lively shark infested adventure is akin to being smacked over and over in the face with a dead fish and the fact so many critics called this out as a great little thriller makes it even worse. Read my review here.
2. Zoolander 2
The plain and simple badness of Zoolander 2 absolutely surprised me. Devoid of any charm or wit the first cult favourite had, this is but a sad cash grab living off a film of yesteryear and marks a very sad occasion in the careers of all involved, in particular Ben Stiller. Read my review here.
1. The Boss
Want an example of why Melissa McCarthy should give the whole shtick a little bit of rest? Then watch The Boss. A comedy that forgets to bring the laughs yet brings a loud-mouthed unlikable McCarthy along for the ride, The Boss is a terrible example of modern day comedy films and a feature that should’ve never seen the light of day. Read my review here.
Dishonourable mention – Independence Day: Insurgence (seriously we waited 20 years for this?)
Denis Villeneuve – The new Mr. Consistent, the man tasked with bringing us the new Blade Runner film has over a number of years now been delivering incredibly focused and effective films that have combined together to suggest that Villeneuve may just be the best director working right now. Sci-Fi masterpiece Arrival, just further proof that this may be the case.
Ryan Gosling – On Australian screens in 2016 we got to see Gosling in the whip-smart The Big Short, the underrated comedy The Nice Guys and the forthcoming Best Picture frontrunner La La Land, not a bad 12 months at all. Gosling is an actor that refuses to be typecast and has ability no matter the genre, no better exemplified by his 2016 period.
Amy Adams – On one day in November I had a double dose of feature films at the cinema. The films were Arrival and Nocturnal Animals. Amy Adams is an incredibly consistent actress and whilst sometimes she plays second fiddle to another lead, Adams was given centre stage in both these films and excelled in each role. Arrival is a film that deserves to net Adams another Oscar nomination and its clear the career of this bright spark still has a lot of give.
Tate Taylor – The director of The Help found himself behind the camera of one of the years most anticipated films but The Girl on the Train was sad to say, a trainwreck. One of the worst big budgeted novel adaptations this side of 50 Shades of Grey, GOTT was a shoddily directed waste of time that did nothing with a committed Emily Blunt turn and potentially thrilling narrative and blame must lay at the feet of Taylor.
James Franco – It’s not even worth mentioning the terrible looking Why Him trailer (but I did) but looking away from that soon to be released turkey, 2016 has seen Franco treat Australian audience with such gems as Queen of the Desert, The Adderall Diaries, Sausage Party, The Sound and the Fury and True Story. He’s an actor possessed to do as many films as possible and while the performer can make great films and deliver great turns, the sheer weight of his constant stream of films often ends up delivering downright terrible results. Franco needs to be stopped and stopped fast.
Melissa McCarthy – At one stage or another McCarthy was funny and no doubt deep down still is but after a string of films that see her play the same character over and over, McCarthy’s two main 2016 films, Ghostbusters and The Boss showcase that this comedic actress needs a quick-fire self-revaluation before things go down any further.
3 Overrated films
3. Captain America: Civil War
It’s a decent Marvel entry no doubt about it, but with a terribly dull villain and an even worse plan to enact evil, this rather tiresome experience that feels like an Avengers film rather than a Captain America standalone isn’t worthy of all the heavy praise. Read my review here.
There’s a ton of hate out there for this all female remake, but looking at the reviews bandied about for this un-funny comedy you’d think it’s a comedy hit. Dull and devoid of spark, Ghostbusters is an event I believe critics were too afraid of tearing apart. Read my review here.
One of the year’s biggest and most surprising hits, Deadpool isn’t a bad film by any stretch of the imagination but is it worthy of the hefty love it received? It’s certainly questionable. Ryan Reynolds excels in a role he could play in his sleep but this gruesome comic book adaptations over reliance on dirty jokes, swearing and super-violence wears thin fast, especially with a tiresomely forgettable central story at its core. Read my review here.
3 Underrated Films
3. The Nice Guys
Poor box-office results seem to suggest this very funny buddy film wasn’t very good but Shane Black’s dark and unique mystery that teams up Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe is a film way more people should be enjoying.
2. End of the Tour
It may’ve played on one screen in Australia back last year but End of the Tour deserves a place on this list after a low key release on home video formats this year. With a great team up of Jason Segal and Jesse Eisenberg, director James Ponsoldt’s film is a touching tribute to a troubled genius and a film well and truly deserving of more recognition. Read my review here.
1. Pete’s Dragon
One of the best family films in years, Pete’s Dragon got its share of lovely reviews but this touching tale deserves more recognition in a year were other higher profiled family films have taken over the limelight.
Suicide Squad/The BFG – Unable to split these two big budgeted and hyped films, both Suicide Squad and The BFG are prime examples of hype unable to be met upon release with two products unlikely to be remembered for any length of time. Suicide Squad was disappointing in its wasting of characters and ideas while Steven Spielberg delivered one of his most average films to date with his adaptation of the anything but average Roald Dahl children’s story.
The Conjuring 2 – It’s not that I thought The Conjuring 2 would be bad, but just how effective this horror sequel was, made for a great surprise. James Wan certainly knows his horror and The Conjuring 2 is easily one of the best horror sequels ever made. Read my review here.
2016’s Best Poster
2016’s Worst Poster
(If you’re going to remake a beloved film no one wanted remade in the first place then don’t release a poster that tries to recapture the glory of the original’s epic chariot chase)
Star Wars: Rogue One (trailer 2) – Whilst I tried to avoid this trailer for as long as possible, the moment I first witnessed it on the big screen I knew this new Star Wars adventure was well and truly on the right track.
Ghostbusters – One of the most disliked videos on Youtube ever, it’s safe to say this unfunny and unappealing Ghostbusters trailer did nothing to stem the fears many had for this franchise reboot.
Top 3 scenes of 2016
3. Hacksaw Ridge – The first Okinawa assault: one of the most confronting war scenes ever filmed, after a long build-up, Mel Gibson unleashes bullet filled carnage unlike anything we’ve seen before on the recreated battlefields of World War 2.
2. The Revenant – The Indian raid: after months of hype, The Revenant put any doubts to bed in its opening stanza as the camera follows the events of a brutal Indian raid that will rattle the senses and amaze with its technical prowess.
1. Arrival – The initial and final reveal: Brilliantly constructed and played out by director Denis Villeneuve, Arrival features the year’s most affecting opening and closing acts to perfectly round out an original Sci-Fi experience like no other.
What films made a mark on your 2016? We’d love to hear what you loved and hated about the year gone by in film in the comments below, so please drop us a line!
P.S – The Movie Guys will be out of action as of today for a couple of weeks over the X-mas and New Years period. We look forward to being back on deck some time around mid January and wish all our readers a safe and happy holiday period. Happy reading and happy watching 🙂