For a brief period during the summer it seemed like 2016 at the cinema would be a write-off. A steady stream of disappointing to terrible blockbusters had left everyone feeling the sting of franchise fatigue and apart from a few high points here and there, it was a hopeless time to be a movie fan.
Months later, we were all proven wrong. Since then there have been countless great films, ranging from beautiful animations to smart sci-fi’s and there’s still countless other critical hits that I haven’t been able to see.
This time last year my top 25 had a solid top but a saggy bottom, the likes of which were full of films that were ok but in the end pretty disappointing (Jurassic World, Mockingjay Part 2).
This year, however, even the films at the bottom of the list are interesting, worthy films. Though last year had a top heavy five, 2016 has spread it about a bit on my list, with a wide range of genres and types of film represented in my top 25. I’ve seen close to 100 films this year and these are the ones I liked the most.
So, here are my 25-21 picks.
There were two films vying for this spot in my list, the other being The Revenant, yet it’s this subtle and nuanced tale of corruption and steadfast journalism that wins out. Stripped of all cinematic clutter, with a phenomenal cast that blends effortlessly into the Boston background, Spotlight is a tough and talky but thoroughly engaging film that has the strength of its convictions as it puts story and character above contrived dramatic cliche.
Highlight: Mark Ruffalo’s singular outburst
24. 10 Cloverfield Lane
An early favourite that surprised us all when its trailer debuted just a couple of months before its release. Though its necessity to tie it into the Cloverfield franchise only sort of works, the film itself is remarkably tense and well structured, making John Goodman one of the best villains of the year and a great heroine in Mary Elizabeth Winstead.
Highlight: The tense dinner table scene
23. Eye in the Sky
Ostensibly one of Alan Rickman’s final performances and a perfect send-off to the great man, this taught, riveting drone drama holds you tight and doesn’t let you go. However, it’s the scenes of people sitting in rooms, making tough decisions that will really stay with you as they argue and bicker over telephones and skype.
Highlight: Alan Rickman’s “Never tell I soldier that he does not know the cost of war”
22. Finding Dory
As much as I adore Pixar (and last years no. 1 Inside Out was definitive proof that they still have it) I felt that Finding Dory was far from their best work. Though it had many problems, overall there was a sense of nostalgia and warm comfort that came with their 17th feature and the development of Dory and the delicate handling of her disability made this an important, emotionally resonant film.
Highlight: Sigourney Weaver
21. Don’t Breathe
The only thing putting this film further down the list is THAT 3rd act issue. I won’t get into it but I will praise the rest of the film for its unbearably tense, gruesome and shocking tale of thieves trapped in the house they tried to rob by a sadistic blind man. With a tiny cast and a grimy aesthetic Don’t Breathe is just about a horror classic in the making, if it weren’t for that troubling scene.
Highlight: Dogged at every turn
Part 2 coming soon.