It’s that time of the year again, when we look back and see what films entertained us in 2016. Sadly, my list is lacking in dramas and your more typical Oscar bait films, so I ask you excuse omissions like La La Land, Jackie, Sully, Manchester by the Sea, and many others. But this is my top list of what I have seen, and fittingly for a gaming site it’s filled with plenty of genre titles. Before I get to the list, I want to take a moment to reflect of some of those who we lost this year.
2016 seems to have been especially brutal in terms of celebrity deaths. It seemed every week an actor, writer, or musician was taken from us. The list of those lost is long. Alan Rickman, who played the suave villain Hans Gruber in Die Hard and the menacing Severus Snape in the Harry Potter movies. Leonard Nimoy, who made the logical Mr. Spock an iconic figure for sci-fi fans. Gene Wilder, who had delighted many of us as children in Willy Wonka, and later made us laugh as adults in such comedies as Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein, and Silver Streak. David Bowie, the glam rocker who crossed over into films and delighted us as the Goblin King Jareth in Labyrinth. And the end of the year delivered an especially gut crushing blow with the death of Carrie Fisher, Princess Leia and an amazing comedic writer who took her personal struggles with addiction and mental illness and made her an advocate for others suffering from the same afflictions. And just 24 hours later, her mother, Debbie Reynolds, joined her in death. There were so many more- musicians Prince, Greg Lake, Keith Emerson, Leonard Cohen, writer Richard Adams (Watership Down), Hollywood icon Zsa Zsa Gabor- it just seemed to go on and on. Death happens. It’s a sad fact of life. But it always hurts to lose those who helped make our lives a little brighter through their extraordinary talents, and they will be missed.
Before I get to my list for 2016, I have to note that two of my favorite movies that I had the pleasure of seeing this year- the Quentin Tarantino helmed Western The Hateful Eight and the Oscar winning The Revenant- were both technically listed as 2015 releases, though they had a wide theatrical release in January. So both missed my list last year, and they don’t count for this year. So I’m giving them a mention here.
And I also want to acknowledge those movies that I highly enjoyed, but fell outside of my top 10. My honorable mentions include the Rob Zombie horror movie 31, the very funny Ryan Reynolds comic book flick Deadpool, the Michael Bay directed war movie (and probably his best work to date) 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi, the funny Key and Peele comedy with the cutest kitten ever Keanu, the horror sequel The Conjuring 2: Th Enfield Experiment, the thriller Hush, Star Trek Beyond, the all female (and, in my opinion, unfairly maligned) supernatural comedy reboot/remake Ghostbusters, and two DC comic book movies Suicide Squad and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Now it’s off to my favorite movies of 2016.
10. The Shallows
Blake Lively did a terrific job as a lone surfer taking on a great white shark off a remote beach in Mexico. The movie delivered plenty of thrills as Lively evaded and outwitted the fearsome predator. One of the best shark movies since the still brilliant Jaws.
9. Lights Out
A solid horror movie that actually had people trying to be smart for a change, And the creepy Diana was good for a couple of nice jump scares.
8. Captain America: Civil War
The Marvel cinematic universe continues to plow along, delivering another very entertaining movie with one of the best superhero battles put on the big screen. It was as much an Iron Man movie as a Captain America one, and holds plenty of ramifications for the Marvel movies going forward.
7. Finding Dory
Pixar finally got around to giving us a movie featuring everyone’s favorite blue tang fish in this wonderful sequel to Finding Nemo. Ellen DeGeneres delivered again as the voice of Dory, but it was Ed O’Neill as Hank the seven tentacled octopus that nearly stole the show.
6. 10 Cloverfield Lane
A sort of but not quite sequel to Cloverfield. This time the menace comes not from a giant monster but from the psychotic Howard. As played by John Goodman, Howard was a terrific psycho, bordering on a sane man who kidnaps two people and holds them hostage in his bunker to keep them safe from a menace outside. It made for a taut thriller, and an interesting addition to the Cloverfield universe.
5. The Jungle Book
Jon Favreau took on the big task of adapting the beloved Disney animated classic based on the books by Rudyard Kipling and he succeeded admirably. The voice cast was spectacular in bringing the CG animals to life and giving them their personalities, especially Bill Murray as Baloo the bear and Idris Elba as the tiger Shere Khan. Young actor Neel Sethi was terrific in holding his own as the only human character of Mowgli, and the film proved that live adaptations of Disney classics could work well.
Another animated entry from Disney, this one couching some surprisingly adult, darker themes (racism, class warfare) in a tale about a bunny named Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin) wanting to be a police officer in a city of anthropomorphic animals. The movie delivered plenty of laughs and heart, never allowing those darker themes to overshadow the proceedings and yet having them provide yet another layer for viewers.
3. The Invitation
It starts off seemingly ordinary enough, with Will (Logan Marshall-Green) returning to the house he shared with his ex-wife for a dinner party. Things slowly reveal themselves to be something a bit more sinister, and the ending delivers a nice chilling note.
2. The Witch
Robert Eggers delivered this atmospheric horror movie about a 17th century family being ousted from their village and moving to a home at the edge of the woods said to hold a witch. The cast is terrific as we watch the family slowly spiral into madness. It’s a slow burn, but leaves an impression long after the credits have finished rolling.
And my top movie of 2016 goes to:
1. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
The first Star Wars movie not to be part of the numbered episodes succeeded greatly, bolstered by the great direction of Gareth Edwards and the performances of the strong cast. Felicity Jones carried the film as Jyn Erso and Diego Luna more than matched her in his character of Cassian Anders as the pair lead a rag tag group to steal the plans for the Death Star. Providing plenty of levity in all of this is Alan Tudyk, voicing the droid K-2SO, and Donnie Yen delivered some great martial arts scenes in his portrayal of the blind warrior Chirrut Imwe. The movie not only succeeded in cementing its place in the Star Wars universe, providing a near perfect bridge between Episodes III and IV, but it also succeeds as a great war movie. The battle sequences are quite brutal and very well staged, and it sets the bar high for future standalone Star Wars films. It met al of my expectations and than some, making it my choice for 2016’s Best Picture.
And there you have it. So what were your favorites for the year, readers? Sound off in the comments below, and here’s looking forward to some more great cinema in 2017.
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