For the past four years, I’ve been ranking every film I see- just the new releases, from January 1st to December 31st. The rankings are subjective, based entirely on how much I enjoyed and/or connected with or appreciated the film rather than on some sort of objective artistic criteria. Basically, this is a list of 125 films released in 2016 ranked according to how much I liked them.
Read the Full 2016 List HERE.
We’re finally into the stuff I genuinely liked, even if it doesn’t really sound like it. Every movie listed from here on out is either actively entertaining or intellectually worthwhile, though we’re not quite at the point yet where we’re talking about anything that’s really both.
I was hoping for more narrative payoff from and/or emotional investment in this Canadian/Brazilian co-pro. The script needed tightening but it was conceptually ambitious in a way that was both impressive and fun and the technical achievements are just plain nifty.
42. The Hollars
John Krasinski directed this film wherein beloved character actress Margo Martindale dies a slow dramedic death not totally unlike the dramedic death of Molly Shannon in a masterpiece much further up this list. The ensemble cast here is aces (Martindale and Krasinski are joined by the likeable likes of Charlie Day, Josh Groban, Mary Kay Place, Randall Park, and Anna Kendrick). Sharlto Copley and, particularly, Richard Jenkins more than deliver here but the script and direction could use a lighter touch.
43. Eye in the Sky
Unseen dramatic gem Good Kill is a far better drone movie if we’re comparing drone movies but this weird comedy of manners does a fairly good job of dancing near Dr. Strangelove comedic territory while maintaining the right to retreat into pure kleenex mode when needed. Aaron Paul is at his very best when trying desperately to keep it together here and Alan Rickman delivers tenfold in a brilliant final scene that ends the last live action performance of his storied career.
44. The Meddler
This grownup mommy/daughter film is strange and tonally uneven but is also ultimately incredibly winning. And it contains one of the best Susan Sarandon performances in years.
The first half of this movie is sublime- a frenzied, mostly silent, rapturously shot blend of dreamlike wonder and visceral terror wrought from the sheer immensity of the world. That first half-film stars the most captivating performer of 2016 in the form of sad-eyed Sunny Pawar and you feel as though you’ll never want to leave his side (or abandon the search for his brother Guddu, whom the extraordinary Abhishek Bharate fleshes out beautifully in just a few moments of screentime). During this half of the film, Nicole Kidman reconfirms her star status with stirring warmth and subtle ferocity. In the second half of the movie, Pawar grows up to be Dev Patel (whom I adore, really, just not in this) and Kidman kicks off her Oscar campaign with some big crying scenes and the most obnoxious Western melodrama totally eclipses the Eastern art film that preceded it. What a terrible shame.
46. Why Him?
There are some great ideas at the heart of this movie about generational differences and the father/daughter bond but there are way too many monumentally stupid jokes.
47. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
This movie has its charms (that Eddie Redmayne’s awful cute, Queenie is a gem of a character, and that Niffler!) but it’s all about as deep as a Pottermore quiz. Every inch of the screen is CGI and it’s all an elaborate setup for a big twist. JK Rowling is a novelist, does anyone else wish she would just return to writing novels? Not screenplays that are conveniently Americanized because goddamn everything has to be Americanized somehow, not novelettes or tweets or online-extended-content short stories, and for the love of god please no more plays (the biggest problem with Cursed Child is the actual writing which, granted, she did not do herself, but the story is also terrible and that’s definitely her problem). I know it’s profitable territory but couldn’t everyone just leave the Potterverse alone? It was beautiful, and it was complete; let it be.
48. Keeping Up with the Joneses
I enjoyed this movie a lot more than I thought I would. It’s pretty silly and shockingly uninventive but it’s also kind of refreshing in how earnestly uncool it is. The formula is strong in this one and the formula isn’t subjected to any annoying self-aware winks or shameless shock-factor gimmicks. It’s just a silly neighbourhood spy comedy about four people who realize the importance of friendship; getting grumpy about such a thing seems stupid to me.
49. Queen of Katwe
A lovely simple little chess movie that perfectly fits the Disney live-action sports movie mould, which is one of my favourite moulds. It’s elevated by the prestigious presence of Lupita Nyong’o and dreamiest dreamboat David Oyelowo but it’s really just a lovely simple little Disney live-action sports movie.
Edward Snowden is one of the most compelling figures in modern American history. He’s fascinating, what he did is fascinating, why he did it is fascinating, and what happened next is fascinating. Oliver Stone’s Snowden is not fascinating. It’s over-glamorized and over-dramatized, which is ridiculous when you consider how incredibly dramatic the story already is. There are nonsense Hollywood spy tropes, way too much girlfriend drama, and a score that boldly declares “this is important, Feel Something!”. It’s all terribly annoying but at least this movie got made. Bonus points for Ben Schnetzer because he’s just the best and here happens to play the only interesting character (yes, that includes Snowden; how they made Snowden not interesting is beyond me but they pulled it off).
51. Bad Moms
Fun and stupid in equal measure. May or may not have cried at the end when they interview their moms over the credits. Bow at the altar of Kathryn Hahn in all things, even this.
52. The Boss
Also fun and stupid in equal measure, I kind of really liked this wacky McCarthy adventure with its predictable jokes and cookie cutter plot. Did you like Spy? You’ll like The Boss. I totally liked Spy.
I was rooting for this movie so hard because you always want to root for things that stupid people hate for terrible reasons. But it just wasn’t good and we all just have to live with that. Holtzmann was the only particularly well-developed character (though what a character she was!), the cameos were out of control, and the editor’s reaction to the riff-tastic cast giving them “lots of options” on every joke was apparently “put’em all in!” until the movie turns into the joke-off at a bad improv show. Ghostbusters is a bad movie. They didn’t do a good job. But goddammit it was so cool to go to the movie theatre and see four completely not sexualized women in a line shooting laser guns at the sky. The movie could have and should have been better but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a breakthrough moment seeing those ladies (not all young, not all thin, not all white, not all straight) in their ugly coveralls saving the world.
54. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
Loved it. So weird. So badass. Lily James is the freaking coolest.
55. The Jungle Book
On principle, I think Disney needs to cut it out with the live action retreads. In practice, this was an insane achievement of digital creation and I would totally watch it again.
56. 10 Cloverfield Lane
The ending is bonkers and I’m completely opposed to the ridiculous franchisation of what was clearly a totally original screenplay that got forced into a “cinematic universe” but the psychological thriller aspects of this bunker movie are aces even if Mary Elizabeth Winstead could stand to up the personality by a factor of 10.
57. Rogue One
I’m so tired of the “chosen one” narrative I could scream, the much-lauded dead people CGI literally terrifies me in both theory and practice, and the seemingly bold and un-Disney-ish direction the third act takes isn’t much more than a continuity necessity when you think about it. Strong cast- Cassian was neato- but whatever, dude.
58. The Intervention
One of my favourite sub-sub-genres is “old friends spend a dramedic weekend in a house together” and this one has the perfect cast for it- Melanie Lynskey, Natasha Lyonne, Ben Schwartz, Alia Shawkat, Jason Ritter, Clea Duvall, Cobie Smulders- but none of the characters make any sense as people let alone as friends.
What an incredibly beautiful film. Like, I bet some slightly tone-deaf socialite throws a party one day with this movie on silent as a decorative element. The costumes, the movie stars, the cinematography, the colour palette, the settings- it’s all very beautiful. Shame about the lack of narrative tension.
60. Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping
Leave Justin Bieber Alone; he doesn’t have any role models he can fully trust and didn’t have enough of a real adolescence to be able to develop the maturity necessary to not be Justin Bieber. This was fun, though. I like Samberg even if I don’t always know why.