I watch a lot of movies, but most of what I watch are new releases. I saw 240 movies last year that I couldn’t have seen before 2016. Some of them won’t really be out until this year (thanks, Fantastic Fest!), but I counted them all last year. Deal with it.
A note: The Witch and Green Room were both very, very high on last year’s list, and would be very high again on this year’s list if I were to include them again. See them both.
Another note: These are my favorite movies, not the the best movies I saw. I’m more interested in the movies I want to watch over and over again, rather than ones that are “well made” or whatever. HOWEVER! The Academy Awards haven’t named their Best Picture nominees yet, but this could be the first year I genuinely love all of them.
This was a great year for movies. Maybe my favorite ever. Don’t @ me.
Let’s get started.
25. Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping
More than anything else, this movie proved I should have been listening to The Lonely Island all along, instead of thinking I was “too good” for the common man’s comedy tastes. I love the mockumentary aspect of this movie, I love the soundtrack in this, and I love just about everything else, too. Also: “I’m So Humble” was probably my favorite song of 2016.
One of the last films I saw in 2016 was one of my favorites. This film absolutely nails the time period, coming of age e•mo•tions, and just about everything else. Ever wondered what it’s like to be a repressed Jewish boy heading off to college in the 1950s? Now you know!
23. Army of One
In 2016, Nicolas Cage was in five films, and was the best part of each. Army of One was the best of the bunch, one of the funniest movies of the year, and Cage’s funniest film ever that isn’t called Raising Arizona. I laughed from start to finish. He (like this movie) is wonderful.
This movie has slowly fallen down my list of favorites, especially as I catch some cringe-worthy scenes on HBO (like Ryan Reynolds and Morena Baccarin’s anti-meet-cute). That said, I still love this movie. It was exactly the shake-up the genre needed. If nothing else, this is (likely) directly responsible for an R-rated Logan, which is a very, very good thing.
I’ve seen a lot of thinkpieces about how Zootopia is an important movie for today’s reality. That’s fine and a worthwhile message, but it’s also just funny and great. This was a really good year for animated films – especially for Disney, which dropped this and Moana – and this was one of the best. It’s on Netflix now, which means we all have no excuse to watch it.
20. Captain America: Civil War
The scene where (spoilers?) Spider-Man meets Tony Stark for the first time is a better movie than most movies I saw. The fact that there’s another 2 ½ hours of excellent Marvel stuff around it is just icing on the cake. I liked Age of Ultron, but this is a proper Avengers sequel, and I will keep loving these movies if they’re this fun.
19. The Edge of Seventeen
It’s hard to overstate how little interest I had in this movie after I saw the trailer. (Whoops! I guess I sometimes watch trailers.) That awful trailer does no justice to this movie, which tells a coming-of-age story in a way that somehow applies and is relevant to all filmgoers. Hailee Steinfeld has been great; here, she’s superb.
18. Love & Friendship
I need to read more Jane Austen (or, at least, watch more film adaptations of her work) because this was amazing. It’s super funny and I was completely caught off guard by how much I loved it. Kate Beckinsale and Chloe Sevigny are wonderful here. #CageClub co-host Mike Manzi can have his Underworld Beckinsale; give me Austen Beckinsale any day.
17. Down Under
If you loved Four Lions (and you should), you’ll love Down Under. It’s hard to picture how anyone could take a movie about race riots and racism and make it one of the funniest movies I’ve seen in a long time, but it happened. I can’t recommend this one enough, whenever it hits theaters. Sooner, hopefully, rather than later.
16. Hell or High Water
I love a good heist/robbery movie. I don’t know if this one flew under the radar, since I know a lot of people who saw it and all of them loved it, but it didn’t get the fanfare it deserved at all. You really feel for both sides (robbers and cops), and everyone is on top of their game here. Plus: awesome gun play!
15. Manchester by the Sea
Is it weird that I think this is one of the funniest movies of the year? It’s filled with some of the darkest, most depressing stuff you’ll find anywhere. But there’s humanity and a level of humor that Casey Affleck and Michelle Williams and everyone else brings here. If you want to laugh, then cry, then laugh and cry, watch this. It’s terrific.
14. 10 Cloverfield Lane
I love this movie, but I love the marketing for this movie even more. Trailers spoil every movie months before it comes out, so it was awesome for JJ Abrams & Co. to unveil a trailer for this movie and be like, “Oh yeah, it’s out in 2 months.” Also: the movie is great and even better than the (almost entirely unrelated and underrated) first. More, please!
13. Midnight Special
Jeff Nichols does not make bad movies. This is an undisputed fact. He made two movies this year, and while Loving was very good, I loved Midnight Special far more. It has an 80s feel that other movies would die to capture, yet manages to feel modern at the same time. It’s kind of like the peak version of Super 8.
I’m convinced this will win Best Picture. At the very least, Natalie Portman is as much of a lock for Best Actress as Cate Blanchett was for Blue Jasmine. She’s beyond phenomenal here. I knew she was a good actress, but I didn’t know she was this good. Plus, the Zodiac Killer plays Lyndon B. Johnson, and you’re legally obligated to love that.
This might be the first year that I genuinely love every Best Picture nominee, which would put me in a really weird place, mentally. There were so many terrific films made in 2016 (maybe my favorite year of movies ever), and Moonlight is one of the best. This movie does more with silence than many others do with words. It’s truly special.
I’m always going to have a soft spot in my heart for movies that kick off Fantastic Fest, like Arrival. But it’s more than nostalgia; this is a great sci-fi movie with a badass leading lady in Amy Adams. I can’t wait for this to be out on Blu-ray so I can see it again. In war, there are no winners; only widows.
9. Sing Street
A coming-of-age musical set in Europe? RIGHT UP MY ALLEY! This combines everything I love plus catchy music to boot; “Drive It Like You Stole It” might be the best movie song of the year. This one’s on Netflix, so there’s no reason you shouldn’t watch it.
8. Kubo and the Two Strings
I’ve always generally liked Laika’s movies – ParaNorman, Coraline, The Boxtrolls – but none hit me the way this one did. Along with Surf’s Up (who knew?), this was the movie I most wanted to re-watch after I finished it. It has the most gorgeous animation of any film this year, a great story, and great music!
7. La La Land
I smiled the entire time I watched this movie, and I don’t know how I could pay it any more of a compliment. I love Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, and they’re both so good here. Also I can’t stop listening to the soundtrack, so there’s that, too. Can I watch it again yet?
6. The Nice Guys
I love just about everything Shane Black has ever written, and I think this may be my favorite movie of his. Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe are both so good in this, and we even get some Jill Garvey! (PLEASE COME BACK, THE LEFTOVERS.) Ryan Gosling had a pretty phenomenal year, and I’ve never liked Russell Crowe more.
5. Doctor Strange
Multiple times while watching this, I said to myself, “This is amazing.” This feels like The Wachowskis had a movie baby with Christopher Nolan, and also Iron Man was there. This is definitely one where avoiding all trailers paid off in spades. Please, please, please: stop watching trailers.
4. The Neon Demon
I love Drive. I didn’t love Only God Forgives. I didn’t know what to expect with this, but man oh man it’s just about perfect. This movie is stylish, messed up, and 100% pure uncut Refn. Also, we get a really menacing Keanu in this movie, which is pretty cool. Looking forward to re-watching this for #KeanuClub later this year!
My two favorite genres are horror and coming-of-age (is that a genre? who cares), and this movie is a great example of each. Horror movies tend to either have a cool premise or really stick the landing, but few do both. Raw does both. It’s terrific from start to finish, with a perfect ending and so many crazy and perfect moments leading up to it.
2. Swiss Army Man
There has never been a movie like Swiss Army Man, and there never will be again. It’s funny and heartbreaking in equal measures. The directors said they wanted to create a movie where the first fart makes you laugh, and the last fart makes you cry, and they did exactly that. It’s wholly unique and truly wonderful. I love it so much.
1. American Honey
I can’t get this movie out of my head. I want to live in it. This movie is beautiful, angry, hopeful, angsty, poetic, heartbreaking, funny, and cruel. Everyone is so ridiculously good in this. Shia’s great, because of course. (Hi, #ALLHISMOVIES!) Riley Keough is great. Sasha Lane is beyond great, and she effortlessly carries this movie even though she’s never acted in anything else. MIND-BOGGLING. All the other kids are terrific, too, and none of them are trained actors, either. I found love in a hopeless place.
Another note! I want to rewatch a few films from last year, which may change the order of things. In that case, I’m going to make you click on this again and I’ll get another page click. It’s actually brilliant marketing, in that sense. Those movies are: 10 Cloverfield Lane, Deadpool, Hail, Caesar!, Midnight Special, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, and The Nice Guys.
Last note. Maybe. Probably. Since I have them all ranked, here’s a list of the 240 movies I saw from last year (and counting), in order-ish. Stars denote movies that are probably too low and should be re-watched to move up.