As this godawful year draws to a close, it’s somewhat reassuring to look at the high points before we move into a year that may prove equally devastating. Between the films from awards season at the opening of the year, to the indie surprises, 2016 has been a great year for films outside of the extremely disappointing summer blockbuster slate (not to say that this list doesn’t include blockbusters, there’s a fair few), with some fairly unlikely films stealing the spotlight to become among the most beloved of the year. So without further ado, here’s the first of our writers’ picks for the best films of 2016 (listed alphabetically!).
In 2016, to much critical acclaim, Disney welcomed us into the furry paradise of Zootopia. Not only does the film prove a slickly paced, beautiful and funny movie, but it encourages a spirit of love and tolerance for all people, as well as teaching today’s youth to passionately follow their dreams, no matter how out of reach they may seem. With Zootopia, the House of Mouse took some responsibility for helping our children understand their changing world, whilst maintaining the usual Disney standards for quality animation, fun laughs and memorable characters. Also, it’s probably the only children’s film to feature Breaking Bad references. – Chris Moyse
The story arc of The VVitch is difficult to plot, which contributes to its effectiveness as a modern horror. Eggers takes what would have been a conventional premise of ‘evil lurking in the woods’, much in the fashion of M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village (2004), and brings it into the new age by combining elements of horror, thriller and suspense. The period setting of 17th century England gives sophistication to the story, which combined with dialogue and costume, creates a serious tone to the film reminiscent of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. The eerie events which gradually unfold leaves the viewer on edge, and coupled with internal family drama, The Witch, delves further into the unravelling of the human psyche and the deterioration of relationships within the family, making it a much more complex film than first expected. The film focuses less on the Witch’s actions, and more on how the family deals with the consequences, leading to surprising plot developments. – Priyanka Pullela
Tom Ford’s terrific Nocturnal Animals was 2016’s best example of how to merge sinister suspense and sleek style. This harrowing psychological drama sinks its fangs into you from its very beginning and refuses to let go as its plot slithers along, unearthing truly disturbing facets of Susan’s (Amy Adams) life and her ex-husband’s (Jake Gyllenhaal) manuscript. The fashion designer turned filmmaker channels aspects of Kubrick, Hitchcock and Lynch, resulting in a seductive concoction of aesthetic beauty and distress. With great performances and a gripping narrative, Nocturnal Animals has been a brilliantly bleak beacon that has stood out amongst the mundane products of what has been a dull year. – Greg Dimmock
The Nice Guys
The Nice Guys is filled with all the wit and charm that you might expect from a Shane Black film. This zany eighties tale follows a cowardly private-eye and a tough-as-nails enforcer played to perfection by Ryan Gosling and Russel Crowe, respectively. Along with Gosling’s on-screen daughter, the surprisingly not-annoying child-star Angourie Rice, the pair are forced to confront pornstars, hit-men and old ladies as they follow up a mysterious missing persons case. What ensues is a thrilling, laugh-out-loud-funny film that you’ll want to watch again and again. And with the ending perfectly setting up a sequel, we can only hope Black gets on The Nice Guys 2 sooner rather than later. – Emrys Moungabio
Kubo and the Two Strings
Competing against the big animation hitters of Dreamworks and Pixar, stop-motion studio Laika are quickly bringing themselves up into the big leagues, and Kubo & the Two Strings is the film which positively demands their right to be there. One of the most visually stunning films of the year, Kubo is animation perfection, which proves that stop-motion is still one of the most amazing art forms, when utilised this well. With a story that never dumbs itself down for a family audience, yet manages to remain accessible for all, Kubo covers such weighty themes as grief, memories, forgiveness, and touches on mental health issues, all with a strong focus on story-telling, and the power of stories to heal, delight, and change people. Still think this is a kids film? Maybe think again! – Sarah Buddery
Check back tomorrow for the second part of our list!