So 2016 has been a mixed year in terms of films; the summer blockbuster season was… well a bust, and there have been a lot of films that haven’t fully hit the mark (for me). But, there have also been some real treasures – some films that have been absolutely exceptional; ones that I didn’t see coming. Now of course this is all about the films that for me, just couldn’t escape my head. The ones that burrowed themselves into my memory banks, set up shop, and politely – or sometimes quite forcefully – told me that they planned on being there for the long-haul. This was something I was completely okay with.
I suppose I should lay what you can expect from this piece, as I’m not intending for it to be the usual ‘Top 10’ lists that you’re going to be seeing around this time of year. What I want to do with this is not necessarily focus on what might be considered the absolute best-of-the best from 2016; the films that were perfect in their every effort and deserve to be recognised as the next masterpieces. This is more about me shining a light on some films that, for one reason or another (those reasons will be laid out in detail when I talk about each film) just had an effect on me, made it so that they stuck around and kept me thinking about them. The films are in no particular order, but my favourite film of 2016 will be in there somewhere. But don’t worry, you’ll know when that comes up.
I also want to point out that this list only contains films released in the UK in 2016. So films like, La La Land, Midnight, Manchester by the Sea, etc. films which everyone is singing the praises of, will not be contenders for this list. I want to keep it contained to only films released in UK cinemas in 2016. That way I can give everything a fair shot from this year.
So yeah, that’s what I intend to do with this piece. You’ll definitely recognise a lot of these films, and many other people will assuredly be talking about them, but I’m also hoping there will be 1-or-2 that slipped under your radar, and reading about them here gives you that little nudge to go watch them. So without further-a-due, let’s get into the films that stood out to me, and made their presence known, in 2016.
10 Cloverfield Lane
This was a film that came out of nowhere, and delivered on so much. Going into 2016, I don’t think anyone was thinking, ‘Oh I hope we get more Cloverfield.’ But now that we’re at the end of the year, it’s a film that so many people are still talking about, and are still hyped about.
Not only was the way in which this film was handled from a marketing standpoint a huge plus for it, but it then also completely changed what type of film it was, compared to the previous Cloverfield film – and it worked. Taking it from a monster filled disaster film, to an intimate character deconstruction was surprisingly brilliant.
But the most brilliant thing about this film overall was the performance by, John Goodman. He is utterly terrifying and uncomfortably unpredictable in the film. I never felt at ease, and while some of that was because of how, director Dan Trachtenberg constructed his film; a lot of it was down to the presence of Goodman and his character.
This was the sleeper hit of 2016, and it’s undoubtedly one of the films that – if you haven’t already – you need to make the effort to see.
I’m a lover of horror films – have been ever since I was a kid and watched films like, ‘The Thing’ or ‘The Shining’ and was left cowering in my bed, unable to sleep. So when a horror film shows up that actually gets people talking positively – especially in 2016 – then I am certainly going to make every effort to see it. ‘The Witch’ was one that did not disappoint and truly exceeded the hype around it.
It feels weird to call this film a horror, as it’s more like a psychological deconstruction of some very different feeling characters. Never have I seen a film approach its content like how this film does.
I went in expecting a run of-the-mill horror film involving a Witch, and came out the other side totally enraptured, yet also terrified, by a film that was so much more than most other films of the genre can ever hope to be. The psychosis of the characters; the dangerous power of religion; the intoxicating seduction of evil – The Witch is a film brimming with layers.
This is absolutely one of the best horror films of 2016, and beyond that it is also one of the standout films of 2016. If you’re looking for something that is more than what it first seems to be, then I recommend you give this film a watch!
By the end of this film, I was left emotionally spent. This is an interesting one, as director Sebastian Schipper delivers an over 2 hour film all done in one continuous take. This resulted in some interesting effects. One was that I was lost so deep in this film, that when it began to come to an end, I lost it slightly, and struggled to hold back my tears.
Now there were many more reasons for that reaction – some were because of the direction of the story, but it was also because I had technically spent a continuous 2 hours and 18 minutes with the characters in the film, and my connection with them had grown to such an extent, that I felt like I was truly part of their journey. It was a reaction that I had never truly felt; I was so linked with the film, that I didn’t then know how to then pull myself back out.
What this film achieves, not only from a technical standpoint, but from a narrative standpoint, is something heartbreakingly magnificent. I wanted so much more, and when I was left there to watch the credits roll, I was completely wiped-out and in awe of the experience I had shared with the film and its characters.
Find some time in your day when you are alone and void of any distractions, and settle into what is a truly brilliant piece of cinema. Trust me; you’ll have a rare time with this one.
Star Trek Beyond
A slight shift in terms of the types of films I’ve talked about so far, but for me, this one is personal. I’ve watched Star Trek since I was a wee lad (not always by choice… having an older brother who is obsessed, results in you watching a lot of it!) But over the years I’ve found an appreciation, a love for it.
I’ve enjoyed what the new J.J. Abrams films have brought to the franchise, but I’ve never been massively enthused by the films. The 2009 film is fun, but… ‘Into Darkness’ is a mess. So going into this film I was apprehensive. But walking out of the cinema, I was absolutely in love with what I had seen. It felt like a Star Trek film; one that fans have been deserving of for a long time.
It had the excitement and the scale of the J.J. Abrams films, while also having the finesse and the love of pure sci-fi running through its core. I feel the film was a perfect balance of keeping new fans interested, while also giving the old guard something to truly treasure.
Lovers of Star Trek should see this film (though I’m sure you already have) and appreciators of good blockbuster films (of which there was a dearth of this year) will find so much to enjoy. This is a film that put a smile on my face – and continues too – and it’s one that sticks in my mind when I think about films in2016.
The Nice Guys
The Nice Guys was a refreshing and fun return to a type of film that has been sorely lacking in recent years: the buddy cop film. Shane Black is not new to this type of film, and his unique style of writing is perfect for it. So it was exciting to see him coming out with a film that seemed as full of life and humour, as some of his previous films have been; Lethal Weapon, The Last Boy Scout etc.
But what made this film such a joy to watch was 2 fold: Both, Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling are absolutely faultless in the film – both of them nailing their respective roles. And the thing that brought them together in such a great film was that… and wait to you hear this… IT WAS FUNNY!
Yes the film actually had me (and many other people in the cinema) laughing out loud. Whether it was a cleverly written joke, or a brutally unexpected piece of slapstick comedy; the film just never failed to have another joke around the corner – one that would have me ACTUALLY laughing.
I don’t feel this film gets the credit or the recognition that it deserves. Here was a film that delivered on what it promised (from the trailers), had me genuinely wanting more of it, and overall was just a total joy to experience. I really hope we get a sequel to this film and that more people make the effort to see the first one, before a (hopeful) second one comes out.
For me, Nocturnal Animals was cruel in just how good it was. This was a film that never let me feel at ease; its relentless, sinister assault on its characters, left me uneasy and thinking for some time about the journey they went on.
What made it all work so well, was director, Tom Ford’s eye for detail, and his unwavering want to never coddle the audience. It’s not a film that hands you all the answers; it’s not a film that necessarily makes all of its twists and turns clear to you. This is a film where you have to pay attention, and you have to be looking out for the answers within the film.
Leaving the cinema, I couldn’t stop running through all the events in my head; trying to understand how it all worked. Now this isn’t the most complicated film there has ever been – there are quite a few elements that are easy to digest – but there are also oddities; parts to it that leave you to ponder them. That’s what made the film such an involving experience, I was able to gain even more from it, after the film had finished.
This will certainly not be a film for everyone. In fact, a person who was leaving the cinema, who was just a little bit ahead of me put it in an interesting way: “It was to artsy for me. ‘Thing didn’t make any sense.” I’m not judging him; I can see how this film might turn some people off. But like I said in the beginning of this piece: this is not what I think to be the absolute best films of the year (even though I do think this could be considered one of them), it is films that stood out to me, gave me a reason to remember them. That’s what, Nocturnal Animals did, it gave me a reason to remember it, and because of that, I loved it.
This is a film that I don’t expect to show up on many people’s list and that’s because it was a film released through Netflix. But this film had such an impact on me, and is so deserving of people’s attention, that I’m putting it on this list.
Tallulah is a tour-de-force in terms of its characters. There are three actresses (Ellen Page, Allison Janney, and Tammy Blanchard) who led this film in one way or another, and each of them is simply outstanding.
You are taken on such a journey with them all; a journey that is filled with pure hardships. But what makes it such a great watch, is just how unwilling the film is to shy away from any of the tough subjects that it brings up.
You really are thrown into the deep end with this film, and it never offers up a life raft. Much like the characters, you are left to go on the tough journey, through some truly harsh reality checks, and all of it is such a powerful experience.
With a blend of deep, broken, real feeling characters and a story that really does grab a hold of your heartstrings. You end up getting an emotionally enveloping experience – one that left me welling up in its final moments.
More than any other film on this list, this is the easiest one for you to get to (if you have Netflix). Films like this are deserving of more people’s attention, and it is for that reason that I wanted to shine what minuscule light I have, onto this film. Make the effort, and give this film a chance.
Arrival is a film that sucks you in with a really compelling story, and then overwhelms you with some truly meaningful, memorable emotion. This is what I want from my sci-fi films; intelligent, thought-out, potent storytelling and character exploration.
This is a film that left me thinking about it for some time after; mulling over its many interesting concepts and ideas. There is just such a feeling of creativity to this film, and it all makes for such an engaging and rewarding watch.
Quite rightly, this film has been getting a lot of attention for what it achieves. A story that revolves around the importance of communication; characters that play an important role in more than just what is necessary, and a visual and auditorily unique experience.
Director Denis Villeneuve brings all of his talents to yet another stellar film; one that had me welling up by the end. He is a director who continues to create films that are so different in their execution, and both he and his films are continually deserving of the praise and the attention they get.
If you haven’t already, make every effort to see this film. People will be talking about it for quite some time, and you need to make you self a part of that conversation.
Hell or High Water
The alternative approach that this film took when presenting its characters, is one of the main reasons I couldn’t stop thinking about it. You’re almost lulled into a sense of familiarity and comfort with the main characters, only for your entire perception of them to upended; leaving you to put the pieces back together in your head.
I left the cinema feeling genuinely challenged by Hell or High Water. From a moral standpoint, I felt slightly uncomfortable with how easily I had accepted the actions of all the characters. I was charmed by them all; I wanted to see more of them, the film truly succeeded at testing me, making me reconsider the ease in which I had… I guess fallen for the wit and the charm of the characters.
Hell or High Water is not only a film that tests you; it is also a damn good story with some beautifully bleak landscapes, and some larger than life side-characters. This is one of those films that just oozes individuality.
If you’re looking for a classic feeling film, filled with people who are full of so much hardened life, and a story that anyone can relate too, then get to seeing, Hell or High Water. It is one of those films that offers so much more than you can ever imagine.
Now we come to not only the last film on the list, but also the film that I consider to be my favourite film of 2016. Leaving the cinema, I was emotionally and physically affected by this film. Each and every second of it left me overwhelmed and satisfied in the strangest of ways.
I don’t think I’ve had an experience in the cinema, like I had with this one. Green Room is a film that is unrelenting in its approach and its execution. The story I continually tell when I talk to people about this film, involves the man sitting behind me in the screening I was in.
There was a particular moment in the film where it is really kicking off, and quite a few sudden and shocking things happen all at once. As it was happening, there were groans of discomfort from the audience and some shocked gasps. But once the moment had ended, there was this noticeable silence in the audience… that is until the man sitting directly behind me exclaimed (quite audibly I might add) “Jesus Christ!”
Now usually a thing like that would really annoy me in the cinema, but in the context of what everyone in that showing had just seen, I was totally with that man, an audible response like that was totally warranted and just the kind of response that was needed.
That’s what this film did; it made nearly everyone in that cinema be on edge. Not once was I ever settled or comfortable; at all times, Green Room had me gripping my seat, and sweating from pure dread – not knowing how the terrible situation that the characters were in, might worsen.
I could talk for a long time about this film (and I have to my friends quite a few times – pity them please). But I just must stress how affecting of a time this film was – in the all the best ways possible. It sounds sort of masochistic, but I loved every single heart-pounding second of, Green Room. So if you haven’t already, please make the time to see this absolutely overwhelming experience, of a film! It’s a genuine treat!
Honourable Mentions and Closing Thoughts
So there you have it, those are the 10 films that stood out to me in 2016. Now of course there were more films than just the 10 I’ve talked about. But I didn’t want to clog up this entire piece with countess films. I wanted to make the effort to condense it down into the 10 films that I absolutely wanted to pay some attention to; give the chance to have a little said about them. That being said, I still want to highlight a couple other films, but not to the extent that I’ve done with the other ones – just a quick list of ‘Honourable Mentions’. These are still films that are absolutely deserving of your time, but delivered in a more digestible format.
- A Bigger Splash.
- Kubo and the Two Strings.
- The Neon Demon.
- Swiss Army Man.
- The Greasy Strangler.
- Under the Shadow.
So there you have it. Those are the films that stood out to me in 2016. Yes, there are undoubtedly films missing from this list and that you think should probably be on it. But remember, this list isn’t a definitive statement; I am not saying that these are the BEST films of 2016, only that these are the ones that, in one way or another, mattered to me.
I’d of course love to hear your thoughts on this list of films. I’d also love to hear what some of your standout films from 2016 were. Leave any and all thoughts, opinions, feedback, etc. in the comments down below. I’m genuinely interested and enthusiastic to hear it all.
If you like what you read here, and are interested in reading more of my writing. May I suggest either following my blog directly, or following me over on Twitter – @GavinsRamblings. That way you can be kept up-to-date on when I post something new. Thank you so much for reading this and anything else of mine you may have read in 2016. I truly do appreciate it! Thank You!