I’ve spent a lot of time scoffing at people’s declarations that 2016 has been a bad year for cinema. While there is no denying that Batman vs. Superman, Suicide Squad, X-Men and a few other blockbusters were utter balls, there have been more fantastic movies outside of that world than there has bad in it. In fact, this is one of the toughest top tens I’ve ever come up with and if ten were a bigger number films like The Witch, Rogue One, Spotlight, Your Name, Creed, Bone Tomahawk, Adult Life Skills and more would have found their way into it. Sadly it’s not, and these are my chosen ten. As usual, this is my ten favourites which are different from the ten best and is based on UK release dates. It is also opinion so while you can feel free to tell me I’m wrong, don’t expect me to care.
I went into nearly every other film on this list expecting brilliance. Whether that was because of the director, the cast or the studio, they were more likely to disappoint than exceed my expectations. Edge of Seventeen was the exact opposite. This little coming of age film caught me completely off guard, and I fell in love with it. From Hailee Steinfeld’s emotionally broken Nadine to Woody Harrelson’s wonderfully acerbic teacher it is an example of everything going right and was one of 2017’s most delightful surprises.
In a year when DC dropped the ball, Marvel delivered one of their strongest efforts yet. Civil War feels like the film that perfected bringing together groups of super heroes which considering how good Avengers was, is one hell of an achievement. Whether it’s the introduction of Spiderman or Cap’s bulging muscles, it is packed with destined to be iconic moments. Can anyone stop Marvel now?
Sing Street continues John Carney’s attempts to perfect a blend of music and cinema and while he’s done a cracking job of that before, this film about a teenage band raises the bar. Yes, they are far too good, but that’s easily dismissed by accepting that we hear what they hear in their heads rather than what the audience does. It also doesn’t take away from this heartwarming journey into young love which has some killer tunes to go along with it.
If you’d asked me whether a sci-fi film about linguistics would have made my top ten films of the year I’d probably have thought that I could see that coming because I’m weird like that. However, there is no denying that Arrival’s success has caught many of guard. A subtle and yet mind-bending film it came out at a time when the world was reeling and brought with it a sense that humanity might not be that bad after all.
It turns out that Studio Ghibli’s last film might not be the ending we all thought it was which honestly is the happy news we all needed this year. However, if When Marnie Was There had been the end it would have been a fitting one. This story of young friendship captures every sparkle of the magic that is that studio. Love and heartbreak are here in equal measure, and it’s a film unafraid to treat children as adults. Thank whatever deity you believe in for Studio Ghibli.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, stop-motion is incredible. I don’t care if the end result is poor, no one has the right to insult something that that much time and effort has gone into. Although why anyone would insult Kubo I don’t know. Drawing on the power of stories, Kubo stole the show in a year when animation consistently raised the bar. From its incredible design to its touching story, this is a film that will stand up to being rewatched again and again and again.
Room had my favourite scene of the year. The moment young Jack (played by the wonderful Jacob Tremblay) meets a dog for the first time. It brings tears to my eyes thinking about it. Lenny Abrahamson’s adaptation of Emma Donoghue’s book was one of the first films I saw this year, and yet it is still the most powerful. That central relationship between Brie Larson and Tremblay turns what should be a horrifying and depressing story into one that is brimming with hope.
When I walked out of Everybody Wants Some!! I thought we had an instant Linklater classic on our hands. Dazed and Confused a few years on. And yet, it proved to be a divisive film. For everyone that loved it, there was someone who hated the people Linklater almost idolised. Personally, the two hours I spent in that weird baseball team’s company was a blast. They were flawed, but Linklater embraced those flaws and loved them for it. Not much happens but it is not much happening directed by Richard Linklater, and I’m always down for that.
Patrick Stewart as a Nazi skinhead. It was the casting decision that no one knew they needed but now makes perfect sense. His smooth tones making those horrible views seem almost pleasant. It sends a shiver down your spine just to think about it. Combine that with Jeremy Saulnier’s ability to make cinematic violence brutal and exhausting and you have a truly unique horror film.
Sam Neil was so proud of Hunt For The Wilderpeople that he rented a car and drove around New Zealand telling people to go and see it. After catching it at the Edinburgh Film Festival I was almost tempted to join him. Taika Waititi’s follow up to What We Do In The Shadows couldn’t really be more different and yet it is instantly recognisable as him. It is laugh out loud funny and is bursting with heart. If you haven’t seen this story of two people getting lost in the wilderness then you are doing yourself a disservice. Go! Now!