The Ten Best Films of 2016

The list you’ve all been waiting for

Happy one year anniversary to the After Lobby! What a wild journey it has been: Hollywood scandals, disappointing super heroes, and pleasant surprises. And now that we are one year into our odyssey, I’ve got big plans on where to take the After Lobby in the future. But I need your help…yes you…no not you, the pretty one with the hat. I’ve started up a Patreon where you can pledge at least $1 per month that will help me cover the costs of checking out movies and maintaining this website. More pledges will lead to an expansion of my operations into the realms of video reviews and podcasting. Together, we can make the After Lobby one of the best film critic website in the whole damn Internet, click below for more details.

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Alright, alright, alright, what about the list? What are the best films of 2016? I had quite a few candidates, and I do expand at the very end all of my runners up; but only ten movies can go on the yearly list and each one must count for something. Without further ado, here comes the Best Films of 2016!

Honorable Mention: The Nice Guys 

As with last year’s list, my Honorable Mention goes out to a solid movie that didn’t make my top ten but also didn’t get a ton of popular recognition that it so badly deserved. For 2016, I can think of no other film that was so unfairly ignored as Shane Black’s The Nice Guys. Easily cementing itself as the best damn buddy cop film ever made, Black’s penchant for hysterical dialogue and mastery over profanity makes this film a timeless classic in my eyes while also reaffirming my faith in Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling. While the latter is getting all sorts of praise for his role in La La Land, The Nice Guys was easily his best performance of the year. Relentlessly funny while giving you a neo noir detective story line, Shane Black demonstrates why he was the king of the 80s and 90s script doctoring with his own unique spin on a formula many modern directors struggle with.

#10. Eye in the Sky 

Packing in a smorgasbord of fine actors that never even interact with each other in the same room, Eye in the Sky is what you get when you craft a modern political thriller that asks its audience serious questions about drone warfare. Not only do you dive into the ethics of assassinating a former citizen that has now become a dangerous terrorist right next to a bunch of bombs, but you also have to ask yourself the “for the good of the many” query when faced with the high likelihood of collateral damage. Impeccably shot for a small budget, and serving as the beautiful swan song for Alan Rickman to go out on, I’ve pressed plenty of political junkies to check this one out.

zootopia-trailer2-fbpic.jpg#9. Zootopia

Disney Animation once again coming out ahead of the crowd once more with a film that’s not only beautiful to look at, but asks some pretty challenging questions from its audience, young and old. In a year that lead to a shit ton of ugliness regarding xenophobia and racism being spilled for the masses, I have to give Zootopia a spot on this list for giving a voice that barked back against the awfulness and demonstrated the effects of racial prejudice. In addition, it was easy to be immersed in the clever story and highly imaginative world of anthropomorphic animals, through intriguing and deeply flawed characters that could appeal to the challenges faced by any age group. With an encouraging message about reconciliation and learning to see beyond ill-informed, preconceived notions, this has been by the far the easiest recommendation I’ve made to people in 2016.

#8. Elle

A late entry onto my Top 10, but by no means any less important. This was a truly grueling movie to get through its brutal introduction before plunging you headfirst into a nihilistic world where a woman regains her footing after surviving an assault in her own home. Playing mind fuck games with the men in her life as she figures out the perpetrator, only to engage in an even more fucked up plan when she discovers his identity, this movie was a freaking trip to get through and I’m glad I made it through to the end. On top of that, the movie features my favorite performance of a lead actress this year in Isabelle Huppert, who I sincerely hope finds more work here in America and doesn’t wind up in the same path of Christoph Waltz where she can only appear in one good movie every three or four years. And to think I ever doubted Paul Verhoven…though after Showgirls, could you blame me? May not be for everyone, but this list is reserved for those films that truly affected me, and Elle shook me to my core.

Film Review Fences#7. Fences 

Denzel Washington is and will always be an excellent actor, but sometimes it’s nice to simply have a single film you can point people towards as evidence of his emotional range. As a bonus, you can check our his own directorial abilities as he faces the challenge of shooting a script that was clearly meant for stage performances. While some scene transitions felt clunky to me, Washington’s screen presence was enough for me to tell everyone to check this one out. But what cemented its place on the top ten was Viola Goddamn Davis. I initially declared she should be the frontrunner for the Best Lead Actress of the year, but since Hollywood is only giving her credit for a supporting role, she has my endorsement hands down for any and all awards in that category. And kudos to Denzel for not wanting to hog all the glory and giving Davis plenty of room to breathe and fill the space with her magnetic performance.

#6. Arrival

Speculative science fiction may be a rarity these days, but when it’s done right…damn can it be fucking breathtaking. And so we have it with Arrival, another notch on Denis Villenueve’s increasingly large belt of excellent films, and one of the best damn films to discuss the concept of first contact in a mature and thrilling way while also decking you with a clever twist. I’ve heard from several critics that Arrival could only truly work as a film, and I have to concur. In any other medium, the twist this movie delivers would just not have the same punch nor have the same cohesiveness of theme. And yes, I must give credit when it’s supporting a healthy world view on relationships between nations while also finding time to inform on the concept of understanding languages. But what ties everything together is a very clever story told through professional actors giving as much pathos as they can to an implausible situation, all the while being treated to a wonderfully oppressive score that sets you into a mood of pure tension.

#5. Silence

Oh my God, this movie fucked me up completely in all the right ways. On the surface, it may appear to be run-of-the-mill faith-based film to depict martyrdom as some selfless act, but the film is anything but that. It’s a harrowing exploration on what belief in God means when you’re faced with religious persecution and your survival instinct or care for others can take over. This movie is about culture clashes demonstrating how certain concepts can be completely alien to a populace and it could be impossible for them to comprehend the ideas you find so sensible. And it’s about wondering whether your prayers are even being heard when you are faced with so much tribulations. But what makes Martin Scorsese’s latest stand out is that none of the answers are as simple as you initially believed. Wonderfully shot and featuring amazing performances from Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver and Liam Neeson as well as a solid Japanese cast, this movie continues to go up in my estimation the more I think about it.

#4. The Handmaiden 

Hey, speaking of getting fucked up, here’s the newest film from the director who brought you Oldboy. For his most recent film, he thought it was a great idea to talk about gaslighting his way; but rather than give you some insulting thoughts on the subject, Park Chan-Wook instead has you dive into the lives of two women flirting with temptation in a time of taboo and at a time their respective male masters can take advantage of them and destroy their lives in the worst possible ways imaginable. Tense and captivating, The Handmaiden is a sex thriller that we have not experienced since the days of Basic Instinct, and it even ends up surpasses the genre into the realm of high art through its deeply flawed characters and drop dead gorgeous cinematography. A beautiful chain of double crosses and willful misinformation keeps you guessing until the very end to see who you can really trust during the lengthy run time that makes every minute count.

#3. Moonlight 

This entry shouldn’t be surprising to be appearing on this list, since it appears that every other critic and their cat have declared Moonlight to be one of, if not, THE best film of 2016. And while it’s only at #3 for me, this is still ranking high above the other one hundred movies I watched in 2016. Contemplative and moving while giving you a fresh point of view of a young man growing up with what he considered to be a shameful secret, this is a powerful coming of age story from boyhood to teen age to becoming a man and reconciling with those who had wronged you terribly early on in life. Leaving you plenty to think about when it comes to redemption and pondering how small chance events can go on to affect your entire outlook on life, Moonlight is one of my most pleasant experiences that I saw in 2016. I’m hoping it will mean something for you as well.

#2. Hell or High Water 

People think making a thriller is an easy task, they just think they need to add a violent action scene where a whole mess of people die and call it a day. Hell or High Water politely demonstrates why those people are fucking wrong. What makes a thriller great is that you give a shit what happens to your protagonists, even when they are in fact criminals putting innocent people at risk. What they are is “interesting,” they make choices you yourself wouldn’t make, but are intrigued to follow where they’ll go based on their own internal logic and code of honor they abide by. Featuring excellent performances from Ben Foster, Chris Pine and Jeff Bridges, this is easily my new favorite modern western and one that I can wave in the faces of Coen Brothers fans and say “LOOOOOOOOK, you could make a damn great film with an actual fucking climax! You’re film isn’t special because it doesn’t have one and robs its audience of goddamn closure.”

#1. A Monster Calls 

Here we are, my favorite freaking film of 2016 and the one with the distinction of being the first film to openly make me cry since the same director’s debut film, The OrphangeA Monster Calls is a blend of fantasy realism conveyed by a handful of actors and actresses on their “A” game to give you a hard knocks lesson on life, acceptance on the nature of death, relationships you have with those around you, and living with survivor’s guilt. The story alone was powerful enough for me to get sucked in, but what makes this film ranks high above the others of 2016 for me is the use of the film medium to deliver that emotional gut punch.

Utilizing animation, computer generated effects, and the incredible fatherly tones of one Liam Neeson (damn, dude was in two of my top ten movies in one year), the tale of A Monster Calls belongs on the big screen after its humble debut in the form of a children’s novel with an equally tragic backstory. I haven’t been this happy to cry in a long freaking time, and I can only hope this movie also gets your waterworks going. After a strong year for surprise hits, do try to check this one out in theaters before it disappears.

The Runners Up

While these films didn’t make the crème de la crème, I still thoroughly enjoyed each of them in their own way. In alphabetical order, go ahead and click on each picture for the review of each of the runners up…

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And don’t forget! Please contribute to the After Lobby Patreon to see more from me in 2017. I planning on delivering an even better experience this year than in 2016, and any help you could toss my way would be greatly appreciated. And please do like, share, and subscribe as the hits will also help the site grow. Thank you for an amazing debut year and I’ll see you at the Lobby…

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