As this year comes to a close and the stage is being set for the next, it's that time of year again where people are closing out 2016 and welcoming in 2017 with booze, celebrations and, of course, best and worst lists. You can check out my worst list here but, looking back over the past 12 months of film, here are my best films of 2016.
It's been a pretty crazy year for the world as a whole, from the many, sad losses we've had to Brexit and the biggest death of them all: the U.S.A, as Trump won the election. As for cinema though, we've welcomed in new Ghostbusters, seen the return of Ryan Reynolds' Deadpool - in glorious form - gone toe to toe with Batman and Superman, gone toe to toe with Captain America and Iron Man; gone toe to toe with DiCaprio and a bear and even gone toe to toe with another Star Wars backlash. It's been a fairly lacklustre cinematic year overall, though - with many fairly mediocre and lacklustre releases especially taking form as big blockbusters during a pretty weak Summer movie season. However, that doesn't mean we haven't seen any great films because we definitely have had some gems - definitely more than this list certainly accounts for - but I've gone and whittled it down and I've cherry-picked my 20 favourites of 2016.
It's worth noting that all the films in my list were released in the UK between January 1st, 2016 and December 31st, 2016 so films that may have arrived overseas but don't open here until next year will not count. But, without further ado, here's my list, kicking off with some honourable mentions.
Nicolas Winding-Refn returned to L.A for this gorgeous, blood-soaked horror-thriller and it was as absurd and fantastic as we wanted it to be.
One of the most honest, real and unflinching films of the year and one that was just utterly heartbreaking to watch.
Disney continues their winning streak with another great live-action adaptation. It surpasses the original in every way. What a delight.
Captain America and Tony Stark go toe to toe with incredibly satisfying results in one of the biggest most epic MCU entries yet.
Disney's Zootropolis is one of their most mature, clever films yet. And one that impressed both adults and kids alike. A whole damn lot too.
10 CLOVERFIELD LANE
The film no one knew existed til like a month before that had everyone talking til months after. That third act, though: talk about tense!
Spinning off Harry Potter, this was a beast in itself. But a damn fantastic one. Where to find it? In my favourites of the year... and making lots of money.
The more underrated of Disney's two live-action films, Pete's Dragon was the best indie on a blockbuster budget of the year. So damn magical.
The Revenant made a big splash at the start of the year but it has remained firmly implanted in my brain since. This was beautiful, tense and just incredible and it also FINALLY won DiCaprio his Oscar.
Quentin Tarantino is back and his eighth film - The Hateful Eight - is every bit as brilliant as you'd expect from the master class filmmaker.
So that's my honourable mentions, films that made my list at one point but that were overshadowed and knocked out by my top 10 - and now, without further ado, here are my top 10 personal picks.
The second of Disney's two 2016 releases, Moana was everything you want from a Disney movie and more. It was a heartfelt, heartwarming story about heroism that brought laughs, action, fun and the feels aplenty. Throw in some of the most beautiful animation from the studio yet and Dwayne Johnson voicing a cocky, overconfident Demi-god and you have this wondrous delight.
A decade in the making, with so much anticipation and so many expectations to meet and the long-awaited Deadpool solo film was everything we ever hoped it would and could be and then some. It was hilarious, violent and the most accurate, perfect depiction of the merc with a mouth ever. It has raised the game for future comic-book adaptations. Logan: you're up.
8. HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE
Taika Waititi is a comedic genius. 2014's What We Do in the Shadows was amazing and his sophomore feature, Hunt for the Wilderpeople, was just as good, if not better. This was one of the most welcomed surprises of 2016 and one of the funniest ones too: genuinely, gut-bustingly hilarious. Not only that but it was charming and endearing too; this is a good time at the movies.
Of course this was going to make my list... who's surprised? What else can I say about Rogue One that hasn't been said already? It made my face hurt from smiling like a little kid. So many fanboy moments. So many chills.
Denis Villeneuve is one of my favourite directors working today - after the likes of Prisoners, Enemy and Sicario, all of which were great. Arrival may just be one of his best films yet. This is one of the most mature and intelligent and just damn breathtaking sci-fi films to release in a while. It had me captivated and in awe... quite literally in awe of how great this was.
This film slowly crept up on me, after the small whispers of buzz started getting around. I never anticipated it and it had me utterly transfixed. This is an old-school Western with modern flare and it was so remarkable and exciting to watch. This is a visceral, genuinely jaw-dropping piece of cinema and one for the real fans of cinema.
4. SING STREET
I only caught this film recently, after hearing nothing but praise, thinking it could be worth checking out before writing this list. It did not disappoint. Sing Street is an awe-inspired movie about chasing your dreams and not letting anyone stop you. It's beautiful. Truly beautiful. This is coming-of-age but in a very mature, relatable and much more enjoyable way. And easily one of the best soundtracks for any film this year too.
Fashion alum turned filmmaker Tom Ford's latest film, Nocturnal Animals, was quite the surprise. Also up there alongside The Nice Guys for best screenplay of the year, this was a dark, tense and chilling thriller but it was provocative, beautiful and captivating from the first frame to the last. Very few films get under your skin the way this does and then stay there for as long as this does. With so many layers and so much going on, it's a film that you won't be able to shake for months. In the best way possible, though!
Tom McCarthy's Best Picture winner was a tail-end 2015 release in the U.S but dribbled into early 2016 here in the U.K and it has stuck with me ever since. This is masterful storytelling and filmmaking; a film so brilliant and beautiful, it will leave you jaw-dropped and floored. It's one of the best films of the decade. With some astonishing performances, masterful craftsmanship from McCarthy and a riveting and haunting real-story, Spotlight shines and it outstanding.
I love Shane Black as a writer/director and his latest film, the old-school crime thriller The Nice Guys, was another delight. Not only was it one of the most original films of the year but it was action-packed and hilarious too. This felt like a very much needed throwback to golden days of film and it was one of the most riotously entertaining, refreshing treats of the year. I've seen this countless times already and I laugh just as hard each time. This feels like it's going to become a timeless classic - it's certainly my favourite film of the year.
So there you have it, folks. That's my best films of 2016. These were all my personal picks; films which I loved, films which impacted me for various reasons. Thank you all so much for joining me these past 12 months and for reading all my articles in 2016. Here's to a bigger, better 2017.
About the Author
Founder of Oasis Awais, and avid lover of life, Awais Irfan's love of writing and film is unequivocal. Ever since he was a little kid, he has loved the cinematic experience; so much so, he is studying Film Production in Glasgow and hopes to be the next "big thing" in directing.