JimmyO's Best Movies of 2016

The end of 2016 is upon us, and that means movie fans will be reading a myriad of top 10 lists. And while many claimed that it was a terrible year in movies, I feel quite the opposite. In fact, it was one of the most difficult years I’ve had collecting my favorite films to a list of ten. This is not because there weren’t enough good movies. Nope, not in my opinion, in fact I had nearly thirty movies that I had to narrow down - thank goodness for the option of a runner-up section.

About the complaints of this being a terrible year, I’d probably agree when it came to the big budget, summer extravaganzas. It was the smaller films that really shined. Horror has been consistently great this year. From the tiny fright flicks to big studio scares, it has been a phenomenal time to get scared. Add to that all the small films that told incredible stories and brought new worlds to life. When it comes to being transported to another place and time, I found myself doing just that in the darkness of a movie theatre throughout the year several times over.

And yes, as difficult as it was to put this together, it was absolutely satisfying that there was so much to love. And thankfully, it wasn’t simply a pick and chose from late fall and winter releases. Many of the films on my list came out well before Oscar season was in full swing. So here are the movies that affected me; made me laugh and cry, and fueled my passion and love for cinema.

1. Hunt for the Wilderpeople

I was really late on this one. I had heard all the raves, but I never had the chance to take it in. And now I’m so glad I did. You know when the review blurb calls a movie delightful and joyous? Well, this is that and so much more. Sam Neill and young Julian Dennison are a perfect pair in this sublime little film. Taika Waititi once again proves that he deftly crafts excellent comedies that are much more than what they appear. We need more stories like this.

2. Midnight Special

The first time I saw this in theatres I was floored by what I had witnessed. Some have said they didn’t feel the connection that I did, and perhaps it helps that I’m a parent myself. But for me, this is yet another fine example of the brilliance of filmmaker Jeff Nichols. From the excellent opening sequence to the impressive final act, I was moved by this story of a father and son. Michael Shannon and Nichols have an incredible track record together, and this only continues to prove that it is no fluke. Wonderfully directed and acted, with an incredible soundtrack from David Wingo, this is one of the most powerful films I’ve experienced all year. Not only has it been a solid year for horror, but sci-fi hasn’t been all that bad either.

3. A Monster Calls

A MONSTER CALLS is a very powerful and heartbreaking tale. The film by J.A. Bayona may leave an emotional impact on the viewer, yet it also gives the audience a look at the hope and heart we all must reach for after losing someone you love. Equally as impressive as a fantasy, the monster itself is a fantastic creation. Voiced by the exceptional Liam Neeson, the beast is marvelous to witness on the big screen. You also have excellent performances from Sigourney Weaver, Felicity Jones and Toby Kebbell. However, young Lewis MacDougall is astonishing as a young boy dealing with one of the most difficult times that any one of us can possibly go though. Don’t forget to bring a ton of tissue for this one.

4. La La Land

When writing a top ten list, it is hard to really put a number of where a great movie stands on a scale of 1 to 10. As I first put this list together, I decided to place this delightful ode to Hollywood musicals and jazz in the number four position. After watching it again just last night, it is very likely it will be one of those experiences that just keeps getting better with repeated viewings. The music is a blast and I fell in love with both Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling! The star power between the two of them is miraculous. Damien Chazelle is on his way to becoming one of my favorite modern filmmakers thanks to this and WHIPLASH.

5. Arrival

The second we are introduced to Amy Adams’ Louise Banks, I was fully invested in her emotional journey. Director Denis Villeneuve continues to impress with this intellectual, yet awe-inspiring story of alien visitors and our desperate attempt to find out why they are here. Exceptionally directed, the story avoids most of the cliches found in similar tales, and we are all the better for it. I was moved and humbled by this incredible film on a number of levels, and it is Amy who gives us a superb performance that still resonates on nearly every imaginable level.

6. Kubo and the Two Strings

Out of all the animated films to come out this year, it was Laika that amazed with this incredible stop-motion adventure. Directed by Laika President and CEO Travis Knight, this is the kind of story that will please both the young and old. With it’s gorgeous design and stunning music, this fantasy will surely inspire audiences in the best of ways. Ever since CORALINE, this talented group of animators have managed to offer exciting and original stories, and this may be their biggest yet. While I did appreciate the talent of both Matthew McConaughey and Charlize Theron, it is the animators that are the real heroes behind this ambitious and thrilling work.

7. The Lobster

I caught THE LOBSTER last year at the AFI fest, but it was a film I just couldn’t forget. Colin Farrell is brilliant as a man facing a serious dilemma. In a futuristic world, if you do not have a partner in life, you are relegated to be turned into an animal. Sound bizarre? Well it is. However, if you like a little black humor in your movie going diet, you may adore this weirdly wonderful flick. While this may be divisive for many, it is one of the most unforgettable flicks this year for this viewer.

8. The Edge of Seventeen

Hey, I didn’t expect this either. This teen comedy is funny, a little painful and pretty damn smart. If you happen to be a teenager, there is not a doubt in my mind you will find much to relate to with this engaging feature. Hailee Steinfeld is fantastic as Nadine, an awkward girl who struggles with the many obstacles that life throws her way. All the performances are terrific, but nothing beats Woody Harrelson as a teacher who is constantly having to deal with Nadine’s teenage drama during his lunch break. I can’t wait to see what filmmaker Kelly Fremon Craig brings us next because this is one of the brightest gems of the year.

9. Hell or High Water

HELL OR HIGH WATER is a moody work, one that feels especially relevant today. The story of two bank robbing brothers trying to save the family ranch is not just a typical crime story. Featuring incredible performances from both Ben Foster and Chris Pine, this crime drama explores these desperate characters without lazily giving us a dull villain and boring hero. All the characters have their strength and weaknesses, which includes Jeff Bridges as a lawman tracking the bank robbers down.

10. The Witch

Robert Eggars haunting folktale left a huge impression on this horror fan. While some may not be too thrilled by its slow burn, I was completely enraptured by the language, the detail of the time period and especially Black Phillip. Not only was I excited to see what the filmmaker did with this material, I was equally blown away by the film’s leading lady. Anya Taylor-Joy is the real deal. The actress is perfection here, as is the rest of the cast, and this atmospheric tale is one of the creepiest genre experiences of the year.


20. HACKSAW RIDGE proved that Mel Gibson has not lost his touch. This powerful story of the first conscientious objector ever to receive a Medal of Honor was fueled by a terrific performance from Andrew Garfield, and it also featured some of the most intense images on-screen this year.

19. COMING THROUGH THE RYE was a sweet surprise, and one that most probably missed. This charming tale of a young playwright searching for J.D. Salinger featured wonderful performances from Alex Wolff and Stefania LaVie Owen, and then there is Chris Cooper as Salinger who gives a sublime show. If you are looking for something a little different, I highly suggest this inspiring flick.

18. TICKLED is one hell of a strange story. The documentary about a journalist who comes across a strange form of competitive tickling is lurid and downright spooky at times. This is the kind of film you should know as little about before you take it in.

17. MOONLIGHT stands out for a number of reasons. The film tells one man’s story at differen periosds in his life, and it is a fascinating journey. It was also refreshing to see a film that deals with the subject of a man coming to terms with his sexuality in a surprisingly delicate, yet positive way. Don’t be surprised if we see a few Academy Awards nominations for this one.

16. NOCTURNAL ANIMALS features one of the most frightening sequences I’ve seen at the movies in quite awhile. However, this mysterious feature delves into a twisted world that is not at what it seems. Jake Gyllenhaal, Amy Adams, Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Michael Shannon are all at their best here in this twisted tale, one that leads to revenge and a suprise finish. It is rare to see a film take on such a subject in such an inventive way, and it is also a moviegoing treat for those looking for something unique.

15. SING STREET continues the trend of John Carney merging great music with a one hell of a great story. This time, it is a young man who is a little bit of an outsider. Thankfully, he discovers music, and though that, a sweet and inspiring romantic adventure with the girl of his dreams. This one will make you feel all giddy inside.

14. DON’T BREATHE is an intense thriller, one that rarely lets up. Fede Alverez proved he could make a solid EVIL DEAD flick, and now he continues to show us how adept he is at creating serious suspense. What is most exciting is just how deeply flawed and messed up each character is, and the balance between good and evil is especially well done here. This is one of the rare “home invasion” flicks that managed to really scare the crap out of audiences. And damn, how fantastic is Stephen Lang?! Loved this movie and the character.

13. DEADPOOL is ridiculously fun. Sure it’s a little juvenile, but that’s part of the delight of it all. Ryan Reynolds is clearly having the time of his life playing the foul-mouthed loner hero that seeks a little revenge of his own. The music is a blast and the action is clever and it all adds up to what is very likely my personal favorite superhero flicks.

12. BAND OF ROBBERS was a little movie that happens to be immensely entertaining. Adam and Aaron Nee have crafted a wonderfully engaging retelling of Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer in a modern world. The cast, including Adam Nee, Kyle Gallner, Matthew Gray Gubler, Hannibal Buress, Melissa Benoist and once again, Stephen Lang, all of whom help make this one of the most enjoyable little capers that you’ve likely not yet seen.

11. LOVING is just a beautiful film. Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton are phenomenal as Mildred and Richard Loving, a couple who faced jail time as an interracial couple and fought in their own quiet way to change history. Frankly, I’d love to see Ms. Negga take the stage to accept the Best Actress trophy at the upcoming Academy Awards ceremony. Writer and director Jeff Nichols continues to prove that he may be one of the best modern storytellers in film today.

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