[Picture of projector]

Laramie Movie Scope:
Top, bottom films, etc. of 2016

Best, worst and ruminations on 2016 films

[Strip of film rule]
by Robert Roten, Film Critic
[Strip of film rule]

February 17, 2017 -- Here is my list of the best and worst films, best actors, etc. from the year of 2016, with the usual caveats. I saw most of the year's top films with the exception of a few films, such as a few of the top foreign films and a few others that got very little distribution or promotion in this country. My picks for the best and worst films I have seen, and many other categories, such as best actor, director, etc. can also be found here.

So where are La La Land, Lion, Love & Friendship, and Hacksaw Ridge and some of those other top films on other lists? I saw them, and most of the other top films. La La Land is an adequate musical without good songs, singers, or dancers. I'm not O.K. with those mediocre elements. I left out the documentary, O.J.: Made in America only because I consider it to be a TV miniseries rather than an actual theatrical release, because of its length (at over seven hours long, it is too lengthy for most people to get through in one day at a movie theater) and because of how it was originally developed and presented.

There are also a few 2015 films in the 2016 lists below, mostly foreign, like A War, Viva and Sunset Song (foreign films are often distributed in the U.S. a year after they are shown overseas) as well as documentaries The Music of Strangers The Seventh Fire and Harry & Snowman because they got close to zero distribution in this country. I saw them in late 2016 or early 2017 because of screeners, or screening links, sent to me late last year by publicists. Technically, they were eligible for the Academy Awards last year, but they went unseen in this country by almost everyone, including me, until 2016 or 2017.

Below the list of top films, are lists of my picks for top director, top actor, top foreign film, etc. Those lists are followed by lists of the worst films, overrated films, funniest, saddest, most romantic, etc. I've included a Dubious Distinction award for a documentary film with “alternative facts.” My top 10 lists include more comedy and films starring black actors, two varieties of movies absent from most top 10 lists. Drama is easy, but comedy is tough to get right.

Page navigation: Honorable mention Best of by category Funniest movie,   Best Love Stories  Saddest movies Scariest villain Overrated movies,   Best movies you haven't heard of,   Worst movies,   Dubious Docutmentary.

Best 10 films of 2016

1. Hunt for the Wilderpeople[4 stars]

This is the best film and the funniest film of 2016. You probably haven't heard of it because it is not an American film and it got little distribution in this country, but I did find a copy in Red Box, of all places. It is a hilarious and heartwarming saga of a man and his son on the run from authorities in the wilderness.

2. I Am Not Your Negro[4 stars]

This documentary film about author and activist James Baldwin has a soundtrack (narrated by Samuel L. Jackson) composed entirely of the profound words of James Baldwin. Those words are prophetic, alarming and absolutely applicable to today's American society.

3. 13th[4 stars]

Another documentary about race in America ripped from the latest headlines, but it starts way back where the movie “Lincoln” left off, with the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the loophole in it which allowed white supremacists to suppress the black vote by use of the criminal justice system.

4. Nocturnal Animals[4 stars]

This is a powerful movie with a sneaky, clever plot that weaves together several elements that appear to be unrelated, until it becomes obvious they are very related. It is a story about love, passion, betrayal and revenge that is really disquieting.

5. Zootopia[4 stars]

The best animated film of the year is also one of the best overall movies. This is for all those people out there who were told they don't belong, but persisted, proving they do belong.

6. Hell or High Water[3.5 stars]

This relatively simple film about two bank robbing brothers speaks to the anxiety felt by many Americans who feel the system is rigged and life is passing them by. This is one of the best-written films of the year (along with #8220;Manchester by the Sea”).

7. A Monster Calls[3.5 stars]

This film is like a scary fairy tale for grownups. A boy who is not quite old enough to be a man is confronted by a monster who tells him three fanciful stories with unexpected moral complexities as the boy tries to cope with tragedy in his real life.

8. Manchester by the Sea[3.5 stars]

This is one of the year's best written films. The story displays a wonderful depth of insight into human nature. While Casey Affleck and Michelle Williams have been lauded for their acting, I think this film is really more about how well the story is written. Affleck's minimalist acting style is what used to be called non-acting in years past, but now it is called very subtle.

9. Moonlight[3.5 stars]

This is another wonderfully written film with mostly minimalist acting, except for the fine supporting performances by Mahershala Ali, Naomie Harris and André Holland. This is perhaps the most purely emotional film of the year, and it is powerful and heartfelt.

10. A War (Krigen)[3.5 stars]

This searing Danish war drama examines the futility of war as well as any film. More than that, it sets up a very uncomfortable moral dilemma that exposes our basic tribal allegiances and the hypocrisy of war tribunals, as well as recent trials of police officers who kill civilians.

Honorable Mention

The Business of Amateurs[3.5 stars]

By now, you've probably heard about chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) even though it is the most shamefully under-reported sports story in the last hundred years. You might have thought that the permanently irreversible brain damage of CTE is confined to the NFL. This film will show you it is way more widespread than that, at all age levels of football.

Captain America: Civil War[3.5 stars]

You've probably seen this one, haven't you? No need for me to tell you that Marvel Studios regularly produces some of the best big budget action films. They outdid themselves this time with a well-written, well-acted story about a major policy disagreement between members of the Avengers and the big fight that follows.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them[3.5 stars]

Harry Potter author J. K. Rowling takes a stab at screenwriting a story aimed at adults, and it turns out, yes she can! She has put away childish things and moved the grown up witches and warlocks to America in a different time period in this spinoff, that looks to be yet another gold-plated success.

10 Cloverfield Lane[3.5 stars]

This suspenseful science fiction story with a wild finish spends most of its time in a bomb shelter setting, where two young people are trapped with a madman who is getting crazier by the minute.

The Handmaiden (Ah-ga-ssi)[3.5 stars]

High class pornography and hot lesbian sex scenes spice up this Korean film about a bunch of con artists trying to pull an elaborate scam to separate a rich heiress from her money. This turns out to be a scam within a scam within another scam as the film adds layers of complexity and depth with each act.

Race[3.5 stars]

This fine historical drama covers the turbulent period just prior to World War II and the incredible exploits of Jesse Owens at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. It is a study in race and politics in America and abroad both inside and outside sports.

Patrick Ivers’ favorite 2016 films

1. Denial[4 stars]
(the rest listed alphabetically)
Before the Flood
The Brainwashing of My Dad
Cafe Society
The Dresser
Eye in the Sky
Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them
Free State of Jones
Hacksaw Ridge
The Handmaiden
Hell or High Water
Hidden Figures
I Saw the Light
Maggie's Plan
The Man Who Knew Infinity
A War
War Dogs
Zero Days

More lists below

[Strip of film rule]

Links to reviews of all the films below are indexed in the following web pages:

A through B   C through D   E through G   H through L
M through Q   R through S   T through Z

Best director

1. Taika Waititi — Hunt for the Wilderpeople
2. Raoul Peck — I Am Not Your Negro
3. Ava DuVernay — 13th
4. Tom Ford — Nocturnal Animals
5. David Mackenzie — Hell or High Water

Best actor

1. Denzel Washington — Fences
2. Viggo Mortensen — Captain Fantastic
3. John Goodman — 10 Cloverfield Lane
4. Luis Gnecco — Neruda
5. Hector Medina — Viva

Best actress

1. Viola Davis — Fences
2. Amy Adams — Arrival
3. Mary Elizabeth Winstead — 10 Cloverfield Lane
4. Taraji P. Henson — Hidden Figures
5. Ruth Negga — Loving

Best supporting actor

1. Mahershala Ali — Moonlight
2. Michael Shannon — Nocturnal Animals
3. Ben Foster — Hell or High Water
4. Jonah Hill — War Dogs
5. Aaron Taylor-Johnson — Nocturnal Animals

Best supporting actress

1. Naomie Harris — Moonlight
2. Janelle Monáe — Hidden Figures
3. Min-hee Kim — The Handmaiden
4. Kate McKinnon — Ghostbusters
5. Octavia Spencer — Hidden Figures

Best child actor

1. Lewis MacDougall — A Monster Calls

Best adapted screenplay

1. Nocturnal Animals — Tom Ford
2. A Monster Calls — Patrick Ness
3. Moonlight — Barry Jenkins, Tarell McCraney
4. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them — J.K. Rowling
5. Captain America: Civil War — Christopher Markus, Stephen McFreely

Best original screenplay

1. Manchester by the Sea — Kenneth Lonergan
2. Hell or High Water — Taylor Sheridan
3. Zootopia — Byron Howard, Jared Bush, Rich Moore, Josie Trinidad, Jim Reardon, Phil Johnston, Jennifer Lee
4. The Salesman — Asghar Farhadi
5. Hail, Caesar! — Joel Coen & Ethan Coen

Best documentary feature

1. I Am Not Your Negro — Raoul Peck, Rémi Grellety and Hébert Peck
2. 13th — Ava DuVernay, Spencer Averick and Howard Barish
3. The Business of Amateurs — Bob DeMars
4. Tower — Keith Maitland
5. Harry & Snowman — Ron Davis

Best animated feature

1. Zootopia
2. Moana
3. Kubo and the Two Strings
4. Kung fu Panda 3
5. Sausage Party

Best foreign language film

1. A War
2. The Handmaiden
3. The Salesman
4. Neruda
5. Viva

Best cinematography

1. Sunset Song — Michael McDonough
2. Deepwater Horizon — Enrique Chediak
3. Hell or High Water — Giles Nuttgens
4. La La Land — Linus Sandgren
5. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story — Greig Fraser

Best editing

1. I Am Not Your Negro — Alexandra Strauss
2. 13th — Spencer Averik
3. Arrival — Joe Walker
4. Nocturnal Animals — Joan Sobel
5. Moonlight — Joi McMillon, Nat Sanders

Best music (scores and/or songs)

1. Trolls
2. The Music of Strangers
3. La La Land
4. Hail, Caesar!
5. Moana

Best visual effects

1. Deepwater Horizon
2. Doctor Strange
3. The Jungle Book
4. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
5. Captain America: Civil War

Links to reviews of all films on this site are indexed below:

A through B   C through D   E through G   H through L
M through Q   R through S   T through Z

Funniest films of the year

Hunt for the Wilderpeople[4 stars]
Deadpool[3 stars]

Saddest films of the year

Sunset Song[3 stars]
The Seventh Fire[3 stars]

Best love stories

Loving[3 stars]
Passengers[3 stars]

Scariest villain of the year

Howard (played by John Goodman) in 10 Cloverfield Lane[3.5 stars]

The year's most overrated films

All of these films have won awards or have been highly rated by some critics groups, or have won praise at some film festivals, or are just rated higher than they ought to be. These are listed alphabetically. The most notable film on the list is the multiple award-winning La La Land which is a perfectly adequate musical, but two lead actors can't really dance or sing all that well, and the story consists of a lot of warmed over show business clichés. Most of the people who love this film will admit to these shortcomings, but claim they don't matter. But they do matter, if one is to be critical at all. Also, this movie doesn't “reinvent” the movie musical. It is a normal movie musical. Another award-winning film, The Lobster is admired by many and disliked by many. I am firmly in the latter group.
The Academy of Muses (La academia de las musas)[2 stars]
The Eyes of My Mother[1 star]
Fire at Sea[2 stars]
La La Land[3 stars]
The Lobster[1 star]
Peter and the Farm[3 stars]
The Thoughts That Once We Had[3 stars]
The Witch[2 stars]

The year's best films you've never heard of (listed alphabetically)

13th[4 stars]
The Business of Amateurs[3.5 stars]
The Handmaiden (Ah-ga-ssi)[3.5 stars]
Hunt for the Wilderpeople[4 stars]
Harry & Snowman[3 stars]
I Am Not Your Negro[4 stars]
In Order of Disappearance[3 stars]
Life, Animated[3 stars]
A Monster Calls[3.5 stars]
Nocturnal Animals[4 stars]
Off the Rails[3 stars]
Starving the Beast[3 stars]
Sunset Song[3 stars]
Tickled[3 stars]
Tower[3 stars]
Viva[3 stars]
A War (Krigen)[3.5 stars]

The Worst Films of 2016

While I saw most of the best films of the year, I purposefully missed nearly all of the reportedly bad films, including Hillary's America: The Secret History of the Democratic PartyDirty GrandpaMother's DayFifty Shades of BlackZoolander No. 2Blair WitchThe Ben-Hur remakeThe Brothers GrimsbyMan DownMiracles From Heaven and Nine Lives, among many others. Those are all wide release films which made it to most cities and towns in the U.S. I also missed most of the limited release bad films, among many others, so this is not in any way a list of the worst of the worst films, just the worst of the films I saw. I did see Gods of Egypt and it was bad, but I didn't bother to write a review of it. I also saw Alice Through The Looking Glass, as well as Independence Day: Resurgence and X-Men: Apocalypse, which are among the year's worst films, according to some lists, but I actually liked them.

The Eyes of My Mother[1 star]

This is a horror film about a strange woman living on a farm with horrible secrets. She murders people and mutilates living people because of a twisted upbringing and a tragedy.

The Lobster[1 star]

This is a stupid science fiction film, about a society in which a person must immediately re-marry if divorced. If you are single, you have to find a mate quickly or be transformed into an animal, like a Lobster, for instance. Not only that but there are these stupid rules about picking a mate based on literal ideas of having identical characteristics.

Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice[2 stars]

I like these kinds of big superhero action movies, but this looks bad compared to any old Avengers or Captain America movie. Basically, this is a little over half an hour of good action scenes framed by two hours of narrative nonsense.

Warcraft[2 stars]

This movie made a lot of “Worst of” lists, and those who have seen it will understand why. This is a big budget effects-driven movie, thin on plot and characters. It is more of a sketch designed to lay the groundwork for a long series of movies, than it is a standalone story that develops characters.

Dubious Distinctions

Bullshit documentary award

The bullshit documentary award this year goes to Dinesh D'Souza's Hillary's America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party, which also happens to be on most worst movies of the year lists (rates 2 out of 100 on Metacritic).

The only reason it didn't make my worst movies of the year list is that I did not see it. I didn't need to. The history of the Democratic Party is not a “secret,” nor is any important part of Hillary Clinton's past. It has all been discussed, examined, investigated and debated endlessly.

Some of Donald Trump's history is not so well known. How many people who watch Fox News on a regular basis know that Donald Trump was accused, in actual court proceedings, of raping a 13-year-old girl? The lawsuit concerning the alleged rape was last dropped in November of 2016, so it isn't ancient history. How many of them know about the Trump company connections with organized crime? I guess that kind of stuff is way less important than Hillary Clinton's private email server.

Links to all my reviews are indexed below:

A through B   C through D   E through G   H through I
J through L   M through N   O through Q   R through S   T through Z

Page navigation: Honorable mention Best of by category Funniest movie,   Best Love Stories  Saddest movie Scariest villain Overrated movies,   Best movies you haven't heard of,   Worst movies,   Dubious Distinctions.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

[Strip of film rule]
Copyright © 2016 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
[Strip of film rule]
Back to the Laramie Movie Scope index.
[Rule made of Seventh Seal sillouettes]

Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)