Michael Dean’s Top Ten Films of 2016

I am happy to say I have finally put together my Top Ten Films for 2016.  Overall, it has been a great year in film. Maybe not so much for the blockbuster films, but those of lower budget had plenty of gems to choose from. There were films that did not make it in and it just killed me. 10 Cloverfield Lane, Rogue One, Moana, and Moonlight are films which I really wanted to see in my Top Ten. However, hard decisions had to be made.  Keep in mind, these films I have selected are what I enjoyed on an objective and subjective level with some weight leaning more so one way or the other. So enough of this chatter! Below are my Top Ten Films of 2016!

Honorable Mentions: 10 Cloverfield Lane, Moana, Rogue One, Moonlight, Hush, Green Room, Don’t Breathe, Nocturnal Animals, The Invitation, Under the Shadow, Deadpool

#10  Hell or High Water

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Hell or High Water is a modern day western, directed by David Mackenzie and wonderfully written by Taylor Sheridan (Sicario), about two brothers who rob branches of the bank that is foreclosing on their family land.  Chris Pine and Ben Foster convincingly play the two brothers who are tightly bound together despite their differences and conflicts.  Both do a superb job, but it is Chris Pine who surprises me here.  Jeff Bridges is brilliant as always as the sheriff who is hunting them down.  There is nothing flashy here, just a rock solid modern day western that I enjoyed from beginning to end. 

#9  The Witch


Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Upon seeing the trailer for “The Witch” before its release, I did NOT want to see this film.  I felt it was going to be one of those films to just make me feel very uncomfortable.  However, I am happy to say, I finally looked past that creepy goat in the trailer and decided to finally see it.  Was it creepy and uncomfortable?  Yes.  However, it also turned out to be the best horror film of 2016.  The film doesn’t earn its merits on jumps and scares, but instead by slowly getting under your skin.  The setting is very creepy and unsettling and this carries throughout the film.  The cast and crew are excellent with Anya Taylor-Joy and Ralph Ineson getting my highest praise as well as director Robert Eggers who, with the setting and language, does a great job of making the viewer feel they are actually with this family living “deliciously” in the 17th Century.   The Witch is creepy and overall just a fabulously well made film.  Fear the goat.  Baa.

#8  La La Land


Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

La La land is full of love and magic, and from the opening number, “Another Day of Sun”, La La Land delivers dance numbers and heartfelt songs to remember forever.  You will be dancing and singing until the drama kicks in, which will take you for a ride to a gut punch ending that will stick long after the film ends.  Emma Stone is at her best here.  Just truly remarkable as an actress who is struggling to achieve her dreams in Los Angeles.  It is a great story of love and the sacrifice you make to achieve your dreams in the city of stars.  Songs, Dance, Love, and Magic, what’s not to like?

#7  Zootopia


Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I’ve got to give it up for Disney on this one, as they took a bit of a gamble here and it paid off.   From the ketchup spray in the beginning of the film, I knew Zootopia was going to be something special.  Zootopia is a film that follows an upbeat rabbit, Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin), as she joins the police force in Zootopia and eventually finds she must partner up with a laid back street fox, Nick (fittingly voiced by Jason Bateman).  The society is set up very similar to the real world and pokes fun with scenes such as the sloths working in the DMV.  Zootopia is a lot of fun, dramatic, and, surprisingly, is a story that cautions viewers of prejudice and discrimination.

#6  Train to Busan


Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

One of the few blockbuster films to make my list, only this one is from Korea.  I spent 3 ½ hours in traffic to go out and see this movie, and it was worth it!  Train to Busan is a zombie train ride that will keep you on the edge of your seat the whole way through.  A story about a businessman, who does not have enough time for his daughter, and must take her to see her mom in Busan.  Unfortunately a zombie outbreak happens and one of the infected ends up on the train.  The film is fast paced, intense, emotional, and pushes the moral value of looking out for more than just yourself.  If you haven’t done so already, make some time to take a ride on the Train to Busan.

#5  Hunt for the Wilderpeople


Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I did not expect to enjoy this film as much as I did, it was a pure delight!   Sam Neill (Jurassic Park) as Uncle Hec and newcomer Julian Dennison as the rebellious Ricky are just fantastic together.  There is such great chemistry between the two as they bicker about while being hunted in the wilderness.  There is plenty of humor and heart here and just gorgeous cinematography capturing the New Zealand outback.  “Majestical”?  Not a word, so I’ll just call it great.

#4  Captain Fantastic


Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Viggo Mortensen delivers an outstanding performance as Ben Cash who is raising six children outside of urban society where they learn to hunt, farm, read, sing, and speak multiple languages. However, things come to a head when the family drives to New Mexico for their mothers funeral and the children enter the outside world for the first time. Ben is teaching what he believes is best for his kids, but did he actually do more harm than good? Captain Fantastic has it all. Heart, comedy, tears, and overall it is just . . . Fantastic!

#3  Sing Street



John Carney (Once) takes us back to 1980’s Dublin, where 14 year old named Conor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) is sent to a public school and his strained life is lit up upon meeting Raphina (Lucy Boynton).  He tells her he’s in a band and wants her in his band’s video.  However, he has no band!  There is so much fun in this film as the kids create videos together and deliver catchy 80’s tunes.  I was tapping my feet and grinning throughout the film as the music pulls Conor away from the troubles of everyday life.  It was during the song, “Drive it like you stole it” when I finally fell in love with this film as for a brief time Conor’s troubles are whisked away and wishes how things could be. I’ve recommended this film to many people as it must be seen, especially if you are a fan of 80’s music.  Watch it, love it, and smile.

#2  Captain America: Civil War


Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

This film remained in my #1 spot all the way until November when I started shuffling back and forth until landing at #2.  Make no mistake, this film in every right deserves to be #1.  Sure it is a superhero popcorn flick, but this very well may be the best superhero film ever made.  What makes it incredible is that with a load of heroes in the film, and multiple storylines to juggle, the Russo brothers balance everything masterfully!  This was surely my favorite time in the theater this year as I smiled from ear to ear the whole way through.  From the very beginning, the fighting in this film is phenomenal.  It is grittier and more fluid than I have seen in previous Marvel films and the Russo brothers ensure to make great use of every heroes power and/or skill in quick impeccable fashion.  There was excitement, drama, and some nice surprises.  Then to top everything off, the viewers are treated to the best Spider-man we have seen on film.  Kudos to the Russo brothers for delivering a masterpiece in the superhero genre, this is going to be a tough one to beat going forward.

#1  Arrival


Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️½

Arrival is a science fiction story at its finest.  It is cerebral and emotional and requires your full attention.  The film stars Amy Adams (who is my best actress winner for 2016) as linguist Louise Banks and Jeremy Renner as a physicist, who try to find the purpose of aliens who have landed all over the globe.  To do so, they must first try to understand the aliens written language.  Without providing much more detail, the film is about communication, how we make decisions, and love.  With Max Richter’s score “On the Nature of Daylight” opening and closing the film, it serves as a beautiful bookend for the film, heightening the unavoidable lump in the throat one receives at the beginning and end of the film.  Smart, emotional, and beautiful, Arrival is truly the best film of 2016.

So there you have it.  My Top Ten Films of 2016.  Feel free to share your Top Ten in the comments below.

You can also find me on Letterboxd at https://letterboxd.com/MichaelDean/




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