It’s that golden time of year when everybody’s ‘best of’ lists come out. I do love a good list, so of course Blueprint: Review had to get in on the action. I asked all of the writers to submit lists their favourite films of the year. Not all replied or had seen enough new titles, but I got a fair few.
If you’re interested in what I saw in 2016 and beyond, I keep tabs of everything I watch, new or otherwise, at Letterboxd if anyone fancies following me. It’s a cool site if you’re not aware of it, offering a social network for film geeks and a place to track the films you’ve seen or want to see.
But anyway, on with the lists. Here are the top 10’s from a handful of our contributors. As always let us know your thoughts in the comments section and feel free to include your own top 10.
10. Finding Dory – This sequel to the great Finding Nemo (possibly my favourite Pixar film) had quite a few detractors, but I loved it from start to finish. It helped that it was all about family and I watched it with my wife, two daughters and parents, but I blubbed my way through most of the running time. A sweet and enjoyable adventure, even if it borrows most of its plot beats from the first film.
9. Arrival – Denis Villeneuve continues to prove he’s one of the finest directors working today. Thought-provoking, beautiful and emotionally satisfying, it’s a modern day Close Encounters, crafted with the great care we’ve come to expect from Villeneuve.
8. Rams – This is one that took me by surprise. I didn’t know anything about it, but watched it at my local film society and loved it. Emotionally devastating, but quietly so and blackly funny at times, it’s a unique drama looking at tumultuous sibling rivalry and isolation in the barren Icelandic farm lands.
7. The Witch – Now this is my kind of horror film. Sparse, classily presented, hugely atmospheric and well paced. It often cuts away from some of the more brutal violence, but effectively so, letting your imagination do the rest and uses shrill intense music and oppressive cinematography to unsettle.
6. A War – This, like the other great war drama from 2016, Eye in the Sky, takes a look at the complex moral dilemmas prevalent in war. Perfectly balancing the home and battle front sides to the story, it’s a fascinating and gripping watch which lingers long after the credits have rolled.
5. Paterson – This took me by surprise as I was expecting not to like it. I’m not always a big fan of Jim Jarmusch and had heard that the film was very slight and slow, but I found it utterly captivating and quietly funny throughout. It felt like an original take on the subject of creating and being inspired to create art. Wonderful stuff.
4. Manchester by the Sea – This was another one I caught before its UK release date. I loved the way it took a unique view of the grieving process. Rather than wallowing in tear-jerking melodramatics, it shows the vaguely surreal and bewildering aspects of dealing with the practicalities as well as the emotions involved with losing someone close to you. It also has a vein of dark humour that I wasn’t expecting. Beautifully performed and elegantly directed with quiet confidence, it’s an exceptionally well crafted drama.
3. Anomalisa – I saw this twice and the second viewing knocked it further up my list of favourite films of the year. I have a minor niggle with the final act, finding it a little rushed, but overall the film is astonishing. It’s unique, funny, thought provoking, moving and visually inventive whilst maintaining a warmth and humanity despite the unusual style and occasional flights of fancy.
2. Graduation – I was lucky enough to catch an early screening of this, Cristian Mungiu’s follow up to the excellent Beyond the Hills, and I thought it was nigh on flawless. It’s full of fascinating moral questions and examines a darker side to the role of the parent in bringing up children. Slow moving yet captivating, it’s a subtly powerful film that I hope gains a lot of praise when it’s fully released early this year.
1. Victoria – This was the film that most blew me away this year. Much has been talked about how it was elaborately filmed in one long shot, but it’s great in so many other ways. I already wrote a full review, so I’ll just rip a bit from that to describe why I picked it for the top spot – “it’s an incredible film. Technically astonishing but also emotionally satisfying, intense, thrilling, utterly engrossing and wonderfully performed.”
10. Attack of the Lederhosen Zombies: Because its got Lederhosen and zombies
9. 10 Cloverfield Lane: Oooo tense
8. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: A slightly new concept and has zombies in it
7. Jungle Book: Because King Louie the orangutan is in it.
6. Rogue One: Just for the Peter Cushing and Carrie Fisher CGI
5. The Fundamentals of Caring: Didn’t have any zombies in it, but was still good.
4. Dirty Grandpa: Now I know what a number 3 is.
3. Arrival: Well, its Unnerving
2. Eddie the Eagle: Inspirational
1. A street Cat Named Bob: Makes you think and realise what arses people can be.
Films I haven’t seen that might have made the list: The Edge of Seventeen, Arrival, Paterson.
Honourable mentions: Nocturnal Animals, The Hateful Eight, Spotlight
10. Chi-Raq ‒ Spike Lee’s Chicago-set reimagining of an ancient Greek comedy has some pretty wild tonal shifts, but when it works, it works ‒ it’s angry, funny and hard-hitting. But what else would you expect from the man behind Do the Right Thing? Chi-Raq isn’t in that league (not much is), but from its bold title card declaring ‘This is an Emergency’ to its references to the numerous real-life, high-profile gun-related deaths, it does not pull its punches. Excellent lead performance from Teyonah Parris too.
9. Mustang ‒ As a fan of both Sofia Coppola’s The Virgin Suicides and Jeffrey Eugenides’ book on which it was based, this Turkish take on the tale of five sisters emotionally imprisoned in their own home was always going to be on my radar. But while the story may be familiar, Mustang stands on its own two feet and deserves to be seen.
8. Sing Street ‒ Until last week I hadn’t even heard of this film. The day after I read about it I watched it on Netflix and it made my top 10 for the year. Set in Dublin in 1985, the story centres around a boy who forms a band to impress a girl. Simple enough. It is pure joy. Along with the likes of We Are The Best! and God Help the Girl it’s the rare sort of gem that comes along once in awhile and steals my heart.
7. Hail, Caesar! ‒ “Would that it were so simple.” When the first clip from the Coens’ latest ‒ a stuntman-turned-actor mangling his line having been thrust into a period drama he’s woefully unqualified for ‒ hit the internet I couldn’t wait. Hail, Caesar! seems littered with scenes just as great, from the meeting of various religious figures to Channing Tatum’s sailor musical number. It’s not my favourite Coens film by far, but minor Coens is still a thing to treasure.
6. Knight of Cups ‒ Likewise, I’m a sucker for Terrence Malick. This isn’t Badlands, Days of Heaven, The Thin Red Line, The New World or Tree of Life (it is, however, better than To the Wonder) but it is still Malick, meaning it is beautiful, haunting and poetic.
5. Anomalisa ‒ A stop-motion animation film about a man who hears every voice as the same (a rare disorder called Fregoli syndrome) might sound odd, until you realise it’s the second directorial effort from Charlie Kaufman, following on from his debut Synechdoche, New York. It always feels like a minor marvel that Kaufman’s work gets made in the cinematic landscape of seemingly endless reboots, remakes, sequels, prequels (to make a well-worn criticism). But let’s be thankful it does.
4. The Invitation ‒ The less said about Karyn Kusama’s tense thriller the better. Just watch it.
3. Swiss Army Man ‒ When a farting corpse with a boner compass is one of the most human characters of the year you know you’re on to something weird and wonderful. Paul Dano and Daniel Radcliffe are a treat, and following on from their equally bizarre and beautiful short film, Interesting Ball, Daniels (writer-director duo Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert) have firmly announced themselves as filmmakers to watch.
2. Green Room ‒ Doing for the siege movie what his 2013 film Blue Ruin did in its deconstruction of revenge flicks, Jeremy Saulnier’s film is (along with The Invitation) 2016’s masterclass in tension. Every character choice is perfectly set up and executed, and every act of violence is as horrific as the last. On first watch I considered Green Room a perfect little genre film, a small tale of a punk band who, having witnessed a murder after a gig at a Neo-Nazi club, try desperately to escape. But it’s really more than a perfect little genre film. It’s a pretty perfect film. So what could beat it to number one?
1. The Hunting Ground ‒ Well, this is a bid of a cheat. Beyond showings at some 2015 festivals, The Hunting Ground was never released cinematically over here. But this documentary on the culture of rape and sexual abuse on American college campuses did hit Netflix UK this year, and it was too good, and too important to leave out. Following on from The Invisible War, which covered the same subject matter in the military, Producer Amy Ziering and writer/director Kirby Dick show prestigious universities more intent on protecting their image than helping, supporting and protecting victims of rape and sexual assault. It’s horrific, terrifying and heartbreaking, but The Hunting Ground is absolutely essential viewing.
10. Blair Witch
9. The Girl With All The Gifts
8. Don’t Breathe
7. The Conjuring 2
6. Green Room
5. Nocturnal Animals
4. Dr Strange
3. Rogue One
2. The Witch
At the Cinema
Jack Reacher: Never Go Back – an enjoyable adaption of Lee Child’s book of the same name. Although Tom Cruise is really too small in stature to play the character of Jack Reacher he does a decent job and gets by on attitude alone.
The Jungle Book – Having missed the Disney cartoon I was determined to watch this live action version, which turned out to be much better than I was expecting. It features a great voice cast too including the awesome Christopher Walken.
War Dogs – Fascinating film about accidental (kind of) arms dealers that, amazingly, is based on a true story and featuring some great performances.
Huntsman: Winter’s War – A good sequel to the original Huntsman movie from a couple of years’ ago. This features some cool set pieces and great visuals.
Rogue One – The first of the Star Wars spin-off films by the ‘House of Mouse’. This was a lot of fun and much better than I was expecting. Not sure I liked the CGI version of Peter Cushing though, but I still really enjoyed the film. Looking forwards to seeing the director’s cut when it comes out with 30 extra minutes of battles sequences; fingers crossed.
The Purge: Election Year – A fun and exciting follow-up to The Purge: Anarchy, which continues along the same themes, nicely mixing the horror and action genres. Roll on The Purge 4.
Magnificent Seven – A very satisfying remake of the classic original Western featuring the likes of Yul Brynner and Robert Vaughn and was itself based on the awesome The Seven Samurai.
Deadpool – My favourite super hero film of 2016, which has one of the best comic performances of any year by Ryan Reynolds. I can’t wait for Deadpool 2.
Pride and Prejudice & Zombies – Surprisingly excellent adaptation of the popular spoof novel of the same name, itself based on Jane Austin’s classic book. I really enjoyed this as I wasn’t expecting much from it when I went to the cinema to watch it. Sexy women in corsets and stockings killing zombies – what’s not to love!
1. Green Room – My favourite film of 2016, this is a cool, grim siege movie featuring great performances by Patrick Stewart and the late, great Anton Yelchin. This is a tight, riveting thriller with horror elements that grabs you by the throat and doesn’t let go.
Eddie the Eagle – A cool, feel-good film, with a typical would-be sporting hero does good or kind of good!
Ghostbusters – A much better remake of the original comedy, but with an all-female team of paranormal investigators. It also features a great comic turn by Chris Hemsworth.
Suicide Squad – A fun comic book adaptation featuring a team of bad guys who are blackmailed into being the good guys to take a greater evil on. Some great visuals, although it sags a bit in the middle.
I should also mention some of the films I’ve enjoyed on DVD or Blu-ray throughout the past year. These include:
The Revenant – visually sumptuous, and well-acted, but a bit over-rated;
Kill Zone 2 – a decent martial arts action film featuring the awesome Sammo Hung and the tremendous Tony Jaa;
Barley Lethal – a fun, if trivial, teenage action film featuring the loveable Hailee Steinfeld as a trained assassin hiding out in a suburban high school;
Hard Target 2 – excellent belated follow-up to the John Woo classic, with Scott Adkins as the lead instead of Jean-Claude Van Damme;
I’ve also been watching some TV boxed sets recently including The Strain Season 2 (great stuff) and series one of Ash Vs The Evil Dead (such a great nostalgia trip); and also some retro stuff including the excellent Mumsy, Nanny, Sonny and Girly by Freddie Francis and the underrated Sitting Target featuring one of Oliver Reed’s best performances.
Weiner – cringeworthy portrait of a flawed politician had me covering my eyes and groaning at his propensity for self destruction.
Nocturnal Affairs – beautifully shot with superb acting from Amy Adams.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them – a visual feast and fun jaunt through Rowling world, even Eddie Redmayne is bearable.
I, Daniel Blake – painfully real, this should make you cry and get very angry indeed.
The Club – an uncomfortable film about the abuses meted out by priests of the Catholic church, your sympathies swing wildly even though you know they are wrong’uns.
Spotlight – another catholic abuse film but the slow pacing of the realities of how to break a story is compelling.
Cameraperson – this film made me want to run out and start filming everything i saw, Kirsten Johnson is the epitome of the visual storyteller-my top choice of the year .
Green Room – an original horror, rare.
A Bigger Splash – for tilda’s wardrobe and fiennes dancing only, looked beautiful .
Rogue One – unafraid to be dark .
8 – The Nice Guys/Victoria/A Street Cat Named Bob/The Hunting Ground/Deadpool (joint with 10 points)
7 – Nocturnal Animals (11)
6 – The Witch (13)
5 – Anomalisa (14)
4 – Doctor Strange (15)
3 – Arrival (20)
2 – Rogue One (23)
1 – Green Room (29)
So Blueprint: Review’s overall favourite film of 2016 was Green Room. I haven’t seen it yet personally, so maybe I should remedy that sharpish!
So that’s it for another year. Keep visiting the site for our thoughts on the latest home entertainment and cinematic releases (although there’s less of the latter these days). Let us know your thoughts about the best and worst of the year below.
Happy New Year!