Posted by: ckckred | February 22, 2017

The 10 Best Films of 2016

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2016 may have been a long and unpredictable ride, yet for all the troubles occurring in the world, it was a fine year for cinema, boasting dynamic new films from established veterans like Martin Scorsese and Isabelle Huppert to proving the prowess of new talents such as Jeremy Saulnier and Robert Eggers. Moreover, 2016 provided a great diversity of films, with genres like comedies (Toni Erdmann), musicals (La La Land), and horror (The Witch) often ignored by the critical mainstream are coming back into the limelight. There were so many compelling films over the past year that I plan on writing a secondary post just to list all of my favorite recent films. But without further ado, here are my ten favorite pictures of 2016.

  1. Things to Come (Mia Hansen-Løve)

This quiet film about a philosophy professor trying to rediscover herself after a divorce isn’t quite as provoking as the other Isabelle Huppert-domestic drama of the year (which appears later on this list), yet Things to Come is an inspiring and thoughtful portrayal of familial boundaries.

  1. Hail, Caesar! (Joel and Ethan Coen)

Joel and Ethan Coen’s satire of the studio system was badly marketed to the public, depicted as a screwball comedy in the vein of O Brother, Where Art Thou? instead of the more intimate analysis of Hollywood the duo had conceived.   But despite the poor promotion, Hail, Caesar! is an uproarious comedy that wonderfully parodies everything about Hollywood in the 50’s, from fixers to secretive Communist screenwriters. It may not be the brothers’ most accessible film but it proves that the two’s funny bone is as sharp as ever.

  1. La La Land (Damien Chazelle)

If Chazelle’s Whiplash was about testing the dedication to jazz, La La Land is a celebration of it. An ode to the classic Fred Astaire musicals of the 50s, La La Land picks apart the fantasies and dreams of Los Angeles and what it takes to achieve stardom. The film’s final scene also acts as a wry and bittersweet commentary on the meaning behind success, inverting the trope behind Hollywood endings.

  1. Lo and Behold: Reveries of a Connected World (Werner Herzog)

It’s become easy fodder to parody Werner Herzog documentaries, and Herzog is well in on the joke (those who have seen in guest appearances on Parks and Recreation or Rick and Morty can attest to that). But Lo and Behold demonstrates that Herzog still has the capability to divulge profundity from ordinary life as he examines the impact of the Internet on human interaction. Whether or not you think Herzog has become too self-aware, no one makes documentaries quite like him.

  1. The Witch (Robert Eggers)

The recent wave of psychological horror has provided plenty of solid films in recent years but The Witch may be the best of the bunch. A stirring take on Puritan faith and sin in 17th century New England, The Witch is truly frightening in the way the best horror is through punctuating the limits of human morality and depravity.

  1. Knight of Cups (Terrence Malick)

Within the past seven years, we’ve had the fortune of receiving several new Terrence Malick pictures, with his next feature slated for a March release. Some may argue that as Malick grows more prolific, his films lose their overall coherence, but I found Knight of Cups to be in line with some of the director’s finest work, an intimate and surreal depiction about life, love, and loss in Los Angeles.

  1. Silence (Martin Scorsese)

A film 25 years in the making, Silence was worth its long wait, arguably Scorsese’s most satisfying and fulfilling movie since GoodFellas. Despite its gigantic setting and hefty budget, Silence recalls the intimacy of Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ, presenting the moral conundrum of God’s silence to human suffering and pressing the true meaning of faith.

  1. Elle (Paul Verhoeven)

Paul Verhoeven’s big comeback feature takes the director’s signature black humor to domestic abuse, as a Parisian woman tries to get her life back on track after being raped in her home. Wickedly funny without resorting to bombastic sentiment or bad taste, Elle is a fascinating depiction of psychosexuality and features one of Isabelle Huppert’s finest performances.

  1. Green Room (Jeremy Saulnier)

No film I saw in 2016 was more gripping and all-out thrilling than Green Room. Jeremy Saulnier’s tale of punks versus skinheads captures the grittiness and roughness of the hardcore scene, containing some of the most shocking and graphic feats of violence over this past year. This raw account of revenge and sadism is essential to all fans of extreme music and boasts magnificent performances by Patrick Stewart and the recently deceased Anton Yelchin.

  1. Toni Erdmann (Maren Ade)

The most raucous epic satire about capitalism since Tati’s Playtime, Maren Ade’s Toni Erdmann is a delectable German comedy about a prankster father and his workaholic daughter. Ade directs her movie with both flair and subtlety; although Erdmann is filled the brim with boisterous gags, she never lets her movie become bombastically contrived or comically excessive, preferring to let the jokes stem from the uneasiness behind daily routines. Although Erdmann is nearly three hours long, it is the only film of this past year that I wanted to watch immediately again after first viewing it.

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Responses

  1. Nice list! Though I agree with a lot of stuff on the lower half of the list, I still have yet to catch up on a lot of the movies in the top half. I had La La Land at number 8 on my list too 🙂 and Hail, Caesar is one of my favorites of this year as well. I wish I could have taken to this year’s Scorsese film as well as you seem to have, I just couldn’t put it on my list after being so baffled by it in the theater. I’m totally reserving any judgement on it until I see it again sometime in the future. 2016 was a pretty good year though, for sure.

    • I’ve enjoyed all of Scorsese’s recent films to varying extents, but for the most part they play as reneditions or replays of Scorsese’s most famous works. Silence was the first Scorsese movie in a long time that made me feel the director was trying something really new; the closest comparison to Silence is The Last Temptation because of the religious thematic overtones but they still feel very alien from each other. I understand it may not be Scorsese’s easiest film to digest but it left me just stunned.

  2. Great top 10! I actually just posted mine as well, and we both have Green Room and The Witch on our list! Totally feel you on what you said about Green Room…I was literally gut-punched and in a daze after watching that one…truly a surprise film!

    • Green Room certainly did feel like a punch in the gut; the doorway sequence in particular was absolutely horrifying. And The Witch too was absolutely thrilling; I was surprised later to learn Ralph Ineson played William, since I always associated him with his role as Finchy in The Office.

  3. I cannot wait to see Erdmann. Nice list, good too see some love for Hail Cesaer! I’m writing my list at the moment ;D

    • Erdmann is a must-see, up until I saw it I didn’t think I’d like any movie of the past year more than Green Room. And Hail, Caesar! was underrated.

      • underrated for suuuure.

        Edermann still isn’t out here. Pretty sure blu-ray rips are already on the net…. and people wonder why Australian are the biggest ‘pirates’. Its cos we don’t get shit – not even John Wick 2! I don’t want to, but I’ll probably be watching a crappy cam rip of that because its not gonna be playing here. What else do they expect us to do? Not pirate out of bullshit, guilt-driven ‘morality’? Or, download a movie that we have no access to either way? If my blog had more traffic I’d write about it because I’d like to hear what people honestly think about torrenting.

        Bah, I’m sorry, that’s my rant for the day. 😛

      • It’s a shame that so many foreign films get such paltry releases internationally. Similarly I’ve been trying to see Asghar Farhadi’s Salesman for a while now and am worried I’ll have to wait for it to hit VOD.

      • I’ve heard about The Salesman, yeah there is certainly no chance of that playing here. Erdmann was released last year for you as well? You’re from the US right? Damn, that one only just came out today, and…

        Well, if they are gonna stagger releases like they are doing, they aren’t exactly in a position to complain if people in my position have downloaded a 108op version of Erdmann a month ago. Personally, if I can, I wait for the cinema, like Erdmann. But John Wick 2 is somehow not playing here. Am I a bad person for downloading CAM versions of this to see if one is watchable?

        Cos I won’t be able to see it for months in any other way

      • Yeah, Erdmann came out on Christmas too here in the US. The Salesman came out a while ago but I’m having trouble finding a theater showing it (hopefully it will get a wider distribution soon).

        It just seems unfair that a lot of these great smaller films get deprived for wide audiences. Hopefully you can get to see Erdmann on a big screen…

  4. Silence came out in 2016 for you?? Damn man, it only just opened down here. Bloody staggered releases, grr

    • Yeah, came out here on Christmas. Spectacular film and I highly recommend seeing it immediately.

      • I plan to see it tomorrow, problem is the screen is really small! Boggles my mind, its fucking Scorsese, yet this movie is only playing at the one tiny art-house cinema here, which have cinemas that are so small they can’t have more than 30 seats in them. So the screen is really fuckin’ small! I was kinda wanting to see this on as big a screen as possible… =/

      • That’s too bad, Silence deserves to be seen in the largest theater possible. I watched it in a 800-person venue and it made the movie all the more better.

      • Yeah exactly! I know its gonna look good, but how Scorcese’s latest only gets the shittiest room beats me. Only playing twice a day too! =/ Bizarre.

        I just found out though that it is playing at the biggest multiplex there is in Adelaide. I usually avoid it as tickets are more expensive and it isn’t normally playing anything other places aren’t, but in this case it has Silence playing in a 130 seat room. 130 seats beats 30! I think it will definitely be worth the extra cash. Can’t wait till tomorrow 😀

      • Yeah, I would definitely shell out some extra cash to see this on a big screen, it’s worth the price for the gorgeous cinematography and scenery.

  5. Fantastic assortment of movies that really attests to the crazy variety the year offered. I particularly love seeing Silence so high. It definitely would have made my list if I had seen it in time. Also glad to see Hail, Caesar! It seems to be the movie that many people have forgotten.

    • I definitely had a bit of trouble composing this list, but there was no doubt on my mind that Silence was amongst the best of the year. It’s unfortunate that it did so poorly in the box office; it definitely isn’t a very marketable picture but it deserved a bigger audience.

      • There were several movies that I have now seen that would have shaken up my Top 10 – Silence, Paterson, The Founder. Unfortunately I had to get my list out for state paper. Sadly crappy release schedules kept that from being possible.

  6. Nice list. I loved Toni Erdmann, Green Room and Hail, Caesar! and definitely liked La La Land but wasn’t the biggest fan of The Witch, Elle or Knight of Cups. Really wanted to like Silence but the film left me somewhat frustrated.

    • Silence is certainly not the easiest Scorsese movie to get into, but for myself, it was his most fulfilling film in ages. I’ve liked all of his recent films to various degrees but this really struck me in a way that a Scorsese movie hasn’t done for a long time.

  7. […] to finally catch Paterson and Moonlight, both of which I enjoyed immensely and would have made my top 10 of 2016 had I seen them earlier. I also particularly liked Blood Simple, which acts almost as a precursor […]


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