2016 returned another year of mostly superhero movies and remakes, but there were definitely some gems along the way. Check out our top picks for best movies of 2016:
10 Cloverfield Lane
Admittedly not a fan of the 2008 monster film Cloverfield, its “sequel” (tough to call it that with such a loose tie-in at best) 10 Cloverfield Lane was a masterpiece of suspense. John Goodman turns in a brilliantly creepy and menacing performance, every bit a scarier monster than the alien creatures of the original.
The real gem of this movie lies in the ever-growing tension of whether protagonist Michelle was abducted or saved. The confined bunker’s claustrophobic walls give rise to the feeling of being trapped, and John Goodman expertly toes the line of well-meaning apocalypse survivor and violent tin-hat conspiracy theorist, exuding a constant mixture of distrust and danger. Strap in and get (un)comfortable, because you’re not going anywhere until this intense thriller is over.
Let's be honest. We weren't expecting much from Deadpool aside from a few fart jokes and some nudity. We were worried the movie would be a mailed-in effort, coasting on the cred of being a Marvel movie and making just enough use of blood and swearing to garner an ineffectual R rating.
Instead, Deadpool turned out to be everything fans were hoping for. A veritable love letter crafted carefully and jointly by star Ryan Reynolds and director Tim Miller, the movie was turned out to be smart, violent, funny, heartfelt, and disgusting all at the same time and in all the best possible ways. In our minds, this is the best Marvel movie released to date, period, and it's not a close fight at all.
Hell or High Water
“I wouldn’t say there’s been a dearth of good crime films lately; we haven’t had a renaissance, but we have gotten some good ones…
”This is one that lives up to the hype. Not a family film, but one you can see with your older parents, that friend with opposite political views—whatever they may be—and see a picture of America that’s not often on the news, and enjoy a story together.”
The Nice Guys
“Do one thing and do it well.” We're not sure who said it first or who said it best, but director Shane Black has taken that philosophy to heart. With movies like Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, The Long Kiss Goodnight, and the Lethal Weapon series, Black has seemingly perfected the “unlikely investigative duo” archetype. And after a brief departure to write/direct Iron Man 3, he has decided to return to what he knows best with The Nice Guys.
Action packed but lighthearted and fun in the tongue-in-cheek manner we’ve come to expect from Black, the Gladiator Russell Crowe and Papa Gos Ryan Gosling are naturals onscreen together as Gosling’s intentional over-the-top balances well with Crowe’s straight man. While The Nice Guys isn’t necessarily breaking new grounds, it’s definitely a great way to kill two hours (if even to just stare at Ryan Gosling the whole time).
Zootopia makes our list not only for its hilarious animals, but for its brilliant use of noir to make a socio-political statement. The precocious and positive bunny Lt. Judy Hopps and her begrudging sidekick fox Nick Wilde uncover the city's dark underbelly and solve a political mystery. Zootopia is packed with as much action as Chinatown and contains a message of inclusion that rivals Aesop’s Fables. What sets Zootopia apart from other animated films is that every single character has a flaw that is pointed out, celebrated, or examined by the conclusion of the film—and the multitude of references from The Godfather to Frozen make this a movie worth rewatching.
The best way to describe the premise of Green Room is punks vs. Nazis. Do you really need more to go on than that? The relevance of this movie rose rather suddenly in the later months of 2016 as a loaded political climate filled with coded phrases and dogwhistle politics reminded us that Nazism is still alive and well in modern-day America. Green Room is a tense, hard-hitting thriller that moves quickly and pulls no punches. It's especially notable for both Patrick Stewart's scenery-chewing turn as a new-Nazi ringleader and as one of the final performances of a gone-too-soon Anton Yelchin. Well written, well acted, and set in an environment that at times feels all too real, Green Room is one of the best action thrillers of 2016.