The 10 Best Films of 2016 (So Far)

Everybody Wants Some

Everybody’s doing one, so I guess I’ll follow. 2016 has been a pretty stellar year for film so far. I saw a lot of really impressive stuff at this year’s SXSW Film Festival, and there have been a few pleasant surprises at the summer box office so far (not too many, unfortunately). With all of my lists, I haven’t seen everything, so if you’re surprised at a lack of recent buzzed-about indie films that have hit theaters on this list, that’s because I haven’t gotten to them yet. Instead, I’ve compiled a list of the ten best films of 2016 so far. I hope you enjoy the list and please don’t get too angry at me (sorry Batman v Superman “fans”).

 

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10. Captain America: Civil War

I’m a little shocked that the love for Civil War hasn’t been as overwhelming as my love for it was. Sure, its a flawed film, but its a damn good time that proves to be Marvel’s finest cinematic venture yet. The Russo Brothers directed a thrilling and surprisingly emotional third chapter in the Captain America film series, with Chris Evans doing fine work as always in the titular role. But the real standouts in this picture are Robert Downey, Jr. returning as a broken Tony Stark, Chadwick Boseman in his debut as the Black Panther, and Tom Holland in a really exciting and refreshing debut/glorified cameo as the new Spider-Man. Its a fun popcorn flick with a surprising amount of heart and emotion, which is nice to see in a blockbuster that grossed over a billion dollars worldwide (and counting). REVIEW

 

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9. Finding Dory

The other huge blockbuster that Disney has released this summer, Finding Dory ended up being a much better film that I thought it would be. Rather than being a cynical cashgrab to capitalize on the love of the Dory character from the original Finding Nemo film 13 years ago, director Andrew Stanton crafted a really beautiful film, both from a visual perspective as well as a storytelling one. Ellen DeGeneres does some fine voice work here in the titular role, as well as the returning and new cast as a whole. The film is a huge hit with audiences young and old, and while its nowhere near as effective as last summer’s Inside Out, this is still a damn fine Pixar film. REVIEW

 

alltheway1

8. All the Way

Sure, this was a television movie, but it was a damn good one. Based on the Tony award-winning play of the same name, Jay Roach directs a brilliant adaptation of an already brilliant play about LBJ signing the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (which recently celebrated its 52nd anniversary on July 2nd) and the repercussion’s Johnson had to face because of this bill, including a re-election bid that very year. Bryan Cranston gives maybe the best screen performance I’ve seen from any actor all year, television or the movies. I’ve never seen an actor nail Johnson and his mannerisms the way Cranston does in this film, and its a feat that I’m still mystified at every time I catch the film on HBO. Its also a very timely film to watch, especially in times when certain politicians in the state of Texas are slowly taking away our voting and civil rights for their personal gain (not to name any names…). REVIEW

 

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7. Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping

Its a shame nobody saw this film, because its one of the best comedies of the year (the best is yet to come on this list). Andy Samberg and his Lonely Island buddies crafted one of the funniest show-biz stories of the past decade or so. I saw the film with about three other people in the theater, and we were all howling at nearly all of the jokes in the film. The writing is great, the self-aware nature of it all really works, and its a breezy good time at the movies this summer. Again, its a shame that it tanked the way it did. Hopefully the film finds new life when it gets released on home media in the not-to distant future. REVIEW

 

Born to be Blue

6. Born to be Blue

Born to be Blue is arguably one of the best music biopics ever made. It was a quiet little film that debuted in theaters in the spring, and features Ethan Hawke in the best performance of his career as the legendary jazz trumpet player Chet Baker. Not only was Hawke’s stunning and poignant performance a marvel to watch, the film from writer-director Robert Budreau is also really beautifully done. A character piece from beginning to end that beautifully captures Baker’s tragic descent into drug addiction, Born to be Blue is one of the best films you probably didn’t know existed. Now you do, and now you must go see it. REVIEW

 

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5. The Nice Guys

Shane Black’s return to the buddy crime genre ended up being the hands-down best studio film of a pretty mediocre summer. The film features terrific comedic turns from both Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe as the two bumbling PI’s in 1970s Los Angeles, along with a star-making performance in Angourie Rice as Gosling’s daughter, The Nice Guys is a funny, exciting, and an all around expertly made film. Its a shame that nobody saw the movie when it was released, but here’s to The Nice Guys having a second life on DVD and television. REVIEW

 

 

Newtown

4. Newtown

I don’t remember crying this much during a movie, ever. Hell, its even a little tough trying to type up a brief reason as to why Newtown is the most important film you’ll see all year. Directed by Kim Snyder, this documentary tells the story of the small community in Connecticut that was affected by a gunman who killed dozens of elementary school children and teachers. The film is told from the point of view of survivors, the parents of children that were killed, and community members who were affected. Its a tough film to watch, but one that is essential viewing. Especially if you’re just as baffled as I am that our leaders can’t agree on simple gun legislation to prevent another Newtown, or San Bernadino, or Orlando. REVIEW 

 

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3. O.J.: Made in America

The brilliance of O.J.: Made in America is that its not only the best character study of any film this year, but the film’s subject is only shown in archival footage and photos. Director Ezra Edelman portrays the once reviled O.J. Simpson as a man who wasn’t comfortable with being a black man, let alone being a black man in America. A man who was so consumed by his fame and fortune that he thought he was above the law. A man who was once uncomfortable of his skin color now embracing it for the “Trial of the Century”. Made in America is a 7+ hour documentary and every single frame is just as mesmerizing as the last. If you haven’t watched ESPN’s latest 30 for 30 (which is hands down the best one they’ve ever produced), then you’re doing yourself a disservice by doing so. REVIEW

 

Hunt for the Wilderpeople

2. Hunt for the Wilderpeople

I really fell in love with Taika Waititi’s Hunt for the Wilderpeople when I saw the film at SXSW this year. Its just a delightful film to watch from beginning to end, and I honestly can’t wait for the film to expand to Austin so I can see it again. Sam Neill gives maybe the best performance of his career in this film, and newcomer Julian Dennison is equally remarkable. Hunt for the Wilderpeople is sweet, charming, exciting, funny, heartbreaking, and much, much more. It’s not really a kids film, but this would be a great film to take your kids to when it comes out in your neck of the woods. REVIEW

 

Everybody Wants Some

  1. Everybody Wants Some

Is it really much of a surprise that I think Richard Linklater’s latest is the best film of year by far? If you’ve been reading this website for the past couple of years, you’d know that we here at Movie Talk are big fans of Linklater’s work, and Everybody Wants Some is the funniest film Linklater has ever made. A spiritual sequel to his equally funny Dazed and Confused, Linklater takes a look at college life in the early 1980s, and its the most fun I’ve had watching a movie all year. The cast of relatively unknowns are all phenomenal, with Wyatt Russell and Glenn Powell being the standouts. The film is a party movie, and its an absolute blast to watch from beginning to end. It probably won’t get the amount of attention that Linklater’s Boyhood did a few years back, but Everybody Wants Some is another classic in Richard Linklater’s impressive resume of films, and I can’t wait to see what the filmmaker does next. REVIEW

 

I hope you enjoyed this piece, and I’d love to hear what you all have to say in the comments about your favorite films this year.

 

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