The past year saw the release of some brilliant movies. From the biggest franchises in Hollywood to unearthed gems which bubbled under the radar, 2016 has been a satisfying treat for all cinematic tastes. Here at TNC we have quite an eclectic taste in film, which made voting for our favourites of the year rather difficult to say the least. While our team do tend to meet somewhere in the middle when it comes to cinematic preferences, this list is in no way representative of the wide array of treats we loved this year. That said, we did manage to find some common ground when coming up with our definitive list, and these are our picks. Feel free to disagree with us in the comments, as there have been some truly outstanding released in 2016 which missed out on the final cut.
10) Don’t Breathe
Fede Alvarez’s sophomore effort following his impressive 2013 Evil Dead remake is a taut, claustrophobic thriller which became one of the year’s surprise hits. In an age where reboots reign supreme and many complain about the lack of original horror being made (even though that isn’t the case at all), Don’t Breathe was a breath of fresh air for the genre’s mainstream output. Entertaining, intense and even a little bit sleazy, it revolves around a group of teenage burglars who decide to rob a blind man assuming that his disability will make it an easy night’s work. But they don’t anticipate is the blind man’s unwillingness to let them walk away with his stash and find out about his other nefarious secrets.
With an intense performance from Stephen Lang as the visually impaired antagonist, Don’t Breathe gave us one of the best villains in quite some time. That said, it is worth bearing in mind that he was just protecting the money he worked hard for and well within his rights to defend his property. However, there is more going on here than a basic home invasion heist, and it’ll morally conflict you in the best of ways.
9) Swiss Army Man
The first fart will make you laugh, the last will have you welling up like a baby. Swiss Army Man is an odd movie, but it’d take a stone heart not to come out of it with a serious case of the feels. Paul Dano plays Hank, a suicidal loner stranded on an island who finds the will to live again after befriending a flatulent corpse played by Daniel Radcliffe. Sounds silly, right? Well it is quite silly, but it’s also one of the most deeply moving and heartwarming experiences you’ll ever have the pleasure of seeing. Heartbreaking, uplifting and absurd are just a few rightfully applicable adjectives which describe this incredible movie, but it’s truly a one of a kind masterpiece that possesses that ability to tug on the heartstrings, tickle the funny bone and provide thought provoking commentary on society, love and what it means to be human.
Swiss Army Man is a movie that will find its audience over time, but those who saw it this year will probably agree that it’s one of the year’s finest offerings. If this doesn’t at least get nominated for the Best Original Song category at the Oscars then there’s something wrong with them. This film is truly unique and wonderful.
8) Shin Godzilla
Toho’s return to their landmark franchise was a welcome one for fans of the world’s greatest giant monster, and what a return to form it was. The previous Godzilla film, 2004’s highly enjoyable Final Wars, left a bad taste in the mouths of a lot G fans, but it was merely another chapter in a series that’s regularly broke its own conventions. Shin Godzilla continues the franchise’s ethos of defying convention, while at the same time returning to its purest, allegorical horror roots.
It’s no secret that certain parts of the globe – Japan in particular – have suffered the nasty wrath of Mother Nature in recent years. Godzilla, often a metaphor for contemporary troubles or a protector against them, represents the emotionless wrath of nature in his latest outing. Additionally, the film is also chock full of satire and sociopolitical subtext that it makes for some interesting dissection, as well as a kick ass ‘giant monster destroying stuff’ movie.
7) Rogue One
Opinion towards Rogue One has been mostly positive, but it is a film that’s divided many Star Wars fans. It’s divided some of the staff here at TNC, but most of us were in agreement that it was great enough to warrant a place on our sexy list. While not the perfect Star Wars movie, it does have some incredible moments – the battle scenes, the building blocks towards A New Hope, the overall grittiness – and does provide the grand scale, space adventure most of us desire.
One of the best elements of Rogue One is that it felt like a bleak war film, and it didn’t shy away from portraying the horrors of war either. Despite following the standard Star Wars protocol in terms of story, Gareth Edwards’ was afforded some luxury to take a few risks. Perhaps it’s a transitional movie for more in future? Either way, we’re living in a world where we’ll be getting Star Wars movies every year for the foreseeable future, and that’s a good thing.
6) The Revenant
Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s savage frontier adventure is one of the coldest looking films you’re ever likely to see, and you believe every ounce of suffering depicted on screen due to the conditions the cast had to work in. It finally landed Leonard DiCaprio that long-awaited Oscar for Best Actor as well, and he deserved it.
The Revenant isn’t just cold in climate, however. It’s a wonderfully savage tale of cold revenge. Filmed completely in natural light, it looks absolutely stunning and raw; the wild terrains of terrains of Argentina also provided a glorious 1800’s setting. The Revenant works as a chase movie, a survival movie and as a revenge tale; it’s primal, violent and visceral and one of the most enthralling cinematic experiences of 2016.
5) Green Room
Jeremy Saulnier’s follow-up to the outstanding and intense Blue Ruin is every bit as outstanding and intense as Blue Ruin. Taking place within a Neo-Nazi compound during a concert, a young punk band get into more trouble than they bargained for after witnessing a murder backstage. They thought singing Dead Kennedys “Nazi Punks Fuck Off’’ would have been the height of their troubles that evening – not quite.
Green Room is a claustrophobic, uncompromising thriller that doesn’t mess around when it comes to unleashing menacing havoc on the viewer. That said, it also contains some wonderful moments of pitch black humour and Patrick Stewart as a white supremacist crime lord, and it’s always nice to see some Patrick Stewart. In a year beleaguered by political tensions in America, Green Room is surprisingly subdued with themes pertaining to white supremacy and racism; instead it chooses to humanise its villains by portraying them as regular people in their own unfortunate situation trying to ensure their own survival, while never shying away from their ugly natures either. It’s very self-contained. Jeremy Saulnier is one of the most exciting directors in the game right now.
4) 10 Cloverfield Lane
Much like the first film, 10 Cloverfield Lane arrived out of nowhere with brilliant hype campaign. But unlike the first film, this isn’t about a giant monster destroying New York City. Here we get a low-key thriller where a woman (played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is held captive against her will as the apocalypse is happening outside. But is it really? Or is John Goodman a psycho who wants to keep her in his underground bunker?
However, 10 Cloverfield Lane ties into the universe set in place by the first film perfectly, and it’s full of surprises, twists and turns throughout. If Goodman doesn’t get nominated for Best Actor at the upcoming Oscars for his performance here then fuck the Academy. You won’t see anything as genuinely terrifying this year than him going off.
3) The Hateful Eight
New Quentin Tarantino movies aren’t just movies – they’re events. The Hateful Eight arrived at the end of last year shrouded in controversy due to Quentin falling out with the cops, but for most of us here at TNC we didn’t get to see it until January because… well, being European and all that… and it did not disappoint. The Hateful Eight is the best Tarantino movie since Jackie Brown.
Part Sergio Corbucci, part John Carpenter, yet quintessentially Tarantino, The Hateful Eight is a tale set in the cold winter snow inside a cabin where tensions reach boiling point as we try to work out who the inevitable killer is. It retains all of Tarantino’s staples – crisp dialogue, angry Samuel L. Jackson, over-the-top violence, racist characters – and further proves that, despite him borrowing from other movies, he’s a one of a kind visionary who will be sorely missed should he retire after two more movies.
Superhero movies are a dime a dozen these days, so it was refreshing to see one come around that was rude, crude and R-rated. Deadpool was a breath of fresh air which not only gave us sickos are sexually deviant, violent treat – it also gave Ryan Reynold’s the starring role in a successful blockbuster he’s always deserved. Green Lantern didn’t exactly light the world on fire after all, but Deadpool at the start of this year did.
1) The Witch
The Witch is the most divisive horror film of 2016. Some loved it, other hated it. We loved it. This stunning debut from director Robert Eggers took four years to research, and the end result is an authentic period piece which depicts a cursed, exiled family in New England falling apart following the disappearance of their youngest at the hands of a witch who dwells in the woods nearby.
The threat of something bad happening is tangible in every frame, and by taking a social realist approach the horror is intensified and all the more effective because of it. Sure, the dialogue is quite hard to understand given its honesty to the period in which it’s set, but it only makes the experience feel like a horrifying transportation to a bygone era where religious superstition reigns supreme.
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