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Ryland’s Top 50 Films of 2016

No need for a ton of preamble here. I’ll just cut and paste what I wrote last year.

I base my list on the films I see during the calendar year of 2016 that have either world premiered at a festival or been released theatrically in the year. To be clear, this is not the best films that played festivals in 2016 (though most did) or the best films that came out in theaters in 2016. This is the best films that either played at festivals or came out in theaters/VOD that I saw for the first time in 2016.

That means some of these movies have not come out yet in the US and therefore don’t qualify for other critics’ lists. Likewise, there are a handful of films that have been on other lists that were on my list last year such as The Brand New Testament, The Witch, and Green Room. I’ve endeavored to mention in my comments if a film is coming out soon or awaiting distribution.

Let me know what you think in the comments below or on Twitter at @RylandAldrich.

50. Deadpool
I missed this the first time around but caught up with it in my year-end rush to the finish. It is indeed quite charming and pretty impressive. It’s also suuuper violent.

49. Captain Fantastic
While the last act of Matt Ross’s (aka Silicon Valley‘s Gavin Belson) gets a tad bit sentimental, his directorial debut is an extremely well made and touching film and Viggo Mortensen deserves all the praise he’s received. It’s also filled with beautiful Pacific Northwest scenery which had me feeling a tad bit homesick.
Wow, CAPTAIN FANTASTIC is an emotional & beautiful exploration of family life on the fringes of society. Something truly special.

48. Popstar
I had a ton of fun with this Lonely Island mucku-mentary romp. It was particularly fun to watch having just made a movie with the film’s co-director/co-star Jorma Taccone. Nice job.
For a ridiculously fun time at the cinema this wkend, I highly recommend seeing POPSTAR. Lonely Island in top form.

47. The Crew
Known at home (and on IMDB only) as Braqueurs, Julien Leclerq’s French crime actioner has just the right combination of crime, action, and drama to make this one Fantastic Fest’s hidden gems for the year. No word on US distribution as of yet.

46. Buster’s Mal Heart
Rami Malek as a Y2k-obsessed, kitchen counter-shitting weirdo? Oh yeah. This TIFF-premierer is super weird but totally enjoyable. Look for Well Go to bring it out in 2017.
BUSTER’S MAL HEART is super weird and totally enjoyable. Rami Malek is great. Best multi-dimensional Y2k conspiracy dramedy at #TIFF16!
Read my full review on ScreenAnarchy

45. Trespass Against Us
This Fassbender/Gleeson Son/Father rural crime drama didn’t get a ton of love on its TIFF premiere. I had a total blast with it, perhaps due in part to the awesome car chase sequences. It’s worth giving it a glance when A24 puts it out this month.
Rural UK crimer TRESPASS AGAINST US succeeds on strong performances by Fassbender and Gleeson.

44. In A Valley of Violence
Ti West’s foray into the Western genre is a good ol’ fashioned guns blazing romp. It’s helped greatly by assured performances from Ethan Hawke, Taissa Farmiga, PJ Ransone, Larry Fessenden, and.. yes… John Travolta.

43. Bleed For This
I admit I wasn’t expecting a ton from Boiler Room director Ben Younger’s boxing pic. I was pleasantly surprised by this super entertaining Miles Teller/Aaron Eckhart two-hander. It’s definitely worth a watch at home if you missed it on the big screen.
Loved BLEED FOR THIS. Top notch redemptive boxing narrative. Miles Teller and Aaron Eckhart make quite the duo.

42. The Pistol Shrimps
This docu on Los Angeles’s thriving women’s rec basketball league is deceptively fascinating and funny to boot. Kudos to director Brent Hodge. You can find the film on the Seeso platform.

41. Down Under
You’ll have to keep an eye peeled for this Fantastic Fest discovery from Aussie director Abe Forsythe. No US distributor yet, but this hilarious story of race relations amongst a bunch of knuckleheads in Oz certainly deserves it.
DOWN UNDER is a searing and hilarious black comedy about racism is Australia. Some grade A buffoonery on display.

40. Weiner
Like any good political trainwreck, we all just want to know more and more about Anthony Weiner. Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg’s Sundance Selects docu is the perfect beverage to quench that thirst.
WEINER is one of the best behind-the-scenes political docus in years. Also happens to be one of the craziest campaigns.

39. Tickled
Another fantastic Sundance docu, the less you know about this David Farrier/Dylan Reeve film the better. It’s available online now from Magnolia.
TICKLED is a classic “no way!” rabbit-hole docu about two intrepid New Zealand journalists. Good movie but a totally insane story.

38. Bad Batch
Ana Lily Amirpour’s sophomore feature certainly didn’t get the love that her debut A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night enjoyed. Let me speak for the dissenting opinion and say this is an awesome way to use a greatly expanded budget while still developing her extremely unique filmmaker voice. It’s yet to drop in the US but should hit screens in 2017 one way or another from Screen Media/Netflix.

37. The Girl with All the Gifts
28 Days Later comparisons are bound to flourish when Colm McCarthy’s Locarno-premiering UK zombie thriller hits screens from Saban Films early this year. That’s high praise, but certainly well deserved.
THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS is really damn well done and nimbly avoids the typical blunders that zombie flicks commit.

36. The Edge of Seventeen
I was completely charmed by Kelly Fremon Craig’s coming-of-ager for the millennial generation. Hailey Steinfeld is fantastic and the film is sure to be revisited as seminal for people of a certain age for years to come.

35. Swiss Army Man
I was totally swept up in the filmmaking beauty and emotion in Daniels’ (dare you to say The Daniels) feature debut. I’ve rarely seen such weird backlash as this film got from the Sundance press, probably because of the odd turn as a farting dead man for movie star Daniel Radcliffe. But there is much more to this movie that farts and it was great to see A24 make the most of that with their release.
SWISS ARMY MAN is a fantastically weird and wonderful trip into the absurd with so much more heart than expected. Big fan.

34. Neon Demon
Yes, this is pretty far down the list for the latest from one of my very favorite directors, Nicolas Winding Refn. I’ll admit this was a rather hard to access film. But it was certainly beautiful and featured another great central performance from Elle Fanning. I’ll enjoy revisiting this a bit down the line, I’m sure.

33. Free Fire
This TIFF premierer is a definite return to form from one of the most diverse and exciting director, Ben Wheatley. A great cast, cool concept, and awesome action-packed execution, this is sure to find big fans when A24 put it out at the end of March.
FREE FIRE is a fitting opener for @mmadnesstiff. An emptied chamber drama with guns blazing action to the max. Good fun.
Read my full review on ScreenAnarchy

32. Hacksaw Ridge
Like Andrew Garfield’s other Christian-in-Japan film this year (see #17), I had some definite questions about the messaging of Mel Gibson’s latest visual stunner. But ultimately it was just too visually stunning and action-packed not to enjoy a whole damn lot.

31. My Scientology Movie
John Dower’s Louis Theroux docu debunks America’s second most hated religion with total hilarity. Don’t sleep on this when Magnolia puts it out in March.

30. The Age of Shadows
Kim Jee-woon’s latest (I Saw the Devil, The Good the Bad & the Weird) is a Korean costume crime caper of the highest order. US release details are forthcoming from CJ Entertainment.

29. The Nice Guys
This is the Shane Black movie we all wanted and I don’t see how it could have been done better. If only Hollywood execs let this guy keep doing his thing, we’re headed for more good times.

28. The Wailing
Na Hong-jin continues his incredible run of form after The Chaser and The Yellow Sea with this supernatural Korean thriller that keeps you guessing throughout. It’s available at your favorite VOD source from Well Go now.
Na Hong-jin’s THE WAILING is a confident and stunning descent into evil. Very much enjoyed it but it left me seriously perplexed.

27. Southside with You
If you missed this 1989-set Barack & Michelle origin story when Miramax put it out in August, go back and watch it now on VOD and get all misty about the future and past of such a great couple of Americans.
Barack+Michelle origin story SOUTHSIDE WITH YOU is a finely crafted portrait of two remarkable characters. Delicate and gorgeous.

26. Into the Inferno
This is Werner Herzog in top form in this continent spanning study of volcanologists and humanity. It’s worth the Netflix watch for Herzog’s incredible 3rd act soliloquy. Peak Herzog.
INTO THE INFERNO is a wonderfully Herzogian exploration of volcanoes & volcanologists & myth & science & North Korea & human beings.

25. Old Stone
Not only is Johnny Ma an all around awesome dude, he’s also a damn fine director. His feature debut is an assured and maturely told tale of one man stuck in the hellish bureaucracy of day-to-day Chinese life. Zetgeist put it out in theater in late 2016 and it should hit digital platforms soon.

24. La La Land
Like a lot of 2016’s big awards titles, I have my issues with Damien Chazelle’s Whiplash follow-up. That said, it’s a totally enjoyable musical romp with stellar set pieces and one of the best endings in recent memory.
LA LA LAND a total crowd pleaser for the classic romantic musical fans. Fantastic ending. If LGF plays it right, could be contender.

23. The Greasy Strangler
Oh Greasy Strangler. You only get greasier as time goes by. You greasy, greasy bastard.
THE GREASY STRANGER is some Nth level weird shit. I’ve seen some out there midnighters. Nothing like this. It’s also funny as fuck.
Read my full review on ScreenAnarchy

22. Manchester by the Sea
Just try to find a picture where someone isn’t looking towards the ground forlornly. This is certainly a beautiful film. No one can argue that.
Incredible performances across the board in MANCHESTER BY THE SEA which is obviously a special film, even if it didn’t push my particular emotional buttons.

21. Hell or High Water
Scotsman David Mackenzie has been a fave of mine for quite some time. His dusty crimer is just awesome cops and robbers fun. It’s almost a cliché but Jeff Bridges is just so damned good. If you somehow skipped it, this SKE joint is available on VOD now.
David Mackenzie’s HELL OR HIGH WATER is an ol’ fashioned sun-soaked outlaw film. Jeff Bridges is in top form. Good fun.
Read my full review on ScreenAnarchy

20. The Red Turtle
If you genetically engineered an animated film to make grown men cry, it would come out looking something like Michael Dudok de Wit’s Studio Ghibli co-produced dialog-free feature debut. But in a good way.
Ghibli co-production THE RED TURTLE is a beautiful little allegory that taps directly into the code that makes humans emotional.
Not a dry eye in the premiere screening of Michael Dudok De Wit’s THE RED TURTLE. Audience needed the long standing o to compose.
Read my full review on ScreenAnarchy

19. Doctor Strange
I was completely wowed by the visual effects of Marvel’s latest Avengers-universer. Great performances by Cumberbatch, Ejiofor, Swinton, and Mikkelsen didn’t hurt. This felt like the Iron Man to Infinity War bridge we needed.
If any movie other than DOCTOR STRANGE wins for VFX, I’ll really need to see that film.

18. They Call Me Jeeg Robot
The fact that Gabrielle Mainetti’s Italian-language superhero crime actioner hit me completely by surprise at Fantastic Fest may not seem that crazy on its face. But considering it won a whopping 7 awards at the Italian Oscars, you’d think this would be on more people’s radar. Please check it out when Uncork’d puts it out this year.

17. Silence
Like Andrew Garfield’s other Christian-in-Japan film this year (see #32), I had some definite questions about the messaging of Martin Scorsese’s latest visual stunner. But ultimately it was just too visually stunning and emotionally charged not to respect a whole damn lot.

16. Moonlight
My fact that the highest ranked of the big three Best Pic contenders is in the mid-teens might say something about this year’s race. But I really did enjoy Barry Jenkins’s beautiful sophomore feature. Perhaps just not as much as 15 other exceptional films.
MOONLIGHT is indeed a very special character drama and is sure to continue to find big fans this awards season.

15. Hunt for the Wilderpeople
Taika Waititi just keeps cranking out incredibly enjoyable films and his latest is no exception. While it’s a bit of a tale of two halves, I can’t wait to go back and check it out again (which you can do on VOD now).
Taika Waititi’s THE HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE is every bit as heartwarming and hilarious as hoped.
Read my full review on ScreenAnarchy

14. Kicks
UCSB-grad Justin Tipping’s directorial debut is an extremely impressive and confident tale of an inner city Oakland kid’s quest to get his sneakers back. It’s also a deceptively deep commentary on race, class, and male friendship. Seek this one out on VOD.

13. Author: The JT LeRoy Story
This was one of those Sundance docs that I walked into completely blind – only hearing that some Sundance programmers said not to miss it. I walked out flabbergasted at the incredible story. Whether you think you know everything about JT LeRoy or have never heard of him, this is indeed one not to be missed. It’s available on VOD now.
AUTHOR: THE JT LEROY STORY is a beyond-fascinating documentary. I knew nothing of the story and my jaw was agape throughout.

12. Deepwater Horizon
I was totally caught off guard by how great Peter Berg’s oil rig disaster flick turned out to be. It’s action packed and emotional in all the right ways.
DEEPWATER HORIZON is an exhilarating, visceral human drama. Really impressive filmmaking across the board. This will be a big hit.

11. Paterson
I really wanted Jim Jarmusch’s poetic and super enjoyable Adam Driver-starrer to crack the top 10. Alas, some great film has to be number 11. The film is still in limited theaters from Bleecker Street and is well worth seeing there. It will be coming to Amazon soon as well.
Jim Jarmusch’s PATERSON is a wonderful, subtle exploration of the poetics in life’s repetitions. A movie to sink into and enjoy.

10. Operation Avalanche
If Matt Johnsons’s festival-debuting Viceland TV series Nirvanna The Band The Show had been eligible for this list, it might have been even higher. But a top 10 spot for Johnson’s wonderful “found footage” tale of the faked moon landing will have to do. It’s well worth a watch on VOD now.
OPERATION AVALANCHE is great! Super intriguing, wonderfully executed, and tons of fun. High on my list.

9. 20th Century Women
I loved Mike Mills’s Beginners follow-up when I watched it a few weeks back. However, it is the amount that it has grown on me since then that cemented its top 10 spot. This one has emotional fangs. It’s also just a beautifully made film.

8. OJ: Made in America
Should a nearly 8-hour miniseries really be eligible for yearend best movie lists? Well the Academy apparently thinks so. And if it qualifies, then it certainly deserves a top 10 spot. The whole series is excellent but it’s the LA racial history that most fascinated me. Incredible filmmaking (err, TVmaking?).

7. My Golden Days
I didn’t know a ton about Frenchman Arnaud Desplechin other than that I didn’t love his English-language Jimmy P. and that it was considered a snub that this film was relegated to the Quinzaine sidebar at Cannes in 2015. I skipped it that year but caught up with it when it showed up on a few early best of 2016 lists. Dang am I glad I did. This is a beautiful tale of young love and one that is certainly worth a watch on Netflix.
2016 film catch up led me to MY GOLDEN DAYS. Year+half late but, WOW! Such a lovely, touching story of young love. Damn those French poets!

6. Rogue One
It’s so nice when big movies live up to or exceed expectations. Gareth Edwards’s take on this side story to the Holy Trinity was exactly what I wanted and even more enjoyable than The Force Awakens. I think my tweet pretty much sums it up.
Loved ROGUE ONE! Best Star Wars movie since Jedi. So looking forward to watching this universe I love expand over the coming years.

5. Gleason
Top doc on my list is Clay Tweel’s incredible father-son story of perseverance. Just go watch it on VOD already.
GLEASON is a truly remarkable docu about what it takes to survive and thrive with ALS. Beautiful story of fatherhood. Great music.
Read my full review on ScreenAnarchy

4. The Handmaiden
Park Chan-wook’s latest is just so damn delicious. It’s sexy and twisted and fun from beginning to end. It’s really worth seeing in the theaters if you can still find it but should be on VOD soon from Amazon if not.
Sumptuous, surprising, and sexual, Park Chan-wook’s THE HANDMAIDEN puts other twisty revengey romantic thrillers to shame.
Turns out there are no hammers in Park Chan-wook’s THE HANDMAIDEN, but there certainly are scissors.

3. Toni Erdmann
I had heard great things about Maren Ade’s German-language black comedy out of Cannes, but I had no idea just how enjoyable the film would be when I walked into the theater at Fantastic Fest. I feel like I’ve been singing this movie’s praises since. Trust me on this one.
TONI ERDMANN is this year’s Force Majeure.

2. Arrival
It was a tight call but Denis Villeneuve just narrowly misses out on back-to-back number ones. Still Arrival is good enough for top spot in past years. It’s a brilliant film with so many layers of nuance from storytelling to filmmaking. I was enthralled throughout. There’s a lot more in my review
ARRIVAL packages some complex and fascinating ideas into a beautiful and emotional film. Truly top notch filmmaking.
Read my full review on ScreenAnarchy

1. American Honey
Slightly controversial perhaps, but Andrea Arnold’s love letter to the beautiful idealism of youth is a film that gripped my heart and still hasn’t let go. Any movie-watching experience is a product of expectations and environment. While I was a big fan of her Fish Tank, Wuthering Heights was less of a knockout for me. So, I went in to this film not knowing what to expect. But to walk out the pre-World Premiere press screening at the Lumiere in a daze and walk right into a bar where the cast and creators of the film were hanging out will always be one of my favorite Cannes memories. It was all I could do not to gush all over them (well, too much). Sharing my love for their art was a special experience. Suffice to say this film really, really worked for me.
Andrea Arnold’s AMERICAN HONEY captures the spirit and promise of youth in America that only a few films of each generation can.
AMERICAN HONEY is extremely powerful, deceptively optimistic, & astonishingly real. Music is fantastic; performances astounding.
Read my full review on ScreenAnarchy

All right… your turn.

Posted by enderzero at 3:01pm on Jan. 14, 2017