This is it – while I’m pre-emptively launching this list ahead of seeing two final movies next week, I feel it is time and pretty safe to put a lid on this year in cinema. We’ve recently published the Worst list, meaning that it is time to provide the antitode – the Best list, ten films ranked in a countdown that definitely prove what a fantastic year 2016 has been for cinema. While initial scores have been included, the movies may have been re-ranked slightly in order of preference. Trust me – this is the definitive countdown of what is well worth catching on DVD to celebrate 2016’s cinematic contributions.
10. FLORENCE FOSTER JENKINS (4 STARS)
Having re-watched Florence Foster Jenkins again on DVD since its initial release, I am genuinely sorry I didn’t give it an extra half a star – a funny, touching and memorable performance from three fantastic leads and my pick for an Oscar nomination or two – you heard it here first!
Best Moment: Cosme’s reaction to Florence’s (off-key) singing for the first time is comic timing gold.
9. CAPTAIN AMERICA : CIVIL WAR (4.5 STARS)
Marvel movies were always going to make this list in some form or another, and Civil War gets here on the strength of its amazing mid-movie battle sequence alone. What makes the third Cap America movie so memorable is that there’s just so much going on – it certainly serves the fans as well as it serves the story, and this is something that should also be said of Doctor Strange. Fantastic stuff.
Best Moment: The aforementioned fight scene – if you’ve seen it, you know the one.
8. DEADPOOL (4.5 STARS)
I couldn’t not put Deadpool here (short of getting some angry emails, in any case). This was an absolute knock-out in early February and generally set the tone for 2016 – chaotic, unpredictable, and in-your-face. Deadpool is a breath of fresh air and genuinely enjoys every moment it’s on screen. Ryan Reynolds has truly arrived as the Merc with a Mouth, and we’re all the richer for it.
Best Moment: Pick any of Deadpool’s fourth-wall busting quips – especially his remarks about which mutants the studio could afford to cast from the X-Men stable.
7. 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE (4.5 STARS)
Does 10 Cloverfield Lane knock Cloverfield out of the water? Certainly – but it’s a completely different kettle of fish. A superb rarity in that it does so much with so little, this is a movie that despite its connections to the aforementioned monster movie, creates terror in the slightest of direction and moments of dialogue. John Goodman is incredible in this movie, and it’s largely thanks to his role here that I cannot see an episode of ‘Roseanne’ the same again.
Best Moment: Michelle slips Howard’s capture to venture towards the escape route early on in the movie… only to be given a complete and utter u-turn on everything she thought she believed about her situation. Chilling.
6. DOCTOR STRANGE (4.5 STARS)
The top superhero movie on the list goes to the unlikely Doctor Strange, a visually magnificent achievement of a movie that is both marvellously cast, carefully paced and painted with enough variety to keep you watching until the bitter end. This was one of few movies I saw at the cinema twice this year, and I’m glad I did – it’s fast, it’s fun, it’s hugely entertaining both visually and thought-provokingly – and I can’t wait for more.
Best Moment: Steven’s first ‘trip’ – which, in 3D, was nothing short of mind-melting.
5. EDDIE THE EAGLE (4.5 STARS)
I was genuinely taken aback by how brilliant I felt leaving the cinema after seeing Eddie the Eagle. It may be sweet, it may be sappy, and it may not be as gritty as some of the other entries on this list, but it does what it does well – it boasts a superb leading man in Taron Egerton, a great soundtrack and a plot that delivers on everything it sets up. It’s an absolute triumph and a crying shame that it got buried beneath bigger pictures. Having seen it twice since, I can vouch for it being one of the year’s biggest achievements.
Best Moment: The ending – so cathartic, and an absolute treat for anyone watching. If you didn’t smile, you have no soul.
4. ZOOTOPIA (4.5 STARS)
Early on, I was sure that Disney’s maiden voyage into 2016 would be the year’s winner. It’s hung around for a long time near the top of the list, and frankly, why not? Demonstrating once again that they can create great characters with depth, attractive design and story worlds that encourage repeat viewings, Zootopia could have faltered badly by going too narrow – but instead, its plot is just complex enough, and many of us are waiting for more – even an animated series would suffice.
Best Moment: The sloth scene. It’s in the trailer, but even so.
3. FINDING DORY (4.5 STARS)
I’ll freely admit that I wasn’t blown away by Inside Out, and found The Good Dinosaur to be fairly poor taste – but Finding Dory was an absolute return to form for Pixar this year, and one which was sorely needed. While series add-ons such as Cars 2 and Monsters University may have fallen flat, Finding Dory scores big by keeping things relatively simple – it has a narrative that’s nice and easy to follow, it gives all the characters we know and love enough time to breathe, and it looks absolutely wonderful. It’s absolutely joyous to behold – and it feels like the natural sequel to Finding Nemo in that it’s on par with, if not better than, its predecessor.
Best Moment: There are far too many. A cop-out, but even so.
2. KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS (5 STARS)
I didn’t think I’d see a 5-star movie this year – but here I sit in December recalling two. Kubo is only the lesser of the pair but is still nigh-on perfect animation. This is a movie that ably takes you from moments of happiness and joy to those of fear and even sadness in minutes – and it’s all very natural. It’s creepy, it’s funny, it’s original – it doesn’t dumb down for kids, and it’s absolutely gorgeous. Kubo and the Two Strings, while my runner-up for the year, is nothing short of wonderful.
Best Moment: Plot developments later on that will spoil the story – let’s just say they are more than a little heartbreaking.
1. ARRIVAL (5 STARS)
There were no other contenders. The moment I saw Arrival, I knew I had found the best that 2016 had to offer. For me, no other movie has created such fear, such trepidation, such amazement – and, ultimately, such heavy-heartedness after the final scenes finished rolling. This is not your average alien invasion movie – it’s about the way we communicate, it’s about the unknown, and the way we perceive time – and that narrative twist that throws everything out of perspective absolutely blew my mind on first viewing. It’s a visual spectacle. It boasts a soundtrack that ushers in genuine menace and trepidation in every beat. The cast, particularly Amy Adams, are believable and are just as desperate for answers as we are. It’s deep, it’s mesmerising, and the final scenes will haunt you for days. Arrival is my favourite movie of 2016, and I cannot wait to see it again on home release.
Best Moment: The ending – what else?
The Nice Guys (Proving effective comedy is alive and well in modern cinema)
The Jungle Book (A great twist on the original story)
Spotlight (Utterly captivating and deeply affecting)
Moana (Visually brilliant and unique from start to finish)
Imperium (Daniel Radcliffe is set for great things, this is one of them)
The Accountant (Ben Affleck as an autistic action hero – what’s not to like)
Deepwater Horizon (A disaster movie that doesn’t skimp on the detail)
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (Rowling is back and on form)
The Angry Birds Movie (In all seriousness – it’s great fun)
Central Intelligence (Great chemistry and big laughs all round)
Hunt for the Wilderpeople (Defiantly odd and big on laughs)
Rogue One (It’s Star Wars – it’s great)
Hardcore Henry (Easily the year’s most unique release – one for the cult pile)