155 films of 2016 ranked worst to best: #35-#11
Every single film on this list isn't only worth a viewing - the each represent the very best of their genres in 2016.
Although this list is spread out - with films representing horror, documentaries, comedies and more - the commonality among all 25 of these films is they are all very well-told stories.
Each of these films is an exciting experience - whether the film exudes pure joy, challenges conventions/genres or simply features an incredible aspect of film making.
The absolute tearjerker of 2016, "Gleason" is a sort of test: only a person who is truly dead inside will not get a little teary eyed while watching this documentary. "Gleason" is inspiring, uplifting, at times painful to watch and ultimately a powerful and moving look at one man's journey as his body is ravaged by ALS, but his mind and heart remain strong.
#34: 'The Invitation'
Accept this invitation immediately. This film keeps the audience constantly off balance as the protagonist remains suspicious of his odd party hosts -- but there's every chance the threats exist only in his troubled mind. And "The Invitation" boasts one of the very best final shots of any 2016 film.
#33: 'The Eyes of My Mother'
Going into this movie blind is the best way to get the most out of this nuanced and intimate horror story. "The Eyes of My Mother" is a stark, beautiful film that takes one dark, horrifying turn after another. This is a genuinely surprising film on virtually every level - it's surprisingly empathetic of its main character, a lonely and isolated woman in a story that follows one shocking moment after another.
#32: 'Edge of Seventeen'
The key to the brilliance of "Edge of Seventeen" is its R-rating -- this is a movie freed from the typical PG-13-friendly constraints that limit most teen-centric films. A sharp script and refreshingly honest take on being a teenager injects a degree of wisdom and sympathy rarely seen in most movies about teenagers.
Martin Scorsese's passion project is a thoughtful and punishing epic with only one goal in mind: the spiritual, physical and psychology breaking down of its main protagonist. "Silence" is a masterful and exquisite historical drama that is both beautiful to look at and hard to watch.
This is sublime poetry realized in cinematic form. Adam Driver is perfectly cast as the bus driving poet taking note of the world around him - all the quirky characters, odd conversations and mundane details of an everyday life. And while he chronicles his surroundings in poems- he too becomes a poetic expression of daily routine.
Three border patrol men find themselves in a rapidly deteriorating impossible situation. And at a tightly wound 86 minutes, "Transpecos" does not give the audience a chance to breathe once the danger begins to close in on the border patrol officers.
Firmly grounded by an incredible performance from Rebecca Hall, "Christine" is an empathetic and grim slow-motion unraveling of an ethical journalist who owns an infamous place in TV history.
A story told in two halves, "Lion" presents the heartbreaking journey that takes a young Indian child far away from his impoverished home - while the second half reveals how his isolated childhood trauma affected his life as an adult.
#26: 'Captain Fantastic'
Viggo Mortensen is the dramatic core that grounds this film, keeping the story focused on his sometimes narrow-minded efforts to raise his family the way he wants. "Captain Fantastic" charms when it could have been corny and walks the razor's edge between sincerity and saccharinity.
#25: 'Rogue One: A Star Wars Story'
Simply put: "Rogue One" is the single biggest leap forward for the Star Wars franchise since "The Empire Strikes Back."
#24: 'Love & Friendship'
Kate Beckinsale is absolutely exquisite in one of the very best - and certainly the most hilarious - adaptations of a Jane Austen work to date. Writer-director Whit Stillman has wonderfully adapted a dramatic film about romance (more for convenience than true love) that is first and foremost a hilarious comedy that maintains a regal air in tone with a clever wit.
What "Fences" lacks in actual story, it more than makes up for with a brilliant screenplay and a pair of powerful performances from its lead actors Denzel Washington and Viola Davis. This is a master class in acting and writing.
#22: 'Blue Jay'
The latest from writer-actor Mark Duplass is a truly special wistful, sincere, playful, sweet & ephemeral romantic drama accessible to anyone who has ever wondered how an ex-boyfriend/girlfriend was doing.
#21: 'The Handmaiden'
Through the first chapter, "The Handmaiden" is a good and serviceable foreign crime drama. But as the second chapter begins, "Handmaiden" shifts into a higher gear - and instantly becomes an absolutely gripping mystery-drama. Just one-third of the way into the film, it forces the audience to question everything they've seen up to that point -- and utter demands the viewer's complete focus.
#20: 'Green Room'
No reason to bury the lede: Patrick Stewart is absolutely chilling as a murderous white supremacist leader in this intense, visceral and unexpectedly wry indie gem. This film absolutely has all the hallmarks of a horror slasher - but its traits as a thriller keep the film constantly engaging and its surprising and smart hints of comedy keep the film entertaining.
#19: 'A Man Called Ove'
Cinema is packed with films with cantankerous old characters who - one way or another - rejoin their happy/annoying neighbors. The difference with "Ove" - this is a surprisingly sweet and heartfelt story of a suicidal old man too annoyed with his neighbors to kill himself.
#18: 'Sing Street'
Let it be known: writer-director John Carney has firmly established his place as today's premiere musical filmmaker with his latest toe-tapping comedy-drama. Taken at face value, this is a coming-of-age teen romance flick -- but "Sing Street" succeeds in becoming so much more. This is a moving little flick that discretely becomes a musical before the audience knows what hit them.
#17: 'Hunt for the Wilderpeople'
Director Taika Waititi maintains a light-hearted, adventurous tone that makes "Wilderpeople" totally enjoyable for older kids, but is sentimental (but not saccharine) and sharply written enough for adults to embrace. Anyone who fondly loves "The Goonies" should check out "Wilderpeople."
Natalie Portman brilliantly balances regal poise and emotional devastation in this stark, beautifully composed and brilliantly edited psychological drama. Her awards-caliber performance is constantly on the razor's edge between mania and grace.
#15: 'The Fits'
Star Royalty Hightower delivers one of the very best performances of 2016 in this bold, confident and abstract coming-of-age drama. This atmospheric, psychological drama taps into very elemental adolescent anxieties - isolation, inclusion and identity - to tell an emotionally true story.
This is a masterwork of political satire that has all the key ingredients of gripping drama. This is a man looking for redemption. His mayoral bid is an absolute trainwreck. His politically savvy wife stands by his side - even when many say she should leave him. Having a front-row seat to this disaster is entertaining, but this doc's candid peek into the inner-workers of a political campaign team is fascinating. "Weiner" is one of the most entertaining, insightful and riveting films of 2016.
#13: 'The Innocents'
A lone nurse and a convent of distrustful nuns find themselves in a perilous situation in post-World War II Poland -- and "The Innocents" excels in constantly ramping up the threat.
#12: 'The Nice Guys'
Part buddy comedy and part gumshoe noir mystery, "The Nice Guys" is intriguing, hilarious and just weird enough to separate itself from most of the films of 2016.
#11: 'Don't Think Twice'
The joy of this comedy is watching a close-knit group of friends completely implode and consume each other with envy. "Don't Think Twice" makes the most of its brilliant ensemble cast, giving each of them a complex and empathetic character arc. Writer-director Mike Birbiglia throws his cast of characters from the relative safety of their hopes and dreams into a genuine crisis of ambition and jealousy.