All this aside, I don’t think 2016 was actually that bad a year – not for me personally anyway. And certainly not when it came to films. There were a huge number of excellent films that came out – and as the year draws to a close, I decided to rank them in a special Top Five… no, Top TEN! Yup, for a special treat, I decided to go five extra – as there were too many amazing films to limit to just one Top Five List.
This list is based PURELY on films that I saw over the 2016 period. And whilst my Top Five’s are normally done in no particular order, this one I AM ranking on what I felt were the films that made me feel the happiest, brought a smile to my face, and moved me emotionally. Of course, this is just my opinion – yours may differ.
So, dear reader, I present to you, my Top Ten best films of 2016 – in my opinion.
Ok, here we go! Starting - rather appropriately - with Number 10!
NUMBER 10: Arrival
Unlike a lot of Sci-Fi movies this year, which relied on big effects and explosions, this one was more story driven – and it was all the better for it. It had a great cast that drove the story along and ramped up the tension gradually. Throughout the film there was a real sense of urgency and danger – where the aliens here in peace or was there something else afoot? And whilst the ending was a bit of a cop out, it still kept me entertained.
I also love the twist at the end. It made the “flashbacks” (for the sake of spoilers I’ll leave it there) all the more poignant at the end – and really set up the tragedy of the main character.
Arrival has brilliant acting, directing and a deliberate pace that keeps you on the edge of your seat. If you prefer more story over action in your Sci-Fi films, this is one to check out.
NUMBER 9: Warcraft
Ok, it’s by no means a perfect film. The human characters are dull as anything and the story does tend to skip from one place to the next without any logical reason – but it at least felt like a Warcraft movie to me. And I really enjoyed the Orcs story. It was good that they weren’t portrayed as the villains necessarily and their arc was interesting.
You could tell that Duncan Jones was out of his comfort zone here, but I think he made a film that was respectful to the source material – a rarity in video game films. I’d actually go so far to say it’s the best video game adaptation of all time. I just hope they do a sequel as the film did leave me wanting more.
By biggest complain though – no Leeroy Jenkins!
NUMBER 8: The BFG
The BFG is possibly both my favourite children’s book of all time and my favourite non-Disney animated film of all time (the one that came out in 1989). I had high expectations for this film and thankfully I was not disappointed.
Mark Rylance was pitch perfect as the BFG – you could almost forget that his character was animated as he brought him to life in such a way that you just didn’t care. Sophie Barnard was excellent as Sophie as well. I like how they made her a much more headstrong character than in the animated film. The CGI was beautiful to look at and really brought Giant Country alive. It also kept very close to the original story, changing only a few things here and there.
My only minor gripe was with the giants. They felt more comical than scary to me – which is a shame. But otherwise I would say that this is one of the most underrated films of the year. It’s a strong movie on it’s own back, but if you love the books then this film will certainly give you a whizpopping good time!
NUMBER 7: Finding Dory
Did Finding Nemo need a sequel? Probably not – but I’m glad they did! This film was just… oh my goodness! I felt so sorry for poor Dory in this film. She goes through such an incredible journey – made all the more tragic with her memory loss.
If it were anyone else that went through this journey, it would be over in a few hours. But that’s the point Finding Dory was trying to put across. Anyone who works with Dementia and Alzheimer’s patients know that even the simplest things can be a fight because they just can’t remember them. And that’s what made this so tragic in places – Dory’s memory loss is something she must overcome to find her parents.
Like all Pixar films, the animation is top notch and there is equal amounts of sadness and humour. And feels – lots of feels. Ok, if I’m being honest, there aren’t as many feels in this as say Inside Out or Up, but those that are in there are heart crushing to say the least. But don’t worry, there are fun moments too.
Even if you never saw Finding Nemo (and shame on you if you haven’t) then this film is worth a watch as it’s pretty standalone in it’s story. A highly enjoyable tale for all the family – and I wouldn’t expect anything less from Pixar.
NUMBER 6: The Jungle Book
All joking aside, The Jungle Book effects were fantastic. Sometimes CGI animals CAN look laughable, but these are so photorealistic that you almost believed they trained these animals to speak! It captivates you and pulls you into the movie – even if you never saw the original film.
Another joy of this film is the casting – Bill Murray as Baloo, Ben Kingsley as Bagheera, Idris Alba as Shere Khan (who was terrifying by the way!) and – wait for it – Christopher Walken as King Louie… Epic Win, just to hear Christopher Walken sing I Wanna Be Like You!
This version of The Jungle Book was as captivating as it’s effects. It keep me watching the entire time and held my interest all the way through. Much like the live action Cinderella, I would say that this is one of the few instances of the live action Disney film being BETTER than the original animated one. Feel free to troll me on that if you want. It’s just my opinion though.
And if that isn’t a good endorsement for this movie, then maybe this is. I watched this film with my dad, who HATES Disney films, but he enjoyed it! And he stayed and watched it the whole way through – that should tell you how great this movie is! Watch it now!
NUMBER 5: Doctor Strange
Marvel seem to have a habit of breaking new fans with their lesser known characters. Guardians of the Galaxy was an incredible movie, and so was Ant-Man to a lesser extent. Doctor Strange was a highly enjoyable, trippy movie as well. The special effects twisted and turned as magic filled the air, creating something out of The Matrix, but also giving you eyes a real visual treat. The special effects didn’t detract from the story, but rather helped it – which is exactly what special effects should do.
Casting wise, this film was spot on. Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange, next to Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, was one of the most perfect castings in a long time. And Chiwetel Ejiofor was fantastic as Baron Mordo. I do hope he returns to the MCU soon as he can potentially be every bit as an amazing villain as Loki is. I also liked Benedict Wong as Wong – highlight of the film was when he was listening to Beyonce (don’t ask!)
Like pretty much every Marvel film that’s come out, it perfectly mixed action with comedy. I think for me, the most laugh out loud moment was when Strange began his training and Mordo gave him a bit of paper that read “Shambala” (an easter egg fans of the comic will know). When Strange asked if it was his mantra, Mordo replied “It’s the WIFI password. We’re not savages.” Just the idea of a Tibetan monastery having WIFI was just so cool.
All in all, this was a highly entertaining Marvel picture. And with the ending hinting towards a Thor/Doctor Strange team up in the future, I’m even more interested to see how Doctor Strange fits into the current storyline. Knowing Marvel, they’ll make it work.
NUMBER 4: Zootopia
If it was just a story about anthropomorphic animals living like humans, then it would be pretty silly. But leave it to Disney to create a movie that is both insightful and entertaining, with a strong moral message that isn’t too in-your-face.
Zootopia is at it’s heart a film about social issues – most notably the issue of racism. The prey versus predator demographic echoes a lot of problems happening in the world today, and the idea of one race trying to reign supreme over the other. But don’t worry, it doesn’t talk down to the audience at all and hides the message through a large number of Disney friendly themes. Drugs also play a key issue in this film as that is one of the reasons for the predators going crazy (you DID read the spoiler warning at the beginning, right?) so that’s another issue that is perfectly illustrated.
Judy Hops carries on the recent tradition of having strong female heroines that aren’t your typical damsels in distress (which you COULD argue was popularised by Frozen, but that’s an argument for another day). She is a loveable, yet slightly naïve character that wants to make a different and shows that anyone can be anything. Nick, the Fox starts off as a cunning foil to Judy, but turns out to be just as vulnerable as her. The idea of prey and predator working together is a great message and it shows that things like race don’t have to be a barrier.
With great animation, a gripping story, fleshed out characters and a wonderful message about tolerance and overcoming prejudice, Zootopia is one film that you want to watch again and again. It does kinda pull a Hans though, in that it makes a character that I really liked a bad guy, but otherwise it is perfect in every way. Oh, and on a side note – this is the third Disney film (along with The Jungle Book and Finding Dory) to feature Idris Alba. Man that guy must be raking it in this year!
NUMBER 3: Rogue One
On that note…
If you ever wondered how the Rebels managed to get the plans of the Death Star in the first place, this film explains all. It introduces a number of new characters (the Rogue One team) and also introduces a couple from the Clone Wars series. The characters introduced are an interesting bunch, including the daughter of the Imperial engineer that built the Death Star (and also put in a fatal weakness), a blind warrior and a rogue Imperial Droid with the driest sardonic attitude ever (my new favourite character!). Whilst some are better than others, the final harrowing moments where each of them fight to get the plans to the Rebel force make their sacrifice all the more poignant.
I also have to give credit to the CGI on the faces of Grand Moff Tarkin and Princess Leia (to make her look younger) – they were so good that I almost believed that Peter Cushing was back from the grave. Whilst this attracted some criticism from fans, I think this was a logical thing to do, given the time period this film is set in. The effects should be praised for being so life-like. It’s incredible what you can do with technology these days.
This is one of the darker Star Wars films, with a somewhat bleak ending to a point. When you see the Death Star blowing things up, it adds to the full horror of the story – and brings into account how powerful this weapon actually was. Watching the film when the Death Star attacks, you can almost hear the millions of voices suddenly cry out in terror, and then are suddenly silenced.
Like The Force Awakens, this was everything I wanted from Star Wars and more. Whilst it would easily stand out on it’s own feet, Rogue One is a compelling addition to the saga and one that is sure to satisfy even the most demanding of Star Wars fans.
NUMBER 2: Captain America: Civil War
Civil War was another movie that I had a lot of expectations from – considering I knew the source material it was based on. It not only met my expectations – it excelled them! Not only was it a great culmination of plots points previously set up (chief of which was Tony Stark’s increasing depression and horror of all that has happened because of him and Steve Roger’s desire to save his friend Bucky; the Winter Soldier) but it has also put the MCU in a much darker light now. And so soon after the Avengers were assembled as well!
After the “Accords” try to pass a bill that would limit the Avengers movements, Steve Rogers and Tony Stark quickly come to blows. Stark agrees with the bill as he’s seen the damage that superhumans can do – and the lives that have been lost as a result of it – and agrees they need to be monitored. However, Rogers’s disagrees with it, seeing it as an infringement of their civil liberties and arguing that the world would be worst off without them. Adding into the fray the return of the Winter Soldier, the arrival of the Black Panther and Spider-Man – and a villain working to destroy the Avengers from the inside, we have a powder keg that’s ready to explode.
For a superhero movie there was a ton of depth within it. Rather than having hero versus villain, this was about hero versus hero! Or rather heroes versus heroes! Captain America and Iron Man’s conflicting opinions tear the Avengers apart and it’s only a matter of time before they come to fight. The scene where all the heroes fight in the airport is quite possible one of the most epic – and yet utterly heartbreaking – fight scenes in the MCU. It’s a battle that, ultimately, no one can win. Thankfully, we have the comic speeches of Ant-Man and Spider-Man to relieve the tension a little, meaning that when the fight reaches it’s dark conclusion, it’s all the more tragic.
With so much happening in this movie, you’d be forgiven for thinking Marvel couldn’t put all this in and still make it a coherent movie. You’d be wrong! Whilst there are a lot of characters to get through, Civil War gives them just enough screen time for you to get a hold of their reasons for fighting and you can draw your own conclusions. The inclusions of Black Panther and Spider-Man are just wicked to behold, both Chadwick Boswell and Tom Holland brought them to life in a way that has never been done on the screen before. Dare I say it, Tom Holland might actually eclipse Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield as the best Spider-Man so far!
Not only that, but you know how most superheroes end with the heroes saving the day? Well, that doesn’t happen here. At the end, Zemo – the villain – does exactly what he sets out to do! Although, his motivations for doing so make him a much more relatable character – and dare I say it a tragic hero in his own way.
Civil War sets a much darker precedent for the MCU, and ultimately it will have very real repercussions in later films. But unlike Dawn of Justice, Civil War balances it’s drama with humour where needed, so that the audience don’t feel overwhelmed. Just like I thought The Avengers was a perfect superhero movie in every way, Civil War is perfect continuation of the Captain America storyline – and the MCU storyline full stop. And with the threat of the Infinity Wars looming ever closer, one has to question whether the Avengers can reunite again for a greater good.
AND NUMBER 1…
Kimi no Na wa: Your Name
I do not want to say much about this film, because whilst I have mentioned spoilers a lot in this review, I don’t want to say too much about Kimi no Na wa as it is such a beautiful film. All I will say is this – it is at heart a love story, set between two characters that may or may not have met in the past.
Just thinking about this film gives me goosebumps. It is a story that has an intricate plot that keeps you hooked from the very beginning. The animation is some of the best I’ve ever seen from an anime – it’s actually really life like in places. I haven’t seen animation this good since Akira if I’m being honest. The characters of Mitsuha and Taki are both incredibly wonderful protagonists. They aren’t your typical superheroes or ultra powerful warriors that have appeared in some of this list – they are regular people with lives like you or mine, both looking for something better in life.
The story has a nice mix of humour and drama as you would expect from an anime – but the REAL pull is the emotion that the story has. From the incredible music to amazing voice performers, it takes you on a rollercoaster of a ride – until by the end you feel so emotionally drained you have no choice but to let the tears fall. I swear that me and my girlfriend must have cried for a good 20 minutes to half an hour after this film was done.
Put simply, Kimi no Na wa is one of the most beautiful animated film I’ve seen since Spirited Away and Up. Whilst I do enjoy a good action movie, at heart, I am a sucker for a romantic story. And this one most certainly punched me in the feels that few other films could.
Considering that I’m placing this film above films like Civil War, Finding Dory and Zootopia, that should tell you how amazing this film is. On a side note, this is also the second highest grossing anime film of all time behind Spirited Away, proving that it’s not just Studio Ghibli that can do amazing films.
2016 may have been a bad year for some, but with films like Kimi no Na wa, it’s all be worth it. Quite honestly, I cannot think of a better film to name for my film of the year.
What was your favourite film of the year? Let me know below!
Here’s hoping 2017 also brings us a great year for film!
Thanks for reading guys. Take care!