EDIT: Thank you!
2016 was an awful year in many respects, but for cinema it was without a doubt an amazing one. Few years have offered as many choices for everyone as this one. Not that there weren't good films in the previous years, but the quality-quantity-diversity rapport was incredible and it actually shows in NeoGaf's Best Movies of 2016 results. While we didn't manage to reach the same number of lists as last year (257), we weren't much behind having this year as the second most popular with 236 lists. We did manage to reach the same amount of individual films however (187), another testimony to this year's many choices.
First I want to thank everyone for voting and sharing their opinion. I took the liberty of choosing a few quotes for each movie in the top 10 from the voting thread, but if you prefer not to be quoted let me know with a PM and I'll remove your quote. I tried to use opinions from as many people and I tried to get unique quotes... Keep in mind I chose what I considered to be exciting and simple recommendations that don't go (too much) into spoiler territory or over-analysis.
If you don't wanna read these long top 10 opinions, the simple complete list will be in the next post. Also links to the voting thread and to previous years will be at the bottom. So here we go...
01. Arrival | 1038 Points | 141 Votes | 30 No. 1 Votes
While it pales in comparison to last year's Mad Max (and I'm pretty sure quite some time will pass before another film is received with the same level of excitement and popularity) Arrival was definitely the most popular of all films this year. It won not only NeoGaf's Best 2016 Movie, but also 2016's Most Voted Movie and 2016's Most Voted Movie at No. 1. With 141 individual votes, the film made it's way on almost 60% of all lists. That's quite impressive.
Here are some thoughts on this year's big winner:
Of all the movies I saw this year, it left the biggest impact. For me it succeeded where Interstellar failed, namely in marrying (pseudo-)science, philosophical aspects and emotional weight in a full package.
It's smart science fiction with very human issues and themes at its center. The film really takes its time, and knows exactly how to use the alien creatures. Amy Adams quite possibly gives the performance of her career.
Arrival proves that smart science fiction can be incredibly effective when done right. A topical and relevant film, especially in 2016. The atmosphere and tension generated through the cinematography and sound design is a feast for the senses.
02. La La Land | 787 Points | 107 Votes | 24 No. 1 Votes
After following in the past months or so some threads in NeoGaf there' has been a sense that people really disliked this film... I don't know if it's really because many people complained about it, or many other people complained about people complaining about it (it's truly a proper NeoGaf dilemma). Well, hopefully this will put the controversies to rest.. La La Land scored the second highest number of points and was the second most voted film on NeoGaf. While admitting the film has its flaws, people also pointed out that some of the harsher critics might have missed the point.
i enjoyed every single minute of this film and left the screen with a big stupid grin plastered on my face. if whiplash's coldness reflects the hardships and tumultuous aspect of music, la la land's smoothness and bombastic nature reflects a celebration. whereas whiplash felt more realist, la la land feels more expressionistic and artistic, not afraid to take it's character's into more surreal and imagined spaces. it may have a slightly problematic reverence for nostalgia but there's absolutely no denying the artistry behind this film and the joy that emanates from it.
Yeah, this movie is partly a fluffy Hollywood rom-com between two ungodly attractive and talented characters that expects us to both be charmed and feel sorry for them at the same time. But you know what? It totally worked. I was charmed, I was heartbroken, and I was tapping my feet along to every song in the soundtrack that I'm still listening to weeks later. It's a wonderful confluence of Hollywood yearning that's tempered by the cold waters of compromise and real life.
03. Moonlight | 603 Points | 80 Votes | 19 No. 1 Votes
What a film! And what a time for cinema. We now live in a world where Moonlight... basically an art-house film with no white actors whatsover (outside some extras).. has won the Best Picture award at the Oscars breaking (at least) 2 records: lowest budget film to win a Best Picture award and first Muslim actor to win an Oscar. Now sure, it wasn't that easy to win that Best Picture award, some shit had to happen, but let's try to avoid the whole announcement fiasco and not get stuck in any silly and childish comparison with La La Land (Moonlight is better )). Personally I'm very happy with this film's success outside and inside Neogaf and it was quite heartening to see in the last pages of the voting thread how a strong wave of No. 1's for Moonlight started showing up... who knows, given the late release date in most places, maybe Moonlight would've scored even higher if the voting would've lasted longer.
In any case, these are some of the voters' opinions:
By far, the best coming-of-age film in years and there have been some great ones. What is most refreshing for an already critically acclaimed film is how intimate and silent it is. Despite the various characters, it's ultimately about an evolving friendship/first love over decades. Not all of the threads or characters get resolved at the end, but that's life sometimes and the relationship between Chiron and Kevin is fully enthralling.
intoxicatingly atmospheric film despite sadness of characters, the intensity of the last act where a character simply scattering coriander feels as emotionally charged as any monologue will stick with me for a long time.
04. Zootopia | 525 Points | 89 Votes | 10 No. 1 Votes
It's interesting to note that the film gained more points from a popularity point of view than a top one, having more general votes but less No. 1 votes than the previous film and the next two.
A very strong year for animation and Zootopia came on top. It can be easily understood why. While having an already universally strong theme, Disney's film became an even more powerful and important messenger in the time and environment it came out. It is a film that it's as educational as it is enjoyable. And in my opinion is a definite watch for (my) kids.
I'll let some other users explain it better:
A kid's movie about racism. Just leave it to Disney to make that work. Top notch animation, great voice-work, solid storyline that's easy enough for children to understand, but with a moral message without jamming it down your throat.
Zootopia won out in part for being so tragically on point with its themes. Without meaning to be, it's very much about how Trump is now President.
But it's also about how bias can be passed down by well meaning but ignorant parents. How a lack of diversity in rural areas leads to fear of outsiders. How we can be utterly unaware of our own prejudices, and casually justify them, even as we call out others who show bias against us. How we can hurt people we care about, as a result. It's about how younger generations can help their parents grow, and about how important it is for us to each to try and do a little better.
It's also a great comedy, buddy cop flick and noir-tinted mystery. That it's about talking animals makes it that much more remarkable how much it tackles, how well it pulls off it's ambitions, and how much fun the whole thing is despite the often heavy themes. The film was a potential minefield and Disney walked it beautifully.
05. The Witch | 518 Points | 77 Votes | 13 No. 1 Votes
People loooved this movie. Writing down the lists in the excel document, I thought to myself the film would find itself even higher in the top. This is also a film that verges towards art-house cinema, with Eggers uncompromised direction pulling all the strings towards creating a ghastly mood that creeps under your skin, paying great tribute to films like Benjamin Christensen's Haxan or the films of Carl Theodor Dreyer.
The Witch is absolutely drenched in atmosphere. One of those movies that feels like it fell through a crack in time from the 60s or 70s, reminding us that slow, creeping, omnipresent dread is still effective. Fantastic performances up and down this one, from the kids to the adults, lend the movie a legitimacy usually reserved for the stuffiest of period dramas, used here to give texture to the unraveling of this 17th Century Puritan family, put out of their village, trying to make do on the outskirts. The 3rd act of this movie has stuck with me for months.
The Witch. An excellent, unconventional horror. It's a very particular type of movie that might not appeal to everyone (because it's a slow burn with lots of mystery), but it's most definitely worth it. It has such an incredibly spooky atmosphere that's so unnerving.
06. Manchester by the Sea | 482 Points | 74 Votes | 15 No. 1 Votes
Another big player in the awards season, Manchester by the Sea is a film that in my opinion suffered a bit from marketing. It was always sold (at least to me before seeing it) as this extremely sad film. I was suprised to see how humorous and simple it actually is. It's also a film that shows even more than before how serious companies like Amazon, Netflix, etc. are on betting on filmmaking and I don't know if it's because it's still in an incipient stage but they are becoming serious competition in terms of quality to the big studios.
incredible lead performance from casey affleck, the way he can internalize these emotions and say so much with no words. the supporting cast all puts in work too, and bless up to kenneth lonergan for writing such a realistic script. making all these interactions as awkward and humorous as they would be despite the sad circumstances.
My favourite film among this year's Best Picture nominees, though probably not the film I'm most eager to rewatch amongst them, since it's a pretty big downer (even if, toward the end, there are some signs of progress, even if the movie's perceptive central thesis is a man not quite being able to heal at the rate he needs to to fulfill obligations he's asked to shoulder). Great writing, great cast, and it manages a balance of tragedy and black comedy that takes great skill to pull off. It's a shame that Casey Affleck is an asshole in real life, otherwise I'd be really rooting for him to win Best Actor.
07. The Nice Guys | 468 Points | 78 Votes | 5 No. 1 Votes
This was also a great year for comedy, but few scratched the same itch The Nice Guys did. From Shane Black, the mind behind films like the Lethal Weapon series, The Last Boy Scout, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and the amazing Iron Man 3 (I kid I kid) comes a greatly enjoyable 70s action comedy that confirmed Ryan Gosling as an amazing comedy actor. It's weird how watching La La Land all I could think of was... ”is this supposed to be a weird spiritual prequel to The Nice Guys?!"
Here are a few more thoughts on the film:
There likely isn't anyone else on Earth as good at writing buddy comedies as Shane Black. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang was delightful and I was excited for his next go at the genre. The Nice Guys did not disappoint. Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe bounce off each other excellently and Shane imbues both their characters with enough heart to make up for their obvious foibles. And of course, it's damn funny.
Funniest movie I saw all year. Might well be one of Shane Black's best films yet. The dynamic between the leads were great, the girl is a really good child actor, and the script is to die for. Snappy, hilarious, packed with dark humor, and Russel Crowe punching people on screen (and not in real life) is always so fun to watch.
08. The Handmaiden | 402 Points | 57 Votes | 8 No. 1 Votes
First and only foreign language film to make it in the top, The Handmaiden is a beautifully and teasingly complex and expressionistic film from master Park Chan-wook who brought us The Vengeance Trilogy. Critically acclaimed and with a strong presence in many of the greatest festivals (and an interesting omission as South Korea's official selection for the Academy Awards) the film is based on Sarah Waters' Fingersmith, transposing Dickensian English for Korean gothic.
This is what voters had to say about their choice:
An erotic thriller than manages to actually be both erotic and thrilling, rather than just flashing some coochie getting on with a by the numbers revenge tale or some such nonsense. The Handmaiden is not content with being pinned down with any one label though, as it's also a lush period piece, tender romance, and the most damn fun movie you could see in theaters this year.
Park Chan-wook pulls out all the thematic, seductive, and twisting stops in his best film since Sympathy For Mr Vengeance. Much like Nolan's The Prestige, it keeps the audience on its toes in this Rashomon-ish story of greed, betrayal, and love. Top-to-bottom, as a film it's just stunning from production design, sets, iconography, cinematography, editing, music, and directing. The Handmaiden and Neon Demon just have the most dazzling visuals in a film from last year, and would make stylish conniving bedfellows. The relationships between the characters is more complex and goes further than just an erotic lesbian affair as those intimate moments have more dialogue and character-building than just titillation to lean more towards female empowerment (probably thanks to the help of a female writer and seeking advice from a queer woman at every stage). Highly recommended especially if you've been waiting ages for a lesbian caper since Wachowski's Bound
09. Captain America: Civil War / Rogue One: A Star Wars Story | 399 Points | 66 Votes | 7 No. 1 Votes
This caused a really funny situation when doing the top from the lists. At first I got to the same score with the points and I said fine, I'll put first the film that got most votes.. only to discover that it had the exact same number of votes. Once again I said fine, I'll choose as the first one the film that had the most number of No. 1 votes... surprise surprise, they were identical. I guess it only makes sense for these 2 films to sit together on a spot in the top as they both fulfill pretty much the same function.
This may not be saying much, but I think this is the best Star Wars film since The Empire Strikes Back. I liked Force Awakens too, but this was the Star Wars film I had always wanted, putting the "War" in Star Wars front and center.
Finally a Star Wars movie with some real moral grayness. The characters could have been more fleshed out, but the plot grabbed me.
In a year that saw perhaps a record number of bad superhero films, Civil War stood out more easily than it might have. A flawed but well executed action thriller with perhaps the most broadly pleasing fanservice from Marvel thus far.
With its exciting new heroes and impressive superhero action, Civil War feels like an epic splash page come to life
Hits every one of my nerd bones in the right spot.
10. Deadpool | 379 Points | 72 Votes | 6 No. 1 Votes
Another superhero film from the Marvel universe, Deadpool was a risky proposal that paid off. I'm not the best person to talk about it, so let me just say first that I'm sorry for the poorly photoshoped photo I did (I tried to do and use very minimal but fitting title images for all the films in the top).
For proper opinions on the film, here are some of the ones that brought it to this place:
Deadpool was better than it had any right to be, Ryan Reynolds shines, but gets help by an amazing supporting cast. Story is as straightforward and cliché as you can get them, but that gives room for some really solid jokes.
I can't remember a time where I had more fun at the movies than when my friends and I saw Deadpool. Within the first 2 minutes of the movie starting, I already knew it was going to be amazing. Ryan Reynolds was great in the role, the action was fantastic, and I loved the constantly changing tone (such as the torture scenes being mixed in with comedy). It's a relentlessly entertaining movie, and one that I'll revisit constantly. I can't wait for part 2.
Previous results threads: 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
Just a few final words... I want to thank again everyone for participating with their lists and sorry for the delay. I also want to wish happy viewing to those who haven't seen the films.