Best of 2016 (Poll Results + Guest Contributors)

Though we have officially crossed into the new year, for movie fans we still live in the year that was from now until Oscar time. I wrote about how the internet is flooded with End-Of-Year lists (and how that’s a good thing) last week, and now its time for some lists of of our own here. I plan on writing my own Top 10 next week (just have a couple more 2016 films to catch up first), but fist we need to check out what YOU think are the best films of the year.

Last week, I asked everybody to participate in a reader’s poll and the results were fantastic. Thank you to everyone who voted and shared the poll with your friends. As expected, the more people who voted the more this list reflected the readership here. Since the whole theme of this particular list is “community,” I thought is would be fun to reach out to friends and colleagues to help put this article together. Below we not only have the ten best films of the year (as voted on by you), but we also have each film written about by various writers from around the film blogosphere.

Be sure to check out the various links attached to each contributor’s name (its all good stuff, I promise). With out further adieu, let’s check out the list:

#10. Zootopia

Directors: Rich Moore, Byron Howard | Screenplay: Jared Bush, Phil Johnston
Directors: Rich Moore, Byron Howard | Screenplay: Jared Bush, Phil Johnston

No other film in 2016 was as social and politically relevant as Zootopia. The film from Disney brings to us very familiar tropes such as talking animals and a message about pursuing your dreams in the face of adversity but upon reflection, the film is so much more. A comment on us as a people today and our feelings towards racism, xenophobia and sexism, Zootopia might just be Disney’s most daring film. The fact that children can take away the themes on the outside and adults can take away the themes on the inside make for what is the ideal children’s film much like other recent classics such as Inside Out and How To Train Your Dragon. Backed by pitch perfect voice casting from Ginnifer Goodwin and Jason Bateman as the odd-ball pairing of a police officer rabbit and a con artist fox, Zootopia hits all of the right notes in being funny, entertaining, but most of all culturally important. It’s not only the best animated film of 2016, or one of the best films of the year, but it stands as one of the best films that Disney has ever produced.

-Matt Neglia | Twitter | See more of Matt’s writing on Zootopia here.

#9. The Handmaiden

Director: Park Chan-wook | Screenplay: Park Chan-wook, Syd Lim
Director: Park Chan-Wook | Screenplay: Park Chan-wook, Syd Lim

Within the first few minutes, I was already hooked by The Handmaiden. In the opening scene, I was hooked by its precise editing, its darkly funny narration by lead actress Kim Tae-Ri, and the lingering cinematography. But that opening scene demonstrates how The Handmaiden will continuously toy with your viewing experience, revealing twists and turns around almost each corner.

Director Park Chan-Wook handles the picture with such pulsating energy. He always lets the camera linger on everything that takes place whether it’s through a long tracking shot or whether it always zooms in and out. The editing may be choppy but it is to be in sync with the film’s neverending energy. Of course, credit should go to the two lead performances by both Kim Tae-Ri and Kim Min-Hee. As the youthful and titular handmaiden Lady Hideko, Tae-Ri is fiery and uses her childlike naivete as a tool for deception while Min-Hee impresses as the more chilly object of her affection.

In general, The Handmaiden is one of the best film watching experiences I’ve seen all year. It is sexy, darkly funny, romantic, intriguing, and a feast for the cinematic eye.

-Matt St. Clair | Twitter | See more of Matt’s writing here.

#8. Hell or High Water

Director: David Mackenzie | Screenplay: Taylor Sheridan
Director: David Mackenzie | Screenplay: Taylor Sheridan

Hell or High Water completely blindsided me. I don’t mean that I was floored by the twists and turns of the plot (though I was). I mean that I had no idea the movie existed, heard it was great, and then experienced it for myself in about a week’s time. And what an experience it was. The film is a simple and wonderfully made pressure cooker set on the sun baked plains of Texas. It’s the kind of thing that would have swept all of the awards in 2007. In addition to its simmering intensity, the film is bolstered by incredible performances across the board. Chris Pine has never been better, and Ben Foster continues to be the most underrated and under-utilized actor of his generation. Hell or High Water stuck with me weeks after I had seen it and little nuances continue to impress me with subsequent viewings. For extra credit, pair this film with the criminally overlooked Killing Them Softly.

-MJ Smith | Twitter | See more of MJ’s work here.

#7. Manchester By The Sea

Director: Kenneth Lonergan | Screenplay: Kenneth Lonergan
Director: Kenneth Lonergan | Screenplay: Kenneth Lonergan

Kenneth Lonergan’s melancholy masterpiece may have looks like a reversed-engineered Oscar bait film from the trailer, but as soon as picture rolled I knew that it wasn’t. Inside the tragedy is a deep humanity that is, well, funny! Lonergan’s script is so genuinely him and casting Casey Affleck was a genius move. Affleck’s performance is quiet—he tends to convey more with his eyes than what’s given on the page. And the fact that Michelle Williams only clocked in seven minutes of screen time, but we’re all still talking about her shows what a powerhouse she is.  And what a coming out party for Lucas Hedges! The film is a meditation on tragedy, grief, responsibility, and family—and it will take you to a few unexpected places. It’s hard to say how we speak of this film in the future, but in 2016 when we seem to be mourning so much, the film helps us reach some catharsis.

-Collin Llewellyn | Twitter | Podcast | See more of Collin’s writing here.

#6. Captain America: Civil War

Directors: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo | Screenplay: Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely
Directors: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo | Screenplay: Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely

Marvel Studios has proven that the superhero genre can be anything you really want it to be, and nothing says that more than the Captain America franchise. With an origin story that feels more like a period war piece to a sequel that harkens back to 1970s spy thrillers, the Star-Spangled Avenger’s exploits just keep getting better with each subsequent installment – and the same holds true for the tertiary act, 2016’s Captain America: Civil War.

Directors Joe and Anthony Russo along with screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely (the team behind the popular and successful Captain America: Winter Soldier) bring a cinematic experience that not only furthers along the Captain’s story from the last film, but also serves as a de facto Avengers sequel with almost every heavy hitter from the MCU taking sides in the Registration battle while also introducing a couple of new players on the board (Spider-Man and Black Panther) whose films are becoming some of the most highly anticipated celluloid adventures in recent years.

With sharp dialogue and action scenes that look like they were aped directly from the four-color source material, Civil War is everything that’s right about comic book movies. It’s a well-crafted story that also serves as a great popcorn action flick to just kick back and enjoy.

-Scott Stanikmas | Twitter | See more of Scott’s writing at Indie Revolver.

#5. Swiss Army Man

Directors: Daniel Scheinert, Daniel Kwan | Screenplay: Daniel Scheinert, Daniel Kwan
Directors: Daniel Scheinert, Daniel Kwan | Screenplay: Daniel Scheinert, Daniel Kwan

Swiss Army Man is a surreal and serene tale of humanity and friendship. Relying solely on the characters of the film and their interactions, Swiss Army Man finds grace in simplicity. Following the story of a man named Hank (Paul Dano) trying to get back home after the supernatural assistance of a corpse named Manny (Daniel Radcliffe), the goofy set up makes for quite a few laughs, but also several heartbreaks.

The film overall takes a rather silly approach. Falling under the magical realism genre, the project does not necessarily take itself too seriously. The situation is ridiculous, and it makes us laugh. But as the film progresses, the film becomes masterfully serious and we as an audience realize that we connect with these characters. Both characters represent us, and we genuinely care about them and their actions. So by the time the final act rolls around, we are a sobbing mess in the theater.

Swiss Army Man is a brilliant piece of cinema that deserves more attention. And it definitely holds a few life lessons that we can all learn ourselves.

-Josh Williams | Follow Josh on Twitter here.

#4. Arrival

Director: Denis Villeneuve | Screenplay: Eric Heisserer
Director: Denis Villeneuve | Screenplay: Eric Heisserer

Arrival is a special movie. Right from the start you knew that it was not your standard alien invasion blockbuster. Instead of focusing on the action and spectacle of aliens destroying the world, like Independence Day, the movie focuses on communication and how it is important to understand each other regardless of the barriers. Director Denis Villeneuve succeeds in doing this by giving the audience relatable characters that are portrayed fantastically by Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner. The score by Jóhann Jóhannsson felt like it’s own character and did a great job of building up the tension. Arrival was the only movie of 2016 that I was dying to see over and over again. I wanted to read and learn as much about it as I could. I wanted it to consume my life and it was on my mind weeks after seeing it.

-Steven Keller | Twitter | See more of Steven’s writing here.

#3. Moonlight

Director: Barry Jenkins | Screenplay: Barry Jenkins
Director: Barry Jenkins | Screenplay: Barry Jenkins

Finding words for Moonlight is a struggle. It’s such a vital and alive piece of work, one that is about the smallest gestures and the accidents of being human. It’s an experience that reminds me how much film exists in the smallest motions, in the juxtapositions of images and sounds. Understandable through all lenses, but refracted through a single one. This is a film about the black experience, about the queer experience. It’s specific about that, about the cultures those create and what it’s like to grow up as both. Again, it all comes back to Moonlight’s intimacy, that it makes you so much feel your connection with it, that it pulls you in and has you live beside it. It’s incredible, a once-in-a-lifetime work.

-Brandon Wagner | Twitter | See more of Brandon’s writing here.

#2. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Director: Gareth Edwards | Screenplay: Chris Weitz, Tony Gilroy
Director: Gareth Edwards | Screenplay: Chris Weitz, Tony Gilroy

Rogue One sure as hell puts the war in “Star Wars” and is simply amazing, and not just for fans of the franchise as a whole. This story contains some breathtakingly brilliant visuals with some of the best visual effects we have seen implemented in any film to date. In addition to its stunning look, the movie takes audiences on a roller coaster of emotions from sorrow, to laughter, to pure elation, and even a little hope thrown in for good measure. This is the prequel we have always wanted and have been waiting for. It really serves to show what potential was wasted in episodes I, II, and III. Though some scenes are elongated for dramatic emphasis and there could have been a teensy bit more character development here and there, Rogue One is damn incredible.

-Lolo Loves Films | Twitter | See more reviews at their blog here.

#1. La La Land

Director: Damien Chazelle | Screenplay: Damien Chazelle
Director: Damien Chazelle | Screenplay: Damien Chazelle

This great film is a musical but should not be overlooked based on that fact alone as it was much more. From its classic style and musical numbers, it was a movie was more of a blast from the past that fans of old Hollywood should enjoy. The score, the set design, and even the costumes were very reminiscent of the great musicals of the past. It also was a feast for the eyes, featuring a kaleidoscope of different colors and the musical numbers were both well shot and exciting to watch. The best part had to be the chemistry between Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. As much as it was a musical, it was about their relationship as two ambitious artists trying to make it big in Hollywood. The film would not have worked as well if it were any other two here. This was just a cinematic experience like no other and you can’t help but to feel happy afterwards.

-Keith Noakes | Twitter | Read Keith’s full review of La La Land here.

There you have it folks! Again, thank you to everyone who voted, this article would not be possible without your participation. Special thanks to all the writers who contributed. I always enjoy reading your work and interacting online (let’s keep it up). Again, I’d like to encourage everybody reading this to click the various links about and get plugged in with the various blogs and social media accounts present. I have found that my enjoyment for film has only increased as I have participated in online discussion.

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Header photo designed by Bethanne Tarpley, for contact please email