Z’s Favorite Films of 2016

It’s always hard to choose a top 10 list at the end of a year. There are so many factors that go into picking a list that at some points it would just be easier to throw darts. 2016 had so many great movies, and not all of them may have been on people’s radar. Do you pick your list based on technical achievement? Likability? Or just what makes you happy? At the end of the day I present you with my top 10 favorite movies of 2016, and some honorable mentions that made an impact on me in some way but were just a smidge overshadowed in the end (and probably not on anyone else’s top 10).

If you haven’t, check it out and listen to Episode 7 of the ReelFriction Podcast to hear all of our Top 5’s.


10) Zootopia

Byron Howard/Rich Moore/Jared Bush, USA, 108 min

This movie is a a great film that will stand the test of time. The movie deals with prejudice, social issues and acceptance in a way that few kids movies do. I hope that it opened up a lot of discussion between parents and kids and will continue to do so for many years to come.


9) Swiss Army Man

Daniel Scheinert/Daniel Kwan, USA, 97 min

I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall for this movie pitch. How do you extend a fart joke into one of the most beautifully shot, well acted, funny movie that’s also gut-wrenching and a little uncomfortable? This movie was by no means perfect, and it won’t be for everyone, but it’s uplifting to see that off-kilter scripts can still get made.


8) Green Room

Jeremy Saulnier, USA, 95 min

After I saw Blue Ruin, a small but good movie, I couldn’t wait to see what Jeremy Saulnier would do next. What he did was a movie about punk kids witnessing a murder and then being tormented by white supremacists led by none other than Patrick Stewart. This movie is brutal, more than you will expect, and it tells a clean, tight, story in the time that it has.


7) La La Land

Damien Chazelle, USA, 128 min

When I was a kid, I wanted to tap but we couldn’t afford it, so everyday I would watch Singing in the Rain and try to learn by watching Gene Kelly. It didn’t really pan out, but it did leave me with a love of musicals. This movie looks beautiful, almost surreal, while keeping itself grounded in reality. It never forgets what real life is like and while I will say that the ending of this movie broke me a little inside, I wouldn’t have wanted anything different.


6) Nice Guys

Shane Black, USA, 116 min

I know. Two Ryan Gosling movies in one list. Hey girl, the man is just having a great year. I think he’s such a great actor and incredibly versatile, as seen in the fact that he did both a musical and a 70’s crime comedy/action/drama/OhIDontKnowYouFigureItOut in the same year. Nice Guys got lost in the shuffle but I think it’s so much fun. It feels like the 70’s, sounds like the 70’s and has a plot right out of a B-Movie. And B-Movies need love too.


5) Midnight Special

Jeff Nichols, USA, 112 min

One of my biggest movie regrets is that I didn’t know who Jeff Nichols was earlier. What a great filmmaker. Not only can he make a solid sci-fi movie that feels nostalgic and new at the same time, but he also creates characters that feel so real and relatable, which is so hard to do in a fantasy movie. Nichols has a keen eye and this movie showcases it.


4) Train to Buson

Sang-ho Yeon, South Korea, 118 min

Horror filmmakers, take a cue from Yeon. This is how you make a zombie movie. This movie is horrifying, suspenseful and heartwarming at the same time. South Korea makes some of the best movies I’ve seen the past few years and I hope they continue down this path. Best zombie since Shaun of the Dead.


3) Hail, Caesar!

Coen Brothers, USA, 106 min.

I love this Coen brothers love letter to old Hollywood. The dichotomy of the super, happy, sunny, front versus the seedy, messed up, weird, underbelly of Hollywood with James Brolin trying to keep them that way was a joy. The ending does get a little messy but the world that the Coen brothers created is so fun that it’s easy to forgive.


2) Sing Street

John Carney, Ireland, 105 min

Music is SO important to me. I saved up and bought my first record player while I was in middle school. My brother gave me a love of punk and 80’s hair metal. My parents, 50’s do-wop and Simon and Garfunkel. When I say this movie is super personal to me, I’m not kidding. The way John Carney shows this rag tag band of underdogs finding themselves through their love of music is a theme I think most people can relate to. Part music video, part drama, all flash and glitz.


1) Hell or High Water

David Mackenzie, USA, 102 min.

What don’tcha want? If you had told me at the beginning of the year that my favorite movie would be about bank robbers in Texas, I would have laughed at you. In your face. Loudly. I tell everyone I meet to see this movie. A modern day western, there is not a single bad moment in this movie. The acting, cinematography and script are all perfect. They depict the real struggles of real people in real places. Serious, but also incredibly funny, this movie is a gem.

Honorable Mentions

High Rise – Based on the book by J.G Ballard. Not a spectacular movie but super stylish and a good visualization for a great book.

Nerve – I can’t believe this is making an honorable mention. I think this movie may have been dismissed and I went into it expecting to spend most of it rolling my eyes, but I was presently surprised. I’m not saying it’s phenomenal, but it was more entertaining than people may give it credit for.

Eyes of my Mother – I am always impressed by people who film in black and white. It can be super gutsy but when it works, it creates an atmosphere that films in color can’t compare to. This just barely missed my top 10 and I spent much of the movie with my hand over my gaping mouth.

Purge – Election Year – I’m going to defend the purge movies. A single-vision series of films that don’t stray from the path and tell a story that gets bigger with each film. I’m not usually a fan of gory horror but these films are shot so grandiose, it’s hard not to get swept up in the spectacle. This movie continues that tradition and for such a throwaway horror movie it has a lot of good acting in it.

MoonlightMoonlight was my number 11 movie. I think it’s an incredibly important film, although as a whole, it wasn’t as successful for me as it was for the critics. I think Barry Jenkins should get so much credit for creating this amazing story and for mixing experimental shots within this movie. I thought it had some pacing issues but overall I hope to see more feature length films from him because I think he’s going to become a powerhouse in the industry.

Don’t Breathe – I don’t say this often but Don’t Breathe made my skin crawl. It made me jump out of seat a few times and it definitely made me sit on the edge of my seat in horror. For me, horror movies are always more frightening when they allude to something, as opposed to just showing you everything. Your brain will always make it far scarier than the filmmakers ever can. That’s where I think this movie is super successful, it doesn’t give everything away, allowing your brain to fill in the grizzly pieces.

Hardcore Henry – This movie is short, fast, and fun. It’s crazy and I don’t recommend it if you have vertigo issues or get seasick easily. It wasn’t a strong plot, or a great cast, but everyone put everything into this movie and I can honestly say it I have rarely had that much fun watching a movie. Just watch this movie, and bask it it’s camp.


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