For a little while, 2016 was a paltry ration compared to the veritable feast of 2015. We went into 2016 with incredibly high expectations as 2015 went down as one of the best years for movies in over a decade. Despite a summer to forget, the fall and early winter were incredibly strong and 2016 ended up being a fine year in movies. An especially promising aspect of movies in 2016 was the high number of smaller, independent films making significant gains at the box office and during awards season. Those are well represented on my list and I’m excited to share my favorite movies of 2016.
Jenkins’ film deeply connects with how isolating the world can be to people of color, different sexual orientation, and even those involved with or selling drugs. We may never fully understand the black experience in American nor morally condone a person’s sexuality or drug use, but Moonlight strikingly and vividly paints a gentle mosaic of the complex nature of these matters and allows us to respond in a more gracious, understanding, and grace-filled manner.
You can find my full review of Jenkins’ movie here at Reel World Theology.
9) Certain Women
While we are not always the best at giving love, sometimes, we are also not so good at receiving it and we miss out on connections formed by people reaching out to us. Certain Women dramatizes this very poignantly, patiently, and cinematically.
You can find my full review of Reichardt’s film here at Reel World Theology.
8) Everybody Wants Some!!
Often called a “spiritual sequel” to director Richard Linklater’s breakout Dazed and Confused, the movie is signature Linklater with a modern flair. He has always had a keen, special eye for capturing the human experience on an empathetic and lived-in level. More than anything, he knows how to capture people having a good time and rather casually sliding in philosophical meanderings amidst sophomoric antics. Like his previous films, this one will grow on people as time goes on.
7) Kubo And The Two Strings
Often a movie’s themes are a bit overstated, hyperactive, and melodramatic—Finding Dory being the most recent culprit. Like a breath of fresh wind, Kubo embodies the more ancient Japanese cultural value of a contemplative approach to deeper emotion. Through strong visuals and a simple story, Kubo and the Two Strings was the cream of the crop in animated movies in 2016.
You can find my full review here at Reel World Theology.
6) The Lobster
While The Lobster doesn’t hold to a biblical ethic on marriage, it’s a telling story of how our culture has strayed far from companionship and marriage rooted in God. It’s a narrative about relationships post-Fall, challenging Western practices and values for a romantic partner. It is also incredibly funny, especially if you appreciate the droll, bald-faced humor of director Yorgos Lanthimos.
You can read my full review of The Lobster here at Reel World Theology.
5) Green Room
A more timely and apt narrative for our culture than we might have realized when Saulnier’s third feature film debuted in April 2016, this movie begins thumping from almost the opening moments and never stops resonating. This movie is an experience. It’s intense, bloody, loud, and ominous. When this John Carpenter-esque film finally concludes, I remember letting out a huge breath of air and audibly saying,”whoa!”. Few movies have ever hit me like this and felt so necessary for this year. I think I’m going to go watch this one again.
RIP Anton Yelchin, we’ll miss you.
When you work behind the camera for decades capturing some of the most horrific places and times in our world, they are bound to stick with you. Kristen Johnson’s Cameraperson is a mosaic of images from her career as a documentary cinematographer. On the surface, it sounds difficult to have a cohesive narrative or, at worst, sounds boring. However, Johnson crafts one of the best movie of 2016 in a story of the broken and the beautiful.
3) The Witness
My Letterboxd review of this movie will do just nicely:
“Incredibly profound, fully engaging, and poignantly empathetic. The final sequence destroyed me on the eve of getting up and speaking about losing a loved one too early. I haven’t seen a documentary this powerfully done since Oppenheimer’s Indonesia duology.”
2) Hail, Caesar!
It’s a reverent pastiche of old Hollywood complete with lassoing cowboys, singing, dancing, and even a passion play. It’s a screwball comedy with some incredibly profound, powerful moments of faith and self-discovery. The Coens manage to tell a spiritual story while making us laugh and marvel at the spectacle of the way things were. It’s quick-witted, charming, hilarious, and revelatory. It is a movie that could only be made by Joel and Ethan Coen and is one of their best movies in the last ten years.
The American greats dominate the top of my list this year and Martin Scorsese’s enduring passion project tops the list. The movie adapts Endo’s novel to near perfection and left me utterly speechless. Flawless performances, evocative imagery, and powerfully complex matters of faith make Scorsese’s film one of his greatest films. Often we look on martyrs and missionaries as heroes of the faith. Silence wrestles with apostasy, sin, and the mercy and grace of God in a much more complicated exploration than Fox’s Book of the Martyrs would. This story is immensely human but also inspiringly faithful. I will be thinking about this film for many years to come.