2016 can finally be put to bed for me. I can now focus on the 2017 movies… Which is in January… The literal graveyard of movies where shitty horror movies and poorly conceived Oscar bait dwell… OH GOD HELP ME! But… Before I wade waist deep in the cesspool that is January movies, I do want to have one last fond memory of movies that made me smile in 2016. So this is the annual list of the greats, the Best Movies of 2016!
I do want to reiterate like the broken record that I am that these are ONLY MOVIES I HAVE SEEN AND REVIEWED! It you are wondering why a movie got a snub from me, it is probably because I did not see it. I try to see as many movies as possible. But I am just one man on the internet working on a grad student budget. I’m not exactly swimming in the cash.
I also want to state one more time that this is the BEST movies of 2016, not Tanner’s FAVORITE movies of 2016. That would be an amazingly different list. I am judging movies on the quality of the movie, the ambition of the product, and the staying power of a film in the history of cinema. So even though one movie was my favorite, it might not even be on this list at all. So with those said, let’s get this list kicked off with an honorable mention.
Honorable Mention: Captain America: Civil War
The struggle here came from a fight between Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Deepwater Horizon, and the eventual winner. Ultimately the staying power and the enjoyment of Captain America: Civil War was what edged it above the competition for the honorable mention spot.
While not certainly climbing the charts as last years Star Wars movie, which I will defend to this day, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story has certainly earned a spot on this list at the five-spot. This one was certainly the easiest to place. While the other four competed, four a little less so than the other three, for the top spot on this list Rogue One found a comfy spot all its own. It is certainly better than the Captain America Marvel Universe holding pattern, but doesn’t have enough zest to push it to four.
What does place Rogue One on this list is the new direction that the series took. This was certainly a Star Wars movie, but it was a new kind of Star Wars movie. It was just a little more darker, the material was a little more melancholy, it was able to stray away from the classical romantic subplot that the series had been known for up until this point. It is my hope that Rogue One becomes a benchmark for the franchise, a new series of movies that still in the same universe, but handles a more adult source material.
If this were a list of my personal favorite movies of 2016, then this and the one that would come after it would fight for the one and two spot. But, ultimately, this is a list about film quality and as such The Purge: Election Year falls gracefully to the four spot.
I know there are a painstaking amount of film critics in this world that are turning their nose up to this movie, crying foul that it is nothing but loud bombastic bullshit. To those people, they can sincerely shove their nose up their own ass because this movie was fucking amazing.
The Purge series went from an alright but ultimately disappointing movie to one of the hottest movie franchise out there today. It is easily one of the best action movies I have seen in decades and it also frames the entire movie around a narrative that is dripping with relatable and real subjects such as the stigmatization of poverty by society, race relations, and elitism. Also, the main character, Frank Grillo, is one of the best and most relatable action heroes of our generation. This movie is two parts bombastic fun, three parts political subtext, and all parts amazing.
Three through one was some of the hardest decisions I have ever had to make when making this list. Previous years, the decision has been somewhat cut and dry. 2015, Mad Max: Fury Road was winning and the best anyone could do was second place. 2014, Chef was the clear winner because I, tragically, did not get to see many great movies that year, and it was the clear front-runner. American Hustle is one of the best movies I have seen in regards to 2013. But damn… This year, I had three strong contenders and one dark horse in The Purge: Election Year. So just please, keep this in mind when you read three through one because I did not take this decision lightly.
Moana is probably my favorite movie of 2016. It is a movie that brings that classic Disney magic that everyone so desperately yearns for. While Frozen as come under scrutiny in recent years for being over produced and over exposed to the general populace, I have not heard anyone cry foul at Moana as of yet. It is a beautiful story of human against themself and coming to terms with responsibility. The music is great, the animation is, of course, stellar, and the actors are on their absolute A game. From A to Z, an awe-inspiring watch.
Oh… This one was rough. I struggled between Zootopia and Moana for days! I must have switched spots with between the two on three or four occasions. But ultimately, a decision had to be made. What just BARELY edged Zootopia beyond Moana was the story that it told. Moana is a great story; almost perfect in its design. But the fact is that it is somewhat generic in its structure. A hero must leave their homeland in order to save their family/tribe from evil entity X. While the plot twist at the end pushed it further forward, the material of Zootopia is being slightly more challenging to society in its endeavors.
Sure, the concept of race relations between predators and prey is able to nicely veil the subject of real life race relations as to not upset the white demographic who might get angry with the guilt trip, but the challenges to racism and not just overt racism but cover racism is what pushed Zootopia past the finish line.
Zootopia handles some pretty heavy stuff, all things considered. It focuses on the prejudice of people as well as this idea of social segregation that does occur in our society. It not only challenges over racists who are outwardly being hostile to those who are different, but also challenges cover racism such as calling someone “articulate” because you do not associate that word with that person’s given race, thus making it demeaning and patronizing.
Moana is simplistic beautiful storytelling at its finest. But Zootopia is that in addition to challenging social norms that society does not recognize as a problem. Because of that it finds itself at number 2 for 2016.
I can’t help it. I just cannot help it. I became a sucker for an amazingly told story and an excellently made film. I know it can potentially be Oscar Bait compared to the other four on the list, but dammit, this movie was phenomenal! Sure, I might watch the other four ten times over, sure this movie might not be remembered as the others will in cinematic history, but dammit sometimes I can get pretentious and love something artistic like this! So that is what I am going to do!
Manchester by the Sea is a satisfying movie. It deals with emotions like loss and heartache in such a painful and endearing way. There is a raw sensation whenever you are watching as the movie will touch your soul in a way that you did not think would even be possible. It marks another excellent movie in the directing history of Kenneth Lonergan and all of that put together is why Manchester by the Sea is the Best Movie of 2016!
I would like to thank everyone who has been following me for these past four years and I am looking forward to many more here at Tanner Reviews. There are some big things on the horizon so stay tuned, keep reading, and keep watching.