Instead of doing something productive last year, I made it my mission to watch as many new movies as possible – and out of those 63, here are my favourite Top 10 movies of 2016.
But first, a few that nearly made the list, but came in slightly below #10.
Maggie’s Plan: Feels like a revitalised Woody Allen-esque film, with a perfect, delightful Greta Gerwig in the lead.
Sy klink soos Lente: A South African love story that was prepared to break the mold and try something that’s a little different.
The Edge of Seventeen: Familiar territory since we’ve seen many similar coming-of-age films recently, although not enough of them from an (over-)confident female character with real sexual thoughts.
Dis koue kos, skat: Marita van der Vyver’s letter-based novel is translated into a film about the other side of love stories: relationships falling apart, and starting again.
Vir die Voëls: Surprisingly pleasant and well-made, avoiding the low-budget pitfalls of most South African movies.
Passengers: A glossy sci-fi love story that isn’t afraid to make the good-looking leads do questionable things.
The Top 10
10. Youth: A set of older men’s visit to a luxury spa is supposed to be an inspiration-boosting vacation, but this modern riff on Fellini’s 8 1/2 is much more than a tribute or remake. It’s an investigation on youth and age and art and life, yes, but counterpointed with humour and observations on loss, sacrifice, and burying the past.
9. Anomalisa: Charlie Kaufman (Being John Malkovich, Adaptation) invites us on another plunge into the depths of his mind – this time a thorough investigation of humanity, through a set of stop-motion animated puppet characters. As usual for Kaufman’s scripts, the writer puts us in the unique position to experience the characters’ mental state – in this case anxiety and dull mundanity. Read our full review here.
8. Warcraft: Director Duncan Jones might be the first to make an amazing film from a videogame adaptation. The CGI technology used in this production to create fully believable, likeable orcs, combined with a detailed script that outshines its simple plot, makes this one for the history books. Read our full review here.
7. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story: Finally, Lucasfilm, Disney, and director Gareth Edwards (of 2014’s Godzilla and indie debut Monsters) are allowed to empty out the old box of Star Wars toys and come up with new, exciting stories on the fringes. This film isn’t perfect, but breathes some exciting new energy into a 40 year old movie franchise. Read our review here.
6. Sing Street: Also referred to in my head as “British School of Rock” or “Why you shouldn’t lie to impress girls”, this sweet comedy about finding love and using rock and roll music to get there comes highly recommended.
5. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children: For the first time in a too-long time, Tim Burton created a movie that truly speaks to the outsiders, portraying an orphanage for the orphans who are even more orphaned than others. There’s magic, laughs, excitement, and thrills, and hopefully marks Burton’s return to form.
4. 10 Cloverfield Lane: Proving that you can Lemonade the highly anticipated sequel/spin-off to a hit sci-fi movie, 10 Cloverfield Lane is a out-of-nowhere hostage thriller that keeps you guessing, while not yet revealing exactly how it relates to the 2008 original. Hopefully the third film, God Particle, will make things clearer in 2017.
3. Arrival: A first contact sci-fi movie with a slightly more cerebral approach than most. But what makes it really stand out is it’s technical production quality: the cinematography and sound design makes it feel much more true-to-life than something like Interstellar, for example. Add a slightly alternative narrative approach and you’ve got something really unique.
2. Room: A genuinely moving drama about a kid who grew up as a hostage in a tiny room, and knows nothing beyond. When he actually ventures outside, the movie puts you in his uncomfortable, seeing-everything-for-the-first-time shoes, and helps you feel things you haven’t felt before.
1. Remember: This Nazi-murdering Alzheimers’ drama that’s reminiscent of Memento uses the character’s situation to put you in a subjective, memory-loss-addled point of view. It’s exciting and thrilling in various ways, dramatic and emotional in others, and keeps you interested as the relatively simple narrative unfolds bit-by-bit throughout the film’s running time.
- The Hunt for the Wilderpeople: Though this film wasn’t released in South Africa in 2016 (let’s hope it still gets here), it would’ve placed high on this list if it had. Total Film’s review quote “A big, warm hug of a film” is pretty accurate, actually, and this sweet, heartwarming movie is a highlight of director Taika Waititi (Eagle vs Shark, What We Do In The Shadows, Boy, Thor: Ragnarok)’s career.
- Piper: The Pixar shortfilm that was screened in cinemas in front of Finding Dory practically outshined that movie, and had more people talking about it’s close-to-photo-realistic story about a young sandpiper exploring the beach.
- Zootropolis: A little intense and scary for younger kids, but teaches such an important lesson about equality and racism in a digestible package designed for youngsters. Who says movies can’t be educational and fun?
- Hail, Caeser!: A great Coen Brothers movie, but not as brilliant as their best work. Still a fun, funny flick.
- Tickled: A documentary about “competitive endurance tickling.” How can you possibly skip this one? Watch it on Netflix.
Highly anticipated for 2017
- 13 Jan: Birth of a Nation
- 27 Jan: La La Land
- 20 Jan: Split
- 10 Feb: The Lego Batman movie
- 17 Feb: Fences
- 24 Feb: T2: Trainspotting [I keep wanting to call this movie “Judgement Day” for some reason]
- 3 Mar: Jackie
- 3 Mar: Logan
- 29 Mar*: Ghost in the Shell
- 5 May: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2
- 19 May*: Alien: Covenant
- 7 Jul: Spider-man: Homecoming
- 14 Jul*: War for the Planet of the Apes
- 28 Jul: Dunkirk
- 28 Jul*: Dark Tower
- 11 Aug*: Baby Driver
- 27 Oct*: God Particle
- 27 Oct*: Thor: Ragnarok
- 22 Nov*: Murder on the Orient Express
- 15 Dec*: Star Wars: Episode VIII
*International release dates
Yup, that’s it. My 10 favourites of the past year. Did I get anything wrong? Did I miss your favourite? Feel free to shout at us in the comments section.