From a fresh spin on classic science fiction, to another entry in the Star Wars series, and the real-life and fictional tales from the Canadian arctic in between, 2016 was not short on great films.
Here is a look at the movies from 2016 that impressed us the most.
Directed by Andrea Arnold
This lengthy tale of a young woman who hits the road in the name of partying with a group of con artists is quite a vision from Andrea Arnold. It also features one of the year’s best soundtracks, spanning many genres and featuring the likes of Kevin Gates, Bonnie “Prince” Billy, Rihanna, Mazzy Star, and Steve Earle.
Directed by Alethea Arnaquq-Baril
Alethea Arnaquq-Baril’s defence of the Inuit seal hunt captured the Best Documentary Award at the imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival and named to the Canada Top 10 list at the Toronto International Film Festival, while also earning honours at Hot Docs and The Montreal International Documentary Festival. The Inuk filmmaker’s look at the importance of the hunt and sealskins to northern communities is essential viewing.
Directed by Denis Villeneuve
An alien contact tale done right. Denis Villeneuve brings science fiction fans and linguistics nerds to the yard with what might be the year’s best mainstream film.
Captain America: Civil War
Directed by Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
The Russo brothers have breathed fresh air into the Marvel cinematic universe, and Civil War is their best effort yet. It succeeds where the Avengers films have fallen flat, with strong character development and a tight story. Spiderman’s universe debut is as fun as filmgoing gets.
Directed by Tim Miller
Ryan Reynolds’ performance as Deadpool in this extension of the X-Men brand is easily the funniest and most violent comic book flick to come along. Did we mention it was violent?
The Edge of Seventeen
Directed by Kelly Fremon Craig
Nadine, played by Hailee Steinfeld, navigates the awkwardness of adolescence while dealing with her ‘cool dude’ older brother sweeping away her best friend. This earnest story is backed by a soundtrack that includes Anderson .Paak, Beck, Two Door Cinema Club, Caribou, Cut Copy, Aimee Mann, and Phantogram.
Directed by Jeremy Saulnier
Jeremy Saulnier’s follow-up to 2013 indie favourite Blue Ruin cranks the violence (and Slayer) to 11. A punk band bears witness to a bloody murder scene in neo-Nazi club and all hell breaks loose in a nod to Grindhouse. It’s one of Anton Yelchin’s final film appearances and stars Patrick Stewart.
Hell or High Water
Directed by David Mackenzie
It’s brothers versus the law set in contemporary Texas starring Jeff Bridges, Ben Foster, and Chris Pine. Could it be the next Western to earn Best Picture at the Oscars?
Directed by Kevan Funk
This story of a minor-league enforcer in Western Canada and the impact a violent on-ice incident has on his life is timely and both a fascinating and damning look at hockey culture.
Directed by Pablo Larrain
Chilean director Pablo Larrain’s portrait of Jackie Kennedy in the aftermath of her husband’s assassination has been heralded as a game-changer in the biopic genre. Natalie Portman has won and been nominated for numerous awards on the festival circuit for her performance.
Jean of the Joneses
Directed by Stella Meghie
Canadian Stella Meghie has scored an indie hit with her directorial debut. Family turmoil comes to a head following the death of an estranged patriarch.
La La Land
Directed by Damien Chazelle
Ryan Gosling stars as a jazz pianist alongside Emma Stone’s aspiring actress in a musical comedy that’s been cleaning up on the critics’ choice awards circuit.
Love & Friendship
Directed by Whit Stillman
Chloe Sevigny, Kate Beckinsale, Xavier Samuel, and Stephen Fry star in the film based on Jane Austen’s novella Lady Susan. A shoe-in nominee in the best adapted screenplay award category.
Directed by Nathan Morlando
Bill Paxton turns in a frightening performance as a hard-drinking father and police officer in this rural Canadian story of young love and inescapable family history.
Directed by Barry Jenkins
One of the year’s best reviewed films, Moonlight is a layered look at masculinity, sexuality, and the pursuit of understanding. Moonlight was named best picture by the Los Angeles Film Critics Association.
O.J.: Made in America
Directed by Ezra Edelman
ESPN Films’ five-part documentary series focuses on the life of O.J. Simpson, from young college football star to convicted felon. Simpson’s rise and fall shares the film’s narrative with tensions law enforcement and African Americans in Los Angeles over the course of the Hall of Fame running back’s life.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Directed by Gareth Edwards
The first instalment of the standalone Star Wars films from Disney does justice to the prequel arm of the franchise’s canon material. No, we’re not tired of vengeance, the Death Star, or Darth Vader.
Directed by John Carney
John Carney delivers another musical drama in the vein of his hit Once. Original music from the film’s “Sing Street” band and classics from 80s icons The Cure, Duran Duran, A-ha, Hall & Oates, and more makes for one of the best soundtracks of the year.
Two Lovers and a Bear
Directed by Kim Nguyen
Montreal-born director Kim Nguyen’s Arctic tale of lovers Lucy (Tatiana Maslany) and Roman (Dane DeHaan) versus harsh living and family conditions is one of the best sleepers of 2016.
Directed by Bruce McDonald
A 15-year-old Nova Scotia boy and his girlfriend set out to hitchhike from Antigonish to Sydney in Bruce McDonald’s latest effort. Set in 1976, the film features classic Canadian cuts from Crowbar, Anne Murray, Gordon Lightfoot, The Stampeders, and Edward Bear.
Directed by Robert Eggers
Eggers’ directorial debut is a supernatural horror film, as the title suggests, and eschews the zombie and vampire craze in favour of witches and the result is one of the most terrifying and unsettling releases from 2016.
Directed by Byron Howard, Rich Moore, and Jared Bush
Disney keeps children amused and adults laughing with the story of a bunny cop and con-artist fox investigating a rash of violence in an animal metropolis.
Stay tuned to Indie88.com over the holidays for our entire Best of 2016 series.
Up next: Best Albums of 2016 (Thursday, December 29)