Best and Worst Movies of 2016
The popular consensus about 2016 is that it was a year where a string of setbacks and painful losses that were briefly interrupted by moments of brilliance. I’m not sure if I would agree with that about 2016 as a whole, but I would certainly agree that it could be said about the year at the box office, especially looking back at the best and worst movies of 2016.
If there was one rule about movies in 2016, as with the year itself, it was to expect the unexpected. Unless you’re Disney of course, in which case the rule was sit back and watch as Marvel, Star Wars and the animation department make enough money to repave Disney World in solid gold.
2016 was the year when Deadpool was more successful than the X-Men. It was the year Warner Brothers bet the farm on DC Comics and Harry Potter, and we suffered gravely for it. 2016 saw the release of remakes of Ghostbusters, Ben Hur and The Magnificent Seven, which were as terrible as you’d expect, with the awful box office numbers to match. Hell, 2016 was the year that Michael Bay made a great movie, and the Coen Brothers made a bad one.
With that out of the way though, let’s get things started and take a look back and the best and worst movies of 2016:
The Revenant – I don’t care if I have to scream this from the mountaintops, or if I’m the only one who thinks it, but the movie was awful, DiCaprio’s performance was unmemorable, and this sadly proved to be little better than Oscar bait I’ll never bother to see again.
13 Hours – Michael Bay made a movie centered on the controversial 2012 Benghazi attack, and not only is it respectful and subtle, but it delivers a gripping war movie along the way? I’m as impressed as you are, and am deeply sad this movie was overlooked the way it was.
Ip Man 3 – Donnie Yen should take a bow, because the first great movie of 2016 starred Yen, and the last great movie starred Yen. While not as good as the last two Ip Man films, it was a much more personal film, and Donnie Yen showed the world yet again why he’s the biggest movie star in Hong Kong.
Hail, Caesar! – I’m still not sure what went wrong with this, given the subject matter should have been right in the Coen Brothers wheelhouse. A kidnapping caper set in old school Hollywood that wastes its setting, ensemble cast, rather than a love letter, it was more of a ‘Dear John’ letter in the end.
Deadpool – Holy chimichangas was this an unexpectedly perfect surprise! One of the best action movies of the year, and certainly the funniest movie of the year, Deadpool made his silver screen debut just as he should have – with geysers of blood, scores of foul language and potty humor, and plenty of meta humor, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. Here’s to plenty more like this one!
Gods of Egypt – Probably my choice for the 2016 movie that best fits the label “so bad that its good”, you get just what you expect with Gods of Egypt – two hours of campy Egyptian high fantasy, and I’m a-okay with that.
10 Cloverfield Lane – On the upside, this was a gripping horror film for two thirds of the movie. On the downside, it had nothing to do with the original Cloverfield movie, and it completely falls apart in the third act.
Zootopia – Probably the best animated movie of 2016, there is a reason this Chinatown for kids made more than a billion dollars, and we live in a universe where kids like Judy Hopps more than Superman. Its smart, funny, heartfelt, and generally great. Also, it’s on Netflix, so go watch it if you haven’t already.
Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice – It takes a special kind of terrible movie to make me hate it. I went in with expectations so low they were practically in China, and yet somehow the movie found a way to be worse than even I had thought it would be. I practically wrote a textbook on everything wrong with the movie already, which I encourage you to go over point by point, but the gravest sin of Batman v Superman, aside from representing everything wrong in Hollywood today in terms of big budget franchise filmmaking, is that it makes me hate source material that I adore. Maybe there were worse movies this year, but no movie broke my heart they way this did.
Hardcore Henry – In terms of movies destined to become a cult classic, I can find no better candidates from 2016 than Hardcore Henry. An action movie filmed entirely from the first person perspective using go-pro cameras, in addition to bone crushing action scenes and incredible stunt work, art of its charm is that it throws everything it can at the screen, from a full song-and-dance music number to a telekinetic Russian villain, and the gonzo results have to be seen.
Also notable that in a year filled with four big budget video game movies, this is probably the best video game movie ever made.
Green Room – This movie sticks a punk rock band in a bloody confrontation with Neo-Nazis led by Patrick Stewart. The results are as bloody as you’d expect.
Jungle Book – Disney rides that live adaptation of their animated classics train to the bank with a Jungle Book adaptation that not only nearly made a billion dollars, but is better than the original cartoon as well.
Keanu – A hilarious big screen debut for Key and Peele centered on two best friends trying to save their kitten from drug-dealing gangsters, and it’s a hoot.
Captain America: Civil War – I know Disney doesn’t own a time machine, but if they wanted to craft a more perfect “this is how you do it chumps” take that to Batman v. Superman, they couldn’t have done better than this even if they did.
There is so much to love about this movie. The perfect introductions to Black Panther and Spider-Man. Probably the best third act in superhero movie history aside from maybe The Avengers. A superhero on superhero conflict that is as tragic as it is awesome to witness. Marvel just kicked off Phase 3 with one @#!*% of a bang.
Money Monster – Take a timely subject and a solid cast, and then waste them on a clumsy slog of a drama. What a waste.
A fantastically funny retro detective thriller from Shane Black, it was smart, funny, action packed, and all around brilliant – and yet nobody went to see it. Smack yourself, go buy it on blu-ray, and make up for lost time at once, this was one of the best movies of 2016.
X-Men Apocalypse – Remember when we thought the one two punch of X-Men First Class and X-Men Days of Future Past had finally fixed the X-Men franchise? Well, those days are over. This underwhelming installment may well have put a bullet to the head for any future X-Men movies, at least outside of spin offs like Deadpool or Logan, for the near future.
Warcraft – You know, I didn’t hate Warcraft. Hell, I actually enjoyed it enough to see it twice, so I’m not sure why this movie got the bad reputation it did. Rent it if you haven’t seen it already, you may be surprised.
Free State of Jones – A great often ignored chapter of Civil War history that would make a great movie. This is not that movie, thanks to awful directing, and a flat performance from Matthew McConaughey.
Finding Dory – Pixar cranked out the textbook definition of a lazy cash grab sequel, but you know what, for a billion dollars, I’d probably sell out my artistic integrity too.
The Legend of Tarzan – Did you know we had a Tarzan tentpole feature that cost $200 million come out this year? Yeah, neither did anyone else, and unlike the last box office bomb based on an Edgar Rice Burroughs series, I don’t see this one becoming a cult classic either.
The BFG – You really think the combined talents of Disney, Steven Spielberg and Roald Dahl would result in a much better movie than this. They did not, so instead it was one of the year’s biggest box office bombs. Hey, at least we got a scene of cogis jetting around Buckingham Palace by poop gas.
The Secret Life of Pets – A charming animated film about the misadventures of pets. Funny, cute and harmless, which is more than I can day for those damned Minions movies.
Ghostbusters – Ignoring the controversy surrounding the movie, in hindsight, it’s not too surprising that this was just another terrible remake of a beloved movie in another attempt by Sony to crank out a franchise to show off to the shareholders. It’s terrible, what it represents is worse, and all of the think pieces in the world can’t hide this cynical studio cash grab for what it is.
Star Trek Beyond – The Star Trek movie so bland and forgettable that you’d already forgotten it had ever happened, didn’t you?
Suicide Squad – The only reason I don’t consider this a worse movie than Batman v. Superman is that it didn’t cost half a billion dollars to make. That said, it’s still one of the worst movies of 2016, for oh so many reasons. The hatchet job done to the movie in the editing room. The worst comic book movie villain since Catwoman, via that underwear model playing the Enchantress. Jared Leto doing a terrible Ace Ventura impression and passing it off as the Joker. That Tim Burton would be ashamed of its appeal to the Hot Topic crowd. It was a trainwreck, plain and simple.
I owe Suicide Squad one favor though – from this point on I will have absolutely zero faith that the DC Extended Universe can deliver a watchable movie, much less a good one, until they can prove otherwise.
Hell or High Water – A grim, modern day western so good it even got a good performance out of Chris Pine.
Ben-Hur – There is only one date fitting for the Hollywood suit that had the cajones to remake one of the greatest movies ever made: Crucify him.
Mechanic: Ressurection – A serviceable Jason Statham action movie. Still not quite sure out of all of his movies, why it was The Mechanic that got a sequel.
Sully – Clint Eastwood and Tom Hanks deliver again with a great movie about the Miracle on the Hudson. Not a top effort from either of them, but still a very solid bit of work.
The Magnificent Seven – Not as bad as it could have been, but magnificent? Not by a long shot.
The Birth of a Nation – Not the Best Picture frontrunner we’d hoped it would be at one point, but still a solid historical drama, a needed one, and I would certainly love to see more movies like this.
The Accountant – In a year where Ben Affleck played Batman twice, this managed to be the best movie of the year where Affleck plays a comic book type character, this time as an autistic accountant who doubles as a gifted martial artist and marksman. I really enjoyed it and hope we get to see a sequel.
Jack Reacher: Never Go Back – A movie that really should have followed its own title as a bit of advice. Skip it, as I should have.
Moonlight – Trust the hype on this one folks, one of the year’s most unique dramas, and a guaranteed Oscar nod for Mahershala Ali coming for this. Check it out.
Doctor Strange – Marvel delivers a trippy and colorful introduction to the Sorcerer Supreme that may well be their best origin story movie since Iron Man. One of the most visually breathtaking movies of the year, I’m looking forward to seeing where the character goes from here.
Hacksaw Ridge – Remember Mel Gibson? He’s back in a big way with the best war movie of the year, one that is at once uplifting and unflinching for its look at the terrors of war. Simply superb.
Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk – I’m still heartbroken that they took one of the best books about war of my generation and made a sloppy drama just so Ang Lee could piddle around with camera technology that less than ten theatres on the entire planet are capable of showing movies from. A waste, a depressing, heartbreaking waste.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them – If I were a dark wizard seeking to ruin Harry Potter, I could think of no better curse than this bloated monstrosity. You know, aside from the fact we’re apparently getting four more of these.
Moana – Not the best Disney animated movie of the year, thanks to getting upstaged by Zootopia, but still great, from the music to the Polynesian aesthetic which I adored. Plus, now I really, really want to see the Rock in a proper musical.
La La Land – A charming if unexceptional musical that I fully expect to sweep the major Oscars, if only because this is the kind of movie the Academy laps up.
Collateral Beauty – You know, it takes doing when you’re the worst Will Smith movie of the year, and you share a year with Suicide Squad. While I can’t say specifically what made this such a trainwreck because of spoilers, let’s just say that whomever greenlit this didn’t read the script, and certainly didn’t edit the trailer.
Rogue One – The first Star Wars spinoff did the impossible, it delivered a great Star Wars prequel, following the rogue’s gallery of characters who stole the plans to the Death Star. It’s well shot, beautiful to look at, has some fantastic characters, and is thrilling to watch. Further proof that Star Wars has some great stories ahead of it, and one of 2016’s best movies.
Assassin’s Creed – 2016 was a rough year for the video game movie, especially given this was the year that was supposed to bring them to the mainstream. Instead, Assassin’s Creed, as one of the year’s worst movies caps off a string of failures.
Fences – It’s a movie based on a Pulitzer Prize winning play starring Denzel Washington, who also directed, and it’s phenomenal. If it doesn’t earn at least a handful of Oscar nods, than the Academy fully deserves another round of outrage.
Sing – Yes, it’s a forgettable by-the-numbers family animated feature, but it might be worth catching a matinee just to hear Taron Egerton’s phenomenal cover of Elton John’s “I’m Still Standing.”
With that, my retrospectives on the best and worst movies of 2016 comes to a close. What do you think? What did you love and love at the movies last year? Leave a comment below and let me know, and be sure to stay tuned for my list of movies I’m looking forward to this year.