Top 10 BEST Movies of 2016


I always wait until at least the first week of January before I made my top 10 list of the year prior, and this year is no different. Now, last year I combined my top 10 best and worst in a single post. This year I will just focus on the BEST list and do a WORST (or I’d say disappointing) list in a separate post. Fortunately my worst list is far less extensive than the best one, as I can only count with one hand the worst movies I saw this past year.

Now, I selected films released between January – December 2016, including the limited releases (i.e. Hidden Figures) which opened in select cities in December. Some of these might’ve opened internationally prior to 2016, but I’m using the USA release dates or the fact that they opened at a local film festival. As customary, this list is a cross between a ‘best of and favorite’, so the criteria is that these films made an impression on me, combining the virtue of being entertaining, deeply-moving, thought-provoking, and indelible.

So without further ado, I present to you my TOP 10 list (in reverse order):

10. The Lobster (full review)


One of the strangest films I’ve seen last year and it’s also one of the most original concept I’ve ever seen. Greek writer/director Yorgos Lanthimos who co-wrote the script with Efthymis Filippou created an intriguing commentary on love and relationship that’ll make you ponder about it for days. I’ve loved sci-fi concepts that’s more grounded in its presentation and the world the characters inhabit in this movie certainly looks plausible. It’s not a perfect film, but still a brilliant one that earns top marks for originality and thought-provoking ideas.

9. Love & Friendship (full review)


Most of you already know I love Jane Austen’s work, though this one is unlike her most famous work like Pride & Prejudice or Sense & Sensibility. This one is based on Austen’s lesser-known work where we have a saucy protagonist who is as deviously-cunning as she is impeccably dressed. It’s the first film by writer/director Whit Stillman I’ve seen so far and it’s a delight! I really enjoyed Kate Beckinsale‘s in the title role and a delightfully-hilarious turn by Tom Bennett, one of my fave discoveries of 2016. Funny, witty, and so gorgeous to look at, this is another Austen movie I could watch over and over for years to come.

8. Captain Fantastic (full review)


When I saw the trailer for the first time I knew this is a role perfect for Viggo Mortensen who plays an intellectual free spirit, a Renaissance man who’s set in his ways. It’s a fascinating slice of an unorthodox family of seven, Viggo as the unconventional dad and his six kids, following the sudden death of his wife.Set in the forests of the Pacific Northwest, themes of parenting and coming-of-age blend seamlessly. Certainly a film that subscribe to the old adage that it’s the journey, not the destination, that really matters. Like The Lobster, it’s one of the most eccentric films I’ve seen this year, one that definitely left an indelible impression on me.

7. Hidden Figures


I haven’t got a chance to review this one as I just saw it last week. As soon as I’m done watching this historical drama, thought to myself that I’m glad I waited to post my top 10 list! Since this one had opened in limited release in December, it’s still technically a 2016 movie. Starring a trifecta of terrific Black actresses, Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monáe (who was also great in Moonlight), it tells a pivotal moment in American history in a heartwarming yet poignant manner. There are moments throughout the women’s journey that made me angry and sad, but the film is brimming with such uplifting optimism and hope. La La Land isn’t the only film that spoke about dreaming big, but the difference is, the visionary trio crossed race and gender lines to achieve what’s seemingly impossible. The quintessential inspirational film that every person, young or old, should see. As some critics put it, it’s a cinematic nourishment for the soul.

6. La La Land (full review)


Ahhh, the critical darling of the year. It might’ve been around TIFF time last Fall when the buzz surrounds this modern musical started gaining steam. It never let up since that by the time I sat down to see it in mid December, I was a bit worried it won’t live up to such a potent hype. Well, thankfully it was indeed an enjoyable experience, with fun musical numbers, gorgeous cinematography and lively music. An unabashedly dreamy and stylish affair, I could see why it swept many off their feet. For me though, the romance wasn’t exactly swoon-worthy, but it’s the ‘fools who dream’ theme that resonated with me emotionally. It’s that key audition scene performed wonderfully by Emma Stone that I remember most about this film, the one that got me bawling as I felt as if the movie was speaking to me directly.

5. Zootopia (full review)


In a year full of animated features, Zootopia is the only one that deserves to be on my top 10 list (note: I haven’t seen MOANA yet). Disney is sort of catching up to Pixar in terms of storytelling. Its themes of overcoming prejudices feels as timely as ever, whilst still being an enjoyable ride from start to finish. I also love the fact that Zootopia is NOT an animated musical that occasionally burst into songs. The plot is more of an action mystery thriller that is as clever and quick-witted as the smart rabbit Judy Hopps, the movie’s adorable protagonist. It’s also chockfull of wonderful characters that are easy to root for, which made for a fun, enjoyable ride of a movie that’s also smart AND has a big heart. I always appreciate animated features that can cater to adults as well as kids, and Zootopia is certainly a great example of that.

4. Loving (full review)


There are few films that came out in 2016 that couldn’t have been more timely. One is my number 7 pick, and the other is this one. Unlike the more sensational Birth Of A Nation, which was plagued by rape allegations of its creator and star), the beauty of Loving is how personal it feels. It doesn’t come across as a ‘film with a message’, though it certainly contains a stinging commentary of race in America. The story is even more powerful because filmmaker Jeff Nichols focuses on the journey of Richard and Mildred Loving, instead of being concerned about making a political statement. Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton portrayed the Lovings with such quiet grace and sincerity. Theirs is a story that must be told, and the script, direction and performance all work beautifully to bring that to life.

3. Arrival (full review)


Jeff Nichols and Denis Villeneuve are two emerging filmmakers in the past decade who have continually churned out excellent work. So it’s no surprise their latest work end up on my top 10 list. With any great science-fiction, the best ones are those that remind us of our humanity, and that is the case with Arrival. It’s rare to see a film that treads a familiar ground, aliens visiting earth, yet still manages to be original and truly thought-provoking. The linguistic aspect is something I haven’t seen before in a sci-fi movie, and it’s even more compelling when the core of the story is a deeply personal one. Amy Adams ought to have swept every award this year, I think she deserved it more than Emma Stone in La La Land. Her quiet yet affecting performance is superb here, she is truly the heart and soul of the film. The contemplative nature of the film is far from boring, in fact it makes it even more haunting and enigmatic. It won’t be a hyperbole to call it one of the best sci-fi dramas ever produced, and I think it will stand the test of time.

2. Hunt For the Wilderpeople (full review)


One of the biggest travesties of this year’s Golden Globes, and there are many, is that this film was NOT nominated in the Best Comedy/Musical category. Boy, I’d be hard pressed to find a funnier film than this one, made by yet another emerging filmmaker who’s a force to be reckoned with. Written and directed by Taika Waititi, it’s a riotous adventure movie I could watch over and over. Pairing a veteran actor, Sam Neill, with 13-year-old newcomer Julian Dennison made for a brilliant duo, I’d welcome a sequel with those two in another zany journey through New Zealand wilderness! It’s uproariously funny but also has a huge heart, not relying on crude gags masquerading as *comedy* Hollywood churn out these days. This is the only one of two films I gave a 5/5 rating this year, and it’s destined to be a comedy classic.

1. Moonlight (full review)


This is the second movie of 2016 that I gave a full 5/5 rating to. A poignant coming-of-age story of a young boy living struggling with his identity and sexuality, this film is masterfully-directed by Barry Jenkins. I have no qualms calling it a masterpiece, considering the challenge of using three actors to portray a single character, Chiron, in three different stages of his life. The transition between the three time periods is handled well, it never feels abrupt or jarring. The combination of newbie actors and established ones make up one of the strongest ensemble cast of the year, led by the charismatic Mahershala Ali. 

Few films hit me as hard as Moonlight did. I was so emotionally-invested in Chiron and I often have tears in my eyes when I think about his arduous life journey. The films also deftly broke stereotypes, challenging our perceptions of what we think of masculinity, especially amongst the Black community. I was also in awe by the poignant, elegant and graceful storytelling style of a subject matter rarely depicted on screen. A triumphant film through and through.


Pretty much every movie that made my BEST list of the first half of 2016 would count as honorable mentions. So combined with those that were released in the latter half of the year, here are the 20 films released last year that I was impressed with (in alphabetical order):

  1. Anthropoid
  2. A Bigger Splash
  3. Blood Stripe
  4. Captain America: Civil War
  5. Deadpool
  6. The Eagle Huntress (doc)
  7. Equity
  8. The Fencer
  9. The Jungle Book
  10. Lion
  11. The Magnificent Seven
  12. Midnight Special
  13. Pete’s Dragon
  14. Pride + Prejudice + Zombies
  15. Prison Dogs (doc)
  16. Queen of Katwe
  17. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
  18. The Shallows
  19. Sing Street
  20. Sully

What I missed in 2016

There are still some highly-rated films that came out last year that I haven’t seen, yet… Elle, Manchester By The Sea, Fences, Jackie, Kubo and the Two Strings, 20th Century Women, Neruda, Silence, amongst others.

So that’s my BEST list of 2016. Thoughts on my picks here? I’d be happy to discuss ’em with you 😀


51 thoughts on “Top 10 BEST Movies of 2016

  1. That is a good list. I’m happy that Love & Friendship is getting some love. People need to see that film. I hope to see some of your other picks as I missed so many films last year.

    1. Hi Steven! I knew Love & Friendship would make my final list. Definitely one of the best period dramas I’ve seen, and I’ve seen a ton of them 🙂

  2. Really good list Ruth. Several that I absolutely love. Happy to see Love & Friendship make another list. And I’m nuts about Arrival. I saw it twice in the theater but I’m so anxious to see it again. La La Land, Captain Fantastic, etc. etc. I turned out to be a really good year.

    Oh BTW, see The Innocents whoever you get a chance!

    1. Hi there Keith! I knew we have a few in common, and I’m glad two of them are Love & Friendship and Arrival, we need more well-written female-driven films in Hollywood 🙂 I think 2016 has been a decent year from films, I mean looking at how diverse my list is this year made me smile.

      P.S. I just saw the premise of The Innocents, oh my sounds harrowing.

      1. Harrowing indeed but not a film without hope. Get this, the cast is predominantly female. It is written by a woman, edited by a woman, directed by a woman. And that female perspective is so powerful. Love it.

        1. WOW! That’s very cool!! That is so rare to see a film w/ so many women in front of and behind the screen. Thanks for bringing that to my attention, Keith.

    1. Hey Ted, if I had seen ‘Silence’ I wonder if that film would end up in my list or not. But yes, do see The Lobster, Moonlight and Loving, I’m glad to see more racially-diverse films this year, and more talented emerging directors.

      1. I used to seek out foreign films quite a bit, mostly from the Far East before they get any attention here in the States. But that’s when I had more time to seek out films outside of Hollywood, now I just wait for them to be available to stream or Bluray. I have a few films from the Far East that I want to see, especially Chan Wook Park’s new one The Handmaiden.

        I think that’s your best bet of finding new talents and diverse films. As you know Hollywood don’t like to produce that kind of films much and many talented filmmakers tends to get corrupt or just can’t make their kind of films once they get to Hollyweed!

        1. Hey Ted, my brother was really into kung-fu movies when we were young, but for some reason I was never into them. I always gravitated towards Western shows/films, but yeah now it seems foreign films are where the creativities are. I actually got a link screener to the Korean gangster film Age of Shadows but the quality wasn’t very good and so I’d rather wait to rent it properly as the visuals look fantastic.

    1. Hi Shivani! It was tough to nail down the top 10 list but the Honorable Mentions are easier. I hope to work on Hidden Figures review this weekend, so we shall see. Lion had me bawling, that kid actor is too adorable! I might just rent Jackie and ‘Manchester’ later though.

  3. I forgot about Anthrapoid and A Bigger Splash. I meant to make a note to rent them. Thanks for the reminder! Not too suprised by your list. I still have no theater around that is featuring Moonlight. I can’t wait to finally watch it. Nice post, Ruth. Here’s to 2017.

    1. Hi Cindy! I think both Anthropoid and A Bigger Splash are now available to rent. I do think you will enjoy both of them. Very sad to hear that Moonlight isn’t playing anywhere near you 😦

  4. There are so many movies on this list that I still need to see, but in my defense they’re not in UK cinemas yet 😛
    So happy to see Hunt for the Wilderpeople so high on your list though. And Captain Fantastic too!

    1. Hi Allie, these international release dates are so bonkers. So which ones aren’t playing yet? I presume Hidden Figures? I hope you see that one as soon as it opens. ‘Wilderpeople’ is a hoot, LOVE Taika’s work… and Captain Fantastic is one of the most unique films in the past few years.

  5. We only have two films in common but I still think you have a great list. I missed seeing five of your choices and hope to catch up in the new year. Loved Hidden Figures and Moonlight, I just found other films I need in my life more. Zootopia is solid but I thought Kubo and the Two Strings was the most beautiful film I saw last year, animated or otherwise. Happy new year.

    1. Hi Richard! I haven’t seen ‘Kubo’ yet, missed that one but I heard it’s really a good one. Can you tell me at least one of the films on my list you haven’t seen yet?

  6. So far I’ve seen 4 of your top ten. Solid choices Ruth. I’m pretty sure as I catch up on 2016 films many of the other picks like Arrival, I’ve become a big fan of the director’s past few movies, will end up on my list too (if I ever make one). 🙂

    1. Yeah, Villevue is definitely one of the best ‘newish’ directors working today. I have high hopes w/ Blade Runner 2! Which other three from this list have you seen Eddie?

      1. I’m excited for Blade Runner, the trailer looks promising (but can’t always trust the trailer). I’ve seen Captain Fantastic, Zooptopia, Hunt, and The Lobster (which I probably rank the lowest of the four I watched).

        1. I still wished they cast someone else besides Ryan Gosling in BR 2 but well, I still have hope it’ll be good based on the director 🙂 Glad you’ve seen those four movies Eddie, they’re all well worthy I think.

  7. I’ll be interested to read your thoughts about Elle when you see it,. The idea to make a comedy about that subject seems so gross to me I really don’t wanna see it at all…That is a great list right here I think I’ll see Hidden Figures soon but I need to see The Right Stuff first and see the proper depiction of John Glenn 😛

    1. ELLE is a comedy?? I thought it’s more of a thriller. Can’t imagine anyone making that subject matter into a comedy or even taking it lightly. I love Hidden Figures, but hey, Ed Harris as John Glenn? I had missed that somehow, well then I too should check out The Right stuff 😉

      1. Whoa whoa whoa, you’ve not seen the Right Stuff? You lucky girl. What a treat you have in front of you. My Wife’s favorite film and maybe top ten for me. It fits with Hidden Figures really well.

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  9. Hey Ruth! Glad to see you still make blogging look easy. I, for one, have always struggled to keep it going, even though I did manage to post again after 10 months off!!
    Very interesting list you’ve put together as expected. I’ve seen Moonlight, Arrival, Zootopia, The Lobster and La La Land (last week). I really did not think a film this year could have topped Moonlight as it was, like you say, a very touching and beautifully rendered piece of cinema. However, I must intercede in favor of La La Land which literally swept me off my feet. It wasn’t the most original, nor the most captivating story, and it certainly wasn’t the most timely of movies BUT, it was perfect in its execution. All of it was excellent. The sets, the acting, the cinematography, the music, the choreography and even the romance (I think Gosling and Stone have a lot of chemistry together). Sure it was an ode to old Hollywood, but it did so with complete confidence and brilliance.
    Apart from that, I bet some of these will also end up in my personal best of 2016. Zootopia is still the best animated feature I saw. Arrival was probably the best sci-fi, and Moonlight the best drama. The Lobster may not make the top 10, but I do agree with you in saying it was a very thought-provoking and peculiar little film.
    Thanks for sharing!

    1. Hello there, well my blogging days are numbered though I’ll try to keep it up w/ the help of guest bloggers. I might share the reason why in a few days 😉

      Glad you have seen Moonlight AND that you share my sentiment about it. I think I like La La Land more than I let on, but still doesn’t beat Moonlight in my mind. It is a unique film even if it’s not the most original.

      Zootopia was great but I wish I had seen Kubo and The Two Strings before I made my list as that just beat Zootopia as my fave animated feature of 2016!!

  10. Great list! There’s some you’ve mentioned that I’m yet to see, like Moonlight and La La Land. I loved Arrival, incredible film and Captain Fantastic was surprisingly really good too.

    1. Hi Liam! Moonlight and La La Land are pretty great, but Moonlight is an absolute must-see. Hope you get to see those two soon. Glad you love Arrival and Captain Fantastic, which should get more love IMO.

  11. Rob

    Awesome list! I loved Arrival! It’s definitely one of my favorite sci-fi films I’ve ever seen. I can’t wait to rewatch it. I’ve also been meaning to see Moonlight, just haven’t gotten around to it yet. Love the site, too!

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    1. Hey Mark! SO glad you had seen Moonlight AND that you agreed with me!! I know everyone is ga ga over La La Land but that is the one I’m still rooting for.

  13. I have seen Zootopia and La La Land and I absolutely loved both of them. I really want to see Loving and Hidden Figures. And how you talked about the review for Loving makes me want to see it even more, I was very pleased to see you write how it’s not a political view because we’ve obviously seen enough of political views.

    1. Hello there, thanks for your comment! Loving is such a beautiful, heartfelt film. I love that the focus is truly about the love the Lovings had for each other, amidst the racial bigotry of the community they lived in.

    1. No I have not seen Hacksaw Ridge yet, I’m not w/ bloody war violence, but my blog contributor who reviewed it liked it very much. I believe it is one of his faves of the year.

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