We, at MoviePass, watch A LOT of films! It’s one of the greatest things about ourÂ job. As the year comes to a close, we thought we’d share some of our favorite movies from 2016. This was no easy task. It took hours of recollection and reflection, but these are the three films that stood out for each of us.
Michael’s Top 3 Picks (Blog Writer)
Manchester by the Sea – I lost my sister after a long illness in 2016, so Manchester by the Sea – Â a story about a brother losing a sibling – gained an extra measure of weight when I saw it. It’s a staggeringly affecting chronicle of flawed people trying to make it through tragedy, brilliantly touching in its intimate scope and finding shining bits of humanity in their painful endurance of the everyday. Kenneth Lonergan’s screenplay and direction are flawless, and the performances by Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams and Lucas Hedges are all Oscar-worthy. Grief, that most devastating of emotions, has never been more accurately represented on screen.
Moonlight – Another intimately-crafted drama of shocking power. This one is the story of a gay African-American youth named Chiron, shown through three parts – as a withdrawn youth, boiling-over teenager and stone-faced adult, painstakingly sketching the vivid characters and experiences that shaped him. Most endearing are Naomie Harris as Chiron’s addicted mother and the superb Mahershala Ali as a crack dealer who becomes an accepting father figure to the silent young man. Barry Jenkins’ beautiful direction is full of colors and light, giving the story a breathtaking power.
Hell or High WaterÂ – David MacKenzie’s Texas-set drama plays out like a pulpier version of the Coen brothers’ No Country for Old Men, as brothers Toby (Chris Pine) and Tanner (Ben Foster) Howard dash through economically-shattered towns, robbing banks to buy back the family farm. On their tails is the laconic veteran Ranger Marcus Hamilton (Jeff Bridges), practically carved from the Lone Star logo. The film, expertly scripted by Taylor Sheridan (of SicarioÂ fame) slowly unspools from a caper into something deeper and darker, propelled by career-best turns from Pine and Foster and the always-remarkable Bridges.
Cassie’s Top 3 Picks (Blog Writer)
High-Rise –Â Director Ben Wheatley and frequent collaborator Amy Jump, take their turn at filming the infamous unadaptable novel, and they do so with aplomb. While the plot itself is not exactly reinventing the wheel and the social commentary is a tad on the nose, the visual splendor and amazing soundtrack by Clint Mansell, sell the hell outtaÂ High-Rise. It’s not a film that will click with all audiences, but when the pieces fall into place,Â High-RiseÂ is absolutely breathtaking.
Green Room –Â Jeremy Saulnier’s tight thriller opens quietly and carries its horrors set against the cacophonous sounds of punk rock. With a terrifying performance by Patrick Stewart and a killer ensemble of under appreciated actors like Anton Yelchin, Callum Turner, and Alia Shawkat as the Ain’t Rights, Saulnier takes the B-movie premise and executes it flawlessly. Tense as hell with a sense of darkness that truly touches the soul, Â I’ve never wanted a movie to end simply to stop the characters’ miseries.
The Wailing –Â Like a South Korean version ofÂ The Exorcist,Â The WailingÂ is a perfect blend of character study and subtle horror. Completely unpredictable and spellbinding, writer/director Hong-jin Na takes a standard murder mystery and infuses it with supernatural elements untilÂ Officer Jong-goo (Kwak Do-won) simply cannot deny the demons that lie in the sleepy town ofÂ Goksung.
Dan’s Top 3 Picks (Blog Writer)
MoonlightÂ – The most emotionally and aesthetically immersive film I saw this year. A trio of breathtaking lead performances, as well as the supporting ones by Ali, Harris, andÂ MonĂˇe, round out an achingly fully realized script that imbues the narrative and characters with such depth and complexity, but never opaquely so. James Laxton’s cinematography captures movement and color that is spatially hyperaware but never distracting, and the soundtrack’s mix of old (Mozartâ€™s â€śLaudate Dominumâ€ť from Vesperae Solennes de Confessore) and new (Jidenna’s “Classic Man” chopped-and-screwed), as well asÂ Nicholas Britell’sÂ evocative piano and violin pieces, is on the money. A testament to the healing power of cinema.
Toni ErdmannÂ – An epic of intimacy, not unlike Moonlight, but less engaged in playing with cinematic fireworks than creating finely tuned scenarios for its characters to play out, Maren Ade’s follow-up to Everyone ElseÂ radiates a perceptiveness and sensitivity when it comes to familial relations, at times strained but at others not, that resonate in their unassumingness.Â Sandra HĂĽller andÂ Peter Simonischek are revelatory as the overworked daughter and under-appreciated father, a dynamic that could have easily gone awry had their commitment to character not been so strong, tender, cared for, and lived in. It’s the simplest of stories, relatable regardless of signifiers, and HĂĽller and Simonischek sell it like you’ve never seen. We believe because they do.
I Am Not Your NegroÂ – Dense, but well delineated and super studied in its deployment of Baldwin’s words, Raoul Peck’s I Am Not Your NegroÂ encompasses so much, but never feels like the less of its parts. Seamlessly weaving together interviews with Baldwin (including a barbed one with Dick Cavett), archival Civil Rights era footage, and pointed old Hollywood film analysis, every smaller statement Baldwin, and by extension Peck, makes connects and builds on the larger one. A broken country – then, and now, as highlighted in the film. May Baldwin’s words illuminate and advocate.
Alex’s Top 3 Picks (Customer Experience Associate)
10 Cloverfield Lane – Mary Elizabeth Winstead and John Goodman’s stellar performances kept me on the edge of my seat for the entire tense thriller. The extremely well-written script would lull me into a false sense of security and then pull the rug out from under me in the most exciting way. It felt a bit like a character-driven play since the movie was limited to such a small space and there were so few characters, but each actor played their part perfectly.
Moonlight – Each time period in Moonlight was filled with incredible performances, and the way each actor mirrored parts of their co-stars interpretation of their character tied the whole story together really beautifully. They all brought something new to their character, but also drew wonderful through lines for the audience to follow in their character’s development. The script and story felt honest and important, like something I should have seen before, but never had.
Rogue One – I can’t resist a Star Wars film! I loved that Rogue One was full of new characters and felt infused with fresh energy and ideas. It felt more like a true war story than any of the previous films. The stakes were very real and the actors, especially Felicity Jones and Diego Luna, sustained the drama and intensity throughout. K-2 was also a great touch of humor in what could have been a very dark film.
Connor’s Top 3 Picks (Customer Experience Associate)
Hell or High Water – With an abundance of rich characters, refreshing humor sprinkled throughout, and enough moral grey area to leave you thinking about the film’s conclusion long after the ending, Hell or High Water paints an authentic portrait of the Texan way of life. The three stellar leads join the landscape in a thrilling script and Scottish director, David Mackenzie, seems to understand Americans better than most of his Hollywood peers.
Weiner – Like watching an extended episode of Veep, but heartbreaking that it is real. Weiner is hilarious and sad, as Anthony Weiner (foolishly) allows a documentary filmmaker access to the inner workings of his mayoral campaign. Your opinion of the man will go back and forth dozens of times during the brisk runtime and by the end, you’ll realize that Huma Abedin just can’t catch a break.
Swiss Army Man – Underneath the bizarre premise and fart gags is this year’s most wonderful story about friendship and loving oneself. The absolute commitment of both actors to the film by the insane directing due Daniels is impressive and the beautiful score rounds out a movie that will leave you feeling warm and tingly as the credits roll. From happiness. And from the farts.
Jillian’s Top 3 Picks (Customer Experience Associate)
La La Land – Within the magic of La La Land is a taste of realness, which makes the film not only fun to watch, but effectively relatable. The music, choreography, cinematography, and brilliant performances are collectively enchanting. I was moved from laughter to tears during the screening and left the theater feeling inspired.
Nocturnal Animals –Â As haunting as it is beautiful, Nocturnal AnimalsÂ is frighteningly gripping from start to finish. Watching the film is akin to entering a nightmare as the story reveals the agony of decayed love. I enjoyed the film because I actually feared and cared for the characters as they endured pain, horror, and grief.
Arrival – Arrival is an “alien movie” that actually feels realistic. The film opens with a tide that draws you in emotionally, and smartly weaves a story about the possibility of an encounter with the unknown. During my initial viewing of the film, I felt a bit bored, but after a second viewing, I appreciated the film’s intelligence and emotional intensity.
Stephen’s Top 3 Picks (Customer Experience Associate)
Kubo and the two Strings – Iâ€™ve seen many movies that reminded of what it was like to be a kid. Never has a movie taken me back to simpler times, like PokĂ©mon cards, and fairytales. Kubo and the Two Strings felt like the first time I saw James and the Giant Peach. I was heartbroken at the end of it the same way I felt when James was finally standing up to the Rhino. I felt every bit of the sadness that Kubo felt when it was no longer a journey that was going to have a happy ending. When itâ€™s all said and done and Kuboâ€™s stories come down to a tragic end, Iâ€™m excited to say Iâ€™m not the only person in the theater looking for tissues to wipe away the tears.
Captain America: Civil War – When it came down to who won the BVS vs. CA:CW movie war, Captain America was the clear winner. Not only did it stand above all the other super hero movies that came before it, but it reminded me of how impactful it is to see a super hero on the screen. They’re people and when they have a bad day you feel it.
Green Room – I love horror movies and I love Patrick Stewart. When the two are combined, what else could I want? Â Add in some great performances from Anton Yelchin and Alia Shawkat and you got me. Plus, itâ€™s one of the most unsettling movies I have ever watched. Thereâ€™s Nazis, grunge metal, vicious dogs, and an ending that spits in the face of all 90â€™s Teen Horror movies that came before it and its incredible!
Juliette’sÂ Top 3 Picks (Customer Experience Associate)
Iron Moon –Â I caught this one at the Cinema Village on a chilly night and left feeling haunted.Â At the center of this lyrical documentary is the story of the Chinese factory worker featured in the Time magazine article “The Poet Who Died for Your Phone.” Â Accompanying his story are others of the working class: laborers, miners, electronic factory workers, who struggle daily to salvage their dignity amidst the breakneck swirl of a rapidly industrializing China.
Gimme Danger – An oral history and love letter to The Stooges filmed over eight years by Jim Jarmusch. A treat for any fan of the Stooges or Iggy Pop, with rare footage and interviews with Iggy, Scott and Ron Asheton, former members, families and friends, assembled with a freewheeling mischievousness that captures the spirit of the influential band.
Hail, Caesar –Â A much shrewder depiction of 1950s Hollywood than would have been suggested by the image of George Clooney stumbling around in ancient Roman garb.Â This latest Coen Brothers’ movie managed to be both, an eviscerating and loving look at the studio system during the Golden Age of Hollywood: a melodrama, cowboy serenade, water ballet, and political intrigue all in one.
Alyssa’s Top 3 Picks (Customer Experience Associate)
A Man Called Ove – Heartwarming and a real tear jerker. It really hit home in the love and friendship department. The fact that it was hilarious was a major bonus. Also…Swedish.
The Wailing – Mysterious, weird, ominous and actually quite comedic at times. The Wailing really had everything and was successful at creeping me out while stunning me with beautifully composed shots.
10 Cloverfield Lane – Anything taking place in one bunker with an insane sweaty man is personally my worst fear. Throw in an alien apocalypse and it’s a fully blown nightmare. If there is a follow up planned for release, I will definitely be there.
Ryan’s Top 3 Picks (Product Manager)
The Lobster –Â Sign me up for any movie about a dystopian future. A dystopian future where romantic relationships are mandatory, but thereâ€™s a rebel faction trying to destroy that world? Sign me up twice, please! In addition to the beautiful imagery, the writing is ridiculously quick and biting.
Arrival –Â Amy Adams deserves an Oscar more than any one else right now. This is the movie that Iâ€™ve been discussing with everyone the most right now. Granted, none of us are good at science, but thatâ€™s not why we keep talking about Arrival.Â JĂłhann JĂłhannssonâ€™s score is a character unto its own, deserving of every accolade.
La La Land –Â There are movies that infiltrate and spread into your heart like a vine and then rip it out. Thatâ€™s La La Land. The fact that the story and palate is an obvious homage to Les Parapluies de Cherbourg doesnâ€™t detract, but rather adds to the emotional weight of the film. Iâ€™ve been whistling â€śCity of Starsâ€ť since seeing the movie, but also crying as I do so.
Madison’s Top 3 Picks (Head of Marketing)
Zootopia –Â As arguably the biggest fan of all things Disney, I had to see this opening night. My expectations were honestly pretty low for this movie, but I was blown away by Zootopia. The execution was spot on and the animation was beautiful. Disney was able to share super deep and important messages about today’s society without shoving any hidden agendas towards you.
10 Cloverfield Lane –Â After seeing the original Cloverfield, I didn’t have great expectations for this film (yes, I’m noticing a trend here, too). During the entire film, I was on the edge of my seat and also, absolutely terrified of John Goodman. 10 Cloverfield Lane kept me guessing and had me completely immersed in this underground bunker.
The Nice Guys –Â The Nice Guys is the only movie that made me actually laugh out loud this year. I loved Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling’s relationship in this movie and everything had a great flow to it. Yes, it was a little predictable, but it’s for sure one of my new favorite feel-good movies.
EvĂˇ’s Top 3 Picks (Community Manager)
The Measure of a Man – A simple, but gripping film that offers a searing critique of French society,Â The Measure of a ManÂ is a heavily improvised movie, shot in under a month. The story follows a middle-aged man who accepts a position as a grocery store security guard, after being laid-off. The film delivers quite a few surprising blows that stay with youÂ long after it’s ended. As a bit of a film snob, I definitely used it to up my cocktail party banter.
Always ShineÂ – Always Shine depicts the dangers of the overwhelming pressure to conform to societal standards. As two young actresses strive to make it in the film world, jealousy, anger, and resentment rear their ugly heads. Besides the brilliant performances, I love the De Palma/Lynch tone and the beautiful aesthetic. I also love how it tackles female identity in the industry, never veering into preachy territory.
The Conjuring 2 – I’ll be completely honest: I am terrified of the dark. Absolutely terrified. I never sleep in pitch black and I’m comforted by city noise at 2 AM in the morning. However, I love horror movies and have since I was a child. And with plenty of jump scares and ugly ghosts,Â The Conjuring 2Â is such an intense ride! I don’t know what I enjoyed more: the onscreen horror or my friend clutching his chest throughout the entire film.
With only 2 days left in 2016, there’s still so much that we’d like to see. So, as always, we’re open to suggestions. Tell us, what are your top 3 films of the year?