So here’s the thing,
There was a lot of hand-wringing halfway through last year about the low quality of 2016’s movies. In hindsight, much of that commentary was coming out right in the middle of summer blockbuster season, and those films had an absolutely brutal year. After 2015, which at least offered a few summer films that aspired to be something more (the most obvious being Mad Max: Fury Road), it was depressing to see Hollywood revert back to its usual lazy blockbuster filmmaking; hell, even the new Jason Bourne film let us down, and that film should have been as close to a quality guarantee as you could get. And then we get to the end of the year, and we clear out all the noise of all the junk food movies, and stop and consider the quality of all the other movies that were released this year, you begin to realise that this was actually a pretty great movie year. That’s true particularly of this year’s Oscar picks. While none of them are perfect, they’re all really wonderful, engaging, interesting films. And there’s a significant number of also-ran films that I adored that were never nominated but could easily stand next to these titles; I’m happy to be writing about these films, but I also wish I could be writing about Silence, Jackie, Moana, Paterson, Nocturnal Animals, Love and Friendship, or Certain Women. And that’s before we get to the films that were great but would never be nominated, like The Neon Demon, The Nice Guys, Don’t Breathe, Green Room, or 10 Cloverfield Lane. Hell, even some of the late-year-release blockbusters like Doctor Strange or Rogue One were wonderful, showing the spark and inventiveness that the summer films lacked. Basically, there were a lot of genuinely great films this year that I was delighted to see. Of which these films are nine.
[Comments after the jump on La La Land, Moonlight, Manchester by the Sea, Arrival, Hacksaw Ridge, Fences, Hell or High Water, Lion, and Hidden Figures]