Best Films of 2016

By Zain Hashmat

2016 was a great year for film. From modern musicals to superhero blockbusters to amazing sequels, this year’s movies exceeded expectations. Sure, there were some duds (i.e. Suicide Squad, Warcraft, Blair Witch), but they didn’t overshadow the highlights. Those are the films I want to talk about. So, here are my choices for the best we’ve been given in 2016.

Best Superhero Film: Captain America: Civil War

The Russo brothers proved once again that they not only know how to make a fantastic action film, but also an emotionally gripping drama. The story is skillfully told, and each of the numerous characters has a time to shine during this dark and gritty Marvel film. Captain America: Civil War is exactly what Avengers 2 wanted to be, and, in turn, probably stands as the best Marvel movie to date.

Best Comedy: Hunt for The Wilderpeople

Sure, Deadpool was groundbreaking when it comes to comedy in superhero films, and Sausage Party gave audiences an insanely fun experience at the movies, but I’m going to go with a different choice: Hunt for the Wilderpeople. Taika Waititi’s heartwarming film takes us on a crazy adventure with fully realized characters and a hilarious storyline. Originality is what makes Wilderpeople great, with surprises at every turn. It’s a great indie adventure movie that mixes love and friendship with plenty of hilarious moments.

Best Animated Film: Zootopia

Zootopia is an important film — point blank. It’s a must-see movie that cleverly studies modern social politics and outlines what’s happening in America. Carefully crafted and expertly presented, Zootopia is a defining film not only for 2016, but for years to come as well.

Best Horror Film: The Witch

The Witch was a scary mess. And I mean that in a good way. Horror films are all about tone and mood, and The Witch gives us the best of both. Not only is The Witch extremely creepy, but it’s also an interesting family drama in which layered characters keep audiences invested in the story.  They each have secrets of their own, making them scarier than the supernatural forces in the film. It’s about the danger of a broken family, and that’s what makes this movie all the more horrifying.

Best Sci-Fi Film: Arrival

Dennis Villeneuve created something fresh and original with Arrival. It encompasses exactly what makes film so unique from any other artistic format. The genius of its structure blew me away, along with a ton of tension and brilliant writing. With the precision and intelligence of a Stanley Kubrick film, Arrival turns the sci-fi genre on its head and gives us something enthralling.

Best Totally-Bonkers Film: Swiss Army Man

Nothing can compare to the complete craziness of Swiss Army Man. It’s a surprisingly endearing film about a cast-away that finds a dead body and uses it as a survival tool. Daniel Radcliffe does a fantastic job as a dead body (seriously, he does), and Paul Dano gives an emotionally resonant performance. The questions and ideas that are brought up truly challenge the viewer, and the director's use of style and music keep us constantly invested. Although the ending lost me a bit, Swiss Army Man still succeeds in that it takes what’s unconventional and makes it beautiful.   

Best Drama: Moonlight

Since my university screened Moonlight for free, I had a chance to see the masterpiece a week before its release. Moonlight, a film about a gay African American boy in Miami trying to come to terms with life, takes us on an emotional journey. Director Barry Jenkins tells a rarely told story about isolation and loneliness, giving us a harsh yet realistic depiction of youth. Moonlight is defined by its performances and quiet moments. It’s all too real and all too beautiful. Watch Moonlight not simply because it’s well done, but because it’s something everyone needs to see. Great films have the potential to change the world, and right now, we need a film like Moonlight to start the change.

Best Overall: La La Land

I’ve been obsessed with films and filmmaking since I was 8, but there is rarely a movie that changes my entire viewpoint on the art. Then, La La Land came out. A film about conquering your dreams, following your heart, loving yourself, and loving someone else, it’s one of the most inspiring movies I’ve ever seen. Damien Chazelle creates a classic Hollywood musical with no cynicism or jokes about the genre, and Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone shine in their roles as star crossed lovers with dreams they’d do anything for. From the magical scenery to the memorable songs and dance sequences, La La Land is a celebration of music, film, art, dreamers, and life. La La Land is hands down the best film of the year, the best film of the decade, and one of the best of all time.