In a sense every year is a good film year, but some years you have to go further afield than others.
Mainstream multiplex fare in 2016 was pretty dismal; indeed, apart from Disney’s increasing dominance, there was very little worth mentioning.
Yet I can’t think of another year in which there were so many films worth calling out and honoring — in which, at the end of my runners-up and honorable mentions, I was still listing films, and even omitting films, that in another year I would have been pleased to include in my top 10.
For me, the year’s most satisfying Hollywood blockbuster (as I was not a fan of Rogue One) was Scott Derrickson’s Doctor Strange — a rare superhero movie that didn’t look like every other superhero movie, or any other action movie; that cleverly avoided and even inverted the usual epic urban mayhem marking nearly all films of that genre; a redemption story that challenged the protagonist’s materialistic nihilism as well as his egocentrism.
I saw Doctor Strange twice in theaters. I brought my whole family to see it in 3D. I was sure it would make my top 10. Yet in the end 10 other films made a stronger case, and Doctor Strange had to settle for runner-up — along with 9 other exceptional films.
Likewise, I enjoyed Disney’s Zootopia more than a dismissive reference below would suggest, but it didn’t even make my top 30. And while there is a Disney family film in my top 10, it’s neither Pete’s Dragon nor The Jungle Book, which made runner-up and honorable mention, respectively. (In an excellent year for family films, such notable films as Kubo and the Two Strings, The BFG and Finding Dory didn’t make the top 30.)
It was a extraordinary year for films with religious themes, including films by filmmakers with faith backgrounds, Hacksaw Ridge, The Birth of a Nation and Silence among these. Jesus himself appeared onscreen in a startling number of films, from The Young Messiah, Risen and Ben-Hur to the film that in a way upstaged them all, the Coen brothers’ Hail, Caesar! — another film I enjoyed but couldn’t find a place for below.
With such a rich crop of outstanding films, my rankings have never felt more subjective to me. Which horror film about traditional religious fears of evil spirits was more outstanding? Which tale about a young black girl entering a world of competitive performance was more deserving? Which Hollywood spectacle with shifting gravitational frames of reference was more memorable? How to rank the year’s documentaries dealing with race relations?
I have my reasons for every call made below. Other calls are certainly possible.
Copyright © 2000– Steven D. Greydanus. All rights reserved.