Well, here we are. It’s the end of 2016 and a generally pretty weak year at the movies. I also hit a roadblock this year, realizing there aren’t too many older movies out there I haven’t seen…good ones at least. So here’s the 2016 Top 10 movies I saw during the calendar year. I struggled getting to 10 with only 4 movies that needed to be on the list. And away we go!
10. Eddie the Eagle (2015):
I’m a sucker for underdog sports stories. This one did not disappoint, the true story of Eddie Edwards (Taron Egerton), a British man who starts later in life at becoming an Olympic ski jumper. His trainer is played by gruff, grizzled Hugh Jackman. Cheesy, overdone and intentionally tugging at your heart strings at times, but beautifully charming and two good performances from Egerton and Jackman.
9. Risen (2016):
How do you make the story of Jesus’ death in Jerusalem uniquely interesting? Making it a murder mystery of sorts. Joseph Fiennes plays Clavius, a Roman tribute tasked with finding the body of Jesus in the days following his crucifixion and potential resurrection. Loved the story, especially the twist it takes near the halfway point. Well worth it.
8. Arrival (2016):
Director Denis Villeneuve’s follow-up to the critically acclaimed Sicario, this was an intelligent, well-written and well-executed science fiction mystery. At different points around the world, 12 alien spacecrafts land with no apparent objective. Amy Adams is the linguist brought in to potentially communicate with the aliens, with Jeremy Renner and Forest Whitaker playing key supporting roles. I liked this movie the more I thought about it, including an ending and twist I definitely didn’t see coming.
7. Sleepers (1996):
Great cast, good story and a timeline that covers two key times in the lives of its main characters, especially 1960s Hell Kitchen. How can you go wrong? The loaded cast — especially De Niro, Pitt and Patric — really shines in a legal thriller that kept me guessing until the end. It took me quite awhile to track this down, but an excellent flick all-around.
6. Hologram for the King (2016)
Critically planned and a flop in theaters…but I loved it! Something just appealed to me about the story of a middle-aged man traveling to Dubai to seal an essential business deal. Tom Hanks delivers an excellent lead performance, a mid-life crisis hanging in the air over the deal with his career potentially on the line. It reminded me a little bit of a modern-day Frank Capra movie with Jimmy Stewart in the Hanks role. A pick I might take some heat for, but I loved this story.
5. Hell or High Water (2016):
A lyrical, modern-day western that you could easily see from the 1970s in the form of a revisionist western. Chris Pine (again showing what a good actor he can be) and Ben Foster are two brothers who start robbing banks to help pay off their foreclosed-on land with Jeff Bridges as a retiring Texas Ranger on their trail. Something elegantly simple and straightforward about the story. A charming, doomed story that you know won’t end well, but you go along for the ride just the same.
4. Finding Dory (2016):
The ultimate slow play for a sequel, this Pixar gem came along 13 years after Finding Nemo. Big twist? I thought the sequel was the better of the two. Ellen DeGeneres plays forgetful, absent-minded Dory who goes missing searching for her past and her parents. Excellent supporting voice characters, including Albert Brooks, Ed O’Neill, Ty Burrell and many more. Funny and heartbreaking and beautifully animated. Just a great movie.
3. 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi (2016):
Fascinated by the 2014 book of the same title detailing the terrorist attacks in Benghazi in 2012, I was curious about the film adaptation from the master of subtlety, Michael Bay. The joke was on me. I loved it, a horrifying, unsettling story about 6 American operatives forced to make a life-and-death decision amidst a terrorist attack. John Krasinski and a scene-stealing James Badge Dale lead the cast. Uncomfortable watching, but one I’m glad I watched.
2. Spotlight (2015):
As a proud alum of Indiana University’s journalism school, this was my superhero movie. A team of investigative reporters spends months on a potential story about priests and clergy molesting young boys and girls. An ensemble cast — Ruffalo, Keaton, McAdams, Schreiber, Slattery, Tucci, Crudup — steals one scene after another in a journalism story that ranks up there with All the President’s Men as one of journalism’s best. The 2015 Best Picture winner, it deserved to take home the Oscar.
1. Creed (2015):
See No. 12 (Read: Underdog sports story). A spin-off of the Rocky universe was a gem as Michael B. Jordan plays Adonis, the illegitimate son of Apollo Creed, now all grown up and pursuing his dream of being an elite boxer. Who to seek out? Rocky Balboa, Sylvester Stallone returning in epic scene-stealing form, a performance he was nominated for Best Supporting Actor. A movie that is equal parts exciting and emotional, I absolutely loved this movie. By the end, I was cheering along with Adonis. So great.
Other movies in consideration: Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Deadpool, The Edge, Hail, Caesar!, Jane Got a Gun, The Magnificent Seven (2016), Neighbors 2 (don’t judge me, it was hilarious), The Siege of Jadotville (a Netflix original), and Wish I Was Here.
Here’s to a better 2017!