Wednesday, July 13, 2016

First Half Best Films of 2016 - 10 through 6

Let's move into the top 10 films of 2016 released during the first half of the year. This portion of the list is probably the most interesting to compare when I post my 50 favorites early next year because there is still a fragility to those ranked 6 through 10. I love these movies, don't get me wrong, but with so many potentially great pictures still due out over the next 6 months some of these could easily drop down pretty far when all is said and done, where as the top 5 is far more likely to hang on and stick near the top.

10. Zootopia

While Pixar typically gets all the attention, Disney Animation has released some really terrific films as well and Zootopia is an absolute winner. A fun cartoon featuring furry animals, sure, but this is a movie with a whole lot to say, the type of material that sparked an actual important conversation between my daughter and I on the way home from the theater. Combine the thematic weight of it all with a perfect vocal cast and a well crafted film that pays homage to the classic noir cinema from decades past, you can't go wrong with Zootopia, and it's a great thing to have a movie challenge kids into actually thinking rather than just frenetically throwing colors at the wall to create the illusion of fun.

9. Knight of Cups

If you have never seen a Terrence Malick film, don't jump into Knight of Cups blindly. You will likely say the words "What the hell am I watching?" and turn it off halfway through (if you make it that far). After debuting over 40 years ago with Badlands, Malick has had a fascinating career considering Knight of Cups is only his 7th film despite such a long span of time because of a 20 year gap between Days of Heaven in 1978 and The Thin Red Line in 1998, and it was when he came back that his work started to be more abstract in nature. 

My favorite film is The Tree of Life, a Malick picture from 2011 that when I watched it for the first time, I said "What the hell am I watching?" and turned it off halfway through. It took me revisiting in order for the point behind it all to click and ever since his style has played like pure magic. Knight of Cups isn't quite up to the level of his masterpieces, but it's hard to duplicate perfection. 

8. Midnight Special

The crazy thing about writer/director Jeff Nichols is that being ranked #8 for the first half of a year is a disappointment. When a man is capable of making such masterful films as Take Shelter and Mud, Midnight Special felt like an ever so slight step down, and yet I also can't praise the film enough. From most filmmakers a work this great would be a major moment for their career but Nichols is on a different level, a superhero story of a different variety about a boy with strange powers on the run with his father as both the government and a group of religious extremists pursue them. The movie serves as an allegory for parenting, the profound love a dad can have for his child and the pain that comes with potentially having to let go.

Expect two Nichols films to be on my top 50 by the end of the year because his other 2016 release Loving is supposed to be something extraordinary. I can't wait.

7. 10 Cloverfield Lane

This right here would be the biggest surprise of 2016 for me had it not been for the film that occupies my top spot, but I will get to that later. 10 Cloverfield Lane defines the word surprise since no one other than those involved in the production knew it even existed until earlier this year, when the studio dropped a shocking trailer on the world a mere two months prior to release date. The word Cloverfield being included had everyone guessing how it would be connected to the previous film released 8 years ago, and finding out the answer is a terrific experience. Carried by best of the year thus far level performances and a first time director in Dan Trachtenberg who showed an outstanding understanding of how to build and maintain tension throughout a thriller, this movie just plain works from start to finish.

6. Captain America: Civil War

The spectacle of the summer arrived early in May and it didn't disappoint. The same directing duo who brought us the fantastic Captain America: The Winter Soldier returned again for this one and they nailed the material yet again, delivering fantastic action and utilizing the characters and their already well defined chemistry beautifully. The challenge here was trying to introduce new members to the team as well, with Chadwick Boseman playing Black Panther and Tom Holland is our new Spider-Man. Both were perfect choices for the roles, and while the inclusion of Spidey felt a bit forced simply to set up his place in the universe, I can't complain. What they did with him, with everything really, is create something entertaining, compelling and fun.

Next up, the top 5! The best of 2016 so far! Stay tuned...


  1. :D Happy to see Zootopia ending up on your top 10. I thought it was good in the theater, but after rewatching it I think I really really like it. One of the few Disney films that I actually want to go back to rewatch out of joy.

    1. I need to rewatch Zootopia, I loved it the first time around (obviously). Curious to see if it improves even more seeing it again.