Elisabeth's Top 15 Films of 2016

I’m not sure what to say about 2016. It was a rough year for me, personally. Some good things happened, of course, but overall it was a tough one to weather. I always find a little bit of comfort in going to the movies though, and they definitely played that role for me last year. It’s always nice to be able to escape from your own reality for a couple hours (even though half of the movies on my list aren’t exactly uplifting). Until recently though, I was struggling to keep a running list of my favorite films because so many of the ones I saw just did not do it for me (I’m looking at you, La La Land). But I was able to cram in a bunch over the past few months and suddenly my list fell into place and I felt pretty good about it. So without further ado, here are my favorites of 2016…

     15. Hacksaw Ridge
I’m no war movie fan. I honestly usually just get bored. That probably makes me sound like a bad person, but it is what it is. This movie though, aside from its schmaltzy beginning, was genuinely very good. I can’t believe I didn’t know about Desmond Doss before seeing this. Everyone should know about this hero! I was never bored during the battle scenes, which is a pretty amazing feat for me. This would be a rough one to rewatch, but I’m glad I finally saw it. Such a worthwhile story to learn about.
     14. Sully
I enjoyed this movie. I love Tom Hanks (who doesn’t?) and the story is powerful. I had no idea any of this stuff was happening behind the scenes after the real life incident, and I found it all really fascinating and frustrating. This movie is good, but it isn’t great. And there are several other movies I could have put on my list to replace it. But. My grandma died back in November, and this was the last movie she saw in the theater, or ever. She loved Tom Hanks, and wanted to see anything he was in. Her eyesight was nearly gone by the end of her life, and she said that at times  she struggled to see what was going on, but being fairly dialogue-heavy, she followed the story just fine and ended up loving it. When she found out that I went to go see it, she got so excited and had to know whether I liked it or not. She talked to my mom (her caregiver) about it for days. Days. So it may not be one of the best, but the memories I’ve attached to this movie are some of the most special to me.
     13. Manchester By the Sea
This movie was rough. I saw it mostly because I’m a big Kyle Chandler fan, but I ended up enjoying it (can you enjoy this movie?) overall. I kept wondering, “What on earth happened that was so awful?” But oh, the reveal is genuinely the most awful thing you could imagine. Casey Affleck and Michelle Williams really know how to break your heart. Also, the decision made at the end of this movie felt very realistic to me. It’s worth a watch. You just may need a mood-lifter afterwards.
     12. Midnight Special
I’m a huge Michael Shannon fan and will watch anything he’s in (I’ve also had the pleasure of meeting him, and he’s strange and lovely, as you’d think he would be). I was into this movie from the get-go, and loved imagining what could possibly be going on. The mystery was spot-on. And it was so tense! I wasn’t necessarily disappointed by the reveal at the end, but I felt a little like, “Oh. Okay.” But when I watched the special features and listened to Jeff Nichols talk about it, I ended up loving it way more than I initially did. I don’t know if that’s good or bad, but it helped this movie land a spot on my list, so I vote good.
     11. Nerve
This isn’t some masterpiece of a movie, but man, is it fun. I love a good teen movie every now and then, and this’ll be one I’ll want to add to my list of ones to watch on a somewhat regular basis. It’s bright, it’s energetic, it’s unrealistic in a way that’s exciting and not annoying. The soundtrack is also top notch. The overall message about the internet and social media is a bit heavy handed, but nevertheless important and true.
     10. Star Trek Beyond
I won’t ever pretend to be a true Star Trek fan – I’ve never seen a full episode of any version of the show, and have only watched half of one of the original movies. But I know enough about universe to appreciate it, and I instantly fell in love with these new movies. This one did not disappoint, and was a great rebound from the lackluster Into Darkness. I was so happy (and sad) to see Anton Yelchin get more screen time than he did in the past two movies. It was a nice sendoff, and I hope they treat Chekov’s absence in a positive way in the next film (maybe he got married and decided to settle down for a safer, more stable life?). I also cannot help but grin from ear to ear during the Beastie Boys scene. Again, I can’t call myself a Beastie Boys fan, but I did see them live in 2007 by accident. I was at a music festival and they decided to show up unannounced (to the festival goers, anyway), and when they took the stage they immediately started playing “Sabotage.” The stage was at the bottom of a hill, and I’ll never forget standing by the stage and turning around to see a stampede of people barreling down the hill to come watch this band they had no idea they were going to have the opportunity to see. It was a moment I’ll never forget, and I was taken right back to it when the Starfleet crew blasted the song into outer space.
     9. 10 Cloverfield Lane
It’s been almost a year since I’ve seen this so I’d like to watch it again and refresh my memory, but I do know I really enjoyed it. I loved not knowing what exactly was going on, loved not knowing whether I should trust John Goodman or not (who was amazing in this). I was on the edge of my seat nearly the entire time. I wasn’t bothered by the ending like some people were – I was actually kind of excited by it. I look forward to more Cloverfield films in the future.
     8. Arrival
This movie has everything I like: UFOs, aliens, language (or just, the process of figuring something out/translating), emotional family/maternal drama. It was pretty scary to see the knee-jerk way the world ended up reacting to the aliens, because I’m sure that’s what would probably happen should this actually occur. But I loved the conclusion of the story. That phone call had my heart racing.
     7. Moonlight
I’ll just be echoing the masses by saying this movie is important and beautiful, but it is. I felt perpetually on the verge of tears the entire time. I just wanted to wrap my arms around Chiron, especially during the high school portion. Even though I had to shush a group of giggling old ladies sitting in front of me in the theater during the night beach scene (I mean really, how immature can y’all be?), I was wrapped up in this story from the start. I imagine it’ll stay with me forever.
     6. Jackie
Aside from the obvious famous photos and footage, I didn’t know a whole lot about Jackie, so I loved this snapshot into a very specific and intimate time in her life. I’m no Natalie Portman fan, so the fact that she won me over in this probably says a lot about her performance. She was so great. She carried so much grief throughout the film – I can’t imagine how difficult it must have been to stay in that mindset for so long. I also love John Carroll Lynch, so he was a welcome surprise as LBJ.
     5. A Monster Calls
Occasionally there’s a movie that makes me so emotional that I have to think of every funny movie I’ve ever seen in order to stop from crying out loud in the theater. This was one of those movies. I knew next to nothing about it before seeing it, and what a surprise it was. This is what children’s movies should be. This is the kind of movie I want my future kids to watch and feel and love. It tackles a hard subject – a parent dying from cancer – but I appreciated the fact that the filmmakers felt that it was a subject they *could* tackle in a kid’s movie. They did an amazing job of it. Little Lewis MacDougall as Conor was so wonderful. And the watercolor art and animation in the movie really made me want to get back to painting. It’s such a beautiful movie. Watch it.
     4. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
I’m not sure I have a lot to say about this movie, other than I thoroughly enjoyed it. I loved it all the way through, and am looking forward to owning it eventually and watching it again. I know there is no need for a contest between Rey and Jyn Erso, especially because I think they’re both awesome, badass women that I'd love my hypothetical future daughters to look up to, but Jyn really won me over (it probably helps that I’ve been a Felicity Jones fan for a while). I’d kill for her outfit, too. I also really loved seeing Riz Ahmed in this, and hope to see him in many more things in the future.
     3. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
I was a bit skeptical about this movie before seeing it, but it took me right back into the wizarding world that I know and love and made me never wanna leave. And it was so fun to finally see some American wizards! Tina and Queenie were so wonderful and I want to live with them in their cozy little apartment as much as I want to live in Newt’s briefcase with all the fantastic beasts. Also, Newt and Jacob are probably two of the most lovable characters in the Harry Potter universe. And little Pickett the Bowtruckle too, who was modeled after my sweet, tiny cat Pipsa, I’m pretty certain.
     2. The Light Between Oceans
Superficially, I’m obsessed with the clothing in this movie. I guess I love 1920s-30s coastal Australian fashion? The sweaters, the suspenders, the long flowing skirts, the cardigans, the boots, all the gorgeous baby knits. I love the idea of life on a little island, even though I don’t think I could ever hack it. Not so superficially, this movie probably stuck with me so much not only because it reminds me a lot of my favorite book, but because going through infertility for more than two years makes me completely understand the desperation to have a child. My situation is completely different than Isabel’s, but I get her. I can’t say I’d feel comfortable making the same decision she does – finding a baby and keeping it without seeking its family first, or without going through the proper channels to adopt it – but I understand why she does it. She breaks my heart. So does Michael Fassbender as Tom, who is such a good, tender man. He wants so badly to do the right thing. And ultimately he can’t live with himself if he doesn’t. This movie is visually beautiful and so very tragic. It’s a hard watch, but beautiful enough and full of enough sweet, happy moments, that I think I could watch it regularly.
     1. Lion
Yet another movie on my list that required me to call upon scenes from comedies to keep me from disrupting the theater with my loud crying. I just can’t believe the most perfect and awful series of circumstances that happened to little Saroo. It seems nearly impossible, and yet it happened. Sunny Pawar and Dev Patel and Nicole Kidman will break your heart right in half in this movie. I guess I’m a sucker for this kind of story (a child in need/adoption/loss/the longing for home and family), but the fact that this one is true makes it all the more heartbreaking and overwhelming. What a crazy, awful, gorgeous story. That ending will stay with me forever. On a lighter note, anyone know where I can try some jalebi?

Be sure to check back tomorrow for Tracy’s list! I can’t wait to read what she has to say.