16 For 16: The Best Films Of 2016

While 2016 got off to a relatively slow start at the movies, it appears we are approaching the end of the year with quite a little flourish. What normally would be an easy task of compiling the top ten films of this year ended up being somewhat complicated by the fantastic releases that came out in the fall. So in the interest of being fair to all of these films (also because I couldn’t narrow my list any further) here are the top 16 films for 2016. Please note that I reserve the right to update this list because we’ve not had the opportunity to screen Martin Scorsese’s film Silence yet.

Honorable Mention: Green Room, Deadpool, Jackie, Ghostbusters 

If you challenged any critic to come up with a list of films that were different from each other, I’m not sure they could do a better job than this list of honorable mentions. While these films may have little in common with one another, each of them brought their brand of quality to the screen and delighted audiences in their way.

Green Room Patrick Stewart

Green Room was an excellent film which was flawlessly executed by a cast lead by Patrick Stewart and the late Anton Yelchin. This wasn’t your typical horror film but certainly wasn’t tame by any stretch of the imagination. The brilliance of this movie is in its narrative. Jeremy Saulnier crafted a tale that was able to utilize the smallest of spaces and the tiniest of details to amp up the tension in the film

The Best Films of 2016

Deadpool deserves to be on a majority of best lists due to its impact on the landscape of superhero movies. This film showed that it was not only okay to break that “4th wall” but that rated R super films could flourish (Deadpool’s success lead to Logan being made).


Jackie is a superb look at the life of the former first lady following the assassination of her husband, President Kennedy. Natalie Portman is sensational in a film that will most certainly make her the favorite to win her 2nd Oscar. I had higher hopes for this film as a whole, but it just didn’t warrant being in the Top 16 (but it’s close just based on Natalie Portman’s performance alone).

Ghostbusters Sequel

Director Paul Feig took a risk when he decided to make his new Ghostbusters team all female. Whether anyone is willing to admit or not, Ghostbusters struck a nerve with the public. It was fun, light-hearted, and showed that ladies scientists can kick butt as well. It was also well received by a majority of critics and fans as well. If this film had been given more of a shot and not be subjected to the deluge of hatred from the hardcore old school Ghostbuster fans, this film could have done even better at the box-office.

16. Moana


This film has brought pure joy to the audiences that have already been lucky enough to see it. Disney has managed to craft a narrative that’s equal parts an empowerment story and a stupendously engaging adventure that we haven’t seen since Aladdin. Dwayne Johnson steals the movie as Maui.

15. A Monster Calls

A powerful film about grief and how a boy is coming to terms with his mother’s impending death. Fantastic visual effects and compelling performances by the entire cast.

14. Neon Demon

2016 movies

Did you know that  brutality could be made to look so beautiful? This film has to be considered one of the riskier releases and those who took on the film were rewarded with a film that was visually stunning.

13. Lion

Another visually stunning film with tremendous performances. This movie is worth seeing if for no other reason than to witness the how outstanding Dev Patel is.

12. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Episode 104: 'Rogue One' vs 'The Walking Dead'

A fantastic addition to the Star Wars legacy. Felicity Jones is fantastic in the film, and the narrative is deliciously crafted that Rogue One fits in beautifully in between Episode III and IV.

11. Hacksaw Ridge

A scintillating look at the actual story of private Desmond Doss and at a portion of World War II that is often ignored in Hollywood. Andrew Garfield’s performance in this film will garner him attention during awards season as will the direction of Mel Gibson.

10.Nocturnal Animals

Nocturnal Animals

Tom Ford’s look into the depravity of the human condition is hard to stomach at times, but no matter how much you want to look away, it’s impossible to do. Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal, Laura Linney, and Aaron Taylor-Johnson all are fantastic in the film.

9. 10 Cloverfield Lane

John Goodman 10 Cloverfield Lane

While you won’t find 10 Cloverfield Lane on too many “Best of” lists, this film cracks the Top 10 based on the performance of John Goodman. Goodman is so violent, scary, and so manipulative that I was tense the entire time. To me, this film was a guilty pleasure that I’d watch again in a second.

8.Captain Fantastic

This is the best Viggo Mortensen film I’ve ever seen. This movie has and will continue to blow audiences away. The reason why it’s not higher that 8th is it gets to be a tad bit long towards the end but overall it’s one of 2016’s must see films.

7. The Edge Of Seventeen

Anyone who goes into this film thinking it’s going to be your typical run of the mill teen “dramedy,” is sadly mistaken. This movie has a perfect balance of great acting, a poignant narrative, and film with such heart that most audiences will be emotional towards the end of the movie. Woody Harrelson and Hailee Steinfeld deliver knockout performances.

6. Hell or High Water

Exclusive: Writer Taylor Sheridan Talks 'Hell or High Water'

If I were writing a list of the most surprising films of 2016, The Edge of Seventeen and Hell or High Water would certainly be in my top two. Instead of the usual plastic performances that we’ve grown to expect from Chris Pine, we were treated to a nuanced and incredibly layered one. Ben Foster doesn’t disappoint in a film that will surprise anyone that’s willing to give it a shot.

5. Fences

'Fences' First Trailer - Denzel Washington And Viola Davis Give It Their All

Denzel Washington directs and stars along with Viola Davis in a film based on the August Wilson play. Washington shows such vision in the staging of the play and is tremendous in the lead role, but the story of this film is Viola Davis.

4. Arrival


This certainly has been Amy Adams year. Arrival is an outstanding film anchored by blistering performances by both Adams and Jeremy Renner. It’s the first alien invasion I’ve seen where a single shot isn’t fired.

3. Manchester By The Sea

Fall Movie Preview

If this list were the best performances of 2016, then Casey Affleck would be number one, and it wouldn’t even be close. Never have I seen a film deal with grief in such a raw and real way. This movie grabs hold of its audience and refuses to let go.

2. La La Land

La La Land

Deciding between the first and the second-ranked films was pretty challenging. La La Land is exceptionally staged and masterfully directed. On top of that, Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling both deliver world class performances in a film that transports you to the golden age of Hollywood.

1. Moonlight

Beautifully shot, masterfully directed, and skillfully performed are just a fraction of the mountain of compliments I could give this film. This movie affected me on both a personal and professional level (which was the ultimately the deciding factor). Moonlight is the type of film that will resonate with me long after I’m done reviewing movies for a living.

What was your favorite film of 2016? Comment below.

Dewey Singleton - Film Critic
Dewey Singleton - Film Critic
I'm a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association and have been doing reviews for many years. My views on film are often heard in markets such as Atlanta, Houston, and satellite radio. My wife often tolerates my obsession for all things film related and two sons are at an age now where 'Trolls' is way cooler than dad. Follow me on twitter @mrsingleton.