We have been treated to another year of films that have managed to raise our pulses, made our hearts beat, cheeks ache from laughing and left us furious with rage. Whether it has been masterful storytelling or breathtaking performances, this year we have been moved to tears, shaken with fear and transported to a galaxy far far away. Let’s face it; it’s why we love going to the cinema in the first place.
After 165 new releases in the UK this year, its been incredibly difficult and I have had leave out some absolutely fantastic films all worthy of acclaim, but here are my top ten films of the year.
- Indignation – Adapted from the novel by Philip Roth, Indignation is very much a coming of age film with contemporary themes. It’s able to have a searing intensity whilst remaining achingly elegant at all times. James Schamus, in his directorial debut, has managed to create a beautiful picture that features a fantastic cast in the form of Logan Lerman, Sarah Gadon and Tracy Letts. It didn’t get the widest cinematic release but this is a picture worthy of your attention and one that has stayed with me all year.
- Arrival – Denis Villeneuve continues to impress with an incredibly measured, intelligent and moving piece of science fiction. It felt like all of its elements combined beautifully from the fantastic Amy Adams, its over arching themes of love and loss and its genuine emotion and intimacy. Cinematographer Bradford Young continues to do great things with the camera and Johann Johannsson is a real master when it comes to putting an impressive score together. It’s a rare thing to see a piece of science fiction that is as riveting and engaging as this and is still able to push the boundaries.
- The Neon Demon – A dark, grim and dreamy fairytale that sucks you into a vanity obsessed culture of the modelling industry. Elle Fanning is assured and sublime in what is unmistakably a Nicholas Winding Refn film. The Neon Demon is as beautifully shot by Natasha Braier, as expected, and with a score that locks onto your pulse by Cliff Martinez it makes for perfection. This is sure to be film marmite but for me, it was love at first sight.
- The Witch – In The Witch, Robert Eggers has created something deeply disturbing. With an unsettling use of sound and haunting use of light throughout it makes for a truly chilling horror film. The young cast excell, particularly Anya Taylor-Joy, and manage to add additional gravitas and believability to the story. This film will be one that sticks with me for some time I’m sure. In pursuit of good horror you end up having to watch a fair amount of trash but it’s refreshing when one comes along that makes it worth it.
- Everybody Wants Some!! – Richard Linklater returns with his spiritual sequel to Dazed and Confused, Everybody Wants Some!! And it is absolutely glorious. It had me grinning all the way through at its adolescent reminiscing and often-hilarious philosophical insights. Always fun and engrossing with a classic soundtrack that ensures the film dances to its own beat.
- I, Daniel Blake – Ken Loach returns to deliver yet more great British filmmaking. A film about broken systems and the human spirit manages to deliver a powerful social commentary that will move and infuriate its audience in equal measures. Contains one of the scenes of the year (you’ll know once you’ve seen it which one I mean) and two outstanding performances from Dave Johns and Hayley Squires.
- The Revenant – The Revenant has a majestic beauty about it despite its blood, mud and uncompromising punishment. Committed performances all round especially from that man Leonardo DiCaprio this is certainly a film not for the faint hearted. Alejandro G. Iñárritu is a real master of his craft with faultless direction and when you add cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki to the mix it’s a winning partnership.
- Room – Room delicately tells a story of heartbreaking resilience, the power of imagination and the wonder of childhood innocence. Deeply moving and affecting with two powerful performances from Brie Larson and the young Jacob Tremblay. This film broke me several times but it will put you back together again.
- Victoria – I absolutely loved Victoria. Aside from its masterful technical achievemenr (filmed entirely in one continuous take) its a real tense and thrilling drama of emotions, which hinges on superb Laia Costa. It really is a roller coaster of a journey that goes through the gears seamlessly for 134 unbroken real-time minutes.
- Son of Saul – My film of the year comes from Hungry and it was a genuinely unforgettable experience as it provides an incredibly well handled depiction of the atrocities of the holocaust in Auschwitz 1944. It doesn’t feel the need to fully show you all of the horrors unfolding but opts to immerse you right in the middle the holocaust, offering a first person account with limited focus on what is happening at the peripherals of your vision. It took me a while to process this film after initially watching, such was its numbing impact on me as I found it overwhelming and relentless. Despite how horrifying it was it still offers a small glimmer of hope. Son of Saul establishes debut director Laszlo Nemes as a real talent to look out for in the future. His visceral, raw and remarkable film will stay with you long after watching it and despite not being the easiest watch, it will certainly be one of the most unforgettable.
So there it is, my top ten films of 2016. You can check out the full list of all of the films I saw released in 2016 in the U.K. on Letterboxd.