Saturday, April 13, 2024

The Best Movies of 2016? Here They Are, And It Was a Pretty Good Lot from “Manchester” to “Moonlight”


These aren’t necessarily the films I think will get the 9 Best Picture nominations from the Academy. But these are the ones I enjoyed the most.


  1. Manchester by the Sea, directed by Kenneth Lonergan– this is without a doubt the best original screenplay. Tragic and absorbing, a work of such profound originality and depth that it resonates far after a screening. PS I was so tense during most of that when Matthew Broderick showed up– despite his character– I was happy to see a friendly face.
  2. Silence, directed by Martin Scorsese– another remarkable work of originality and thoughtfulness. A movie about ideas, not just religion. The scope of “Silence” is bigger than any other movie this year. Will it win the Oscar? Maybe not, but in 10 or 20 years this is the movie from 2016 we’ll be talking about. Andrew Garfield’s best performance ever.
  3. La La Land, directed by Damien Chazelle — the biggest dessert in the world, which we need now more than anything. Happy, innovative, a diversion of the best kind
  4. Lion, directed by Garth Davis– The story of Saroo, his adoptive parents, his mother, his brother– get out the Kleenex. So lovely. So moving. Just perfection. In 2005 this would have won Best Picture. It may get the Golden Globe for Best Drama. This was the best adapted screenplay, hands down.
  5. Hell or High Water, directed by David Mackenzie– Two people we already really like (Jeff Bridges, Ben Foster), one we’re getting to know (Chris Pine), and a director who reignited an old genre, the modern western.  The last good bank robbery movie was Barry Levinson’s “Bandits.”
  6. Fences, directed by Denzel Washington– Modern Shakespeare, or Arthur Miller, and the entire cast is so superb, not just Viola Davis. I’m thinking Stephen Henderson standing on the back of that garbage truck, Mykelti Williamson and his horn, and Denzel just dissolved into August Wilson.
  7. 20th Century Women, directed by Mike Mills– Annette Bening can do no wrong in this not-linear saga of a 15 year old coming of age with a too old mother, out of sync with time and space. Another brilliant ensemble.
  8. Moonlight, directed by Barry Jenkins– a triptych that I liked more in the first two thirds, but the final act has its moments. Naomie Harris and Mahershala Ali are unexpected treasures in what has to be the most audaciously constructed film in years.
  9. Florence Foster Jenkins, directed by Stephen Frears — a great character study, with performances by Meryl Streep, Hugh Grant and Simon Helberg that cannot be beat.
  10. Sully, directed by Clint Eastwood — economic, thrilling filmmaking by a pro, with a star (Tom Hanks) who really goes from strength to strength. Just when you think you’ve seen it all, these guys pull a new rabbit from their hats.
  11. The Birth of a Nation, directed by Nate Parker — if this film had not been destroyed by its director’s hubris, it would have gone on to great things. Five years from now, this “Nation” will have a rebirth. But Parker just did himself in, over and over again. Worst-handled scandal in years.
  12. Runners up: Arrival, Captain Fantastic, Denial, Sing Street, Cafe Society, Elle, Rogue One, Toni Erdmann, The Founder, Rules Don’t Apply
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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