Mashable staff picks: Our top 16 movies of 2016

Image: Mashable composite

Controversial opinion: 2016 has been a great year.

For movies.

After I bah-humbugged 2014 and declared 2015 a dud for prestige films, 2016 for all the suffering and heartbreak it hath wrought outside the cinema brought forth so many great films that a Top 10 list just wasn’t going to cover it. This list goes to 16.

That’s right 2016, we’re taking the number 16 back. And throwing it in your dumb face because guess what? You were terrible, but your movies ruled.

As I’ve done in the past, I informally polled the known film buffs among Mashable‘s offices in Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Sydney and beyond to gather their thoughts and consensus (not to mention a few threats to fight one another over Rogue One opinions).

These picks are heavily influenced by but not totally dependent upon their responses. I am the curator, folks. If you don’t like it, blame me.

Herewith, the Mashable staff’s Top 16 of ’16:

16. ‘Nocturnal Animals’

Only one person picked Tom Ford’s moody thriller, and that person was Peter Allen Clark, Assistant Viral Content Editor and all-around delightful person. Why feed the lone wolf? Because (*whispers*) he said it was his favorite movie of the year.

Daaaaang, Peter. Gauntlet thrown:

“I’d probably say this is my favorite movie this year. The overlapping of the VERY intense revenge thriller with the inward ponderousness of a sad bourgeois life worked magnificently for its themes and I found it really marvelous. I have thought so much about this movie in the weeks since I have seen it…. And that score! There is none better this year.”

15. ‘Sully’

I had a bracing good time strapped in for Clint Eastwood’s taut thriller/procedural/ultimate dad movie. It whizzes by and builds tension at the same time what the cool kids have taken to calling a “Movie-movie.” I reviewed it well.

Lance Ulanoff, Chief Correspondent and Editor-at-Large (and, to be fair, also a dad) agreed with me:

“Gripping, pithy and a pleasure to watch. Hanks comes pretty darn close to disappearing into the true-life character.”

14. ‘Don’t Think Twice’

Did not see this coming: No less than five of our staff reserved a spot on their list for this tiny indie comedy about tiny indie comedy which I did not see. But these are people I would blindly “Yes, and” any day:

Miriam Kramer, Deputy science editor:

“I feel like I know all of those characters in real life … Lots of improv friends.”

Annie Colbert, Viral Content Editor:

“Don’t Think Twice” (everything you love and hate about improv people in 90 minutes).”

Ti Lovelace, Cinefix:

“Mike Birbiglia continues to impress, as he further develops as a writer, actor and director since Sleepwalk with Me.Any comedy nerd will love this film for the cast alone, but it also delivers on creating real tension and drama along with some great laughs.”

13. ‘The Invitation’

No one but me picked Karyn Kusama’s criminally under-seen cult thriller probably because they didn’t see it. This elevated drawing-room play creeps up on you, body slams you to the ground and delivers a final shot that will stop your heart for a moment. You’ll never see it coming.

12. ‘Captain America: Civil War’

A superhero drama? A character-driven comic-book movie? What is this thing? It’s just popcorn greatness I called it “the best Marvel movie we’ll ever get” but you don’t need to take my word for it:

Pete Pachal, Tech Editor:

“Finally a blockbuster superhero movie where thestakes feel clear and personal throughout. It wisely knows bothwhen to dazzle and when to gear down and let the leads … lead. Doesn’t hurt that Tom Holland steals his scenes with the best big-screen performance of Spider-Man so far. Civil War is The Empire Strikes Back for the MCU.”

11. ‘Star Wars: Rogue One’

Love it, loathe it, shrug it off. Those seem to be the three modes for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, debate over which nearly generated a planet-cracking explosion on Mashable’s email servers. Notice it did not crack our Top 10 that’s just me trolling but I’ll leave it to our resident Rebel Alliance leaders to tell me why I’m wrong:

Chris Taylor, Deputy Editor and author of “How Star Wars Conquered the Universe”:

“Yes, it was chock full of Star Wars fan service, and those CGI-human masks seem to have divided more people than the Empire itself. But it is also the most tight and perfectly self-contained Star Wars movie since A New Hope. It threaded so many delicate needles: depicting war and dictatorship effectively in a family movie without a drop of blood, making us care about individuals and an ensemble with very little dialogue needed, rushing us around the galaxy without confusing newbies, and most importantly leading us directly into Episode IV, and changing that classic movie forever, without besmirching it.”

Lance Ulanoff, Chief Correspondent and Editor-at-Large:

“This is really an espionage thriller in sci-fi clothing. The closest analogy might be The Magnificent Seven. Did everyone die in that, too?”

Adam Rosenberg, Senior Games Reporter:

“Who knew the first Star Wars war movie would basically turn into a sci-fi re-casting of The Dirty Dozen? Come for the ample eye candy, stay for the added emotional depth in Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope.”

Brittany Levine, Associate Editor:

“I am not a diehard Star Wars fan and loved this movie. The story is succinct and moving and made me wish I was more of a Star Wars fan. Definitely a better film than The Force Awakens … Yes it has blemishes, like the digital masks and the weird mind-reading octopus alien, but those are tiny specks in comparison to the movie’s emotional tug. Come on, Stardust!”

Laura Prudom, TV Editor:

“It’s the perfect combination of style and substance; gorgeously executed battles and characters I immediately loved and wanted to know more about. The more I watched Force Awakens, the more I noticed its flaws, but having seen Rogue One three times now, I find more to appreciate each time.”

10. ‘Fences’

Fences was another film I was alone on, but that’s only because I saw an early screening and most of my colleagues haven’t gotten around to it yet. They will, and when they do they’ll see Denzel Washington at the very peak of his formidable powers, both as an actor and a director; and Viola Davis in an Oscar slam-dunk.

9. ‘The Handmaiden’

Park Chan-wook has a funny way of leading you around with a false sense of security, then cutting you off at the knees. The Handmaiden does this time and again, including a major mid-movie reset that throws the whole damn thing into reverse, and it’s mind-blowing. It’s also sexy as hell, but in ways you’d never expect. A rare gem of intricate and rewarding filmmaking.

Peter Allen Clark, Assistant Viral Content Editor:

“While this one was a late bloomer to my mind, it’s really risen in my estimation as a fantastic and beautifully shot movie about intrigue, trust and love. It’s the type of twisted love story you would expect from the director of Old Boy.”

8. ‘Deadpool’

Oh hello there! Remember when Ryan Reynolds played a smart-ass, foul-mouthed, fourth-wall-breaking superantihero mercenary and everybody lost their shit? That was this year. I know, right? Seems like this guy’s been with us for like, forever.

Adam Rosenberg, Senior Games Reporter:

“Perhaps the most authentic comic book-to-film adaptation ever produced. It’s as eye-archingly problematic and blisteringly hilarious as the Marvel anti-hero it’s named for. Respect to Ryan Reynolds for keeping the faith after so many setbacks.”

Brittany Levine, Associate Editor:

“I don’t usually like comic book movies, but Deadpool slayed me. It’s over-the-top everything the dialogue, the action scenes, the violence and it was entertaining every step of the way. Even the closing credits were sassy.”

7. ‘Arrival’

“Smart, cerebral sci-fi” is just not the kind of movie that this staff is going to overlook, OK?

Miriam Kramer, Deputy science editor:

“To me, it corrects some of the wrongs of past space movies (looking at you, Gravity and Interstellar), when it comes to women in general. Amy Adams’ character is treated like an actual human instead of just a vessel for a filmmaker’s need to shallowly explore female pain. … And yeah, the aliens are really cool, and it’s just very, very solid sci-fi.”

Aliza Weinberger, Audience Development:

“Everything about it from script to sound to editing to acting to meta-narrative was genius. I know Amy Adams is the new Leo, all nominations and no wins, but this movie deserves to be the film that gets her a WIN.”

Clint Gage, Cinefix:

“Whether it was on purpose or not, it was one of the most timely movies Ive ever seen. A movie about the importance of communication and really understanding each other, about knowing things are going to get worse before they get better but living your life anyway was exactly what I needed this Fall.”

6. ‘Hell or High Water’

With summer bombast winding down, along came this little cops-and-robbers gem from David Mackenzie that made nearly everyone’s 2016 list. And guess what? It’s nothing fancy.

Lance Ulanoff, Chief Correspondent and Editor-at-Large:

“Top-to-bottom excellent performances. There’s almost a thread of connection between it and The Last Picture Show, which, of course, also starred the remarkable Jeff Bridges.”

Ti Lovelace, Cinefix:

“Proof that simple, straightforward movies can still be stories worth telling.Chris Pine ups his game to show he has legitimate chops.”

Laura Prudom, TV Editor:

“Of everything I watched this year, I was more impressed by its grasp of location and character than I was with any other film. It’s a simple concept that’s executed confidently and with a distinctive voice and visual style, and that’s an under-appreciated skill these days.”

5. ‘The Jungle Book’

Jon Favreau’s plunge into the Disney animated vault did not need to be this good it just was. Filmed in a warehouse in downtown Los Angeles, with nothing but some fancy green-screens and Neel Sethi, The Jungle Book could easily have been an overboiled CG mess. But it was a marvel, tactile and visceral, and proof that great movies really can come from the server farm. I loved it.

4. ‘Moonlight’

Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight, based on the play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue by Tarell Alvin McCraney, is a bold stroke by any measure: a tryptich of actors play Chiron at three different stages of life, and the story goes nowhere near your expectations.

Proma Khosla, Entertainment Reporter:

“It is the age of Mahershala Ali and Janelle Monae and those two glorious worlds converged in Moonlight, that too with the worlds of promising young actors Alex Hibbert and Ashton Sanders, with Naomie Harris as Chirons unraveling mother in this beautiful meditation on boyhood, growth and sexuality.”

Ti Lovelace, Cinefix:

“Barry Jenkins’ direction pairs with a stellar cast of veterans and newcomers alike to highlight the strength of subtlety in performance, all woven into a story with issues that are far too seldom discussed.”

Damon Beres, Deputy Tech Editor:

“A perfect romance for 2016, filled with tension, hardship and unbelievable emotional generosity. Basically a masterpiece.”

3. ‘Moana’

How often does a Disney movie’s spirit move you so greatly and so instantly that your eyes start to leak with the first song and never relent? Moana is that movie; its lush, warm, watery wonders never cease, the music is delightful and the twist ending is a bliss-bomb. Will go down as one of Disney’s all-timers.

2. ‘Manchester by the Sea’

Sundance movies have a bad habit of losing their powers in the months after the festival, but not Manchester by the Sea, Kenneth Lonergan’s sweeping family drama that stares down grief … and can’t beat it. A beautiful devastation upon which I chose to spend my annual one-time allotment of the word “masterpiece.”

Sam Haysom, Senior UK Culture Reporter:

“Gut-punches you on the first viewing, and then keeps gnawing away after you’ve left the cinema. The subject matter’s grim and the film won’t be to everyone’s taste, but the acting is brilliant all-round and the dialogue’s beautifully written. Certain scenes and one particular line will stay with you for a long time.”

1. ‘La La Land’

La La Land is like licorice: Not everyone likes licorice, but people who like licorice really, really like licorice. And must have it, frequently. I was among them I broke down sobbing like a fool the first time I saw it and not for its melancholy and bittersweet shadings, but for its beauty, its artistry and its unbridled joy.

Aliza Weinberger, Audience Development:

La La Land, so much. I don’t even care about L.A. and that movie changed my life.”

Erin Strecker, Deputy Entertainment Editor:

La La Land, duh.

Proma Khosla, Entertainment Reporter:

“Damien Chazelle unearthed the ancient forgotten spell for the perfect movie that contains the exact alchemical combination of chemistry, charisma, music and dance. The final sequence may have wrecked me, but it put me back together into something better.”

Also honorably mentioned:

Lion, Zootopia, Sing Street, Doctor Strange, Edge of Seventeen, Finding Dory, Weiner, Hacksaw Ridge, Other People, Kubo and the Two Strings, Hunt for the Wilderpeople, 10 Cloverfield Lane, Popstar, Green Room, Hail Caesar!, Eddie the Eagle, The Witch, Putuparri and the Rainmakers, The Shallows

Movies that were indeed mentioned and I cannot for the life of me fathom why:

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Love & Friendship, Swiss Army Man, Ghostbusters, Jackie, Everybody Wants Some!!, The Nice Guys

Read more: http://mashable.com/2016/12/30/top-movies-2016-list-mashable-staff-picks/