The 10 Best Movies of 2016

Dec 14, 2016

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It’s time for that annual ritual of film lovers and film reviewers, a very subjective list of the best that the screen has had to offer during the past 12 months.


Some may be expected, while others hopefully will be surprises -- which always makes for a nice mix. And rather than rank them numerically, my custom is to list them alphabetically. Wherever a given picture places among the chosen 10, it’s still a rare and special level to get to.


With that, let’s go (or go back, in some cases) to the 2016 movies …


“ARRIVAL”: Just when you thought stories of communication with aliens couldn’t get any more unique, along comes this sci-fi drama that falls quite emotionally on the shoulders of Amy Adams – who’s totally up to handling it.  


“THE BEATLES: EIGHT DAYS A WEEK – THE TOURING YEARS”: Wow. Just, wow. Thank you, director Ron Howard, for gathering this classic footage and putting it together so masterfully … and meaningfully.


“DOCTOR STRANGE”: Just when the Marvel-movie franchise needed some freshening, along came Benedict Cumberatch in the mystical title role of this visually dazzling adventure.


“DON’T BREATHE”: It’s as nasty as all get-out, but this chiller about home invaders who pick the wrong home boasts one of the year’s great performances, supplied by stage and screen veteran Stephen Lang as the most non-helpless “victim” you ever may see.


“FLORENCE FOSTER JENKINS”: Who isn’t accustomed to Meryl Streep hitting performances out of the park by now, even as a would-be singer who can’t sing? The real pleasure here is in watching Hugh Grant and – surprise of surprises – “The Big Bang Theory’s” Simon Helberg match her.


“JACKIE”: Natalie Portman may want to clear a space for her second Oscar. She’s that stunning, in every way, as Jackie Kennedy.


“THE JUNGLE BOOK”: With its amazing look, it’s hard to believe Disney’s reboot of the Rudyard Kipling classic was done entirely in a downtown Los Angeles studio. For that alone, director Jon Favreau and his technical team land a place on this list.


“LA LA LAND”: If few people had heard of director Damien Chazelle before “Whiplash,” they won’t forget his name after his remarkable musical that’s set in modern Los Angeles and gives the screen images of Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone major transformations.


“MONEY MONSTER”: Underrated while it was in theaters, this flashy, intense standoff tale -- set principally in a business-news TV studio -- draws truly excellent work (under Jodie Foster’s direction) from George Clooney and Jack O’Connell as very verbal opponents.


“SULLY”: Even if you go in fully knowing what to expect, the economy of Clint Eastwood’s directing and the typical “everyman” greatness of Tom Hanks’ acting (with a noteworthy assist from Aaron Eckhart) make the story of “miracle landing” pilot Chesley Sullenberger stirring all over again.