Yesterday I published a list of my top five worst movies of the year, and today it’s time to celebrate the best ones. It’s actually been a great year for movies and I had a shortlist of just over 20 movies that I enjoyed immensely. There have also been a number of big releases, and some nostalgia films. Avengers: Age of Ultron and Star Wars: The Force Awakens have been the year’s biggest hits, but where are they on my list. Are they even on my list? At the end I’ll be doing a recap and talking about why some films didn’t make it on my list, and ones that just missed out on the top ten. I’ll also be doing a top ten of the most anticipated films of 2016, which will be posted on New Year’s Day (my birthday woo!)
Just to go over the disclaimers again, I’m in the UK so this list is based on movies that have been released in cinemas over here. I try and see as many movies as I can but I don’t get to them all, unfortunately, so there may have been a great one that I have missed. And this is all just in my opinion I’m not doing this based on anything like box office results etc. If you read my blog regularly then you probably know some of the movies that will appear on here, but I’m sure there will be a couple of surprises.
#10 – Crimson Peak
I always find the number ten slot hard to fill as it means I can’t put anymore films on the list, but Crimson Peak I liked more than the rest of the films on the shortlist. The plot is okay, if a little predictable, but what I really loved about the film were the visuals. Del Toro always makes interesting films and I loved his use of colour here. The walls of the house were literally bleeding, and the whole gothic atmosphere seeped out of the screen. The actors gave strong performances and the tone was creepy and unsettling without being overwhelmingly so, and it gets tense towards the end as well.
#9 – Mr. Holmes
Sherlock Holmes is one of my favourite fictional characters and I found the concept of this film interesting, as it placed him towards the end of his life where he’s losing his mental faculties, but has to solve an unsolved case. Ian McKellen was superb in the role and I liked that it looked at Holmes from a different angle than many other adaptations. It’s more intimate in scope than some of the other films on my list, but I really enjoyed it.
#8 – Bridge of Spies
This is one that just came out a couple of weeks ago but managed to make the list, mostly because of Tom Hanks, but also because of the message that it sends. It’s very relevant in today’s culture where people seem quick to judge people based on hearsay or rumours, and tar everyone with the same brush. The integrity of Hanks’ character is admirable and the treatment he receives is disgusting, but mixed into this is a good Cold War thriller set in Berlin, shot in a way that evokes that harrowing, harsh environment.
#7 – Inside Out
I’m not as big on Pixar as many other people (I still think Up is one of the most overrated movies of all time) but Inside Out was great fun, and I think it’s the only movie on this list to make me cry (anyone who has seen it knows which part). There were also some really cool scenes, like when they get turned into abstract shapes. Obviously emotions are more complex than what the film makes them out to be, but for the sake of storytelling I can understand why they did what they did.
#6 – The Walk
When I went into this one I was skeptical because as much as I like Gordon-Levitt as an actor I wasn’t sure the premise could sustain a two hour movie, but I was engrossed the whole time. The whole film leads up to the big stunt, where he walks a tightrope strung between the twin towers, and it’s worth all the building up. It was a film that made me gaze up in awe as I saw the impossible made real, and that struck me as wonderful because nowadays films are always trying to be bigger and better and do more amazing things with their visuals, but sometimes all you need is something as simple as a man on a wire.
#5 – The Duff
Now this is one that I think will take people by surprise, for it certainly did that to me. From the trailers it looked like a typical high school movie, and I almost didn’t go see it but I was bored one Monday evening and managed to get to it before it was out of the theatres, and I have to say that wow this movie is great. Obviously it comes with the caveat that you are interesting in teen movies, but it’s a fresh look at the often tired high school genre. Mae Whitman is a great lead and I look forward to seeing her in more films. The thing I liked most about The Duff is the core message – that it’s important to define yourself, not have others do it for you. Don’t dismiss this one.
#4 – Ex Machina
Back at university I did a course called ‘The Philosophy of Artificial Intelligence’ and this film was basically a visual representation of that course. The three leads are amazing and there are layers of mystery that are peeled away, leading to an explosive climax. It’s a thoughtful film that provokes discussion, and unfortunately I think it’s going to be one of those films that are going to get lost in the shuffle, but if you get a chance then check it out.
#3 – Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens
Perhaps the only surprise here is that it isn’t higher on my list, but yes, the biggest release of the year comes in at number three. This was the one that I thought was going to be top, and I did really enjoy it. I went to a midnight showing and had a grin on my face for most of the film. The opening was awesome, I loved the new characters, and seeing the old ones again was great. But, invariably, whenever I talk about this film there’s as much griping as there is praising, and most of the problems I had with the film were small, niggling things that could have been fixed easily. And as much as I enjoyed it, I felt like I had seen the movie before, and I almost enjoyed the promise of the next one more than I did the actual film. But I still really enjoyed it and it did still beat out most of the other films I’ve seen this year. But there are still two more…
#2 – Whiplash
This was one that was in contention for the Oscar. It’s a ninety minute movie that’s minimalist in nature but it was one of the most tense experiences I’ve had watching a movie. I was completely enthralled from beginning to end, and my heart was racing along with the drumbeat. Teller and Simmons were absolutely fantastic and after the film had finished I felt drained, but in a good way, like I had to catch my breath. I knew after I watched it that it would be high on my list, and so it proved to be. But it is not the highest! That honour falls to…
#1 – The Martian
Yes. I knew after I watched this that it would most likely be my number one of the year, and the only one that threatened it was Star Wars. I initially wasn’t fussed about seeing it because I haven’t been impressed with most of Ridley Scott’s recent work, but I saw it at the end of a four-movie marathon and it just had me all the way through, like Interstellar the previous year. Matt Damon was amazing, I loved the humour in the film, loved the scenes on Earth and Mars and in space, just loved EVERYTHING! It was one of those films where I was completely engrossed from start to finish, like Whiplash but I also loved the wider message about humanity and how we strive to survive and help each other. Just an excellent, excellent film.
And that wraps up another year. There are some notable exceptions of course. This is a rare year where there are no superhero movies on the list. Avengers: Age of Ultron was never going to make it. Ant-Man and Big Hero 6 were close though. Some people may be surprised that Mad Max: Fury Road didn’t get a mention, but although I enjoyed that film I think it’s so overrated and in a few years it’ll be forgotten. Other films that were close are No Escape, The Visit, and American Sniper. It was tough to leave them out, but next year is going to be even tougher, as you’ll see when I put up my top ten most anticipated movies of the year, so look out for that.
Other than that let me know what you think! What were your favourite movies of the year? Do you agree with my list? Which films took you by surprise?