Happy third blogiversary to me! It’s hard to believe I’ve been blogging for three years now, and this is my 698th post. At the beginning of 2014, I started writing reviews and poems to count down my top 365 films, a list I had compiled just for fun, and since the initial list ended, I’ve enjoyed all manner of new movies, tested my writing ability, and enjoyed the debates and camaraderie of fellow bloggers.
While 2016 has undoubtedly been a rough year, at least there have been movies to give us some escape from the messy politics and sad celebrity deaths. Now that 2016 has finally come to an end, I’m excited to add my new favorites of the last year to my movie list. These aren’t all 2016 films but new movies for me seen in the last year. I’m not one to try to catch every new release in the theater, so there are plenty of new films that won’t be here simply because I haven’t yet seen promising candidates like Moana, Passengers, or most of the current Oscar bait. A special shout-out to other films that came really close to being List-Worthy and might have made it onto a less crowded list, including Armageddon, Dead Poets Society, the live-action Jungle Book, Say Anything, Persepolis, Waitress, Wrinkles, The Babadook, and 10 Cloverfield Lane.
Yet I’ve seen some really great films in the last year, both new and old, and as hard as it was to kick off previous members of my list, I feel these new additions deserve their places. Like last year, there’s also some surprising diversity here, including past Oscar nominees, action spectacles, war thrillers, one horror, the four most recent James Bond movies, a direct-to-DVD Batman movie, two German dramas haunted by Nazi crimes, two Pixar sequels, and four anime. It’s been a hallmark year for me and anime, in particular, since I’ve found some amazing lesser-known features and discovered some great series, like Steins;Gate (seriously, any fan of time travel ought to see that show).
With a grand total of 51 new additions to choose from, here are my Top 12 New Films Seen in 2016, with the top five managing to crack my Top 100. The other list additions follow afterward in alphabetical order, along with some unofficial awards to certain standouts. A big thank you to all who have liked, followed, and commented in the last three years, and I hope to continue blogging for the foreseeable future, albeit at a more relaxed pace of two or three posts a week. Feel free to suggest other films that might make next year’s addition list!
- Captain Phillips (2013)
Just like with United 93 (which made my top twelve list last year), director Paul Greengrass put a highly realistic urgency into this brilliantly acted docudrama about the hijacking of the Maersk Alabama cargo ship by Somali pirates in 2009. Tom Hanks gives one of his best recent performances as the ship’s captain taken hostage and should have received a Best Actor nomination to go with the film’s two Oscar nominations for Best Picture and Best Supporting Actor.
- Finding Dory (2016)
Since Finding Nemo is possibly my most beloved of Pixar’s canon, no way was I going to miss the sequel focusing on Ellen DeGeneres’ lovably forgetful Dory. While it can’t compare with the original, Finding Dory has even more wondrous animation, enjoyable new characters like Hank the octopus, and a suitably emotional story that recasts Dory’s humorous handicap as a more tragic burden.
- Woman in Gold (2015)
Helen Mirren is brilliant as spirited grandmother Maria Altman on a legal quest to reclaim a famous painting stolen from her family by the Nazis. Aided by an understated Ryan Reynolds as her hesitant attorney, she takes on the nation of Austria as it tries to protect a national treasure that holds a much more personal meaning for Maria. A great film that was sadly snubbed last year.
- King of Thorn (2010)
While Your Name is the more acclaimed anime I saw this past year, I was even more amazed by this sci-fi-survival-horror-thriller that I’d never heard of before. I stand by my earlier description: it’s a combination of Inception, Aliens, and Lost, with mind-bending thrills and a thoroughly unpredictable story, complete with a virus epidemic, grieving twins, video-game monsters, and Sleeping Beauty analogies. Exciting, violent, and a little confusing, it’s my favorite anime of the year.
- Labyrinth of Lies (2014)
How could the nation of Germany forget Auschwitz within a generation? This fact-based German drama of a prosecutor’s search for the uncomfortable truth brings home how easily history can be lost if everyone agrees to forget. Helmed by a DiCaprio-esque performance by Alexander Fehling, it’s a hard-hitting and effective call to remembrance.
- Zootopia (2016)
One of the high points of Disney’s CGI Renaissance of late, Zootopia is an inventively animated fable full of anthropomorphized animals. Both a fun buddy-cop mystery and a timely look at stereotypes and those who maintain them, it’s the likely choice for Best Animated Feature this year.
- Skyfall (2012)
This was the year I finally checked out Daniel Craig’s version of James Bond, and I’ve got to say I was pretty impressed, not so much with Craig himself as the quality of his adventures. Gone is the camp and absurd gadgetry, but the slick intrigue of this latest Bond is at its best in Sam Mendes’ Skyfall. Full of action scenes that are almost an art form, this thrilling look at the unexplored relationship of Bond and M has much more depth than the majority of the franchise’s outings.
- Star Trek Beyond (2016)
It’s not better than the original reboot, but as a self-proclaimed Trekker, I enjoyed a lot of the most recent addition to the franchise, which will sadly be the last with Anton Yelchin as the new Chekhov. The action is frenetic and abundant here, and even if I have some issues with the villain, this effect-heavy episode was a solid hit for me, especially since it seemed to draw some inspiration from my favorite Trek series, Voyager.
- The Martian (2015)
This holdover from last year is something of a modern marvel. It’s full of technical jargon and plenty of ways that it could have transformed into a dull affair, yet it’s inexplicably watchable. I’ve gotten to see it multiple times over the last year, since HBO airs it regularly, and its humor and intelligence never get old. Matt Damon’s wisecracking Mark Watney helps a lot, but everything just works perfectly, from the supposedly annoying soundtrack of ‘70s hits to the universally marvelous supporting cast and the awesome visuals. No offense to last year’s winners, but my VC and I agree that this was the best film of 2015.
- Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)
I’m gratified to see that Star Wars is still going strong now that Disney is behind it, even without Jedi and familiar main characters. This ensemble prequel set between Episodes III and IV was a risky venture, but one worth the effort. It’s different from what we’ve come to expect from Star Wars but close enough to still be of a piece with the trilogies, and even with the minor qualms it perhaps deserves, Rogue One fills in the gaps in riveting fashion, especially with its thrill-a-minute climax. The Force Awakens is still my least favorite Star Wars movie, but Rogue One reminded me how ripe the galaxy far, far away is for new stories to be told.
- Wit (2001)
No explosions or funny characters here. Wit is a profoundly personal film for me because of its poignant use of poetry, particularly John Donne’s “Death, Be Not Proud.” Emma Thompson delivers a career-best performance as an English literature professor diagnosed with Stage IV ovarian cancer, who addresses the camera with insightful monologues on death, pain, and empathy. The best scenes are shared with Eileen Atkins as her former professor, who adds beauty to this depressing tragedy. I’ll never read or recite “Death, Be Not Proud” the same way again.
- Captain America: Civil War (2016)
Who says it was a bad year for blockbusters? Even if every other superhero movie failed expectations, Civil War exceeded them. While it’s technically the third Captain America movie, it also feels like a culmination for the Avengers thus far, especially Cap’s relationship with Bucky and Tony Stark’s family past. Dealing with complicated issues about which every character has a worthwhile opinion (well, except Hawkeye), this well-structured conflict deftly introduces new characters like Black Panther and the latest Spider-Man while allowing for some truly glorious hero-on-hero battles. This is a geek’s paradise of a movie.
And here are the rest of the list additions. A few are only here because I believe in combining franchises, as with X-Men: Apocalypse and The Scorch Trials, and I’ll be pairing some with similar films already on the list.
The Age of Adaline (2015)
Akeelah and the Bee (2006)
Batman: Under the Red Hood (2010)
The Breakfast Club (1985)
Bridge of Spies (2015)
Casino Royale (2006)
Cloud Atlas (2012)
Doctor Strange (2016)
Dominick and Eugene (1988)
Eddie the Eagle (2016)
Finding Forrester (2000)
The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947)
Kubo and the Two Strings (2016)
Kung Fu Panda 3 (2016)
Lethal Weapon 2 (1989)
Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials (2015)
Minority Report (2002)
Monsters University (2013)
Music and Lyrics (2007)
Of Mice and Men (1992)
Paper Towns (2015)
The Peanuts Movie (2015)
Puella Magi Madoka Magica: The Movie – Beginnings and Eternal (2012)
Quantum of Solace (2008)
School of Rock (2003)
Sing Street (2016)
The Social Network (2010)
Sophie Scholl – The Final Days (2005)
Time of Eve (2010)
The Walk (2015)
X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)
Your Name (2016)
And here are those unofficial awards I promised for the new additions:
Best opening scene: Skyfall
Best final scene: Tie between The Breakfast Club and The Ghost and Mrs. Muir
Coolest scene: Captain America: Civil War
Biggest emotional impact: Wit
Oldest film: The Ghost and Mrs. Muir
Most recent film: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Longest film: Cloud Atlas (172 minutes)
Shortest film: Batman: Under the Red Hood (75 minutes)
Best soundtrack: Sing Street
Best score: Cloud Atlas
Best special effects: Doctor Strange
Most mind-bending: King of Thorn
Most family-friendly: The Peanuts Movie
Most mature: Cloud Atlas
Scariest: Hidden (only because The Babadook didn’t quite make the cut)
Funniest: School of Rock
Most controversial: Cloud Atlas
Best VC Pick: The Ghost and Mrs. Muir
Best male performance: Tom Hanks in Captain Phillips
Best female performance: Emma Thompson in Wit
Most represented year: 2015, with fourteen films
And a fond farewell to these 39 films being dropped from the list. They are still among my favorites, and it was grueling trying to make room for the new additions. I’ll need to be even more frugal in handing out the title of List-Worthy this year because a movie will have to be pretty darn good to knock off any more of my favorites.
(500) Days of Summer (2009)
All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)
American Graffiti (1973)
The Artist (2011)
Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
The China Syndrome (1979)
“Crocodile” Dundee (1986)
Cross Creek (1983)
The Day after Tomorrow (2004)
Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who! (2008)
Ernest and Celestine (2012)
Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story (2009)
Independence Day (1996)
Immediate Family (1989)
La Bamba (1987)
The Miracle Worker (1962)
My Name Is Bill W. (1989)
Nine to Five (1980)
No Way Out (1987)
The Perfect Storm (2000)
Princess Mononoke (1997)
The Road to El Dorado (2000)
Rocky II (1979)
Separate But Equal (1991)
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1978)
Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984)
Stuart Little (1999) and Stuart Little 2 (2002)
Summer Wars (2009)
The Towering Inferno (1974)
U.S. Marshals (1998)
Watership Down (1978)
Won’t Back Down (2012)
Oh, and a Happy New Year to everyone! 2017 has to be better than this past year, right?