It’s here! The One Room With A View Top 20 films of 2016 has arrived. It’s been an extraordinary year of cinema – despite the troubling situations elsewhere. This was one of the closest years we’ve seen in the vote.
First up we’ll run down our 20 to 11 positioned films in the following article. Over the coming days, we’ll be announcing our top 10 films, day by day, with an essay from our writers vouching for their excellence.
Thank you all for your support for another year. It’s been grand, and the only thing better is this list. So enjoy!
David Brake, Founder/Editor of One Room With A View.
N.B. As our site is UK based, we work off the selection of films released in cinemas in the UK in 2016
Of several notable debuts in 2016, there were none more impressive than writer-director Robert Eggers and actor Anya Taylor-Joy with this deeply unsettling Gothic folk tale. Shot in just 25 days and using mostly what natural light was available, The Witch is an exhibition in lean storytelling which will unnerve viewers and leave them questioning what they have seen for days to come. It is a film that epitomises what can still be achieved on a shoestring budget and a taut script, and provides a glimpse of the bright futures in store for both its star and director.
Take away Robert Richardson’s sweeping cinematography (shot in glorious Panavision) and Ennio Morricone’s epic, Oscar-winning score, and The Hateful Eight is one of Quentin Tarantino’s simplest stories; a mystery that owes a debt to Agatha Christie, of all people.
Yet it is also his most politically-charged film: a biting, cynical retort aimed at anyone who believes modern America is a “post-racial society.” That this basket of deplorables is so watchable is thanks to Tarantino’s best ensemble cast since Pulp Fiction. But the standout is Samuel L. Jackson, whose monologue about fellatio rivals Ezekiel 25:17 as the highpoint of his career.
Son of Saul capitalises on our tendency to look away from things that appal us by focusing relentlessly on one man, rarely steering the camera from his hauntingly calm gaze, as he performs his gruesome duties as a Sonderkommando prisoner in Auschwitz.
Atrocities are glanced over and captured in snippets, shown on the periphery like excess props; more impactful through their circumstantial mundanity, immersive in their ubiquity. All the while, a sense of urgency and madness pervades, as Saul searches desperately for a rabbi to perform burial rites for a boy he suspects was his son.
After staggering collaborations on Mud and Take Shelter, Arkansas-born auteur Jeff Nichols again returned to his muse, the masterful, unsettlingly intense Michael Shannon in April’s Midnight Special – ostensibly a chase movie, with Shannon protecting his gifted son at all costs from Adam Driver, the FBI, and a mysterious cult led by Sam Shepard. The film is one of 2016’s best looking, with a shimmering finale as well as an immense cast rounded off with Kirsten Dunst and Joel Edgerton. Though huge in visual scope, Nichols and his ensemble find intimacy to create a moving meditation on family and belonging.
Andrea Arnold’s sprawling odyssey for the disenfranchised is huge, intimate, messy, and almost completely aimless – and perhaps her purest and most beautiful cinematic statement to date.
To see the UK’s preeminent independent film director expand the scope of her expressionistic lens in such a dramatic way is a giddy, life-affirming delight. In American Honey, her usually tight gaze explodes outwards to show us not just her typically rich and movingly performed characters, but a whole way of life, a collective mindset, and a great deal of America’s deeply fissured identity.
Let yourself go, and be swept along for the journey.
A split narrative interlaces dual quests, decades apart, as shaman Karamakate guides two successive white explorers within the Colombian Amazon in their search for the sacred ‘yakruna’ plant. This stunningly shot and acted film merges grit with transcendence to embody the rupture of imperialism and cross-cultural contact. The film’s genius and universality coalesces in the amalgamation of Amazonian and western forms of imagery, chronology and storytelling. Separate boats and stories interweave and flow seamlessly through the Amazon river in an unending torrent of time. Ciro Guerra’s Embrace of the Serpent is a dreamlike masterpiece.
Captain America: Civil War is possibly Marvel’s most accomplished film to date, pitting heroes against heroes in a huge story and setting that still manages to remain personal. When the Avengers’ ability to work outside of government control is questioned, the team are divided, Cap and Iron Man clashing on whether the team should continue acting independently. The film goes all-out to create a fun, thrilling and genuinely funny ride through the Marvel Universe. The fight in the airport is brilliant, and the introduction of new characters Spider-Man and Black Panther are making 2017 look just that bit brighter.
After waiting 39 years to see if an exposed exhaust port is a design flaw or not, it better be a damn good story to back up the interval.
Gareth Edwards is a master at bringing the reality of massive universe-destroying battles, explosions and world-shaking horror to a minimalist scale. With fan-service abounding, an incredible cast (and smorgasbord of British cameos), a powerful and emotionally engaging plot where it doesn’t matter if we know the ending or not, and the best locations we’ve seen since Revenge of the Sith, this feels like the gritty, warlike Star Wars film fans finally deserve.
The special thing about Creed is that no matter how many different avenues it explores (within a pre-established franchise, no less), it still stands alone, even when it seems familiar. Ryan Coogler brings expert technical direction to a film that rejuvenates the long-running franchise, which once seemed as tired as its ageing protagonist. Michael B. Jordan and a torch-passing Stallone both bring their A-games, keeping the intense drama grounded in a film that is more than happy to indulge in feel-good Hollywood fantasy. In a Hollywood landscape which is severely lacking in black-lead blockbusters, Creed is an overwhelming joy to experience.
From befuddled Communists to redneck thespians and errant eagle noises, every part of Hail, Caesar! is an absolute delight. This new Coen classic revels in its own defiantly plotless style, ambling gently behind Josh Brolin’s ‘fixer’ Eddie Mannix as he juggles the whimsical and bizarre problems of the Capitol Pictures studio lot. This film is loaded with a stacked cast that stretches beyond the usual Coen back catalogue (watch out for a Highlander reunion), and is soaked in old-school Hollywood glam that is reverent without being overly sentimental. Oh, and there’s a musical number – what more do you need?
Best known as the film that won Leonardo DiCaprio his Oscar, Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s The Revenant is so much more than an actor’s showcase. A truly epic look at the legends of America’s frontier, its sweeping scale shows nature’s raw and bewildering majesty in a way that cinema very rarely sees, with dialogue drowned out by roaring rivers and a sense of brutal cold emanating from the screen. Emmanuel Lubezki’s cinematography is masterful, and brings us right into the journey of bear-mauled trapper Hugh Glass. Shockingly violent, but also serenely stunning, it’s an immense achievement that deserved all its awards glory.
Who needed fiction films this year when there was a documentary with the most compelling dramatic ingredients imaginable in Weiner? It had originally been commissioned as a vaguely promotional piece about politician Anthony Weiner’s New York mayoral campaign after an embarrassing sexting scandal put paid to his career in Congress two years previously. Incredibly though, Weiner’s career nosedives once again as more sexting skeletons unearth themselves – only this time, it’s all caught excruciatingly on camera. What’s even more remarkable is the staggering level of access allowed to the documentary crew as the lives of Weiner and his disbelieving wife, Huma Abedin, come crashing down around them.
So to recap, here’s our Top 20 to 11…
20 – The Witch
19= Son of Saul
19= The Hateful Eight
18 – Midnight Special
17 – American Honey
16= Embrace of the Serpent
16= Captain America: Civil War
15 – Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
14 – Creed
13 – Hail, Caesar!
12 – The Revenant
11 – Weiner
Stay tuned each and every day to read about our Top 10 films of 2016!
Banners created by Stephen O’Nion (check out #11 again).