Top 10 Movies of 2016 So Far

With 2016 already half over, we’re reflecting on an already extraordinary year in film. With surprisingly strong studio releases in the months leading up to the summer season, 2016 has had a number of memorable films already that have kept audiences in the theaters these past six months. The indie game has had some winners as well, but thus far, 2016 is undoubtedly a year where studios are listening to what audiences want in terms of quality rather than profit. Here are the ten best movies of the year so far.

10. The Nice Guys

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Shane Black’s ’70s set buddy comedy is a treasure from a genre thought long gone. Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling have never been funnier as two private eyes solving a, frankly, generic mystery. Using the Los Angeles setting so many classic noir films used before it, The Nice Guys is just plain fun, with some of the brightest and silliest comedy ever seen in the genre. It assure that Black will, rightfully, be sticking around as a beloved filmmaker, even if the box office numbers are relatively low.


9. The Invitation


Thanks to films like It Follows and The Babadook, the indie horror scene is a place where filmmakers old and new are getting a chance to try something new without the fuss of a big studio. The Invitation is an experiment in social terror, applying classic horror filmmaking techniques to awkward glances between old friends. Remarkably, it’s a very effective method that puts the audience in a state of disarray as the social norms are broken and buckled. No horror film this year has felt so fresh.


8. Hello, My Name is Doris

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Sometimes all a superstar needs is good and dedicated vehicle. Hello, My Name is Doris is that for Sally Field. The simple but very cute story of the titular Doris falling for a much younger coworker and testing all the ways it may or may not work may not be the stuff of Oscar gold, but its intelligent methods and vibrant humor make for one of the Fields’ best films. It’s also an important showcase of how to do a role for an older woman, of which there are too few in Hollywood.


7. Sing Street

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John Carney came off the modest Begin Again to make a film every bit as good as Once with some of the best original songs in any film this decade. The soundtrack is stacked with would-be hits from the ’80s with just a touch of modern rock and pop (the film hit theaters in March and I have yet to get sick of “Drive It Like You Stole It”). But beyond the music, Sing Street boasts a touching and surprisingly fresh coming of age tale for a few Irish teenagers in the ’80s. The characters are rich and go places few films have the courage to take them.


6. Midnight Special

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A new generation of science fiction filmmakers are making their mark in the indie film scene by emulating the great Steven Spielberg. Jeff Nichols’ Midnight Special isn’t as blatant a tribute as, say, Super 8, but the similarities are there and quite effective. There’s the slow build to the larger sci-fi moments, the family drama, and the strong emotion that comes with the final act. The film is gorgeous all the way through, also with great performances from Michael Shannon and Kirsten Dunst. But perhaps its greatest feat is how the small story of this family and their astounding child believably evolves into something epic.


5. Deadpool

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The character of Deadpool himself is infectious. Taking standard superhero tropes and blowing them up in a very R-rated fashion, Ryan Reynolds finally got his spinoff from the terrible X-Men Origins: Wolverine. The results were nearly perfect, making for one of the most unique superhero films in the pantheon of them that have hits theaters this decade. But Deadpool‘s crude, childish humor combined with its robust violence ended up being a perfect marriage for one of Marvel’s most newly beloved characters.


4. Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping

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Perhaps the most undervalued movie of 2016 so far, The Lonely Island’s “This is Spinal Tap for pop music” is one of the smartest and funniest satires in recent memory. Spoofing the likes of Justin Bieber and countless others, Popstar tears the music industry to shreds simply by living in it and turning the notch from 10 to 11. Andy Samberg is great as the delightfully goofy lead, selling every moment of the insane joke-per-minute ratio he possibly can. The film seems destined for an Anchorman like status in the near future once it inevitably arrives on a streaming service.


3. Zootopia


Disney’s early home run for the year put all the mammals of the world in a bustling metropolis ever expanding with vibrance and cleverness. But beyond being beautifully animated, Zootopia boasts a strong female lead (don’t call her cute) and a message of inclusiveness and equality. Throw in a little noir mystery, and you’ve got an animated film that breaks boundaries in genre expectations and social issues. This is the kind of storytelling our kids deserve as they grow into a world hopefully less ruled by hate.


2. Captain America: Civil War


Just when some started to think the Marvel brand was growing slightly stale, out comes Captain America: Civil War, seemingly the ultimate Marvel movie that culminates years of storytelling in an immensely satisfying and surprisingly emotional superhero epic. The Avengers are divided on legal issues that the writers somehow made feel genuine and important. It all leads to the superhero action scene of the decade as 12 heroes, including the new and improved Spider-Man, battle it out at an airport. But most importantly, Marvel never forgets to keep things fun, even at their most dramatic.


1. Everybody Wants Some!!

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There’s a pretty decent chance that Richard Linklater is the greatest working filmmaker today. Everybody Wants Some!! isn’t Boyhood, but it isn’t trying to be. If anything, it’s a college version of Dazed and Confused, shifting the focus from the last day of school in your hometown to the first day of school in the mystical land of college. Taking those precious few days where you’ve moved in to school but classes haven’t started yet, the film barely has a plot, instead letting us just be with a group of men as they party together. But the best moments come when they pause to reflect on their place in the world. The film so perfectly captures that precise moment of independence in your life where you can really become anyone or anything. It doesn’t answer those questions, but instead takes its characters to a place where they’re excited to find out the answer.


What are your favorite films of the year so far? Let us know in the comments below.


By Matt Dougherty


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