From La La Land and Moonlight to Hell or High Water, there were a number of critically acclaimed and beloved films released in the year 2016. Each year, as technology advances and new creative artists emerge, the possibilities within cinema become faster and more exciting. What separates the films released in 2016 from other years is the dynamic and truthful stories being told, as well as the innovative cinematography that made for visually stunning movies and pushed the boundaries of what had been done before.
In Damien Chazelle’s musical / romance La La Land specifically, the cinematography is what makes the film so unique. The bright colors used to represent how eager and full of life young artists are and how they are willing to do anything in order to make it in Hollywood, accompanied by super wide shots and long takes, make scenes seem larger than life and almost otherworldly. In Kenneth Lonergan’s Manchester by the SeaCasey Affleck, Lucas Hedges, and Michelle Williams’ performances were career-defining, and the film’s screenplay was one of the best from the 2010s. The film is an example of prime storytelling and one that audiences will be loving for years to come. Here are the eight best films to be released in 2016 that prove why it was such a great year for cinema.
8 The Founder
The Founder stars the brilliant Michael Keaton, who plays Ray Kroc. The film follows the true story of how Kroc managed to get his name on the establishment of McDonald’s and how the company turned into one of the most powerful and prominent fast-food chains in the world. Pretty much everyone has eaten at or at least heard of McDonald’s, but very few people know how the company got to this point. The Founder exposes the corruption of a family business and explores the themes of greed, loyalty, money, and power.
7 Hell or High Water
The western / crime film Hell or High Water, directed by David Mackenzie, draws on classic western themes while also incorporating modern advancements in technology and filmmaking techniques. Jeff Bridges, Chris Pine, Ben Foster, and Gil Birmingham star in the film about a single father desperate to create a better life for his son and his crime-ridden and angry brother who comes up with a plethora of heists against a bank that is foreclosing on their ranch. The film was nominated for four Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (for Bridges), Best Original Screenplay, and Best Film Editing.
6 Hacksaw ridge
Hacksaw ridge is the story of Pfc. Desmond T. Doss, the brave and honorable soldier who stuck to his pacifist beliefs while refusing to bear arms during the Battle of Okinawa and managed to serve his country and save 75 men without firing any shots. The story is remarkable, and Andrew Garfield does an incredible job portraying the Congressional Medal of Honor winner and, in fact, earned an Oscar nomination for Best Actor for his performance.
One of the most compelling aspects of the drama / historical film Fences is how incredible its two leading actors are. Denzel Washington and Viola Davis are two of the best actors working in the industry today with a body of work that is unmatched. Fences is a story of regret, family, and bitterness. Washington’s character Troy Maxson makes the selfish decision to sabotage his son’s dreams because he still can not get over the fact that his own did not come true. The film was nominated for four Academy Awards, winning one in the category of Best Supporting Actress (for Davis).
The film Lion tells the incredible true story of a young boy named Saroo who got separated from his family at a young age, ending up alone and all the way on the other side of India. After years have gone by and getting adopted by an Australian family, Saroo decides that it’s time to go back and find his birth family once again. Dev Patel stars in the film alongside Nicole Kidman, Sunny Pawar, Rooney Mara, and David Wenham.
3 Manchester by the Sea
Manchester by the Sea is truly such an incredible movie and one of Kenneth Lonergan’s best works. Casey Affleck took home the Academy Award for Best Actor in 2017 for his role as Lee Chandler, a Janitor working in Boston who picks up his life to take care of his teenage nephew Patrick after the death of his father, Lee’s brother, Joe. It’s evident throughout the film that Lee is struggling with more than just the death of his brother; he has no desire or drive and needs Patrick just as much as Patrick needs him. One of the best scenes in the film is a very emotional conversation between Lee and his ex-wife Randi, played by Michelle Williams.
2 La La Land
Even though La La Land was only released a few years ago, it’s evident that this film has turned into a classic and will be watched for years and years to come. Damien Chazelle did an incredible job capturing the essence of a young artist striving to make their dreams come true while also balancing the already-tricky concept of love. It’s very special how Chazelle is able to create a film where we can see ourselves in the characters while also making it feel like La La Land is otherworldly and dream-like. Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling are incredible actors who gave the performances of their careers playing Mia and Sebastian.
Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight infamously won Best Picture at the Academy Awards in 2017 after La La Land was originally awarded the honor due to an alleged envelope mix-up backstage. Earning a 98% critics score on Rotten Tomatoes and winning three of its eight Oscar nominations, it’s safe to say this film was extremely well received by audiences. Besides the screenplay and cinematography, one of Moonlight‘s strongest aspects is Mahershala Ali’s performance as Juan.
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