Last year wasn’t all that big for me in terms of movies. I’m pretty sure I saw just under 20 new films throughout 2016. Thankfully, most of those ranged from great to okay with very few actual bad ones in between. And since I wanted to follow up my last blog with something lighter, I figured I’d count down my personal 10 favorite movies I saw. And I do mean MY favorites. You can disagree all you want, but this list is not based off of the quality of a movie or how well it did. These picks are solely based on which movies entertained me the most. Though, considering most of them were either animated flicks or based on comic books, it was a pretty easy to narrow down.
Before we start, however, I have a few honorable mentions for some movies I just thought were okay at best: “X-Men: Apocalypse”, which had some nice character moments, “The Secret Life of Pets”, which I went in expecting to hate but found it surprisingly decent, and “Deepwater Horizon”, which was an alright if unmemorable drama.
And now we get to the list proper. Here are my 10 favorite movies of 2016!
10. Ghostbusters (2016)
I know there’s a lot of hate for this movie, but let me explain. While I enjoyed the original Ghostbusters movies, I never thought of myself as a huge fan of them or anything else Ghostbusters-related. So, when it was announced that an all-female version was being made, I didn’t care. And when I finally saw the movie, I thought it was just okay. The humor was a letdown and the cast could’ve been utilized way better, but it was an alright story and the horror aspects weren’t too bad either. But would I watch it again? Probably not, and that’s why it’s so low on this list. Not good, not bad, just plain okay.
9. Kung Fu Panda 3
I almost forgot I’d even seen this movie until I was choosing films for this list. That’s not to say it was bad, but compared to the first and even second “Kung Fu Panda” films, it didn’t come across as memorable to me. However, there were still plenty of things to like. The animation continues to be great and there are plenty of good humorous moments that we’ve come to expect from this franchise. The actors did fine jobs and I enjoyed Bryan Cranston as Po’s father, though I still lament the fact that Jackie Chan once again barely has any lines in this. Seriously, what’s the point of that? I guess my only fear at this point is that this IS a franchise and I’m hoping Dreamworks won’t run it completely into the ground.
8. Kubo and the Two Strings
As I said earlier, a good chunk of the movies I saw last year were animated. But even with all that competition, Laika’s latest still made it to my list for its sheer creativity. I already did a full-length review, so I won’t go into too much detail here. Needless to say, while I still prefer “ParaNorman” overall, “Kubo” had some fun twists and turns mixed in with stylized animation. It did occasionally use some cliches and I had to get used to Matthew McConaughey’s performance, but it’s the one animated film I felt was sorely overlooked last year. I still recommend checking it out.
Oh, I can just hear the disagreements already about this being so low on my list. First off, I like the concept of Deadpool and I think Ryan Reynolds has done a great job bringing him to life. But while the movie was fun and easily one of the most entertaining “X-Men” universe films to date, the humor was a bit hit and miss with me at times. There’s only so much meta and sex humor I can find funny before it becomes either annoying or tedious. It also doesn’t help that I’ve barely read any Deadpool comics, so I’m not as big of a fan of him as others are. Still, given that this movie could’ve easily bombed based on many, many factors, I’m glad it exists to give Deadpool fans a live-screen incarnation they can be proud of. The less said about that awful, off-the-mark version in “X-Men Origins: Wolverine”, the better.
6. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
I like the original “Star Wars” trilogy. I’ve even found aspects of the prequels I enjoyed, and while “The Force Awakens” retread similar ground from the original films, I still found it fun and loved the new characters. Despite all that, “Rogue One” was something I didn’t initially have a major urge to see. But before the year ended, I gave it a watch and was glad I did. I’m a sucker for any kind of story that fills in the blanks of an ongoing one, so this appealed to me right away. Throw in some interesting supporting characters, a bunch of great action scenes and a once again scary Darth Vader, and I was invested until the very end. Sure, there was a lot of exposition at times and the characters, especially the main two, could’ve been fleshed out a bit more. But even with its flaws, it managed to essentially be the best prequel in this series so far. I would gladly see more spin-offs in this universe if they have good stories to tell.
Yes, “Zootopia” marks the halfway point of this list. Once again, that’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it. Far from it, in fact. Besides the usual great Disney animation and spunky characters, this movie’s main draw for me was its message of tolerance. I think Disney was bold tackling prejudice and racism, and this is a movie I would gladly show kids to enforce just how important those issues are while still entertaining them. So why is it only at #5? Well, aside from minor things like some jokes not clicking with me, I found it pushed the issues a little TOO hard at times. Maybe I’ll feel differently on a second viewing, but to be fair, Disney’s movies were competing hard for my attention last year. And that brings me to my next entry.
4. Finding Dory
I was honestly nervous when this movie was announced. I loved everything about “Finding Nemo” and knew a sequel was bound to happen eventually. What I didn’t expect was it to center on Dory, played by Ellen Degeneres. Now, I enjoyed Dory. She was hilarious. But she’s also the type of character that could easily get annoying in large doses. Thankfully, once I saw this movie, those fears were quelled. While Dory walked the line at times of potentially being annoying, she carried this movie far better than I expected. I especially loved the scenes with her as a child, and that the movie delved deep into her short term memory loss in a respectable and not always humorous way. They could’ve easily kept this as a “Finding Nemo 2.0” sort of story, but I’m glad they didn’t. This one might’ve pulled at my heartstrings a little more than “Zootopia”, but they both deserved the top 5.
3. Doctor Strange
If there’s one thing I’ve learned from Marvel Studios over the years, it’s that even obscure characters can have a chance to shine. Beyond the Avengers, they pulled me in with “Guardians of the Galaxy” and “Ant-Man,” and they did it again last year with “Doctor Strange.” I know many people thought Benedict Cumberbatch was too obvious for the role, but I’m glad he was chosen. This movie was a treat for the eyes as well, even if I only watched it in 2D. While the humor sometimes felt unnecessary, it was fun watching Strange mature throughout the film, and I felt it kept him from coming off like just another Tony Stark. I love the fact that magic is now a part of this universe, and I can’t wait to see what else they do with it. This movie has only shown me that Marvel is capable of making me interested in characters I otherwise knew in passing. I’m excited to see more this year.
You might think this is a cop-out choice compared to “Zootopia” or “Finding Dory”, but this was my favorite animated film of the year. Not only is it gorgeous, with its tropical setting and emphasis on sailing the open seas, but the Polynesian lore and myths of Moana’s world were intriguing. I wanted to know more about the various gods and demi-gods, and the designs of the ones Moana encounters were fascinating. Knowing that this film mixes cultures and was voiced by people of Samoan, Hawaiian and others originating from the Pacific Islands made the whole thing feel authentic. I loved most of the music and enjoyed all of the characters. But my favorite part of “Moana” is Moana herself. I thought Disney had made strides with their females leads with “Frozen”, but I personally found Moana to be the best example yet. Even though she’s tasked to get the help of Maui, at the end of the day, it’s her who saves the day. And not only is she spunky and likable, but she still accepts the responsibility of being chief one day AND even learns through hard work how to traverse the sea like her ancestors once did. It might not be everyone’s favorite, but it capped off a great year of animated films for me.
1. Captain America: Civil War
Have you ever had that one movie you’ve anticipated from its announcement to its release? For me, that movie was “Captain America: Civil War.” When I was making this list, I knew deep down this would be #1. Everything I enjoy about the Marvel Cinematic Universe was present here: the characters I’ve grown to love and sympathize with, the action-y fight scenes that are a spectacle to watch, the cameos from the blatantly advertised Spider-Man to the always expected Stan Lee, and a compelling story that brings everything together with some dashes of humor as well. I love these characters on their own and as a team, so seeing them fracture was heartbreaking. While the villain was equal parts kinda boring and yet strangely refreshing, the heart of this movie was the conflict between Captain America and Iron Man. I know people were quick to take sides and it was even encouraged by the cast and crew, but I still firmly believe both sides have their pros and cons as was intended. To me, as the first film released for Phase 3, “Captain America: Civil War” is the culmination of my investment in this franchise. I haven’t gotten bored or tired of any of it. And with 2017 shaping up to have what will hopefully be some great entries, I’m with this franchise for the long haul.
And those are my 10 favorite movies of 2016! Feel free to agree, disagree, or post your own in the comments. Here’s to hopefully another slew of great movies this year!