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Cottonwood Heights Journal

Dan's Best and Worst films of 2016

Dec 29, 2016 05:35PM ● By Dan Metcalf

As I look back at the movies released in 2016, I’m impressed that among a mostly mediocre overall effort, there was a small group of movies that stood out from the rest. The cream really does rise to the top, and 2016’s top movies were far and above better than the rest. The same could be said of the worst films of the year, racing right to the bottom of the heap.

So, here it is, my lists of best and worst films for 2016.

Disclaimer: some films on the list have yet to be released in our backwoods Beehive State, and one film, Martin Scorcese’s Silence, has yet to be seen by anyone outside a few secret theaters in New York or Los Angeles, and it could be pretty good. I can’t pass judgment on movies I haven’t seen, but these are films that qualify for 2016 awards (that I've seen or reviewed) – or, in the case of the worst films, eternal shame.

It’s my list. If you disagree, make your own list and share it with the world. 


1.     La La Land – From start to finish, Damien Chazelle’s contemporary musical is a visual and harmonious treat. Some may say it’s a ”gimmick” movie; an imitation of a long-dead Hollywood genre. I say otherwise, and fell in love with its character, charm and ability to remind us of why we love movies. Here’s to the fools who dream, indeed.

2.     Kubo and the Two Strings – Since August, I have been holding to the idea that Laika Studio’s stop-motion animated feature was the best film of the year (until La La Land). The visual beauty, characters and masterful storytelling reminded me of the importance of our family connections, both living and dead.

3.     Hell or High Water – A modern western, a great script from Taylor Sheridan and a great cast, including Chris Pine, Jeff Bridges and especially Ben Foster – made Hell or High Water one of the most surprising treats of the summer.

4.     A Monster Calls – One of the films yet to be released in Utah, A Monster Calls is J. A. Boyona’s heart-felt depiction a boy dealing with his mother’s terminal illness through visits with an imagined tree monster (voiced by Liam Neeson). It’s a “must-see” for anyone who’s ever dealt with loss, pain or tragedy.

5.     Lion – It’s the true story of a man searching for his lost family in India, and it’s a beautiful experience.

6.     Manchester by the Sea – A near- perfect script from director Kenneth Lonergan make Manchester by the Sea worth seeing, but Casey Affleck’s performance is one of the best I’ve seen in years.

7.     Loving – Sometimes, a landmark Supreme Court case can get overblown by a filmmakers. Loving surpasses such nonsense with a beautiful love story void of politics and preaching. Simplicity and two outstanding performances by Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga make Loving one of the best of 2016.

8.     Arrival – There’s an “M. Night Shymalan” twist at the end of Arrival, but it’s not cheap or gimmicky. Arrival is a smart, intense science fiction movie that humanity needs right now.

9.     Moonlight – Barry Jenkin’s story of a young man discovering his sexuality and finding love in the middle of drug infested, inner city gangs is one of the best films of the year, with great performances from Mahershala Ali and Naomie Harris.

10.  Patriots Day – Some may say it’s too soon, but Peter Berg’s retelling of the Boston Marathon Bombing is a superb experience and intense drama with a great ensemble cast.

Honorable mention: O.J.: Made in America, Life Animated, The Nice Guys, Hail Ceasar!, Doctor Strange, The Handmaiden, Cameraperson, Toni Erdmann, Moana, Zootopia, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.


1.     Nocturnal Animals – This pretentious “story-within-a-story” does nothing more than reinforce stereotypes of coastal elites (as melancholy snobs) and everyone who lives between NY & LA as lawless, rapey rednecks.

2.     Norm of the North – Sometimes, an animated film is worse than the direct to video ones you get on the discount shelves at Walmart. Norm of the North is worse than that.

3.     Zoolander 2 – The only thing worse than an old joke is an older one, and Ben Stiller really, really wanted to remind us that male models are idiots. Ha. Ha.

4.     Gods of Egypt – Alex Proyas used to be a promising director. That seems like a long, LONG time ago, and I formulated that opinion all on my own after witnessing the hieroglyphic crap-heap that is Gods of Egypt (cryptic message for Alex).

5.     London Has Fallen – Sometimes a sequel is necessary. London Has Fallen proves that most are not.

6.     Hardcore Henry – It’s as if you strapped a GoPro to Charlie Sheen’s ego, except with more exploding heads. Yeah, it’s that bad.

7.     The Huntsman: Winter’s War – This movie should have been called “The Studio Made us do it.” Sometimes, you really don’t have to expound on Snow White’s story...again.

8.     Money Monster – Nothing like a heaping help of class envy and hypocrisy to make you feel smug about those awful rich people (corporate studios and super rich actors) who make movies about awful rich people.

9.     Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows – Michael Bay, please stop.

10.  Independence Day: Resurgence – Hey, let’s make the same movie from 1996, only worse.

Dishonorable mention: Suicide Squad, Girl on the Train, Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, Miss Sloane, Why Him?, Assassin’s Creed.