Lists are bullshit. We can get that out of the way now. I know The Hundreds, and every website ever created, all end the year with a plethora of countdowns and, hell, I’ve written a handful over the years for this very blog. I enjoy doing them. But we should all just acknowledge that in 2016, it’s harder than ever to keep up with what’s good in media. I’ll admit I’m old, so I remember a time when Twin Peaks was the ONLY good show on television. Now Billy Bob Thorton has a new series on Amazon and I don’t even know the fucking title of it. There’s too much of everything and more than ever, a lot of it’s really good. And movies are no exception. There was a goddamn 8-hour OJ Simpson documentary this year. 8 hours? What am I? Waiting in line for a Supreme hoodie?
But strangely, between checking out your ironic Snapchats from the Smash Mouth concert, reading every terrifying tweet about Trump’s cabinet choices and driving to eat at Bobby and Ben’s new poke place, I saw a lot of movies in 2016. So, you’re lucky I’m around is basically what I’m saying. I even saw that trash fire Madea Halloween movie (don’t ask). Soooo, here are the best ten movies I highly recommend you watch with TikiFish takeout in your lap. Hell, bring it into the theater. Be that idiot.
You know that feeling you get when you stumble onto something you’ve never heard of before on Netflix and you’re like, “Sure, this looks fine,” then two hours later you’re a different person, blown the fuck away because it was so great? Never happened to you? OK. Makes sense. Well, let Hush be your first. Directed by a guy named Mike Flanagan, who made a totally forgettable horror movie in 2013 called Oculus, this gem is co-written with his wife, the star of the movie, Kate Siegel. Hush was released in April directly to Netflix, so don’t blame yourself for being clueless. The movie follows Maddie, a deaf and mute author who lives, and works, in a very isolated house in the woods. When a deranged masked man on a killing spree arrives at her front door, he quickly realizes her disability and the tension never stops. One critic called the movie, “…one of the best horror films in modern history,” and although that’s quite a fucking hyperbole, this might just be your best accidental find of all-time. So if you’re looking to Netflix and chill, maybe dry hump first, then watch this fright fest and never sleep again.
9. Morris From America
Much like Hush, I expect most readers to have absolutely no idea this movie exists. Flying completely under the radar, Chad Hartigan’s story about a black father and son who move to Germany, stars Craig Robinson and newcomer Markees Christmas, and is a beautiful (and subtle) character study, as honest as it is endearing. 13-year-old American-born Morris (played by Christmas), faces total isolation and awkward transitions attempting to blend in as a black student amongst a foreign and snow white country. He falls in love, tries drugs, escapes through writing rap lyrics and becomes a man, all with the help of a surprisingly layered performance from Robinson as his father. Think of this as Lost In Translation meets Biggie Smalls and note how not every coming of age flick has to include a obvious scene where a boy looks down surprised at his pubic hair to represent growing up.
8. The Nice Guys
It seems like a travesty that this movie just barely made back its $50 million budget, but I think its confusing marketing campaign is to blame. I remember seeing the bus stop ads and assuming it was a sitcom about two leather jacket douchebags cruising for chicks in the ‘70s. Also, they used the slogan, “They’re not that nice,” which is so PAINFUL it was hard to type and still include on this list. Set in 1977, the movie stars Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe, and is a lovechild somewhere between Lethal Weapon, Inherent Vice, and The Big Lebowski. The poster should’ve just displayed those titles in bold font, cause then we’d have all lined up to see it in the theater, right? Written and directed by Shane Black, a notoriously hard to work with auteur with titles like Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and Iron Man 3 under his belt, the movie is smart, fast, unique, and Tarantino at times, so just escape your bullshit with action and ignore the marketing hack who came up with that fuck boi poster.
7. Don’t Breathe
Do you not like fun? Then why’d you just roll your eyes at my #7? The most unadulterated fun I had in a theater this year was watching Don’t Breathe, a horror movie about three young robbers who break into a blind man’s house in hopes of finding his storied hidden safe. And yes, this sounds eerily similar to Hush because it kind of is. But I like more than one Hemsworth brother, and they’re all literally the same too. Directed by Fede Álvarez, the mastermind behind the most recent Evil Dead reboot, it’s twisted and terrifying, and supplies more jumps than a pair of Kanye Saint Pablo floor tickets. One of the best horror movies of the decade so far, I’m happy you doubt me, that way when you love it, you can come crawling back, asking what else I‘m smarter than you about.
6. The Lobster
When a movie not only entertains you, but also makes you question every single relationship you’ve ever been in, well then, it’s going to make my list. I’m not sure the plot lends itself for a quick synopsis, but basically Colin Farrell checks into a hotel for singles that gives you 45 days to fall in love, or they will turn you into the animal of your choice. Yeah. That’s what this movie is about. Rachel Weisz and John C. Reilly also pop up, but the universe is so immersive, you won’t even notice who they really are. Directed and written by Greek phenomenon Yorgos Lanthimos, it’s a perfect companion to his 2009 mindfuck Dogtooth, which I still think about every few months. Recently, just discussing The Lobster led me into a 5-month relationship, but maybe don’t watch this flick with your significant other. Unless you wanna have a whole lot of “What are we even doing here?” discussions in 2017.
5. 10 Cloverfield Lane
I assumed this “spiritual sequel” to Cloverfield, a movie I only remember because I became so dizzy I vomited when I got home from the theater, was going to be absolute bullshit. I didn’t even plan on seeing it when I heard of its existence, especially if it was one of the handheld nightmares. We needed a sequel to Cloverfield like we need a spin-off TV series about the flies in Westworld. BUT BOY WAS I WRONG. This shit is great and if it makes sense, exhilarating. It actually has nothing to do with the original film and shows off John Goodman for the national treasure he is and will always be. It was released in March, and weirdly left off most top 10 lists I’ve seen, but Dan Trachtenberg, the first-time feature director, also was behind the camera for your favorite new Black Mirror episode, “Playtest,” so let’s praise this podcaster turned superstar. It’s on Netflix now, so check it out because you pay monthly anyway and you can only watch that Amanda Knox doc once.
4. Manchester By The Sea
Was the election not depressing enough for you? Well, do I have the movie for you! Written and directed by Kenneth Longergan, who also made the heart-wrenching Margaret (so I would never dare to ask what happened in his childhood), this tells the story of a janitor who must return to his hometown after a death in the family, and in the process, face his own tragic past. And if you’re not yet sold, Kyle Chandler, a.k.a. Coach Taylor, shows up and makes it even more tear-jerky. It’s difficult to suggest doing something that you know is gonna make someone cry, like how my mom used to make me cut onions for her turkey chili, but much like her turkey chili, it’ll be well worth it in the end and you’ll love your family even more after digesting it. Farts too, but I couldn’t figure out a way to make that joke work.
If this emotional juggernaut doesn’t get nominated for everything, I’m getting #OscarsSoWhite tattooed on my forehead and starting my own awards show. I didn’t know the writer/director Barry Jenkins before this, but I’ll never forget his name now. Told in segments, we follow Chiron through three major life events and literally feel everything he’s going through, unlike any other movie I’ve ever seen. It’s poignant and important and propels Janelle Monae into serious acting discussions, no longer pigeonholing her as someone who just dresses like a time-traveling mime from the ‘50s. Also, don’t miss out on its perfect soundtrack and score, escalating from Miami to Atlanta and never missing an emotional cue. See this now and pray the Oscar voters are less racist than a little under half of our nation.
2. Hell or High Water
From here on out, this movie will double as a benchmark for all future friendships. “Do you like Hell or High Water? No? Get the fuck out of my house.” This shit is described as a “neo-Western heist-crime film” on Wikipedia and I don’t think I can beat that pompous film studies degree bullshit even if I tried. It’s a goddamn acting clinic between the God Jeff Bridges, Ben Foster, and even Chris Pine, who apparently deserves way more respect than I’ve given him in the past. Every sprawling shot of West Texas looks like a postcard and, like a good episode of Dateline, you see all aspects of a crime unfold from start to finish. The writer, Taylor Sheridan, also penned Sicario, my favorite movie of 2015, so this dude is like a newly found third Coen brother. His first attempt at directing will be a movie called Wind River in 2017, starring Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen, about a murder investigation on a Native American reservation. CAN WE BOOTLEG THIS NOW, RUSSIAN HACKERS?
I don’t know what to tell you—and what not to tell you—about this documentary. I won’t spoil anything because then I just couldn’t live with myself. Directed by, and I guess starring(?) David Farrier and Dylan Reeve, Tickled starts with a New Zealand journalist stumbling upon a YouTube video that shows what is described as, “competitive tickling,” and it really just gets insane from there. When you think it can’t get any crazier, well, it does. So much so, that the story is still unfolding, months after its original release and Los Angeles premiere, where the subjects of the film unexpectedly bought tickets and commandeered the Q&A. I have a feeling Farrier and Reeve will have to pay a lawyer retainer for their rest of their lives, so the least you could do is buy their movie on iTunes or wherever you watch movies you have to pay individually for. It is everything movies should be: funny, disturbing, depressing, and filled with karma. Tickled is absolutely my favorite movie of the year.
Honorable mention: La La Land, Zootopia, Arrival, Everybody Wants Some, The Jungle Book, OJ: Made in America, Pop Star: Never Stop Stopping, Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, Green Room, Keanu, War Dogs, Weiner
Movies I haven’t seen yet: Jackie, Sing Street, Handmaiden, Silence, Hunt for Wilderpeople, Loving, The Edge of Seventeen, Life Animated, Fences
The movie(s) you loved that I didn’t: Everything from Marvel, even Deadpool.
Ed. Note: An earlier version of this article mistakenly listed Nino Kirtadze as the director of 2016’s Don’t Breathe.