We the Nerdy’s Ten (Eleven!) Favorite Films of 2016
Ah, end of the year lists. Or, in this case, beginning of the year lists about things that came out last year! They’re what we here at We the Nerdy thrive on. Hopefully you’ve been following our (sporadic) end of year content thus far. But if not, well, at least you’re reading this piece of content!
Due to some odd ties and contrived tie-breakers, we did end up with a Top Eleven list, and we’re just going to roll with it. You can close this article now if that makes you angry, but the title did warn you. Plus, we already got the click! Joke’s on you!
But yeah, I’m just about done with this intro. The list is… pretty odd, I think. You’ll recognize some films on here as Oscar nominees. Others… well, others not so much. It’s a fun list that I think does a good job of characterizing who we are, so all in all, a good place to start.
I respect the hell out of the Warcraft movie. It does what so many video game adoptions fail to do: It respects the source material. From the cartoonish art style and giant shoulder pads, to Khardgar polymorphing a guard, to massive fireballs and lightning storms the kind I’ve never seen in a fantasy movie, to an exact 1:1 replica of the Goldshire Inn, the movie knows what makes Warcraft Warcraft. It’s big and flawed and stupid, but it’s also more fun than it has any right to be and gorgeous to look at. It also let me revisit Dalaran, which was my favorite city from World of Warcraft and just as breathtaking on the big screen as it was the first time I walked through the main gates on a Dire Wolf back in 2007. – Chad Waller
10. 10 Cloverfield Lane
10 Cloverfield Lane may not be the direct sequel to 2008’s found footage monster flick Cloverfield, but it certainly belongs in the same universe. More of a psychological thriller than an outright monster movie, the film delivers on all counts, spurred on by some terrific directing by Dan Trachtenberg and great performances by Mary Elizabeth Winstead and John Goodman. It’s Goodman in particular who steals the show in the role of Howard, playing at first Michelle’s (Winstead) savior, from an automobile accident, and then protector from some unnamed menace lurking outside. He almost comes across as logical, insisting they remain in the bunker, as that is their only means of survival in a world that may or may not have suffered some great calamity. But soon the cracks begin to show themselves, and Michelle must find the strength to outwit her captor and escape the bunker that has become her prison. The final act has been much debated, with some feeling the film should have ended with Michelle’s escape, but showing us the menace worked, at least for me, as it definitely shows how the movie ties into the overall Cloverfield universe established by producers J.J. Abrams and Matt Reeves in the 2008 film. It’s an intense ride to that finale, and Goodman’s performance is reason enough for this to be one of the best thrillers of 2016. – Thomas James Juretus
Moonlight is a brilliant character study of Chiron, a young man growing in a housing project in Miami. Much like a play (which the movie is incidentally adapted from), the film is divided into three eras of Chiron’s life. Watching Chiron’s life unfold is raw, thanks to great performances from all three actors. The real star here is Mahershala Ali (of Luke Cage fame) as Juan, a drug dealer who deals to Chiron’s mother. The scene when Chiron confronts Juan about his mother’s drug habit remains one of the my most memorable moments in film this year. Moonlight also deals with coming of age and sexual awakening with tact and care. Barry Jenkins accomplishes more with the camera in the scene with Chiron and his friend Kevin than most directors can with two hours of dialogue. Moonlight is wonderfully written and is a must-see for anyone who wants to see what growing up is like from a different perspective. – Roshan Krishnan
8. Green Room
Green Room is one of the most visceral films I have ever seen, and certainly the most brutal film experience I had this year. Checking out its iMDB page right now, I’m legitimately surprised that the film is an hour and a half long. The ridiculously brisk pacing keeps the film engaging, despite a fairly similar plot conceit. It essentially boils down to a young punk band and a group of neo-nazis murdering one another. While the drawn out action scenes are incredible to watch, Green Room really earns its spot on this list for the incredible sense of tension it establishes. Even the first act of the film captures its tension, and it never once goes away. Maintaining that tense feel for an entire film is hard to do, but Jeremy Saulnier’s directing and the excellent performances from the cast do so much work. I could sit here and write an entire article throwing praise at Green Room, but really all you need to know is how incredibly badass it is. – Jean-Luc Botbyl
7. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
When popular movie franchises release new movies set in a different time it usually ends up being terrible, like the Hobbit or the Star Wars prequels. FB&WtFT is the exact opposite, as it breathes new life into the magnificent but waning world of Harry Potter. The pacing at the beginning of the movie isn’t the best but towards the middle it really hits its stride. The real draw to it is the beasts themselves, as they add to the few that were known by taking us on a thrilling adventure into Scamander’s briefcase. Jacob Kowalski makes this scenically-stunning part of the movie funny as well as he really is a relatable Joe. Unlike Jacob, the shortcomings in the development of Newt Scamander’s character were hard to miss, as he was flat throughout the movie, which (despite his charisma and charm) gets boring after 2 hours+. Finally, FB&WtFT explores the interactions between the wizards and Muggle world and how it resulted in war before. Although I’m unsure of how wizards lost this war, this sub-plot was the best thing about this movie and hopefully they expand on it. – Abdullah El-Hawary
6. Captain America: Civil War
Captain America: Civil War? More like Captain America: Avengers 2.5. I won’t bore you with a list of awesome characters that showed up in this movie because you already know them all, but still, Black Panther and Spiderman were just the best, right? And that friggen fight scene on the air port! Ant Man got all small and did some jokes, and then he got all big and did some jokes, and it was maybe the most fun I’ve had at a movie this year. However, while that was my favorite part about Civil War, the best part was that the writers actually sold me on the Civil War. I sympathized with both Tony Stark and Steve Rodgers, and when they started to duke it out, I felt pretty heartbroken and conflicted. Marvel, you’ve really gotten me to love all these characters. Also, Black Panther and Spiderman again!
Arrival is far and away the greatest movie of 2016. It’s simply complex, challenging, and (even more!) complex. Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner, along with writer/director Dennis Villeneuve, approach the first contact conflict with some much-needed originality. Language and semantics, education and understanding, compassion and kindness are naturally woven throughout the script. Wonderfully cast, beautifully shot, and thankfully original – Arrival is an achievement in filmmaking and we are better moviegoers for having it in our lives. – Sean Capri
4. Manchester by the Sea
Manchester by the Sea is sort of the antithesis to La La Land; sometimes, life is awful and there are no two ways about it. It’s a story about a multitude of heavy themes, regret and forgiveness being some of the more prominent ones. The cast is incredible all around; Michelle Williams conveys emotions with extreme conviction in every scene she’s in, Lucas Hedges is as relatable as a young actor can be, but the real standout is, without a doubt, Casey Affleck. He portrays the tortured Lee Chandler so well that I found myself relating with a character who had barely anything in common with me. Even though I’ve painted Manchester by the Sea as a morose film, which it often is, it’s also oddly humorous, which makes it even more authentic. I would also be remiss to not mention the excellent editing of the film. Cutting together flashbacks and short scenes, the editing really makes the film flow together well and helps it maintain its excellent pacing. Do yourself a favor, and watch Kenneth Lonergan’s masterpiece – a look at life through the lens of a troubled man thrust into parenthood. – Roshan Krishnan
2016 had some amazing and memorable animated movies and the competition between them was tough. In the end, only one felt as relevant and important as Zootopia, especially in a year like 2016. While there were plenty of laughs and adorable characters for kids to fall into love with, what stood Zootopia apart is the message it portrays to adults. It was a look at corrupt politics and hateful prejudice that can take hold of a nation. It was an important lesson at an important time, and it was something we all needed to hear in 2016. That’s why Zootopia takes its place as one of the best films of 2016. – Adeem Khan
2. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is a love letter to the Star Wars franchise. Not only does director Gareth Edwards recapture the feel of the original trilogy, albeit in a more brutal light, he also manages to deliver vibrant, new characters, stunning locations and some good ol’ fashion rebel action. From Felicity Jone’s rebellious lead to Donnie Yen’s charming monk, and Diego Luna’s conflicted rebel soldier, Rogue One manages to deftly juggle it’s many main and supporting characters, cementing most of them as interesting and root-worthy. However, it’s Alan Tudyk’s K-2S0 who steals the show with his sass, blaster skills and heart and is one of the many nice surprises in the film. And while the film does drag at moments, the last third of the movie had me on the edge of my seat, fidgeting with my stormtrooper 3D glasses and sipping from my K2SO collectible cup with palpable enthusiasm. The final moments with Vader and Leia left me speechless, grinning and excited. I left the theatre truly feeling that the force is with me, and that I am one with the force. – Alexander Handziuk
- La La Land
La La Land, simply put, is magic. There’s not really much else to say, although I will say more. Every element of the film coalesces around the notion of creating an experience unlike any other. Sure, it takes cues from musicals of the past. But between the shot composition, the incredible dialogue and song writing, the phenomenal leads and their chemistry nothing I’ve seen this year can quite match La La Land. It’s a rare film that hits me quite as hard as this one did, and it only cemented my absolute adoration of everyone involved in crafting this near perfect experience. – Jean-Luc Botbyl