Despite a great deal of discussion to the contrary, 2016 ended up being a high watermark year for cinema. Whether you’re looking to see if your favorite made the list, or just checking on what great flicks you might have missed, ComicsVerse has got you covered with our list of 22 of the best films (in no particular order, because art shouldn’t be a competition, GUYS) from 2016. Click here to check out part 1!

10 CLOVERFIELD LANE (dir. Dan Trachtenberg)

The second film in the CLOVERFIELD franchise, 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE ditches the found-footage formula in favor of a tense, claustrophobic character study. After a horrific car accident renders her unconscious, Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) awakes in an underground bomb shelter constructed by an unstable doomsday-prepper named Howard (John Goodman). Howard holds Michelle against her will, declaring that the world has experienced some unknown catastrophe, rendering life outside his concrete sanctuary impossible. Michelle must rely on her wits and determination if she is to escape the clutches of her inhospitable host.

Why it’s worth your time: 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE is a rare specimen: a film that manages to improve upon its predecessor in every way. The writing, directing, and acting are superb. Winstead lights up the screen with her powerhouse performance. This strong, self-reliant protagonist is easy to root for and an absolute joy to watch on screen. But it’s John Goodman who steals the show with his portrayal of Howard, imbuing this character with a sense of sympathy without sacrificing on terror. Dan Trachtenberg does an incredible job of visualizing Michelle’s struggle. He takes full advantage of Goodman’s imposing build. The tight framing allows the actor’s massive size to dominate the screen. Goodman towers over Winstead in every scene, giving the film a claustrophobic feel which greatly enhances the experience. 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE is a tense, edge-of-your-seat thrill ride filled with shocking twists and turns that will keep you guessing until the final frame. (Tyler Vertrees)

THE EDGE OF SEVENTEEN (dir. Kelly Fremon Craig)

Your life sucks. Deal with it. Those are the wise sentiments of Kelly Fremon Craig’s pitch-perfect directorial debut, THE EDGE OF SEVENTEEN starring Hailee Steinfeld, Hayden Szeto, Woody Harrelson, and Kyra Sedgwick. This coming-of-age dramedy follows Nadine, an awkward and unpopular seventeen year old, whose life suddenly implodes once her best friend Krista begins dating her attractive and popular brother Darian. Convinced her life is worse than everyone else’s, Nadine must navigate her way through her self-imposed isolation and misery before she self-destructs for good.

Why it is worth your time: The world is sleeping on THE EDGE OF SEVENTEEN, and that is a straight up shame considering that this is one of the best films of the year, bar none. Craig’s script is so acute and authentic in its treatment of teenage angst – which is one part melodrama and one part genuine growing pains – that it cannot help but resonate with anyone who has suffered past their awkward pubescent years. Hailee Steinfeld is absolutely brilliant as the irritatingly self-absorbed yet painfully relatable and sympathetic Nadine, and Hayden Szeto, who plays Nadine’s affable yet clumsy classmate Erwin Kim, is the breakout star with his spot-on impression of the boy-next-door wallflower with a heart of gold. Craig keeps the theatrics and dramatics just below critical mass by gently pulling back at just the right moments, tugging at your heartstrings and turning on the waterworks just when you least expect it. THE EDGE OF SEVENTEEN takes all the best parts of our favorite John Hughes flicks and updates them for the 21st century. (Kristine Don)

STAR TREK BEYOND (dir. Justin Lin) 

SPOILERS BELOW!

The STAR TREK franchise continues from the previous installment STAR TREK: INTO DARKNESS with the amazing STAR TREK BEYOND. The archenemy has been defeated, but at what cost? Spock (Zachary Quinto) was “killed” and on top of that the Enterprise is being scrapped…and on top of all that, Bones is sick. What more could we have left of our sanity? McCoy’s is harboring Spock’s katra (or animating spirit), we think. Then Kirk is planning to take everything and run out to the Genesis Planet. There is a lot going on in this movie and if you are not a fan of STAR TREK you won’t get anything I am saying right now. But, if you are, this is serious business.

Why it’s worth your time: This film is action packed, and the cinematography is fantastic. If you are a fan of Star Trek, you will like this movie and if you aren’t, you won’t like this movie. It’s the same for Star Wars lovers and haters, either you love it or you don’t. I, personally, think the actors and actresses play wonderful parts in this film and I don’t have much to say about it. Like I said, if you like Star Trek this one is for you, but if not then you won’t even care what I am talking about. (Shareca Cole)

TEN YEARS (dir. Ng Ka-leung, Jevons Au, Chow Kwun-Wai, Fei-Pang Wong, Kwok Zune)

TEN YEARS is equal part film and political statement. The film imagines 5 unique stories each connected with the idea of presenting the city of Hong Kong ten years into the future. One of the segments presents the unyielding march of development in be city through abstract, nightmarish metaphor, while others portray Hong Kong’s transformation through farcical, but emotional, satire. While the film grounds itself in a very specific place, its messages of individual freedom and free expression through art are universal and feel more timely than ever in light of international turmoil.

Why it’s worth your time: It can be difficult when the world feels so chaotic to feel like the things you love matter. It can feel like movies, comics, art as a whole is frivolous. The filmmakers behind TEN YEARS serve as a reminder of the binding power of art. While it may seem abstract in the now, it’s power can bring about change. And if governments can fear a film (as the Chinese government did TEN YEARS) then it only proves that creative expression can serve as a weapon against tyranny. (Brian Long)

 

THE WITCH (dir. Peter Eggers)

Showing up early in 2016 with a February release, THE WITCH was a film that seemed to garner both love and hate from audiences. Touted as one of the scariest films ever made, THE WITCH follows a family in 1600’s New England as they are banished from their community for being overzealous with their religious views. As the family makes a new homestead deep in the uncharted wilderness, they come upon an evil they are not prepared for.

Why it’s worth your time: While it is a film that’s not for everyone (the use of period appropriate olde English can become confusing and tiresome to some), for those willing to stick with it, it is an absolutely haunting tale of religious fears. While many have compared it to THE SHINING (an apt comparison), the film plays more as a cautionary tale: A family that turns its back on the church and travels to an untamed and impure nature (before the writings of Emerson and Thoreau, the woods were viewed as evil) soon finds sinister forces pulling them apart (one can read each character passing after they have committed a sin, such as the child with original sin, the son with his lust, the mother with her wrath, etc.).

It is a film that plays as a cynical and cruel morality play, and tortures the viewer along with the family. In the final scene of the film, as the score crescendos in a wailing chorus of howls before abruptly cutting to black, the viewer can only sit there, feeling hollow and shocked, like they have just been privy to something truly evil, and seen something that will follow them into the darkness of their bedrooms that very evening. (Spencer Brickey)

HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE (dir. Taika Waititi)

From writer-director Taika Waititi (WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS and the upcoming THOR: RAGNAROK) comes this funny, heartfelt film about the unlikely friendship that forms between Hector Faulkner (Sam Neill), a crotchety old man, and Ricky Baker (Julian Dennison), a juvenile delinquent who was abandoned by his mother at a young age. After the young lad is taken in by a kind-hearted woman, his rough demeanor is slowly chipped away and he begins to open up. But when his new foster mother suddenly dies of a heart attack, the boy is left in the care of her ex-con husband (Neill). But due to his criminal past, Child Services declare that Faulkner is an unfit caregiver. When Baker is unwilling to return to the foster care system, he and Faulkner escape into the New Zealand wilderness, sparking a nationwide manhunt lead by a persistent Welfare Services Officer.

Why it’s worth your time: Like Waititi’s earlier film, WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS, HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE offers a slew of quirky characters delivering some incredibly clever dialogue. Julian Dennison delivers a spot on performance, which is surprising given that the actor is only 14-years-old. He and Neill possess an incredible comedic chemistry and their pairing gives the story a strong emotional core. Unlike most comedies which are plagued by insincere emotional manipulation, HUNT FOR THE WILDER PEOPLE is a genuinely heartwarming film with a great sense of humor, and it is definitely worth checking out. (Tyler Vertrees)

ARRIVAL (dir. Denis Villeneuve)

ARRIVAL was the surprise sleeper hit of 2016. ARRIVAL opens with the landing of 12 alien spacecrafts on Earth, triggering a global panic that continues to escalate as the nations of the world grapple with the notion of first contact — and possibly war. Meanwhile, prominent linguist Louise Banks struggles to ask the extraterrestrial heptapods the very question which could mean life or death for humanity – what do you want?

Why it is worth your time: Directed by Denis Villeneuve whose filmography includes the critically-acclaimed films PRISONERS and SICARIO, ARRIVAL is one of the smartest live-action science fiction movies of the last decade, challenged by only a handful of other films such as EX MACHINA, THE MARTIAN, MOON, EDGE OF TOMORROW, HER, CHILDREN OF MEN, and DISTRICT 9. A great deal of its intelligence can be attributed to Ted Chiang’s Story of Your Life, the short novella which served as inspiration for and the basis of the film. Ted Chiang is one of the premiere science-fiction writers of the modern era, whose sparse but luminous bibliography has won numerous writing awards, such as the Nebula, Hugo, Locus, and Seiun awards. ARRIVAL bends our notion of time to execute with painstaking brilliance an amazing red herring that will leave audiences delightfully wonderstruck by the end of the 2 hour journey. (Kristine Don)

THE LEGEND OF TARZAN (dir. David Yates)

Everyone knows the story of Tarzan from Disney, right? Well, if not, I can refresh your memory. This adaptation has a little twist on it. Tarzan, John Clayton, is called back to the jungle after establishing a life for himself in London to investigate encampment. That’s literally it, there’s nothing more to the plot really other than this little snippet. The plot goes into depth more so than this, but honestly, it’s nothing worth mentioning.

Why it’s worth your time: The jury is out on THE LEGEND OF TARZAN. Some loved it, some hated it. Some thought the CGI was brilliant and the action thrilling while others thought the CGI was trash and the story forgettable and bland. This movie makes the list because of the director and what he did with it, not for the writers who wrote the plot. If you want to watch a film that looks super cool and you don’t want to pay too much attention to the plot, then this is the movie for you. Easily watchable and not hard to follow, so that’s also a plus for this writer. (Shareca Coleman)

HELL OR HIGH WATER (dir. David Mackenzie)

Director David Mackenzie (STARRED UP) teams with screenwriter Taylor Sheridan (SICARIO) to bring us HELL OR HIGH WATER, a gritty, crime drama set in west Texas. It tells the story of brothers Toby and Tanner Howard (Chris Pine and Ben Foster, respectively). After a lifetime of financial troubles, the pair have finally resorted to robbing banks. For their crimes, the brothers are pursued by a pair of Texas Rangers: the soon-to-be-retired Marcus Hamilton (played by Jeff Bridges, who does the usual “mumbling cowboy” routine that we have all come to love) and his new partner, Alberto Parker (Gil Burmingham).

Why it’s worth your time: Taylor Sheridan has written a fantastic script which gives equal attention to both sides of the story. What could have been a straightforward “cops and robbers” tale is transformed into a morally ambiguous story where good and evil are relative terms. We get to know these criminals and their motivations. Toby is a honorable, level-headed man who is deep in debt and determined to give his children a better life. Tanner is a career criminal with a short-fuse and an itchy trigger finger. While Tanner is certainly the closest thing that this film has to a villain, he is not all bad. He is a victim of circumstance; a criminal created by the system. Then there are the Texas Rangers, who are just as fleshed-out as the criminals they are after. At first, these lawmen are not too fond of one another. But as the story progresses, we see a tight bond begin to form. A character arc which is well-executed and nicely earned. We grow to like each and everyone of these characters. We watch the film, praying for a peaceful solution, but deep down we know that this tale can only end in bloodshed. HELL OR HIGH WATER is an intense, modern western filled with moral ambiguity and relevant social commentary, similar to the kinds of films that were made during the Hollywood Renaissance. (Tyler Vertrees)

GREEN ROOM (dir. Jeremy Saulnier)

The third feature of Jeremy Saulnier, after his critically praised film BLUE RUIN, and released on limited screens in the spring, GREEN ROOM follows a broke punk band as they tour the northwestern United States. They are a band of misfits and bruisers, but they care deeply for each other. As it appears their tour will come to a premature end, an opportunity to play at a skinhead bar arises. Out of money and chances, they take the gig, but soon find themselves mixed up in a murder. Now the sole witnesses, they become the targets of a group of militant and violent Neo Nazis.

Why it’s worth your time: 2016 was an amazing year for horror movies, with THE WITCH, LIGHTS OUT, and THE CONJURING 2 being tight, terrifying films. That being said, GREEN ROOM was the most terrifying trip to the cinemas this year for me. It was a film that had me clenching my hands and sweating profusely. While the demons and witches and evil ghosts of the other horror films of 2016 were scary in their own right, the skinheads portrayed in GREEN ROOM were more terrifying for one reason; they were real. The film never made the antagonist out to be mustache twirling villains, or unstoppable killing machines. They were people, people filled with hate, willing to follows the words of their deranged leader (Patrick Stewart, showing his immeasurable range playing a terrifying ice cold killer here).

The scenario our protagonist find themselves in is masterclass suspense building as well, as the situation degenerate, the audience left to squirm as we see these kids slowly slide into a fatal situation, before the violence begins. The violence come in hard and fast, more brutal than one would expect. GREEN ROOM does not pull its punches with its violence. Our protagonists are not given a hero’s death, instead their deaths are treated bluntly, violently, and pointlessly; these are scared, helpless kids who are being stabbed to death by men who don’t know why they are stabbing them.

GREEN ROOM is not a feel good movie. Even if the (spoiler alert) good guys “win” in the end, they have still lost everything they care about and will carry the trauma of that night with them for the rest of their lives. GREEN ROOM is not just a siege film, or a film about skinhead culture; it is a film that focuses on the pointlessness of violence. (Spencer Brickey)

NERVE (dir. Henry Joost & Ariel Schulman)

NERVE, based on the young adult novel with the same name by Jeanne Ryan, is a film with a very strong conceit at its core. As anyone who ever saw one of the millions of trailers back in the summer of ‘16 can tell you, the central question is: are you a watcher or a player? While that question is a part of it, the real plot surrounds a young high school senior named Vee–amazing name–who longs to move away from her home in Staten Island and attend the California Institute of Art. However, Vee has always been more of a spectator in her own life, pun very intended. She can’t even ask out the boy she has a crush on or stand up to her bossy best friend, so of course, telling her mother about her desires to move away are also way out of her league. Enter the game Nerve. An online version of truth or dare in which “watchers” pay for the privilege to challenge “players” to do crazy activities for cash. Naturally, Vee avoids the game and the film is about her shopping online for two hours for new art supplies. Just kidding, Vee decides to join the game as a player, which leads to thrills, romance, and ultimately a crazy amount of danger to herself and everyone she loves.

Why it’s worth your time: NERVE is not a perfect movie, but it is the perfect summer blockbuster, especially a teen blockbuster. First of all, it is the first movie I have ever seen that seems to accurately portray the way technology currently works in our world. It portrays getting a FaceTime call on your Macbook. It shows the important usage of the stickies in order to remember things like accepting your admittance to insanely impressive colleges–Okay, well some of that is a bit off. But, regardless, it shows people who are attached to their phones but in a very normal way. People text, but people also talk in person. Sadly, it’s one of the first times that I’ve seen a world accurately portray the way technology actually intersects into human life in 2016.

Second, it shows some extremely complicated friendships and characters. For example, at first glance Vee seems like your typical young adult heroine. She is shy. She has a crush on the most popular and basic boy in school who doesn’t notice her. However, she doesn’t have other fears. For example, she is not afraid of heights while her slightly rude best friend is. She also decides to become a player in order to earn money for college and her family. While the description given above might make her seem completely Bella Swan, she is secretly something different. She isn’t even a secret bad ass like Katniss. Instead, she is a human teenager with problems named Vee. She is, dare I say, an individual instead of a type.

Finally, this film has a new type of villain. The villain in a lot of ways isn’t a specific person. Instead, it is the anonymous mob mentality that happens in Youtube comments sections. I am serious. In some ways this fits in with what I said before about the film’s accurate portrayal of technology, but I think we are all aware of two things about the comment section: (1) never read the comments if you want to believe in happiness and (2) anonymity can bring out some terrifying aspects of people. In NERVE, those comments create increasingly awful and mean spirited dares that can lead to death. Hey, I know it sounds over the top, but sometimes you have to just accept the conceit and appreciate what the film is trying to comment on. Watch NERVE. I dare you. (Jamie Rice)

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