2016 has already been a whirlwind of a film year with plenty more to come in the second half of the year. We have had more superhero movies, remakes, sequels, and the occasional original idea hit the big screens so far, and below are some of the films that have amazed audiences and critics for one reason or another.
Some of the these films first premiered in 2015, but their theatrical release date in North America, whether limited or wide release fell in the 2016 year. There were too many good films so far to include them all, but I went for a decently diversified list. Without further ado, here are 20 of the best films of 2016 so far.
1. The Jungle Book
The first word that comes to mind is gorgeous. The Jungle Book, 2016 version, is simply gorgeous. This remake/retelling is directed by Jon Favreau who co-produced with Brigham Taylor, written by Justin Marks and produced by Walt Disney Pictures and is based on Rudyard Kipling’s eponymous collective works and inspired by Walt Disney’s 1967 animated film of the same name.
The Jungle Book is a live-action/CGI film that tells the story of Mowgli, an orphaned human boy who, guided by his animal guardians, sets out on a journey of self-discovery while evading the threatening Shere Khan.
The film introduces Neel Sethi who steals your heart and soul as Mowgli and also features the voices of Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley, Idris Elba, Lupita Nyong’o, Scarlett Johansson, Giancarlo Esposito and Christopher Walken. It became a critical and commercial success, grossing over $929 million, making it the third highest-grossing film of 2016.
Many aspects of the film were critically lauded, such as the computer generated visual effects, John Debney’s musical score, the performances of the voice cast, Favreau’s direction, and its faithfulness to both the animated film and original Kipling works. Many compared it to the 1967 Disney classic, but argued that the remake succeeded in its own right, much like the classic did.
The only aspect of the film that faced some criticism were the musical numbers, which were said to slow down the pacing of the film and were a little unnecessary. I have to agree about that note with the musical numbers, but really everything else, especially visually is stunning. This is the film you see in theaters, maybe in IMAX, it will blow you away.
2. The Nice Guys
From the writer of Lethal Weapon and The Long Kiss Goodnight and the director of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and Iron Man 3, all one person, Shane Black, comes an actually good buddy cop movie. In a genre that is more hit and miss than a middle school archery lesson, Black lands a definite hit with The Nice Guys.
The film stars Russell Crowe, Ryan Gosling, Angourie Rice, Matt Bomer, Margaret Qualley, Keith David and Kim Basinger and follows a pair of 1977 Los Angeles private eyes who investigate a missing girl. The Nice Guys premiered on May 15, 2016, at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival and was released by Warner Bros. Pictures in the United States on May 20, 2016.
The film received positive reviews from critics and has grossed over $55 million. Who knew Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling could have such spectacular buddy chemistry? It is an actually well put together buddy cop film, the like we haven’t seen for awhile. And for the commenters, Ride Along does not count. That is not a good movie. It is their chemistry and the throw back styling and banter than lead this film to greatness.
On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a rating of 91%, based on 225 reviews, with an average score of 7.6/10. The Nice Guys has that nice mix of action sequences and funny, witty, smart dialogue that Shane Black movies seem to have, As one reviewer put it, it is the most Shane Black-est movie of any of Shane Black’s movies.
The supporting cast does well, providing their own sense of character, but never taking away from the chemistry of the leads. Crowe and Gosling’s chemistry, a tight and funny script, along with the revitalization of a dying genre, Shane Black’s The Nice Guys is one of the funniest and best films of 2016 so far.
My almost four year old nephew’s favorite film of the year, Zootopia. A film about the War on Drugs from the 1980s, featuring cute little animals and a weird blue stuff acting as people. Trust me. There is a Film Theory video about it on YouTube that is worth a watch. Theories aside, Disney strikes gold again, critically and commercially with Zootopia.
The film is directed by Byron Howard and Rich Moore, co-directed by Jared Bush (in his directorial debut), and stars the voices of Ginnifer Goodwin, Jason Bateman, Idris Elba, Jenny Slate, Nate Torrence, Tommy Chong, J. K. Simmons, Octavia Spencer, Alan Tudyk and Shakira.
The film details the unlikely partnership between a rabbit police officer and a red fox con artist as they uncover a conspiracy that involves the disappearance of predator civilians within a mammalian metropolis. The film opened to record-breaking box office success in several countries and has earned a worldwide gross of over $1 billion, making it the second highest-grossing film of 2016 and the twenty-fifth highest-grossing film of all time.
Critically, the film has a 98% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with critics singling out the film’s messages, its gorgeous animation and its strong characters as strengths of the films. Some singled the lead character of Judy Hopps the bunny for praise, as something different for Disney.
Rosa Prince from The Daily Telegraph singled out the film’s lead character, Judy Hopps, as a welcome change for Disney animated feature film heroines, such as the Disney Princess franchise. She found that unlike those characters’ focus on romance or family loyalty, Hopps’ focus is on her dream career as a police officer and serving her city. Disney succeeded with Zootopia.
4. Captain America: Civil War
I saw this at a drive in theater right when it came out and I was blown away. The action wasn’t as tight as I would’ve liked it to have been, I’m looking at you scene at the bizarre, but overall Captain America: Civil War did its job. It is the sequel to 2011’s Captain America: The First Avenger and 2014’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and the thirteenth film of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).
The film is directed by Anthony and Joe Russo, with a screenplay by Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely, and features an ensemble cast of everyone under contract with Marvel basically. In Captain America: Civil War, disagreement over international oversight of the Avengers fractures them into opposing factions—one led by Steve Rogers and the other by Tony Stark.
The film has become a critical and commercial success, grossing $1.1 billion dollars and becoming the 12th highest grossing movie of all time, for now. Many critics praised its non-cartoonish plot, its development of thought-provoking themes, and its ability to be fun at the same time.
In the film’s two and a half hour run time, there quite a bit of characters and plot points involved, sure to please die hard Marvel fans and only slightly confuse the rest of us. Captain America: Civil War delivers on what it set out to do, it is not the award winning drama with acting up to the ears, it is a action-packed superhero movie that dove a little bit deeper into the brain for plot ideas.
It is this ability, along with the huge stellar cast, effects, and promise for the future that make it one of the best films of the year so far.
5. Everybody Wants Some!!
Richard Linklater’s spiritual sequel to his own classic Dazed and Confused takes place in college in the 80s, within the first weekend in the house of the university baseball team; there are freshmen and transfers coming in, seniors taking control, lots of parties. Always a master of time periods, Linklaters nails the look of the early 1980s, complete with a great classic rock soundtrack.
The film stars Will Brittain, Zoey Deutch, Ryan Guzman, Tyler Hoechlin, Blake Jenner, Glen Powell, and Wyatt Russell. The film had its world premiere at South by Southwest on March 11, 2016. Everybody Wants Some!! really follows these men, the baseball team, using their gaze as they prowl for sex.
It takes a considerable amount of time before any female character has much to add to the story besides being an object of the boy’s desires. However, once main freshman Jake (Blake Jenner) starts to pursue Beverly (Zoey Deutch), the Dazed and Confused connection comes together, as characters meld together nicely and the uniqueness of these characters is shown.
The film has received overall critical acclaim, achieving a rating of 88%, based on 160 reviews, with an average rating of 7.7/10. Many critics acknowledged the film for doing nostalgia right and praised its young, talented cast.
The film had a limited release in theaters on March 30th and did not recoup its budget, so hopefully it does well in rentals and streaming, because it is worth watching, just try not to compare it too much to Dazed and Confused, it is certainly a spiritual sequel for a reason.
6. Love and Friendship
Written and directed by Whit Stillman, the man behind films like The Last Days of Disco and Damsels in Distress, Love and Friendship is based on Jane Austen’s epistolary novel Lady Susan first published in 1871. The film stars Kate Beckinsale, Chloë Sevigny, Xavier Samuel and Stephen Fry.
Although it was adapted from Austen’s novel Lady Susan, the film was produced under the borrowed title of her juvenile story Love and Freindship. The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2016. Love and Friendship received positive critical reviews and has been a box office success in North America.
It currently holds a 99% approval ratings on Rotten Tomatoes, one of the highest of any films released so far this year, and has only one negative review noted on the site.The critical consensus was director Whit Stillman bringing his talents to bear on a Jane Austen adaptation – with a thoroughly delightful period drama as the result.
Critics and audiences alike praised Stillman’s directing and his approach to the Jane Austen material, and the acting of its stars, particularly Kate Beckinsale, which some noting it was her best work.
Overall, critics also praised the story’s courtliness, prestige, and competarary twist on the 19th century work. Period pieces might not be your cup of tea, but Love and Friendship’s stellar acting, direction, environments, and strong adaptation of an interesting source material is enough to dive head first into the a world of courtship and monetary identity.