The 2016 Summer Blockbuster Awards: Find Out Who Won This Summer

The summer movie season is over and you know what that means – it's time to hand out pointless imaginary awards to the best, worst, and weirdest films of the past four months!

Welcome to the 2016 Summer Blockbuster Awards, which is like the Oscars if the Oscars only covered a specific release window, were decided by one person, and were also really dumb. Here's how this works: I have created 24 categories, from "Best Performance" to "Movie Most in Need of a Hug" and have awarded one winner and one runner-up. At the name of these awards imply, the focus here is on wide releases that arrived between May and August of this year. So while you really should go out of your way to see indie gems like Swiss Army Man and Don't Think Twice, they won't be the focus here. Got it? Good. Let's just dive right in.

Be warned there are spoilers ahead for some of this summer's films.

Best Performance

Winner: Russell Crowe in The Nice Guys

There is a whole new Russell Crowe on display in The Nice Guys. He's put on weight, but he wears it proudly. Any movie star vanity is shoved to the side in favor of darkly hilarious self-deprecation. Jackson Healy is the kind of beaten-up, spit-out, hard-knock bum anti-hero that the '70s used to give us in spades but are so very rare today. This is the Russell Crowe I want to see in a movie every year. He's given over to his inner character actor and the results are marvelous.

Runner-Up: Bryce Dallas Howard in Pete's Dragon

Bryce Dallas Howard is often only as good as the material she's given, but the material in Pete's Dragon is so very good, allowing her to elevate a potential cliche (a nurturing surrogate mother-type) into someone warm and tender and recognizably human.

Best Child Performance

Winner: Oakes Fegley in Pete's Dragon

Too many child actors feel overly rehearsed, feeling like they've been trained to hit their marks and smile for the commercial director. It's a testament to Oakes Fegley (and his director, David Lowery) that Pete isn't a smiling, singing Disney orphan – he's a child dealing with trauma, whose life was torn asunder by tragedy and has never had to confront the impact of losing his family. His relationship with Elliot the dragon is tender and sweet when it could have easily been loud and obnoxious. The dynamic between him and the human family that grows around him is gentle when it could have been cloying. All of this rests on Fegley's shoulders and he delivers a character who earns having his name in the title.

Runner-Up: Ruby Barnhill in The BFG

Steven Spielberg has always had a strong eye for young performers and he's always brought out the best in them. In Ruby Barnhill, he has discovered an actress who radiates intelligence, a kid who can do the Spielbergian look of awe and wonder with the best of them. She matches wits with the great Mark Rylance, which is no easy feat.

Best Performance in a Bad Movie

Winner: Margot Robbie in Suicide Squad

Margot Robbie is a movie star. Period. End of story. She commands the screen like few other actresses, grabbing eyes first with her stunning beauty and then with her actual acting chops. Her Harley Quinn is delightfully deranged, a take that combines various elements of the character's various incarnations into one bizarre and spirited package. She's a hoot in a movie that doesn't deserve her, a ray of sunshine in a movie that is otherwise unpleasant to look at. In a movie that is so scattershot, so uncommitted to what it wants to be, Robbie nails down a character who deserves so much more.

Runner-Up: Michael Fassbender in X-Men: Apocalypse

Michael Fassbender cannot give a bad performance if he tried, so it's astonishing to watch him prop up so much of X-Men: Apocalypse on his shoulders. In a movie that feels like it was constructed out of plastic by people constantly distracted by their smartphones, Fassbender's flawed, conflicted Magneto is a source of endless pathos.

Most Baffling Waste of a Good Actor

Winner: Oscar Isaac in X-Men: Apocalypse

So you cast Oscar Isaac, one of the most exciting and talented young actors on the scene, as the villain in your superhero movie. That's cool. That's great. That's taking advantage of his rising stardom and giving him a new platform. Then you coat him in thick, rubbery makeup until he is unrecognizable. That's fine. A lot of actors, like the great Ron Perlman, work well under intense makeup. But then you run his voice through a filter, so he no longer sounds like himself. And then you don't give him a single interesting line of dialogue or a single interesting action beat. You cast Oscar Isaac as a one-note cartoon villain, a guy who would inspire yawns in an episode of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. What a crime.

Runner-Up: Jack Huston in Ben-Hur

If you've seen Jack Huston in HBO's late, great Boardwalk Empire, you know this guy is a powerhouse just waiting for the right film to put him on everyone's radar. Ben-Hur, one of the summer's biggest bombs, was not that film. Ouch.

Best New Character

Winner: Jillian Holtzmann in Ghostbusters

Kate McKinnon has been an MVP on Saturday Night Live for years now, creating a slew of amazing characters and elevating even the direst sketches with sheer, brute comedic force. She is just an inherently funny person, someone who can appear onscreen and get you giggling within moments. And McKinnon is utilized brilliantly in the new Ghostbusters, where her sharp, sarcastic, sexually omnivorous Jillian Holtzmann steals just about every scene where the camera is allowed to linger on her for more than, oh, two seconds or so. It's an inspired creation, a silly character who also radiates intelligence, a total goofball whose biggest laughs often emerge from her being so damn good at her work. Jillian Holtzmann makes science look like fun. She makes ghost-busting look real good.

Runner-Up: Jaylah in Star Trek Beyond

The rebooted Star Trek movie series (a.k.a. the Kelvin Timeline) has coasted on us being familiar with these characters. Of course we like Kirk and Spock! But it went too far with Star Trek Into Darkness, where it reintroduced Khan, stripped him of his interesting parts, and asked us to embrace him with the same fervor. No, thank you. Sofia Boutella's Jaylah feels like a direct response to that criticism – she's the first major character in the Kelvin Timeline movies with no connection to any past series or film and she kicks ass. If a fourth movie gets made (and Star Trek Beyond's box office makes that a big question mark), she deserves to be on the bridge with everyone else.

Worst New Character

Winner: Rowan North in Ghostbusters

In a movie where the central four heroines are so funny and fresh and fun to watch, their chief antagonist gets the short end of the stick. Neil Casey does what he can with the loathsome sad sack Rowan North, but he feels half-baked at best. It's likely that his most defining characteristics, the stuff that may have made him a compelling villain, was left on the cutting room floor. While it's interesting to watch these proudly feminist Ghostbusters go up against a guy who looks and acts like he complains about "SJWs" on Reddit, the character is a total dud.

Runner-Up: Krall in Star Trek Beyond

Idris Elba is a strong enough screen presence to help distract from the fact that Krall is a great idea for a villain who never quite gels on screen and who never makes too much sense. Like with Rowan, there's probably a version of Star Trek Beyond that fleshes him out and makes him as fascinating as he should be.

Best Hero

Winner: Steve Rogers in Captain America: Civil War

In a movie that also features Black Panther, Iron Man, Spider-Man, Ant-Man, the Vision, Black Widow, and a number of other recognizable and beloved superheroes, Steve Rogers remains the most compelling guy on screen. The best hero in the Marvel Cinematic Universe isn't interesting because he's complicated – he's interesting because he sticks to his principles in the face of a changing world. To mess with a quote from another superhero movie, Captain America is the hero we need, not the hero we deserve. Steve Rogers is sweet, respectful, funny, self-effacing, and stubbornly loyal. He represents America at its best and refuses to back down when confronted by America at its worst. Chris Evans has given us a hero we can truly root for, even when he's battling demons both external and internal.

Runner-Up: Kubo, Monkey, and Beetle in Kubo and the Two Strings

Honestly, any one of Kubo and the Two Strings' lead character could have taken the top spot, but they effectively canceled each other out. Instead, they all get to share the runner-up spot. This trio is a remarkable mix of personalities: the wide-eyed and creative Kubo, the boastful but loyal Beetle, and the determined and blunt Monkey often feel like the greatest RPG team ever assembled in service of a movie.

Best Villain

Winner: The Blind Man in Don't Breathe

There is a lot of good stuff to treasure in Don't Breathe. It's tense and gnarly and brutal and scary, a horror movie that wants to wallop you over the head and draw a little blood. However, it all works because Stephen Lang delivers one of the most unnerving baddies the genre has seen in some time. The Blind Man (he is never given a name) is initially sympathetic, a war veteran who slowly realizes that his home has been invaded by a trio of petty thieves. And then the gloves come off, the truth about his living situation comes out, and he reveals himself to be a monster and a half, a hunter on his home turf who isn't about to let a bunch of kids steal from him. Lang doesn't have much dialogue, but the raw power in every stride and every stance tells you everything you need to know about this guy. It's a performance of extraordinary physical presence. To look upon him is to fear him.

Runner-Up: Organized Religion in Sausage Party

Sausage Party lures you in by acting like a lewd, stupid, and deeply offensive parody of animated movies about inanimate objects coming to life. And it is that! And it's very good at being that! Then it reveals its actual hand of cards and its real target: organized religion, which generates bloody conflicts, fuels ongoing feuds, and prevents people from being happy together and accepting of their neighbors. This stupid talking food movie is actually a scathing critique of blindly believing in what you're told. Sausage Party is the ballsiest movie of the summer, both literally and figuratively.

Best Character Created in a Computer

Winner: The BFG in The BFG

The indefinable beauty of motion capture is that you get to witness an entire team of geniuses creating a character out of scratch. On set, you have Oscar winner Mark Rylance, a celebrated actor lending his craft in a raw physical space. After the fact, you have an army of visual effects geniuses taking his raw performance and transforming it (and him) into something that could never be accomplished practically. The BFG is twenty feet tall, but he's so very gentle. He comes from a race of inhuman creatures, but he's so sweet and instantly likable. There's nothing cool about this character – he's old-fashioned, slightly dim, a bit of a coward, and in desperate need of grammar lessons – but that's why he's so damn charming. He's a delightful creation, an ode to creativity and dreams trumping cruelty and hate. And he couldn't have been brought to life in any other way.

Runner-Up: Hank the Septopus in Finding Dory

In a movie otherwise content to hit on one familiar beat too many, Hank the "Septopus" can't help but steal the show from everyone else in Finding Dory. This miserable and anxious cephalopod eventually reveals a heart of gold (because of course he does!), but Ed O'Neill keeps him charming and sympathetic from frame one. He's such an amusing character that you don't notice how beautifully animated he is until after the fact.

Funniest Scene

Winner: The Bees in Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping

It's difficult to single out one scene from the consistently hilarious Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping. Virtually any musical number performed by Andy Samberg's brilliantly idiotic Connor would suffice. And yet, I can't stop thinking about the bees. Early in this faux documentary, the cameras go dark, leaving us with only the sound of a private conversation between two characters (and with helpful subtitles on screen, because this is a "documentary"). And then the bees arrive, resulting in an audio play that brought me to literal tears of laughter. I'm giggling right now as I type these very words.

Runner-Up: The Food Orgy in Sausage Party

If you've seen Sausage Party, you know exactly what I'm talking about. It's one of the most audacious scenes in any movie released this year and my jaw dropped early and stayed dropped for this shockingly long, constantly escalating sequence of total madness. It's not as funny as the bee scene from Popstar (hence its runner-up status), but hot damn, I still can't believe this scene exists.

Best Action Scene

Winner: The Airport Brawl in Captain America: Civil War

Well, here it is – the best superhero movie action scene put on film so far. Directors Joe and Anthony Russo understand that it is not enough to just put a bunch of superheroes in one space and let them punch each other. You have to display a keen understanding of their powers and abilities. You must find ways for allies to use their powers in conjunction with one another in surprising ways. Combatants with different skill sets and levels of power must react differently based on the circumstances of their encounter. This may sound awfully mechanical, but the results are so alive and fun and fresh. There's a clockwork rhythm to this sequence. It's about cause and effect, with heroes literally bouncing off one another in ways that are constantly surprising, exciting and yes, even hilarious. Captain America: Civil War gets awfully grim in its third act, but this second act closer is as fun as any action scene I've seen in a comic book film.

Runner-Up: The Leaf-Boat Sword Duel in Kubo and the Two Strings

If Captain America: Civil War perfected a certain kind of action scene, Kubo and the Two Strings deserves a shout-out for trying something completely different. Monkey, armed with the Sword Unbreakable, battles one of Kubo's evil aunts. On a boat. Made of leaves. In the middle of the ocean. While a storm brews. And, of course, it's all stop-motion animated. It is unlike anything I have ever seen in a movie before.

Movie Most Likely to Inspire a Passionate Following

Winner: Pete's Dragon

You know the kind of movie you devoured as a kid, watching it over and over again until it felt like a member of your family, only to grow up and learn that no one saw it in theaters and that it wasn't fully appreciated until years after the fact? That's Pete's Dragon. Seriously. Just wait a decade or two and watch every young filmmaker start to cite this as the movie that defined their childhood. It's that good, that powerful, and that in tune with its audience. It doesn't have the flash to be a huge hit, but it has the heart to stick around for a long, long time.

Runner-Up: The Nice Guys and Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping (TIE)

Honestly, both of these movies deserve this accolade. Popstar was the more dismal financial failure of the two, but it is too funny and too clever to vanish from sight. Like Hot Rod before it, this movie will find a passionate audience. The Nice Guys made a slightly bigger splash, but it's going to be the movie that engenders the most "Why didn't I see this in theaters?" reactions from your friends and family members as they slowly discover it over the next year.

Movie Most in Need of a Hug

Winner: Warcraft

Warcraft is a misfire of epic proportions. It's languidly paced and impossibly dense, feeling more like an extended prologue and info dump than an actual story. Its characters never take on more life than a one-dimensional sketch and the plot is baffling when it's not obvious. However, Warcraft is also honest and well-intentioned, a movie that genuinely feels like it set out to do justice to the video game it is based on while creating a fantasy world that isn't just another Lord of the Rings rip-off. Warcraft is the kind of failure that only a legitimate genius could concoct and I remain convinced that director Duncan Jones is a genius. I have no hatred in my heart for Warcraft – I truly, from the bottom of my heart, wanted this movie to work.

Runner-Up: Ghostbusters

No movie has been the subject of more unwarranted abuse than Paul Feig's Ghostbusters, which became the target of deranged and vicious fanboys a year before it hit theaters. The hateful and misogynistic attacks continue to this day, with star Leslie Jones dealing with the fallout of an ugly, terroristic hack. Ghostbusters isn't a great movie, but it's a very good one and it deserves a big hug for everything its cast and crew has endured.

Healthiest Relationship

Winner: Ed and Lorraine Warren in The Conjuring 2

The family that conducts exorcisms together stays together! It would have been easy for The Conjuring and its excellent sequel to depict the marriage between demonologist Ed Warren (Patrick Wilson) and psychic Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga) as damaged and fraught, always on the ropes as they endure on supernatural trial after another. Instead, The Conjuring 2 doubles down on what makes the first movie rise above being just another very scary horror movie – the love between Ed and Lorraine feels real, their relationship is built upon trust, and the movie often pauses to reaffirm just how much these two still dig each other. It's practically a model marriage, with husband and wife always being there for on another, knowing when to pipe up, knowing when to shut up, and taking a well-deserved Elvis break every so often. This may be the best married couple in horror movie history. Hell, they're probably the most well-adjusted couple in any 2016 movie.

Runner-Up: Kirk, Spock, and McCoy in Star Trek Beyond

What worked in 1966 still works today. The triumvirate of Captain James T. Kirk, First Officer Spock, and Dr. Leonard McCoy is still the great science fiction friendship, with each member of the team complementing the strengths and weaknesses of the other. More than Star Trek and Star Trek Into Darkness, Star Trek Beyond digs into the friendship of the Enterprise crew, exploring how friends and colleagues can get along and get a difficult job done.

Unhealthiest Relationship

Winner: Holland March and Holly March in The Nice Guys

The Nice Guys is chock-full of pitch black comedy, but the relationship between Ryan Gosling's Holland March and Angourie Rice's Holly March is the gift that keeps on giving. Shane Black's vicious screenplay never shies away from Holland being an incompetent father, but it also refuses to let his daughter be a victim, painting her as a clever young woman who has pulled herself up by her bootstraps and takes care of herself and her father because no one else will. It's funny at first – she has to drive him around and help him mange his daily bullshit – but the truth hits hard. Once you know what went down in the past, why Holland is so broken, the crummy home life of the March family becomes genuinely heartbreaking. It's emblematic of the great strength of The Nice Guys in general. Yeah, you're watching a comedy, but every punch leaves a bruise.

Runner-Up: Harley Quinn and the Joker in Suicide Squad

One of the biggest missteps in Suicide Squad is the decision to depict Margot Robbie's Harley Quinn and Jared Leto's Joker as star-crossed lovers who spend the entire movie attempting to return to one another's arms. He's an abusive creep and she's his victim and the movie never pauses to explore that or let the sheer unhealthiness of their dynamic sink in. Still, that doesn't make them ineligible for this award. After all, it's awfully unhealthy for a psychotic clown criminal to abandon his girlfriend to Batman after, uh, offering her to a rival crook.

Most Frightening Scene

Winner: The Demonic Painting in The Conjuring 2

No one builds a better haunted roller coaster than director James Wan and The Conjuring 2 is filled with chilling, thrilling set pieces that shoot enough adrenaline through your body to make your heart explode. The most clever of the bunch finds Vera Farmiga's Lorraine alone in her husband's office with a painting of the demon he has been dreaming about. Except that she's not alone. And it's very dark. And that demon is there and it plans to use that painting to its advantage to torment Lorraine. It's classic Wan: slow-burning tension builds to a perfectly executed jump scare. You scream and then you laugh because you screamed and then you reorient yourself because holy moly, it's not over yet.

Runner-Up: The Blackout in Don't Breathe

Don't Breathe continuously finds ways to experiment with its cat-and-mouse premise, but this sequence in particular stands out above the rest. When the two surviving heroes attempt to hide in the basement of the incredibly dangerous blind man they've attempted to rob, he evens the odds the by cutting the lights. Now, he has the edge since he knows his own home and the intruders are literally stumbling around in the dark. What makes the sequence really special is that director Fede Alvarez films it in a unique riff on night vision, which allows us to follow the action clearly without cheating us out of total darkness.

Special Jury Prize For "Movie Nobody on Planet Earth Actually Saw"

Winner: Alice Through the Looking Glass

Wait a second...this actually came out? In theaters? Like, for real? C'mon. Surely this is a 2017 release. It couldn't have come and gone that fast... Oh. Oh, no.

Runner-Up: Ben-Hur

They remade Ben-Hur?!

Special Jury Prize For "WTF Moment of the Summer"

Winner: The Death of the Juice Box in Sausage Party

Our own Ethan Anderton suggested that this award go to just about anything that the character of Douche (Nick Kroll) does in Sausage Party and it's hard to argue with that. Still, if only one moment must be selected, it will be the moment where Douche, having learned that consuming food products increases his strength, murders a juice box and proceeds to literally suck the life out of him in the most sexually graphic manner imaginable. There are many "Did I Actually Just See That Happen For Real?" moments in this movie, but that's a WTF moment if there every was one.

Runner-Up: The Desert Chase in Independence Day: Resurgence

I remain one of the only defenders of this hopelessly stupid and goofy movie, and everything I love about it can be found in the third act, where Jeff Goldblum drives a school bus full of presumably orphaned children across the Nevada desert while a very angry Godzilla-sized alien chases him following a failed suicide bombing courtesy of the former President of the United States. Independence Day: Resurgence is one seriously insane movie.

Best Sequel

Winner: Star Trek Beyond

Star Trek Beyond isn't just a very good Star Trek movie that sends characters we already love on a compelling adventure. It's also an apology for the sins of Star Trek Into Darkness, a movie that felt like it went out of its way to fly against what Trek has always been about while also leaning on lousy fan service. This is the most optimistic and hopeful major film of 2016, a movie that is full of action and adventure, but always slows down to showcase how human beings (and their alien allies, of course) are stronger when they work together, how diversity trumps isolation, and how unity is the key to a future worth living. There are better summer 2016 movies than Star Trek Beyond, but this is the only sequel that deliberately removes the bad taste of a previous entry while reinforcing what made this series so magnificent from the start.

Runner-Up: Captain America: Civil War

There is a great deal on Captain America: Civil War's plate. It has to be a sequel to Captain America: The Winter Soldier while also being a sequel to Avengers: Age of Ultron while also laying the groundwork for solo films starring Black Panther and Spider-Man. The fact that it does all of this without feeling overstuffed and without feeling like a series of elongated trailers is impressive.

Biggest Disappointment

Winner: Suicide Squad

After the disappointment of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice in March, all eyes drifted to Suicide Squad, the quirky, weird follow-up about grungy supervillains forced to be heroes by a shadowy government agency. Surely this movie would be the antidote for the bloated, messy, and very confused Batman v Superman! Unfortunately, Suicide Squad has the exact same problems as its DCEU predecessor. It's too long, too unsure of what it wants to be, and so focused on introducing one character after another that no one in the ensemble ever gets a chance to breathe or have a genuinely satisfying moment. This film is a lumbering mess, albeit one that had the good taste to cast Margot Robbie and utilize practical Killer Croc make-up.

Runner-Up: Jason Bourne

Matt Damon's return to his most popular character is mediocre at best, a case of diminishing returns. While Damon and director Paul Greengrass had a decade between movies to freshen up, Jason Bourne feels like the work of a team that is simply too tired to try anything new and the result is a "Greatest Hits" album assembled by an aging rockstar. You'll recognize the stuff you love, but you'll wish it was doing something different.

Best Scene of the Summer

Winner: The Battle With the Moon King in Kubo and the Two Strings

Kubo and the Two Strings ultimately comes down to a final confrontation between Kubo and his grandfather, the powerful, humanity-hating Moon King. And in a movie already filled with stunning visuals and scenes of genuine emotional beauty, it somehow tops everything we have seen before. At first, it's another thrilling sword battle, with Kubo using the mystical artifacts he has spent the rest of the film tracking down to engage the Moon King in a duel he cannot possibly win. Then it becomes something really special. Kubo drops his weapons, re-strings his shamisen, and challenges his opponent with love. In a summer where the bad guys tend to go down in explosions or a hail of bullets, Kubo and the Two Strings sees the villain destroyed by kindness and then allows him to be reborn out of love. It's a perfect encapsulation of the movie's themes: the power of family overcomes hatred, a community is rebuilt through storytelling, and a damned man, an evil god, learns to embrace his humanity.

Runner-Up: Any Given Scene in Pete's Dragon

Look, I started crying about five minutes into this movie, so just pick your poison.

Worst Scene of the Summer

Winner: The Death of Slipknot in Suicide Squad

Adam Beach's Slipknot is introduced very late in Suicide Squad via dialogue that has been seemingly ADR'd over B-roll. He then spends about ten minutes with the team, spouts about six lines of dialogue, and then has his head blown up when he tries to escape. Slipknot is indicative of this film's larger structural problems. It's supposed to be a big deal that a member of the team has died, but why should we care that this nobody we literally just met bit the dust? Why even introduce a character, played by a strong and recognizable actor, if he is literally only going to exist for a few minutes before he exits the stage? It's messy and it's insulting and it completely fails to land with any dramatic weight.

Runner-Up: "Leeeeeaaaarning" in X-Men: Apocalypse

So you cast Oscar Isaac, cover him in lousy prosthetics, put a filter over his voice, and then ask him to perform a scene where he places his hand on a television, declares that he is "Leeeeeaaaarning" and proceeds to decide that the human race needs to be wiped out. Why are you trying to sabotage the career of Oscar Isaac?

Best Animated Movie

Winner: Kubo and the Two Strings

Kubo and the Two Strings is a bittersweet joy of a movie. Laika is currently operating on a level comparable to the glory days of Pixar, but the stop-motion animation studio employs a harder edge than their CG rivals elsewhere in the industry. They make movies with dramatic heft that are funny, strange, and visually remarkable. While most other animated movies all continue to look like they were carved out of the same plastic mold, Kubo looks unlike anything ever released in theaters. It's a remarkable visual achievement that pulls off sequences that have no business looking this stunning in this medium. I'll take stop-motion, which is so tactile and unique, over CG animation any day of the week. And yet, Kubo backs up those visuals with strong, clear storytelling, lovable characters, and a beautiful, resonant themes. This is a movie about family, legacies, the power of stories, and overcoming tragedy. It is one of the least condescending family movies ever made.

Runner-Up: Sausage Party

How does Sausage Party even exist? Who thought this was a good idea? What kind of madmen would devote years of their lives to animating some of the grotesque things that happen in this wickedly funny, deeply stupid, shockingly subversive movie? I need to thank all of them.

Best Live-Action Movie

Winner: Pete's Dragon

Pete's Dragon is a strong argument that Disney should open its catalog and allow all kinds of interesting filmmakers to remake their bad movies. Director David Lowery has taken the basic premise of the original film and stripped it down to its naked core, giving heart to a silly premise. This is a movie about an orphaned boy living in the woods with his dragon companion, but it has gentle soul to spare. In a landscape where family movies are always pitched at a shrill, Pete's Dragon is quiet and thoughtful, favoring scenes of beauty and joy to action and chaos. Even the third act's big car chase is built around sweeping emotions instead wacky action beats. Pete's Dragon is in no hurry. It wants you to slow down, to take in the majesty of the woods and the even greater majesty of that furry green dragon. In this movie, trauma is shrugged off, but neither is the power of emotional and physical healing. This is just a lovely movie.

Runner-Up: The Nice Guys

Shane Black's dark, mean, violent, and hysterical noir comedy is just about as good as Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang...which is one of the best movies of the century so far. That says it all, really.