Ethan Anderton's Top 10 Movies Of 2016: Growing Up With Brown Shoes In A City Of Stars

On occasion, there has been some argument among other film bloggers and journalists on Twitter as to whether this was an awful year for movies or not. When we look at the summer blockbuster season, it was mostly a bust this year. But if you were paying attention for good movies that were playing at the nearest indie theater, or ventured our to catch the lower key releases that only stick around the big multiplexes for a week or two at a time, that's where the good stuff was.

The year 2016 was a bad one for sequels and reboots, but it was a good one for independent cinema, original science fiction, coming of age drama, family struggle, and incredible musical moments. All of this and more can be found in my personal list of the Top 10 Movies of 2016. But beware of some potential spoilers if you haven't seen them!.

Before we get into the list, let's clear up a few things. First, some of the more acclaimed or awards hopeful movies that I was unable to see are The Handmaiden, Silence, Paterson, Hidden Figures, Loving, American Honey, O.J.: Made in America, Elle, Everybody Wants Some!!, Nocturnal Animals and Certain Women. But I'm hoping to catch them all as soon as possible.

For our cumulative /Film list coming next week, we had to come up with our Top 15 Movies of 2016. I'll briefly run through the bottom five in that list below, but here are some movies I loved that just barely didn't make the cut: Green Room, Zootopia, Swiss Army Man, Captain Fantastic, The Lobster, Hell or High Water, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Jackie, The Witch, Pete's Dragon and Christine.

Honorable Mentions

Captain America Civil War

Captain America: Civil War

This was the best blockbuster of the summer, but that wasn't enough to make it crack the Top 10. Hell, it almost got wedged out of the Top 15 by The Lobster. But Captain America: Civil War is a phenomenal sequel with some of the best comic book action the big screen has ever seen. It's insanely rewatchable, gives great introductions to characters like Black Panther and Spider-Man, and takes superhero confrontation to the next level in a third act that packs a serious punch in more ways than one.

Manchester by the Sea

Manchester by the Sea

Casey Affleck gives a subtly spectacular performance in a movie that upon first inspection feels like it's pure Oscar bait. And with all the praise it's getting this awards season, it'll likely end up getting plenty of nominations at the Academy Awards. But this movie delivers such an authentic portrayal of grief, the bond of family and the struggle of loss that it never feels like it's just trying to be an Oscar contender. Even Michelle Williams, in her all too brief appearances in the movie, gives a remarkable performance.



This just might be the best movie that Walt Disney Animation has made since turn turn of the century. With a spotlight shining on a culture that had yet to be touched significantly by Disney, and a strong female lead who doesn't need romance to have character definition, this musical adventure has charm, poise and a soundtrack that is even better than Frozen. Plus, it's good for the whole family.

Other People

Other People

This is one of those movies that hits all the checkmarks when it comes to the kind of cliches and tropes that you find in indie movies playing at film festivals. But with real life influence inspired by Saturday Night Live writer Chris Kelly's experiences with his own family in his own town, this one has some genuine heart and humor that make it irresistibly charming. And it accomplishes the seemingly impossible task of making you smile when you hear the song "Drops of Jupiter."

10 cloverfield lane ending

10 Cloverfield Lane

It was tough to push this movie out of the top 10 spot since it's one of the best sci-fi movies of the year. It's full of endless suspense and has plenty of twists and turns right to the very end. John Goodman plays the perfect paranoid doomsday prepper while Mary Elizabeth Winstead proves that she just might be the next Sigourney Weaver. Some thought the third act was just too much, but I loved seeing it taken to that high of a level of sci-fi.

Life, Animated

10. Life, Animated

This is one of the most moving documentaries I've ever seen. Director Roger Ross Williams tells the story of Owen Suskind, a young man with autism who is coming into adulthood. At three years old, Owen suddenly went silent, unable to connect to his family or anyone else. But suddenly, after repeated viewings of Disney movies, Owen began to connect what he was seeing in Disney's animated classics to the world around him. It was his key to conveying his thoughts and feelings. The documentary chronicles the struggle his parents had helping Owen grow up and the big steps he's taking as a grown man moving into his own apartment for the first time. Documentary footage is cleverly juxtaposed with clips from various Disney movies, as well as some stunning original animation that brings Owen's emotions to life. Believe me when I say you'll laugh and cry.


9. Indignation

This adaptation of Philip Roth's novel of the same name went mostly unnoticed when it was released towards the end of the summer, but it's a must-see coming-of-age romance. Logan Lerman gives a career-best performance in a movie that runs the gamut of spiritual, moral and romantic themes as a young Jewish man finds himself attending a Christian college that doesn't jibe with his self-proclaimed atheist beliefs. Challenged by not only his superiors but also by love and lust from a young woman (Sarah Gadon) with a complicated past, Marcus must figure out who he is and what's really important in life. It's a magnificent directorial debut from James Schamus.

the edge of seventeen

8. The Edge of Seventeen

Whether or not you are or have ever been a teenage girl, you'll find something to relate to in this masterful coming-of-age comedy. Hailee Steinfeld is turning into a fine young actress, and as a teenager facing struggles in her journey into adulthood, including crushes and maturing friends, she gives a performance that will be a staple in her career for years to come. The Edge of Seventeen is funny, charming, witty and gives Woody Harrelson a scene-stealing supporting turn as the high school teacher we all wish we had. We need more directors like Kelly Fremon Craig to make movies like this, but more importantly, we need to pay attention to them.


7. Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping

Akiva Shaffer and Jorma Taccone, who make up two-thirds of the faux rap group The Lonely Island, haven't turned out a hit movie, including this one on my Top 10 list. But that doesn't mean they aren't delivering some of the best comedies in recent years. Hot Rod, MacGruber, and The Watch are all sorely underrated and criminally underseen. That trend continued with Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping, a mockumentary that is every bit as good as This Is Spinal Tap, containing some of the best original comedy songs ever created for a movie. Andy Samberg, the third part of The Lonely Island trio, makes for a perfect dimwitted hip hop star who is dumb but not dumb enough to be over-the-top unbelievable. With a cavalcade of talking head cameos to make it feel as much like a real documentary as possible, this was a movie that deserved so much more attention and praise than it received.

Don't Think Twice

6. Don't Think Twice

As someone who has an obsession with comedy and has even dabbled in the world of stand-up and improv, this one resonated with me on a number of levels. I have friends who are just like the ensemble at the center of this movie directed by stand-up comedian Mike Birbiglia, who also stars alongside Keegan Michael-Key, Gillian Jacobs, Kate Micucci, Chris Gethard and Tami Sagher. Not only is this a movie following the aspiring careers of a pack of comedians and friends, it's about coming to terms with our place in life, and whether being complacent in life by giving up on a lifelong dream makes you less successful, or if it just allows you to find something else equally as meaningful in your life. Mike Birbiglia continues to be a director to keep an eye on in the future.


5. Arrival

A sci-fi film that is as powerful and moving as this doesn't come around very often. The fact that it's an original, intelligent and even profound piece of filmmaking is even more impressive. Writer Eric Heisserer, who was previously responsible for reboot missteps like A Nightmare on Elm Street and The Thing, crafted a masterful script that was turned into a truly mesmerizing film by director Denis Villeneuve. This is a movie which starts as a compelling story about humanity trying to sort out its first encounter with alien life, and then turns it into something even more significant and intimate by way of a third act revelation that will deliver one of the biggest gut punches you'll receive this year. You'll have a pit in your stomach, a lump in your throat and tears in your eyes.

Hunt for the Wilderpeople trailer

4. Hunt for the Wilderpeople

After delivering a movie that was beloved by pretty much everyone at /Film last year (What We Do in the Shadows), director Taika Waititi has come through with another hilarious addition to his filmography, but this one has much more heart. Hunt for the Wilderpeople follows a misunderstood adolescent boy (Julian Dennison in a charming breakthrough performance) who has gone from one foster family to another, unhappy with the hand he's been dealt. He tries to be tough, but he's just a chubby little kid who needs a family. He finds surprising happiness in a rural house out in the bush of New Zealand, but ends up on the run with his "uncle" (Sam Neill) after a family tragedy leaves them both lost in their own way. But out in the wildness, they strike a strange, hilarious bond, and they take law enforcement (including the stupendous Rachel House) on a chase straight out of a 1980s action movie.

Sing Street

3. Sing Street

There's one particular musical sequence in the middle of Sing Street which solidified that this movie was going to end up on my Top 10 Movies of 2016. It was a bold thought since I saw the movie all the way back in January when it premiered at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival, but I absolutely adored this movie. From the amazing, catchy original soundtrack of songs created by director John Carney to the fantastic ensemble of young talent playing the titular band, this is just a feel-good, music-charged gem about the bonds of brotherhood, daring to dream in the face of authority that punishes you for being different, and just being true to what's inside you. And I just can't get enough of it. I've introduced this movie to several friends and family members, never getting sick of watching it. Once you hear "Drive It Like You Stole It" and see the sequence in which it comes to life, you'll want to listen to it over and over.


2. Moonlight

This was a movie that plenty of critics were raving about. Having avoided learning anything about it throughout its run at festivals and the critical praise that followed, I finally caught it in early December not knowing anything about the story. All I knew was that this movie was supposed to be great. As the portrait of a gay black boy unfolded before me, I felt sympathy, remorse, anger, love and more as he struggled to figure out his place in the world. From his young years when he was known as Little (Alex R. Hibbert), only just starting to feel the repercussions of a mother hooked on crack; to his even more confusing, hurtful teenage years when he was called by his true name, Chiron (Ashton Sanders); all the way to his adult years as Black (Trevante Rhodes), when he's a grown man, but not exactly the man that lies in his heart. This is a movie about what it really means to be a man, a challenge to how masculinity is defined, especially among the black population. But most of all, it's a story about love, loving yourself, and letting yourself love who your heart tells you to love.

La La Land

1. La La Land

What can I say about the sheer majesty of this movie that hasn't already been said by everyone else? This movie is cinematic perfection. It's a love story that isn't necessarily about the romance between a boy and a girl. It's a story about the romance that we have with our dreams and ambitions. It's about the dreams that we strive for, and those same dreams that we give up when another dream comes along. Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone are two dreamers who love each other, just like the men and women of the classic musicals of the past that director Damien Chazelle is emulating. But in the end, they sacrifice their love for each other so that each might achieve their dreams. Maybe that's a love that's stronger than the happily ever after that some other movies give us. A love that dares to lose itself to keep another's dream alive.

"So bring on the rebels

The ripples from pebbles

The painters, and poets, and plays

And here's to the fools who dream

Crazy, as they may seem"


Well, that's a wrap on my Top 10 Movies of 2016. As usual, sound off with your thoughts below, give us your own Top 10 Films of 2016, respectfully tell me what you didn't like about mine. Maybe offer something more engaging than the typical "Why no *INSERT MOVIE YOU LOVED AND I DIDN'T HERE*" in the comments.