/Film’s Top 10 Films of 2016 So Far

Sing Street

10. Sing Street

It’s 1980s Dublin, and our awkward teen hero can’t catch a break. His parents are splitting, his teachers are cruel, his crush is out of reach. Then his layabout older brother (Jack Reynor in a star-making turn) turns him onto some really great music, and everything changes. Once and Begin Again director John Carney serves up another delightful ode to the power of music — the way it can make you feel less alone in the world, the way it can open your heart to new people and new experiences, the way it helps you understand your own soul a little bit better, the way it can turn weirdo outcasts into dazzling rock stars. And he delivers on the music front, too, with catchy original tunes like “The Rhythm of the Model” and “Drive It Like You Stole It.”

Hunt for the Wilderpeople

9. Hunt for the Wilderpeople

Taika Waititi made one of our favorite films of last year, the deeply hilarious What We Do in the Shadows, and he’s a /Film favorite again this year thanks to Hunt for the Wilderpeople. This is a children’s film, and we mean that in the best way possible. It’s grounded in a fantastical logic that anyone who has a kid or has ever been a kid will recognize, filled with colorful characters who feel like they’ve stepped out of a Roald Dahl novel or a Pixar movie. But like the best of those movies, there’s an edge of real danger and sadness to Hunt for the Wilderpeople. Hec (Sam Neill) and Ricky (Julian Dennison) aren’t just quirky misfits, they’re forgotten people the rest of the world has no use for. What they find in each other makes for some of the sweetest, most heartwarming moments we’ve seen onscreen this year.

Green Room

8. Green Room

The multiplexes are crammed with oddly bloodless spectacles of destruction involving superheroes, supersoldiers, and superspies — and we enjoy those as much as anyone, as our #2 pick shows. But it’s refreshing to see Jeremy Saulnier go in the exact opposite direction, with terrifically entertaining results. Green Room is ruthlessly efficient and unapologetically brutal, trapping a group of ordinary people in a very, very bad situation. Our protagonists (led by the late Anton Yelchin in one of his finest performances) can be resourceful, determined, even heroic — but they also bleed, panic, indulge in gallows humor, and occasionally make really terrible decisions. Our neo-Nazi villains (led by Patrick Stewart playing strongly against type) are relentless and vicious, but not unstoppable. When they clash, bones break, blood sprays, and we in the audience are left gasping with tension and delight.

The Witch

7. The Witch

Robert Eggers‘ The Witch isn’t quite like any other horror movie in recent memory. Some of that can be attributed to its unique setting: it’s rare to see any film set in 17th century New England, let alone a horror film, and the era is brought to life through incredibly specific costuming and set design and almost incomprehensibly thick accents. (You do get used to the language over time.) But it’s also thanks to the patient intensity, the complicated family dynamics, the thoughtful social commentary, and an excellent breakthrough turn by Anya Taylor-Joy, who seems destined for even bigger and better things. To steal a phrase from Black Phillip, enjoying art like this feels like the definition of living deliciously.

Midnight Special (1)

6. Midnight Special

No question Midnight Special has something of a throwback Amblin feel to it, but it’s still a Jeff Nichols movie through and through. It’s a slow-burn enigma full of tiny character moments and big ambitious ideas, and of course it’s all centered around Michael Shannon, who gets to dial down his trademark intensity for once and let a softer side shine through. The story concerns a little boy with otherworldly abilities who can destroy entire houses, pick up strange signals, or bring satellites tumbling out of the sky. The forces that really drive it forward, though, are much more ordinary yet no less powerful: a faith in something greater than oneself, and a parent’s love for their child.

***

On the next page, see our top 5 films of the year so far.

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