/Film’s Top 10 Films of 2016 So Far

Zootopia - Nick Wilde, Judy Hopps, Mr Big

5. Zootopia

Is it too early to declare we’re in the middle of another Disney Renaissance? Zootopia was the one and only film that made all seven of our ballots, and it’s not hard to see why. This one’s a real crowdpleaser — simple enough for kids, smart enough for adults, crammed in every corner with painstaking detail, and bursting with the energy of two instantly lovable leads (voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin and Jason Bateman). Zootopia‘s message of tolerance and acceptance may not be particularly subtle, but it’s smarter about race in America than even most films made for grown-ups, and it all goes down quite easily when it’s wrapped in an utterly delightful adventure through a wild and wonderful new universe. And let’s take a moment here to appreciate Idris Elba‘s fine work as water buffalo Chief Bogo. Between this, The Jungle Book, and Finding Dory, Elba is the secret MVP of Disney’s 2016 slate.

Ryan Gosling in The Nice Guys

4. The Nice Guys

After Shane Black‘s entertaining detour into superhero movie-making for Iron Man 3The Nice Guys got him back to doing to what he does best: spinning shaggy noir mysteries powered by mismatched leads who drive each other up the wall. Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe have never been better than they are here, riffing off of each other and letting their comedic talents shine — which makes it all the more impressive that young up-and-comer Angourie Rice holds her own against them as the third lead. The Nice Guys is equal parts earnest and cynical, cut with just enough poignancy to make you care. It seems wrong to hope for a sequel to a movie we loved for its originality. However, if Black ever wants to call up the Nice Guys again, we’re not about to complain.

10 Cloverfield Lane

3. 10 Cloverfield Lane

The “Cloverfield” branding may be what initially got fans buzzing, but 10 Cloverfield Lane held onto our attention all by itselfDan Trachtenberg‘s astonishingly assured directorial debut is a small-scale thriller that feels so much bigger thanks to its meaty performances and thorny ideas. As a terrified but resourceful captive, Mary Elizabeth Winstead proves yet again that she should be much bigger star than she currently is, while John Goodman puts both his towering screen presence and his generally genial persona to good use in a performance that keeps us guessing. The question of what really lies outside the walls of that claustrophobic bunker become almost secondary to the unsettling power dynamics between the characters locked inside.

Captain America Civil War

2. Captain America: Civil War

There are legitimate complaints to be made about Hollywood’s increasing emphasis on franchises over individual films, but Captain America: Civil War is big-budget franchise filmmaking at its very best. The thirteenth(!) entry in the MCU pays off eight years’ worth of meticulous world-building and character development and sets up many more years of Marvel movies to come, all while being a satisfying entry in its own right. It’s a dazzling superhero showdown centered around a surprisingly sophisticated moral dilemma, packed with extra emotional heft because of our history with these characters. And the filmmakers make it all look so easy. It seems like everyone wants a Marvel-style universe these days, but Captain America: Civil War is a perfect reminder that even now, no one does ’em quite like Marvel itself.

The Lobster

1. The Lobster

Leave it to Yorgos Lanthimos to come up with a premise as weird as The Lobster‘s: it’s set in a world where people who don’t couple up in time are literally turned into animals. But if novelty were all The Lobster had going for it, it’d be easy enough to dismiss. The Lobster gets under the skin and stays there because its bizarro concept rings true. No, we don’t have any laws mandating that people get married (or don’t), but doesn’t it always feel like the world is always judging you for your relationship status? Doesn’t the grass always seem greener on the other side of the fence? And yet The Lobster isn’t completely given over to cynicism — underneath that biting satire is a tender, aching romance about the wonder of love, and the lengths we’ll go to to preserve it.

***

On the final page, you can check out our individual ballots.

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