Sean’s Top 10 Movies of 2016: La La Land, Don’t Think Twice & A Monster Calls

by | Jan 2, 2017

2016 featured more than a few good movies. But as far as big-budget spectacles go, very few really stood out, as the majority of the studio tent poles were largely disappointing. Luckily, however, smaller, more independent movies stepped up big time this year. For me, the majority of the best movies I saw in 2016 were more affecting than they were movies that left me in awe or that had a “wow” factor.

While there was one movie that stood out above the rest for my Number 1 spot, spots 2-10 required me to thoroughly scrutinize my list in order to place the rest of the movies I saw this year in the right spots. So, without further ado, here are the 10 best movies of the year, at least in my opinion:

Honorable Mentions: Nocturnal Animals, Fences, Everybody Wants Some!!, The Birth of a Nation, Magnificent Seven


  1. A Monster Calls

As stated in the first paragraph of this article, a majority of the best movies I saw in 2016 were affecting and left me thinking about what I just sat through long after the movie was over. A Monster Calls, which I saw back in November, is a movie I still think about to this day. This story about a boy imagining a tree-like monster who helps him face the reality of his mother dying of cancer moved me more than I could have ever imagined. Nimbly poignant and visually striking, director J.A. Bayona tells this story about facing our worst fears with finesse and nuance.


  1. Don’t Think Twice

Not only is Don’t Think Twice the year’s best comedy, but it is also one of the most honest movies you’ll ever see. Mike Birbiglia’s sweet comedy about an improv group struggling to get their big break is sincere, yet full of laugh-out-loud moments. Many people can relate to the daily struggles the characters go through (myself included), and it’s done so well. Birbiglia is already becoming a household name in stand-up comedy; but people should be aware of his equally impressive skills as a filmmaker, as evidenced by Don’t Think Twice, and his wonderful directorial debut, Sleepwalk with Me. As a big fan of Birbiglia himself, I can’t wait to see where he takes us next in the world of cinema.


  1. Manchester by the Sea

Manchester by the Sea is the year’s most heartbreaking movie and, as mentioned in my review, might be too difficult for some to watch. But still, Manchester by the Sea features the year’s best ensemble, all of whom are worthy of awards consideration. I highly recommend you take two and a half hours out of your schedule to watch this film that demonstrates what many of us feel when we go through similar tragedy.

“Manchester by the Sea shows us that despite events that occasionally leave us in shambles, those events are a part of life we must be ready to handle and accept with understanding.”


  1. Arrival

The year’s best sci-fi movie is also the year’s most engaging movie. With words that speak louder than actions, Arrival deals with time, patience, love, and how they’re all connected. Arrival’s message is clear and it is one that should resonate with all of us. If you aren’t left pondering the importance of language after seeing Arrival, I might question your humanity and how you act accordingly in the real world.  


  1. Captain America: Civil War

Captain America: Civil War is the best Marvel Studios movie to date. While that might seem like a stretch given that so many critics say the same thing every year a Marvel Studios project is released, Civil War holds up so well on repeat viewings. Not only do we get to see an epic clash between Captain America and Iron Man, but we’re also introduced to two new great superheroes in the form of Black Panther and a new Spider-Man, who just about steals the show. Civil War has set the bar high for a studio that continues to deliver again and again. And as far as superhero fatigue in Hollywood goes, that seems to be nowhere in sight.


  1. The Jungle Book

I grew up watching the original, animated classic over and over again and by the age of five, I knew the entire movie front to back. When I heard Jon Favreau (Iron Man) was being brought on board to direct this retelling of one of my favorite movies,I figured he would at least make a respectable adaptation. But Favreau’s Jungle Book is more than that; it is another unforgettable Disney classic and it now stands right alongside the original version as one of their most beloved and respected titles. From the beautiful animation to the pitch-perfect voice cast, I was grinning from beginning to end when I first watched this remake of a tale that has always been so close to me. Bravo, Favreau, on introducing Mowgli and his animal friends in grand fashion for a new generation of kids while also reeling the adults back in and reminding them of the “Bare necessities of life.”


  1. Hell or High Water

Without a doubt, Hell or High Water was the best movie of the summer of 2016. Some might call Hell or High Water a Coen Brother copy, but director David Mackenzie puts his own stamp on this near-perfect modern Western. Hell or High Water is, “filled with excellent performances and cheeky dialogue that personify the embodiment of the withering away of the genuine American Dream.”


  1. Kubo and the Two Strings

Laika keeps pushing the boundaries with stop-motion animation and the work performed in Kubo and the Two Strings is outstanding. Kubo and the Two Strings isn’t just the best animated movie of the year, but arguably the best animated movie of the past decade. Darker than you might expect, Kubo is an emotionally-fueled journey that has as much heart as it has action. Disney usually dominates audience/awards viewership when it comes to animation, but Kubo is a work of art in and of itself and a must-see for anyone who loves animated movies.


  1. Hacksaw Ridge

Hacksaw Ridge is the best war movie in years. While it might come off as cheesy for some, the cast of Hacksaw Ridge makes anything that feels by the book exceptional. Also, it’s time for everybody, including Hollywood, to welcome back Mel Gibson with open arms.

“Stories like the experiences of Pfc. Desmond Doss are why we go to the movies. Not only do we want to experience stories like this in the biggest format possible, but we also want to see these stories unfold from their small beginnings, turn into something prodigious, and end up being both insightful and uplifting. Hacksaw Ridge does all of this thanks in large part to director Gibson, who  returns to form and delivers his best movie since Braveheart. Hacksaw Ridge is a compelling look at holding onto hope and in the most extreme circumstance.”


  1. La La Land

The second the  credits rolled the first time I saw La La Land back in November I knew that I had seen the best movie of the year. As somebody who is not a fan of musicals, I never would have thought a musical could captivate me like La La Land has. Believe all the rave reviews you’ve seen, people. La La Land is a new Hollywood classic that will be remembered for years to come.

“La La Land isn’t just a love letter to Hollywood, but a profound, soaring tune that reminds you of what it means to see those dreams pursued no matter how, “foolish they may seem.” But on the flip side, haven’t we all been fools at some point in our lives in the pursuit of our dreams?”

  1. La La Land
  2. Hacksaw Ridge
  3. Kubo and the Two Strings
  4. Hell or High Water
  5. The Jungle Book
  6. Captain America: Civil War
  7. Arrival
  8. Manchester by the Sea
  9. Don’t Think Twice
  10. A Monster Calls