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Ronin’s Top 13 Best Movies of 2016

Let’s try and close this year out with some positivity, shall we?

I think I’ve identified two key problems with why this year was a disappointment in movies. The first is that there was a huge gap between “okay” and “stellar,” so the year seemed worse even though there were quite a few standout films. The other is that quite a few good films didn’t make money at the box office, which is both disheartening and baffling. I understand why the new Ghostbusters didn’t make much box office returns — the film had a lot going against it, both legitimate and not — but some of the ones not making money just does not make sense to me.

Well, let’s hope we can take a lesson going into this next year because we’re counting down… Ronin’s Top 13 Best Movies of 2016!

#13: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

I watched this movie three times in theaters and all three times, I had the same experience. I always felt very tired through the first two thirds and suddenly energized in the climax. This doesn’t mean those parts are bad, as they were consistent and true vintage Star Wars. And even still… what a climax. I don’t think I’d object to watching it again and again.

#12: 10 Cloverfield Lane

2016 was a really good year for horror movies (arguably, 2016 itself was a horror movie) and I struggled to figure out which ones to put on the list. Then I remembered this movie, which had a single location and actors you could count on one hand, yet evoked an amazing amount of dread and anxiety. There’s a quasi-sequel called God Particle coming out October of this year, so color me interested.

#11: Doctor Strange

Talk about a visual wonderland! I heard that Dan Harmon, the man behind Rick and Morty, wrote some scenes for this movie, which makes total sense because Rick and Morty is also a visually creative and trippy series. I’ve heard a lot of people call it unoriginal and I have to roll my eyes at this. Doctor Strange was a big risk for Marvel because, when compared to Ant-Man, the good doctor is far more obscure in the public eye. They used a safe story format to test a very abnormal hero and if they’re keeping their promise to have no more origin story movies in the MCU, they definitely made their last one go off like a firework.

#10: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Yeah, I said this was better than all the Harry Potter movies put together. I stick by it too. Come fight me.

#9: Deadpool

Okay… let me get my real thoughts out because I was so rudely interrupted last time…

I really appreciate that this movie came out when it did because it broke a huge ceiling on superhero movies. Both of the Big Two are trying to carve out some grand narrative for the ages (DC falling horribly short compared to Marvel) and here comes Deadpool saying “Forget that! Let’s have our main character kill a guy with a zamboni, have some kinky lovemaking, and break his hand on a metal guy’s junk!” It’s a breath of fresh irreverence that-

SUP SUCKAHS?! My ears were a-burnin’!!


Oh man, are there still people who haven’t seen my movie yet? Valentine’s Day is fresh in our minds, which means my film’s anniversary happened! Forget Fifty Shades Darker, come with me and get 50 Shades of Red. Yeah, Blade may have done a R-rated superhero movie first, but we did it beh-tahhhhhh! BOOM!

Speaking up “boom,” what are you doing with that shotgun?


Joke’s on you, I’m immortal!!!

#8: Kubo and the Two Strings

Chalk this up to the list of great movies that didn’t make it’s budget back… at least not at first. It would be a shame if this was Laika’s last movie because with only four movies under their belt, their potential hasn’t even come close to being tapped. I think Paranorman was better, but this is still a fairy tale for the ages.

Dear god, were those sisters creepy…

#7: Ouija: Origin of Evil

Talk about a movie no one wanted turning out to be an outstanding hit. The first Ouija movie was derided as being boring and lifeless and it currently sits at a dismal 7% on Rotten Tomatoes, lower than the recently released Fifty Shades Darker (and make no mistake, I will review that). The prequel, however, is like your first exposure to Star Wars being Attack of the Clones and then seeing The Empire Strikes Back. It’s horrifying visually, mentally, and emotionally, a true horror film in every sense of the word. The winner of this year’s Golden Ghoul award is… Ouija: Origin of Evil.

#6: La La Land

I really hope director Damien Chazelle doesn’t flame out anytime soon because if this and Whiplash are anything to go off of, he’s got a lot more greatness to share with the world. This showed that he could balance optimism and reality very well and I can’t wait for whatever his next movie brings.

#5: Moonlight

I feel kinda weird putting this movie at number five on the list because nearly everyone else is declaring it their favorite movie of the year. For some reason, I don’t quite connect with it and it makes me feel like I’m missing something that everyone else can see so clearly. That said, I can’t think of a more beautifully intimate movie this year and I do appreciate that the concept is “Boyhood with clear cause and effect.” It’s definitely something special.

#4: Captain America: Civil War

At some point, I started wondering if my love for this was in the moment excitement and more to do with my love of comics than the film itself. After another viewing, I concluded… no. The movie is that good. Apart from juggling a multitude of characters that had their own unique screen presence, it also tackled a bunch of complex issues and ideas that most superhero films haven’t even scratched the surface of. The climactic battle still puts me through a torrent of emotions. When I reviewed Ant-Man, I wondered if the Marvel Cinematic Universe was reaching burnout. This movie proved me oh-so-wrong.

#3: Zootopia

Oh my… this movie got uncomfortably topical come November. While Disney’s never shied away from topics like loss and unconventional family dynamics, this is the first time (that I know of) where they tackled things like prejudice, media profiling, and race issues in a way that kids can recognize later in life. Some wondered if we needed a tolerance message in movies because we’ve come so far, but the state of our country proves that we have a long way to go. Add to that amazing writing, humor, timing, and animation, and you have an animated classic that’s both timeless and topical.

#2: The Nice Guys


Okay, in fairness, the film eventually made its money back through the box office and home video sales, but the fact that such a funny, action-packed, and… good movie wasn’t a bigger hit baffles me. What hurts even more is that this lost out at the box office to THE FREAKING ANGRY BIRDS MOVIE! Just… ouch. (Okay, it lost out to Captain America: Civil War too, but that’s one of the top grossing franchises of the new millennium, so what else is new?) I just hope the money it has is enough to greenlight a sequel. If not… maybe we can crowdfund it because it would be a crime not to have more movies like The Nice Guys.

Since I’d like to end the year on some positivity for a change, let’s check out a few honorable mentions before we got to number one.

Honorable Mentions

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping

I still listen and laugh to the soundtrack.

Hidden Figures

This one almost didn’t make the list. Not because it’s bad, but because I actually thought it came out in 2017. Dodged a bullet on that one.

Sausage Party

Talk about the ultimate “never judge a film by its trailer” story. I was expecting it to be one of the worst things I’d ever seen, but was really surprised to find commentary and quality amongst the crass humor that was advertised.

Star Trek Beyond

Oooooooh… this one hurt to keep off the proper list, since this is the closest the reboot series has come to feeling like Star Trek. Maybe if the ladyfolk had been treated a little better and the tone was more consistent…

Don’t Breathe

Apart from being a very original concept, it’s made me realize that Stephen Lang is a very underrated actor. Here’s hoping the guy gets more work in the future.

Blair Witch

A lot of critics dumped on this movie because it was too similar to the original. Me personally, I’ve made it a philosophy to judge a movie for what it does rather than what I think it should do. As such, for what it is, I think it accomplishes its goal perfectly.

Finding Dory

Whoa! Can’t believe I almost forgot this one.


And this one! Man, my list actually overflowed. It does say something when two Disney movies get pushed into the honorable mentions.

Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders

Listen… I liked The Killing Joke, despite its numerous glaring flaws. It’s not a popular opinion, but it’s mine and I’m sticking to it. That said, even I’ll admit that this movie blew that one out of the water. It didn’t need to court controversy by throwing in some creepy sexual encounter or be ultra-violent. It just needed to be good. Not much to say except… Holy landslide win, Batman!

And now… the finale.

#1: Arrival

To say this movie transported me is an understatement. I legitimately felt like I was watching something that no one had seen before and that wasn’t just because of the aliens’ unique design. It’s a movie that not only makes us reexamine our views on conflict and achieving our goals, but also how we should look at science fiction. Because that is what true sci-fi is supposed to do: make us look at ourselves and the world around us with a fantastical lens to truly see things clearly. From H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine showing us a world where elitist classism has turned back to bite those in power to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein asking if there are some lines science should not cross, science fiction has always asked the hard questions that realistic fiction can’t quite cover.

Arrival shows us that the path to a better future isn’t something that can always be reached through the barrel of a gun and that there will be communication hurdles that will take a lot of work to clear. On top of that, it shows that the path forward isn’t easy. It’s fraught with hardship, hurt, and loss… some of which we can see coming before going in. To paraphrase the main character, if you knew what your life would be from that moment forward, would you change it? It’s a hard question and it’s one that a lot of us have been asking lately. To say the least, it’s the most well-put-together and thought provoking movies or the year and a must-see for everyone.


If you disagree with some of my picks or think I missed some amazing movies, feel free to leave a comment. And as always, keep it civil. Here’s hoping for a brighter future.

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