Aziz Presents the Most Definitive Top 10 Films of 2016 (and 15 Runner Ups)

It's the end of the year, and the vast majority of critics would say that these lists are subjective, and friends they're actually mistaken. For you see.. the only opinion that matters anywhere is yours truly's, and seeing as that comments are disabled here nobody can argue otherwise.

But seriously folks, while many condemn the last 52 weeks as the worst combined 365 days in recent memory, the film industry has flourished. With a outpour of creative visionaries, new & veteran alike, giving us various flicks with unique viewpoints and exciting genres. Join me won't you... in seeing who was graced by the praise of an incredible individual.

(Note: you know it's a great year when I'm struggling to choose which one I'm putting on this list)

First Things First: The Runner Ups

25- Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping: The Lonely Island's first (and unfortunately probably last) feature. The premise (and title) was a clever riff on Justin Bieber's Never Say Never, and it saddens me that it wasn't as big as it should've been in the BO.

24- Sausage Party (Animated): What looks like a unfunny juvenile mess from the promotional material turned out to be... well it is juvenile, but funny! Some clever jabs here and there, and a weird thought provoking message makes this movie 

23- It's Only the End of the World (French): Xavier Dolan made a name for himself directing his feature at the tender age of 19 (!). 7 years later, his directing/writing skills only grow stronger. This dramatic tale about an estranged son reuniting with his family grabs you by the cuffs and doesn't let go until the very last minute.

22- The Nice Guys: Shane Black's entertaining return to film noir! This time pairing Ryan Gosling with Russell Crowe, an odd but working combination. The movie was funny, gripping, and best of all... a blast to sit through.

21- Loving: based on the true story of the trial that legalized interracial marriage on a federal level. Jeff Nichols shows his range as a director releasing this and Midnight Special in the same year, with Ruth Negga & Joel Egerton playing the couple tremendously well.

20- Moana/Zootopia (Animated): Disney made not one, but TWO better animated movies than Pixar's offering this year. Is... is this the apocalypse?? I know I'm double dipping, but I can't choose either one because they're in the same caliber of animation excellence. Also it's MY list.

19- Hell or High Water: writer Taylor Sheridan's 2nd film, a great Texan heist movie starring Chris Pine and the always incredible (but still underrated) Ben Foster. The story might not be innovative, but it set a solid foundation for the director and stars to produce gold.

18- Hunt for the Wilder People: Kiwi Taika Waititi charming witty adventure about a boy and his adoptive father mending their wounds together after being wrongly accused and hunted down is one movie I hope everybody gets the chance to watch!

17- Kubo & the Two Strings (Animated): Laika Studios had me worried after The Box Trolls, thinking that they've lost the creative spark they've shown with Coraline & ParaNorman. I'm glad I was proven wrong, with their impressive stop motion tale of Japanese folklore.

16- Sing Street: an adorable movie where the plot is a teenage kid in the 80s forms a band to impress a girl. Impressing me all the way to the end, this Ferdia Walsh-Peelo's first movie EVER! It's a sincere journey from start to finish and we desperately need more of that these days.

15- Don't Think Twice: Mike Birbiglia's magnum opus! A tale of friendship torn by jealousy might be well treaded territory, but set it in the background of improve comedy and SNL, with greats such as Keegan Michael-Key?! Sounds like a winner to me.

14- The Handmaiden (Korean): Park Chan-Wook's followup to his revenge trilogy, based on the English crime novel Fingersmith. From the 1st frame the editing, cinematography, and acting performances firmly placed me on the edge of my seat to the very last shot.

13- The Neon Demon: the first of two films set in LA that came out this year that I adore, with NWR deciding to highlight the darker side of the double edged sword that is the city. Elle Fanning as the new fashion icon in town, surrounded by aggressive lighting and jealous companions, is tremendous in her role. The ending is nothing like I've ever seen before, and hopefully won't again.

12- Weiner (Documentary): A unique approach to capturing a period of someone's life. The filmmakers absolutely had no tactile presence whatsoever on the subject matter, instead leaving them to orchestrate their own disastrous dumpster fire of a life path. 

11- The Lobster: In a world where lonely single people are turned into animals, the film is a giant metaphorical "Fuck You!" to societal norms. It's so clever it's painful, with Colin Farrell's performance bringing Yorgos Lanthimos's weird and off-putting script to life. 

10- Captain America: Civil War/Deadpool


Tied for the 10th spot is the natural excellent evolution of the superhero genre and the movie that subverts it, respectively.

Civil War gave use the clash of titans we've so desperately craved after getting sick of our icons fighting random faceless goons, and stopping a massive beam of light that shoots into the sky. We got an cool introduction to a new character that I cannot wait to see thrive in Ryan Coogler's take on him, a 2nd (and proper) re-introduction to the character I hold dearest in my heart, AND a giant mind fuck of a fight scene (beautifully choreographed by the John Wick directors) that's not even the closing conflict of the movie! Civil War had the whole world's expectation on its shoulders and it merely dusted it off grumbling "is that all you've got?".

Deadpool on the other hand, gave us a (kinda forced by Fox) toned down bare bones version of the origin story and....  it actually worked. After a long rough development period and a failed realization of the character in the solo Wolverine movie, someone "accidentally" leaked the highway footage we saw in the movie, thus pushing the forces to be to finally make the film. A clever script adequately executed by the charming lead, and out of the box action scenes make me glad that we got this must see action romp. 

9- Arrival

Oh Denis Villeneuve, what CAN'T you do? Releasing a movie every year since '13, he's dabbled in in so many genres (psychological dramas, and morally grey crime thrillers) and to see him execute the Sci-Fi genre in such a masterful way, it almost makes me tear up.

Eric Heisserer's script subverts almost all of the genre's tropes, from epic scale warfare to giant character ensembles, on its massive ugly head. This story of a female linguist tackling a supposed international threat using communication instead of violence is just inspiring. From the choice of the lead character, to the many intelligent moments scattered all around, this movie is now commented into one of the genre's, if not all time, greats.

8- Silence


Martin Scorsese's long awaited religious epic. 3 decades in development hell, it was also the movie I think I've anticipated for the longest time since I've been a Scorsese fan.

Growing up religious (still am), a trait I share with the director, the questions this movie raise touch me on emotional level I thought I was alone in experiencing. Doubt in the face of conflicting faith, questioning the worth of perseverance in face of extreme prosecution, etc. are all themes handled meticulously and, unlike a certain filmmaker, he doesn't turn it into religious porn.

The cinematography and score are super minimal in stark contrast with the horrific visuals. Scorsese is finally on a winning streak, critically and commercially.

7- Manchester by the Sea


You cannot believe my excitement when Casey Affleck's name was finally associated with a great performance again. What feels like a lifetime ago, Casey had a promising future after the one two punch of his brother's directorial debut Gone Baby GoneThe Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. Unfortunately he pursued the failed mockumentary project I'm Not Here with Joaquin Phoenix, and a lot of people (including his own brother) theorize that it derailed his career. Thus we lost was could've been one of the most unique and versatile actors of our generation.

Then a couple of years ago Matt Damon and John Krasinksi had an idea for a film and asked Kenneth Lonergan to write a film that Damon would direct and act in. Creative difference lead to him to drop the project, Lonergan taking on the directing mantle, and Affleck was cast as the lead.

What unfolds in front of us is a tragic tale of an estranged brother coming back to take care of his nephew and figuring out how to manage his life in the process. We are also given a new (possibly Oscar nominated) talent on the rise in Lucas Hedges! The chemistry between him and Affleck is one of the most genuine I'm seen on screen in years, balancing the heavy drama with humanizing comedic moments. I'm glad to see Affleck again, and I look forward to what Lonergan does next.

6- Nocturnal Animals

Tom Ford comes back with a thrilling revenge narrative! About a novelist who sends a manuscript to his ex-wife. No really. OK to push y'all to watch this, the story in the manuscript has Aaron Johnson-Taylor playing a crazy hillbilly, and Michael Shannon as a Texan sheriff obsessed with the idea of Justice. You in yet?!

Ford is known for his fashion label, which shows in the stylistic choices made in the film. From superficial touches, like the set design and character wardrobe, to ingenious background details, like the correlating objects between the two narratives.

Adapted from an enthralling novel, Ford slapped me (metaphorically) the moment it started, and the sting is felt to this day.

5- Tickled (Documentary)


Holy. Shit.

I got into this movie thinking I was gonna get a chuckle from the ridiculous sounding sport of "tickling championship". Instead what I got was a complete 180. I really wanna talk about it, but that would spoil the entire point of this unusual doc. What I can say however is this: it's interesting to see the documentarians front and center, unlike the other doc I've seen (Weiner) which shows me how many variable forms this genre can take.

Oh! Also watch the Nuart Q&A on YT after watching this. It'll blow your mind.

4- 20th Century Women


Mike Mills' small scale ensemble piece is god damn fucking beautiful. Annette Bening, Elle Fanning, Greta Getrwig, Billy Crudup, and most importantly, Lucas Zumann are all fucking god damn excellent.

Based on the people he grew up with, Mills showed us these very unique, very human, and (somehow) very relatable characters. Each conversation unfolds a character to us, each decision made builds that character, and each moment brings us closer to them. It talks about idealism without being preachy, about coming of age without being whimsical, and about the critical choices people make in hard situations without being dreary.

It's the perfect tale about a very weird mother and her very weird son.

3- Swiss Army Man

If you've told me a year ago that not only will there be a movie starring Paul Dano playing a suicidal man forming a relationship with a farting corpse playing by Daniel Radcliffe, but I would love it and almost tear up in the end and I would put it as my 3rd favorite movie of the year... I'd first say "Hey Donald Trump lost right?" and you'd cry in a corner.

This is directors Daniels' debut, and by god what a miracle of filmmaking this is. The many clever ways the practical effects are used in this are so mind bogglingly insane. The innocent rapport between the characters, questioning our way of constructing our lives, is magnificent.

This is a heartwarming story about a guy who has to learn to let his feelings go. Y'know.. like a farty corpse.

2- La La Land

After the impressive Whiplash I had my doubts that Damien Chazelle would replicate his success, let alone surpass it. I am so glad I am (insert hyperbolic terminology here) wrong.

Filling the frame to to the very edge are gorgeous colors, bombastic musical numbers and the charming relationship between the two leads. The romance here is unglamorous, a welcoming change of pace, instead giving us a relatively realistic portrait of 2 people with conflicting aspirations falling in love.

The movie is a love letter to LA, and those who dare to dream.

1- Moonlight

I'm not gonna sugar coat this, I cried during this movie. I cried watching a kid in ghetto Miami going through life's tribulations. I cried watching this kid discover who he really is. I cried watching this kid hiding who he really is.

The clean cinematography and classy orchestral score juxtapose the rough imagery and subject matter. The actors who play the main character are so good it's a shame they didn't dominate the awards, and the surrounding cast are just as captivating.

This is not only the best movie of the year, this is the most important film of the century.