The 20 best movies of 2016

Let the festive arguments begin! No, I’m not talking about you yelling at your Uncle Tim for taking too much stuffing during Christmas dinner (again!). This is much more serious. This is the best movies of the year. As ever, the GR+ team has discussed, fought, then calmed down a bit and discussed some more, and come up with a ranked list of all the best films of the year from Star Wars to Marvel. It’s not just those two cinematic heavyweights featured here though, there’s also the odd indie movie (Kubo and the Two Strings), the Disney remake NO ONE thought would work (The Jungle Book), and the film that’s a blood relative of another (10 Cloverfield Lane). Read on and find out which movies we thought were the best of the year and let us know what you think is the best movie of the year in the comments below.

20. The BFG

No, DOOM fans, this is not about an overly large weapon, but rather a Big Friendly Giant, who befriends a young girl named Sophie who’s suffering from terrible insomnia. Ok, admittedly, their friendship starts with him abducting her so she can’t tell the world that giants exist, but soon their bond is genuine as he protects her from man-eating giants and she encourages him to stand up to bullies. Directed by Stephen Spielberg, The BFG highlights the kind of fears and loneliness that is particular to children, and softens the blow by wrapping it in a fantastical world of dreams. Being a kid can be sad and confusing, and The BFG gets that, but it also understands that things get better, even when you say goodbye to someone who cared for you. Susan Arendt

19. The Nice Guys

In a year full of superhero movies and Star Wars, The Nice Guys was a breath of fresh air. Starring Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe, it’s a ‘70s-set crime thriller about a struggling single dad and a guy who beats people up for money who team up to find a missing girl. What really makes it one of the best movies of 2016 is the chemistry between Gosling and Crowe - the storyline is kind of inconsequential - it’s their partnership, and the added brilliance of Angourie Rice (who plays Gosling’s daughter) that makes this movie worth watching. Both dark and funny, director Shane Black hit the mark with the cast. Rarely do I see a film that sets up a sequel that I actually REALLY want to see, but it happened with The Nice Guys. Lauren O’Callaghan

18. Jason Bourne

With Matt Damon back as Jason Bourne, it's like The Bourne Legacy never even happened (thank goodness). This espionage thriller is just as pulse-pounding as the original trilogy, with Jason Bourne brought out of hiding after the CIA gets hacked by none other than that console cowboy of cyberspace Julia Stiles. What follows is a globe-trotting series of set pieces that become increasingly more impressive (and destructive), including a motorcycle chase through Athens during an anarchic riot, and a hot pursuit with a SWAT van tearing through the Las Vegas Strip that must've caused property damage in the millions. The hand-to-hand combat sequences may not top the infamous ballpoint pen scene, but the trademark editing style and intense action show that Bourne made his comeback in top form. Lucas Sullivan

17. The Conjuring 2

It’s not his best horror offering to date but horror maestro James Wan’s version of the case of the Enfield Poltergeist is further glossy proof that he’s had a key role in writing the tropes of 21st century scare cinema. Back in charge of Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga for Ed and Lorraine Warren’s trip to London as they try and exorcise a spirit haunting a family, Wan deftly weaves a horror web of jump scares and nasty demons. The Conjuring 2 doesn’t quite reach the scary heights of the original but there’s plenty of nasty here to keep you awake at night when you’re telling yourself that’s only a shadow at the foot of your bed. It’s definitely not a pale-faced nun with demonic eyes. Nope. Louise Blain

16. Popstar

Enjoying Popstar, like many absurdist comedies, entails a few prerequisites. First, you have to have at least a passing familiarity with the fashions and excesses or modern American pop music. Second, you have to be comfortable with total silliness. Not wry, winking satirical goofs but straight up, I’m-putting-straws-in-my-nose-at-the-restaurant-to-blow-Pepsi-bubbles silliness. Finally, you have to find the idea of Seal being devoured by wolves hilarious. Or you could just like The Lonely Island or Hot Rod, this movie’s spiritual predecessor; then you’ll be fine. Popstar may have tanked at the box office, but the moviegoing audience’s disinterest in comedies can’t diminish the good natured fun of Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer, and Jorma Taccone’s latest collaboration. Watch it like a boss. Anthony Agnello

15. The Jungle Book

CGI is relentlessly pushed to its absolute limit in The Jungle Book. Every hair on Baloo’s back, every scale lining Ka’s giant body, even the leathery hands of King Louie are all visually stunning. Considering it’s based on one of the most loved films of all time, it’s a feat to say the least that this masterpiece adds depth to a familiar story without compromising on nostalgia. Backstories abound and give a rounder appreciation for each character. You get a sense of Shere Khan’s raw power, and understand why he loathes Mowgli. Baloo’s easy-going disposition masks a scared, wary individual. At last King Louie is the menacing giant he always had the potential to be, who craves Mowgli in the same way a shark thirsts for blood. The Jungle Book is the best remake of the last five years, and does justice to the story almost every child has heard. Zoe Delahunty-Light

14. Lights Out

Short films often provide chills in their purest form: syringe-to-the-heart hits of horror, unfettered by explanation or characterisation. The original Lights Out short film is a perfect example of this, and that’s why its adaptation to a full cinematic release could have been a disappointment. Thankfully, David F. Sandberg’s feature-length debut is a tight, smart horror film that drags the original short’s central concept to a gloomy place. It falls down slightly by explaining too much - the monster is far more effective in the short precisely because we know so little - but the theme of a shattered family trying to hold things together is a great way of adding reason and direction to this satisfyingly bleak tale. Matt Elliott

13. Finding Dory

Discovering that one of your favourite movies is getting a sequel is simultaneously the best and worst feeling. Yes, it means your beloved characters are getting more screen time but the chances of tainting your memories of the original are sky high. 2016 was bad enough, thanks. While it might not reach the heady heights of Toy Story 2 - let’s be honest, what can? - Finding Dory has enough charm and genuine heart for you to just keep swimming happily all the way to the end. Sure it all ends in sheer ridiculousness (which sounds absurd when you’re writing about a talking fish with short term memory loss), but there’s a genuine joy to Ellen DeGeneres’s Dory that’s frankly irresistible. I even got something in my eye on more than one occasion. Louise Blain

12. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Straight from the lore bank that lives in the skull of JK Rowling, this stylish slice of the wizarding world is cinematic catnip for Potter fans. It’s a bit meta if you think about it too hard but Fantastic Beasts is the story of Newt Scamander (a pitch-perfect Eddie Redmayne), the author of one of Harry’s textbooks, as he ventures through 1920s New York. Sure, the titular beasts are as magical as expected but a new, more adult, tone and a sense of genuine chemistry between the core cast delivers a richer experience than any of the Potter movies. Add in the fact that this is just the first in a series of five films that will lead up to a grand battle between Dumbledore and the evil wizard Grindelwald, and it’s a confident start to what could be, whisper it, a far superior series. Louise Blain

11. Ghostbusters

Slime, raging laser beams, and familiar beige jumpsuits: Ghostbusters has it all. As well as a heavy dose of comedy too, of course, and some semi-transparent cast members. In a bid to stop her old friend Abby from publishing a book they wrote together about (you guessed it) ghosts, Erin Gilbert begrudgingly agrees to team up with her to investigate the supernatural events terrorising New York. Eccentric doesn’t quite do justice to the unforgettable engineer Holtzmann who joins them along the way. Likewise Patty, the history-fanatic subway worker, also sides with their team and together they become a stubborn, spectre-slaying taskforce who take on the evil threatening to swallow the city. If that wasn’t enough for you, the visual splendour of spirits carousing around the streets and the final cataclysmic fight will make you want to jump out of your seat and join them. Zoe Delahunty-Light

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