The 20 best movies of 2016

10. Star Trek Beyond

The third installment of the contemporary Star Trek movies is the closest the Abrams-produced revamp has come to capturing the magic of the original series. One of the greatest joys in Roddenberry’s show was watching the crew collaborate, working together to defeat whatever new alien monster was threatening the Federation that week. Star Trek Beyond recreates that camaraderie in a way that the first two movies couldn’t quite match. And considering the talented actors embodying those roles, Beyond really feels like an extended episode of TOS. Sure, it’s got some peculiar scientific ideas at play and an egregious use of motorcycles, but it also has heart and an unexpectedly delightful use of the Beastie Boys. Considering there will probably be more movies coming in the series, those are important reassurances for Star Trek fans. Anna Washenko

9. Doctor Strange

In this age of trailer and set-photo saturation, you know you're witnessing something special when a film can still manage to steal your breath with an unexpected shot. For every increasingly tired superhero trope Doctor Strange leans on - the arrogant playboy brought low, the good-intentioned love interest left by the wayside, the secret society of world defenders - it opens your mind's eye with a scene of scintillating urban kaleidoscope-ery. Then it makes you remember that all of these powerful sorcerers are still human by showing them sharing wifi passwords and playing around with a time-traveling apple. It's clear that Doctor Strange will neatly tie into the upcoming Avengers: Infinity Wars but his debut into the Marvel Cinematic Universe is an enchanting aside all the same. Connor Sheridan

8. The Witch

The Witch has what may well be one of the most disturbing images ever committed to film. Without spoiling too much, a boy expels a piece of food from his mouth. Vomitous moments have been a horror staple for as long as film has existed, but none are as unsettling or perfectly executed in terms of thematic symbolism as in The Witch. It’s utterly simple and utterly devastating, much like Robert Eggers’ entire film. He has a tacit understanding of what makes real, troubling fear take root. It’s not the spooky thing jumping out to say boo or the gore or the complete emotional collapse of a loved one. It’s knowing inherently that there are bad things out there and it is physically impossible for you to know them, understand them, or prepare for them adequately. To say more would be to ruin a startling debut from a filmmaker to watch. Anthony Agnello

7. Kubo and the Two Strings

"God knows there are easier ways to make movies," Kubo and the Two Strings production manager Dan Pascal once said of the film. Laika Studios isn't one to take the easy way out, though, and its efforts have given us one of the most breathtaking animated films since Studio Ghibli's The Tale of Princess Kaguya. Using a combination of traditional stop-motion filming techniques - complete with highly-detailed and painstakingly crafted sets and models - along with computer-generated scenery, Kubo tells a visually resplendent tale of a young boy with the power to control origami with his shamisen. The story it tells isn't particularly deep, but it's made all the more powerful thanks to the stellar performances of its cast and its boundless imagination and sense of adventure. David Roberts

6. Assassin's Creed

At last, the age old question can be answered. Can top class talent make a top class video game adaptation? Well, yes, actually. It turns out that having Michael Fassbender take on the dual roles of history hopping Assassins and an award winning director at the helm pays off. Assassin's Creed isn't perfect - its script suffers from the occasional exposition heavy hiccup - but still manages to be an exhilarating action piece as it hurtles back and forth from the Spanish Inquisition. Fassbender's leaps into the Animus, which let him replay the memories of his stabby ancestor Aguilar, are goosebumps-inducing slices of hand-to-hand combat and heart-stopping freerunning. This hooded murderous battle is one of the biggest surprises of the year. To steal from the Creed: it turns out good video game movies are permitted after all. Louise Blain

5. Arrival

One of this year’s best sci-fi movies has surprisingly little action, explosions, or many aliens in it. In fact, Arrival doesn’t really sound all that exciting on paper, but it’s a must-see. Amy Adams plays a linguist who lost a child to cancer and is attempting to get on with life when 12 spaceships touch down. She’s brought in by Forest Whitaker’s Colonel to try and communicate with the aliens and what follows is an emotional and gripping story about her relationship with her daughter, surrounded by the lighter but equally important story of humanity’s first contact with the aliens. Adams is Arrival and her performance is of such a high calibre that an Oscar nomination is almost guaranteed. Make no mistake, this is a sci-fi movie, but one with more depth than you’re used to and a twist you won’t see coming. Lauren O’Callaghan

4. Captain America: Civil War

With more than a dozen heroes and two villains, it's no wonder that Captain America: Civil War was semi-affectionately referred to as Avengers 2.5. The bombastic blockbuster ran the risk of being overstuffed, but instead managed to keep multiple plot threads balanced and always within focus. Tony Stark and Steve Rogers lead the opposing teams, and while both have understandable motivations, they’re also flawed and make mistakes. You can root for one side or the other, but ultimately there's no clear winner, which is what makes Civil War such a standout in the superhero genre. Blending a personal tale of lost friendship, a villainous conspiracy, and some of the most intense action sequences in the MCU to date, Civil War is a supremely satisfying affair. Oh, and it gives us MCU Spider-Man, a role which Tom Holland is absolutely crushing. Sam Prell

3. 10 Cloverfield Lane

On paper, 10 Cloverfield Lane sounds more like a stage play than a twisty, unpredictable mystery film - three people stuck in an underground shelter while… something destroys the world above them. Or does it? Few films manage to keep you guessing as much as this one, or as desperately perched on the edge of your seat as John Goodman’s oppressively psychopathic benefactor alternately cajoles, rewards and punishes his two guests (captives). The ever present threat of both Goodman and the unknown world the characters inhabit create an almost unbearable tension that would have made for a great film alone. But this has one more trick up its sleave, delivered in the third act that flips everything on its head. Rumour is that this is the start of a Cloverfield franchise, and on the strength of this, great, terrible, things could be on the way. Leon Hurley

2. Deadpool

Adapting the notoriously abstract, fourth-wall-breaking, reality-messing Deadpool into a coherent movie was an impossible task. But fortunately, director Tim Miller - and writers Rhett Reece and Paul Wernick - decided to follow the character’s lead, express a total disregard for reality, and just do what felt right. As such, we have a deliriously creative superhero film, one as smartly self-aware - and respectful of its audience’s awareness - as it is ceaselessly hilarious, fuelled by an entire disregard of what should make sense in favour of what does. That it also manages to execute such brilliant excess while telling a refreshingly small-scale, street-level, character-driven film, is what really makes Deadpool sing. Ridiculous, goofy, and extravagant, it’s also a decidedly human and surprisingly pathos-filled film that doesn’t so much break the rules as refuse to acknowledge that any exist. David Houghton

1. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Putting a Star Wars movie in the top spot might seem a little predictable, but I can’t help it if Disney are turning out some of the best movies we’ve seen in a long time. Rogue One - the story of the Alliance Rebels who steal the Death Star plans - is near-perfect in every way. Director Gareth Edwards had a much harder job than JJ Abrams did with The Force Awakens given that Rogue One fits between Star Wars movies, but he’s managed to not only create an amazing addition to the SW universe, but actually make the original films better by clearing up some long discussed plot holes in A New Hope. Felicity Jones leads a superb cast as the rebellious Jyn Erso, but it really wouldn’t be the film it is without the supporting cast - new and returning. Hello Darth Vader! Lauren O’Callaghan

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