Lights, camera, action! The year 2016 was a cinematic masterpiece, delivering blockbuster hits and heart-wrenching dramas alike. From superheroes duking it out in “Captain America: Civil War” to a soulful exploration of masculinity in “Moonlight,” the movies of 2016 were nothing short of unforgettable. Whether you found yourself humming along to the tunes of “La La Land” or shedding tears during “Manchester by the Sea,” there was something for everyone on the silver screen. So grab your popcorn, settle in, and get ready to relive the magic of the must-watch movies of 2016.
(Note: these 13 movies are in alphabetical order and not sorted in any ranking system – just 13 of the must watch movies from the year. Pro tip: 13 movies per year means 1 movie every 4 weeks to finish the entire guide in a year)
IMDB Top User Rated Film
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Starring: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker, Michael Stuhlbarg, Tzi Ma
Release Date: November 11, 2016
Aliens invade Earth and only a linguist (Amy Adams) can communicate with them. A stunning, cerebral sci-fi flick that will make you question everything you thought you knew about language and communication. Critics praised the film’s masterful storytelling and stunning visuals, earning it eight Oscar nominations. Did you know that the alien language in the movie was created by a real-life linguist named Jessica Coon?
Captain America: Civil War
Director: Anthony and Joe Russo
Starring: Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Chadwick Boseman
Release Date: May 6, 2016
Marvel superheroes battle it out over whether or not they should be regulated by the government. This movie has it all: epic fight scenes, witty banter, and enough plot twists to keep you on the edge of your seat. This superhero flick was a box office hit and received positive reviews for its balance of action and character development. Fans also loved the introduction of Spider-Man (Tom Holland) to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Director: Denzel Washington
Starring: Denzel Washington, Viola Davis, Stephen Henderson, Mykelti Williamson, Russell Hornsby, Saniyya Sidney
Release Date: December 16, 2016
A former baseball player (Denzel Washington) struggles with his past and present in this adaptation of August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play. Get ready for some serious acting chops and a whole lot of emotion. Denzel Washington’s direction and acting, as well as Viola Davis’ powerhouse performance, earned the film critical acclaim and multiple awards nominations. The movie was adapted from August Wilson’s play of the same name, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1987.
Director: Andrew Stanton, Angus MacLane
Starring (voice cast): Ellen DeGeneres, Albert Brooks, Ed O’Neill, Ty Burrell, Diane Keaton, Eugene Levy
Release Date: June 17, 2016
Everyone’s favorite forgetful fish (voiced by Ellen DeGeneres) goes on a journey to find her parents. With stunning animation and heartwarming characters, this sequel is just as charming as its predecessor. While some critics found the plot formulaic, others praised the movie for its heartwarming story and memorable characters. Did you know that Ellen DeGeneres had been lobbying for a sequel to “Finding Nemo” for years before “Finding Dory” was finally made?
IMDB Top User Rated Film
Director: Mel Gibson
Starring: Andrew Garfield, Sam Worthington, Luke Bracey, Teresa Palmer, Hugo Weaving, Vince Vaughn
Release Date: November 4, 2016
Based on the true story of Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield), a conscientious objector who saves countless lives during World War II. Desmond Doss was the first conscientious objector to receive the Medal of Honor This war drama will have you on the edge of your seat and reaching for the tissues. Mel Gibson’s direction and Andrew Garfield’s performance were widely praised, but some critics took issue with the film’s glorification of violence.
Hell or High Water
Director: David Mackenzie
Starring: Chris Pine, Ben Foster, Jeff Bridges, Gil Birmingham, Katy Mixon, Marin Ireland
Release Date: August 12, 2016
Two brothers (Chris Pine and Ben Foster) rob banks to save their family ranch. This modern-day Western is a thrilling ride with some standout performances. This was a surprise hit with critics and audiences alike, earning four Oscar nominations. Fun fact: Jeff Bridges based his character’s mannerisms on his friend and fellow actor Terry Kinney.
Director: Theodore Melfi
Starring: Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monáe, Kirsten Dunst, Jim Parsons, Mahershala Ali
Release Date: December 25, 2016
The untold story of three African-American women (Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monáe) who played a key role in NASA’s space program. This feel-good drama will leave you cheering for the heroes and was a commercial and critical success, earning three Oscar nominations and a Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture.
La La Land
Director: Damien Chazelle
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, John Legend, Rosemarie DeWitt, J.K. Simmons, Finn Wittrock
Release Date: December 9, 2016
A struggling actress (Emma Stone) and a jazz musician (Ryan Gosling) fall in love in this dazzling musical. With stunning visuals and catchy tunes, this movie is a love letter to old Hollywood. This dazzling musical won six Oscars and was widely praised for its music, choreography, and performances by Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling. Did you know that the opening scene on the freeway was filmed in a single take?
Manchester by the Sea
Director: Kenneth Lonergan
Starring: Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams, Kyle Chandler, Lucas Hedges, Gretchen Mol, Matthew Broderick
Release Date: November 18, 2016
A janitor (Casey Affleck) returns to his hometown to care for his nephew after his brother’s death. This poignant drama explores grief and family with raw honesty. This film earned Casey Affleck an Oscar for Best Actor and was lauded for its emotional storytelling. The movie was both set and filmed in the coastal town of Manchester-by-the-Sea, Massachusetts.
Best Picture Winner at The Oscars
Director: Barry Jenkins
Starring: Trevante Rhodes, André Holland, Janelle Monáe, Mahershala Ali, Naomie Harris, Ashton Sanders
Release Date: October 21, 2016
A coming-of-age story about a young black man (Trevante Rhodes) growing up in Miami. This Oscar-winning film is a stunning exploration of identity, sexuality, and the human experience. Moonlight was widely praised for its nuanced performances, beautiful cinematography, and thoughtful exploration of race, sexuality, and identity. It was the first film with an all-black cast and the first LGBTQ-themed film to win Best Picture at the Oscars.
IMDB Top User Rated Film
Director: Park Chan-wook
Starring: Kim Min-hee, Kim Tae-ri, Ha Jung-woo, Cho Jin-woong, Kim Hae-sook, Moon So-ri
Release Date: October 21, 2016
A Korean adaptation of Sarah Waters’ “Fingersmith,” about a con artist and her wealthy mark falling in love. This sexy thriller will keep you guessing until the very end. This sexy thriller was a critical and commercial success, earning director Park Chan-wook a Best Director award at the Cannes Film Festival.
The Jungle Book
Director: Jon Favreau
Starring: Neel Sethi, Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley, Idris Elba, Scarlett Johansson, Lupita Nyong’o
Release Date: April 15, 2016
A live-action retelling of the classic story about a boy raised by wolves. With impressive special effects and a star-studded cast, this movie is a visual feast. This visually stunning adaptation of the classic story won an Oscar for Best Visual Effects and was praised for its faithful adaptation of the beloved source material.
The Secret Life of Pets
Director: Chris Renaud, Yarrow Cheney
Starring (voice cast): Louis C.K., Eric Stonestreet, Kevin Hart, Jenny Slate, Ellie Kemper, Lake Bell
Release Date: July 8, 2016
Ever wonder what your pets do when you’re not home? This animated adventure follows a group of furry friends on a wild journey through the city. This animated adventure was a box office hit and received generally positive reviews for its humor and charming characters.
it’s clear that it was a year full of exceptional movies that left a lasting impact on audiences. From sci-fi epics like “Arrival” to heartwarming dramas like “Hidden Figures” and critically acclaimed films like “Moonlight,” the movies of 2016 offered something for everyone. Whether you’re a fan of action-packed blockbusters, thought-provoking dramas, or dazzling musicals, this year had it all. As we look forward to what the future holds for cinema, we can’t help but reflect on the unforgettable movies that made 2016 a year to remember.
Are there any movies that we missed? Are there any movies that you think should not be on the list? Let us know!
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