Hypable staff picks: The 18 best movies of 2016

9:00 am EDT, December 23, 2016

2016 is at an end, and the time has come for Hypable’s staff members to pick their favorite movies from the past year.

Between Star Wars, Harry Potter, two new Marvel installments and critically acclaimed Oscars contenders, 2016 has — despite its otherwise horrendous aspects — been a pretty solid year for movie fans.

There have been some spectacular disappointments, too, but we’re not here to talk about Independence Day: Resurgence.

14 Hypable staffers have selected one (in some cases two! But shhh) movie each to highlight as their personal favorite movie of the year — find out what we chose, and tell us if you agree/disagree in the comments.

‘A Monster Calls’ — Selina Wilken

A Monster Calls

Having already written a love letter to A Monster Calls, I will just say: This is not only the best movie I’ve seen this year, but possibly the best movie I’ve ever seen. Director J.A. Bayona, working off a script from Patrick Ness, perfectly captured that elusive, over-powering, impossible emotion of grief through the eyes of a little boy who is about to lose his mother.

This is a movie that means something; this movie reminded me that depicting the human experience doesn’t always have to be a bold, defiant thing that either reinforces or challenges the status quo. Loss, bereavement and grief, and the guilt that comes with it, are so universal and unavoidable, and watching this movie just might make you understand your own feelings a little bit better. The highest of recommendations from me.

‘Arrival’ — Katie Awad

Arrival

A space movie of a different variety, Arrival proves that you don’t need the fanfare of explosions or warring spacecrafts to have a gripping sci fi film.

Led by two strong performances from Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner, Arrival tells a more subdued version of the common ‘what if aliens came to earth’ story. It’s a slow burn emotional think piece that keeps you guessing until the very end.

The story doesn’t get bogged down by unnecessary subplots or overcomplicated science that goes over most of our heads. It’s a simple, nonetheless engaging premise, aided by beautiful visuals and haunting score.

While condemning the ‘shoot first, ask questions later’ mentality isn’t an original moral, the twist at the end is sure to surprise you. Arrival is a film that isn’t quick to leave your thoughts once the credits start rolling. Answers aren’t spoon fed to the audience, instead leaving you to make your own interpretations. You’re sure to have long discussions with your friends for the rest of the day.

‘The Boss’ — Brittany Lovely

The Boss

Every year I show up on these posts to preach the good word of Melissa McCarthy stand-alone films.

2016 was a dumpster fire of reboots, franchise relaunches, and so, so much new television. The Boss hit theaters without fanfare or notoriety, but it did provide a brief bit of levity to an otherwise critical year. Two other appearances on screen (Ghostbusters and Gilmore Girls) sent this McCarthy film into oblivion, forgotten as quickly as possible, but this low-stakes film about a white collar criminal attempting to rebuild her empire by taking over a scout troop’s brownie sales deserves some recognition.

The combination of Kristen Bell, Peter Dinklage, Ella Anderson, and the hilarious Tyler Labine beautifully compliment McCarthy’s eccentric Michelle Darnell. The ridiculous concept, hilarious upper class neighborhood street fight, and touching family story at the heart of the film makes The Boss my top pick of 2016. It’s not going to win any Oscars or change the world, but it is going to leave a grin on your face for two hours. And in these uncertain times, that’s quite the gift.

‘Captain America: Civil War’ — Natalie Fisher

I had high hopes for Captain America: Civil War — it was not only my most anticipated movie of 2016, but probably of all time. I’ve never been much of a one for the big franchise film adaptations — Harry Potter, Hunger Games etc. I’d rather read the books, and the movie releases never thrilled me in terms of new content. But the Marvel Cinematic Universe, despite being an adaptation of existing characters and even some existing comic book plots, presents the world with brand-new richly drawn stories about our favorite superheroes.

I always liked them, but 2014’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier was a game-changer for the MCU in terms of the depth and darkness and introspection, and I have not gone a day since that movie’s release without having a conversation on the internet about Steve Rogers and Bucky Barnes. The empathy that their tragedy invoked in fans was also a bit of a game-changer in terms of fan investment – it changed a lot of people from casual to die-hard, myself included, so when it came to Civil War, I’d never been more desperate for a movie’s release.

Related: Goodbye Captain America, hello Steve Rogers: Where the story could go from here

As news of the production rolled out and every Avenger ever plus a few new ones got cast, I worried that Marvel had lost sight of Cap’s story — the core of each of his movies, that is, screwing over the establishment to save Bucky Barnes — but I needn’t have worried. The Russo brothers and screenwriters Stephen McFeely and Christopher Markus clearly value Steve Rogers the man above all the superhero trappings of the genre they’re working within, and made a film that proved that – even stripping him of his Captain America identity at the end, which was immensely satisfying.

Civil War is admittedly very full, but each major player — Natasha, Tony, T’Challa, Peter Parker — feels heard and relevant, while the core story remains, as it should, a direct sequel to Winter Soldier, following Bucky’s recovery and his reunion with Steve, and the subsequent shitshow that goes down when the world discovers him. Captain America: Civil War gave me more than I ever dreamed in terms of these characters – some of the little moments or details that the filmmakers chose to spend time on proved that they care pretty much exactly as much as I do.

‘Deadpool’ — Brandi Delhagen

Deadpool

When it was discovered that Deadpool was going to get an R-rating, I was ecstatic. Not only were we finally getting to see this superhero on screen but it was going to be in all its bloody and vulgar glory.

One thing is for sure, it did not disappoint. Ryan Reynolds flawlessly portrayed Deadpool — actually, he is Deadpool. One of the highlights was the naked fight scene between Deadpool and Ajax (unfortunately Deadpool was the only naked one but it’s still worth a watch).

Deadpool is laugh-out-loud funny, and every single time I hear the name Francis I can’t help but chuckle to this very day. This is one sequel I definitely look forward to.

‘Deepwater Horizon’ — Kristen Kranz

Deepwater Horizon

Deepwater Horizon probably won’t show up on many top ten lists for 2016, especially with the bevy of good films being released in the next few weeks, but it should.

The harrowing depiction of the disaster we all watched unfold in the Gulf of Mexico more than 6 years ago had me walking out of the theater with a heart swirling full of anger, betrayal, frustration, and empathy. I was furious with the clueless big wigs who forced the men on the front lines to put themselves in danger. My heart racing with adrenaline after having watched the horrors that the survivors endured that day, it felt wrong to get in my car and simply drive away. It felt wrong to use the fuel these men died to bring to the surface.

This movie could have easily drifted into disaster-porn, but instead set a terrifying example of why safety protocols exist and what happens when profits become more important than saving lives. The horrifying visual of that rig burning in the middle of the ocean is one that I won’t be forgetting any time soon.

‘The Edge of Seventeen’ — Kendra Cleary

The Edge of Seventeen

The beauty of The Edge of Seventeen is simply the utter relatability of every single character. Of course, I was captivated and entertained by the lead characters, played by the insanely talented Hailee Steinfeld and the dynamic and hilarious Woody Harrelson, but I found myself falling deeply in love with every minor figure who crossed Nadine’s path.

The perfection of the simple storyline and the brilliant performances delivered by every actor involved fill the movie and its characters with an authenticity that will undoubtedly elicit memories of your own high school experience, and the people who populated it. Beyond that, it will also just make you laugh hysterically, and maybe even shed a tear, or two.

This small story about an unapologetically honest teenager beautifully captures the intense, you’re-ruining-my-life, high stakes drama that comes with being, as the title suggests, at The Edge of Seventeen.

‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’ — Katie Awad

Fantastic Beasts

Potterheads can happily rise from the ashes, because the Wizarding World is back! Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is the first chapter of the ‘next Potter series’ we’ve been waiting for (yes, that includes Cursed Child).

What’s more, it’s not just a film for young and old Potter fans, the average moviegoer can enjoy it as a more adult take on the sometimes more childlike charm of the original series. It has all the lighthearted whimsy of the first two Harry Potter films, combined with the dark and serious tones of the latter films.

Much of those fun and funny moments are to the credit of Dan Fogler’s Jacob and the ever-mischievous niffler. Indeed, Jacob is quite the standout character of Fantastic Beasts, demonstrating genuine reactions of being confronted by magic that echo what most of our reactions would be.

Moreover, with four films to go in this series, the story properly balances a main, lighthearted plot of this film, while sprinkling in solemn subplots that will become more predominant in future instalments. It may not be a film for everyone, but those with an imaginative mind and a love of fantastical adventure will come out of this film eager for the next.

‘Finding Dory’ — Tariq Kyle

Finding Dory

Despite being a sequel and not an original, Finding Dory proved to be just as entertaining and emotional as its predecessor. Dory was obviously a fan favorite, so seeing her in her own movie was wonderful, and I loved the lessons the movie was trying to teach.

Not only is this a fun family movie, but its message about acceptance, family and friendship truly hit home for the majority of those who saw it. Here’s hoping The Incredibles 2 is just as good!

‘Ghostbusters’ — Selina Wilken

Ghostbusters

Ghostbusters was awesome. Whenever people are trying to ‘defend’ this movie (the fact that anyone has to is ridiculous), they always say, “no, it wasn’t a perfect movie” — but what the hell do you expect? No movie is perfect. Not a single movie on this list (that I’ve seen) have been perfect. “Perfection” and “movie” aren’t two words that generally go together. But we still enjoy the heck out of them, and I can say in total honesty that Ghostbusters was one of the absolute highlights of 2016 for me as far as moviegoing experiences were concerned.

I think what may have thrown some people off (lol, just kidding, we know what threw people off) was that the humor in Ghostbusters was a bit more kid-friendly than we’re used to seeing from Paul Feig. I didn’t see that as a detractor, even if I knew not all of the jokes were ‘for me,’ because all the kids in my cinema were laughing their heads off.

The entire ensemble cast was brilliant, but Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones were the true MVPs of Ghostbusters for me. Being frequent collaborators on SNL they play off each other extremely well, Jones’ very realistic reactions to the ridiculous things going oon around them working in perfect contrast to McKinnon’s mad scientist. Every scene with them was my favorite, though I’m also partial to the many times the women whipped out their proton packs and kicked some ghostly ass.

And no, I’m not going to mention the absurd gender politics around this movie, because I’m over it. I genuinely enjoyed this movie, as a movie, no caveats or reservations or obligations to explain myself. I straight-up just thought it was good.

‘La La Land’ — Marama Whyte

La La Land

Star Trek Beyond might be the Greatest Movie of Our Time, but if we trust awards and nominations, La La Land is easily one of the great movies of the year. Thoroughly enchanting and charming, La La Land gives modern audiences everything they miss about the classic movie musicals — including a lavish, unnecessary dream sequence.

As much a love story to Los Angeles as a meditation on the value of art, while watching La La Land you’ll certainly appreciate Ryan Gosling’s fancy footwork, but it is actually Emma Stone — in what is likely to be a career defining role — who elevates this movie even beyond its stunning cinematography and the brilliant songs you’ll be humming for days after seeing it.

Given the cast and the genre, I was cautiously optimistic about La La Land, with only one major concern: director Damien Chazelle’s last project had been the cringeworthy Whiplash (and yes, I’m aware that I’m in the minority on this point). But in executing this careful balancing act between depicting a genuine romantic comedy, and an exploration of art, in La La Land Chazelle manages to offer a much more satisfying and complex take on art, and especially music, than any amount of closeups of bleeding hands in Whiplash ever could.

Now that La La Land looks to sweep the awards season, the haters are inevitably gonna hate, hate hate. Don’t be deceived; from the chemistry between Stone and Gosling, which seems to be at an all time high, to the equal parts hilarious and heartbreaking use of musical themes, this is one you must, must, must see for yourself.

‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’ — Donya Abramo

Rogue One

My anticipation for Rogue One was a far different beast to The Force Awakens. Where the seventh episode in the Star Wars saga was a continuation of the Skywalker centric story we all know and love, treading new ground in a part of the universe we had yet to discover, Rogue One had the unenviable job of needing to slot neatly before A New Hope.

It needed to both enhance what was already there, but not contradict it, all with the pressure of being the first in the standalone Star Wars Story series of films due to hit screens between the latest trilogy. No small feat. But, of course, this is still Star Wars — I needn’t have worried.

Rogue One struck a different tone than I’ve become used to in a Star Wars movie, but that certainly wasn’t to its detriment. It carried a message of unwavering hope, even in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. The Rebellion was cast in shades of grey, what they were willing to do to push back against the Empire murkier than we’ve ever seen them. But they fought, and continued to fight, even with certain death staring them down, with destruction and devastation raining around them, with loss keenly felt at every turn.

It was something I needed to see; a disparate group, made up of a multitude of races, ages, faiths and backgrounds, working together to beat the odds and deliver the sliver of hope the Rebellion needed to galvanize itself. To fight on. To win. Rogue One managed to do everything I wanted it to, and then a little more. It gave me hope.

‘Sing Street’ — Pamela Gocobachi

Sing Street

Director John Carney is at it again! The helmer that brought us the likes of Once and Begin Again returned in 2016 with Sing Street, another indie gem sure to steal your heart.

Set against the backdrop of dreary 1980s Dublin, Sing Street tells the story of a young boy named Conor who spontaneously decides to start a band in order to woo the girl of his dreams.

While Carney’s characters and the way they develop are charming in and of itself, my favorite aspect of the writer-director’s films is how effortlessly he’s able to weave music into the fabric of the stories he sets out to tell.

Every track in Sing Street, no matter if it comes in the form of ’80s heavy hitters like Duran Duran and The Cure, or in the form of original tracks like “The Riddle of The Model” and “Up” serves a purpose and tells a mini story in and of itself. The end result is a sweeping coming-of-age musical dramedy that’s just as charming as it is heartwarming. I found myself walking away from this film with a huge smile on my face, and I hope it has the same effect on you if you chose to check it out!

‘Star Trek Beyond’ — Marama Whyte

Star Trek Beyond

There’s a lot more flash and bang in the Star Trek reboot movies than you might remember from the original series, but it’s not to disguise a lack of heart.

After the disappointing Star Trek Into Darkness, this third installment is a true return to form, giving fans what they love about this world. The film certainly achieved additional poignancy after the tragic death of Anton Yelchin. But with Leonard Nimoy’s death also incorporated into the plot and character arcs of the film, it’s clear that Star Trek Beyond is dealing with much more than explosions in space.

It is abundantly clear that beyond (ha ha) the initially distracting blockbuster action scenes, this is an ensemble character study. Why do we love these space nerds so much (and I saw it eight times, so I do truly love them)?

Maybe because rather than contributing to the destruction porn of every modern blockbuster, when about to destroy sections of a city, our heroes first check that the civilian evacuation is complete. Maybe because of the genuine chemistry between all cast members, chemistry that many recent ensemble action movies have failed to recreate. Maybe because of the way women and people of colour are key figures within the story, or the confident, incidental way the filmmakers depicted a same sex relationship. Or maybe, we all just need a story where the Beastie Boys can save the day.

‘Suicide Squad’ — Sonya Field

Suicide Squad

Suicide Squad was undoubtedly one of the most anticipated movies of the year, and after the big failure of Batman vs. Superman many wondered how it would actually turn out. With Warner Bros. making many changes throughout the production of the film it’s undeniable that the film does have flaws.

If you watch the movie hoping for a great plot, you’ll be disappointed. However, if you go in just looking for a fun film to watch with entertaining characters you’ll be more than happy with Suicide Squad.

For me, it was all about Harley Quinn, and Margot Robbie nailed the character. It really didn’t matter how awful some of the other characters were because hers was so good. That’s why I can’t wait until Robbie reprised the role of Harley Quinn in the upcoming Gotham City Sirens project.

‘Yoga Hosers’ — Danielle Zimmerman

Yoga Hosers

I don’t think I enjoyed any movie this year as much as I enjoyed the second installment in Kevin Smith’s True North trilogy, Yoga Hosers. No other movie this year made me excited to watch it again immediately after the credits started rolling.

Yoga Hosers does what movies were originally made to do: It provides an entertaining and welcome distraction from the world. It’s just a fun movie about two girls kicking ass. It’s the kind of movie I wish I had grown up with (which was Kevin Smith’s original goal with it) and that I constantly want to recommend to my friends.

Between the ridiculous Canadian accents, Tyler Posey’s crazy death scene, and the fact that the main villains are Nazi bratwursts (“Bratzis,” if you will), there isn’t one minute of this movie that isn’t entertaining or enjoyable. If I could, I would thank Kevin Smith for creating this movie. It was truly a highlight of 2016 for me.

‘Your Name (Kimi no Na wa)’ — Donya Abramo

Your Name

I saw Your Name on a whim, after hearing some rumblings in the animation circles I still travel in giving the film some pretty hefty praise. I wasn’t expecting much, though I should have probably known better, just a light, coming-of-age tale that made for passing an enjoyable few hours — but it ended up being one of the most beautiful, poignant and impressive films I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing all year.

Your Name juxtaposes the lives of two students, Mitsuha, a girl residing in the rural town of Itamori, and Taki, a high-school student in Tokyo — two undeniably different existences for several reasons, both in terms of culture and gender. When they fall asleep at night, Mitsuha and Taki switch bodies, and what could’ve been your standard, slapstick body-swap story morphed very quickly into something more.

There’s a quietness to Your Name that leaves you almost breathless, countless details working their way into the background, showcasing the level of care Makoto Shinkai took in presenting this story — the very lived in feel both their existences had. About a third of the way in, the film changes tracks and there’s a desperation, an urgency, that propels it through to its final act, one that left me sobbing before I even realized how deeply I’d been affected by what was unfolding before me.

There’s a reason that Your Name has found its way to the top of the highest-grossing movie list of all time in Japan — at time of writing, it’s close to taking the number one spot from the Miyazaki classic, Spirited Away. There’s a reason it has been submitted for Oscar consideration.

Your Name deserves every accolade that is being heaped on it, and if you find it playing in limited release in a theatre near you — it’s getting a second run in the U.S. in 2017 — I implore you to give it a shot. Allow Your Name to surprise you the way it surprised me. You certainly won’t be disappointed that you did.

‘Zootopia’ — Karen Rought

Zootopia

If Zootopia was just another animated movie, it still would’ve topped charts and brought in droves of kids and adults alike. The animation is beautiful and the world is expansive. Visually, the movie is a treat, and that’s even before you start delving into all the Easter eggs and modern-day references they threw into nearly every shot of the film.

But Zootopia isn’t just another animated movie; it’s a lesson in diversity and acceptance. It would’ve been so easy to tell the simplest form of this story, one in which Nick and Judy simply sort out their difference and become friends, but the creators behind the movie made sure to appeal to adults as much as they appealed to children.

My favorite kinds of movies have action, adventure, a good story, relatable characters, and an important moral lesson, and Zootopia hit the mark each and every time.

What was your favorite movie of 2016?

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