102 Best Movies & Shows Released in 2016 (Page 5)

Staff & contributors

Find the best movies and show to watch from the year 2016. These handpicked recommendations are highly-rated by viewers and critics.

From countries like Finland to North Korea, this amazing documentary explores the most fascinating active volcanoes on our planet. But as it unfolds you realize that Into the Inferno is a movie as much about volcanoes as it is about the people obsessed with them. And who can be called obsessive more than the film’s own director, Werner Herzog, who, with such an explosive career had to eventually make a film about volcanos (bad pun intended). Beautiful scenery, interesting interviews, and Werner’s majestic delivery all make Into the Inferno both an interesting and satisfying documentary.

There is a chance we will be known as the generation that perfected mixing the two mediums of movie and theater. Think Hateful 8, Horace & Pete, Wild Tales, and Fences! A movie not only packed with Broadway talent, it's also based on a Pulitzer-winning play by August Wilson. The play element is both strong and visible, the movie is dialogue packed, and takes place almost exclusively in the characters' house, not to mention most of the events happen within the span of a few days. The movie element comes through beautiful aesthetics and rich scenery, as well as some of Hollywood's best talent: Denzel Washington (who is also the director) and Viola Davis. They had both actually won Tony Awards for their performances reviving the play back in 2010. Denzel is a black garbage collector who was once a promising baseball player and a victim of racial discrimination. His psyche is as rich as it is determined and he is used to taking out his deep-rooted feelings of anger on his loved ones. His wife (Davis), his son, and his friends are the targets of this hurt and anger, but they also have a lot to deal with on their own. A beautiful if maybe slow play-movie. Do not watch it expecting "things to happen", but watch it to be mesmerized by the acting, the writing, and the underlying tensions it addresses. 

If you’ve never heard of Sonia Braga, you’re in for a ride with this movie. She is, in my opinion, one of the best actresses alive today. In Aquarius, she stars as a 65-year-old trying to keep the home in which she pledged to die. In a quiet, yet stoically powerful performance, she reminds us that identity often intersects with the spaces in which we live.

The Last Man on the Moon is a documentary about astronaut Eugene Cernan, Commander of the Apollo 17 lunar landing mission in 1972. Chronicled by Cernan himself as he reminisces on his life, the film follows his early career with the Navy, his recruitment and training as an astronaut, and his participation in 3 trips to space: Gemini 9A, Apollo 10 and eventually Apollo 17—the last of NASA’s six expeditions to the Moon. Cern also delves heartfully into his loss of friends as well as his regretfulness for missing out on so much family time while away. It’s a poignant and inspiring account, with Cern providing a fine lesson in the confidence and diligence in takes to pursue and accomplish one’s dreams

Probably the weirdest film you'll ever see. Paul Dano plays a borderline suicidal man who befriends a farting corpse that washed up from the sea as played by Daniel Radcliffe. It's an adventurous, witty and hilarious film yet it is filled with discreet and very deep lessons about society and norms. The soundtrack is so charmingly unique as well, it's a definite must-watch for anyone looking for a refreshing comedy.

In the West, South Korean film is largely defined by the ingenious (oft violent) bombast of directors like Park Chan-wook (Oldboy) and Bong Joon-ho (Parasite), but there is a quieter tradition championed by director Hong Sang-soo that is just as imaginative and worthy of your time. This fascinating film serves as a perfect entry point to a director whose filmography is full of similar riches.

A film director arrives in town to deliver a lecture, and having some time to kill, ends up sharing a day with a stranger. This simple set-up recalling Before Sunrise leads down a charming and quietly romantic route that would be delightful on its own, but Right Now, Wrong Then is about much more than just a chance encounter. It’s a film more concerned with how little moments here and there can change everything, and how much our lives are governed as much by chance and timing as the choices we make.

Phoebe Waller-Bridge became famous for her hit show Fleabag, but few people know about Crashing which she has also created and stars in, and which deserves just as much attention. She plays a girl who moves to London to be with her childhood friend, who’s already in a relationship and living with his partner and four others in an abandoned hospital. Waller-Bridge settles into the hospital as well, and the six twenty-somethings become property guardians of the hospital building.

Funny characters and excellent performances make this show dangerously bingeable.

When Russian director Vitaly Mansky is commissioned by the North Korean government to make a documentary about an average Pyongyang child, he follows their every guideline. Except the end result, Under The Sun, is the complete opposite of what they had intended. For example starting every take earlier than they thought, he makes the documentary about the watchdogs around the child and other mechanisms of propaganda. He uses quiet storytelling to expose how brainwashing in a fascist regime takes place, and how the people caught in it function. May just be the smartest, most important film you can watch on North Korea.

Sunday Beauty Queen starts with a basic but startling fact: there are about 190,000 Filipina domestic workers in Hong Kong. They toil for six days a week, with little breaks in between, but on Sundays, the one day they are given rest, they choose to take part in a fabulous beauty pageant.  

More than just a mere show, the pageant is a source of joy and relief for the migrant workers who, despite earning significantly more abroad than they would back home, are mired in a host of problems, including discrimination, loneliness, and underemployment. Because of the Philippines’ and Hong Kong’s stringent statutes, some helpers are also forced to go into hiding, unsure of who will protect them each time.

It’s to director Baby Ruth Villarama’s credit that the film feels both like a criticism and celebration of this migrant reality. She exposes the rotten system that forces these women to flee their country but doesn’t forget to highlight the humanity that keeps them going. This result of this deft balance is a story that is just as warm and exacting as any old home. 

This quiet French coming-of-age romance is about two boys who live in the Pyrénées mountains in the south of France. Getting to school is an ordeal for both of them but more so for Thomas, the son of shepherds, who has to travel for two hours each way. Damien, the other teenager, lives closer to the school in a big home with his mother who is the town's doctor. 

The two boys initially fight at school, taking turns at bullying each. Damien's mother intervenes, inviting Thomas to live with them so that he can be closer to school.

Co-written by Céline Sciamma (Portrait of a Lady on Fire) and the movie's legendary director André Téchiné.

Former Congressman Anthony Weiner just doesn’t give up. After a 2011 scandal that had him resign from office, Weiner tries to make a comeback in this documentary that follows his 2013 mayoral campaign. His passion for public service is indisputable, and despite his shortcomings, it’s hard not to root for his go-getter attempts at a second chance. To this end, he wins and fails, with each outcome feeling more dramatic and consequential than the last. Things culminate upon the revelation of a fresh, new scandal, which disrupts his unlikely rise as a top candidate as well as the film’s production flow, which then takes a turn for the better (or worse, depending on your sympathies for Weiner). 

Fast paced and brilliantly stitched, Weiner is a compelling account of a man who won’t back down, and of the people surrounding him who suffer from his obstinacy. The documentary is proof that even in our hypercritical age, it’s still possible to both humanize and criticize a “canceled” subject, all while maintaining level-headed humor and allure.  

French megastar Isabelle Huppert plays a passionate philosophy teacher this observant, dialogue-heavy drama. Once driven by her ideas and reflections on life, Nathalie's life is now reduced to taking care of others: a demanding mother, standoffish husband, a high-school in which politics have taken over, and a decaying publishing house that makes her pay for copies of a book she once wrote. But an event involving her husband is an invitation for Nathalie to step out of the mundane and rekindle with her past self. If you like quiet character studies, you will love Things to Come.

In rural Korea a policeman starts to investigate peculiar and violent events that most of the people in his village attribute to the arrival of a new Japanese resident. As the occurrences keep multiplying, and different perspectives in the film are shown, you start to lose touch with reality in the face of what can only be described as genius film-making. As critic Jada Yuan puts it, the film operates on a level “that makes most American cinema seem clunky and unimaginative”. For this reason, and while The Wailing is a true horror flick with a great premise, it’s also more than just that: it boosts a mind-boggling, interesting plot that will have you thinking about it long after the credits roll. Protip: grab the person next to you and make them watch this movie with you so you can have someone to discuss it with after!

Set between the years 1977 and 2005, this Polish drama goes through various stages in the life of the controversial surrealist-expressionist painter Zdzisław Beksiński. The extensive video archive left behind by the artist was used to craft an intimate portrait of three interdependent people: Beksiński himself, his suicidal and neurotic son, and his wife.

Beksiński is superbly played by veteran actor Andrzej Seweryn, known for his appearance in numerous Andrzej Wajda films. Even though the film focuses less on Zdzisław's painting career and more on his relationship with his family, it will definitely inspire you to dig deeper into both his tragic life and impressively dark body of work.