102 Best Movies & Shows Released in 2016 (Page 6)

Staff & contributors

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

This moving biopic is about Maud Lewis, the legendary Canadian painter who suffered from arthritis. In the film, Maud gets away from her controlling family by finding a job as a live-in housekeeper for a local fish peddler. It is there where she begins to paint, before marrying the fish peddler in spite of their different personalities. Sally Hawkins, who plays Lewis, brings undeniable spark and soul to the role, for which she had to undergo an astonishing physical transformation.

Maudie is a beautiful and uncomplicated film that challenges the conventions of marriage and relationship roles, while at the same time celebrating Maud Lewis’ paintings and life’s simple pleasures.

Based on the short story “God Sees the Truth, But Waits” by Leo Tolstoy, The Woman Who Left is a film about people with nowhere to go. Set in 1990s Philippines, the film follows Horacia, an ex-convict seeking revenge on her former lover who masterminded her unjust 30-year imprisonment. Along the way, she meets various people—a hunchback balut vendor, vagabonds, and an epileptic trans woman, among others—all downtrodden in their own unique ways and united only by their nightly wanderings, with whom Horacia’s true nature is revealed and reconfigured with every encounter.

Lav Diaz’s signature slow cinema minimalism and sharp chiaroscuro lighting allow for a meditative experience, further enhancing the film’s immersive quality. Despite its bleak atmosphere, The Woman Who Left remains hopeful amidst moral quandaries, where things eventually fall into their rightful place, albeit in unexpected ways.

Jessica Chastain plays a driven Washington lobbyist called Elizabeth Sloane in this high-speed political thriller. After being pitched to work for the gun lobby, she decides to work for the opposition: an NGO trying to pass a background check bill. It's a long movie, and even if everything happens fast, it still lags. 

The events do wrap up by the end to explain the complex plot. Not to mention, Chastain's performance something to behold and is reason enough to watch. Her character's hidden motive and questionable methods make her an anti-hero, but Chastain always keeps a lure of hope that her character will redeem herself. That delicate balance might be the most thrilling aspect of Miss Sloan.

Classroom chatter and inside jokes; the rhythmic routine of class, band practice, and communal mealtime; colorful paints and a keen Shakespeare play; paperback books, pages bookmarked with dogears. These are the precious, ordinary wonders of Headfort, a preparatory boarding school in Ireland. 

School Life observes Amanda and John Leyden, who have each taught at Headfort for over four decades. As they both near retirement, so too looms the promise of a tranquil retreat into the countryside—and questions of what they leave behind in their school, their classrooms, and their students. Idyllic and gentle, this documentary offers a brief but meaningful look into the school lives of bright children indelibly influenced by their earliest mentors.

Richard Linklater’s spiritual successor to Dazed and Confused invites you back to 1980 with a group of college freshmen discovering and navigating their first taste of young adulthood. Linklater is best known for balancing authentic dialogue and earnest performances, both of which shine in this movie. Notable performances are given by all in this ensemble cast, whose chemistry is electric and infectiously light-hearted. Everybody Wants Some!! is as fun, loud, and wild as any good night you don’t want to forget.

British filmmaker extraordinaire Andrea Arnold (Fish Tank) draws the perfect portrait of two young American drifters who fall in love.

Star (Sasha Lane) runs away with Jake (Shia Laboeuf), a traveling magazine salesman with more experience on the road. The freedom is tempting at first, especially given her difficult situation at home, but Star is quickly confronted with the risks that come with running away.

American Honey is shot in a succession of moments that take place almost entirely during golden hour, as if to say that the best part of the day comes right before dark.

Bryan Cranston, best known for his role as Walter White in the Breaking Bad series, stars as Robert Mazur, a federal agent, who goes undercover to infiltrate the trafficking network of Colombian drug kingpin Pablo Escobar. With the film based on Mazur’s memoir, Bryan Cranston gives an impressive lead performance that captures the intense distress that deep cover can bring. Besides Cranston, co-stars Benjamin Bratt, Diane Kruger, Amy Ryan, and an exceptional John Leguizamo are entirely persuasive and make the film experience enjoyable and intense. The Infiltrator is entertaining and maintains a good pace, with a great cast that makes it a true joy to watch, especially for those who enjoy stories based on real criminals. 

This is a movie with which you can easily connect. I have never experienced such deep connection and feelings towards characters. Seven friends get together for a dinner, and they decide to share every text message, email, and phone call they receive. The difference we all have to some degree between our public selves and private lives is the same one that comes out and threatens the balance between these long time friends. The film may feel a bit claustrophobic for some but that same feeling allows you to laugh, to shiver, and to even feel the deepest sorrow alongside the characters. For me this is a must watch.

There are two ways to sum up this documentary. One will make you decide against watching it. Here’s that pitch: This is the story of a homeless woman who was found dead.

Here’s the better pitch: That woman was highly educated and generally lived a happy life. But she also left behind a detailed journal that recounts her final days in one of the coldest winters on record. She lived on apples and rainwater and fought off insanity.

Her heartbreaking story is one of disappointment and betrayal by society at a time when she was most vulnerable. A haunting and compelling documentary that is sure to stay with you for a long time and, in a way, might help you take on adversity.

Arch-provocateur Paul Verhoeven received widespread acclaim for his assured and darkly funny adaptation of Philippe Dijan’s award-winning novel, his first film in the French language. 

It’s a controversial revenge thriller about a domineering businesswoman who is raped in her home by a masked man. Refusing to let the attack affect her life, she refuses to report the incident and tracks down the assailant herself.

Verhoeven directs the material with confidence and a troubling lightness of touch, while fearless Isabelle Huppert gives one of the best performances of her long and illustrious career. Some people found Elle empowering while others felt it perpetuated misogynistic attitudes. Either way, it makes for a passionate post-viewing discussion.

This drama from France and Canada is about Matthieu, a 33-year-old from Paris who never knew his father. One morning he gets a call to go to Montreal, where he is told his dad has passed away and where a funeral will take place.

To add to his confusion, upon arrival Matthieu is asked to conceal his identity from his step-mother and step-brothers.

A Kid is made as though the filmmaking styles from the countries it’s set in were mixed together. There are complicated family dynamics reminiscent of Xavier Dolan movies; and identity issues and comments on different compositions of families like the films of Mia Hansen-Løve.