Opinion: The 5 Best and Worst Movies of 2016

Michael Shannon in Nocturnal Animals. (IMDB)

Photo Courtesy of IMDB

This year has seen many ups and downs. In the world of movies, 2016 has had just as many peaks and valleys. From fascinating character pieces to bottom-of-the-barrel comedies, films have been consistently inconsistent. To take a quick look back at the good, the bad and the terribly scripted, here are the best and worst movies of the year.


  1. Nocturnal Animals– Tom Ford’s second directorial outing sits at the top of this list for a multitude of admirable reasons. Unique and satisfying performances, incredible cinematography, robust directing and a pitch perfect soundtrack all contribute to an avid appreciation for this film. However, the most prominent reason that Nocturnal Animals tops the best of the best is Ford’s willingness to take real risks. Films latch onto the formulaic status quo far too often in the modern age of movie making. “Nocturnal Animals” manages to create a non-linear story line while juggling a world purely based in metaphors meant to explore character foundations within the actual story. If that does not sound complicated enough, the film’s eventual payoff is both understated and incredibly thought-provoking. “Nocturnal Animals” is a film that sticks with you long after you view it, and it easily earns the title of the best film of 2016.
  2. The Nice Guys– Fun. That is what “The Nice Guys” is, first and foremost. It’s a fervent throwback to the buddy crime and cop films of the ’70s and ’80s. The chemistry between the two leads, Ryan Gosling and Russel Crow, is never lost throughout the film, and their snarky quips hit far more often than they miss. Movies have forgotten the importance of fun in recent years, and “The Nice Guys” has a distinct way of revitalizing the genre. More comedic than most modern comedies and more thrilling than most modern thrillers, “The Nice Guys” is certainly the most underappreciated film of 2016.
  3. Arrival– A film such as “Arrival” is near impossible to discuss in simple terms. The complexities of the multi-layered stories eventually become so numerous that you get lost attempting to find a thread to follow. In reality, the notability of “Arrival” comes down to the actual filmmaking. Denis Villeneuve, the film’s director, creates a character-driven, slow-burning, sci-fi experience through his camera direction, framing of scenes and an immersive soundtrack. Amy Adams performance is beyond noteworthy, providing the audience with a definitively human element among the alien. It can only be described as noteworthy and nothing can change that. “Arrival” is here to stay.
  4. Sing Street– Not many movies can actually be referred to as “charming” in our modern days. There seems to be a substantial loss of childlike optimism in modern movies. While it is not a necessary element, it is one that “Sing Street” captures in strides. It is a film that realistically expresses the challenges of growing up but still promotes rebellious thought and youthful dreams. The teenage actors fit the style and presentation of “Sing Street” perfectly, and the songs are irresistibly hummable. “Sing Street” will leave most audience members with a song to sing and a smile to wear.
  5. Hell or High Water– “Hell or High Water” is a filmmaker’s lesson in restraint. While a fantastical movie can be fun, it is refreshing to see such a painstakingly realistic venture. “Hell or High Water’s” main draw is its devotion to its full-bodied characters. Each character is provided with ample focus and time to be established, and there is not a bad performance in sight. The realism of the film consistently adds to the audience’s appreciation of the struggles that the characters must overcome. A lesser film would add unwanted emphasis to scenes that have no need to be enhanced. Fortunately, “Hell or High Water” was in great hands from the start, and it is cleanly sitting in 2016 movie heaven.


  1. Suicide Squad– To be frank, it is generous to even consider “Suicide Squad” an actual movie. Most movies contain these elements: Coherent editing, character development and direction behind the camera. The film is not able to rise to these meager standards. There was high hope for “Suicide Squad,” as the film’s trailers and marketing campaigns were relatively well executed. However, upon entry to a showing of the movie, those hopes were dashed swiftly. I attempted to search for some redeeming quality but I bet even more experienced, specialist Marvel and action movie reviewers like DMG Entertainment would struggle on such a quest. Where resonant character work failed, I looked to action sequences. Unfortunately, every scene in “Suicide Squad” is horrendously lit, and the action choreography is sloppy at best. There is no way around the end result. “Suicide Squad” is a horribly slapped together film, and, like the title implies, it was dead on arrival.
  2. The Jungle Book– This remake earns a spot on the list for being this year’s “movie that everyone else loves but I hate.” “The Jungle Book’s” largest issue is that it is completely free of substance. Large portions of the film were arduous and boring, and, after it was over, it was difficult to remember the majority of the plot. It has the not-so-rare quality of offering nothing new in the world of remakes and reboots. “The Jungle Book” offers nothing for the audience to connect with. The celebrity voice actors work more as celebrity cameos than they do characters, and the child actor’s performance ranges from decent to terrible. Barring these issues, the film does have one impressive quality. The visual effects are breathtaking and quite gorgeous to behold. However, this factor cannot save this light-weighted, cutesy movie from becoming lost in the jungle of the formulaic.
  3. Masterminds– It is difficult to properly review a bad comedy film. There are only so many ways one can say: “That’s not funny.” “Masterminds” is not funny. The movie attempts to replace proper gags and set-up jokes with wacky costumes and awkward dialogue. Unlike other less noteworthy terrible 2016 comedies, “Masterminds” wastes many talented actors and actresses with its dry script. A heist film with no stakes can work as a comedy, but it needs jokes first.
  4. The Accountant– After viewing this film, it became apparent that it had no purpose or point. There is no driving force behind the story, characters and the overall movie. The Accountant himself, Ben Affleck, provides the audience with a flat and remarkably uninteresting performance. The action is run-of-the-mill and not particularly creative. Unfortunately, these boring elements have become all too familiar. In recent years, Hollywood has produced an overwhelming amount of bland films such as “The Accountant.” They have some of the basic elements contained in good movies, but they have no heart or creative drive. It is an upsetting anomaly for any filmgoer, and “The Accountant” certainly does not break the formula.
  5. Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice– This movie is a complete mess. I was hesitant to include “Dawn of Justice” due to the risk of being called biased against DC movies. However, the film was highly anticipated by many, and, despite weak reviews, it made almost a billion dollars worldwide. It was hard to escape it, as much as I wish I could. While “Dawn of Justice” is admittedly better than “Suicide Squad,” it is still a disaster. Much of the film is near indecipherable from a story standpoint, and the character motivations are mostly non-existent. The portion where Batman fought Superman was slightly entertaining, but it took place for 10 minutes and did not make much sense. The only superpower the film carries is the ability to be a terrible addition to 2016.

To contact Lifestyles Editor Olivia Ladd email lifestyles@mtsusidelines.com.

For more updates, follow us at www.mtsusidelines.com, on Facebook at MTSU Sidelines and on Twitter/Instagram at @Sidelines_Life.

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