Best of 2016: Genre Films

Oh hey look at that, 2016 is over—another year in the books, and it was a rough one. If something could go wrong, it did go wrong, and that happened over and over right up until the ball was about to drop and bring this year mercifully to a close. Thankfully, there were at least some good movies in this big stinky butthole of a year. Was it the greatest year in film history? Well, no, but I also had a hard time whittling this “best of” list down to ten entries, so it wasn’t that bad at all. Not great, but still (in the words of Larry David) pretty, preettty, preeetttty good. Since this is CGMagazne, we like to keep our cinematic focus geared in on genre. Sure, there were emotionally complex and satisfying dramas like Moonlight and Manchester By The Sea that were very much worth exploring for those who like to get all serious with their cinema. However, we like movies where stuff blows up, characters have superpowers, some sort of monster makes an appearance, or at the very least it’s all animated. So without further ado, here’s our list of the Top Ten Genre Movies Of 2016. If you somehow managed to miss any of these, do yourself a favour and watch them all immediately. You won’t regret it, and if you somehow do, it’s probably because there’s something wrong with you. It’s okay. You’ll be fine. Just watch these ten movies and call us in the morning.

Before we get into the list however, here are some honourable mentions: 10 Cloverfield Lane, The Brothers Grimsby, De Palma, Elle, Finding Dory, The Handmaiden, Hell Or High Water, High-Rise, The Jungle Book, Kubo And The Two Strings, Moana, Mr. Right, The Neon Demon, The Nice Guys, Pete’s Dragon, The Purge: Election Year, Raiders! The Story Of The Greatest Fan Film Ever Made, The Shallows, Silence, Swiss Army Man, Star Trek: Beyond, Train To Busan, The Wailing. 

10) Deadpool

There was never a greater sign that we live in an age of 90’s nostalgia than when Deadpool rose though the ranks of the most popular Marvel cosplay characters. The merc with a mouth couldn’t have been a more 90’s creation: ironic, self-conscious, hyper-violent, and designed in a Todd MacFarlane style. It took Ryan Reynolds a decade to finally get his dream Deadpool movie made and thank god that was the case because there’s no way this sucker would have been nearly as popular even a few years ago. This R-rated bit of slapstick gore spectacle that winks at comic book clichés (along with a sneakily effective love story) was an unexpectedly massive hit last Valentine’s Day and may well have shifted the entire focus of Marvel comics properties over at Fox. Undoubtedly these movies will run their course of popularity just like Deadpool did back in the ancient days of the 1990s. But for now, this was a filthy blast of fresh air that added a little extra jolt of life to the superhero genre for those who felt one was necessary.

9) Blair Witch

Speaking of 90’s nostalgia, the Blair Witch came back this year and despite some pretty brilliant marketing that allowed for a sneak attack on audiences, no one showed up or cared. That’s a shame, because for my money Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett’s take on that reality warping witch was the most purely entertaining horror flick of 2016. Sure, it didn’t go for anything other than the gut. The whip smart filmmakers behind the self conscious You’re Next and The Guest played it straight (for once) and delivered a rollercoaster ride of nearly every type of visceral scare imaginable and all in the name of reviving the most iconic movie monster of the 90s. Sadly the would-be franchise reboot made less money than the loathed (but actually quite underrated) Book Of Shadows: Blair Witch 2, and that’s a shame because this is a brilliantly made scare factory and fantastic follow up to the original classic. I’m sure over time a cult will form. The flick deserves it. For now, hopefully Wingard and Barrett will go back to creating their own cult classics rather than taking on the mantle of a beloved genre milestone that likely wouldn’t even be popular itself if it was released today because people be stupid.

8) Doctor Strange

Just when the Marvel movie formula was starting to get a little stale, along came Doctor Strange. Oh sure, it was another origin story about a snarky sarcasm machine learning to become a hero. The difference was the material dripping with mysticism and director Scott Derrickson’s (Sinister) knack for brining Steve Ditko’s old trippy 60’s visuals to stunning, mind-bending life. The film was a visual wonder in a way that wouldn’t have even been possible five years ago and a dip even deeper into the brand of comic book fantasy that even the most devoted of comics nerds never dared imagine might make it to the movies decades ago. The flick serves as a heady teaser of things to come in the Marvel movie universe that suggests Kevin Feige does indeed have a few more tricks up his sleeve. Bring it on. This sucker was far more fun than anyone could have predicted.

7) Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

After the fanboys and fangirls of the world were allowed an international sigh of relief when The Force Awakens somehow didn’t suck, curiosity rose around Rogue One. After all, this first Star Wars spin off picture offered a glimpse into a side of the world’s most famous movie universe never viewed before. A tiny tale of sacrifice and rebellion hinted at in the first Star Wars flick and expanded out to feature length without any of the duelling lightsaber battles that we’re used to defining these movies. Gareth Edwards delivered a slow burn tale of military rebellion that peaked with a goddamn amazing heist and a spaceship battle for the ages. Rogue One is dripping with fan service and references, yet is also completely its own thing. Sure, it ain’t perfect, but it is easily the finest Star Wars prequel ever made and that’s pretty special.

6) Ouija: Origin Of Evil

Ouija was easily one of the worst studio horror movies of the last decade and yet Ouija 2 (renamed Ouija: Origin Of Evil to avoid comparison) was easily one of the best. Why? Writer and director Mike Flanagan. The man is easily one of the most distinct and creative voices to emerge from the genre in the 2010s after Absentia, Oculus, and Hush. He took on a thankless studio sequel and made probably the best possible movie about a family haunted by a Ouija board. Shot like an old fashioned 70’s scare picture (cigarette burns et all) and packing in more genuine creep outs and jumps than any movie originally titled Ouija 2 should, this was a special cinematic treat to hit cinemas on Halloween. If Flanagan can do this much from such a lame point of origin, then hopefully Universal will let him cut loose with his own studio horror flick soon. The guy deserves it and clearly knows what he’s doing.

5) Captain America: Civil War

I mean, you saw that airport superhero battle royal right? The splash panels brought to life? The geek dreams made real? What’s not to love about Captain America: Civil War? Nothing, that’s what. Some of the best Marvel movie mayhem ever that’ll be tough to top once Infinity Wars kicks off.

4) Midnight Special

This summer everyone went nuts about a throwback 80’s horror/sci-fi mash up, but unfortunately they got excited about the wrong one. Don’t get me wrong, Stranger Things was great, but Midnight Special is even better. Jeff Nichols’ tale of cults and aliens and a child with special powers and Michael Shannon getting over protective was easily one of the best Hollywood movies to hit screens last summer, even though nobody saw it. If you want to know why studios don’t make more smart, challenging, and exciting movies for grownups during blockbuster season, it’s because you stayed home to watch Stranger Things instead of supporting this brilliant genre yarn. Check it out now and hopefully we can get some cult appreciation going. Midnight Special deserves it.

3) Arrival

After successfully finding a middle ground between his personal vision and the demands of mainstream movie making last year with Sicario, Montreal filmmaker Denis Villenueve went a step further with Arrival. An intimate sci-fi epic that is as much about communication as it is big ol’ space ships threatening the world, Arrival is a damn special movie. Hinged on beautiful visuals, a cleverly cinematic twist, and a fantastic lead performance from Amy Adams, Arrival was a perfect balance of cinematic art and popcorn spectacle. Clearly Warner Brothers found the right man to make the Blade Runner sequel. Now lets hope that he has the creative freedom necessary to do the job right.

2) The Witch

The Witch is one of those rare horror movies that are so good that even people who don’t normally watch horror movies loved it. It’s strong enough to work as a drama—and it is a beautiful, challenging, moving, unforgettable drama at that. Robert Eggers delivered one of the most exciting, creative, distinct and memorable directorial debuts in recent memory with The Witch. It’s tough to find anyone who doesn’t love and appreciate what he created, and more so than any horror movie released last year or in the last decade for that matter. The Witch is a special movie, genre or otherwise. It’ll be tough for Eggars to top. But then again, it was nearly impossible for him to make a horror flick this accomplished without ever having stepped behind the camera before. So if he can do that, creating a memorable follow up should be easy.

1) Sausage Party

Yep. That’s right. My personal favourite film of 2016 was a giant dick joke. The secret? That dick joke was actually about everything from racial politics to belief, faith, life, and death (plus farts). Yep, Sausage Party really is that ambitious. It’s also profoundly vulgar, offensive and stupid. It’s high and low art all at once. Most importantly, the movie is pants-wettingly hilarious in a manner no other movie last year came close to delivering. Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg spent years struggling to get this movie made, eventually requiring that brilliant billionaire heiress Megan Ellison flip the bill like she had for the most recent films by Spike Jonze (Her), Paul Thomas Anderson (The Master), David O. Russell (American Hustle) and others. She specializes in making the passion projects of filmmakers come true and what the big ol’ moneymakers Rogen and Goldberg had planned for Sausage Party needed Ellison’s support because it’s just that incendiary, controversial, and filthy. And yes, this is the CGI comedy about sentient food in a grocery store. The ambitions of Rogen and Goldberg are strange, but dammit they done good with this one. This movie is practically South Park-ian in comedic ambition and I don’t say that lightly. See it, laugh like an idiot, and then appreciate every insane idea that those stoner Canadians somehow smuggled onto screens worldwide.