But, 2016 at the cinema was decidedly better than the world outside it. Though I imagine this year of socio-economic turmoil will be reflected in the films of a few years time (you know the wave of dystopian Trump futures is hurtling towards us as quickly as Hollywood can make it), we can be thankful that those making movies for release this year were slightly more chipper in their approach.
- The latest in the vast trove of evidence for the prosecution that comedy sequels for movies made 10+ years ago should be abandoned on principal.
- I had hope, but clearly the intention Seth Rogen and team had here was “What would Pixar never do?” as opposed to “What would be funny?”, resulting in a brave but ultimately flawed experiment.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
- Saved from the top spot only by virtue of a killer final battle, this was like watching a real life trainwreck as opposed to a fun hypothetical one, full of death, grief, confusion and copious use of the word “morbid".
- A film so unrelentingly boring we actually forgot to release the audio review for it.
Worst Film - Alice: Through The Looking Glass
10 - X-Men: Apocalypse
The final remaining comic book big bad for the mutants, Apocalypse arrives from his tomb in Egypt to try and shape the world into a Darwinian hellscape. It’s up to the X-Men to stop him and his Four Horsemen.
It wasn’t great, I concede that. Coming out of the cinema I was full of contempt for this movie, feeling Apocalypse himself had been undersold by the actor choice (sorry Oscar Issac, but you aren’t a towering God like figure no matter how big your platform shoes are!), the make up and the story. But upon rewatching, it is a watchable if uninspired trilogy closer. The character work is fine, and there are some action set pieces to enjoy.
Best Bit –
Once again, Quicksilver steals the show, with a sweet dream of a mansion evacuation.
9 - The Jungle Book / Zootopia
The first shows a human assimilating animal life, and the second shows animals assimilating human life. Odd that.
The blurbs are basically the same formula, both have talking animals, and both were produced by Disney. Is it any wonder that I can separate on my list? Jungle Book was a game changer for live action remakes, bringing the world of Mowgli to life with perhaps the best CGI work of the year. A movie that could have been such a cash grab has now opened the door for other beloved animated classics to come to the big screen with much less trepidation. Zootopia on the other hand was a nice moral tale set in an interesting world. There is more fun to be found in its world than in its story, but worth checking out nonetheless.
Best Bit –
Though ruined by the trailers, the Sloths in the DMV are still the funniest characters animation brought us this year.
8 - Finding Dory
Dory has parents, and they need to be found!
The only challenger to the Toy Story crown in my book, Finding Nemo was seemingly a one off, impossible to follow. The fact that the sequel didn’t tank is good enough for me. While nowhere near the original, it is still a lot of fun to spend time with Dory, Marlin and Nemo as they search for Dory’s parents. You can marvel at the CGI work, enjoy the new additions to the cast (Ty Burrell’s bumbling Beluga whale being the highlight), or just revel in being around cherished childhood characters again.
Best Bit –
“It is your destiny, Destiny” is now a thing in the Gutteridge house.
7 - Star Trek Beyond
On the verge of opening the latest and greatest space station, the Enterprise and its crew are sent on a rescue mission that quickly goes wrong and scatters them across a hostile planet.
A safe entry into a safe franchise, Beyond doesn’t take the risks that its predecessor Into Darkness did, but the loss of the highest of highest also means a relative lack of lows. Thankfully, you care about the crew outside of Kirk and Spock now, so spending more time with them isn’t a chore. Where the franchise goes beyond this I don’t know, but this sequel at least doesn’t scupper any momentum.
Best Bit –
As ridiculous and borderline stupid as it was, there was something enjoyable and memorable about the Beastie Boys space battle (I will give exactly no context to that sentence for those who haven’t seen it).
6 - Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them
Set several decades before the adventures of the Boy Who Lived, Fantastic Beasts spun the Harry Potter franchise out into a weird new tangent - 1920s animal conservation!
Harry Potter as a film franchise was never truly high on quality, coasting along on nostalgia, marketing and strong world building. FB marked a chance to take the magical world JK Rowling created, free it from the books, and expand it. And that it did, albeit to not overwhelmingly positive results. The groundwork has been laid for future sequels to be better, but the shenanigans of Newt Scamander will hopefully be fondly remembered upon reflection.
Best Bit –
Jacob Kowalski, the MVP of the film and the best new character in film this year.
5 - Doctor Strange
The mystical finally arrives in the Marvel Universe, as the talented surgeon Stephen Strange goes to bizarre lengths to try to salvage his mangled hands.
The Marvel machine can crank out these movies without mishap now, so boring is their brilliance that even a mad concept like Doctor Strange won’t make it trip up. Benedict Cumberbatch was also predictably perfect in his casting, providing the Marvel Universe with another flawed yet brilliant extrovert genius (they tend to go over well with the fans).
Best Bit –
Though I thought about giving it to the scene between Strange and the Ancient One on the balcony, instead it has to go to the final battle, where the magic mayhem is at it’s most mental.
4 - Creed
The son of Apollo Creed decides to step out of his father’s shadow, with the help of a certain old Stallion.
Who knew the Rocky franchise of all things would buck the trend of awful late-in-the-game sequels? Having pulled off this trick with Rocky VI (you can call it “Rocky Balboa” as much as you want, it’s Rocky VI because when else can I use roman numerals?), the boxing behemoth did it again with this lateral move, introducing Michael B. Jordan as new star Adonis Johnson/Creed. No longer reliant on Stallone to be the one stepping between the ropes, Jordan gives the series new life as the complex Creed, while Sly gets to try something different as an aging and ailing Rocky, all while the movie still delivers great fights. Here’s to another 7 Rocky movies!
Best Bit –
The training montage with a difference, as both Adonis and Rocky try to get themselves back into shape (in very different ways).
3 - Deadpool
The crass, vulgar and insane side of comic books finally arrives in the boom period, as the meta mercenary takes on a revenge story with a twist.
Having seen first hand how badly wrong a studio could get the character in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Deadpool got a miraculous second go around thanks to rabid fans and an equally rabid star in Ryan Reynolds. And the world is ever so thankful for their efforts. Absolutely nailing the tone, the jokes and the action, this risky venture turned into perhaps the most universally loved movie of the year.
Best Bit –
The fight with Colossus is by far and away the funniest scene of 2016.
2 - Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Set before New Hope, Rogue One fills in an important part of untold Star Wars story - how the rebels got those Death Star plans.
Though I still maintain that I don’t quite love it for some reason, it isn’t just to flaws with the movie. Rogue One is a well put together slice of Star Wars storytelling, with all the things that made the franchise successful up to this point. Memorable characters, new takes on combat in this universe, and a sublime ending mean that from here on out, we have no need to automatically worry about Star Wars spin-offs.
Best Bit –
The ever potent combination of Darth Vader and corridors.
1 - Captain America: Civil War
With the world starting to question if The Avengers are really the best thing for the safety of the planet, divisions form as Captain America and Iron Man start to clash head in the most spectacular way possible.
“Avengers 2.5” looked promising on paper. Of course it did, it was that most rare of premises - a superhero vs. superhero movie that doesn’t seem forced (here’s looking at you BvS). We got to see a plethora of fantasy match-ups otherwise impossible outside of this set up. Hawkeye vs. Vision. Winter Soldier vs. Black Panther. Spider-Man vs. Ant-Man. And of course “Big Boy Bowl”, as Cap and Iron Man lock horns at the end in an unbelievably tense finalé. It didn’t go as all out with it’s ending as Rogue One did, but for keeping up a killer pace throughout and delivering on its promise and more, Marvel can cap (eh?! eh?!) of their 2016 with another Best of the Year award from me. I’m sure they are chuffed.
Best Bit –
Airport scene. Only the airport scene. Always the airport scene. The airport scene is all.
Darren is a columnist and a co-host on almost all our podcasts, including PopScorn and Gotta Cast 'Em All. He is a long time blogger, known for his previous website The Gutteridge Log, and his in-depth analysis and explanation of pop culture media.