It’s been a really weak year for cinema. Without la la land it would be one of the worst years on record. Hopefully some of these other 2016 titles still trickling into theaters and on bluray and Netflix (20th century women, elle, Paterson are all among those I haven’t seen yet) will help round out this top 10 and 2016 will look new and improved in 3-4 months.

  1. La La Land- It’s a capital “M” masterpiece for me- which doesn’t happen very often. It’s easily the best film and a visual and stylistic high-wire act by stunning director Damien Chazelle. I also think it’s the two best performances of the year with Stone and Gosling.
  2. Everybody Wants Some!- Another subtly brilliant entry into the Linklater oeuvre. There’s a massive gap between #1 and #2 on this list but still- a wonderful film.
  3. Moonlight- Jenkins brings formal brilliance to this three act film which is also incredibly well acted.
  4. American Honey- This snuck up on me as I wasn’t as impressed with Arnold’s other films (red road, fish tank) as some critics. American Honey is incredibly well directed ( have this as easily her best) and in a year this weak- becomes one of the better films of the year.
  5. Hell or High Water- Really superb all around from the direction (great opening shot- similar to moonlight), writing and acting.
  6. Arrival- I’ll be the first to admit I need to see this again but if anything I think it could go higher and into the top 5 with a second look. Villeneuve gives us top 10 entries in consecutive years- very impressive. Adams is up there with Emma Stone and Gosling for best performance of the year.
  7. Manchester By the Sea- Affleck is brilliant and there’s some formal and auteuristic marks in Lonergan direction. He’s not exclusively a genius screenwriter.
  8. The Handmaiden- I found it a bit more uneven than most critics but Chan-wook Park’s imprint is all over this film which has both a superb narrative and visually impressive.
  9. The Neon Demon- This won’t be in my top 10 when I’ve actually had a chance to see everything 2016 has to offer but left with such a weak bunch of options I’ll take Refn’s visual ambition (and very flawed narrative) over the others.
  10. Café Society/ The Jungle BookCafe Society has much more to offer visually than it is getting credit for and the jungle book doesn’t aim for high art but is a very good piece of filmmaking entertainment.