Much has been written about the downside of 2016 — the punishing election cycle, the innumerable celebrity splits — but amdist all the bad and the ugly, one very positive fact has become abundantly clear: It's also been a pretty solid year for film. For those times when it felt like all the news was bad news, there was always an awesome flick in theaters we could escape to for a good laugh — or a good cry.
Now, 2015 was a tough act to follow. With massively successful movies like The Revenant (still pouring one out for that poor horse), Inside Out, and Room still fresh in our minds, 2016 had to go big in order to stand out in the cinema department. And stand out it most definitely did! Read on to get our take on the best films of the year (so far!) and be sure to keep a tally of how many of these pics pick up award nominations.
In a word: Aliens! But not the cheesy kind. This surprise hit stars Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, and Forest Whitaker.
THE BIRTH OF A NATION
For most, this film is tough to watch. It's an important one, though, and it was an absolute hit on the festival circuit. Nate Parker, Armie Hammer, Aja Naomi King, and Gabrielle Union star.
We're not sure if anyone was prepared for this dark comedy to take off the way it did, but we can give credit where credit is due. Maybe it's the Ryan Reynolds effect, or maybe this is just a really funny movie. Morena Baccarin and T.J. Miller also star.
EVERYBODY WANTS SOME!!
An ode to summertime in the 70s, billed as the spiritual sequel to 1993's Dazed and Confused? Enough said! The cast of cuties includes Blake Jenner, Tyler Hoechlin, Glen Powell, Ryan Guzman, and the gorgeous Zoey Deutch.
We'd watch anything starring Denzel Washington and Viola Davis! Washington directed and stars in this big screen adaptation of August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning play. (This one hasn't actually hit theaters yet, but if you live in New York or Los Angeles, it'll open this Friday, Dec. 16, before it hits theaters nationwide on Christmas Day.)
We waited 13 long years for this sequel, and it was well worth the wait. Pixar sure knows how to put together an animated adventure.
The Coen Brothers knocked it out of the park with this love letter to Old Hollywood. And what a cast! Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Alden Ehrenreich, Ralph Fiennes, Jonah Hill, Scarlett Johansson, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton and Channing Tatum star.
HELL OR HIGH WATER
Oh, how we love a good ol' Western heist flick. Here, Chris Pine and Ben Foster star as our criminally inclined protagonists.
You always hear about the late John Glenn, the first American astronaut to orbit the Earth, but rarely do you hear about the team responsible for putting him there. This is the inspiring untold story of Katherine G. Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe), three African-American women working for NASA in the 1960s, who played an integral role in turning around the worldwide Space Race. Get your tissues ready, because this inspiring story is sure to tug at your heartstrings. Catch it in theaters, starting Christmas Day!
Our obsession with the Kennedys continues, and this time, we're hearing the story from Jackie's perspective. Be prepared to see a lot of Natalie Portman this awards season. Read our more detailed Jackie review here.
THE JUNGLE BOOK
Mowgli and the gang swung through theaters and left us all in awe. The live-action reimagining on Rudyard Kipling’s timeless stories and Disney’s classic animated film boasts a star-studded voice cast including Scarlett Johansson, Idris Elba, Lupita Nyong'o, Bill Murray, and many more.
LA LA LAND
Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone—together again at last! John Legend and J.K. Simmons also appear in this musical extravaganza. Insert all the heart eyes emojis.
THE LIGHT BETWEEN OCEANS
This haunting romance definitely tugged on every one of our heart strings. We're still reeling from the chemistry between Alicia Vikander and Michael Fassbender — no doubt aided by their own IRL romance.
Slumdog Millionaire’s Dev Patel gave a stellar performance as Saroo Brierley, a man who sets out to find his birth parents after being separated from his parents for more than two decades. Rooney Mara and Nicole Kidman also star.
THE LITTLE PRINCE
Netflix released this animated flick, which reminded us all of the wonders of childhood — and why we should cherish them for as long as possible. You may have recognized the voiceovers from stars like Jeff Bridges, Rachel McAdams, Marion Cotillard, James Franco and many more.
This appropriately-named film tells the story of Richard and Mildred Loving (played by Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga, respectively), an interracial couple who were instrumental in getting interracial marriage legalized in the United States. It's sure to get some awards attention.
MANCHESTER BY THE SEA
Watch this one if you need a good cry, because it's sad — like, really, really sad. Casey Affleck shines, nonetheless!
Disney introduced its first Polynesian protagonist this fall, and it was a treat for the whole family. Auli'i Cravalho and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson voiced the main characters.
Another buzzy festival flick, this heavy indie is coming-of-age story unlike any you've seen before. It's an important and socially conscious film with big names attached. Mahershala Ali (House of Cards), Naomie Harris (Spectre) and singer Janelle Monae all star.
You've never seen Adam Driver like this before. And by that we mean in a bus driver's uniform! But his performance is solid and further proves his acting chops.
QUEEN OF KATWE
Newcomer Madina Nalwanga plays 10-year-old Phiona Mutesi, a young girl in Uganda whose world changes when she is introduced to the game of chess. Lupita Nyong’o stars as Phiona’s mother Harriet, and David Oyelowo plays Robert, the soccer player-turned-missionary who brought the mentally challenging game to the village children.
We love you, Tom Hanks! This is the riveting story of heroic airline pilot Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger, who saved a plane full of passengers and crew when he regained control of a nose-diving plane and safely landed it on the Hudson River. Laura Linney, Anna Gunn, and Aaron Eckhart also star.
We loved this animated adventure, which tells the story of a modern metropolis just for animals (we also low key want to move there). You'll recognize the voices of Ginnifer Goodwin, Jason Bateman, Idris Elba, Jenny Slate and more.
Article original by Courtney Higgs by InStyle.com