Campus Citizen's Top 5 Films of 2016


Coleton Emmel, Stephen Brinkeroff, and Manuel Fernandez, our three film critics, have come together to make a list of the overall best films of 2016. If you want to see their personal favorites of the year, click on the links below:

Coleton’s Top 5 Films

Stephen’s Top 5 Films

Manuel’s Top 5 Films

5. “Arrival”

Every year during the fall season, there’s always a big sci-fi film to be released that many find enjoyable. Last year was Ridley Scott’s “The Martian” and previous years included “Interstellar” and “Gravity”. And this year, folks were treated to “Arrival” starring Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, and Forest Whitaker.

This film makes viewers use their brain, not usually required for the typical movie goer, for this sci-fi flick focusing on aliens arriving on Earth in various locations across the globe and trying to find out what their purpose is for being on the planet. Adams’ character is brought in by the army for his knowledge in numerous languages to try and communicate with the extra-terrestrials.

It is a very slow paced film, but the payoff is well worth the watch as it rewards the audience for thinking about what actions are being done in the film. The cast, especially Adams whose performance is Oscar-worthy, bring their A-game to the film and all do a wonderful job in portraying their characters.

Alongside those high qualities and a good message for our society on universal language, “Arrival” is one of 2016’s most complex and thought-provoking films, earning its place on our top 5.

Link to Stephen’s review.

4. “Captain America: Civil War”

Being a sequel to the surprising well received “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” “Civil War” is not only one of the best films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), but also one of the best superhero films ever.

Taking a different angle than most superhero films, “Civil War” looks at two sides of the superhero life, one focusing on the freedom of doing what is right without any government control while the other looks at the consequences of not being limited to their powers.

“Civil War” doesn’t make one side better than the other as it isn’t surprising if one found it difficult to choose a particular side, and is one of the many highlights the film offers. Tie that in with some of the best superhero fight scenes to date, one can find at least one thing to admire in “Civil War”. Should be seeing great things during the third phase of the MCU.

3. “Moana”

The second film made by the Walt Disney Animation Studio in 2016, first one being the highly acclaimed “Zootopia,” “Moana” doesn’t show any steam lost for the studio.

From the catchy songs with the aid of legendary “Hamilton” star Lin-Manuel Miranda to it’s breathtaking animation, “Moana” tells the story of Moana, a young princess who is in line to lead her tribe, who is sent to track down legendary Demigod, Maui, to lift a plague that has spread across her island of Motunui.

The film, overall, is a very fun and charming film with some great work from its animators, energetic voice cast consisting of Dwayne Johnson and newcomer, Auli'i Cravalho, and competent directing. It takes a typical story Disney is usually known for, which could be an issue, and makes it feel like it’s being told for the first time.

If “Zootopia” didn’t impress you, “Moana” is still well worth the watch. It has enough high qualities to be a welcoming entry into the Animated Disney lineup.

Link to Manuel’s review.

2. “Hacksaw Ridge”

Taking a much darker tone compared to the other films on this list, Mel Gibson comes back to the directing chair to deliver one of his best works in years with “Hacksaw Ridge.” 

Based on a true story about combat medic, Desmond Doss, “Hacksaw Ridge” shows viewers the violent nature of war while also throwing in themes of belief. The themes in the film work amazingly well for using Christianity not as a way to force the religion into viewer’s face, but as a way to portray how important it is to hold onto your beliefs, no matter what anyone says.

The cast Gibson directs are out of this world with many career highs from Andrew Garfield, Vince Vaughn, and Sam Worthington, giving many layers to their real life counterparts. Put them in some of the most realistic war scenes, and audience members get one of the best film experiences of the year, easily making it our number two spot.

Link to Coleton’s review.

1. “La La Land”

Coming out near the end of the year, “La La Land” hits audiences hard by being easily our top pick for best movie of 2016.

Directed and written by Damien Chazelle, who worked previously on his critically acclaimed film, “Whiplash,” “La La Land” uses music, once again, to tell a narrative on the passion of art. Instead of a drummer seeking to be one of the greats, there’s now an actress living in Los Angeles trying to make her mark on the world as well as a jazz pianist who also wishes to make a career out of his love of art.

Don’t let the fact that this film is a musical get to you as there’s plenty to enjoy here, from the dynamic duo of Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, both giving some of their best work to date, toe-tapping music, and amazing aesthetics. It both hearkens and brings the style of 50s musicals into the 21st century without any missteps. Not many films like this is made anymore, making it a real standout to most films this year.

The story, like “Moana” is nothing new, but it’s how Chazelle tells it that makes it well worth viewing. It takes the story and tells viewers to follow their dreams, whatever they may be, and make something out of it. It’s simple, yet so effective.

There’s no film like it, “La La Land” is truly a sight to behold. Do whatever it takes to see it and you won’t regret.

Link to Coleton’s review.

What were your favorite films of 2016? Have you seen these five films yet? If so, what did you think? Leave a comment below to share your thoughts and cheers to a new year.