- Arrival – As with Sicario and Mad Max last year my top two are interchangeable. I plumped for Arrival for various reasons; Denis Villeneuve missed out on the top slot last year, I gave movie of the month to Nocturnal Animals, but most importantly, Arrival is the film I am most looking forward to seeing again. It is impossible to talk about the film without giving away key plot points, all I can say it is an unmissable film.
- Nocturnal Animals* – While Arrival is unmissable, Nocturnal Animals is an acquired taste. The bold and visceral nature of the story is both its greatest appeal and the thing that will turn many people off. The story within a story narrative is brilliantly handled but he brilliance lies not in this subtext, but the overriding subtext. As you would expect Amy Adams is the standout, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Shannon and Aaron Taylor-Johnson all provide great support.
- The Hunt For the Wilderpeople* – Taika Waititi follows up the brilliant What We Do in the Shadows with a more conventional movie. A dysfunctional relationship between an outsider kid and a cantankerous adult, we have seen it all before but rarely done this well and with a minimum of sentiment and cliché.
- Julieta* – Pedro Almodóvar returns to the family drama focusing on female characters. While I love The Skin I Live In, this is what Almodóvar does best, and possibly better than any other Auteur. A treat for fans of Almodóvar or just fans of cinema.
- Sing Street* – John Carney’s story of a teenager who starts a band in 1980’s Dublin to impress a girl. It does nothing particularly original but is funny and charming.
- Green Room – A punk band get caught up in events that don’t concern them and end up trapped in the green room of the title after a gig. Jeremy Saulnier’s follow-up to Blue Ruin is violent, bloody and visceral. I’m sure many viewers will hate it. I loved it.
- American Honey* – Andrea Arnold has been one of Britain’s most interesting directors in recent years. For her first American movie she has taken on the most American of genres, the road movie. A cast of mainly none actors work well alongside Shia LaBeouf and Riley Keough who are both on career best form. The real star of the film is Sasha Lane who is just as impressive as Katie Jarvis was in Arnold’s Fish Tank. The 2h 43min runtime flies by.
- Hell or High Water – British director David Mackenzie takes on the modern western with a top script by Taylor Sheridan. Set in small town West Texas it is very modern post fanatical crisis story. Comparisons to No Country for Old Men (2007) are inevitable, while it isn’t as good as the Coen’s movie, it is a worthy entry into the genre.
- Spotlight* – The oldest movie on the list having been release last year in some territories and in January here. Possibly the least cinematic film on the list but it is also the only best picture Oscar winner, so far. The true story of the reporters from The Boston Globe who investigated allegations of child abuse in the catholic church in Boston. The delicate subject matter is perfectly handled. The film is understated and old fashioned in the best possible way. The entire ensemble cast are brilliant not just the two who received nominations.
- Rogue One – A late entry to the list. Described as an anthology film rather than one of the episodes, it is actually a direct prequel to the original 1977 movie. Essentially a war movie set within the Star Wars universe, it has action, adventure and comedy, but it is also darker than any of the other movies. The cast is fantastic particularly Felicity Jones in the lead.
* Indicates movie of the month winner.