all the movies you should have seen in 2016

Our guide to films to catch up on over Christmas.

Dec 27 2016, 7:50am

In this steaming shit of a year, the movies proved a great escape. They allowed us to forget - if all too briefly - about the horrors of Trump and Brexit, about the deaths of David Bowie and Leonard Cohen. The movies threw us a lifeline. They were the best solace. Yeah they also gave us the Point Break remake and Independence Day 2, but let's just put that to one side for now. This is about escaping said apocalypse via the big screen and reaffirming your faith in, well, everything. 

American Honey

Obviously Andrea Arnold's bruising road movie about travelling mag crews is memorable for Shia LaBeouf's rattail. You can't not be transfixed by it. But beyond that, it's impossible to shake the image of Sasha Lane's free spirit reaching for the sky in an open-top car. Or the camaraderie of the crew in the van as they chant, "I like to make money, get turnt". Or what's surely one of the most honest sex scenes committed to celluloid. If the film feels authentic, like Arnold bottled that feeling of travelling on the open road, it's because it was filmed over one crazy summer spent on the road IRL, the chaos captured chronologically. It was a stroke of genius, as it turns out. 


To watch Victoria is to experience a wild night out in Berlin from the sober comfort of a cinema. Which sounds depressing, I know, because who wants to be the only sober person on a wild night out? But thanks to the dizzying camerawork - a single 138-minute take, no cuts whatsoever - you start to feel giddy yourself 30 minutes in. By that time of course you're strapped in for the ride, as a young Spanish woman gets caught up in a late-night heist that leaves you dripping in sweat. 

Everybody Wants Some!!

Littered with handlebar moustaches, short shorts and aviators, you might assume Linklater's 80s-set "spiritual sequel" to Dazed and Confused is swamped in clichés. It isn't. It may even be the first film to portray jocks as anything other than macho dicks with fuck-'em-and-chuck-'em attitudes to dating. Linklater, reflecting on his own college years as a baseball player, makes you wanna hang out with these beer-guzzlers. He also makes you think, Man, the 80s look like a whole lotta fun.

Little Men

Little Men is a contender for the most out-of-the-blue brilliant, totally unexpected gem of the year. It's a tale about gentrification in the Big Apple viewed through the friendship of two young and confused boys. That friendship is put through the wringer as their parents lock horns over the details of a lease on an unprofitable shop. The film makes you think about the forward march of time, how, at that age, you can lose friends as quick as you can make them, and how things beyond your control can change your entire world. 

Mapplethorpe: Look At the Pictures

You don't need to be a fan of Mapplethorpe to enjoy this eye-opening doc about the NYC photographer. As he says himself: "The photographs, I think, are less important than the life that one is leading." And what a life it was. He dated Patti Smith, rubbed shoulders with Warhol, and photographed all manner of people things in his studio (a rare photographer equally comfortable capturing flowers in still life as he was erect penises)


In Jim Jarmusch's return to form, Adam Driver plays a bus driver who's also a prolific poet. He pens poems in between shifts that reflect his simple life: he drives a bus, he walks his dog, he goes to a bar, he sleeps. Then he does it all over again. I realise that hardly sounds like a thrilling cinematic experience. But Jarmusch manages to amplify the mundane moments in this guy's life to the point where they become absurd, hilariously deadpan, and quietly poetic.


Sonita is a hard-hitting doc about teen rapper Sonita Alizadeh, an undocumented Afghan refugee living in Iran. Her heartfelt lyrics about young women in Iran and Afghanistan, who are essentially sold as teenage brides, are a middle finger raised to the society in which she lives. "We don't have price tags like sheep," she says to a friend. At its core it's an intimate portrait of a fearless teen with big dreams who faces a brutal reality unimaginable to most Westerners.


Charlie Kaufman's mind-melting animation is not your average puppet movie. For one thing, it's about a self-help author in the throes of an existential crisis. For another, it features a beautifully awkward and realistic sex scene where you constantly have to remind yourself you're watching puppets. Stranger still, in a Being John Malkovish-esque nightmare, every character bar the protagonist has the voice of Tom Noonan. One of 2016's most out there movies, for sure.

Your Name

The year's best anime is a tale about body-swapping teens. The swap happens as an epic comet streams across the sky, with an ecological catastrophe imminent, both teens asking themselves why? Then they find out. The film broke records at the Japanese box office, with many people hailing filmmaker, Makoto Shinkai, as the next Hayao Miyazaki.

Author: The JT LeRoy Story

Finally, the story behind 'the greatest literary hoax of our time' has been unveiled. In this revealing doc, we learn why and how writer Laura Albert created and hid behind JT LeRoy, the 16-year-old literary sensation with a tragic back-story. We also see how she managed to fool artists like Tom Waits, Courtney Love and Billy Corgan, many of whom you suspect are red in the face as a result of this doc's release.


In today's world of clickbait and tabloid sleaze, it's rare to see journalists portrayed as heroes on screen. In Spotlight that's exactly what they are. Based on a true story it follows a team of Boston Globe journos investigating allegations against an unfrocked priest accused of molesting more than 80 boys. What they uncover is jaw-dropping and sickening. Their noble endeavours might - just might - even restore your faith in the future of journalism.


The film many called the Turkish Virgin Suicides is about the day-to-day trenches of adolescence in rural Turkey. In it, five sisters are essentially punished for being girls, for splashing in the sea with boys, for wearing clothes that don't cover every inch of their skin. On top of that, they're married off one by one to men they've never met, and subjected to 'virginity reports'. A poignant coming-of-ager that delivers an emotional gut-punch.


Did Anthony Weiner, the former Democratic congressmen and NYC mayoral candidate, effectively cock block Hillary Clinton's presidency? Weiner, a politician with a penchant for dick pics, was recently investigated by the FBI amid allegations he sexted a 15-year-old girl. And because his wife, Huma Abedin, was Clinton's closest aide, all their emails were dragged into the headlines yet again. This timely doc has all the background info to that story and the strange, strange man with the unfortunate name.


All 15-year-old Brandon wanted was a fresh pair of Air Jordans. He saves up and finally gets a pair. Then he's robbed and has to deal with a loss tantamount to your worst break-up. So begins his ambitious quest to track down the robber, a feared local gangbanger, and reclaim his precious Jordans. Set in the East Bay area of Richmond, California, Justin Tipping's striking feature debut captures teen life in a rough neighbourhood, as kids steal forties and cruise through town on BMXs. It's beautifully shot, with plenty of stylish slo-mo sequences and close-ups of its cast of unknowns. Keep an eye out for Tipping. He's going places.

I, Daniel Blake

Ken Loach, Britain's high priest of social realism, returns with a powerful drama about a carpenter who is unfit for work and in need of state welfare. The people at Jobcenter Plus however, say he is fit for work, and what follows is a painful trudge through a swamp of red tape. It's a heartbreaking film about the day-to-day struggles of living on the breadline, and how the smallest acts of kindness can be a guiding light in dark moments. A deserved winner of the Palme d'Or at Cannes and a return to form for the director of Kes

Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World

Werner Herzog, in his inimitable Bavarian drawl, narrates his film about theinternet. Navigating the online wilderness, he poses questions like, "Will our great grandchildren need the companionship of humans or will they have evolved in a world where that's not important?" and, "Does the internet dream of itself?" It's an eccentric's take on the Internet, and it's exactly what you'd expect from the man who once ate his own shoe.



Text Oliver Lunn