The best films of 2016

We asked 163 critics and curators to name their five top movies of the year – and atop what may be our most diverse annual poll yet, the runaway winner is a German comedy…

☞ See our January 2017 issue for more reflections on the year in cinema

☞ The best DVDs and Blu-rays of 2016
☞ The best documentaries of 2016
☞ The best indie animation of 2016
☞ Video: The superhero movies of 2016

Sight & Sound contributors
Updated:

Toni Erdmann (2016)

1. Toni Erdmann

Maren Ade, Germany-Austria  (UK release 3 February 2017)  ► Trailer

A shambling baby boomer pushes his high-achieving daughter’s buttons with a series of increasingly bizarre practical jokes.

49 votes

“Maren Ade’s winning daughter-father comedy contains some of the sharpest moments of audience blindsiding I’ve ever encountered… Following the death of his pet dog, Winfried Conradi (Peter Simonischek), a retired man fond of practical jokes, decides to visit his workaholic daughter Ines (Sandra Hüller) in Bucharest, to bring a little chaos into her too well-ordered life. He adopts a new, entrepreneurial persona: ‘Toni Erdmann’. Ade’s structural panache and nose for a perfect take (I hear she shot 500 hours of material) are matched by the actors’ comic timing.”

— Nick James, reporting from Cannes in our July 2016 issue

Read our first-look Toni Erdmann review

 

Moonlight (2016)

2. Moonlight

Barry Jenkins, USA  (UK release 24 February 2016)  ► Trailer

Three chapters in the life of Chiron, a shy black kid growing up gay and poor in 1980s Miami.

34 votes

A film about the complexity of black masculinity and the very human hunger for connection; about the fragility that lies beneath a man’s swagger – what it means to be ‘soft’ and what it means to be strong… Jenkins takes clichés about addiction, drugs, poverty, violence and homophobia in black America, and changes their context by shading familiar situations and archetypes of black life with careful detail and texture.

— Simran Hans

Read the full first-look Moonlight review

 

Elle (2016)

3. Elle

Paul Verhoeven, France-Germany  (UK release 10 March 2017)  ► Trailer

A wealthy video games executive (Isabelle Huppert) follows an unconventional script while attempting to parse her rape.

33 votes

Trust Verhoeven to venture where most wouldn’t dare: a psychological rape-revenge fantasy thriller with jump-out-of-your-skin attack moments orchestated to a pounding score, and laced with comedy throughout. What should be problematic is here more complicated and intelligent than it first appears: rape is never a joke and Isabelle Huppert’s Michèle LeBlanc never a victim.

— Nick James, reporting from Cannes

Read our first-look Elle review

 

Certain Women (2013)

4. Certain Women

Kelly Reichardt, USA  (UK release 3 March 2017)  ► Trailer

Starry, but understated, ensemble drama from the director of Meek’s Cutoff. Four women (played by Kristen Stewart, Michelle Williams, Laura Dern and Lily Gladstone) navigate the male-dominated environs of Livingston, Montana.

25 votes

These stories are loosely connected, but it is the parallels between them, rather than the intersections, that underscore the isolation of these women, the exhaustion that has become second nature, their stoicism. One senses these are women whose shoes hurt them… Coming out of the cinema, I found myself looking at the women around me and wondering what their stories were. Certain Women is a work of art produced by a director in full control of her material.

— Catherine Wheatley

Read the full first-look Certain Women review

 

American Honey (2016)

5. American Honey

Andrea Arnold, USA-UK  (UK release 14 October 2016)  ► Trailer

A team of trap-loving teens hit the road to sell magazine subscriptions across an America still reeling from the housing crash.

20 votes

American Honey promises a clear narrative path from the moment it drops in a cutaway to a pair of ruby slippers and Star leaps out of her tree-swing, resolved to leave her home behind and hit the road. With dreadlocks for pigtails and a rucksack instead of a pinafore, Star is a new Dorothy, with the sales team her broken friends seeking completion.

— Pamela Hutchinson

Read our American Honey review

 

I, Daniel Blake (2016)

6. I, Daniel Blake

Ken Loach, United Kingdom-France-Belgium  (UK release 21 October 2016)  ► Trailer

An excoriating attack on Britain’s welfare system. Unemployed carpenter Daniel Blake struggles to sign up for benefits after suffering a heart attack.

17 votes

A portal into real-life misery caused by systemic cruelty. Anyone who has seen Loach’s work will find nothing radically new in this tale of people on the poverty line in Newcastle, except that he refrains from underlining his points. Katie (Hayley Squires) is a young single mum with two kids to feed, forcibly moved from the south; Daniel Blake is an elderly carpenter, recovering from a heart attack and expected to look for work he can’t do. What blindsides you here is grief for what has been allowed to happen to Britain’s welfare state, our nasty, failure-encouraging computer-automated benefits system.

— Nick James, reporting from Cannes

Read our I, Daniel Blake review

 

Manchester by the Sea (2016)

7. Manchester by the Sea

Kenneth Lonergan, USA  (UK release 13 January 2017)  ► Trailer

A depressed handyman is forced to face the tragedy in his past after his brother dies and leaves him the sole guardian of his nephew.

16 votes

Manchester by the Sea is as flat and grey as Boston – the palette of grief is unchangingly colourless. Yet no matter how it looks from the outside, Lonergan takes care to show the many shades of emotion that bereavement encompasses… The way Affleck, Hedges and Williams inhabit his characters in all of their complicated, uncomfortable sadness is the film’s strength, making the time spent with them an exercise in human grace – and as pleasurable a viewing experience as a film about death could hope to be.

— Simran Hans

Read the full first-look Manchester by the Sea review

 

Things to Come (L’Avenir, 2016)

8. Things to Come (L’Avenir)

Mia Hansen-Løve, France-Germany  (UK release 2 September 2016)  ► Trailer

A philosophy professor is forced to question her theories after her husband’s decision to leave her for a younger woman throws her into a late-life crisis.

15 votes

Wry, humane and thoughtful, the film treats its destabilising cluster of crises with extraordinary restraint; it retains a welcome briskness that mimics Huppert’s impatient stride. One of its most enjoyable aspects is its ability to show Nathalie’s unnerving freedom in all its ups and downs rather than as a hackneyed journey of self-discovery… Able to slide from irritable to vulnerable within a sentence, Huppert is a sheer delight, utillising her often prickly screen persona to fine effect.

— Kate Stables

Read our Things to Come review

 

Paterson (2016)

9. Paterson

Jim Jarmusch, USA/Germany/France  (UK release 25 November 2016)  ► Trailer

Gentle drama about a thoughtful bus driver who makes connections between the goings-on in his eponymous hometown via his William Carlos Williams-inspired poetry.

14 votes

Jarmusch’s taste for ordinary vibrant things – such as a perfect box of matches – is here the launchpad for a droll and lovely diary film that captures a week in the life of our couple. It’s an exquisitely modest, heartfelt film with a quietly moving way with gags – pure Jarmusch, yet reminiscent too of Aki Kaurismäki’s tributes to working stiffs. If there’s more than a hint of manic pixie dream girl about Laura, it’s offset by her growling English bulldog Marvin, to whom Paterson is just as much married.

— Nick James, reporting from Cannes

Read the full Paterson review

 

The Death of Louis XIV (2016)

10. The Death of Louis XIV

Albert Serra, France-Portugal-Spain  (UK release undated)  ► Trailer

Two weeks by the deathbed of the king of France, who – after a lifetime of rule under self-proclaimed divine right – is forced to face his mortality.

13 votes

Serra’s film doesn’t mock or make heavy weather of the notorious layers upon layers of ritual and protocol that distinguished the royal court at Versailles. But throughout we are sharply aware of the stark dichotomy between the corporeal presence of the king – a dying, rotting body which will be dissected and dismantled by royal surgeons at the end of the film – and the idealised nature of the ‘royal body’ as pure symbol… For his latest ‘sacred monster’ study, Serra has made a film in a somewhat classic mode – ‘classic’ in the sense of contained, stately, solemn – and a film that is extremely beautiful and even moving, in a rigorously detached way.

— Jonathan Romney

Read the full The Death of Louis XIV review

 

Personal Shopper (2016)

=11. Personal Shopper

Olivier Assayas, France  (UK cinema release 3 March 2017)  ► Trailer

A harried personal assistant balances the demands of her celebrity employer with those of her recently deceased brother.

12 votes

Kristen Stewart is an enigmatic, warily frayed-yet-unafraid presence, almost as if she’d be happy to step over to the ‘other side’ at any moment. She is unquestionably the actress of the moment, magnetically watchable no matter what she does, even bobbing about Parisian traffic at night helmeted on a scooter dangling garment bags.

— Nick James

Read the full first-look Personal Shopper review

 

Sierranevada (2016)

=11. Sieranevada

Cristi Puiu, Romania-France  (UK release undated)  12 votes

Lary, a successful neurologist, returns to the his mother’s crowded flat to spend the day commemorating his father with his rowdy, outspoken family.

► Trailer

A mordant farce about a family memorial meal that never gets to the eating, it’s a masterpiece of choreography in tight spaces, following the ebb and flow of tension, argument and revelation among the members of a large family group. In terms of its Short Cuts-style management of multiple story threads, Sieranevada out-Altmans Altman – largely without leaving its predominant set.

— Nick James, reporting from Cannes

Read our first-look Sieranevada review

 

Fire at Sea (Fuocoammare, 2016)

=13. Fire at Sea

Gianfranco Rosi, Italy-France  (UK cinema release 10 June 2016)  ► Trailer

The migrant crisis on the ground. A documentary shot on the island of Lampedusa as the long-term inhabitants are joined by refugees who’ve made the dangerous journey across the Mediterranean.

11 votes

Fire at Sea is a genuine triumph for Rosi, its distinctive formal strategy respectful of its subjects and offering a perfect expressive conduit for the director’s characteristic musing on how film might bring points of contact between seemingly distant poles of human experience. It may not grab you by the lapels and preach to you, but its quiet intensity ultimately offers more satisfying rewards, exquisitely enhanced by Rosi’s painterly eye for Lampedusa’s magical vistas of land and sea.

— Trevor Johnston

Read the full Fire at Sea review

 

Julieta (2016)

=13. Julieta

Pedro Almodóvar, Spain  (UK release 12 August 2016)  ► Trailer

Based on three short stories by Alice Munro. Julieta, who lives in Madrid, discovers that her estranged daughter Antía is living in Switzerland with her three children. She thinks back over how the pair became separated.

11 votes

This tantalisingly open-ended film is Almodóvar’s most sombre to date: it is to his last feature, 2013’s airline farce I’m So Excited!, as Interiors (1978) was to Woody Allen’s Bananas (1971). Julieta is overtly serious in its concern with loss and the mature retrospective contemplation of life’s complexity, its visual energy contrasting strongly with its emotional severity and the almost total absence of either comedy or manifest narrative playfulness.

— Jonathan Romney

Read the full Julieta review

 

Nocturama (2016)

=13. Nocturama

Bertrand Bonello, France-Germany-Belgium  (UK release undated)  ► Trailer

Slick thriller about the planning, enacting and aftermath of a terrorist attack performed by a group of Parisian teenagers.

11 votes

A blast of cool in a time of heat, Bertrand Bonello’s Nocturama upends so many received notions at once that there shouldn’t be any surprise that it’s dividing critics, festival audiences and everyone else encountering and wrestling with it… As exquisite and symphonic a display of pure genre pleasure as any movie this year, but wound inside an explosive politics and a set of unanswered questions opening a Pandora’s Box of possible outcomes.

— Robert Koehler

Read the full first-look Nocturama review

 

Cameraperson (2016)

=16. Cameraperson

Kirstsen Johnson, USA  (UK release 27 January 2017)  ► Trailer

An examination of the ethics of nonfiction filmmaking by way of a first-person diary film, featuring outtakes from 25 years’ worth of documentaries shot by Fahrenheit 9/11 cinematographer Kirsten Johnson.

10 votes

Kirsten Johnson’s Cameraperson concerns itself with the often idealistic, always knotty human desire to connect through documentary images. She goes through a catalogue of unused material from her long career as a cinematographer to make a kind of self-portrait through scraps, a diary by way of other filmmakers’ unwanted bits… Profound empathy is manufactured by witnessing Johnson trying to find her shots and trying to decide when not to shoot. Scenes of pain and sadness are exhilaratingly edited next to scenes of exuberance.

Robert Greene

Read our first-look Cameraperson review

 

La La Land (2016)

=16. La La Land

Damien Chazelle, USA  (UK release 13 January 2017)  ► Trailer

Aspiring actress Mia (Emma Stone) and lovelorn jazz musician Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) embark on a romance in a musical set among the bright lights and busy traffic of Los Angeles.

10 votes

Neither Emma Stone (as aspiring actress Mia) nor Ryan Gosling (jazz pianist Seb) can sing or dance like a pro, but that’s partly the point, and the poignance: these aren’t stars yet, they’re fledgling talents, frustrated dreamers yearning for something bigger and better that may not even exist anymore. But when they pull on their taps and warble through one of Justin Hurwitz’s melancholy, and sometimes quite lovely, melodies, the actors’ charm and chemistry shine through.

— Tom Charity

Read the full first-look La La Land review

 

Love and Friendship (2016)

18. Love & Friendship

Whit Stillman, Ireland/France/The Netherlands/USA/UK  (UK release 27 May 2016)  ► Trailer

An ambitious lady skirts the Regency rulebook as she secures her place in polite society by manipulating her suitors.

9 votes

Stillman is experienced at putting unpleasant characters to the fore of his films. It takes the full running time of Love & Friendship to discover just how cunning and self-centred its protagonist is; less time to be certain how intelligent… Undoubtedly, Lady Susan is beautiful, but it’s social intelligence that enables her to control others with staggering success. As such, she is very like Jane Austen, if Austen had bent her gift of perception to evildoing.

— Thirza Wakefield

Read the full Love & Friendship review

 

Aquarius (2016)

=19. Aquarius

Kleber Mendonça Filho, Brazil-France  (UK release 24 March 2017)  ► Trailer

Faced with the sale and demolition of her apartment building, the last resident of her block stands firm against a construction company intent on development.

8 votes

Set (like the director’s debut, Neighbouring Sounds) in Recife, Brazil, Aquarius’ drama is similarly localised, though the repercussions of its economic and civic particulars are placed on one family and, in particular, one woman whose elegant but determined demeanour suggests a past with no shortage of trials and tribulations… Clara (Sonia Braga) appears in nearly every scene, framed in an array of loving closeups and rich, widescreen compositions; on more than one occasion the narrative pauses simply to observe as she sings and sways elegantly to the exotic sounds emanating from her hi-fi.

— Jordan Cronk

Read the full first-look Aquarius review

 

Victoria (2015)

=19. Victoria

Sebastian Schipper, Germany  (UK release 1 April 2016)  ► Trailer

A heist thriller shot over two hours in a single shot as the titular character moves from Berlin nightclub, to a robbery, to a street chase, to the reckoning.

8 votes

Because of the sense of ineluctable propulsion created by Grøvlen’s complex camerawork, which ducks and weaves through the shadows of a long, drunken night, the film makes you want to follow where it leads, even when the plot disregards the most basic requirements of plausibility… Schipper and his cast have managed to turn a gimmick into a surprisingly subtle portrait of a millennial generation overwhelmed by its own unstoppable momentum. 

— Lisa Mullen

Read the full Victoria review

 

Embrace of the Serpent (2015)

=21. Embrace of the Serpent

Ciro Guerra, Argentina-Colombia-Netherlands-Venezuela  (UK release 10 June 2016)  ► Trailer

A tribal shaman introduces two westerners to his vanishing way of life in a drama about the damaging effects of colonialism.

7 votes

A near-faultless amalgam of anthropology, character-driven drama and adventure that is visually resplendent, emotive, at times surprisingly witty and deeply mysterious. It’s also a roar of protest against colonialism, told from the perspective of an indigenous protagonist – not cinema’s first such character but one of its most memorable.

— Demetrios Matheou

Read the full Embrace of the Serpent review

 

Everybody Wants Some!! (2014)

=21. Everybody Wants Some!!

Richard Linklater, USA  (UK release 13 May 2016)  ► Trailer

Sunny jock comedy-drama in which the teammates on a college baseball team unite for the first day of the school. The “spiritual successor” to Dazed and Confused, according to director Richard Linklater.

7 votes

As a comedy, it’s frequently hilarious, from the wisecracking dude banter that smothers almost every scene to set pieces such as an eccentric player’s freak-out over a drinks order, which turns into an elongated discotheque brawl… Overlapping conversation, ready laughs and impressively naturalistic performances from a cast free of A-listers give Everybody Wants Some!! the easy charm of Linklater’s best work.

— Pamela Hutchinson

Read the full Everybody Wants Some!! review

 

Evolution (2015)

=21. Evolution

Lucile Hadzihalilovic, France/Spain/Belgium 2015  (UK release 6 May 2016)  ► Trailer

Supernatural rites of passage thriller set in a seaside town populated by adolescent boys and their older, female ‘carers’.

7 votes

The world here – the dark volcanic sand, a tight little village of white houses – is as strangely but as satisfyingly organised as the dank tunnels and lush forest of Innocence. For Hadzihalilovic, the sense of control is essential to the creation of a complete, self-enclosed world, and to a visual aesthetic with its own stilled, enigmatic quality, like the de Chirico paintings she admires.

— Richard Combs

Read the full Evolution review

 

Hell or High Water (2016)

=21. Hell or High Water

David Mackenzie, USA  (UK release 9 September 2016)  ► Trailer

Straight-shooting modern western in which brothers Toby (Chris Pine) and Tanner (Ben Foster) are pursued by a veteran Texas lawman (Jeff Bridges) after robbing banks to save their family home from foreclosure.

7 votes

Pine lets us know that his sense of criminal purpose comes from a simmering anger and resentment at having played his life by the rules only to find himself with nothing to show for it. Elsewhere, as the camera travels through small towns peppered with vacant retail units, and Nick Cave and Warren Ellis’s score delivers its own knowing take on honky-tonk melancholy, we certainly sense a bitterness in the air from communities feeling left behind.

— Trevor Johnston

Read the full Hell or High Water review

 

O.J.: Made in America (2016)

=21. O.J.: Made in America

Ezra Edelman, USA  (UK release undated) 

ESPN’s ambitious five-part study of 1995’s ‘trial of the century’ ran to nearly eight hours, covering the courtroom drama, the fallen hero in the dock and the fallout from the shock verdict. In the New York Times, A.O. Scott called it “a tightly packed, almost indecently entertaining piece of pop realism, a Dreiser novel infused with the spirit of Tom Wolfe,” saying it had “the grandeur and authority of the best long-form nonfiction”.

7 votes

There are multiple rich thematic seams here. The personal arc suggests not just Fitzgerald, but Welles: there is Othello, of course, the outsider hero with an overweening desire not just to belong but to possess; the hubris of Arkadin, that need to obliterate anything that could sully his carefully cultivated myth… Hank Quinlan makes an intervention in the guise of investigating officer Mark Fuhrman, a racist cop accused of planting an incriminating glove at OJ’s home. Then there’s the Kane-like memorabilia, Simpson’s trophies and souvenirs, which prove his ultimate undoing.

— Tom Charity

Read the full O.J.: Made in America review

 

=26. Lemonade

Beyoncé Knowles Carter and Kahlil Joseph with Jonas Åkerlund, Melina Matsoukas, Dikayl Rimmasch, Mark Romanek and Tod Tourso, USA  (Online release 23 April 2016)  ► Trailer

A visual album soundtracked by the music of Beyoncé and featuring the pop star alongside other notables, including Serena Williams, Afromysterics artist Laolu Senbanjo and the mothers of Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner and Michael Brown.

6 votes

No one could have predicted that Beyoncé would be responsible for one of the most discussed cinematic events of the year… What begins as a tale of marital infidelity and reconciliation reveals itself to be a pointedly political, aestheticised expression of black resistance.

— Kelli Weston

Read the full Lemonade review

 

Nocturnal Animals (2016)

=26. Nocturnal Animals

Tom Ford, USA  (UK cinema release 4 November 2016)  ► Trailer

Tom Ford’s second film, based on the book Tony and Susan by Austin Wright, follows a Los Angeles gallery owner who is shaken by the arrival of a novel by her ex that imagines a couple who come to a violent end.

6 votes

Nocturnal Animals is a film about lapses – lapses in time, memory and relationships. It’s also a film that lapses in quality and consistency of tone… In many ways, it is book-like; Ford is very effective at capturing the way reading triggers memories, the way it requires the reader to fill in a story’s gaps with their own imagination and the way getting lost in a book creates a kind of vortex in time. Yet coming in at a baggy two hours, I often wished I could skim several chapters at a time and cut to the juicy stuff.

Simran Hans

Read our Nocturnal Animals review

 

The Ornithologist (2016)

=26. The Ornithologist

(O Ornitólogo) João Pedro Rodrigues, Portugal-France-Brazil  (UK release undated) 

Erotic thriller in which a handsome ornithologist’s quest to find a rare black stork is interrupted by dangerous and – occasionally – lewd events.

6 votes

An extraordinarily rich, unpredictable fever-dream, a pilgrimage that sits somewhere alongside Buñuel’s The Milky Way, Jarman’s Sebastiane and Powell and Pressburger’s A Canterbury Tale with its fusion of religious iconography and sexual and spiritual anguish, coupled with a palpable reverence for the mysterious cross-currents of the natural world.

— Tom Charity, reporting from the Toronto International Film Festival in our November 2016 issue

 

Raw (2016)

=26. Raw

(Grave) Julia Ducournau, France-Belgium  (UK release undated)  ► Trailer

A vegetarian college student develops a taste for human flesh after a bizarre initiation ritual in which she’s forced to eat a rabbit kidney.

6 votes

French writer-director Julia Ducournau’s extraordinary first feature is a heady, blood-soaked examination of femininity, sexual awakening and the sisterly bond… The script is at once fiercely original and replete with a rich awareness of the genre, smoothly referencing films from Carrie to Ginger Snaps and The Craft. Marillier is excellent, playing Justine with a subtlety and assurance that grounds the film, even at its most extreme.

— Chloe Roddick

Read the full first-look Raw review

 

Neruda (2016)

=26. Neruda

Pablo Larraín, France/Spain/Argentina/Chile  (UK cinema release 10 March 2017)  ► Trailer

6 votes

The life story of the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, told with a twist as the real-life senator is pursued by a fictional detective eager to arrest him after his criticisms of Chile’s post-Second World War government.

Pablo Larraín’s utterly brilliant Neruda needs to be watched more than once. Like a juggler, Larraín keeps in the air all the paradoxes and contradictions of the legend, the folktale, the myth and the man to (de)construct, in his own words, a Nerudian antibiopic of the Chilean diplomat, poet and Nobel prizewinner as working-class symbol, but also as a narcissist and a brothel habitué who is yet utterly in love with his wife.

Mar Diestro-Dópido

Read our Neruda review

 

Individual contributions

 

Sight & Sound editors’ votes and comments

Nick James

Editor

Toni Erdmann Maren Ade

Elle Paul Verhoeven

Fire at Sea Gianfranco Rosi

Embrace of the Serpent Ciro Guerra

Paterson Jim Jarmusch

A rotten year, but not for cinema. That films as imaginative as that spare portrait of an awkward young black girl, The Fits, or Barry Jenkins’s moody depiction of a black gay outsider, Moonlight, or Natalie Portman’s searing portrayal of JFK’s first lady, Jackie, don’t make my five indicates how strong it was. Also of note was Manchester by the Sea, a blue-collar high tragedy with wrenching performances that weigh the balance so carefully between the push and pull of guilt and responsibility that the film is emotionally exhausting.

Fire at Sea found a fresh way of viewing the immigrants risking their lives in lethal boats on the Mediterranean. Paterson was just the most soulful, quiet local neighbourhood pleasure at Cannes and Toni Erdmann the most outlandishly unforeseen comedy of manners. Elle is a watershed film, the most involving psychological thriller in years, and Embrace of the Serpent felt like a rethinking of so much adventure cinema from the last half century. Cinema did the seductive part of its function well, taking us out of ourselves, and how we needed that.

 

Kieron Corless

Deputy Editor

A great year for cinema, and I still haven’t seen Albert Serra’s new film. In no particular order:

Cemetery of Splendour Apichatpong Weerasethakul

A trip into the Thai subconscious and a disfigured, decaying body politic, couched in an atmosphere of tranquil unrest. It comes off like some mesmerising, serenely disruptive sci-fi.

Mimosas Oliver Laxe

The breakout film from the Galician scene is a shamanistic ride into the Moroccan mountains and desert, and more than fulfils the promise of You Are All Captains. It’s beautiful, strange, unclassifiable; Laxe will surely be one of the great directors of the next few decades.

Son of Joseph (Le Fils de Joseph) Eugène Green

A meditation on fatherhood and family filtered through the Bible and Baroque civilisation, with satirical detours into up-its-own Parisian literary culture. Another brilliant one-off from the sublime Eugène Green.

Elle Paul Verhoeven

Isabelle Huppert’s is the performance of the year, and possibly a career best. Improbably, Paul Verhoeven just gets better and better, here channelling the spirit of Fritz Lang into a contemporary allegory on unredeemable male monsters and their overcoming.

Staying Vertical (Rester Vertical) Alain Guiraudie

Wilder and freer than the more classical Stranger by the Lake, the film literally reinvents itself from scene to scene, and yet somehow feels all of a piece. Brilliantly, blackly comic.

Special mention to Slack Bay: a brilliantly achieved creation of a unique universe, melding different types of comedy – black, grotesque, farce, burlesque, comic-book, expressionist – in service of a savage social satire.

 

James Bell

Features Editor

Paterson Jim Jarmusch

Embrace of the Serpent Ciro Guerra

Elle Paul Verhoeven

Moonlight Barry Jenkins

Love & Friendship Whit Stillman

 

Nick Bradshaw

Web Editor

Cameraperson Kirsten Johnston

Tempestad Tatiana Huezo

Kings of Nowhere Betzabé García

Depth Two Ognjen Glavonic

Dawson City: Frozen Time Bill Morrison

 

Isabel Stevens

Production Editor

Toni Erdmann Maren Ade

Baden Baden Rachel Lang

Certain Women Kelly Reichardt

Elle Paul Verhoeven

Moonlight Barry Jenkins

 

International critics and curators’ votes and comments

Jason Anderson

Critic (Cinema-scope) and programmer (TIFF), Canada

Toni Erdmann Maren Ade

Certain Women Kelly Reichardt

The Witch Robert Eggers

The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Maki Juho Kuosmanen

Moonlight Barry Jenkins

 

Geoff Andrew

Programmer-at-large (BFI Southbank), UK

Sieranevada Cristi Puiu

Paterson Jim Jarmusch

A Quiet Passion Terence Davies

Fire at Sea (Fuocoammare) Gianfranco Rosi

Things to Come Mia Hansen-Løve

I found it unusually difficult to choose just five top films, not because 2016 was an especially strong year (it wasn’t!) but because, excepting a few genuinely innovative standout works, it had given us a large number of strong but not quite top-grade films. Finally, after my first three choices (which absolutely had to be in), I reluctantly left out 20 or 30 movies which are probably, in their own way, as strong as my fourth and fifth choices.

Fire at Sea could have been replaced by I, Daniel Blake, The Unknown Girl, Toni Erdmann, Hissein Habré: A Chadian Tragedy or various other films dealing powerfully with the politics of our troubled world. Things to Come could have been replaced by Elle (Huppert is surely the greatest actress of our age).

And I felt especially bad about not being able to include fine new works by Radu Jude, Whit Stillman, Bertrand Tavernier, Asli Ozge and José Luis Guerín, not to mention a second film – Gimme Danger – by Jim Jarmusch. Since an allocation of ten wouldn’t have been enough, five was excruciatingly insufficient.

The highlight of my year was probably the London Film Festival’s Archive Gala screening of Arthur Robison’s The Informer – a meticulous BFI restoration of one of the best British films made at the end of the silent era, with a truly superb live performance of an unusually audacious, subtle, detailed and evocative new score for sextet by virtuoso violist and composer Garth Knox. Both cinematically and musically, it was a marvellous evening.

Sadly, however, the year’s most memorable event was the shocking, perhaps wholly avoidable death of Abbas Kiarostami, for me and many others the greatest artist working in film over the last few decades. What a terrible loss to cinema.

 

Corrina Antrobus

Programmer (Bechdel Test Fest), UK

Moonlight Barry Jenkins

Mustang Deniz Gamze Ergüven

American Honey Andrea Arnold

Certain Women Kelly Reichardt

The Handmaiden Park Chan-wook

It’s been a bleak year. Political tensions have ruptured the faith of liberals and strengthened toxic extremist views. Never before has the tonic of cinema been so necessary. This list of elongated movies (many nudging the three-hour notch) has a silky thread of exquisite indulgence; interesting to notice that many of my choices are road movies featuring an reckless escape plan. With their far-flung narratives and acute, complex character portraits they provide respite from the social unrest.

Aside from haute escapism, they offer solace to those weary of the straight white male norm. Certain Women in particular deeply understands the labour and expectations of women, and Moonlight softly confronts the pressures on black gay men. All are a feathered lash at the patriarchy, daring us to hope and reminding us to look to art in times of turmoil.

 

Michael Atkinson

Critic, USA

Cemetery of Splendour Apichatpong Weerasethakul

The Lobster Yorgos Lanthimos

Toni Erdmann Maren Ade

Evolution Lucile Hadzihalilovic

The Academy of Muses José Luis Guerín

As always, the early delivery of this list leaves many candidates unscreened; that, plus filing it the morning after the US entered its initial stages as a fascist nation does not cast a happy glow on the proceedings. Insofar as the context of my choices matter, here are my runners-up, in order: Fireworks Wednesday, Cameraperson, Moonlight, The Witch, High-Rise, Dheepan, Aferim! and Mountains May Depart.

 

Miriam Bale

Critic, USA

Elle Paul Verhoeven

Personal Shopper Olivier Assayas

The Love Witch Anna Biller

Lemonade Beyoncé Knowles Carter & Kahlil Joseph with Jonas Åkerlund, Melina Matsoukas, Dikayl Rimmasch, Mark Romanek, Tod Tourso

The Dreamed Path Angela Schanelec

 

Erika Balsom

Senior lecturer in Film Studies, 
King’s College London, UK

The Death of Louis XIV Albert Serra

The Illinois Parables Deborah Stratman

Toni Erdmann Maren Ade

Elle Paul Verhoeven

General Report II: The New Abduction of Europe Pere Portabella

As always, I feel like I missed so much this year – but at the same time I saw many films I loved. Beyond my top five features, favourite shorts include Laida Lertxundi’s Vivir para Vivir, Guillermo Moncayo’s The Event Horizon, Corin Sworn and Charlotte Prodger’s HDHB, Kathryn Elkin’s Why La Bamba and Kevin Jerome Everson’s Ears, Nose and Throat.

My top moving-image exhibitions include Philippe Parreno at HangarBicocca, The Inoperative Community at Raven Row, Jean-Paul Kelly at Delfina Foundation, Amar Kanwar at Frac des Pays de la Loire and Clemens von Wedemeyer at the Neuer Berliner Kunstverein.

My historical discovery of the year is Jean Matthee’s superlative Neon Queen (1985). Other repertory favourites include the Pere Portabella retrospective at Rotterdam, the restoration of Lizzie Borden’s Born in Flames (1983), the pairing of Song of Ceylon (1934) with Harun Farocki’s 1975 made-for-TV essay Über Song of Ceylon von Basil Wright at the Birkbeck Institute for the Moving Image, the AV Festival’s programme Tracing the Anabasis of the Japanese Red Army and Malcolm Le Grice’s performance of Horror Film (1971) at the BFI.

The live performance of Marcos Bertoni’s Cocô Preto (2003) – part of Federico Windhausen’s excellent El Pueblo theme programme at Oberhausen – is maybe the most fun I’ve ever had in a cinema.

 

Nikki Baughan

Critic, UK

The Girl with All the Gifts Colm McCarthy

Arrival Denis Villeneuve

Under the Shadow Babak Anvari

The Keeping Room Daniel Barber

American Honey Andrea Arnold

It has been a pleasingly strong year for female-led narratives. It’s no coincidence that my favourite films of 2016 have all featured strong, multi-faceted female protagonists with fascinating stories to tell across multiple genres, from science fiction to horror and drama. Whether these women hold the fate of humanity in their hands or are fighting for individual survival, are coolly competent or deeply flawed, they have all been treated with respect, intelligence and empathy by the filmmakers who created them, and the performers who brought them to life. And that makes for some of the year’s most original, powerful and inspiring cinema.

 

Anne Billson

Critic, Belgium

The Blackcoat’s Daughter (aka February) Oz Perkins

Hail, Caesar! Ethan Coen & Joel Coen

Hell or High Water David Mackenzie

Love & Friendship Whit Stillman

Our Little Sister Koreeda Hirokazu

Among the films that might have made my cut had we been allowed ten picks: De Palma, The Invitation, Julieta, The Shallows and Train to Busan. I also loved Julia Ducournau’s Raw and Olivier Assayas’s Personal Shopper, but left them out because they haven’t yet gone on wide release.

It was a lousy year for blockbusters, most of which I have already forgotten, but a great one for low(er) budget genre: I enjoyed the hell out of the likes of 10 Cloverfield Lane, The Conjuring 2, Ouija: Origin of Evil, The Purge: Election Year, Lights Out and Don’t Breathe.

Among the other highlights of my cinema-going year was a season of Ozu films at Flagey Cinematek in Brussels: calm, humane and exquisitely crafted – just the thing to offset the horrors of 2016 and remind one of the better, more civilised world that does still exist, even if it’s only on the screen. If anyone needs me, I’ll be drinking Kirin in the Luna Bar.

 

Daniel Bird

Writer, filmmaker and programmer, UK

Elle Paul Verhoeven

Tony Conrad: Completely in the Present Tyler Hubby

Embrace of the Serpent Ciro Guerra

Psychonauts, the Forgotten Children Rivero Pedro, Vãzquez Alberto

Personal Shopper Olivier Assayas

 

Anton Bitel

Critic, UK

Remainder Omer Fast

Embers Claire Carré

Aloys Tobias Nölle

A Dark Song Liam Gavin

The Ghoul Gareth Tunley

If the five films selected here as my favourites for this year have a common theme, it is the obsessive yet vain effort to take back something irrecoverable (faded memories, a misspent life, the dead) – and three of them (Remainder, Aloys, The Ghoul) focus on alienated white adult males lost to a deluded sense of fantasy and nostalgia. In other words, these are all titles well-suited – however coincidentally – to the year that has brought us Brexit and Trump. After all, the air is currently buzzing with the backward-looking ideology that prefers to reconstruct an ill-remembered, idealised past than to face the realities of the present – and patriarchy, feeling vulnerable to progress, has proven all too eager to claw back its former ‘glory’ days. At least Embers holds out the hope for maintaining humanity during an (amnesi-)apocalypse, while A Dark Song locates, in its protagonist’s most despairing and vindictive drives, her better feelings.

 

Ela Bittencourt

Film critic and curator, Brazil, Poland and USA

All the Cities of the North Dane Komljen

A great surprise in Locarno: indefinable. Tony Pipolo, writing for Artforum, likened it to the work of Aleksandr Sokurov, yet there is a welcome coolness in Komljen’s gaze, in his avid interest in materials and forms, which recalls some of the recent video art, particularly video focused on architecture.

In this sense, Komljen’s work brings him closer to Alia Farid – a Kuwaiti visual artist whose video, a commentary on brutalist architecture of the 1950s and 60s, I saw at this year’s Bienal in São Paulo – than to most narrative filmmakers. (Thematically, Komljen’s earlier short, All Still Orbit, directed with James Lattimer, shared some affinity with the video work of Brazilian artist Ana Vaz, particularly her short 16mm film, A Idade da Pedra; both studied at Le Fresnoy Studio National des Arts Contemporains, France.) Yet Komljen’s gift for storytelling, while unconventional, also shows his appreciation of literature.

Dawson City: Frozen Time Bill Morrison

For its passionate excavation of archival footage and hypnotic delivery.

Aquarius Kleber Mendonça Filho

For its social portent and the breadth of its characters, an intricate, laser-like vision of where Brazil is today, in its latest, neoconservative reincarnation.

La Noche Edgardo Castro

For its restless and exuberant sex-driven energy, which seemed to scare off some young viewers at FicValdivia yet held some of us in a perpetual trance.

Bleak Street Arturo Ripstein

Roger Koza describes Bleak Street better than I can: “Arturo Ripstein’s films are an anomaly in our current film culture. Who could be interested in characters whose fate is never on their side? …Ripstein, whose dark worlds shun humour, always dispenses a certain amount of kindness to his characters. He respects and likes them, and as he films them, he is with them till their very last breath.”

 

Chris Boeckmann

Programmer (True/False Film Fest), USA

Being 17 André Téchiné

Lemonade Beyoncé Knowles Carter & Kahlil Joseph with Jonas Åkerlund, Melina Matsoukas, Dikayl Rimmasch, Mark Romanek, Tod Tourso

Fire at Sea (Fuocoammare) Gianfranco Rosi

Nocturama Bertrand Bonello

Starless Dreams Mehrdad Oskouei

 

Lucy Bolton

Senior lecturer in Film Studies, UK

The Shallows Jaume Collet-Serra

Losing Ground Kathleen Collins

Queen of Katwe Mira Nair

Certain Women Kelly Reichardt

Ingrid Bergman In Her Own Words Stig Bjorkman

The highlights of this year for me were being introduced to the uniquely magnificent Losing Ground as part of the ‘Woman with a Movie Camera’ season at the BFI (now available on DVD); seeing Ingrid Bergman’s home movies and learning so much more about this strong, talented woman; and the first top-notch shark movie for many a year.

 

Peter Bradshaw

Critic (the Guardian), UK

Nocturnal Animals Tom Ford

The Childhood of a Leader Brady Corbet

I, Daniel Blake Ken Loach

Divines Houda Benyamina

American Honey Andrea Arnold

 

Catherine Bray

Critic/producer, UK

Elle Paul Verhoeven

Raw Julia Ducournau

Toni Erdmann Maren Ade

Tenemos la carne Emiliano Rocha Minter

The Greasy Strangler Jim Hosking

It’s been a strong year for the outré. All of my five choices here at least flirt with grotesquery (in the case of The Greasy Strangler, it’s the film’s main mode of expression) and contain provocations ranging from the playful (Toni Erdmann and Elle) to the jaw-dropping (Tenemos la Carne and Elle), to the visceral (Raw and Elle). My personal taste leans in the direction of horror and comedy, so it’s been incredibly stimulating to see elements of those genres take such fully realised and adventurous flight in these five films, which go beyond the rote tropes that can inhibit the potential for creative storytelling.

 

Nicole Brenez

Professor/curator, France

Blanche Marc Hurtado

Bangkok Joyride Ing K

Welcome to Madagascar Franssou Prenant

I Will Pay for Your Story Lech Kowalski

Hinterlands Scott Barley

 

Sophie Brown

Programmer/film journalist, UK

No Home Movie Chantal Akerman

For its raw power. Traces of Chantal Akerman’s earlier films surface – News From Home, Les Rendez-vous d’Anna and Jeanne Dielman – as intimate moments unfold with her mother in this bold and vulnerable piece of work.

Certain Women Kelly Reichardt

For its beautiful 16mm cinematography and Kelly Reichardt’s storytelling force. Among the narratives of loneliness, ambition and frustration, Reichardt articulates a familiar experience: the suspicion, bafflement or plain disregard met by women who don’t conform to typical notions of femininity, as held by certain men.

Moonlight Barry Jenkins

For its rich layers and hypnotic sensuousness. Based on a deeply personal play by Tarell Alvin McCraney, Barry Jenkins’ film is a brilliant exploration of the relationships that have a profound impact on protagonist Chiron’s destiny.

Raw Julia Ducournau

For the riotous way it examines the dynamics of sisterhood and pressures of female identity, with violent helpings of humour and horror. Trouble Every Day meets Ginger Snaps, this is an energetic tale of cannibalistic desire.

Heart of a Dog Laurie Anderson

Because Laurie Anderson’s voice transforms words. This intimate journey through Anderson’s poetic, empathetic consciousness is both a critical reflection on modern existence, and an ode to her loves.

Other excellent films of the year: Mustang by Deniz Gamze Ergüven; Fire at Sea by Gianfranco Rosi; Behemoth by Zhao Liang.

 

Michelle Carey

Artistic director, Melbourne International Film Festival, Australia

Toni Erdmann Maren Ade

Lemonade Beyoncé Knowles Carter & Kahlil Joseph with Jonas Åkerlund, Melina Matsoukas, Dikayl Rimmasch, Mark Romanek, Tod Tourso

Nocturama Bertrand Bonello

Moonlight Barry Jenkins

Paterson Jim Jarmusch

 

Tom Charity

Programmer, VIFF Vancity Theatre; freelance writer, Canada

Cameraperson Kirsten Johnson

Toni Erdmann Maren Ade

Staying Vertical (Rester Vertical) Alain Guiraudie

The Ornithologist João Pedro Rodrigues

Hell or High Water David Mackenzie

I grew up on and still love classical Hollywood cinema, hence the inclusion of Hell or High Water, a totemic conflation of western and crime movie tropes that also managed to be more on the pulse than most of the pundits and politicians in this catastrophic US election year.

But I now appreciate movies that mess with your expectations. I know people have trouble with The Ornithologist and Staying Vertical, but for me these were the two most exciting – because unpredictable – films I saw this year. Both were were genuine cinematic adventures that threw out the rule book and seemed almost to have been carved out of nothing, nothing but the camera, the landscape, the people in the middle and the possibilities that arise. (And I have to mention that transition in Staying Vertical, the ellipsis of nine months, which really deserves to be taught in film school.)

Toni Erdmann is another film that takes genre and drags it, kicking and screaming, somewhere else. Its ‘flaws’, or rather, foibles, are what gives it some kick. Seeing that in a packed 1,600-seat house at the Vancouver International Film Festival was a highlight of the year, no question.

And finally Cameraperson… Kirsten Johnson discovers a profound, personal and political nonfiction cinema in discarded and unwanted images, odds and ends, widows and orphans. If I had to shoot one movie into space to sum up this crazy, chaotic, hurting world in 2016 it would be this one.

 

Ian Christie

Professor of film and media history at Birkbeck College, UK

I, Daniel Blake Ken Loach

Julieta Pedro Almodóvar

The Assassin Hsiao-Hsien Hou

Doctor Strange Scott Derrickson

The Revenant Alejandro González Iñárritu

Far away from what gets released in UK cinemas, there’s a growing sector of films that are only ever seen online, often described as ‘video essays’. I’ve been particularly impressed by the series of witty and very personal essays on subjects ranging from the actress Debra Paget to Sergei Eisenstein by one-time New York independent Mark Rappaport, now based in Paris and more productive than ever. Also by the video essays of Adrian Martin and Cristina Álvarez López, and by Catherine Grant’s own work in this genre and her continuing advocacy of it as a new field of creative criticism.

Doctor Strange (2016)

Doctor Strange (2016)

Read our Doctor Strange review

 

Michel Ciment

Editor, Positif, France

Graduation (Baccalauréat) Cristian Mungiu

Manchester by the Sea Kenneth Lonergan

The Revenant Alejandro González Iñárritu

Toni Erdmann Maren Ade

A Woman’s Life Stéphane Brizé

 

Ashley Clark

Critic/programmer, UK/US

Moonlight Barry Jenkins

An Ecstatic Experience Ja’Tovia Gary

The Airport John Akomfrah

Everybody Wants Some!! Richard Linklater

Peggy and Fred in Hell Leslie Thornton

Amid an endlessly jarring year – from the deaths of Bowie and Prince to the surreal, life-changing happenings of Brexit and Trumptopia – I’ve been cheered by encouraging developments in black aesthetic and storytelling modes, from the weird and truly brilliant TV show Atlanta to Barry Jenkins’s Moonlight. Not to mention a long-overdue resurgence for the superb, criminally overlooked filmmakers of the LA Rebellion: restorations of Julie Dash’s Daughters of the Dust (a clear, acknowledged influence on Beyoncé’s visual extravaganzas), Haile Gerima’s searing Ashes and Embers, and Charles Burnett’s To Sleep with Anger, a woozy fable with a vicious kick.

 

Roger Clarke

Writer and critic, UK

The Witch Robert Eggers

Evolution Lucile Hadzihalilovic

Life After Life Zhang Hanyi

The Neon Demon Nicolas Winding Refn

The Wailing Hong-jin Na

Honourable mentions to Childhood of a Leader, The Bacchus Lady, The Death of Louis XIV and The Untamed.

The Witch (2015)

Read Voices of the undead: Robert Eggers on The Witch

 

Anna Coatman

Writer and editor, UK

I, Daniel Blake Ken Loach

Lemonade Beyoncé Knowles Carter & Kahlil Joseph with Jonas Åkerlund, Melina Matsoukas, Dikayl Rimmasch, Mark Romanek, Tod Tourso

The Hard Stop George Amponsah

Vertigo Sea John Akomfrah

American Honey Andrea Arnold

 

Robbie Collin

Chief film critic, the Telegraph, UK

American Honey Andrea Arnold

Moonlight Barry Jenkins

Your Name Makoto Shinkai

The Bad Batch Ana Lily Amirpour

Lemonade Beyoncé Knowles Carter & Kahlil Joseph with Jonas Åkerlund, Melina Matsoukas, Dikayl Rimmasch, Mark Romanek, Tod Tourso

This was a good year for films, but a bad one for reviewing them – at least for beat critics like me, who spent seven months of it wading through the longest and stupidest summer season in recent memory. (Thank God for Spielberg and Disney.)

It’s hard to be too mad, though, because on any reasonable list of 2016’s calamities, you’d have to read a while before reaching Suicide Squad and Independence Day: Resurgence. I’m grateful to the five films above – plus many others, not least of all Toni Erdmann, Julieta, The Neon Demon, Paterson and Arrival – for temporarily removing me from yet somehow also helping to make sense of the past 12 months in ways the news media and my own head have been seemingly incapable of doing. Whether cinema’s dying or not, we – I – need it more than ever.

Oh: and Grimsby was tremendous, you philistines.

 

Philip Concannon

Freelance film critic, UK

Certain Women Kelly Reichardt

Dawson City: Frozen Time Bill Morrison

Elle Paul Verhoeven

Our Little Sister (Umimachi Diary) Hirokazu Koreeda

Sieranevada Cristi Puiu

“If a single movie were enough to silence reports of the death of cinema, it would be this one,” claims one of the review quotes in the US trailer for Toni Erdmann, but it was hardly the only film capable of refuting that ridiculous claim this year. Mainstream American filmmaking might be in dire straits, but the range and diversity of work beyond the multiplex was incredibly exciting to discover. Aside from the films I’ve selected, consider Aquarius, Divines, The Fits, Further Beyond, Moonlight, A Quiet Passion, Staying Vertical, Things to Come and Voyage of Time, to name just a few. These films are very much alive.

 

Mark Cousins

Filmmaker/critic, UK

Cemetery of Splendour Apichatpong Weerasethakul

Room Lenny Abrahamson

Certain Women Kelly Reichardt

Deadpool Tim Miller

Mustang Deniz Gamze Ergüven

It was a great year for films about escape. Room, These Women, Mustang and Cemetery of Splendour are all beautiful elopements. The patron saint of imprisonment in cinema, Robert Bresson, would hopefully have loved them. Deadpool made me laugh more than any film this year. It was as insolent and saucy as Lauren Bacall in The Big Sleep.

Making films in 2016 helped quench my ongoing thirst for cinema. I was so busy working that I missed Arabian Nights, Son of Saul and Fire at Sea, but I’ll see them some Tuesday afternoon in 2019.

As usual, older films were Obi-Wan Kenobi guides again this year. The reissue of Godard’s Le Mépris taught us how to do a daring soundtrack. I saw, again, Agnès Varda’s Vagabond, which is like I, Daniel Blake directed by Jean-Luc Godard. Surely it’s one of the best films ever made? And I rewatched Orson Welles’s Chimes at Midnight, beautifully restored and audible like never before. It’s like seeing a new Tintoretto painting, and as dynamic and irrepressible as, well, Deadpool.

And how’s this for a magic moment: I watched Chimes at Midnight in Welles’s daughter’s house, then she made me leftovers frittata. As Justice Shallow says in the first line of the film, “Jesus, the days that we have seen.”

Also, a quick word about Sight & Sound: it has introduced me to lots of films again this year, so thanks.

 

Noah Cowan

Executive director, San Francisco Film Society, USA

Moonlight Barry Jenkins

Elle Paul Verhoeven

Manchester by the Sea Kenneth Lonergan

The Fits Anna Rose Holmer

Things to Come (L’Avenir) Mia Hansen-Løve

 

David Cox

Programmer (Film4 Channel), UK

A Quiet Passion Terence Davies

The Conjuring 2 James Wan

Heal the Living Katell Quillevere

Things to Come (L’Avenir) Mia Hansen-Løve

Toni Erdmann Maren Ade

 

Jordan Cronk

Critic and programmer, USA

The Death of Louis XIV Albert Serra

Nocturama Bertrand Bonello

The Ornithologist João Pedro Rodrigues

Sieranevada Cristi Puiu

Toni Erdmann Maren Ade

These five films came immediately to mind, and while I admire a great many others, nothing seriously threatened to disrupt this initial quintet. Nonetheless, herewith, some honorable mentions: Certain Women (Kelly Reichardt); The Dreamed Path (Angela Schanelec); Elle (Paul Verhoeven); The Human Surge (Eduardo Williams); Kékszakállú (Gastón Solnicki); Knight of Cups (Terrence Malick, 2015); A Lullaby to the Sorrowful Mystery (Lav Diaz); Paterson (Jim Jarmusch); A Quiet Passion (Terence Davies); Scarred Hearts (Radu Jude); Sixty Six (Lewis Klahr, 2015); Staying Vertical (Alain Guiraudie); Where the Chocolate Mountains (Pat O’Neill, 2015).

 

Nick Davis

Associate professor, English, gender, and film, Northwestern University, USA

Things to Come (L’Avenir) Mia Hansen-Løve

Aquarius Kleber Mendonça Filho

Fire at Sea (Fuocoammare) Gianfranco Rosi

Raising Bertie Margaret Byrne

Moonlight Barry Jenkins

Other than that, Mrs Lincoln, how were the movies? Raising Bertie, the lowest-visibility title on this list, is an expertly made and politically urgent documentary about three black male teens trying to flourish in rural North Carolina, one of many economically devastated regions of my quickly spiralling country. Think Hoop Dreams without the hoops, or the city blocks. It pairs interestingly with Moonlight, or with Fire at Sea, or with my sixth choice, Craig Atkinson’s Do Not Resist, a stunning chronicle of police militarisation in the USA.

Other titles that came close, even with much left to view this year, included Tomcat (Händl Klaus), Starless Dreams (Mehrdad Oskouei), 24 Weeks (Anne Zohra Berrached), Elle (Paul Verhoeven), The Salesman (Asghar Farhadi) and Neruda (Pablo Larraín).

 

Maria Delgado

Professor of Theatre & Screen Arts, Queen Mary University of London, UK

Neruda Pablo Larraín

Julieta Pedro Almodóvar

Toni Erdmann Maren Ade

Jackie Pablo Larraín

The Fury of a Patient Man (Tarde para la ira) Raúl Arévalo

What a year it’s been for Pablo Larraín. In less than 12 months he has produced two extraordinary films that reinvent the biopic in ambitiously different ways.

Neruda is an epic symphonic work, a jazz-like riff on the Chilean icon and Nobel Prize-winning poet Pablo Neruda’s two years on the run in the late 1940s. This is a Nerudian film more than a film about Neruda, with the poet pursued obsessively by his nemesis, the wonderfully named detective Oscar Peluchonneau – a career-defining performance by Gael García Bernal. Neruda is baroque and brash, a carnivalesque contemplation of the forging of the Neruda brand – the romantic poet with a political conscience – realised with a rhythm as dazzling and inventive as Neruda’s imagination.

Jackie opts for a different tone, returning to the more intimate character of last year’s sinewy The Club. Like Neruda, this is an anti-biopic, a consideration of how myth and memory intersect in the aftermath of testing historical circumstances – here Jackie Kennedy’s coping with the aftermath of her husband’s assassination. Larraín’s camera stays close to the First Lady, offering the viewer a portrait into her state of mind that is often gruelling to watch. Like Neruda, Jackie is a bold, poetic contemplation of identity formation, and it points to Larrain as the most exciting political filmmaker of his generation.

Almodóvar too inspired me with his haunting Julieta – a contemplation of mortality and guilt as harrowing as any Greek tragedy. Actor Raúl Arévalo made of the year’s best debuts with his 70s style urban western The Fury of a Patient Man and Toni Erdmann was strange and beguiling – a gloriously meandering tale of father-daughter miscommunication, embarrassment and exasperation realised across the broader canvas of corporate culture.

 

Stephane Delorme

Chief editor, Cahiers du cinéma, France

Toni Erdmann Maren Ade

Elle Paul Verhoeven

The Neon Demon Nicolas Winding Refn

Julieta Pedro Almodóvar

Les Bois dont les rêves sont faits Claire Simon

The Neon Demon (2016)

Read our The Neon Demon review

 

Jemma Desai

LFF strand advisor / British Council film programme manager, UK

Moonlight Barry Jenkins

All This Panic Jenny Gage & Tom Betterton

American Honey Andrea Arnold

Raw Julia Ducournau

Under the Shadow Babak Anvari

 

Helen Dewitt

Head of cinemas, BFI Southbank, UK

Napoleon Abel Gance with a little help from Kevin Brownlow and Carl Davis

American Honey Andrea Arnold

I, Daniel Blake Ken Loach

Embrace of the Serpent Ciro Guerra

Son of Saul László Nemes

A tragic year in world affairs has seen the release and re-release of some important and impressive films that speak to our times. Napoleon, one of the greatest films ever made, about the will to power and world domination; Son of Saul, about the greatest evil a people can do to another; Embrace of the Serpent, the disappearing world and with it unique nature, visions and knowledge; I, Daniel Blake, a picture of the heartless nation that the UK has become and the lamentable stories of some of those who fall victim to it. Andrea Arnold’s American Honey, though, is about survival and self-actualisation, as well as joy in small kindnesses and delight in the natural world. Some much-needed hope for Christmas.

 

Mar Diestro-Dopido

Film critic/researcher Sight & Sound, UK

Julieta Pedro Almodóvar

The Club Pablo Larraín

Victoria Sebastian Schipper

The Witch Robert Eggers

Elle Paul Verhoeven

Three really special mentions: Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Cemetery of Splendour, Eugène Green’s The Son of Joseph and Oliver Laxe’s Mimosas.

My most cinematic moment of the year has to be a restoration of the 1922 version of Nosferatu accompanied by its original score played by the regional Symphonic Orchestra of the city I was born in, during the local film festival of Seminci. Haunting.

 

Rachel Dwyer

Professor of Indian cultures and cinema, SOAS, University of London, UK

Aligarh Hansal Mehta

Masaan Neeraj Ghaywan

Kapoor and Sons Shakun Batra

Pyaasa Guru Dutt

Fan Maneesh Sharma

I wrote a column on the songs of Pyaasa as it’s the Hindi film I keep rewatching. It remains an extraordinary film.

This year I haven’t seen as many, or enjoyed as many, Hindi movies as usual, and haven’t seen one to top last year’s favourite, Bajrangi Bhaijaan. There are still some major releases lined up so I remain hopeful.

Masaan and Aligarh are not mainstream ‘Bollywood’ films, while Fan and Kapoor and Sons were in some ways more interesting than successful. The former tries to explore ideas of stardom, in particular that of Shah Rukh Khan, while the latter had some good moments, but was more notable for presenting Pakistani star Fawad Khan as a gay character.

 

Geoff Dyer

Writer, USA

American Honey Andrea Arnold

O.J.: Made in America Ezra Edelman

The Handmaiden Park Chan-wook

Moonlight Barry Jenkins

HyperNormalisation Adam Curtis

 

Gareth Evans

Film curator, Whitechapel Gallery, London; film producer; writer; curator; presenter, UK

Further Beyond Joe Lawlor, Christine Molloy

As always I have missed many titles clearly deemed worthy of attention. Of those chosen, Further Beyond is simply one of the best films I have seen in an age. Not only a masterclass in filmmaking, it is a brilliantly structured, witty, affecting and often profound work about the importance of stories in constructing our sense of belonging in the world. Given the year’s events, this could not be more pressing a concern. We just need the right stories.

The Pearl Button Patricio Guzman

Guzman’s importance goes without saying. And I like that the Chilean connection continues from my first choice. Once he has completed this trilogy with his investigation of the mountains, their histories and memories, it will clearly be one of the most important series works of this century.

Innocence of Memories Grant Gee

I have a vested interest in Grant Gee’s onward progress but his latest collaboration with Orhan Pamuk reveals ever more beguilingly how he has created his own space – that of cinematic ‘inhabitation’ of the literary. Few films are more seductively layered and labyrinthine.

Victoria Sebastian Schipper

Victoria is literally an incredible achievement. How they pulled it off remains a delirious mystery.

To the Wolf Christina Koutsospyrou, Aran Hughes

I am a late viewer of To the Wolf but this duo (to remind us of the collaborative creativity behind all these titles) astound with this, their first film of any kind. Its premiere at Berlin says it all. They’re motivated by empathy, by the need for a common humanity, not by any sense of career or professional progression. Austerity as biting poetry. The right stories again. Watch them closely. They are joining the ranks of those who are working the edges and limits with insight and troubling beauty for evidence of all our possible futures.

 

Michael Ewins

Freelance critic, UK

Reluctantly Queer Akosua Adoma Owusu

Heaven Knows What Ben Safdie & Joshua Safdie

No Home Movie Chantal Akerman

Ears, Nose and Throat Kevin Jerome Everson

Nocturama Bertrand Bonello

Reflecting on these selections, I realise that they’re all deeply interior films about the compartmentalisation of emotions and selves. In Reluctantly Queer, a young Ghanian man is torn between his sexual and racial identity, and the different forms of acceptance or rejection he faces in native and adopted homes; Heaven Knows What sees ex-heroin addict Arielle Holmes playing a fictionalised version of herself in a hypnotically textured portrait of homeless junkies in New York; for No Home Movie, the late Chantal Akerman filmed her mother at home during her dying days, and the pair discussed topics of diaspora, heritage, and the impermanence of memory; in Ears, Nose and Throat, Shadeena Brooks testifies to the devastating event she witnessed on 9 March 2010, when a young black man was murdered outside her home in Ohio; finally, Nocturama follows a band of young terrorists who commit atrocities across Paris before holing up in a shopping mall after dark.

Each film uses its metaphorical weight to leverage an emotion that reverberates far beyond its duration, and folds back into the reality from which they sprung. Somehow, from tales of spiritual and physical confinement, these filmmakers located a freedom of expression and a means to refine their cinematic language. I couldn’t list five films better than these even if you asked me to. These are the five films which have defined my year in cinema, and expanded my feeling for it as a still young, restless and reaching medium.

 

The Ferroni Brigade

Writers/programmers/teachers, 
Austria/Germany

Elle Paul Verhoeven

My Beloved Bodyguard Sammo Hung

The Purge: Election Year James DeMonaco

Seishun 100-Kilo Hirano Katsuyuki

The Mobfathers Herman Yau

 

Lizzie Francke

Senior production and development executive, BFI Film Fund, UK

Aquarius Kleber Mendonça Filho

Moonlight Barry Jenkins

Raw Julia Ducournau

Toni Erdmann Maren Ade

Elle Paul Verhoeven

While I could have listed international films which I paid to see in cinemas with audiences this year – Embrace of the Serpent, The Invitation and Hunt for the Wilderpeople were particular favourites – recent events have put me in a projecting forward frame of mind as I think about the point of film in these dark times. The selection here is of films I have seen on the festival circuit which hopefully a wider audience will be able to see in the next few months. (I’m abstaining from British films here because of my job.) All but the Verhoeven are by filmmakers at early stages of their careers, but all can be connected by an extraordinary subjectivity that invites you to step into the shoes of the protagonists and walk or run – or, in the case of Elle, follow a complex, wrong-footing dance.

 

Jean-Michel Frodon

Critic (Slate.fr)/professor (Sciences Po Paris, St Andrews), France

Elle Paul Verhoeven

Paterson Jim Jarmusch

Fire at Sea (Fuocoammare) Gianfranco Rosi

Sieranevada Cristi Puiu

Personal Shopper Olivier Assayas

2016 has been a pretty difficult year for cinema. Of course, this list of titles, if not limited to five, should also accept at least Mia Hansen-Løve’s Things to Come, Bertrand Bonello’s Nocturama, Benoit Jacquot’s Never Ever, the Dardennes’ The Unknown Girl, Albert Serra’s The Death of Louis XIV, Cristian Mungiu’s Graduation, Brillante Mendoza’s Ma’ Rosa, Jeff Nichols’s Midnight Special, Kaufman and Johnson’s Anomalisa and Sharunas Bartas’s Peace to Us in Our Dreams.

But, having been darkened by the cruel losses of Abbas Kiarostami and Michael Cimino, this year is also marked by significant weakness. Very little from the English-speaking world and from Latin America, hardly more from Asia (but with Hou Hsiao-hsien, Jia Zhangke, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Kiyoshi Kurosawa and Hong Sangsoo, the previous year was flamboyant).

And also there has often been the feeling that many of the best films are now more and more mariginalised – for instance in Venice where you had to dig in sidebars to find gems like Road to Mandalay by Midi Z, Drum by Keywan Karimi or One More Time With Feeling, Andrew Dominik’s wonderful documentary about Nick Cave. Not to mention one of my favourites, Olmo and the Seagull by Petra Costa and Lea Glob, which went totally unnoticed. Which means what happens is less a loss of creativity than an issue of unequal access to visibility. In this respect, it seems that the internet and social media are as much a problem as a solution.

 

Graham Fuller

Critic, US/UK

Certain Women Kelly Reichardt

Nocturnal Animals Tom Ford

Julieta Pedro Almodóvar

Elle Paul Verhoeven

The Unknown Girl (La Fille inconnue) Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne

It came to my attention more forcibly than ever in 2016 that the quality of the mise en scènes in big-budget Hollywood filmmaking has declined so precipitously over the last 20 years that the majority of epics, adventure films and movies set in exotic or alternative worlds look so artificial, thanks to CGI and concomitant disingenuous storytelling, that they signal within seconds if they will permit the suspension of disbelief. Many don’t. That was less true of, say, the 1930s and 1940s when audience credulity was more easily won. Every year a receptive critic should be able to find a few commercial films as persuasive and enriching as more personal work, but it has become nearly impossible to do so. Against that, Ang Lee’s Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk took an exciting step forward because, by using its speed-sharpened images to render precisely the PTSD-afflicted protagonist’s disorientation, it put technology in the service of emotions.

 

Charles Gant

Film editor, Heat magazine, UK

Manchester by the Sea Kenneth Lonergan

La La Land Damien Chazelle

Nocturnal Animals Tom Ford

Victoria Sebastian Schipper

Little Men Ira Sachs

I’m a little embarrassed that my top three choices happen to coincide so neatly with films tipped and positioned for awards consideration, but there it is. In any other year, I’d be rooting for Manchester by the Sea or La La Land or Nocturnal Animals to take the top prize, so I guess I should just be thankful for an embarrassment of riches this Oscar season. As for Victoria, the single-shot wonder took me on a journey that made me believe in a narrative conceit of potential enormous implausibility, and I was happy for that giddy ride. Little Men I found very wise and even-handed about the complications of modern life, and also – more importantly – a total delight.

 

Ryan Gilbey

Critic, New Statesman, UK

Further Beyond Joe Lawlor & Christine Molloy

The Little MenLobster Ira Sachs

Ghostbusters Paul Feig

Love & Friendship Whit Stillman

Embrace of the Serpent Ciro Guerra

 

Jane Giles

Head of BFI Content, UK

American Honey Andrea Arnold

Embrace of the Serpent Ciro Guerra

Evolution Lucile Hadzihalilovic

Julieta Pedro Almodóvar

The Witch Robert Eggers

I’ve followed my usual criteria of choosing only films released during the calendar year, and what struck me again was how many films are on release to what feels like no great gain. Do we really need so many subject-driven documentaries on cinema screens occupying much-needed slots for holdovers, word-of-mouth slow burns or great rep programming, and taking up review space?

I don’t think that 2016 was a great year for film – or anything else, for that matter – but here are the ones I most enjoyed, A-Z. I’m happy that my list includes two female directors, an old favourite back on form, a (mostly) B&W subtitled film and a healthy dose of horror.

My two favourite film events of the year both happened in the first week of November: John Carpenter playing his scores live at the Troxy and Carl Davis conducting the BFI’s digital restoration of Napoleon live at the Royal Festival Hall.

 

Suzy Gillett

Curator, UK

The Revolution Won’t Be Televised Rama Thiaw

Baden Baden Rachel Lang

The Incident Jane Linfoot

The Fits Anna Rose Holmer

Tezen Shirley Bruno

These were the films I saw in 2016 that made my heart beat faster (in a good way) than any of the others I saw. These films made me come away from the cinema with my head buzzing, offering the cinefile’s favourite sensation of having seen a film that gives you food for thought for days afterwards. Craft and hard graft. Yep. Ambitious texturing and layering. Yep. Editing ellipsis to create story. Yep. Gripping to the last frame. Totally.

Oh yeah they were also all made by women, first feature or first mid length film. But first they are great films.

So here they are the top films for me in 2016. Easy.

 

Leo Goldsmith

Film Editor, the Brooklyn Rail, USA

The Human Surge Eduardo Williams

The Illinois Parables Deborah Stratman

Oleg and the Rare Arts Andres Duque

The Dreamed Path Angela Schanelac

INAATE/SE/ [it shines a certain way. to a certain place./it flies. falls./] Adam & Zack Khalil

 

Catherine Grant

University of Sussex academic, audiovisual essayist and curator, UK

The Illinois Parables Deborah Stratman

Correspondências Rita Azevedo Gomez

327 Cuadernos Andrés Di Tella

Le Moulin Huang Ya-li

Boat People Sarah Wood

My preferred films from 2016 are all great essay films (of one kind or another). These days I’m not remotely systematic when it comes to contemporary film viewing generally. But I do keep a relatively close cinephile eye on new essay film production, perhaps especially as someone interested in the essayistic forms of audiovisual expression increasingly being produced in and around academia. I particularly loved The Illinois Parables, a brilliantly made work by experimental documentarian Deborah Stratman, who is also Associate Professor in the School of Art & Art History at the University of Illinois at Chicago. It’s one of the most evocative, engaging and politically substantial history films I have seen.

 

Robert Greene

Filmmaker, USA

Cameraperson Kirsten Johnson

Fire at Sea (Fuocoammare) Gianfranco Rosi

HyperNormalisation Adam Curtis

Under the Sun Vitaly Mansky

Starless Dreams Mehrdad Oskouei

 

Robert Hanks

Reviewer, UK

The Measure of a Man Stéphane Brizé

American Honey Andrea Arnold

Toni Erdmann Maren Ade

Love & Friendship Whit Stillman

Doctor Strange Scott Derrickson

Part of the point of going to the cinema for me is, generally, to put politics and the world aside; but the three films of this year that made the biggest impression just made me think about politics more. The Measure of a Man and American Honey were both pictures of people struggling to find meaning and take some control over their own destiny in a world where jobs have become meaningless and degrading. The European milieu and Vincent Lindon’s brilliant portrait of middle-aged manhood discarded and scrabbling for dignity made The Measure of a Man more affecting (ie, terrifying) for me; but the retreat into sensuality of the youngsters in American Honey and the sheer strangeness of Arnold’s America haunt me. Toni Erdmann was a more intimate and hopeful film, and very funny, but glancingly withering about the aridity of life in a globalised corporate world.

Love & Friendship was a beautifully turned romp, which might have looked more impressive if an accident of timing didn’t have me comparing it to the newly restored Barry Lyndon – easily the best thing Kubrick ever made, and perhaps the best evocation of a distant past yet put on film. And Scott Derrickson’s Doctor Strange overcame a dull script with smart casting and a visual flair to match Steve Ditko’s original psychedelic drawings.

My cinematic highlight wasn’t a new thing at all, though, but a screening in January of the gorgeously restored Penda’s Fen, Alan Clarke and David Rudkin’s 1974 TV play which evokes Englishness as something hybrid, generous, mystical: it turned out to be a useful antidote to the blunter and far less appealing versions of Englishness that came to dominate the news later in the year.

 

Simran Hans

Freelance writer, UK

Moonlight Barry Jenkins

Nocturama Bertrand Bonello

American Honey Andrea Arnold

Manchester by the Sea Kenneth Lonergan

Personal Shopper Olivier Assayas

For better or worse, all of the films I have chosen really go for broke. They are heroic in their ambition, sprawling, sometimes messy, and unmistakably alive. (The same could be said other films I liked, including Elle, The Handmaiden and Chi-Raq). I remember feeling spellbound by Personal Shopper’s atonal weirdness, bruised by the brunt of Manchester by the Sea’s sheer emotional force, energised by American Honey’s living, breathing ecstatic romanticism, viscerally chilled by Nocturama’s sleek complicity (the only film I’ve seen twice this year). These are the films that have lodged themselves in both my brain and heart.

Most special though is Moonlight, whose every beautiful frame pulsates with longing and raw desire. I felt swathed by its tenderness, and thankful for its soft and truthful images of black masculinity, an antidote in this violent and volatile world.

Also: I feel lucky to enjoy the bounty of regular repertory cinema goings-on here in London. This year’s revival house highlights include first watches of the following, in a big screen setting (and often from their original 35mm or VHS formats): Gummo; Celine and Julie Go Boating; Losing Ground; Heartburn; Videodrome; Something Wild; Fat Girl.

 

Brandon Harris

Writer (the New Yorker, N+1, the New Republic, the New Inquiry), USA

HyperNormalisation Adam Curtis

Free in Deed Jake Mahaffy

Moonlight Barry Jenkins

Barry Vikram Gandhi

Paterson Jim Jarmusch

 

Molly Haskell

Author/critic, USA

20th Century Women Mike Mills

Toni Erdmann Maren Ade

A Quiet Passion Terence Davies

Hell or High Water David Mackenzie

Things to Come Mia Hansen-Løve

I’ve restricted my five to 2016, and there are a lot I haven’t yet seen. Revelations from the past were two silent films by Frank Borzage: Back Pay and The Pride of Palomar (both 1922). They make you understand once again why those who’d known only silent cinema resisted the coming of sound.

 

Tim Hayes

Freelance writer and critic, UK

Little Sister Zach Clark

The Invitation Karyn Kusama

Flag Without a Country Bahman Ghobadi

Queen of Earth Alex Ross Perry

The Neon Demon Nicolas Winding Refn

Three of these used VOD as their route to a UK audience, either with a momentary theatrical release or doing without that gesture. Should this alter how critics process them? Perhaps. The position and impact of art is criticism’s business, but the opaqueness of streaming revenues and viewing figures leaves the matter of these films’ success vague in economic and cultural terms alike. Faced with terra incognita, critics’ exploratory outlook matters. Saying that a film is in cinemas, when we really mean it’s in two cinemas for a single day, is either a safety-blanket privileging of the cinema experience or a flat parroting of the marketing message; but either way, pointing people towards places where the art isn’t looks a lot like voluntary redundancy. All grist for a rebalancing of our cultural journalism remit, perhaps via conceding that ceaseless personal curation isn’t the same thing.

 

Sandra Hebron

Head of Screen Arts, National Film and Television School, UK

Aquarius Kleber Mendonça Filho

The Death of Louis XIV Albert Serra

I, Daniel Blake Ken Loach

Paterson Jim Jarmusch

Things to Come (L’Avenir) Mia Hansen-Løve

I’ve listed titles alphabetically, rather than rank them. My selection is very much a ‘so far’ list, as I have lots of highly regarded films still to see, but that’s not to diminish how highly I value the ones I’ve chosen.

Alongside these, I’d like to mention two events, each involving a work that wasn’t exactly new, but new to me in so far as I’ve never managed to see either of them presented before. First, Malcolm Le Grice’s Horror Film screened as part of a season of his work at BFI Southbank, a thrill to see this, and moving too, given the passage and impact of time since it was first made – impossible not to reflect on this.

Secondly, the digital presentation of Kevin Brownlow’s most recent restoration of Napoleon at the Royal Festival Hall, where the anticipation and excitement in the room was palpable, and where my (knee-jerk, groundless) resistance was systematically dismantled by this absurdly ambitious, tricksy, funny, experimental wonder.

 

J. Hoberman

Critic, USA

O.J.: Made in America Ezra Edelman

Toni Erdmann Maren Ade

Kaili Blues Bi Gan

The Death of Louis XIV Albert Serra

Neruda Pablo Larraín

 

Joanna Hogg

Filmmaker/curator, UK

Toni Erdmann Maren Ade

Certain Women Kelly Reichardt

Personal Shopper Olivier Assayas

La La Land Damien Chazelle

But Elsewhere Is Always Better Vivian Ostrovsky

 

Alexander Horwath

Director, Austrian Film Museum, Austria

Toni Erdmann Maren Ade

Neruda Pablo Larraín

The Woman Who Left Lav Diaz

Elle Paul Verhoeven

The Dreamed Ones Ruth Beckermann

Strangely, the title of one film on my list seems to encapsulate all five: The Dreamed Ones. It speaks about the ways in which some great filmmakers have become acutely sensitive to a central condition of life today: a sort of pulsating unreality in which the forces of fantasy, imaginative (and often stressful) self-design and ‘self-improvement’, apocalyptic fears and a deep social unease (or social-networked unease) all condense toward the only form of reality we have at our disposal. The ‘we’ in question being mainly the Western liberal bourgeoisie, but also, to a degree, that of our unfortunate victims and brethren in less ‘enlightened’ circumstances. In this group of films, Pablo Larraín’s poet/activist Neruda and the police inspector on his trail, as well as Ruth Beckermann’s poets in love (Ingeborg Bachmann and Paul Celan), figure as the historical, circa 1948, avatars of our own present condition.

 

Pamela Hutchinson

Freelance writer, UK

I, Daniel Blake Ken Loach

Cameraperson Kirsten Johnson

La La Land Damien Chazelle

American Honey Andrea Arnold

Things to Come (L’Avenir) Mia Hansen-Løve

In a tumultuous year for current affairs at home and abroad, it was bittersweet to experience moments when films from the past resonated with contemporary troubles. Jay Weissberg’s triumphant first year as director of the Pordenone Silent Film Festival began with a screening of À Propos de Nice in remembrance of the victims of the Bastille Day terror attack. The deepest poignancy was that similar tributes could have been paid to so many more places. And at the Royal Festival Hall in November, an intertitle in Abel Gance’s Napoleon (1927) divided and galvanised the mostly British crowd: the thunderous response to the idea that “Europe will become a single people” drowned out the Philharmonia Orchestra.

Napoleon’s digital reincarnation was undoubtedly the archive film event of the year, followed by a new box set of films by African-American cinema pioneers. As a silent film advocate, I am intrigued to hear reports that Hollywood blockbusters are cutting back on dialogue. The execs over there should look to Studio Ghibli’s The Red Turtle as an example of how to make a modern, and excellent, film without speech at all.

 

Eric Hynes

Associate Curator of Film, Museum of the Moving Image, USA

Cameraperson Kirsten Johnson

Toni Erdmann Maren Ade

Manchester by the Sea Kenneth Lonergan

Elle Paul Verhoeven

O.J.: Made in America Ezra Edelman

 

Pasquale Iannone

Film academic and critic UK

Julieta Pedro Almodóvar

Victoria Sebastian Schipper

Son of Saul László Nemes

A Bigger Splash  Luca Guadagnino

Knight of Cups Terrence Malick

Bubbling under were: Hell or High Water (Mackenzie), Suburra (Sollima), American Honey (Arnold), The Measure of a Man (Brizé), One More Time With Feeling (Dominik), Bleak Street (Ripstein), Mavis! (Edwards).

Knight of Cups (2015)

Knight of Cups (2015)

 

 

Wendy Ide

Critic, UK

Manchester by the Sea Kenneth Lonergan

Notes on Blindness Pete Middleton, James Spinney

Your Name Makoto Shinkai

Evolution Lucile Hadzihalilovic

Neruda Pablo Larraín

Your Name (Kimi no Na wa, 2016)

Read our Your Name review

 

Juliet Jacques

Writer, UK

The Exquisite Corpus Peter Tscherkassky

Ascent Fiona Tan

Dawson City: Frozen Time Bill Morrison

The Ornithologist João Pedro Rodrigues

Confessions to the Mirror Sarah Pucill

None of these are straightforward feature films – the nearest is The Ornithologist, which follows a fairly linear narrative but feels like a 21st century take on Surrealism, with its visceral, oblique vision of religion and sexuality. The few features that I did see disappointed me (Julieta and particularly High-Rise) and Son of Saul was the only that I considered.

So we have a couple of highly inventive, beautiful documentaries; Sarah Pucill’s second adaptation of Claude Cahun’s writings, capturing the fragmented poetry of its source; and Tscherkassky’s Exquisite Corpus, which (like Morrison’s) is a film about film, using archive material. I don’t know if I can conclude from this that conventional narrative is, at this point, one of the least interesting approaches, or if it’s just one of the least interesting to me.

Dawson City (2016)

Read about Bill Morrison’s Dawson City: Frozen Time in Experimenta 2016: Explosions at the end of the line

 

David Jenkins

Editor, Little White Lies, UK

Toni Erdmann Maren Ade

Certain Women Kelly Reichardt

Happy Hour Hamaguchi Ryusuke

Voyage of Time: Life’s Journey Terrence Malick

Everybody Wants Some!! Richard Linklater

Toni Erdmann was not only my favourite film by a comfortable margin, but it also goes some way in reaffirming (sick buckets at the ready) ‘cinema’ as a ‘communal experience’. Maybe this is reflective of my own lack of valuable life experience, but the Cannes press screening where it was first unveiled felt more like a raucous Southern Baptist sermon than a conventional trip to the pictures. As much as you can have a vague sensory insight into the feelings of those in the close vicinity, the room felt alive with emotion. The studios would do well to look at this movie to understand how you cultivate a sense of awe. Discovering films like this is what makes it (the job, festivals, criticism, life) all worthwhile.

Additionally, that fifth spot is wholly interchangeable with Pedro Almodóvar’s Julieta, Clint Eastwood’s Sully, Claude Barras’s My Life as a Courgette, Albert Serra’s The Death of Louis XIV, Mel Gibson’s Hacksaw Ridge and Pablo Larrain’s Jackie.

Documentary plaudits go to Christine Molloy and Joe Lawlor’s Further Beyond.

And the award for the movie that completely defies binary categorisations of good and bad, the one I have absolutely no idea of whether I loved or loathed, but have pretty much thought about it every day since seeing it, is Bertrand Bonello’s Nocturama.

 

Kent Jones

Writer/filmmaker/festival director, USA

In no particular order:

Toni Erdmann Maren Ade

The 13th Ava DuVernay

Silence Martin Scorsese

The Lost City of Z James Gray

Paterson Jim Jarmusch

 

Alan Jones

Director of Film4 FrightFest, UK

La La Land Damien Chazelle

Manchester by the Sea Kenneth Lonergan

Under the Shadow Babak Anvari

Nocturnal Animals Tom Ford

Moonlight Barry Jenkins

 

Philip Kemp

Freelance reviewer/film historian, UK

Son of Saul Laszlo Nemes

Love & Friendship Whit Stillman

I, Daniel Blake Ken Loach

Tale of Tales Matteo Garrone

Theo and Hugo Olivier Ducastel, Jacques Martineau

An excellent year for Blu-ray/DVD re-releases, not least for two classic trilogies: Satyajit Ray’s Apu Trilogy from Criterion – a huge improvement over the old Artificial Eye release – and Kobayashi’s towering wartime trilogy The Human Condition from Arrow.

 

Glenn Kenny

Film critic, USA

The Fits Anna Rose Holmer

The Love Witch Anna Biller

Toni Erdmann Maren Ade

Moonlight Barry Jenkins

Paterson Jim Jarmusch

 

Robert Koehler

Film critic, USA

All the Cities of the North Dane Komljen

Kekszakallu Gaston Solnicki

Toni Erdmann Maren Ade

Nocturama Bertrand Bonello

The Ornithologist João Pedro Rodrigues

If I had additional slots, I would add in no particular order: Aquarius; Manchester by the Sea; Moonlight; Things to Come; Hell or High Water; and the most physically powerful and disturbing movie I saw this year whose French title – Gorge Coeur Ventre – is more to the point than its deceptively placid English one, Still Life. This one was a debut by the French filmmaker, Maud Alpi, but the most audacious debut was yet another discovery at Locarno, somewhat overlooked in the Signs of Life section and my pick for the year’s most original work: Dane Komljen’s All the Cities of the North. I can’t think of any precedent for what Komljen does here, and what he does exactly beggars description. “A desire to imagine a new order of things,” is what Komljen, the supremely gifted Yugoslav-born, Berlin-based film artist, says of his characters, but it really speaks to what this movie does. It suggests an entirely fresh path for cinema.

 

kogonada

Filmmaker/essayist, US

Moonlight Barry Jenkins

Certain Women Kelly Reichardt

Little Men Ira Sachs

Paterson Jim Jarmusch

Manchester by the Sea Kenneth Lonergan

In light of the coming Trump presidency, here are five American films that suggest a growing sensibility and taste for the quiet, the reflective, the complex, the spare, the humane. More than ever these kind of films matter.

 

Ehsan Khoshbakht

Critic and curator, UK/Iran

Sieranevada Cristi Puiu

Fire at Sea (Fuocoammare) Gianfranco Rosi

Sweet Dreams Marco Bellocchio

Nocturama Bertrand Bonello

The Brick and the Mirror Ebrahim Golestan

I have smuggled on to the list one film revived from the past: The Brick and the Mirror (1965), which is by far the most stylistically daring film I have revisited (and occasionally presented and screened) in 2016. Golestan’s bleak masterpiece, arguably the best of Iranian pre-revolutionary cinema, captures an atmosphere of political anxiety and paranoia and transforms it into a timeless image of any society governed and manipulated on the basis of fear of the other – more or less a mirror held in front of us at this troubled moment in the 21st century.

But this also reminded me of the fact that in a year that was cinematically (and otherwise) not so great, it was revivals and retrospectives which made life more pleasant. Life-changing retrospectives included the exhilarating Deutschland 1966 (Berlinale) and the glorious, all-35mm Universal Pictures: The Laemmle Junior Years (Il Cinema Ritrovato). The latter featured the most poignant piece of social realist cinema of the depression era, Laughter in Hell (Edward L. Cahn, 1933), which remains for me the unsurpassed discovery of the year.

 

Eric Kohn

Chief film critic/deputy editor, USA

Moonlight Barry Jenkins

Jackie Pablo Larraín

Weiner Josh Kriegman & Elyse Steinberg

Everybody Wants Some!! Richard Linklater

Swiss Army Man Daniel Kwan & Daniel Scheinert

 

Michael Koresky

Editorial director, Film Society of Lincoln Center; editor, Reverse Shot, USA

Aquarius Kleber Mendonça Filho

Toni Erdmann Maren Ade

Cemetery of Splendour Apichatpong Weerasethakul

Cameraperson Kirsten Johnson

No Home Movie Chantal Akerman

 

Edward Lawrenson

Journalist, UK

Aquarius Kleber Mendonça Filho

Scarred Hearts Radu Jude

Ascent Fiona Tan

Further Beyond Joe Lawlor, Christine Molloy

The Dreamed Path Angela Schanelec

 

Kevin B. Lee

Critic and video essayist, USA

Certain Women Kelly Reichardt

Elle Paul Verhoeven

Moonlight Barry Jenkins

Kaili Blues Bi Gan

O.J.: Made in America Ezra Edelman

What are movies good for? I ask myself this question more and more frequently, never more so than today, 9 November 2016. The world feels like it is becoming more unspooled, reactionary and irrational. Many of the movies I’ve seen this year amount to inadequate escapist gestures or simplified distillations of a reality far more darkly compelling than what I typically see on screen. I chose these five films because they did the most to encompass this darkness and irrationality. In doing so, they serve as the clarifying lens I seek more than ever in cinema.

 

Danny Leigh

Writer/journalist/broadcaster, UK

American Honey Andrea Arnold

Creed Ryan Coogler

Embrace of the Serpent Ciro Guerra

Evolution Lucile Hadzihalilovic

Nocturama Bertrand Bonello

I decided to draw a thick line in permanent marker excluding some extraordinary films I’ve seen this year but which are coming out theatrically in Britain next year, and would otherwise have made this list: The Fits, Elle, Personal Shopper, Moonlight. (I had premonitions of most of next year’s poll being exactly the same as most of this one, which troubled me.)

 

Dennis Lim

Director of programming (Film Society of Lincoln Center), USA

Nocturama Bertrand Bonello

The Human Surge Eduardo Williams

Toni Erdmann Maren Ade

The Death of Louis XIV Albert Serra

Elle Paul Verhoeven

Plus five shorts:

  • Sarah Winchester, Opéra Fantôme (Bertrand Bonello)
  • Cilaos (Camilo Restrepo)
  • Foyer (Ismaïl Bahri)
  • Indefinite Pitch (James N. Kienitz Wilkins)
  • A Brief History of Princess X (Gabriel Abrantes)

 

Dana Linssen

Editor in chief, de Filmkrant/critic NRC Handelsblad, The Netherlands

Shadow World Johan Grimonprez

My Life as a Courgette Claude Barras

Fire at Sea (Fuocoammare) Gianfranco Rosi

Toni Erdmann Maren Ade

Sausage Party Greg Tiernan & Conrad Vernon

Once again a year in which some of the most exciting cinematic things and some other reveries of the mediated world happened outside the black boxes that were once known as cinemas:

  1. Fever Room: Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s cine-theatre performance that turned the spectator into a screen and saw Plato’s shadows laughing in the distance (at the Kunstenfestivaldesarts in Brussels)
  2. Subtle Beast: episode two of HBO’s The Night Of, directed by Steven Zaillian, with Igor Martinovic as director of photography, offering neverending explorations in a shallow depth of field
  3. HyperNormalisation directed by Adam Curtis (on BBC iPlayer)
  4. Into the Inferno (on Netflix): if the world didn’t exist Werner Herzog would have to invent it
  5. Atomic: Mark Cousins and Mogwai (at the Holland Festival in Amsterdam) – it did get loud!
  6. Master of Light: the Robby Müller Exhibition at EYE in Amsterdam, in which the exhibition space became one big installation piece, and it worked
  7. Pokémon GO!

 

Guy Lodge

Film critic, Variety and the Observer, UK

American Honey Andrea Arnold

Certain Women Kelly Reichardt

Heal the Living Katell Quillévéré

Things to Come (L’Avenir) Mia Hansen-Løve

Toni Erdmann Maren Ade

I didn’t start my list with the specific intention of including only female filmmakers. Happily, it simply took shape that way. But to retrospectively apply motivation to a coincidence, it feels only appropriate to celebrate the collective artistry of a demographic still inexplicably marginalised in the industry – and, as we face the reality of the Trump era, in any number of other arenas too.

Arnold’s film perhaps most expressly gives vibrant voice to the socially disenfranchised, yet in magnifying and caressing the everyday plight of a middle-aged woman most storytellers would relegate to the sidelines, Hansen-Løve’s exquisite starting-over study – my favourite film of 2016, though I’m not inclined to rank any further – feels just as pointed and gracefully subversive.

I’d also like to note just how many films that so nearly made my cut – from Pablo Larraín’s elegantly shattered political biopic Jackie to Paul Verhoeven’s fearlessly ill-mannered Elle to Disney’s conceptually dizzying Zootopia – were, regardless of their director’s gender, built on and around strong female characters: strong not in the generically impervious sense, but conflicted and complicated in their strengths and weaknesses alike. At every one of 2016’s major competitive festivals, it seemed the Best Actress conversation was longer and richer than the Best Actor one. And over in the multiplexes, few are advocating for Sharon Maguire’s Bridget Jones’s Baby to be on many lists like this one, but it has elbowed past the superhero spectaculars to stand as the UK’s highest grosser of the year. Across the cinematic spectrum, then, stories by, about and for women can no longer be regarded as a specialised genre.

 

Tim Lucas

Editor, Video Watchdog, USA

Bone Tomahawk S. Craig Zahler

The first edge-of-my-seat western I’d seen since the 1970s – literate, harrowing, masterfully melding puckish humour and scalding horror; a film, like Deliverance, that one leaves feeling like a survivor.

The BFG Steven Spielberg

Spielberg’s The BFG may be the funniest, spookiest, most exquisitely crafted children’s film since The Wizard of Oz. Even its farting scenes are witty.

Florence Foster Jenkins Stephen Frears

The most profound surprise of the year, for me – another Meryl Streep parade float, perhaps, but a moving testimony to the ideas that art is both privilege and spiritual duty, and that beauty really is subjective. But the prize in the package is a heartbreaking, career-best performance by Hugh Grant.

Cosmos Andrzej Zulawski

Zulawski’s swansong is a uniquely manic adaptation of Witold Gombrowicz’s novel, which I feel was a piss-take of Robbe-Grillet and other practitioners of the nouveau roman. Zulawski flips the book’s literary sport to poke fun at the obsessive fervor of his own work. The confidential quality of the end credits moved me to tears.

Doctor Strange Scott Derrickson

Doctor Strange proves that Steve Ditko is the genius behind Marvel’s most humanistic properties. Unlike other Marvel Universe origin stories, this has the feel of a bildungsroman, in which the battles are either incidental or rungs in a ladder to the hero’s development. A roundly satisfying, entertaining fantasy without a gun in sight.

But any round-up of the year’s best must mention the Black Mirror episode San Junipero, directed by Owen Harris from a script by Charlie Brooker: beautifully, densely layered, moving storytelling, and a masterpiece of its medium.

 

Violet Lucca

Digital Editor, Film Comment, USA

The Prison in 12 Landscapes Brett Story

Moonlight Barry Jenkins

Love & Friendship Whit Stillman

The Fits Anna Rose Holmer

Factory Complex Im Heung-soon

2016 has been roundly terrible. Even Vine, one of the greatest sources of creative expression for young (black) talent, didn’t survive.

Nevertheless, there have been two new shows by Jon Glaser: Neon Joe, Werewolf Hunter and Jon Glaser Loves Gear. Both contain his pitch-perfect fusion of egomaniacal male energy and alt comedy. (In JGLG, like Delocated, we ask: was this man a nice guy who turned into something awful by virtue of being the star of a reality show, or was he just suppressing these impulses his entire life up until this point?) To quote Beckett: I can’t go on, I’ll go on.

In the meantime, I’m nominating this girl for Best Actress:

 

Charlie Lyne

Filmmaker/critic, UK

Rather than highlighting the year’s most complete cinematic achievements, I’ve chosen to pinpoint those which – regardless of their overall merits – connected with me most vividly at one point or another:

Cameraperson Kirsten Johnson

My favourite film of the year contained many such moments, not least its lightning-in-a-bottle opening title sequence, in which the entirety of human existence seemed effortlessly distilled into a single sneeze.

Christine Antonio Campos

Two sights in Christine epitomised that film’s examination of the precarious ties that bind us to this world: the anguish on Rebecca Hall’s face mid-argument, and the loneliness of Maria Dizzia’s final singalong in the face of death.

Fraud Dean Fleischer-Camp

No film this year was more formally enlivening than Fraud. Once its central characters began to set fire to their own house, I had absolutely no idea what I was watching.

Parents Christian Tafdrup

Much of Parents left me cold, but its anarchic take on the dehumanisation of familial relationships came brilliantly to life during a handful of scenes set (tellingly) in stairwells.

Elle Paul Verhoeven

Finally, the moment Laurent Lafitte pulled Isabelle Huppert from a totalled car in Elle, Paul Verhoeven declared himself ready to answer the questions laid out in his most unfairly maligned film, the enduringly provocative Hollow Man.

 

Geoffrey Macnab

Critic, UK

American Honey Andrea Arnold

Nocturnal Animals Tom Ford

Julieta Pedro Almodóvar

Hail, Caesar! Joel Coen & Ethan Coen

Ethel and Ernest Roger Mainwood

 

Derek Malcolm

Critic, UK

The Woman Who Left Lav Diaz

Graduation Cristian Mungiu

Toni Erdmann Maren Ade

Nocturnal Animals Tom Ford

Paterson Jim Jarmusch

The more I think about it the more I admire the surprise winner of the Golden Lion at Venice. The Woman Who Left is a film that lives in the memory as a moral, political and cultural statement as well as a fine piece of filmmaking.

Graduation is yet another extraordinary parable from Romania, Toni Erdmann, though over-praised and overlong, is still one of Germany’s most original films of recent years, Nocturnal Animals is a stylistically excellent moral tale from Tom Ford and Paterson shows that Jim Jarmusch, in lighter mood, has a refreshing charm and a dog to die for among the leading members of the cast.

Not a great year but it will do…

 

Andrew Male

Senior associate editor, UK

Hell or High Water David Mackenzie

A Bigger Splash Luca Guadagnino

The Nice Guys Shane Black

Anomalisa Charlie Kaufman & Duke Johnson

Bone Tomahawk S. Craig Zahler

Given that I’m out of the industry loop, these are all films I want to see with my Cineworld Unlimited card at the local multiplex. Otherwise, I’m sure there would be more subtitles, and long passages of meaningful silence in my list. Apologies.

 

Ian Mantgani

Filmmaker, writer, UK

Knight of Cups Terrence Malick

Certain Women Kelly Reichardt

Dog Eat Dog Paul Schrader

Elle Paul Verhoeven

Lemonade Beyoncé Knowles Carter & Kahlil Joseph with Jonas Åkerlund, Melina Matsoukas, Dikayl Rimmasch, Mark Romanek, Tod Tourso

In addition to Knight of Cups, there was another great Malick (Voyage of Time), and there were more great chronicles of scattered memories, such as Kirsten Johnson’s Cameraperson and Chantal Akerman’s No Home Movie.

Certain Women was the most absorbing drama of the year; direct in its humanity, lingering in its possible interpretations.

Dog Eat Dog and Elle were the most flagrant, entertaining films of the year. Both Elle and Things to Come proved that all you need to make a great film are Isabelle Huppert and a cat.

Does Lemonade deserve to be on this list? I’m not sure, but I can’t deny its energising rush, its lightning effect on the culture, its blur of the lines between cinema, music video and album, and how explosively it digested the influence of black cultural history.

As always, I wish I’d seen more, but of what I did see, any of these films could easily have been on my main list: Field Niggas, Dugma: The Button, Embrace of the Serpent, Moonlight, Homo Sapiens, The Love Witch, The Neon Demon, Trump: The Art of the Deal, Hail Caesar!

 

Giovanni Marchini Camia

Critic, Italy

The Dreamed Path Angela Schanelec

Paterson Jim Jarmusch

Toni Erdmann Maren Ade

Elle Paul Verhoeven

The Human Surge Eduardo Williams

 

Miguel Marias

Critic/teacher, Spain

The Son of Joseph Eugène Green

Don’t Tell Me the Boy Was Mad Robert Guédiguian

The Sea of Trees Gus Van Sant

Malgré la nuit Philippe Grandrieux

Meurtrière Philippe Grandrieux

 

Nico Marzano

Programmer, ICA London, UK

2016 felt like a solid year, especially since my hope at the beginning of each year is to be inundated by films that are both able to inspire and to take a risk or and to challenge mainstream cinematic languages.

The Student Kirill Serebrennikov

The best film I saw in Cannes this year. Kirill Serebrennikov’s film creates theatre within cinema, while touching boldly on many of the issues of contemporary Russia.

Behemoth Zhao Liang

Another essential viewing for 2016. Beyond his striking and visceral visual accomplishments, director Zhao Liang tackles the dynamics of exploitation, triggering much-needed wider discussions about sustainability.

Fire at Sea (Fuocoammare) Gianfranco Rosi

Fire at Sea went on to win the Golden Bear at the recent Berlinale and rightly so. Rosi accounts for the tales of migrants by choosing an unconventional point of view, which carries no rhetorical element while acting as a tremendous call for action.

Dark Night Tim Sutton

Dark Night (Tim Sutton) is a terrific, unconventional look into US violence.

Heartstone Gudmundur Arnar Gudmundsson

This outstanding Icelandic debut feature film is a coming-of- age/family drama work that excels in its narrative arch, acting and cinematography.

Also to note for 2016 is The Red Spider (Marcin Koszałka), an impressive story of a young man fascinated by the impulse of evil. Curumim (Marcos Prado) is a shocking documentary about champion paraglider and drug dealer Marco ‘Curumim’ Archer. In the Last Days of the City (Tamer El Said) beautifully captures the mood of a city, Cairo, and of its people during such a troubled historical period for Egypt.

 

Demetrios Matheou

Film critic, UK

Manchester by the Sea Kenneth Lonergan

Personal Shopper Olivier Assayas

La La Land Damien Chazelle

Original Bliss Sven Taddicken

Neruda Pablo Larraín

Aside from my first, an extraordinarily sensitive and well-played film about unspeakable grief, I seem to have plumped for the mysterious, enigmatic and romantic – qualities particularly enticing in a year when trans-Atlantic voting and the banality of self-interest makes reality all the more unappealing. The others: a highly contemporary ghost story cum murder mystery; a joyously nostalgic musical; an audaciously wry love story between characters overcoming abuse and sexual addiction; a Borgesian cat and mouse. In very different ways, each of these is exhilarating. Of course Larraín’s Neruda is rooted in reality, its pleasures tinged by the presage of horror. It also resonates with a bitter accident of a line: “The millionaire is always smarter than the law of the nation.”

 

Sophie Mayer

Writer/activist, UK

By the Time it Gets Dark Anocha Suwichakornpong

Certain Women Kelly Reichardt

Cameraperson Kirsten Johnson

The Levelling Hope Dickson Leach

On Call Alice Diop

Daughters of the Dust. Born in Flames. Losing Ground. Regrouping. These (in reverse chronological order) are the feminist films from the vault screened in restored prints this year, to great excitement from audiences, and their titles tell a haunting and necessary story. A phoenix-like re-emergence, a re-collection of what was (feared) lost, a restatement of purpose: that commitment to finding untold stories, and telling them in new ways, is present in the new films I’ve chosen (and in more I could have chosen). Four classics that demand viewing and re-vewing, five new films that – seemingly quiet, compellingly careful – rigorously investigate the ethics of viewing, building rage to dynamic (sonic and dramatic) climaxes. Uprisings personal and political are connected by filmmakers who are speaking out on and off-screen. All five speak on the edge of our hearing, calling us to listen: to histories wilfully erased and voices strenuously denied. May these films not meet the fate of the recent classics recently recovered, but keep them company in continued circulation – or at least UK distribution.

 

Neil McGlone

Film advisor & researcher, UK

Manchester by the Sea Kenneth Lonergan

Toni Erdmann Maren Ade

I, Daniel Blake Ken Loach

The Levelling Hope Dickson Leach

Tower Keith Maitland

TV highlights:

  • The People v OJ Simpson (FX)
  • HyperNormalisation (Adam Curtis, BBC)
  • The Night Of (HBO)

 

Daniela Michel

Director, Morelia International 
Film Festival, Mexico

Elle Paul Verhoeven

A Journey Through French Cinema Bertrand Tavernier

Fire at Sea (Fuocoammare) Gianfranco Rosi

I, Daniel Blake Ken Loach

Graduation Cristian Mungiu

 

Henry K. Miller

Film historian, UK

Elle Paul Verhoeven

Personal Shopper Olivier Assayas

Our Stars Mark Rappaport

The Love Witch Anna Biller

Homo Sapiens Nikolaus Geyrhalter

Anna Biller’s The Love Witch

Read about The Love Witch in ‘Not really horror’ highlights: the best of FrightFest 2016

 

Luke Moody

Director of film programming, Sheffield Doc/Fest, UK

Komunia Anna Zamecka

Best of Luck with the Wall Josh Begley

Tempestad Tatiana Huezo

You Have No Idea How Much I Love You Paweł Łoziński

The Human Surge Eduardo Williams

I’m quite weary of the annual headlines pronouncing a golden age of documentary, but this year was definitely an age of confidence in the nonfiction scene. Over the past five years, faith from both funders and festivals (emerging and established alike) to support and show formally inventive documentary cinema has bolstered the confidence of filmmakers to explore the way we experience realities.

This year has seen a wave of formally rigorous films, both short and long, finding audiences globally. The likes of Behemoth, Cameraperson, The Illinois Parables and The Prison in Twelve Landscapes have broken into the main programmes of festivals that only a few years ago would have overlooked or sidelined them. Theatrical distribution for these films remains difficult, but I’m hoping more adept and artisanal services emerge to take risks serving a broadened nonfiction audience both theatrically and digitally.

My selection of five films is more of a cake slice than a ‘best of 2016’. It shows the dense abundance of reality that we occupy as a narrative source, from data to diaries, and the pictorial and temporal frames through which these layered sources can be represented on screen.

 

Kim Morgan

Writer/programmer, USA

The Lobster Yorgos Lanthimos

Moonlight Barry Jenkins

The Handmaiden Park Chan-wook

Hail, Caesar! Joel Coen, Ethan Coen

Green Room Jeremy Saulnier

The Handmaiden (2016)

Read our first-look The Handmaiden review

 

Kate Muir

Chief film critic, the Times, UK

Manchester by the Sea Kenneth Lonergan

Fire at Sea (Fuocoammare) Gianfranco Rosi

Moonlight Barry Jenkins

American Honey Andrea Arnold

Toni Erdmann Maren Ade

 

Lisa Mullen

Freelance, UK

Kubo and the Two Strings Travis Knight

Rams Grimur Hakonarson

Victoria Sebastian Schipper

Mapplethorpe Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato

Tallulah Sian Hader

 

Marco Muller

Director, International Film Festival and Awards Macao S.A.R. Macao, China

Kaili Blues Bi Gan

Midnight Special Jeff Nichols

Toni Erdmann Maren Ade

Personal Shopper Olivier Assayas

Julieta Pedro Almodóvar

 

Nasreen Munni Kabir

Documentary filmmaker/author, UK

I, Daniel Blake Ken Loach

Aligarh Hansal Mehta

The Childhood of a Leader Brady Corbet

The Revenant Alejandro González Iñárritu

Elle Paul Verhoeven

I would have liked to have seen La La Land for 2016, but it won’t be released til December in India, where I currently am.

 

Lynda Myles

Independent producer/head of fiction directing, National Film and Television School, UK

American Honey Andrea Arnold

Hell or High Water David Mackenzie

Under the Shadow Babak Anvari

Things to Come (L’Avenir) Mia Hansen-Løve

Mimosas Oliver Laxe

In terms of television drama, the highlight was Richard Price and Steven Zaillian’s The Night Of, with brilliant writing and stunning performances by Riz Ahmed and John Turturro.

 

Adam Nayman

Contributing editor, Cinema Scope, Canada

Sieranevada Cristi Puiu

Toni Erdmann Maren Ade

Dusty Stacks of Mom Jodie Mack

The Death of Louis XIV Albert Serra

Elle Paul Verhoeven

In four of the five films I’ve chosen above, literal and figurative father figures are either decayed, dead or dying; the fifth is a hymn to maternal endurance. Themes of inheritance seem appropriate for a year in which major political outcomes in the UK and the US saw nations – and the family units that make them up – divided bitterly along generational lines.

At first glance, Cristi Puiu’s Sieranevada is merely a skilful, funny variation on a familiar kind of movie: one where parents and children get together and bicker over dinner. But at its core, Sieranevda is a film analysing what it means to grow up believing in living-room myths and legends, and the discomfiting mix of terror, disappointment and guilt at realising that being an adult means propagating them at the risk of losing face.

The heroines of Toni Erdmann and Elle, meanwhile, bridle hard against their daddy issues, and choosing between Sandra Huller’s serious comic genius and Isabelle Huppert’s hilariously hard-edged brilliance is impossible (although the Cannes jury solved the problem by somehow citing neither).

The most lasting image of the year for me, though, is Jean-Pierre Léaud as Louis XIV, an icon playing an icon, sitting paralytically on death’s doorstep in neither bravery nor cowardice but rather a simple, weary understanding as the men around him seek to delay and obfuscate. Heavy is the head that wears the crown, and in the end, all too stupidly human as well: a thought that gives little comfort to those thrown into despair by the election of a new, prematurely ghoulish and desiccated American Sun King. With this in mind, there was no more terrifyingly funny line in 2016 cinema than Albert Serra’s capper: “We’ll try to do better next time.”

 

Christina Newland

Journalist, UK

Mustang Deniz Gamze Ergüven

Mustang had to be at number one for me this year. It depicts the turmoil of a world that forces young girls to feel guilty merely for existing within their growing bodies – and the terrible psychic wounds that patriarchal communities inflict on their young. Ergüven has a visual preoccupation with the sisters at play and at rest in a tangle of limbs and hair; sisterhood as this physical extension of one another. It’s a beautifully rendered, subtle film about the confusion and heartbreak of girlhood in oppressive circumstances.

Chi-raq Spike Lee

Chi-raq is a riotously over-the-top borderline masterpiece – not the film Chicago wanted, but the one it needed. Just a chaotic, wonderfully bizarre gambit – some kind of hybrid of sex comedy, musical, and Greek tragedy, with searing contemporary relevance. Samuel L. Jackson’s narration – and John Cusack’s hair-raising pulpit monologue – have to be seen to be believed.

Creed Ryan Coogler

Propulsive, thrilling, emotionally engaging sports drama. A star is born in Michael B Jordan. A Hollywood sequel/de facto remake done perfectly, seeing Sly Stallone bow out gracefully and poignantly.

La La Land Damien Chazelle

Gushing, romantic, open-hearted fantasy the likes of which we rarely get in contemporary cinema.

Queen of Earth Alex Ross Perry

A throwback to the ‘hysterical-women-trapped-in-confined-spaces’ sub-genre – from Repulsion to Persona. Queen of Earth is pure feminine psychodrama, with a ‘big’ woman-on-the-edge performance from a stellar Elisabeth Moss.

Honourable mentions: in television, Orange is the New Black and Louis C. K.’s web-series Horace + Pete. On film, Lemonade!

 

Kim Newman

Writer, UK

Love & Friendship Whit Stillman

The Childhood of a Leader Brady Corbet

The Love Witch Anna Biller

Under the Shadow Babak Anvari

Evolution Lucile Hadzihalilovic

…looking at my choices, I see I was especially impressed this year by films by and about women.

Under the Shadow (2016)

Under the Shadow (2016)

 

Ben Nicholson

Film critic, UK

Moonlight Barry Jenkins

The Illinois Parables Deborah Stratman

Aquarius Kleber Mendonça Filho

Cameraperson Kirsten Johnson

Personal Shopper Olivier Assayas

Spectres of one kind or another seem to haunt my list this year as well as the films that were circling it until the final cut. In some instances they manifest around places: the buried state histories of Deborah Stratman’s demanding and hypnotic The Illinois Parables; the challenge to our shared remembrance of the Holocaust via our interactions with concentration camps in Sergei Loznitsa’s Austerlitz; the stark beauty and underlying terror of abandoned civilisation in Nikolaus Geyrhalter’s Homo Sapiens; the tactile physical memory of a beachfront apartment block in Kleber Mendonça Filho’s Aquarius; the recovered celluloid that re-animated a Gold Rush boomtown in Bill Morrison’s found footage documentary Dawson City: Frozen Time.

In other cases the phantoms are more personal: the enduring moments, constructed from re-edited outtakes, of a life behind the lens in Kirsten Johnson’s exceptional, thought-provoking Cameraperson; the uncanny cold sweat of Olivier Assayas’ 21st century ghost story-cum-millennial identity crisis, Personal Shopper; the all-but-forgotten Christine Chubbuck who was the subject of Robert Greene’s vital, knotty hybrid-doc Kate Plays Christine and Antonio Campos’ riveting fiction, Christine.

In a strong year, the standout cinematic experiences were the full 332 minutes of Kevin Brownlow’s painstaking restoration of Abel Gance’s glorious Napoleon with Carl Davis’ rousing score performed live by the Philharmonic Orchestra, and the wonderful restoration of an all-time favourite in Akira Kurosawa’s Ran. Besides the peerless Moonlight, other new releases worthy of mention include: Park Chan-wook’s The Handmaiden, in which masculine perversions are overthrown by gender revolution; Kelly Reichardt’s Certain Women, the quotidian struggles of four Montana women; Maren Ade’s much-beloved shaggy-dad-tale, Toni Erdmann; Pablo Larrain’s noirish literary farce, Neruda; and, to bring it back full circle, the ghost of glamorous, romantic Hollywood musicals, Damien Chazelle’s heart-melting La La Land.

 

Michal Oleszczyk

Critic and artistic director, Gdynia Film Festival, Poland

Sieranevada Cristi Puiu

The Last Family Jan P. Matuszynski

Bone Tomahawk S. Craig Zahler

Knight of Cups Terrence Malick

10 Cloverfield Lane Dan Trachtenberg

 

Ania Ostrowska

Film editor, The F-Word (www.thefword.org.uk), UK

Cameraperson Kirsten Johnson

Certain Women Kelly Reichardt

Sonita Rokhsareh Ghaem Maghami

Baden Baden Rachel Lang

Sworn Virgin Laura Bispuri

Kirsten Johnson’s Cameraperson blew my mind when I saw it at this year’s Sheffield Doc/Fest, or rather it expanded my mind to look beyond the obvious focus on the documentarian’s ethical conduct or the role of cameraperson in documentary filmmaking (Johnson’s term of choice, which she prefers to cinematographer). At the risk of uttering a total cliché, I see this film as being about the human condition (here, I said it: see it if you haven’t yet).

Another documentary on my list, Rokhsareh Ghaemmaghami’s Sonita, pushes more traditional boundaries of documentary filmmaker’s intervention into her subjects’ lives, but pushes them really far. Unsurprisingly, both films were recognised in Sheffield, winning Grand Jury (Cameraperson) and Youth Jury (Sonita) awards.

Three fiction filmmakers I have chosen tell their stories of certain women in ways which are masterfully accomplished (Reichardt), quietly transgressive (Bispuri) and bittersweet hilarious (Lang).

Hoping that Sight & Sound poll will be incorporating new categories in the future, I cast my early vote on the best virtual reality experience I’ve lived through this year: Notes on Blindness: Into Darkness, an immersive VR project accompanying an excellent documentary, Notes on Blindness by Peter Middleton and James Spinney, with Jo-Jo Ellison as one of the producers.

 

Michael Pattison

Critic, UK

The Illinois Parables Deborah Stratman

Sarah Winchester, Ghost Opera Bertrand Bonello

Scarred Hearts Radu Jude

Answer Print Mónica Savirón

Protect Yourself Patrick Brian Smith

“IT’S NOW TIME TO TURN OFF THE GOVERNMENT”

– Graz graffito, 12 March 2016

 

Andrea Picard

Film curator, TIFF, Canada

Sieranevada Cristi Puiu

The Death of Louis XIV Albert Serra

The Dreamed Path Angela Schanelec

Nocturama Bertrand Bonello

Certain Women Kelly Reichardt

 

Nina Power

Senior lecturer, UK

American Honey Andrea Arnold

 

John Powers

Critic, Vogue, USA

Toni Erdmann Maren Ade

Moonlight Barry Jenkins

The Handmaiden Park Chan-wook

20th Century Women Mike Mills

O.J.: Made in America Ezra Edelman

 

James Quandt

Curator/critic, Canada

From the Branches Drops the Withered Blossom Paul Meyer

Sieranevada Cristi Puiu

The Death of Louis XIV Albert Serra

The Ornithologist João Pedro Rodrigues

Ma’ Rosa Brillante Mendoza

The film event of the year was the complete retrospective of the films of Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet at the Museum of Modern Art, New York.

 

Rachael Rakes

Programmer at large, Film Society Lincoln Center, USA

Certain Women Kelly Reichardt

Toni Erdmann Maren Ade

A Magical Substance Flows into Me Jumana Manna

Oleg and the Rare Arts Andres Duque

O Futebol Sergio Oksman

 

Naman Ramachandran

Critic, UK/India

The Neon Demon Nicolas Winding Refn

I, Daniel Blake Ken Loach

Toni Erdmann Maren Ade

Your Name Makoto Shinkai

A Billion Colour Story Padmakumar Narasimhamurthy

Despite it being an annus horribilis due to some unexpected world events, it has been an extraordinary year for cinema with a wide range of highlights. Beginning with the visually astonishing The Neon Demon; to the sheer difficulty of watching I, Daniel Blake in post-Brexit UK; to the warm and humorous character study that is Toni Erdmann; rounded off with the sheer humanism of Your Name and A Billion Colour Story, it feels like we’ve seen it all this year. The icing on the cake was of course travelling the world, beginning with Sundance, with a film that I wrote and executive produced, Brahman Naman, and getting photobombed by Werner Herzog in the process. I’d happily live this year again, minus the aforementioned world events and the deaths of some of my childhood icons.

 

Kiva Reardon

Founding editor, cléo journal, Canada

Moonlight Barry Jenkins

Toni Erdmann Maren Ade

Divines Houda Benyamina

I Am Not Your Negro Raoul Peck

Hello Destroyer Kevan Funk

I never know how to summarise a year, and especially not this one, which has felt so utterly filled with hate and sadness. All I can say is that these films – which range from moving humanist drama (Moonlight), to comedy (Toni Erdmann), to inspirational first features (Divines, Hello Destroyer), to resonant documentary (I Am Not Your Negro) – didn’t just move me, but forced me to engage with the world in a deeper way. They were not an escape from reality, but a foray into engaging with it. Ultimately, this is the best thing that art can do.

 

Kong Rithdee

Critic (the Bangkok Post), Thailand

Mimosas Oliver Laxe

A parable about a human quest through the landscape of God and the devil, with a Sufi prophet/Moroccan Don Quixote as guide. What’s most remarkable is how time and space are flipped in and out, as only cinema and Arab raconteurs can.

The Ornithologist João Pedro Rodrigues

A fevered reverie, beginning as a National Geographic showreel and morphing with rugged elegance into a fable of erotic transcendence. The canonisation of a saint as a sexual pilgrimage through the haunted Portuguese woods.

The Woman Who Left Lav Diaz

President Duterte or not, senseless deaths on the street or not, Lav Diaz never tries to catch a rabbit – he always goes for the dragon in its lair. The theme is big: humanity, guilt, crime, punishment, injustice, despair – the Filipino despair, or maybe the Southeast Asian despair, drenched in sweat and blood of the common man. In this film what moves us even more is the possibility of mercy, compassion, even grace, struggling to blossom like a flower in hell.

Toni Erdmann Maren Ade

Funny, touching, crazy, clever, it is also an honest, brutal study of family, sexism, and how work and the passion for professionalism affects our humanity.

Elle Paul Verhoeven

A gloriously disturbing black comedy about rape. Verhoeven and Huppert walk on a razor blade and it’s so electrifying and maddening to see them flirt with the danger of immorality and cinematic convention, and emerge unscathed.

The Woman Who Left (2016)

The Woman Who Left (2016)

 

Vadim Rizov

Managing editor, Filmmaker Magazine, USA

Everybody Wants Some!! Richard Linklater

Manchester by the Sea Kenneth Lonergan

Certain Women Kelly Reichardt

Yourself and Yours Hong Sang-soo

Things to Come (L’Avenir) Mia Hansen-Løve

This is a list of subjective absolute favorites based on the date of their world premiere. That means that there are certain films I don’t love as much that I nonetheless esteem quite highly and which need advocacy.

One is Bertrand Bonello’s Nocturama, a real work of art whose uncomfortable political conclusions have made it harder to see than necessary – speaking from a provincial American perspective, it has not played NYC officially, and US distribution has yet to be acquired. This is cowardice and de facto censorship.

Another is Eduardo Williams’ truly radical and new The Human Surge, another undistributable film in the most honorable sense.

Though it premiered in 2015, Roberto Minervini’s The Other Side (which appears to have only had theatrical runs starting in 2016) is both startlingly formally accomplished and a rarely insightful film on angry, economically dispossessed white Americans at the nexus of severe drug abuse, racism and anti-government paranoia – it’s essential, explanatory viewing for the vile Trump era.

My favorite short of the year is Ismaïl Bahri’s Foyer, which brings the open-minded wonder of Kiarostami’s Where Is The Friend’s Home to an avant-garde project that, visually, is pure colours. It’s an ideal potential intro to the a-g.

 

Adam Roberts

Curator/filmmaker, UK

The Death of Louis XIV Albert Serra

But Elsewhere is Always Better Vivian Ostrovsky

The Airport John Akomfrah

Sieranevada Christi Puiu

Madame de… Max Ophüls

All lists are provisional, but this one includes variety at least. The Albert Serra film shown at the London Film Festival was an incredible delight, an unexpected and inventive response to constraint, and a chance for actors to show what they could do with not much at all, and what they could do was very good.

The Akomfrah took its lead from Angelopoulos, and perhaps others, to find new rhythms, rhymes and forms. The three-screen installation at Lisson Gallery was a wonderful experience.

Gaumont restored Madame de… in 2012 but seeing it this year for the first time was a cinema highlight. A treasure for all times. When our extinct culture is discovered and the archaeological remains raked over by alien archaeologists I hope this is what they find.

Sieranevada is another triumph over constraint – filmed almost entirely from a corridor in a cramped and crowded apartment in a humble part of the world. All is laid bare by a superb filmmaker who continues never to put a foot wrong.

Finally, Vivian Ostrovsky was a life-long friend to Chantal Akerman and put together this short ten-minute homage, which includes some truly wonderful home video of Akerman at ease, at play and very much alive. A Nos Amours was able to show it as a curtain lifter for the After Chantal Conference at the University of Westminster at the end of this year. Akerman’s passing is surely a tragedy, since her intelligent compassion is now removed from a world so in need of even a shred of intelligence let alone compassion.

 

Selina Robertson

Film curator and writer, UK

Chevalier Athina Rachel Tsangari

No Home Movie Chantal Akerman

American Honey Andrea Arnold

Baden Baden Rachel Lang

Bridget Jones’s Baby Sharon Maguire

2016 was the year of the woman and so on this occasion it was important for me to focus in on five outstanding films made by female filmmakers at various stages of their careers. An honourable queer mention must go to Cemetery of Splendour by Apichatpong Weerasethakul. My festival highlights were listening to Lizzie Borden tells us about the making of Born in Flames at the London Film Festival and Donna Deitch present Desert Hearts at BFI Flare. My film season highlights were Dissent and Disruption: The Complete Alan Clarke at the BFI and Laura Mulvey & Peter Wollen: Beyond the Scorched Earth at the Whitechapel and Catherine Breillat discuss Fat Girl during the Barbican’s brilliant Cheap Thrills season. Finally, my feminist cinema discovery of the year was Losing Ground (1982) by Kathleen Collins, one of the first African-American women to direct a feature film that screened at BFI’s Woman with a Movie Camera season with an exceptional panel discussion.

 

Tim Robey

Critic, Daily Telegraph, UK

Paterson Jim Jarmusch

Moonlight Barry Jenkins

Toni Erdmann Maren Ade

Certain Women Kelly Reichardt

Aquarius Kleber Mendonça Filho

 

Chris Robinson

Writer and artistic director of Ottawa International Animation Festival, Canada

Before Love Igor Kovalyov

Impossible Figures and Other Stories II Marta Pajek

Louise en Hiver Jean-Francois Laguionie

Psychonauts, the Forgotten Children Rivero Pedro & Vãzquez Alberto

Datum Point Ryo Orikasa

Forget live-action folks, indie animation is where you’ll find heart, soul, humanity – warts and all.

 

Chloe Roddick

Programmer, Morelia International Film Festival, Mexico

La La Land Damien Chazelle

Raw Julia Ducournau

American Honey Andrea Arnold

Bellas de noche (Beauties of the Night) María José Cuevas

The Transfiguration Michael O’Shea

 

Nick Roddick

Journalist and critic, UK

I, Daniel Blake Ken Loach

Le Ciel Flamand Peter Monsært

Sully Clint Eastwood

Sieranevada Cristi Puiu

The Levelling Hope Dickson Leach

The Hateful Eight would have been No 6 – a major admission from a Tarantinophobe like me. Elsewhere, the barrier between film and television seems increasingly arbitrary, and not just because of the big Netflix Originals: a four-parter such as C4’s National Treasure is a film in all respects – script, direction, camerawork, performances – except means of delivery.

 

Jonathan Romney

Critic, UK

Toni Erdmann Maren Ade

Scarred Hearts Radu Jude

The Death of Louis XIV Albert Serra

The Woman Who Left Lav Diaz

Midnight Special Jeff Nichols

In any obvious sense, the real film of the year was one that didn’t make my top five, but that spoke painfully and with clarion immediacy about the lamentable state of Tory-run Britain – I, Daniel Blake. I’m implicitly voting for it in my number one choice, Toni Erdmann – since, apart from being a comedy and a very human delight, Maren Ade’s film is also, it shouldn’t be forgotten, an intensely angry political statement about the way that capitalism – and specifically, corporate culture and its languages – disempower, dehumanise and alienate. Both films are conveying the same urgent message, albeit in radically different cinematic languages.

One of my other choices here stands for the two Lav Diaz films I saw in 2016, the other being the flawed, wayward A Lullaby to the Sorrowful Mystery, but my vote for his Venice prize-winner is also a vote for an exemplary continuing adventure in filmmaking as passionate mission. Other films that made 2016 for me included: The Untamed, The Son of Joseph, Personal Shopper, Elle, Fire at Sea, Paterson, Ivo Ferreira’s underrated Letters from War, Nele Wohlatz’s joyously deadpan comedy about language The Future Perfect, Bertrand Bonello’s dazzling if contentious Nocturama, and the first Marvel film I’ve cared about in a long time, Doctor Strange – which, like Jeff Nichols’s Midnight Special, represented a vote of faith in the screen possibilities of the digital sublime.

 

Jonathan Rosenbaum

Freelance writer, blogger and teacher, USA

The Day Before the End Lav Diaz

Everybody Wants Some!! Richard Linklater

Aragane Oda Kaori

Paterson Jim Jarmusch

The Death of Louis XIV Albert Serra

The first on my list, a short, I caught at the estimable Filmadrid; the third, a documentary by a former FilmFactory student of mine, I saw via a Vimeo link. Worthy runners-up would include João Nicolau’s John From, Barry Jenkins’s Moonlight, Whit Stillman’s Love & Friendship and Kurosawa Kiyoshi’s Journey to the Shore – and perhaps certain other contenders I haven’t yet caught up with.

 

Shelagh Rowan-Legg

Contributor, Spain

Toni Erdmann Maren Ade

Raw Julia Ducournau

Moonlight Barry Jenkins

The Untamed Amat Escalante

The Girl with All the Gifts Colm McCarthy

 

Sukhdev Sandhu

Associate professor, New York University, USA

Arena: Night and Day Anthony Wall & Emma Matthews

John Berger or The Art of Looking Cordelia Dvorak

Blackstar Johan Renck

Notes on Blindness Pete Middleton, James Spinney

The Safe House: A Decline of Ideas Greta Bellamacina

It’s been a year of collapsing architecture, buckled democracy, regime change. Political cartographies have been scrambled. Landscapes I once knew have been razed or ruined. I’ve found myself thinking about the filmic environment in which I grew up, about aesthetic languages that once but no longer flourished, about the funding – and even moral – infrastructures that allowed me to get a movie education for free.

My two highlights were a dawn-to-dawn screening in New York of Arena: Night and Day, a 24-hour remix of the pioneering BBC arts programme – steered by Anthony Wall – that, as a teenager, introduced me to Genet, Burroughs, Louise Bourgeois and countless other foundational figures. It was durational but without longueurs, mordant and moving, an installation piece that rechoreographed the original series and realigned the city in which it was being staged. People drove from Pittsburgh to catch the 6am, Saturday beginning. A common refrain: “This was shown on public TV?” There was laughter, awe and sustained engagement with the visual grammar of a programme whose existence today’s BBC barely seems to acknowledge. At 6am on Sunday, exhausted but euphoric, a band of remainers raised a glass of champagne to the ghost of public culture.

My other highlight was Peter Wollen and Laura Mulvey: Beyond The Scorched Earth of Counter-Cinema, an Oliver Fuke-curated retrospective at East London’s Whitechapel Gallery that exhumed and reframed an incredible body of theory films, steeped in but also soaring beyond the semiotic struggles of the 1970s, which was retinally and intellectually dazzling, sonically mysterious and often (no one ever says this) very funny. This was cinema, made in an era of austerity and downturn, that stared down miserabilism and believed in the possibility of possibility. That’s an achievement worth dwelling upon right now.

Notes on Blindness (2016)

Notes on Blindness (2016)

 

Jasper Sharp

Author, curator and co-director of The Creeping Garden, UK

Harmonium Koji Fukuda

Creepy Kiyoshi Kurosawa

Anomalisa Charlie Kaufman & Duke Johnson

Mina Walking Yosef Baraki

HyperNormalisation Adam Curtis

There have been some wonderful films released across the world this year – too many to do justice to in a list such as this – but I’m particularly excited to see a return to form from Japanese filmmakers after a fallow period of some years now (my sixth choice would have been Tatsuya Mori’s riveting documentary Fake, about the disgraced ‘deaf’ composer Mamoru Samuragochi who, it transpired, was not deaf after all).

My main gripe is that many of the standout releases from Asia in general, and Japan in particular, have been by established directors of an auteurist bent and those that have been fortunate to get UK distribution have been acquired after premieres at European festivals – UK audiences’ exposure to Asian cinema is very much filtered through the tastes of programmers at festivals such as Berlin or Cannes, and there appears no scope nor any will for any new discoveries to be made outside of this framework.

While I’ve attempted to restrict the focus of my top five to those films readily availably for viewing in the UK, my own work as a curator of Asian film means that, in my search for premieres and new talent, I get to see a lot of films that will never have this privilege. For this reason, I have flagged up the immensely powerful Mina Walking, the debut feature of 25-year-old Afghan-Canadian director Yosef Baraki, which depicts life in contemporary Kabul through the eyes of its 12-year-old protagonist, and pose the question: why hasn’t a film of this quality and relevance to today’s world picked up any distributor interest or critical attention in this country?

 

Meenakshi Shedde

South Asia consultant, Berlin and 
Dubai Film Festivals; India curator 
to the BFI, India

The Salesman Asghar Farhadi

In the Last Days of the City Tamer El Said

Cold of Kalandar Mustafa Kara

Dark Wind Hussein Hassan

A Death in the Gunj Konkona Sensharma

 

Melissa Silverstein

Founder and publisher, Women and Hollywood, USA

Divines Houda Benyamina

Toni Erdmann Maren Ade

Things to Come (L’Avenir) Mia Hansen-Løve

The 13th Ava Duvernay

Queen of Katwe Mira Nair

 

Leigh Singer

Film journalist/programmer/video essayist, UK

Toni Erdmann Maren Ade

La La Land Damien Chazelle

Moonlight Barry Jenkins

The 13th Ava DuVernay

Hail, Caesar! Joel Coen & Ethan Coen

In a year of social and cultural hammer blows, a measure of relief and inspiration in these clear-eyed, often radical visions of personal and political engagement, artistic daring, twisted humour, cathartic song and dance and generous compassion. Would that it were so simple offscreen too.

 

Anna Smith

Film critic and broadcaster, UK

The Keeping Room Daniel Barber

Manchester by the Sea Kenneth Lonergan

Victoria Sebastian Schipper

The Girl with All the Gifts Colm McCarthy

Your Name Makoto Shinkai

One of my most significant film experiences this year was watching Ghostbusters, not because it was an exceptionally good film (it wasn’t), but because it was thrillingly groundbreaking: a mainstream non-romantic comedy sci-fi starring women. Growing up in the 80s my movie heroes were the male Ghostbusters, Marty McFly, Ferris Bueller; I’m pleased that the kids of 2016 have more diverse options.

Another notable film was Equity, a female-focused Wall Street drama. Like Ghostbusters, I haven’t included it in my top five for quality reasons, but both made an impact on me this year, even if Hollywood has a long way to go in terms of representations of women.

A film that did get it right was The Keeping Room, Daniel Barber’s overlooked western starring Brit Marling and Hailee Steinfeld joining forces with their slave (the excellent Muna Otaru) in the brutal last days of the Civil War. I’ve chosen to highlight this in the hope that more people will discover it.

I’d like to add honourable mentions for films exploring another of the year’s most enduring themes: escape into the wilderness. Hunt for the Wilderpeople, Swallows and Amazons, Pete’s Dragon and Captain Fantastic, I salute you. “Power to the people, stick it to the man!”

The Girl with All the Gifts (2016)

The Girl with All the Gifts (2016)

Read our The Girl with All the Gifts review

 

Farran Smith Nehme

Writer, USA

Love & Friendship Whit Stillman

Hell or High Water David Mackenzie

Moonlight Barry Jenkins

O.J.: Made in America Ezra Edelman

Elle Paul Verhoeven

 

Paul Julian Smith

Professor, USA

7:19 am Jorge Michel Grau

Julieta Pedro Almodóvar

Arrival Denis Villeneuve

La La Land Damien Chazelle

Moonlight Barry Jenkins

This Is Us (NBC, 2016) is the kind of smart, moving, adult drama that used to be found in US independent cinema but has now found a happy home on network TV.

 

Fernanda Solorzano

Critic, Mexico

Elle Paul Verhoeven

La La Land Damien Chazelle

Jackie Pablo Larraín

Beauties of the Night María José Cuevas

Sand Storm Elite Zexer

Although it’s just a coincidence, four of my five picks portray unconventional women who defy expectations (and shock a few in the process). The most extreme is Verhoeven’s Elle, in which revenge and sexual fantasies play inside a woman’s head after she’s brutally raped. She’s played by Isabelle Huppert, whose ambiguous approach to loaded roles has become a film genre in itself.

Also unexpected is Pablo Larraín’s Jackie, an unsettling deconstruction of the mythic first lady that shows her journey from being a wife with pedigree to becoming the moral core of a nation devastated by grief.

María José Cuevas’s first documentary Beauties of the Night also deals with drastic evolutions: it tells the story of five women who were Mexico’s top showgirls during the 70s and 80s, and eventually faced some kind of downfall. Cuevas’s empathetic stance results in an uplifting tale of redemption that gives younger audiences a chance to connect with goddesses from earlier times.

Also an impressive debut, Sand Storm is a meticulously scripted drama about two Bedouin women from different generations dealing with the male imposed customs that define their lives. Israeli filmmaker Elite Zexer eschews melodrama in favour of character construction: in her film, both the women and men are dignified, sensible people who ponder their options and consider the possible outcomes of their actions.

The odd one out in the women-themed group is La La Land, arguably the most dazzling film of the year. Accomplished in every aspect, it’s both a homage to and a rewriting of Hollywood’s classic musicals. While in Whiplash Damien Chazelle explored the dark side of artistic virtue, in his second film he denies his characters a conventional happy ending. Only the harshest cynics will resist this film’s bittersweet charm.

 

Kate Stables

Critic, UK

I, Daniel Blake Ken Loach

High Rise Ben Wheatley

Hell or High Water David Mackenzie

Kubo and the Two Strings Travis Knight

Things to Come (L’Avenir) Mia Hansen-Løve

 

Brad Stevens

Film critic, UK

The Assassin Hou Hsiao-hsien

Knight of Cups Terrence Malick

Right Now, Wrong Then Hong Sang-soo

Cemetery of Splendour Apichatpong Weerasethakul

The Hateful Eight Quentin Tarantino

Increasingly, I find that the contemporary films I am drawn to are those in which the narrative exists mostly by implication, but the emotions are crystal clear – a description that applies to four of the five titles on my list.

 

Jez Stewart

Curator, UK

High-Rise Ben Wheatley

The Red Turtle Michaël Dudok de Wit

Soft Crash Alan Warburton

Roger Ballen’s Theatre of Apparitions Emma Calder & Ged Haney

Notes on Blindness: Into Darkness Peter Middleton, James Spinney, Amaury La Burthe, Arnaud Colinart

As powerful an experience as the theatrical version of Notes on Blindness was, the virtual reality experience was doubly so. Whether 2016 stands as ‘The Year that VR broke’ (however you wish to interpret this) or not, here is a project that lays down a real marker for its potential to tell meaningful stories – including documentary ones.

 

Francine Stock

Presenter, Radio 4’s 
The Film Programme, UK

Things to Come Mia Hansen-Løve

The Club Pablo Larraín

Dheepan Jacques Audiard

The Jungle Book Jon Favreau

Victoria Sebastian Schipper

All of my top five achieve considerable emotional and narrative impact through very different but beautifully executed styles.

It was a year when some of the most highly anticipated films failed to deliver; on the other hand, there were distinctive, memorable pleasures, whether for children, like Zootropolis and Kubo and the Two Strings, or not – like Luca Guadagnino’s A Bigger Splash, Ciro Guerra’s Embrace of the Serpent or Tom Geens’s Couple in a Hole.

 

Amy Taubin

Critic, USA

Moonlight Barry Jenkins

Toni Erdmann Maren Ade

Everything Else Natalia Almada

I Am Not Your Negro Raoul Peck

O.J.: Made in America Ezra Edelman

Words fail me now, so not a comment but a perhaps necessary clarification: OJ: Made in America is a multi-part documentary. It is not the multi-part TV dramatisation of the O.J. trial, which was also released this year.

 

Matthew Taylor

Critic, UK

Moonlight Barry Jenkins

Sieranevada Cristi Puiu

Manchester by the Sea Kenneth Lonergan

Certain Women Kelly Reichardt

Toni Erdmann Maren Ade

 

David Thompson

Film writer/director of arts documentaries, UK

Anomalisa Charlie Kaufman & Duke Johnson

Son of Saul Laszlo Nemes

Cosmos Andzrej Zulawski

Elle Paul Verhoeven

Personal Shopper Olivier Assayas

Anomalisa (2015)

Read our Anomalisa review

 

Matthew Thrift

Critic, UK

Knight of Cups Terrence Malick

Certain Women Kelly Reichardt

The Death of Louis XIV Albert Serra

Personal Shopper Olivier Assayas

Dawson City: Frozen Time Bill Morrison

A shared top spot would be cheating, so I’m including Malick’s latest, Voyage of Time: Life’s Journey here as an honourable mention rather than giving him two spots out of my alloted five. His next two, Weightless and Radegund (2017?) can’t arrive soon enough.

Keith Uhlich

Writer/critic, USA

Justin Timberlake + the Tennessee Kids Jonathan Demme

A Quiet Passion Terence Davies

The Neon Demon Nicolas Winding Refn

The Lost City of Z James Gray

Ten Mornings Ten Evenings and One Horizon Tomonari Nishikawa

I limited myself to movies with 2016 timestamps, thus eliminating titles such as Knight of Cups, Cemetery of Splendour and Cosmos (all 2015). The Lodge Kerrigan-Amy Seimetz television series The Girlfriend Experience (2016) also deserves consideration alongside anything released theatrically.

Starting from #5: Tomonari Nishikawa’s short, which I saw in the Toronto Film Festival ‘Wavelengths’ programme, is comprised of several multi-exposure perspectives of bridges along Japan’s Yahagi River. Its tremendously personal vision (fracturing time so as to extend it infinitely) moved me deeply.

#4: James Gray’s period epic about a British explorer (Charlie Hunnam) on an obsessive, lifelong quest (a logline that hardly does this aesthetically and thematically complex film justice) won’t open until 2017 in most markets. But it was a highlight of this year’s New York Film Festival, where I saw it twice in nearly back-to-back screenings (the first DCP, the second 35mm – no especial preference since both versions did justice to Darius Khondji’s gorgeously hazy photography, though it was pleasing to see that slight jitter inherent to celluloid).

#3: The man I took to calling Nicolas Winding Re-no-fun surprised me by making a movie I adore, a thorny tale of competition and cannibalism in the LA modelling industry, in which this oft-inane provocateur’s male gaze is constantly complicated by the efforts of his numerous female collaborators (Jena Malone the goddess among them all).

#2: Terence Davies’s life (and death) portrait of Emily Dickinson (Cynthia Nixon) seems authored in a private language, one great artist paying inimitable homage to another.

#1: I experienced nothing more joyous this year than Jonathan Demme’s concert movie featuring pop idol Justin Timberlake and company during the final, ecstatic performances of their latest tour. I’m not the first to see Demme as a temperamental and aesthetic heir to Jean Renoir; this is most certainly his The Golden Coach.

 

Noel Vera

Film Critic, Philippines

A Lullaby to the Sorrowful Mystery (Hele sa Hiwagang Hapis) Lav Diaz

Anomalisa Charlie Kaufman & Duke Johnson

The Woman Who Left (Ang Babaeng Humayo) Lav Diaz

Our Little Sister (Umimachi Diary) Hirokazu Kore-eda

The Lobster Yorgos Lanthimos

For world cinema I do what I can to see what I can; as you can see the list is slanted towards late releases in 2015, and what is released on DVD (arthouse cinemas are practically a desert and let’s not even talk about mainstream multiplexes).

I’m pleased to note that Lav Diaz after a relatively fallow period in 2015 has come up with not one but two major works, one set in the crucial period of the Philippine Revolution, the other a contemplative noir, if there is such a creature.

The year has not been a good one generally speaking, but I’m grateful for at least one development: the digital restoration of Mario O’Hara’s Tatlong Taong Walang Diyos, whose story of a woman standing defiant in a country governed by the wrong leaders speaks to us more urgently than ever.

Our Little Sister (Umimachi Diary, 2015)

Read our Our Little Sister review

 

Giovanni Vimercati aka Celluloid Liberation Front

Critic, UK/Italy

Donald Cried Kris Avedisian

Elle Paul Verhoeven

I, Daniel Blake Ken Loach

Jean Ziegler, L’Optimisme de la Volonté Nicolas Wadimoff

Mister Universo Tizza Covi & Rainer Frimmel

In the movie theatre the eye gets used to darkness but also learns how to see through it. May the same apply to the threatening darkness of our times.

Honourable mention: O.J.: Made in America by Ezra Edelman (ESPN)

 

Ginette Vincendeau

Professor in Film Studies, UK

Merci patron! François Ruffin

Toni Erdmann Maren Ade

The Unknown Girl Jean-Paul and Luc Dardenne

Julieta Pedro Almodóvar

In Bed with Victoria (aka Victoria) Justine Triet

I didn’t do it on purpose but four of my five films this year are portraits of women in a range of genres, from popular comedy (Victoria) to tense drama (The Unknown Girl). The most complex (not an accident) are directed by women. But all have great actresses – my personal Palme d’Or would be shared between Sandra Hüller in Toni Erdmann, Adèle Haenel in The Unknown Girl and Virginie Efira in In Bed with Victoria. Merci patron! is the funniest political film.

The highlight of my cinematic year not to do with recent releases was seeing L’Affaire de la rue de Lourcine (1923) a comedy starring a brilliant young Maurice Chevalier, with live piano, at the wonderful Fondation Jérôme Seydoux-Pathé in Paris.

 

Thirza Wakefield

Film critic, UK

A Quiet Passion Terence Davies

Everybody Wants Some!! Richard Linklater

Manchester by the Sea Kenneth Lonergan

The Dreamed Ones Ruth Beckermann

I, Daniel Blake Ken Loach

Ghostbusters (Feig), Certain Women (Reichardt), Spotlight (McCarthy), Tale of Tales (Garrone), Midnight Special (Nichols), Hell or High Water (Mackenzie) and Hail, Caesar! (Coens) I also enjoyed enormously, along with the second series of Sally Wainwright’s Happy Valley on British television.

 

Harriet Warman

Producer and programmer, Alchemy Film & Moving Image Festival, freelance critic, UK

The Love Witch Anna Biller

Heart of a Dog Laurie Anderson

Man Maja Borg

Green Room Jeremy Saulnier

Eldorado XXI Salome Lamas

I’ve chosen the most memorable films of 2016, films that have returned again and again to my thinking about what cinema can be. The utter, brilliant, beauty of The Love Witch, the warmth and honesty of Heart of a Dog, the wit and wryness of Man, the ethics of Green Room and the harsh and remarkable texture of Eldorado XXI. Other pleasures of the moving image this year have included two by Lizzie Borden, Regrouping, accompanied by the excellent day of discussions at EIFF and Born in Flames, so jubilantly presented at LFF, and I must mention my first (and hopefully not last) experience of the moving and thoughtful expanded cinema of Gaëlle Rouard.

 

Catherine Wheatley

Senior lecturer in Film Studies, 
King’s College London, UK

Toni Erdmann Maren Ade

Baden Baden Rachel Lang

Wild Nicolette Krebitz

Certain Women Kelly Reichardt

Things to Come Mia Hansen-Løve

 

Armond White

Critic, National Review & 
OUT magazine, USA

Being 17 André Téchiné

The President Mohsen Makhmalbaf

Sunset Song Terence Davies

Wiener-Dog Todd Solondz

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Zack Snyder

The decline of criticism is the big news this year. As the Mainstream Media (MSM) befouls itself, fewer and fewer serious film critics are being supported and the public just doesn’t seem to care. The MSM is taken over by cronyism and consumerism. There is no more diversity among cinephiles. Here’s the news that MSM doesn’t report: popular cinema and TV are a wasteland. This era should be a new golden age for art movies. Téchiné, Makhmalbaf, Davies and Solondz are leading the way; Zack Snyder is the only maker of ‘popular’ films who has a vision and sensibility that stirs great feeling and profound thought. The festival circuit and MSM ‘criticism’ promote film culture’s decline. God help us all.

 

Charles Whitehouse

Film critic, UK

Victoria Sebastian Schipper

Evolution Lucile Hadzihalilovic

Things to Come (L’Avenir) Mia Hansen-Løve

Neruda Pablo Larraín

I, Daniel Blake Ken Loach

 

Sam Wigley

News and features editor, BFI, UK

Certain Women Kelly Reichardt

Hail, Caesar! Joel Coen & Ethan Coen

Love & Friendship Whit Stillman

Manchester by the Sea Kenneth Lonergan

The Death of Louis XIV Albert Serra

In music, the old guard might have matched the dark days of 2016 blow for blow, with abyss-staring records from Bowie, Shirley Collins, Leonard Cohen and Nick Cave among others, but at the cinema it’s been comedies that have left some of the more lasting impressions on me over the past 12 months. I sat grinning throughout the Coen brothers’ blissful Hollywood pastiche Hail, Caesar!, while Whit Stillman’s venture into Jane Austen territory for Love & Friendship was a welcome tickle of the costume movie’s well-corseted ribs. Rachel Lang’s Baden Baden and Maren Ade’s Toni Erdmann – which finds an unlikely funny-bone amid the central European business world – should really be in my list too. I predict/hope that the latter at least will be championed by other contributors.

But they were nudged out of my final five by three bracing doses of death, heartbreak and misery: Kelly Reichardt’s sublime triptych of the Montana hinterlands, Certain Women; Kenneth Lonergan’s wrenchingly sad (but also very funny) Manchester by the Sea; and Albert Serra’s slyly devastating deathbed (anti)drama The Death of Louis XIV, which contains quite the stillest and most moving death scene I can remember seeing.

Documentaries always seem to get squeezed out when I come to think about favourites, but a word too for Ava DuVernay’s extraordinarily clear-eyed and potent Netflix doc The 13th.

 

Craig Williams

Programmer and writer, UK

Elle Paul Verhoeven

Personal Shopper Olivier Assayas

Things to Come (L’Avenir) Mia Hansen-Løve

Nocturama Bertrand Bonello

Everybody Wants Some!! Richard Linklater

A brief note on three of my choices.

Paul Verhoeven’s Elle is the best new film I’ve seen since Jean-Luc Godard’s Goodbye to Language in 2014. A precarious, genre-literate provocation framed as a bourgeois-baiting farce, I was staggered by just how subversive and intellectually rigorous it is. It’s also great to see such a bold, transgressive picture in a year where an increasingly censorial attitude has become rife in the cultural discourse.

With Personal Shopper, Olivier Assayas constructs a new gothic aesthetic for the present day. It’s a chronicle of millennial malaise played out as an elusive ghost story, but what really stands out is the way Assayas blurs the lines between physical, digital and spectral spaces. It’s his best film since Irma Vep.

For the past 18 months, a number of films – from Luca Guadagnino’s A Bigger Splash to Gianfranco Rosi’s Fire at Sea – have tackled the notion of the end of Europe. This is also the dominant thread in Bertrand Bonello’s extraordinary Nocturama. Part Godardian provocation, part Rivettian cityscaping, it’s a cold, oblique take on a country – and a continent – in crisis.

My top 10 would also include the Coen brothers’ Hail, Caesar!, Clint Eastwood’s Sully, Mel Gibson’s Hacksaw Ridge, Spike Lee’s Chi-raq, and Kelly Reichardt’s Certain Women.

 

Jason Wood

Artistic director, HOME, UK

Toni Erdmann Maren Ade

Notes on Blindness Peter Middleton and James Spinney

Certain Women Kelly Reichardt

Moonlight Barry Jenkins

I, Daniel Blake Ken Loach

I regret finding no space for Embrace of the Serpent, A Quiet Passion or Fire at Sea. I found this a strong year for UK cinema with I Am Belfast, Couple in a Hole, Prevenge, Lady Macbeth, The Ghoul, Norfolk and The Survivalist impressing. Loach’s I, Daniel Blake is perhaps the most important film of the year in relation to the situation in a post-Brexit Britain. The fact that it has connected so powerfully with audiences is a tonic for the soul.

One of the things that excited me most this year was the rise of independent programming initiatives and the work done by the likes of Wonder Women, Come the Revolution and Club des Femmes, to name but three. The desire to see a diverse range of cinema on our screens would seem to be thriving.

 

Neil Young

Journalist/programmer, UK

We’ll Go to Neuilly, Inshallah (On ira a Neuilly, inch’Allah) Mehdi Ahoudig & Anna Salzberger

Autumn (Herbst) Meinhard Rauchensteiner

The French Road, Detroit MI Arthur Summereder

One Hundred and Fifty Years of Life (Yi bai wu shi sui de sheng huo) Liu Yu

Spotlight Tom McCarthy

2016: year of the unedifying spectacle. Brexit in the UK, Trumpism in the US, Turkey’s dissent-crackdown, Brazil’s five-ring circus of vicious inequality, Russia’s hydra-headed poisoning of the global body-politic… and Lav Diaz landing main-jury prizes at both Berlin and Venice. Diaz’s trophies – small beer in the wider scheme of things, of course – consecrate artistic narrative cinema’s blind dance into moribundity.

Most of the year’s most distinctive, original and/or engaged works were, unsurprisingly, produced far from The System’s sclerotic funding bodies and perniciously proliferating ‘labs’. Crafted with minimal budgets, compromise and hype, they found scant traction with cultural gatekeepers – too many of whom are products/beneficiaries/perpetuators of that same System – and were thus relegated to the outer dark. Myriad examples abound; my top four played maybe a dozen festivals between them. Comfort-crumb: my #5 was the best Best Picture for more than a decade. Hooray for Hollywood!

 

 

Film-by-film votes index

1. Toni Erdmann

Jason Anderson
Michael Atkinson
Erika Balsom
Catherine Bray
Michelle Carey
Tom Charity
Michel Ciment
David Cox
Jordan Cronk
Maria Delgado
Stephane Delorme
Lizzie Francke
Roberts Hanks
Molly Haskell
J. Hoberman
Joanna Hogg
Alexander Horwath
Eric Hynes
Nick James
David Jenkins
Kent Jones
Glenn Kenny
Robert Koehler
Michael Koresky
Dennis Lim
Dana Linssen
Guy Lodge
Derek Malcolm
Giovanni Marchini Camia
Neil McGlone
Kate Muir
Marco Muller
Adam Nayman
John Powers
Rachael Rakes
Naman Ramachandran
Kiva Reardon
Kong Rithdee
Tim Robey
Jonathan Romney
Shelagh Rowan-Legg
Melissa Silverstein
Leigh Singer
Isabel Stevens
Amy Taubin
Matthew Taylor
Ginette Vincendeau
Catherine Wheatley
Jason Wood

 

2. Moonlight

Jason Anderson
Corrina Antrobus
James Bell
Sophie Brown
Michelle Carey
Ashley Clark
Robbie Collin
Noah Cowan
Nick Davis
Jemma Desai
Geoff Dyer
Lizzie Francke
Simran Hans
Brandon Harris
Alan Jones
Glenn Kenny
kogonada
Eric Kohn
Kevin B. Lee
Violet Lucca
Kim Morgan
Kate Muir
Ben Nicholson
John Powers
Kiva Reardon
Tim Robey
Shelagh Rowan-Legg
Leigh Singer
Farran Smith Nehme
Paul Julian Smith
Isabel Stevens
Amy Taubin
Matthew Taylor
Jason Wood

 

3. Elle

Miriam Bale
Erika Balsom
James Bell
Daniel Bird
Catherine Bray
Philip Concannon
Kieron Corless
Noah Cowan
Stephane Delorme
Mar Diestro-Dopido
The Ferroni Brigade
Lizzie Francke
Jean-Michel Frodon
Graham Fuller
Alexander Horwath
Eric Hynes
Nick James
Henry K. Miller
Kevin B. Lee
Dennis Lim
Charlie Lyne
Ian Mantgani
Giovanni Marchini Camia
Daniela Michel
Nasreen Munni Kabir
Adam Nayman
Kong Rithdee
Farran Smith Nehme
Fernanda Solozarno
Isabel Stevens
David Thompson
Giovanni Vimercati
Craig Williams

 

4. Certain Women

Jason Anderson
Corrina Antrobus
Lucy Bolton
Sophie Brown
Philip Concannon
Mark Cousins
Graham Fuller
Joanna Hogg
David Jenkins
kogonada
Kevin B. Lee
Guy Lodge
Ian Mantgani
Sophie Mayer
Ania Ostrowska
Andrea Picard
Rachael Rakes
Vadim Rizov
Tim Robey
Isabel Stevens
Matthew Taylor
Matthew Thrift
Catherine Wheatley
Sam Wigley
Jason Wood

 

5. American Honey

Corrina Antrobus
Nikki Baughan
Peter Bradshaw
Anna Coatman
Robbie Collin
Jemma Desai
Helen Dewitt
Geoff Dyer
Jane Giles
Roberts Hanks
Simran Hans
Pamela Hutchinson
Danny Leigh
Guy Lodge
Geoffrey Macnab
Kate Muir
Lynda Myles
Noah Cowan
Selina Robertson
Chloe Roddick

 

6. I, Daniel Blake

Peter Bradshaw
Ian Christie Matheou
Anna Coatman
Helen Dewitt
Sandra Hebron
Pamela Hutchinson
Philip Kemp
Neil McGlone
Daniela Michel
Nasreen Munni Kabir
Naman Ramachandran
Nick Roddick
Kate Stables
Giovanni Vimercati
Thirza Wakefield
Charles Whitehouse
Jason Wood

 

7. Manchester by the Sea

Michel Ciment
Noah Cowan
Charles Gant
Simran Hans
Eric Hynes
Wendy Ide
Alan Jones
kogonada
Demetrios Matheou
Neil McGlone
Kate Muir
Vadim Rizov
Anna Smith
Matthew Taylor
Thirza Wakefield
Sam Wigley

 

8. Things to Come (L’Avenir)

Geoff Andrew
Noah Cowan
David Cox
Nick Davis
Sandra Hebron
Pamela Hutchinson
Guy Lodge
Lynda Myles
Vadim Rizov
Melissa Silverstein
Kate Stables
Francine Stock
Catherine Wheatley
Craig Williams
Charles Whitehouse

 

9. Paterson

Geoff Andrew
James Bell
Michelle Carey
Jean-Michel Frodon
Brandon Harris
Sandra Hebron
Nick James
Kent Jones
Glenn Kenny
kogonada
Derek Malcolm
Giovanni Marchini Camia
Tim Robey
Jonathan Rosenbaum

 

10. The Death of Louis XIV

Erika Balsom
Jordan Cronk
Sandra Hebron
J. Hoberman
Dennis Lim
Adam Nayman
Andrea Picard
James Quandt
Adam Roberts
Jonathan Romney
Jonathan Rosenbaum
Matthew Thrift
Sam Wigley

 

=11. Personal Shopper

Miriam Bale
Daniel Bird
Jean-Michel Frodon
Simran Hans
Joanna Hogg
Henry K. Miller
Demetrios Matheou
Marco Muller
Ben Nicholson
David Thompson
Matthew Thrift
Craig Williams

 

=11. Sieranevada

Geoff Andrew
Philip Concannon
Jordan Cronk
Jean-Michel Frodon
Ehsan Koshbakht
Adam Nayman
Michal Oleszczyk
Andrea Picard
James Quandt
Adam Roberts
Nick Roddick
Matthew Taylor

 

=13. Fire at Sea

Geoff Andrew
Chris Boeckmann
Nick Davis
Jean-Michel Frodon
Robert Greene
Nick James
Ehsan Koshbakht
Dana Linssen
Nico Marzano
Daniela Michel
Kate Muir

 

=13. Julieta

Ian Christie Matheou
Maria Delgado
Stephane Delorme
Mar Diestro-Dopido
Graham Fuller
Jane Giles
Pasquale Iannone
Geoffrey Macnab
Marco Muller
Paul Julian Smith
Ginette Vincendeau

 

=13. Nocturama

Chris Boeckmann
Michelle Carey
Jordan Cronk
Michael Ewins
Simran Hans
Robert Koehler
Ehsan Koshbakht
Danny Leigh
Dennis Lim
Andrea Picard
Craig Williams

 

=16. Cameraperson

Nick Bradshaw
Tom Charity
Robert Greene
Pamela Hutchinson
Eric Hynes
Michael Koresky
Charlie Lyne
Sophie Mayer
Ben Nicholson
Ania Ostrowska

 

=16. La La Land

Charles Gant
Joanna Hogg
Pamela Hutchinson
Alan Jones
Demetrios Matheou
Christina Newland
Chloe Roddick
Leigh Singer
Paul Julian Smith
Fernanda Solozarno

 

18. Love & Friendship

James Bell
Anne Billson
Ryan Gilbey
Roberts Hanks
Philip Kemp
Violet Lucca
Kim Newman
Farran Smith Nehme
Sam Wigley

 

=19. Aquarius

Ela Bittencourt
Nick Davis
Lizzie Francke
Sandra Hebron
Michael Koresky
Edward Lawrenson
Ben Nicholson
Tim Robey

 

=19. Victoria

Mar Diestro-Dopido
Gareth Evans
Charles Gant
Pasquale Iannone
Lisa Mullen
Anna Smith
Francine Stock
Charles Whitehouse

 

=21. Embrace of the Serpent

James Bell
Daniel Bird
Helen Dewitt
Ryan Gilbey
Jane Giles
Nick James
Danny Leigh

 

=21. Everybody Wants Some!!

Ashley Clark
David Jenkins
Eric Kohn
Vadim Rizov
Jonathan Rosenbaum
Thirza Wakefield
Craig Williams

 

=21. Evolution

Michael Atkinson
Roger Clarke
Jane Giles
Wendy Ide
Danny Leigh
Kim Newman
Charles Whitehouse

 

=21. Hell or High Water

Anne Billson
Tom Charity
Molly Haskell
Andrew Male
Lynda Myles
Farran Smith Nehme
Kate Stables

 

=21. O.J.: Made in America

Geoff Dyer
J. Hoberman
Eric Hynes
Kevin B. Lee
John Powers
Farran Smith Nehme
Amy Taubin

 

=26. Lemonade

Miriam Bale
Chris Boeckmann
Michelle Carey
Anna Coatman
Robbie Collin
Ian Mantgani

 

=26. Nocturnal Animals

Peter Bradshaw
Graham Fuller
Charles Gant
Alan Jones
Geoffrey Macnab
Derek Malcolm

 

=26. The Ornithologist

Tom Charity
Jordan Cronk
Juliet Jacques
Robert Koehler
James Quandt
Kong Rithdee

 

=26. Raw

Catherine Bray
Sophie Brown
Jemma Desai
Lucy Bolton
Chloe Roddick
Shelagh Rowan-Legg

 

=26. Neruda

Maria Delgado
J. Hoberman
Alexander Horwath
Wendy Ide
Demetrios Matheou
Charles Whitehouse

 

=31. Baden Baden

Suzy Gillett
Ania Ostrowska
Selina Robertson
Isabel Stevens
Catherine Wheatley

 

=31. Cemetery of Splendour

Michael Atkinson
Kieron Corless
Mark Cousins
Michael Koresky
Brad Stevens

 

=31. Dawson City: Frozen Time

Ela Bittencourt
Nick Bradshaw
Philip Concannon
Juliet Jacques
Matthew Thrift

 

=31. The Dreamed Path

Miriam Bale
Leo Goldsmith
Edward Lawrenson
Giovanni Marchini Camia
Andrea Picard

 

=31. The Illinois Parables

Erika Balsom
Leo Goldsmith
Catherine Grant
Ben Nicholson
Matthew Pattison

 

=31. Hail, Caesar!

Anne Billson
Geoffrey Macnab
Kim Morgan
Leigh Singer
Sam Wigley

 

=31. Knight of Cups

Pasquale Iannone
Ian Mantgani
Michal Oleszczyk
Brad Stevens
Matthew Thrift

 

=31. The Love Witch

Miriam Bale
Henry K. Miller
Glenn Kenny
Kim Newman
Harriet Warman

 

=31. The Neon Demon

Roger Clarke
Stephane Delorme
Tim Hayes
Naman Ramachandran
Keith Uhlich

 

31. A Quiet Passion

Geoff Andrew
David Cox
Molly Haskell
Keith Uhlich
Thirza Wakefield

 

=31. Under the Shadow

Nikki Baughan
Jemma Desai
Alan Jones
Lynda Myles
Kim Newman

 

=31. The Woman Who Left (Ang Babaeng Humayo)

Alexander Horwath
Derek Malcolm
Kong Rithdee
Jonathan Romney
Noel Vera

 

=43. Anomalisa

Andrew Male
Jasper Sharp
David Thompson
Noel Vera

 

=43. The Fits

Andrew Male
Jasper Sharp
David Thompson
Noel Vera

 

=43. The Handmaiden

Corrina Antrobus
Geoff Dyer
Kim Morgan
John Powers

 

=43. The Human Surge

Leo Goldsmith
Dennis Lim
Giovanni Marchini Camia
Luke Moody

 

=43. HyperNormalisation

Geoff Dyer
Robert Greene
Brandon Harris
Jasper Sharp

 

=43. No Home Movie

Sophie Brown
Michael Ewins
Michael Koresky
Selina Robertson

 

=43. Son of Saul

Helen Dewitt
Pasquale Iannone
Philip Kemp
David Thompson

 

=43. The Witch

Jason Anderson
Roger Clarke
Mar Diestro-Dopido
Jane Giles

 

=43. Your Name

Robbie Collin
Wendy Ide
Naman Ramachandran
Anna Smith

 

=53. Bone Tomahawk

Tim Lucas
Andrew Male
Michal Oleszczyk

 

=53. The Childhood of a Leader

Peter Bradshaw
Nasreen Munni Kabir
Kim Newman

 

=53. Divines

Peter Bradshaw
Kiva Reardon
Melissa Silverstein

 

=53. Doctor Strange

Ian Christie Matheou
Roberts Hanks
Tim Lucas

 

=53. Further Beyond

Gareth Evans
Ryan Gilbey
Edward Lawrenson

 

=53. The Girl with All the Gifts

Nikki Baughan
Shelagh Rowan-Legg
Anna Smith

 

=53. Graduation (Baccalauréat)

Michel Ciment
Derek Malcolm
Daniela Michel

 

=53. Kaili Blues

J. Hoberman
Kevin B. Lee
Marco Muller

 

=53. The Levelling

Sophie Mayer
Neil McGlone
Nick Roddick

 

=53. Little Men

Charles Gant
Ryan Gilbey
kogonada

 

=53. The Lobster

Michael Atkinson
Kim Morgan
Noel Vera

 

=53. Mimosas

Kieron Corless
Lynda Myles
Kong Rithdee

 

=53. Mustang

Corrina Antrobus
Mark Cousins
Christina Newland

 

=53. Notes on Blindness

Wendy Ide
Sukhdev Sandhu
Jason Wood

 

=53. Our Little Sister (Umimachi Diary)

Anne Billson
Philip Concannon
Noel Vera

 

=53. The Revenant

Ian Christie Matheou
Michel Ciment
Nasreen Munni Kabir

 

=53. Scarred Hearts

Edward Lawrenson
Matthew Pattison
Jonathan Romney

 

=53. The 13th

Kent Jones
Melissa Silverstein
Leigh Singer

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