Oh 2016, a year many of us would like to forget. As the world seemed to turn upside down, the movies were there however to comfort us. On a personal level, those cinematic joys came not from grand escapist spectacles, but from much more modest efforts. With the arguable exception of "La La Land", it was a year highlighted by unanticipated "small" films with big ideas. Indeed, if you look on the list below, you won't find any films from the major film studios. And perhaps as a further sign of the times, documentaries capitalized on the zeitgeist in a big way, with a trio of non-fiction entries landing spots, two of them explicitly examining race in America. Coupled with my literary introductions to Ta-Nehisi Coates, James Baldwin and Langston Hughes, the influence of social issues on my film-going experiences was therefore inescapable. And you'll notice that impact from the very first film on my list of the Top 10 Films of 2016, which including quotes from my reviews.
10. The Birth of a Nation
(directed by Nate Parker)
"In an industry lacking in diverse voices, 'The Birth of a Nation' showcases a promising black filmmaker with talent, passion and vision."
(directed by Ava DuVernay)
"DuVernay draws an insightful throughline through slavery, the 13th Amendment, the influential D.W. Griffith film and beyond."
(directed by J. Clay Tweel)
"'Gleason' is a testament to the ways we clutch at life, whether through the birth of a child, religion, or preserving your legacy through charitable acts."
(directed by Jim Jarmusch)
"This quiet drama radiates warmth and comforts you like a cozy blanket."
6. La La Land
(directed by Damien Chazelle)
"Chazelle goes unabashedly retro in this delightful musical set in the city of stars."
(directed by Barry Jenkins)
"In a banner year for black narratives in cinema, there's no doubt that the crown jewel is Barry Jenkins' 'Moonlight'"
4. Sing Street
(directed by John Carney)
"Taking a deep plunge into the world of an Irish teen in an 80s high school, Carney crafts a truly winning film."
3. I Am Not Your Negro
(directed by Raoul Peck)
"Watching this film is truly like seeing America through a new lens, leaving you with a lasting thought - "The story of the Negro in America is the story of America. It is not a pretty story."
(directed by Pablo Larraín)
"'Jackie' is definitive proof of Pablo Larraín's boundless talent."
1. Hell or High Water
(directed by David Mackenzie)
"'Hell or High Water' will live on as a cops and robbers movie for the ages."