2016 has come to an end. Many find said end unceremonious, but a year of beloved art and entertainment is something worth looking back on. Thus, being involved in a small way with the film world, the staff of Scified join many others to honor science fiction, fantasy and genre film for the 2016 year.
The staff is motivated with a very loose and personal criteria for our picks. We may be choosing our top 5 with an objective eye or merely for how well they entertained us. Perhaps both motivate our decisions. Whatever be the case, our favorite genre picks of 2016 are honored for our love of film and our anticipation that we will continue to love them in 2017. Check out the Scified staff's individual top 5 films below:
CHRIS'S TOP 5:
#5 - Independence Day: Resurgence -
For me, Independence Day: Resurgence was a pure trip down memory lane. I loved the original Independence Day and although Will Smith did not return, we did get to see Jeff Goldblum reprise his role. This was a fun, enjoyable, summer blockbuster film. I didn't go into it expecting Oscar-worthy performances, nor did I expect there to be some profound underlying message aimed at bettering mankind. I went in expecting to watch people fly in space and shoot down an army of invading aliens and that's exactly what I got. I also enjoyed the fact that it set up for yet another sequel, one that would take the fight into deep space as opposed to Earth again. All in all, it was a fun, enjoyable, “shoot-em-up” sci-fi action film and that's why it made my top 5 for 2016.
#4 – Passengers -
2016 seemed to be the year for misleading marketing as Passengers took me by surprise. The film's trailers seem to allude to the fact that Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence had woke on a space craft headed to a new world--As if their awakening had a greater meaning or purpose. However, watching the film, I quickly learned this was not the case. However, again despite going in with a completely different expectation, I found enjoyment in the morally taxing questions the film posed. Again, Passengers was a film which left me and my fellow moviegoers discussing and debating the ethical dilemmas the film proposed for hours following our viewing. Acting, score and set design in particular really drew me in.
#3 - 10 Cloverfield Lane -
Again, a film I went in expecting a totally different outcome to, 10 Cloverfield Lane had be on the edge of my seat throughout its entire duration. Although there was no blatant reference to Matt Reeves' Cloverfield, there were subtle clues linking the two projects together if you knew where to look. The film's viral marketing campaign took film marketing to new heights and engaged fans on a global scale. The lead-up, the secrecy and the vague plot synopsis left me totally unprepared for what I was about to witness. Despite the lack of monster mayhem I was partially expecting, I found myself engrossed in the relationships between the film's primary cast-mates. The plot twists throughout constantly altered my perception of each character. The pacing was a little slow at first, but ultimately lead to a very satisfying ending. Knowing that the Cloverfield franchise has spawned a complete lineup of connected films heightened my excitement and enjoyment of the project, because I know the story won't end on such a profound cliffhanger. Whether directly addressed or not, Cloverfield will continue and I can't wait.
#2 – Arrival -
First off I must say, Arrival was not what I expected at all, but in a good way. Going in, I expected Arrival to play out similar to the film Signs, but the film's ultimate twist left me pondering a number of profound concepts. Any film that has be leaving the cinema engaged in deep intellectual conversation with my fellow moviegoers is a successful one in my books. Not to mention the sound design, score and creature effects were remarkable. It’s very challenging to come up with truly “new” ideas and I felt as though Arrival opened up some new territory for us as sci-fi film fanatics. Arrival comes in at a very close second place for me.
#1 - Rogue One: A Star Wars Story -
My top pick for 2016 would have to be Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. In part due to the extreme nostalgia factor, but also because the film was really well put together. Gareth Edwards did a phenomenal job recreating the same atmosphere I felt when I watched A New Hope. Everything from the casting, to the score, to the set design and the dialogue. At heart this was a true Star Wars film, despite the lack of that classic “Star Wars Crawl” introduction. From start to finish I never felt bored or confused and to see Darth Vader on screen, again voiced by James Earl Jones, was the icing on the cake. Rogue One easily snags my number one pick for 2016.
GAVIN'S TOP 5:
My top five for 2016 features two movies that Scified normally doesn't follow, but I have included them as I feel that these two movies were better than the remainder of the science fiction and comic book movies of the year.
#5 - Deadpool -
Put simply, Deadpool is one of the most refreshing movies of recent years. With the barrage of comic book movies being produced for the masses on an endlessly rolling schedule, it was a welcome return to pre-MCU comic book movies, such as Blade and The Punisher, which were produced for the true fans of the original source material. Deadpool also succeeded in actually being a humorous movie and successfully avoided the trappings of relying too heavily on the charisma of its leading star Ryan Reynolds.
#4 - Deepwater Horizon -
Director Peter Berg (who shares more than a passing physical resemblance to actor Ethan Hawke) teams up again with Mark Wahlberg to chronicle the story of the disaster that befell the BP oil rig, the Deepwater Horizon. Stealing almost every scene is Hollywood legend John Malkovich as a greedy BP executive whose selfish actions needlessly cost the lives of 11 workers.
#3 - Captain America - Civil War -
The best MCU movie yet, Civil War features more characters than the recent Avengers: Age of Ultron yet somehow manages to give each the right amount of screen time so that none feel underused, while giving newer characters such as Ant-Man (Paul Rudd), Spider-Man (Tom Holland), and Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) scene stealing introductions and highlights. The movie's ending, while low key compared to that of the Winter Soldier, is the most dynamic and emotional climax to a Marvel movie yet.
#2 - Hacksaw Ridge -
Mel Gibson's war biopic is in my top five and below Rogue One? Unlike Rogue One, Hacksaw Ridge was not a major risk for the Australian actor turned director, and that is the only reason this movie is not in the top slot. Proving yet again that he is a truly awesome director, Gibson brings to the big screen a story that could easily have been presented as biased towards or against the movie's central figure. However, Gibson walks the line between the two in his telling of the life of Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield), the first conscientious objector to be awarded the Medal of Honor.
#1 - Rogue One - A Star Wars Story -
The second best Star Wars movie yet. Before its release, I greatly feared that Rogue One, the first ever non-episodic Star Wars movie, would fail - I was so wrong. K-2SO's dry wit had me in stitches as did Donnie Yen's awesome performance as Chirrut Imwe. Director Gareth Edwards' masterful execution of using scale in-camera gave the movie an epic backdrop upon which we witnessed the return of the AT-AT (with the AT-ACT), one of the franchise best space battles and, of course, the best Darth Vader scene in any Star Wars movie.
GMAN'S (JACK) TOP 5:
#5 - The Nice Guys –
While hardly a nominee for science fiction or fantasy, it does fit a genre bill for director Shane Black's (Iron Man 3) signature style of bonkers-isms. The largely dead buddy-cop sub-genre finds both life and laughs in the incredibly unlikely pairing of Healy (Russell Crowe) and March (Ryan Gosling). 16 year old actress Angourie Rice nearly steals the show from both veterans as March's obstinate daughter Holly. The Nice Guys is a pastiche of crime films gone cooky. The story winds around mystery like Chinatown, but incidentally finds heroes you might see in The Big Lebowski's universe. Slapstick ensues with a rooted love for the filmic mind.
#4 – Moana –
At first glance this seems like another anomaly, but the level of fantasy ingrained in Moana matches that of Studio Ghibli's magnum opuses. While imperfect in some character motivation, Moana excels at being an old dog with new tricks. Directors John Musker & Ron Clements (The Little Mermaid, Aladdin) return with a new “princess” trying to save the world. Winks at Disney cliches are accepted with some of the best CG animation to date—Sometimes teetering into the uncanny valley, but not uncomfortably so. Hamilton's Lin-Manuel Miranda lends a hand in the song writing, producing catchy tunes destined to be set on repeat at the request of youngsters. (In truth, adults shouldn't mind.) Although Moana may lack the social relevance of Disney's Zootopia, its dedication to sweeping fantasy adventure is too great not to fall in love with.
#3 - Star Trek Beyond –
Although the “Kelvin-verse” is still firing with all phasers on explosive, the real special effect is how well the characters are treated. Director Justin Lin (Fast & Furious) crafts his most mature film to date, deconstructing an ensemble cast and pulling them back together as the legendary crew, and family, we all love. The best moments are reserved for McCoy (Karl Urban) and Spock (Zachary Quinto), butting heads while deepening their ties--It's a bromance I wish not to end. Star Trek Beyond's scope never feels much more than episodic, but it works to its advantage as the most fun movie of the year.
#2 - Shin Godzilla -
In truth, Toho's Godzilla-comeback makes for a better representation of Japan's current socio-political state than it does a film. But that's what makes it so intriguing. Shin Godzilla is a look at a modern culture that really feels a world apart. Cabinet Secretary Rando Yaguchi (Hiroki Hasegawa) is the most unlikely candidate for a lead character, but it fits his position when he's abruptly tasked with finding a giant monster's weakness. From there we watch a broken system try to mend itself in the midst of a crisis. Writer/director Hideaki Anno (Neon Genesis Evangelion) doesn't hit all the beats perfectly, but his imprint on Godzilla is the most unique and appropriately refreshing vision the franchise has seen in years.
#1 - 10 Cloverfield Lane –
Upon announcement, the long awaited follow-up to Cloverfield felt like a cheat—An unrelated story that was rumored to be retooled with the “Cloverfield” moniker. What's weird is it worked. 10 Cloverfield Lane excels beyond the original as a tight suspense thriller. The slow burn of Michelle's (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) captivity caps off with the ironic twist of Howard's (John Goodman) paranoia come to pass. The strange juxtaposition of antagonists mesh like an epic Rod Serling tale—Abrupt, but not without thematic parallels. Director Dan Trachtenberg proves to be a masterful conductor of tension in both intimate and blockbuster settings, making 10 Cloverfield Lane a versatile exercise in science fiction storytelling.
What were your top sci-fi, fantasy and genre flicks of 2016? Or just movies overall? Join the conversation and let us know in the comments below.
You can also review some of our favorites here:
10 Cloverfield Lane
Captain America: Civil War
Independence Day: Resurgence
Rogue One: A Star Wars
Star Trek Beyond