Starting off a week full of lists, where each day there will be a new top 10 that looks back at the best and the worst that the films in 2016 had to offer, I am starting off this week with the films that either surprised me or flat out disappointed me. There were quite a few on each side of this, especially when looking at the disappointments, so let’s jump in to look at the top 10 surprises and disappointments of 2016.
Honorable Mention: “Kung Fu Panda 3”
While I really liked the first two films in this animated world starring Jack Black, I was worried that a third film in the series would start to run out of ideas, especially because it was a January release and films are often left to die in January. Instead, “Kung Fu Panda 3” was just as fun as the two before it, and offered some really beautiful animation, and was one of the better animated films to come out this year.
Top 10 Surprises
10.) “Everybody Wants Some!!”
While Richard Linklater is certainly a terrific director, when I saw the trailer for “Everybody Wants Some!!” I wasn’t all that excited about it. It looked pretty generic and simple, but it turned out that this film was so much more than that. What Linklater does is makes a movie full of life and full of gut-wrenching laughs, and “Everybody Wants Some!!” ended up being a total blast of a time at the movies.
9.) “Hell or High Water”
This was a film that looked okay from the trailers, and I wasn’t sure if I could trust a film led by Chris Pine and Ben Foster, but man did this movie surprise the hell out of me. The gritty, western setting and beautiful action moments mixed in with a compelling story really blew me away, and director David Mackenzie deserves a load of credit for the work he did with this underseen film.
Disney Animation Studios has certainly proven themselves as right up there with Pixar as the top animation creators around, so I certainly expected to like this movie about the Hawaiian princess and a demigod voiced by The Rock. What I did not expect, however, was just how much I loved this movie. The stunning, vibrant animation mixed with lively humor and a unique story made “Moana” a standout film this year, and a highlight in an already loaded group of animated movies for the studio.
7.) “Lights Out”
Horror movies scare me, but not always in a good way. Horror films these days often fall into clichéd jump scares and generic, bland characters, and are often simply not very scary. This year, two horror movies both offered creative concepts and terrifying trailers, and, amazingly, both actually delivered on their promises. These two are “Don’t Breathe” and “Lights Out” with the latter gaining this spot because I enjoyed it slightly more, and also had higher hopes for it. A concept involving a monster that disappears in the light is truly terrifying, and I thought that the film was very well done, and offered the scares that were promised in the trailer.
6.) “Green Room”
This movie had a trailer that looked unique, sure, but also very weird and something that didn’t really intrigue me. So, thankfully I got a press screening for this film or else I almost certainly would have missed one of the best small films of the year. The acting is great, the concept is terrific, and the film always stays small and remains filled with tension, and I couldn’t believe how much “Green Room” came out of nowhere and stole my heart early in 2016.
5.) “Pete’s Dragon”
This summer was underwhelming, to say the least, as there was a span from late May to early August where I saw not one movie that I can say I loved. Then came “Pete’s Dragon”, a movie that looked alright, but nothing that I thought could end this horrid drought. Turns out that’s exactly what it did, as I fell in love with the live-action Disney remake, as I thought it was gorgeously directed and packed an emotional punch that I did not expect in the slightest. You won’t hear many talking about this film, but I am a huge fan of what David Lowery did here with “Pete’s Dragon.”
4.) “The Conjuring 2”
This is a controversial pick, as I have heard opinions all over the board for this horror sequel by James Wan, but for me, it was nearly as good as the original, which is one my favorite horror movies ever. While there are jump scares, this film builds the tension so well that it makes the jump scares pay off mightily. Put that alongside some terrific performances and solid direction by Wan and it made for a rare horror sequel that actually worked, and that was actually scary.
3.) “The Edge of Seventeen”
A movie about an angsty teenage girl starring Hailee Steinfeld? This did not seem like a film that I would really enjoy, but I ended up loving so much about this Kelly Fremon Craig directed film. From Steinfeld’s terrific performance to the excellent script, witty comedy, and it’s vulgar dialogue between Steinfeld and Woody Harrelson, this movie took me completely by surprise, and ended up being one of my favorite films of the year.
2.) “10 Cloverfield Lane”
I had no idea what to expect from this film, which is kind of a sequel to 2008’s “Cloverfield”, and we even didn’t know this movie existed until two months before it’s release. Even further, this movie had a first time director behind it and remained incredibly hidden until it hit the theaters. Because of all this mystery, when I ultimately got to see the final product, I was completely blown away, as the mood and tone set from scene one is brilliant, as are the performances from the lead cast members. All of these pieces that lead into a bold, daring conclusion lead to “10 Cloverfield Lane” being a huge hit for me, and one that was totally unexpected.
This movie, also a directorial debut, this time by Tim Miller, should have been a total disaster. Fox already screwed up this character in the past, and they scrapped the project entirely for it. Even with the funny trailers and brilliant marketing, I was beyond skeptical coming into this film, and I came out loving it. The comedy just works from front to back, and Ryan Reynolds is simply the perfect choice for this character in every dimension, and “Deadpool” just worked when all signs pointed to it failing. I have nothing but praise for Miller and the people who put this movie together, as they defied all the odds, and made the most surprisingly great movie of 2016.
Do you agree? Disagree? What movies surprised you this year? Comment below with your thoughts.