Top 10 Films of 2016

The Crimson Arts Board presents its cinematic favorites of the year, from "The Big Short" to "Sausage Party."

Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

1. The Big Short

Director Adam McKay doesn’t need champagne waterfalls to make Wall Street fascinating. Instead, he reels in Anthony Bourdain to explain collateralized debt obligations using halibut. Innovative techniques, along with riveting performances such as Christian Bale’s eccentric take on hedge fund manager Michael Burry, make “The Big Short” fresh, witty, and smart. It isn’t all humor, however: Rife with cold, sterile visuals and jarring cuts, the film exudes both jolting chaos and controlled style, potentially a cinematographic reflection of the current turbulent global financial situation. Cynical yet vivacious, “The Big Short” stands tall. —Ha D.H. Le

Star Wars
2. Star Wars: The Force Awakens

A decade after the last Star Wars movie, a beloved franchise roars back to life in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” Return to a familiar galaxy far, far, away and long, long, ago, and follow a host of new characters as they set off to protect the universe from evil with blasters, lightsabers, and good old-fashioned Jedi mind tricks. If the plot looks a little familiar, pay it no mind—that’s just director J.J. Abrams delivering a time-honored formula with a modern finish. —J. Thomas Westbrook

3. Zootopia

For a Disney movie, “Zootopia” is surprisingly brave. It grapples with race relations in an elegant metaphor, simplifying themes with anthropomorphic animals in a predator-prey-centric world. The movie follows Judy Hopps—the world’s first-ever rabbit cop—on her first investigative mission. She unwillingly partners with fox con artist Nick Wilde to discover the cracks in the city’s seemingly harmonious predator-prey relationship. With quirky, self-aware humor and bright, bubbly visuals, “Zootopia” crafts an imperfect world filled with imperfect characters who earn “Zootopia” its place on this “Top 10” list. —Grace Z. Li

4. Deadpool

Whatever the plot of superhero flick “Deadpool” might be, it’s far from the film’s main attraction. Audiences flocked to theaters to see Deadpool (played by Ryan Reynolds) himself. The gleeful antihero broke the fourth wall left and right, poking fun at Hollywood, at the oversaturated superhero genre, and at his own ridiculous storyline. Despite being a bone-shattering, blood-splattering celebration of gore, “Deadpool” sounds more like a stand-up comic at the top of his game, and like all good comedians, he keeps his audience laughing along to the last breath. —J. Thomas Westbrook

Finding Dory
5. Finding Dory

Ellen DeGeneres reprises her role as the lovable, forgetful blue tang Dory in this highly anticipated sequel. “Finding Dory” inspires whimsy with its colorful visuals, clever humor, and witty references to its predecessor. But it also strikes deep, flooding the film with the homesickness and frustrating confusion that plague Dory during her search for her long-lost parents. In “Finding Dory,” the protagonist is fully fleshed out, making this a movie that can stand on its own without riding on the fame of “Finding Nemo.” Despite its predictable plotline, “Finding Dory” still stands out as inventive and pure with its punchy quips and poignant recollections. —Grace Z. Li


6. Moonlight

“Moonlight,” the critically acclaimed second feature film from director Barry Jenkins, follows its protagonist Chiron (played in three successive episodes by Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, and Trevante Rhodes) as he grows up in the Liberty City neighborhood of Miami. The film explores the challenges of being black, poor, and gay in America but also weaves together a nuanced, empathetic portrayal of Chiron as an individual and of the bonds that link him to family and friends. Visually stunning, perfectly scored, deeply thoughtful, and completely heartbreaking, “Moonlight” is without doubt one of the best—and most important—films of the year. —Elizabeth C. Keto

The Lobster
7. The Lobster

The English-language debut of Greek writer and director Yorgos Lanthimos, “The Lobster” depicts a dystopian world where being single is a crime, and those who can’t find romantic partners within a six-week window are turned into an animal of their choice. Bizarre? Absolutely. But the deadpan social satire, anchored by strong performances from Rachel Weisz and an uncharacteristically slovenly Colin Farrell, succeeds in grounding its madcap premise with a unexpectedly romantic core. Part love story, part not-so-subtle affront to gendered power dynamics and the stigmas associated with singledom, “The Lobster” is occasionally moving, frequently disturbing, and always original.—Shaun V. Gohel

Captain America: Civil War
8. Captain America: Civil War

The third installment in Marvel’s Captain America trilogy follows warfare among the Avengers as Captain America (Chris Evans) refuses to allow the government to regulate superheroic interventions in international affairs, which pits him against Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.). It’s a superhero flick that nevertheless touches on some key political issues, such as the role of military contractors in overseas conflict. Directors Anthony and Joe Russo pull the sprawling plotlines and ensemble cast of a dozen main characters into a quick-paced, funny, and dramatic film. —Elizabeth C. Keto

Dr. Strange
9. Doctor Strange

Let’s face it: It was only a matter of time before Benedict Cumberbatch ended up starring in a superhero film. In “Doctor Strange,” eponymous protagonist and eminent neurosurgeon Dr. Strange loses the use of his hands in a devastating car accident. His dogged quest to heal himself ultimately imbues him with occult powers in a faux-Tibetan aesthetic, which he must employ to defeat sorcerer Kaecilius and his cabal of zealots. Despite the glut of uninspired superhero films in this past decade, “Doctor Strange” manages to evade mediocrity through its technically-savvy incorporation of mystic elements, a fairly nimble script, and strong performances from Cumberbatch et al.—Adriano O. Iqbal

Sausage Party
10. Sausage Party

After a horrendous accident shatters their routine, vacuum-packaged lives, a sheltered hot dog wiener and his companions set out to find the truth about their grocery store and what really happens in the world outside. “Sausage Party” proves Seth Rogen’s continued dedication to pushing his hotboxed silly-guy niche. Though their only aim appears to be to poke raunchy fun at franchises that deliver high morals via googly-eyed animations, Rogen and Co. somehow craft a movie that ends in an extended, literal food orgy, yet also works as an incisive allegory about bigotry, willing ignorance, friendship, and courage. —Emily Zhao



Film Arts