The Top 10 Movies of 2016

A24, CJ Entertainment, Focus Features
  1. Moonlight: Moonlight feels like the work of a veteran filmmaker. In reality, it’s Barry Jenkins’s second movie, and his first in eight years. Jenkins may not be a seasoned professional yet, but Moonlight seems like it was made by one.
  2. Manchester by the Sea: Manchester by the Sea is a punishing movie. Viewers may feel like they’re getting beaten over the head by a blunt object for most of its 137-minute runtime. That shouldn’t deter you, however. Manchester is a story about people who aren’t often the focus of books or movies. Its emotional weight will stick with you for months to come.
  3. Arrival: Optimistic about human-kind as a whole, Arrival is the infrequent movie that can be both brainy and feel-good. We need more movies like this.
  4. The Handmaiden: Park Chan-wook’s psychological, erotic thriller is based on the 2002 novel Fingersmith by Sarah Waters. The South Korean film originates from a book less than two decades old, but its twists and turns are practically Shakespearean.
  5. Hell or High Water: All three modern Westerns in Taylor Sheridan’s so-called Frontier Trilogy (Sicario, Hell or High Water, and Wind River) have hit home. The underappreciated trilogy will eventually have a home in the annals of Western film history.
  6. The Witch: A brutally realistic period piece set in the 1600s seems like an odd choice for a horror movie, but writer-director Robert Eggers believed that the isolated home of a family banished from a small village would be an ideal setting. He was right.
  7. Green Room: A DIY punk band travels to a remote area of Oregon for a gig, only to find that the venue is operated by neo-Nazis. Worse, the band witnesses a murder in a backroom, and the owner (Patrick Stewart, playing against type) decides that the band can’t leave to tell the tale. Green Room is terrifying and, sadly, prescient.
  8. Kubo and the Two Strings: Don’t look now, but Laika, the Oregon-based stop-motion studio behind Coraline, ParaNorman, and Kubo, is on track to match industry-giant Pixar in original, animated stories.
  9. Paterson: Adam Driver stars as an aspiring poet/bus driver. Paterson is a small, quiet movie, but unusually memorable.
  10. 20th Century Women: If you can ignore the lazy narration, 20th Century Women is one of the best films of the century.