10 best films of 2016

David Gritten / 20 December 2016

These are 10 of my favourite films released in the UK this year, in alphabetical order. All of them are either available on DVD or still playing in cinemas.

1. The BFG 

Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of Roald Dahl’s children’s tale was a big British hit, but still felt curiously underrated. Yet it’s truly accomplished: brilliantly animated, with Mark Rylance’s superbly sweet and funny performance as the Big Friendly Giant. Dahl sometimes disliked films adapted from his work: I suspect he’d have loved this.

Read David Gritten’s full-length review of The BFG

2. The Club 

A tough, tense, unremitting Chilean drama from that country’s greatest film-maker, Pablo Larraín. Five apparently harmless old priests living peaceably in a remote fishing village are all gradually revealed to have a history of sexual abuse in their past. This is an explosive premise that makes for riveting, jolting drama.

Read David Gritten’s full-length review of The Club

3. Florence Foster Jenkins 

An amusing but moving account of a rich influential woman in 1940s New York high society, who fancied herself an opera singer. The catch? She was utterly tone deaf. Meryl Streep is marvellous in the title role, and as her partner, a posh failed British actor, Hugh Grant delivers arguably his best work on screen to date.

4. I, Daniel Blake

A tough-minded, unapologetically political drama from director Ken Loach, who highlights the plight of a 50-something Tyneside carpenter; he’s too ill to work, but too entangled in a web of bureaucracy to receive state benefits. It’s heartbreaking, sometimes amusing, and all too believable. Non-actor Dave Johns is superb in the title role.

Read David Gritten’s full-length review of I, Daniel Blake

5. Julieta 

The great Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar returns with his finest film in a decade:  a remarkable analysis of a woman, her troubled relationship with her daughter, and the grief and guilt that ensues. She’s played by two actresses at differing stages of her life. It’s emotionally gripping and ravishing to look at.

6. Little Men

A glorious, humane and moving story about two teenage boys in Brooklyn, and how their friendship is affected by their respective parents falling out over rent and property in an area that’s rapidly becoming gentrified.  Writer- director Ira Sachs tells the story with a shrewd eye and a gift for insightful character detail.

Read David Gritten’s full-length review of Little Men

7. Maggie’s Plan 

This spiky, grown-up romantic comedy set in Manhattan stars Greta Gerwig as a gauche, earnest woman who wants a baby, undergoes artificial insemination and only then meets the man of her dreams – or so she thinks. Ethan Hawke plays the supposedly perfect guy: Julianne Moore is his stern, academic wife. It’s quirky, funny and surprising.

Read David Gritten’s full-length review of Maggie’s Plan

8. Midnight Special 

American Jeff Nichols is becoming a truly great director, and this unpredictable thriller finds him in top form. His regular lead actor Michael Shannon plays the father of an eight-year-old boy reported kidnapped; but they’re together and on the run. Suffice to say a religious cult is involved, and the boy turns out to have extraordinary gifts. It’s terrific.

Read David Gritten’s full-length review of Midnight Special

9. Spotlight  

One of the great films about journalism, up there with All the President’s Men. Reporters from the Boston Globe investigate a shocking story about local clergy, despite the city’s business political and legal bigwigs attempting to foil their efforts. Tense and involving, with brilliant performances from a gifted ensemble cast.

Read David Gritten’s full-length review of Spotlight

10. A United Kingdom 

A handsome, winning British film, with a remarkable yet forgotten story: the 1947 romance and marriage between Ruth Williams, an ordinary London clerk, and an African prince named Seretse Khama who became his country’s president. Their union was opposed by both their governments, and their love was tested to the limit. David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike play the leads perfectly.

Read David Gritten’s full-length review of A United Kingdom

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