The Best Movies of 2016, Ranked

Jennifer Bui Thrillist design theater best movies of 2016
Jennifer Bui/Thrillist
Jennifer Bui/Thrillist

New year, new list. Here are the Best Movies of 2017.

Your time is precious. So is your money. This article will keep you informed about the many 2016 movies that are absolutely worth seeing.

This list, updated weekly, only features the best of the year's best, and I'm being highly selective with my choices. These are only movies that I recommend 100 percent. No mixed bags, interesting trainwrecks, or blockbusters that aren't as good as their box-office tallies suggest -- just the true gems. The Thrillist Entertainment staff picked its favorite 11 wide-release movies, but this is every movie from 2016 -- big, small, and from around the world -- that achieves greatness. Got it? Good. Let's do this.

hell or high water best movies of 2016
CBS Films

49. Hell or High Water

Released: August 12th
Cast: Jeff Bridges, Chris Pine, Ben Foster, Gil Birmingham
Director: David Mackenzie (Starred Up)
Why it's great: The rootin', tootin', consideratin' modern Western follows bank-robbing brothers (Pine and Foster) looking to save their family farm from foreclosure while sticking it to The Man. Hot on their tails is a soon-to-retire sheriff (Bridges) and his partner, who engage in their own morality dialectic as they drive deeper into the Texas heartland. Hell or High Water has shoot-outs and car chases -- the slickest you'll see this year -- but it's in diner conversations and pickup-truck small talk where Mackenzie finds a beating heart, economic depression as the greatest equalizer. The material turns villains into heroes, heroes into villains, and simple characters into some of the actors' best performances to date.
Where to see it right now: Rent on iTunes, Amazon, YouTube, and VOD (watch the trailer)

barry netflix best movies 2016

48. Barry

Released: December 16
Cast: Devon Terrell, Anya Taylor-Joy, Jason Mitchell, Ashley Judd
Director: Vikram Gandhi (Kumare)
Why it’s great: In 1981, Barack Obama touched down in New York City to begin work at Columbia University. As Barry imagines, just days after settling into his civics class, a white classmate confronts the Barry with an argument one will find in the future President's Twitter @-mentions: "Why does everything always got to be about slavery?" Exaltation is cinematic danger, especially when bringing the life of a sitting President to screen. Barry avoids hagiography by staying in the moment, weighing race issues of a modern age and quieting down for the audience to draw its own conclusions. Terrell is key, steadying his character as smooth-operating, socially active, contemplative fellow stuck in an interracial divide. Barry could be any half-black, half-white kid from the '80s. But in this case, he's haunted by past, present, and future.
Where to see it right now: Stream on Netflix; rent on iTunes, Amazon, YouTube and VOD

The Purge: Election Day - best movies of 2016
Universal Pictures

47. The Purge: Election Year

Released: July 1st
Cast: Frank Grillo, Elizabeth Mitchell, Mykelti Williamson, Betty Gabriel
Director: James DeMonaco (The Purge)
Why it's great: With each Purge entry and each passing day in the race to the White House, the ridiculous, dystopian notion of "Purge night" -- 12 hours when all crime is legal in America -- becomes more like a future on the horizon. Election Year ups the relevance by hiring Grillo, whose cinematic machismo was last seen out for revenge in Purge: Anarchy, as the security detail for a presidential candidate (Mitchell) riding the anti-Purge ticket. The rich want her dead. Her political opponents have an army to kill her. Regular Joes provoked by government-sanctioned bloodlust may just cut her neck for the fun of it. With a down-to-Earth supporting cast -- all hail action-star-in-the-making Betty Gabriel -- Election Year is edge-of-your seat mayhem cut together with chainsaw grace. The movie can stumble into the excessive and dangerously cliché, but that's the price of depicting America's worst-case scenario with true bite.
Where to see it right now: Rent on iTunes, Amazon, YouTube, and VOD (watch the trailer)

the wave - best 2016 movies
Film Väst

46. The Wave

Released: March 4th
Cast: Kristoffer Joner, Thomas Bo Larsen, Fridtjov Såheim
Director: Roar Uthaug (Escape)
Why it's great: There was a time when "epic" disaster movies didn't rely on the end of the world. A burning building or a sinking ship was enough terror for 90 minutes of entertainment. The Wave returns to those anti-Roland Emmerich proportions, pitting a small Norwegian village against a fjord-enabled tidal wave. Roar Uthaug -- great action director name or best action director name? -- takes the time to embolden his main characters, a loving family of four, and capture Norway's rolling beauty. Then the mayhem starts. When the townsfolk realize their fate, and only have 10 minutes to evacuate, The Wave capsizes tranquility with 100 tons of liquid devastation. Not since Titanic has underwater photography looked so terrifying. Like its actors, we are in the tank for The Wave.
Where to see it right now: Stream on Netflix; rent on iTunes, Amazon Video, and VOD (watch trailer)

hunt for the wilderpeople - best movies of 2016
The Orchard

45. Hunt for the Wilderpeople

Released: June 24th
Cast: Sam Neill, Julian Dennison, Rachel House, Rhys Darby
Director: Taika Waititi (What We Do in the Shadows)
Why it's great: This New Zealand backwoods adventure roughs up every single coming-of-age cliché. Dennison's Ricky is an absent-minded, hip-hop-obsessed, rebellious orphan. His grizzled foster father would like nothing more than to ship the little [expletive] back to government care. When the two find themselves stranded in the woods, mistaken for on-the-lam criminals, they... decide to own it. Wilderpeople is a generous genre blend, with Waititi, director of the wacky, vampiric mockumentary What We Do in the Shadows, finding cheeky jokes in the duo's perilous journey. Backed by a synthy, horror movie-like score and lush backdrops, Wilderpeople is one of the year's most transportive comedies.
Where to see it right now: Stream on Hulu; rent on iTunes, Amazon, and YouTube (watch the trailer)

creative control - best movies of 2016
Ghost Robot/Greencard Pictures

44. Creative Control

Released: March 11th
Cast: Benjamin Dickinson, Nora Zehetner, Alexia Rasmussen, Reggie Watts
Director: Benjamin Dickinson (First Winter)
Why it's great: This casually dazzling sci-fi movie imagines our immediate future, on the eve of a virtual revolution where augmented-reality visors will replace the smartphone. Dickinson casts himself as David, an ad executive tasked with branding the new, life-altering hardware. The VR upgrade quickly wraps its tentacles around everyday life. Creative Control is a familiar, cautionary tale, but with a twist: in the search for fulfillment, luxuries -- technology, exercise, sex, New York, drugs, art -- are slippery slopes to escape. With photogenic scenery, a wry sense of humor, and subtle computer-graphic enhancement, Creative Control questions our current direction. It's a movie with enough dramatic pizzazz that not even Reggie Watts' psychedelic performance art can steal the show (but it comes close).
Where to see it right now: Stream on Amazon Prime; rent on iTunes, Amazon, YouTube, and VOD (watch the trailer)

ghostbusters 2016 best movies of 2016
Sony Pictures

43. Ghostbusters

Released: July 15th
Cast: Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones
Director: Paul Feig (Bridesmaids)
Why it's great: Despite reboot skepticism and "they're destroying my childhood!" claims, the female-driven Ghostbusters redux is one of the funniest movies of the year. Feig never crosses the streams; the new movie pays homage to the original while allowing the quartet of A-list comedians to own a new batch of hero roles. Ghostbusters' greatest tip of the hat is acting like a rebel in the face of the Hollywood standards -- just like its predecessor. Splashy, cartoonish action is matched by biting buffoonery that sticks it to skeptics. Even the 3-D is a blast, with swirling ghosts and proton pack beams popping offscreen. It's the kind of blockbuster you get more out of than air conditioning.
Where to see it right now: Rent on iTunes, Amazon, YouTube, and VOD (watch the trailer)

fences best movies 2016
Paramount Pictures

42. Fences

Released: December 16th
Cast: Denzel Washington, Viola Davis, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Jovan Adepo
Director: Denzel Washington (The Great Debaters)
Why it's great: This adaptation of August Wilson's Pulitzer Prize-winning play is a national service. Most of us didn't catch the playwright's sixth "Pittsburgh Cycle" installment when it debuted on Broadway in 1987, nor did we see Washington and Davis in the acclaimed revival in 2010. Thanks to a commitment by Washington to film Wilson's body of work, the world can now witness this tightly wound examination of African-American life, adapted for film by Wilson himself (he completed the screenplay before his death in 2005). Washington's grasp on theatrical camerawork amplifies the speeches of his ex-Negro League ballplayer Troy. The patriarch is a man and a monster, a character we're all lucky to behold.
Where to see it right now: In theaters (watch the trailer)

little men best movies of 2016
Magnolia Pictures

41. Little Men

Released: August 5th
Cast: Greg Kinnear, Paulina García, Jennifer Ehle, Theo Taplitz, Michael Barbieri
Director: Ira Sachs (Love Is Strange)
Why it's great: Everyone deserves a sharp-eyed director who makes movies about their hometown. New York has Sachs, a down-to-earth city scion who tackled love and apartment-hunting in the must-see Love Is Strange and returns to examine the budding friendship between two Brooklyn kids: an introvert with art skills and the safety net of white privilege, and an audacious aspiring actor being pushed out of the neighborhood by gentrification. The neighborhood brings them together, the neighborhood splits them apart, and Sachs watches like another pair of eyes in the room. Simple and sweet.
Where to see it right now: Stream on Netflix; rent on iTunes, Amazon, YouTube, and VOD (watch the trailer)

don't think twice mike birbiglia best movies of 2016
The Film Arcade

40. Don't Think Twice

Released: July 22nd
Cast: Keegan-Michael Key, Gillian Jacobs, Mike Birbiglia, Chris Gethard
Director: Mike Birbiglia (Sleepwalk with Me)
Why it's great: If you've ever harbored a passion, chased a dream, or felt the rush of creative choice, Don't Think Twice will play like Shakespearean tragedy. Did I mention it was a comedy? Birbiglia sets his second movie inside a close-knit improv team who "yes, and" themselves on and off the stage. When one of the players nails an audition for a Saturday Night Live-like sketch-comedy show, all hell breaks loose. Why him? Why not her? Did that guy ever have it? Is life completely hopeless? Don't Think Twice's shaggy neuroses bounce with the rhythm of improvisation, giving gut-wrenching twists of fate comedic edge and "funnier" moments a puckering aftertaste. The observation as a whole can only be described as lifelike, whether we like it or not.
Where to see it right now: Rent on iTunes, Amazon, YouTube, and VOD (watch the trailer)

maggie's plan best movies of 2016
Sony Pictures Classics

39. Maggie's Plan

Released: May 20th
Cast: Greta Gerwig, Ethan Hawke, Julianne Moore, Bill Hader
Director: Rebecca Miller (The Private Lives of Pippa Lee)
Why it's great: If anyone can save the rom-com, it's Greta Gerwig, whose resting screen presence of "screwball comedienne from the 1930s" lights up Miller's tale of crisscrossed lovers and maddening relationship quirks. Maggie's Plan entangles Gerwig's serial bachelorette career woman with Ethan Hawke's struggling academic and his wife, a neurotic Swedish scholar played by Julianne Moore, in a game of who loves who. Even when Miller's intellectual adults act infuriatingly infantile, her movie is an absolute joy, a whip-smart and frank look at the tribulations of love.
Where to see it right now: Rent on iTunes, Amazon, YouTube, and VOD (watch the trailer)

In the Shadow of Women
Arte France Cinéma

38. In the Shadow of Women

Released: January 15th
Cast: Clotilde Courau, Stanislas Merhar, Lena Paugam
Director: Philippe Garrel (A Burning Hot Summer)
Why it's worth your time: This romantic drama is so prototypically French that it may cause film studies students to bleed Brie. A swift 83 minutes, In the Shadow of Women follows a modelesque married couple that discovers -- whoop -- both husband and wife are entangled in affairs. Shot in diffused black and white, and narrated by an authorial observer, the movie teeters on the edge of self-parody. Two heated performances, sexy and vicious, anchor it in the artful. Just let your college friends who won't shut up about "New Wave cinema" see it on their own.
Where to see it right now: Rent on iTunes, Amazon, and YouTube (watch trailer)

barbershop 3 - best movies of 2016
New Line Cinema/MGM

37. Barbershop: The Next Cut

Released: April 15th
Cast: Ice Cube, Cedric the Entertainer, Regina Hall, Common, Nicki Minaj
Director: Malcolm D. Lee (The Best Man)
Why it's great: Ice Cube revived his smack-talking franchise at a pivotal moment. More than a decade after the last movie, the gang's debates on relationships, gender, family, and age gaps are even wilder, thanks to the bro-heavy barbershop sharing floor space with Hall and Minaj's salon. And in the hands of Black-ish creator Kenya Barris and Tracy Oliver (Survivor's Remorse ), they're crucial. The barbershop, always a safe haven, is embroiled in gang violence and city bureaucracy. Cube's Calvin, his staff, and his patrons find their usual fire silenced by tragedy. Names like Freddie Gray, Michael Brown, and Trayvon Martin are on the tips of these characters' tongues. They live in fear. The movie has the dramatic prowess to make it work, swinging from hard laughs -- Common, New Girl's Lamorne Morris, and the fiery Minaj steal the show -- to potent drama. Barbershop: The Next Cut looks like comedic comfort food, but it's chasing the American dreams of Frank Capra and August Wilson.
Where to see it right now: Rent on iTunes (watch the trailer)

lion best movies 2016
The Weinstein Company

36. Lion

Released: November 25th
Cast: Dev Patel, Sunny Pawar, Rooney Mara, Nicole Kidman
Director: Garth Davis (Top of the Lake)
Why it's great: In 1986, 5-year-old Saroo Brierley becomes an accidental stowaway aboard a train headed to Calcutta -- 930 miles away from his home. Twenty-five years later, grown under the care of an Australian couple, the expatriate sets out to locate the mother he barely knew. His tool of choice: Google Earth. Brierley's life story is the setup for a feel-good drama, and Lion lands the life affirmations without schmaltzing up the hardships. Davis splits the movie in two, first capturing the metropolitan chaos from a pint-sized POV, then wrestling with an identity crisis in the present. Patel picks at a raw nerve as the present-day Brierley, displaced but driven towards discovery, while Kidman delivers a heartbreaking performance as his adoptive mother. Thank God for the meditative soundtrack.
Where to see it right now: In theaters (watch the trailer)

the wailing best movies 2016
Well Go USA

35. The Wailing

Released: May 27th
Cast: Kwak Do-Won, Hwang Jung-Min, Chun Woo-Hee
Director: Na Hong-jin (The Yellow Sea)
Why it's great: Hollywood horror movies rarely shoot for "epic," content with scaring up a storm with micro-budgets and single locations (and before you say it: no, Resident Evil sequels aren't scary). South Korean director Na Hong-jin does not suffer from the same apprehension. The Wailing is a masterpiece of mood, 156 minutes of every horror trope imaginable, drenched in mythology us foreigners may not entirely understand. That's fine: the movie's plot, a streak of murderers that may or may not have been perpetrated by demons, tows the viewer through the foggiest moments with one visceral pleasure after another. The Wailing is the metaphysical mystery that we all wanted from True Detective Season 1.
Where to see it right now: Stream on Netflix; rent on iTunes, Amazon, YouTube, and VOD (watch the trailer)

The Treasure - Best Movies of 2016
42 Km Film

34. The Treasure

Released: January 8th
Cast: Toma Cuzin, Adrian Purcarescu, Corneliu Cozmei
Director: Corneliu Porumboiu (Police, Adjective)
Why it's worth your time: With deadpan delivery that would make Steven Wright jittery, this Romanian comedy tells the story of Costi, a down-on-his-luck office drone, who joins his neighbor and a professional metal detector to hunt for a fortune buried beneath a family estate. While an understanding of Southeastern European history might enhance the viewing experience (you'll have to check with a Romanian), The Treasure can be taken at face value, a financial fable that revels in the quarreling of desperate men. And there's a happy ending, but not the one you expect.
Where to see it right now: Stream on Netflix; rent on iTunes, Amazon, and VOD (watch the trailer)

neruda best movies 2016
The Orchard

33. Neruda

Released: December 16
Cast: Gael García Bernal, Luis Gnecco, Mercedes Morán, Alfredo Castro
Director: Pablo Larraín (Jackie)
Why it’s great: The first of two home runs from Larraín, Neruda is a biopic of the legendary Chilean poet-diplomat with a twist. After speaking out against President Videla's anti-communist rhetoric in 1948, Neruda (Gnecco) is sent on the run, with the government cronies hot on his tail. Nerdua imagines the manhunt in a classic noir mode, complete with shadows, exaggerated voiceover, and a brassy soundtrack. Bernal plays "Oscar Peluchonneau," a Chief of Police conjured up by the filmmakers from Neruda's imagination. By prioritizing the poetry of his subject over the prose of history textbooks, Larraín stages a striking examination of political persecution.
Where to see it right now: In theaters (watch the trailer)

kubo and the two strings best movies of the year
Focus Features

32. Kubo and the Two Strings

Released: August 19th
Cast: Charlize Theron, Art Parkinson, Rooney Mara, Matthew McConaughey
Director: Travis Knight
Why it's great: The stop-motion animators at Laika are the artisanal cheesemakers to Hollywood's Kraft Single-processing machine -- you can just taste the difference. Even with Coraline, ParaNorman, and The Boxtrolls under Laika's belt, Kubo, a mythic parable of sword fights, moon demons, and talking monkeys, is the company's most imaginative ride yet, East meeting West in an adventure tinged with introspection. The sights come as big as a snarling, 40-foot skeleton and as small as an origami samurai, manifested through the title character's magical shamisen. Laika's dedication to subtle movement (and occasionally scaring the shit out of us) makes Kubo the most artful animated film of the year by a long mile.
Where to see it right now: Rent on iTunes, Amazon, YouTube, and VOD (watch the trailer)

la la land best movies 2016

31. La La Land

Released: December 9th
Cast: Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, John Legend, Rosemarie DeWitt
Director: Damien Chazelle (Whiplash)
Why it’s great: Lifting from 20th century musicals of every Technicolor hue, La La Land puts a hop in the steps of two artists as they navigate Hollywood and romance. Gosling, as a jazz purist who yearns to open his own club, and Stone, a barista-cum-actress who spends equal time auditioning and daydreaming, pull off an acting two-step by imbuing Broadway-style fantasy -- complete with showstoppers, solos, and dance routines -- with a realistic struggle creative types will recognize. The drama isn't as potent as Chazelle's pragmatic spectacle, but rarely do we get crowd-pleasers with a head and a heart. Just try to quit humming the keystone single "City of Stars" -- and if you do, tell me how, because I can't.
Where to see it right now: In theaters (watch the trailer)

arrival best movies 2016
Paramount Pictures

30. Arrival

Released: November 11th
Cast: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker, Michael Stuhlbarg
Director: Denis Villeneuve (Sicario)
Why it's great: Based on a novella by acclaimed science-fiction writer Ted Chiang, Arrival abandons space operatics and alien super-weapons to tell a first-contact story about the virtues of communication. When a squadron of spacecrafts touches down in remote areas of the globe, the Army enlists a linguist (Adams) to "speak" to the extraterrestrial squids inside. Through code-breaking and conversation, our human heroes learn a little about this highly intelligent species and even more about their emotional capacity. Methodical and chilly, almost to a fault, Arrival delivers the biggest twists of the year. Like, maybe we Earthlings could learn to get along.
Where to see it right now: In theaters (watch the trailer)

the nice guys best movies of 2016
Warner Bros. Pictures

29. The Nice Guys

Released: May 20th
Cast: Ryan Gosling, Russell Crowe, Angourie Rice, Keith David
Director: Shane Black (Iron Man 3)
Why it's great: Birthed from '70s funk, covered in porn sleaze, and decorated with the English-language equivalent of shaggy neon carpet, this rollicking, Los Angeles-set noir is a comedy of groovy errors. Black combines the spitfire soul of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang with his Iron Man 3 action-directing skills to intoxicating effect. There's a mystery in play -- a missing girl, a celluloid MacGuffin, an auto-industry conspiracy -- but it's all bedrock for Gosling, the Inspector Clouseau answer to L.A. Confidential, and Crowe, a bruiser straight man who scores just as many laughs, to parade across. Around the time Gosling falls off his third ledge and a 12-year-old starts expounding on penis size, it's clear Black's shooting for lunacy. With only a few bumps along the way, The Nice Guys gets there.
Where to see it right now: Rent on iTunes, Amazon, and VOD (watch the trailer)

zootopia - best movies of 2016
Walt Disney Pictures

28. Zootopia

Released: March 4th
Cast: Ginnifer Goodwin, Jason Bateman, Idris Elba, Jenny Slate
Director: Byron Howard (Tangled), Rich Moore (Wreck-It Ralph)
Why it's great: They say we're in the second Disney renaissance. Debatable (c'mon, is Frozen really up there with Beauty and the Beast?), though Zootopia is the strongest piece of evidence. What looks like another anthropomorphized animal adventure, adorable and Happy Meal-ready, is a vivid reimagining of Philip Marlowe-style noir, made sharper with a message on race and class in America. Seriously. Judy Hopps (Goodwin) is a bunny cop at a time when bunnies aren't supposed to be cops. Nick Wilde (Bateman) is her confidante, a fox facing prejudice against his "predator" biology. Together they solve a mystery that parallels every societal conversation we're having in 2016. It's heavy! Yet the movie still gets away with tender friendships, pop-music interludes, and sloth jokes. Impressionable kids and adults who swear they're progressive will both take something away from Zootopia.
Where to see it right now: Stream on Netflix; rent on iTunes, Amazon Video, and VOD (watch the trailer)

The Witch - Best Movies of 2016
Parts and Labor/Rooks Nest Entertainment

27. The Witch

Released: February 19th
Cast: Anya Taylor-Joy, Ralph Ineson, Kate Dickie
Director: Robert Eggers
Why it's worth your time: The Witch delivers everything we don't see in horror today. The backdrop, a farm in 17th-century New England, is pure misty, macabre mood. The circumstance, a Puritanical family making it on the fringe of society because they're too religious, bubbles with terror. And the question, whether devil-worshipping is hocus pocus or true black magic, keeps each character on their toes, and begging God for answers. The Witch tests its audience with its (nearly impenetrable) old English dialogue and the (anxiety-inducing) trials of early American life, but the payoff will keep your mind racing, and your face hiding under the covers, for days.
Where to see it right now: Stream on Amazon Prime Video; rent on iTunes, Amazon, and VOD (watch the trailer)

morris from america best movies of 2016

26. Morris from America

Released: August 19th
Cast: Craig Robinson, Markees Christmas, Carla Juri
Director: Chad Hartigan (This Is Martin Bonner)
Why it's great: Infused with hip-hop and Euro-baroque history, Morris from America finds a son and father as fish out of water, after relocating from New York to Germany with barely a "guten Tag" in their back pockets. Newcomer Christmas plays a temperamental tween searching for love and rap lyrics without overplaying a moment. Robinson, reversing his sitcom comedy persona, delivers parental wisdom (or what his grieving character can muster) like young Dustin Hoffman. Together they jump the hurdles of this rhythmic coming-of-age story in ways that will crack you up and crack you in half.
Where to see it right now: Stream on Amazon Prime Video; rent on iTunes, Amazon, YouTube (watch the trailer)

Hail, Caesar - Best Movies of 2016
Working Title Films

25. Hail, Caesar!

Released: February 5th
Cast: George Clooney, Scarlett Johansson, Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill, Josh Brolin
Director: Joel and Ethan Coen (The Big Lebowski)
Why it's worth your time: Possibly the Coen brothers' zaniest work -- and these are the guys who brought us Raising Arizona, Burn After Reading, and O Brother, Where Art Thou? -- Hail, Caesar! throws back to the golden age of Hollywood for a droll, screwball mystery. A Communist kidnapping plot plays in the background as the Coens swing between a down-on-his-luck singing cowboy, a pair of gossip reporters, a starlet keeping her pregnancy hush-hush, a frustrated auteur, and a studio fixer who can't help but wonder if Hollywood's all it's cracked up to be. Musical numbers elevate it to greatness. Tap-dancing Channing Tatum rules the world.
Where to see it right now: Stream on HBO Go; Rent on iTunes, Amazon, and VOD (watch the trailer)

edge of seventeen best movies 2016
STX Entertainment

24. The Edge of Seventeen

Released: November 18th
Cast: Hailee Steinfeld, Woody Harrelson, Kyra Sedgwick, Blake Jenner
Director: Kelly Fremon Craig
Why it's great: Finally, Mean Girls has modern company in the teen-movie hall of fame. The directorial debut of Craig, who previously wrote the Alexis Bledel comedy Post Grad, The Edge of Seventeen is a hilarious portrait of teen angst and alienation that's willing to pencil in the F-bomb-heavy vocabulary of high schoolers. As Nadine, who watches her best friend and twin brother hook up and couple off, Steinfeld nails the schizophrenia of the age, part kid, part adult, total mess, promising human. Produced by James L. Brooks, who knows a thing or two about character-driven comedy (The Simpsons, Broadcast News), The Edge of Seventeen screams with an idiosyncratic voice at a time when so many movies just want to fall in with the popular crowd.
Where to see it right now: In theaters (watch the trailer)

swiss army man - best movies of 2016

23. Swiss Army Man

Released: June 24th
Cast: Paul Dano, Daniel Radcliffe, Mary Elizabeth Winstead
Director: Dan Kwan, Daniel Scheinert
Why it's great: You might think a movie that opens with a suicidal man riding a farting corpse like a Jet Ski wears thin after the fourth or fifth flatulence gag. You would be wrong. Brimming with imagination and expression, the directorial debut of Adult Swim auteurs "The Daniels" wields sophomoric humor to speak to friendship. As Radcliffe's dead body springs back to life -- through karate-chopping, water-vomiting, and wind-breaking -- he becomes the id to Dano's struggling everyman, who is also lost in the woods. If your childhood backyard adventures took the shape of The Revenant, it would look something like Swiss Army Man, and be pure bliss.
Where to see it right now: Rent on iTunes, Amazon, YouTube, and VOD (watch the trailer)

a bigger splash - best movies of 2016
Fox Searchlight

22. A Bigger Splash

Released: June 24th
Cast: Tilda Swinton, Ralph Fiennes, Matthias Schoenaerts, Dakota Johnson
Director: Luca Guadagnino (I Am Love)
Why it's great: Beach. Sex. Music. Heat. Booze. Pasta. Drugs. Heat. Skin. Sex. Memories. Music. Bread. Drugs. Booze. Beach. Maybe there's not much meat on the bone of this hedonistic, Euro-flavored chamber piece, but my God, each bite is more succulent than the next. Swinton plays a muffled, Bowie-like rock goddess, Schoenaerts is her younger lover, a documentarian led astray by luxury, Fiennes is her lustful ex/producer, hoping to rekindle the romance, and Johnson is his daughter, a DTF ingénue, and their worlds crumble when brought together on the sunbaked Italian coast. The mesmerizing photography and ecstatic personality of A Bigger Splash will leave you tipsy, so please, bring a designated driver.
Where to see it right now: Rent on iTunes, Amazon, YouTube, and VOD (watch the trailer)

the handmaiden best movies of 2016
Magnolia Pictures

21. The Handmaiden

Released: October 21st
Cast: Kim Min-hee, Ha Jung-woo, Kim Tae-ri
Director: Park Chan-wook (Oldboy)
Why it's great: Some movies splash across the screen, others turn scenes into bold brushstrokes. The Handmaiden, an erotic thriller with twists and turns and thrusts aplenty, is Park Chan-wook's drip painting. Set in 1930s Korea, the movie follows Sook-hee, a pickpocket, who slips undercover into the staff of a sheltered heiress, with hopes of luring the deep-pocketed woman into the romantic grasp of her con-man partner in crime. The problem: Sook-hee falls madly, lustfully in love with her target. In The Handmaiden, single, sensual drops -- a prolonged glance, the zipping up of a dress, whispered white lies -- fan out through the entire two-and-a-half-hour narrative into the unexpected. You will not see a craftier movie this year.
Where to see it right now: In theaters (watch the trailer)

popstar lonely island best movies 2016
Universal Pictures

20. Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping

Released: May 24th
Cast: Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone, Akiva Schaffer, Sarah Silverman, Tim Meadows
Director: Akiva Schaffer (Hot Rod) & Jorma Taccone (MacGruber)
Why it's great: Years of SNL Digital Shorts delivered us to Popstar. Riffing on every facet of the post-Justin Bieber era, this musical mock-doc is the perfect vehicle for the Lonely Island's bombastic pop singles and celebrity-skewering satire. Samberg's Conner Friel teeters on the edge of parody as he spouts profane lyrics ("Fuck me like we fucked bin Laden!") and discovers what it means to be a true artist. Popstar careens in and out of musical numbers, truncating one-note music videos ideas into punctuating jokes. Up there with Monty Python and the Holy Grail in the pantheon of sketch comedy movies.
Where to see it right now: Rent on iTunes, Amazon, YouTube, and VOD (watch the trailer)

elle best movies of 2016
Sony Classics

19. Elle

Released: November 11th
Cast: Isabelle Huppert, Laurent Lafitte, Anne Consigny, Charles Berling
Director: Paul Verhoeven (RoboCop)
Why it’s great: Verhoeven, one of the few provocateur satirists to make a name in Hollywood (have you seenStarship Troopers lately?), veers into realism for this portrait of a woman processing a recent home intrusion and rape. The scenario could be the basis for a harrowing drama, but Verhoeven, idiosyncratic, and Huppert, known for such daring roles, explore the aftermath through sexual passion, vicious family relations, and the sort of pitch-black humor you only find overseas. At the time of the assault, Huppert's Michèle is a video game designer juggling her father (incarcerated murderer), mother (horny geriatric), son (do-nothing whose girlfriend just gave birth to a baby that may or may not be his), ex-husband (failed novelist hooking up with a grad student), and neighbor (sadist Christian). She makes it all work. So does Elle.
Where to see it right now: In theaters (watch the trailer)

the fits best movies 2016
Oscilloscope Laboratories

18. The Fits

Released: June 3
Cast: Royalty Hightower, Alexis Neblett, Lauren Gibson, Da'Sean Minor
Director: Anna Rose Holmer
Why it’s great: Each afternoon, 11-year-old Toni (Hightower) sneaks away from boxing workouts with her brother to spy on the local step team, practicing in the gym down the hall. The cautionary perspective through clouded glass envelops the girl's entire journey from mighty fighter to mighty dancer. In the hands of Holmer, who dabbles with on-the-table issues -- "the fits" refers to an epileptic epidemic plaguing the dancers, theorized as a symptom of the rec center's water -- and magical realism to turn a simple story into an electrifying metaphor for growing up female. A scene where Toni lunges, twirls, and nails her dance routine will have viewers doing the same.
Where to see it right now: Stream on Amazon Prime; rent on iTunes, Amazon, YouTube and VOD (watch the trailer)

silence scorsese best movies 2016
Paramount Pictures

17. Silence

Released: December 23
Cast: Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver, Issei Ogata, Liam Neeson
Director: Martin Scorsese (Taxi Driver)
Why it's great: Scorsese spent 20 years developing his adaptation of Shūsaku Endō's novel, the story of two Portuguese Catholic priests who travel to Nagasaki, Japan, to rescue their mentor from religious persecution, and it feels like the minimum time required. Silence is a weathered ark, wrestling with the power and pull of religion from a God's eye view. Sebastião (Garfield) arrives to Japan to push his scripture. Over his journey, lush, meditative, and bloody, thanks to the Japanese campaign to force Christian priests into apostasy, he will question everything, and beg his savior for guidance. Scorsese asks the Big Questions, making for the most challenging film of the year, beliefs be damned.
Where to see it right now: In theaters (watch the trailer)

10 cloverfield lane - best movies of the year
Bad Robot Productions

16. 10 Cloverfield Lane

Released: March 11th
Cast: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Goodman, John Gallagher Jr.
Director: Dan Trachtenberg
Why it’s great: Ignore the fact that J.J. Abrams' latest Cloverfield movie isn't a straight sequel to the 2008 original, and you'll stumble into one of the eeriest thrillers in ages. 10 Cloverfield Lane, the story of three fated companions averting (theoretical) apocalypse in a subterranean bunker, runs like clockwork. Every 10 minutes Trachtenberg offers a new reveal, a new exacerbation of paranoia. Unnerving performances -- Winstead's troubled captive, Goodman's off-kilter parental figure, and Gallagher Jr. as a squeaky third wheel -- and a delight in madness prevent 10 Cloverfield Lane from settling on just one answer. It's a have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too horror movie, where the sights and sounds crescendo to the very last beat.
Where to see it right now: Rent on iTunes, Amazon, and VOD (watch the trailer)

green room - best movies of 2016
Broad Green Pictures

15. Green Room

Released: April 15th
Cast: Anton Yelchin, Imogen Poots, Patrick Stewart, Macon Blair
Director: Jeremy Saulnier (Blue Ruin)
Why it's great: Green Room is a throaty, thrashing, spit-slinging punk tune belted through an invasion-movie microphone at max volume. It's nasty -- and near-perfect. Struggling rock group The Ain't Rights roll into an isolated Oregonian club for a quick set. They leave the victims of a murderous neo-Nazi rampage, spearheaded by a gruff Patrick Stewart. As its 20-something rockstars recklessly defend against machetes, shotguns, and snarling guard dogs, Green Room blossoms into a savage coming-of-age tale, an Almost Famous for John Carpenter nuts. Saulnier's camera doesn't flinch, navigating the club and wilderness exteriors with disaffected control, capturing sustained injuries in gruesome detail (seriously, if you can't stomach the sight of gushing blood and broken bones -- hard pass). Backed by a faithful soundtrack, Green Room is expert thriller-making where each story twist turns like a knife... and the actual knife twists turn like hydraulic drills.
Where to see it right now: Stream on Amazon Prime Video; rent on iTunes, Amazon, and VOD (watch the trailer)

20th century women best movies 2016

14. 20th Century Women

Released: December 28
Cast: Lucas Jade Zumann, Annette Bening, Elle Fanning, Greta Gerwig
Director: Mike Mills (Beginners)
Why it's great: If there's such thing as an epistolary movie, 20th Century Women is it. Touring 1970s Santa Barbara through a living flipbook, Mills's semi-autobiographical film transcends documentation with a cast of wayward souls and Jamie (Zumann), an impressionable young teenager. Bening plays his mother, and the matriarch of a ragtag family, who gather together for safety, dance to music when the moment strikes, and teach Jamie the important lesson of What Women Want, which ranges from feminist theory to love-making techniques. The kid soaks it up like a sponge. Through Mills's caring direction, and characters we feel extending infinitely through past and present, so do we.
Where to see it right now: In theaters (watch the trailer)

pete's dragon best movies of 2016
Walt Disney Pictures

13. Pete's Dragon

Released: August 12th
Cast: Bryce Dallas Howard, Oakes Fegley, Karl Urban, Robert Redford
Director: David Lowery (Ain't Them Bodies Saints)
Why it's great: Reverence for the 1977 original (or a clue that an original exists) is not required to fall hard for this adventure movie. Like King Kong, The Day the Earth Stood Still, and E.T., Lowery imagines a human-animal connection as a monstrous manhunt punctured by friendship. When we meet the 10-year-old main character, he's feral and afraid. So are those wandering the "sophisticated" world, as we learn when outsiders get a look at Pete's dragon, Elliott. Channeling Steven Spielberg's down-to-earth intrepidity, then soaring even higher, Pete's Dragon is the type of movie we're nostalgic for that doesn't indulge our nostalgia for a single second.
Where to see it right now: Rent on iTunes, Amazon, and VOD (watch the trailer)

Manchester By the Sea best movies 2016
Amazon Studios

12. Manchester by the Sea

Released: November 18th
Cast: Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams, Kyle Chandler, Lucas Hedges
Director: Kenneth Lonergan (You Can Count on Me)
Why it's great: Clocking in at three hours, this story of a handyman (Affleck) who returns home to care for his late brother's teenage son (Hedges) is an epic of intimate proportions. Affleck's character begins the movie shattered by grief. With each scene, be it a haunting memory, a hilarious back-and-forth with his nephew, or sudden silence so well-timed you feel the winter air fill your lungs, the actor reconstructs Lonergan's jagged pieces into a recognizable figure. Manchester by the Sea is like a five-season series squeezed into a movie-length runtime, or better, an experiential microcosm strewn across one coastal Massachusetts town. Your tear ducts will be no match for this one.
Where to see it right now: In theaters (watch the trailer)

toni erdmann best movies 2016
Sony Pictures Classics

11. Toni Erdmann

Released: December 25th
Cast: Peter Simonischek, Sandra Hüller, Michael Wittenborn, Thomas Loibl
Director: Maren Ade (Everyone Else)
Why it's great: Ines (Hüller) is a no-bullshit careerist who counters the hardships of work with drugs, alcohol, and anonymous sex. Her father, Winfried (Simonischek), is a footloose music teacher who loves a good prank -- his preferred state of being involves fake teeth and a neanderthal wig. When his dog dies, Winfried flies to Bucharest to visit his daughter, who can't be bothered. The trip becomes more of a haunting as the reeling father takes on the moniker of "Toni Erdmann," lifestyle coach. Ade stews her broad comedy premise into profound drama; Toni Edrmann is a movie about aging and identity, finances and workplace inequality, goofy pranks and poignant stillness. It's a character study for the ages, complete with Whitney Houston covers and the most awkward nude scene in movie history. You've never seen anything like it.
Where to see it right now: In theaters (watch the trailer)

paterson best movies 2016
Amazon Studios

10. Paterson

Released: December 25th
Cast: Adam Driver, Golshifteh Farahani, Barry Shabaka Henley, Method Man
Director: Jim Jarmusch (Only Lovers Left Alive)
Why it's great: William Carlos Williams described his epic poem Paterson as an attempt to mirror "the resemblance between the mind of modern man and the city." Jarmusch's latest, which follows a guy named Paterson (Driver) who drives a bus around the city of Paterson, New Jersey, and writes poetry like his hero William Carlos Williams during his breaks, strives for similar observation. Very little happens in Paterson (the movie), though within its trials of everyday life, even the slightest tremble of Earth feels cataclysmic (a broken-down bus prompts many to wonder if it'll blow up into a fireball). Jarmusch finds poetry in the murmurs of a Thursday night bar crowd and the bouncing vistas out a bus window. Paterson (the man) senses it too, though a world urging him to publish, cash in, brand tests his eye. In Paterson, Jarmusch has art on the brain, and he makes some in the process.
Where to see it right now: In theaters (watch the trailer)

Anthony Weiner documentary  - Best Movies of 2016
Sundance Selects

9. Weiner

Released: May 20th
Director: Josh Kriegman, Elyse Steinberg
Why it's great: When disgraced congressman Anthony Weiner announced his bid in the 2013 New York mayoral race, the country wondered how the politician could bounce back from a scorching sexting scandal, while his former chief of staff grabbed a camera. Weiner is less fly-on-the-wall character study than compliant spywork. The camera goes everywhere, capturing wide shots of Weiner's roaring personality at work -- a drive that made him an irresistible media figure in Washington and an easy target come tabloid time -- and gut-wrenching moments of nuclear failure. When "Carlos Danger" catches up with Weiner -- and more tragically, his reluctant-but-determined wife Huma -- a political comeback implodes in slow motion. The candidate's humor, misguidance, and determination make Weiner one of the greatest political portraits.
Where to see it right now: Stream on DirectTV; rent on iTunes, Amazon, YouTube, and VOD (watch the trailer)

sing street - best movies of 2016
Cosmo Films

8. Sing Street

Released: April 15th
Cast: Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, Lucy Boynton, Jack Reynor, Aidan Gillen
Director: John Carney (Once)
Why it's great: "Rock 'n' roll is a risk," Sing Street's resident burnout declares. "You risk being ridiculed." Same goes for taking in a sweet, spirited coming-of-age dramedy. From the director of Once, Sing Street follows a band of Irish high-schoolers who emerge into the world through '80s pop-rock. Like A Hard Day's Night for The Cure-obsessed scamps, you'll want to watch once and come back again, just for the songs. Sing Street joins High FidelityAlmost FamousWe Are the Best!, and The Commitments as one of the deepest looks at rock n' roll as religion.
Where to see it right now: Stream on Netflix; rent on iTunes, Amazon, and VOD (watch the trailer)

best movies of 2016 - krisha
Hoody Boy Productions

7. Krisha

Released: March 18th
Cast: Krisha Fairchild, Bill Wise, Robyn Fairchild
Director: Trey Edward Shults
Why it's great: At Thanksgiving dinner, everything's on the table: turkey, stuffing, dirty secrets, gravy, slow-boiled arguments, green bean casserole, pent-up rage, and dinner rolls (if you're lucky). Krisha stages these typical festivities with the fury of battling gods. Shults, a first-time director, shot the indie in his mother's home, casting his own non-actor family in the central roles. You'd never guess it. Fairchild allows her eponymous character, an estranged aunt suffering from addiction, to seep under her skin. Shults' camera glides through the suburban colonial, honing in on agonizing misbehavior, like he's Spielberg shooting World War II. A malicious soundtrack keeps the anxiety at a steady boil, even when Krisha escapes her sisters, brothers-in-law, and nephews for a smoke. Krisha is straight-up harrowing, and a vital look at how the closest people in our lives slip away in "normal" circumstances.
Where to see it right now: Stream on Amazon Prime Video; rent on iTunes, Amazon, YouTube, and VOD (watch the trailer)

Mountains May Depart - best movies of 2016
Xstream Pictures

6. Mountains May Depart

Released: February 12th
Cast: Zhao Tao, Zhang Yi, Liang Jingdong
Director: Jia Zhangke (Still Life)
Why it's worth your time:  Underneath every trend, every money-making operation, every geopolitical shift, there are people. Mountains May Depart follows a few -- a happy-go-lucky Chinese woman, her working-class suitor, a millionaire who woos her into marriage, and their son, who wonders how he wound up in Australia without a word of Mandarin in his vocabulary -- as they drift from 1999 to 2014 to 2025. Jia Zhangke packs his epic with laughter, sadness, explosions, and dance sequences. Each pivotal moment thrills and thrills again, reflected a second time through the movie's rearview mirror. The drama's all compounded by Zhao Tao, whose gentle smile has the oomph to crush cars. Wherever you hail from, Mountains May Depart will speak to your world, your time, your life -- that's a promise.
Where to see it right now: Stream on Netflix; Rent on iTunes, Amazon, and VOD (watch the trailer)

jackie best movies 2016
Fox Searchlight

5. Jackie

Released: December 2nd
Cast: Natalie Portman, Peter Sarsgaard, Greta Gerwig, Billy Crudup
Director: Pablo Larraín (No)
Why it’s great: Jackie is one of the most barbed and breathless movies of the year. The idea of a Jackie Kennedy biopic conjures glamour and gloss for many. Larraín and Portman don't forget that the First Lady's eye-popping pink Chanel suit was eventually soaked with JFK's blood. As she plots a funeral procession that will cement her late husband as a pillar of American presidency, Jackie drifts between states of depression, wonder, and a terror resembling madness, Portman delivers every moment with quiet roar. Backed by a molten soundtrack and Larraín's wide-eyed camera, Jackie is the most haunting history lesson of the year.
Where to see it right now: In theaters (watch the trailer)

The Lobster - Best Movies of 2016

4. The Lobster

Released: May 13th
Cast: Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, John C. Reilly, Léa Seydoux
Director: Yorgos Lanthimos (Dogtooth)
Why it's great: To examine modern love, this baroque, sci-fi rom-com basically splits into two movies: the first is an evisceration of Bachelor-esque monogamy logic, where Colin Farrell's David must find love in 45 days or be turned into an animal (of his choice -- the overlords aren't monsters). The second boots our hero to savage woods, where escaped singles plot terrorist attacks against their romance-obsessed society. Shaded with cool hues and orchestrated like a minor symphony, Farrell and Weisz balance the off-kilter dystopia with vibrant, sexual heat. Outrunning tranquilizer darts never looked so good. Like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Lobster is original, heartfelt, and would make an awful date movie. Luckily, that's not a factor for greatness.
Where to see it right now: Stream on Amazon Prime; rent on iTunes, Amazon, YouTube, and VOD (watch the trailer)

everybody wants some - best movies of 2016
Annapurna Pictures

3. Everybody Wants Some!!

Released: March 30th
Cast: Blake Jenner, Glen Powell, Zoey Deutch, Tyler Hoechlin
Director: Richard Linklater (Boyhood)
Why it's great: What Dazed and Confused did for the hazy, hedonistic high school years, Everybody Wants Some!! does for the horn-dog college experience, a moment when lives reboot and anything is possible. On the first weekend before school, incoming freshman Jake (Jenner) joins his new baseball team brethren to party like he's never partied before, rolling through disco joints, punk clubs, house parties blasting Van Halen, and every vice under the sun. The perfect cast keeps Everybody Wants Some!! light on its feet. Every foul line out of Powell's motorized mouth kills. Hoechlin, Wyatt Russell, Will Brittain, and newcomer Temple Baker carve out specific personalities -- a mix of macho, stoned, naive, and dumb as bricks -- that are instantly recognizable. Zoey Deutch, as one of the movie's lone female voices, levels the playing field with ambitious perspective. Save for a handful of broad scenes that belong in Wet Hot American Summer, Linklater's "spiritual sequel" is a classic on par with Dazed. It's the perfect kick-back-and-chill movie, a combo of fastball jokes and unexpected wisdom backed by a 1980s jukebox. You want to hang out with these dudes.
Where to see it right now: Rent on iTunes, Amazon, and VOD (watch the trailer)

moonlight best movies of the year

2. Moonlight

Released: October 21st
Cast: Trevante Rhodes, André Holland, Ashton Sanders, Alex Hibbert, Naomie Harris, Mahershala Ali
Director: Barry Jenkins (Medicine for Melancholy)
Why it's great: Chronicling the boyhood years, teenage stretch, and muted adult life of Chiron, a black gay man making it Miami, this triptych altarpiece is at once hyper-specific and cosmically universal. Jenkins roots each moment in the last; Chiron's desire for a lost lover can't burn in a diner booth over a bottle of wine without his beachside identity crisis years prior, blurred and violent, or encounters from deeper in his past, when glimpses of his mother's drug addiction, or the mentoring acts of her crack supplier, felt like secrets delivered in code. Panging colors, sounds, and the delicate movements of its perfect cast like the notes of a symphony, Moonlight is the real deal, a movie that will only grow and complicate as you wrestle with it.
Where to see it right now: In theaters (watch the trailer)

wiener-dog - best movies of the year
Amazon Studios

1. Wiener-Dog

Released: June 24th
Cast: Greta Gerwig, Julie Delpy, Danny DeVito, Ellen Burstyn
Director: Todd Solondz (Welcome to the Dollhouse)
Why it's great: Four vignettes -- the story of a boy caring for his first pup; a semi-sequel to Solondz's cult classic Welcome to the Dollhouse that casts Gerwig as the soul-searching, pet-stealing Dawn Wiener; a semi-autobiographical portrait of a college screenwriting professor (DeVito); and an elderly dog owner's encounter with the younger generation -- comprise this wickedly comical, existentially provocative look at life with pets. Solondz can be a cruel and unusual god to his characters, and while Wiener-Dog shocks, there's a fanciful side, dashes of dancing-dog videos, and plenty of aw-gosh cuddling, which make a movie about an omnipresent wiener dog as touching as it sounds. Caring for animals changes who we are as people, and this film sniffs around to discover every possible way. Wiener-Dog is a low-key masterpiece.
Where to see it right now: Stream on Amazon Prime; rent on iTunes and Amazon (watch the trailer)

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Matt Patches is Thrillist's Entertainment editor. He previously wrote for Grantland,, Vulture, The Hollywood Reporter, and The Guardian. His favorite movie of all time is Groundhog Day. Find him on Twitter @misterpatches.