Stuart Graham’s 2016 Screen Review

15 mins read

Every year there seems to be a swarm of movies that make their way onto our big screens and despite many of us filmy types making it our objectives to see all of them; the task is just to big to ever complete.

This year has saw the releases some unexpected incredible features, some highly anticipated smashes some not so warmly received piles of garbage (yes, I’m looking at you Suicide Squad).

So as we draw close to the end of this eventful year it seems apt that I take a look back at some of the films that have come through our cinemas and privilege my own opinion to the extent that I take half a page to simply list my favourites and smear those that I didn’t enjoy.

So without further ado here is my list of the top 7 films of 2016 and a few that I hated to the point that I deviated from the easy “Top 10” structure that this article could have had, simply to include them.

[P.S. All of 2016’s big Oscar winners and contenders saw their release in 2015 in America so only films released in 2016 to the general world will be included in this list.]


  1. Captain America: Civil War

The reason I loved this film so much was because it didn’t simply kick off Phase Three of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but did so in such a manner that shifted the tone of the franchise and set a new stylistic standard for the superhero genre as a whole.

From the more edgy editing used in scenes of action to the stripped back boreoarctic dialogue in scenes of importance to the plot, it seems clear that the studio wants to move away from the shiny digestible high saturation aesthetic and tone of the previous phases and try taking the franchise into new unwalked territory.


2016 saw the classic sci-fi disaster film Independence Day receive a sequel (some say a long awaited sequel, but I personally could have waited a good while longer).


Independence Day: Resurgence seemed like Hollywood yet again cashing in on people’s nostalgia boners in exchange for some ramped up graphics that try desperately to echo the original and the wheeling out some old stars who says some audience favourite catchphrases.

The scale attempted to be reached in this 165 million dollar explosions fest almost worked against them in the end, as the extent of the destruction depicted at the beginning of the second act seemed to poke a rather huge plot hole in the films happy ending.

With more than half of the world being destroyed, America – who of course pull through cause c’mon, they’re America – would in fact not do that great as a great deal of what America, and all countries really, relies on comes from imports from other countries, which have been entirely demolished. The American economy and remaining world economy would collapse and anarchy would probably ensue. [oh, SPOILERS!]

I know I am being nit-picky but when I spend money on a film’s happy ending, I want it to be bloody air-tight, okay!

  1. Finding Dory

Although not quite living up to the heights of its predecessor, Finding Dory proved that Pixar is still leader of the pack when it comes to heartstring pulling animations.

Despite the slightly ridiculous last act that sees an Octopus steal a truck and drive it off a cliff into the ocean; the film weaves yet another interesting story with some mind-blowing visuals and gives Dory a much needed back story that has adults and children alike entirely invested in the film’s outcome.

  1. Deadpool

There was no way this comedic spoof wasn’t going to make this list. For those arguing that Deadpool isn’t a spoof, you are wrong, it makes noticeable jokes about genre tropes while still fitting into them.

The blockbuster smash released in early February took a whole new look at the superhero origin story and gave us a protagonist to root for who wasn’t only an unconventional hero but also hilariously quick witted when it came to addressing his foes.



Me Before You was one of the most desperate attempts at a money grab I’ve seen in recent years.

Using the whole falling in love with a dying person formula as a premise the film tried to jump on The Fault in Our Stars bandwagon but ending up a little more The Fault in Our Script.

With the film cutting out important source material that gave characters like Louisa more depth than the simple awkward Bridget Jones type that the film paints her as.

  1. Collateral Beauty (Predicted)

Although not released yet Collateral Beauty is set to be one of my highlights of the year.

Set in New York in present day, Collateral Beauty features Will Smith as a New York advertising executive who retreats from all he knows after experiencing an intense personal loss.

The film centres around his friends coming up with a divinely original way showing him the beauty in life again and getting him to step back out into the world.

The film is glittered with stars such as Edward Norton, Helen Mirren, Naomi Harris, Kiera Knightly and Kate Winslet; promising to be one of this year’s big Oscar stealers, hopefully.

Collateral Damage is due to be released in the UK on the 30th of December.

  1. Zootopia

Some of you may now be smirking away at the fact that a Dinsey animated film has made it so high on my list of top films but for those of you who have seen it, hopefully you will be nodding along in confirmation as you read this.

Zootopia, or Zootropolis as it was actually called in the UK, didn’t just work as a modern kids film that entertains the young ones while making the parents and older audience sob. Oh, no!

Zootopia went beyond what could have easily been an easy-money “animals with human feelings” premise and instead decided to use the entire film as an allegorical mirror to reflect our society back at us.

It does so in in such a divine way that children wouldn’t be traumatised yet would learn the lessons while adults would be both entertained yet educated into seeing the real effect of societal prejudice, which the whole film functions around.


We all knew I wasn’t going to make it through without briefly talking about the shit-show that was DC studios attempts at filmmaking this year.

Now I have covered a lot of my dislike and disapproval of recent DC films in my previous article “Why DC studios should just stop”.

But just to quickly summarise my critics of these films.

Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice failed as an enjoyable superhero films for two main reasons. Reason A, the Batman vs Superman feud that the film is apparently centred around is so thin and then quickly resolved that characters aren’t really invested or relieved by the outcome. Reason B, the film tried to do way to much in its short running time, it tried to give yet another origin story, develop Superman as a character, give a minor Lex Lurther origin story and set up a whole superhero group; it was as a film, confused and messy.

  1. Swiss Army Man

Now it is hard to describe a film that has farting not at a cheap laugh gag but instead as a serious plot-driving element (not like 2002’s Thunderpants, however; that was just idiotic).

Swiss Army Man was simply a triumph, a triumph over formulaic Hollywood flics and Oscar bait alike.

It didn’t busy itself trying to tell a deeply moving true story of something fresh in people’s mind from American history nor did it try to create stunning set pieces for one CGI enhanced pan shot.

The unconventionally credited directors, Daniels, seems to take a look at all these industry norms and think, “nah, not for us… let’s do something fun”. And that’s what it was, stylistically the film was original, playful and at times traumatising.

The film makes smooth jumps between comedy and intense psychological drama over and over and this left me simply speechless as the credits roles and I sat thinking about the experience that film had just shared with me.

  1. Arrival

Now after walking out of Swiss Army Man I had decided in my head that it was going to my favourite film of 2016, and that was that.

Well then along came the little unexpected gem that was Arrival and left Swiss Army Man confused on the earth bellow as it soared of (topical, I know!)

Now when I read a small synopsis describing the plot of Arrival as an intelligent sci-fi come political drama I must say I was sceptical if this film was for me.

But within the first 10 minutes of viewing I was bloody well involved in this film.

The film delicately deals with emotional trauma, international relations, linguistics and warfare in such exquisite detail that the hours following the viewings of the film are just spent pondering every little piece of the film that could be read as foreshadowing, allegory or something even cleverer you don’t really know the name for.

I am not sure whether it was Amy Adam’s stunning performance, the ingenious script or the minimalistic visuals but from the beginning of this film to the last second I was immersed in this story then left with my head spinning at the film’s purely revolutionary concepts.



Now as I final disclaimer, I am sure there were films this year that were better than some of those on this list.

Films that once I see and then reflect back on this list will bump a few off the end but I couldn’t include films in my Top 7 simply because I thought they would be good.

Kubo and The Two Strings, The Lobster, Nocternal Animals and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them along with many others would probably have ranked highly on the list but time has not been kind this year and I haven’t quite managed to get round to them yet.

Maybe by the end of 2017 I will have seen the definitive best movies from 2016, we will just have to wait and see

Website | + posts
%d bloggers like this: