The Iris names the 21 Best Movies of 2016

We take our annual look back at the best movies of the year, rounding out the 21 best films released in Australian cinemas between January 1st and December 31st, 2016:


21. Captain Fantastic

“(Matt) Ross has created a piece that, despite its subtle flaws, is dazzling in its achievements but still beautiful in its imperfections.” – Ben Chapple


20. Sing Street

“From itsĀ beautifully-simpleĀ opening vignette, it’s clear that Sing Street is a film that knows exactly what it wants to be. There’s a remarkable sense of purpose and depth to everything here – if you’re willing to look for it. And even if you aren’t,Ā Sing StreetĀ makes for great viewing nonetheless.” – Fergus Halliday


19. American Honey

“Probably the most euphoric film Iā€™ve seen all year. If director Andrea Arnold was given a chance to make her own Disney Princess film, American Honey would be it. More fantastical than her previous films while also retaining the requisite themes of approaching adulthood and finding love in hopeless places and getting terrific performances out of non-actors (Sasha Lane truly lives up to her characterā€™s name), American Honey is my type of honey. And donā€™t get me started on the brilliantly well-chosen soundtrack. – Harris Dang


18. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them reinvigorates the wonder and magic that we all experienced 15 years ago when the first Harry Potter film was released. Eddie Redmayne is wonderful as the awkward young man intent on learning about and protecting magical creatures. And his cast-mates prove to be a great supporting unit.” – Carina Nilma


17. Hacksaw Ridge

“A homegrown spectacle; Andrew Garfield is again incredible with Mel Gibson proving he is still an enthralling and thought-provoking visual director.” – Ben Chapple


16. Kubo and the Two Strings

“I was so surprised at how much depth and darkness this had for a family movie. The notes it touches on with death and lost loved ones is heartbreaking but in a good way. I havenā€™t been able to use my imagination like this kid does since I was about 12 years old. It takes me back, it took everyone back. Such a marvellous use of stop motion animation, a film form which has become a rarer beast as of late.” – David Hunter


15. Spotlight

“For a film with such a weighty and controversial subject matter, Spotlight never tries to beat you over the head or be preachy about its subject matter. It merely gives you one viewpoint, the journalistsā€™, and provides you with the facts that they uncover. This is the essence of good investigative journalism, and this film conveys just that. Adding to that an exceptional ensemble cast, beautiful and subtle cinematography combined with a haunting score it will move you in so many ways. Spotlight is a vitally important must watch film, not just because of the subject but because this really is a brilliant piece of film-making on all levels.” – Carina Nilma

14. Nocturnal Animals

“Cross-cutting between various stories without sacrificing their individual ingredients, director Tom Ford has delivered an enthralling film that not only demands your attention but deserves it as well.” – Peter Gray


13. The Revenant

“I was floored by the violent beauty and unflinching realism that was screened before me, with the unmatched Leonardo DiCaprio delivering the type of performance that defines what it is to be an actor. Unpleasant but brilliant all the same, ā€˜The Revenantā€™ is a technically stellar achievement that, regardless of individual reactions, deserves respect above all else.” – Peter Gray


12. Swiss Army Man

“Directing team The Daniels bring their debut film, this yearā€™s most heartwarming and heartbreaking that also features a farty corpse. On initial appearances the film looked juvenile but within the first 10 minutes youā€™re easily captivated. It consists almost solely by the performances of Paul Dano and Daniel Radcliffe, and their chemistry is pure magic. Thanks to The Danielsā€™ background in directing music videos not only is this a stunningly visual film but the soundtrack is integral to the film and amazing as well. A film that makes you laugh, makes you cry and will make you appreciate a good fart joke or ten. Utter perfection.” – Carina Nilma

The Witch

11. The Witch

“Arguably the best horror film of the year, while The Witch might have been a bit too slow-burning for some, its atmospheric presence not only made the macabre genuinely frightening, but also re-invigorated a genre on its last legs.” – Christopher Hughes


10. Your Name (Kimi no Na wa)

“One of the best animations we’ve had the privilege of being able to see in Australian cinemas is Your Name from Japan. The beautifully crafted animation takes us on a visually stunning journey through the lives of two characters. At first glance it seems as simple as a “boy meets girl” story but there is so much more entwining this emotionally heart wrenching plot together – a mix of modern and traditional Japan creating a breath-taking piece of cinema. Although the film suffers from some lack of depth at times, the overall result is not ruined and still leaves you with that satisfying afterglow.” – Elain Cham

The Nice Guys

9. The Nice Guys

“Now this was a film that I was waiting for since it was given the greenlight and it was entirely worth the wait. Fantastic chemistry between Russell Crowe and a energetically comedic Ryan Gosling, a sharp and witty script from Shane Black and a star-making performance from fellow Aussie actress, Angourie Rice, makes this film one of the most fun films Iā€™ve seen in 2016. Itā€™s a damn shame that very few people saw this film. We need more films like this.” – Harris Dang


8. Hell or High Water

“Wide Southern shots, a cynical cop Jeff Bridges, the references between the banks and the colonialists, Tarantino like dialogue, a bank robbing mature Chris Pine, smart and stylish violence, thoughtful crimes and a slightly tweaked Ben Foster; all culminating in one summit of a scene between the grieving Bridges and Pine. The echoes of the Coen Brothers and McCarthy are strong in Hell or High Water, but it doesn’t carry any of those names, instead running on the minds of David Mackenzie and writer Taylor Sheridan. A brilliant film that was been undervalued outside of the U.S.” – Jake Sheehan


7. Hunt for the Wilderpeople

Hunt For The Wilderpeople feels like a comic-book co-authoured by Peter Jackson and Lee Tamahori, like Sam and Frodo with guns and a hip-hop influence. It’s a coming of age story about a bad egg (Julian Dennison) and his unwilling foster father (Sam Neill) in the untouched mountain region of New Zealand. It’s a strange premise made stranger by rapid cuts and montages, breaking every film school rule along it’s journey, but executed so seamlessly that everything just makes sense. It’s clever, it’s funny and it’s another film for New Zealanders to throw in the face of Australians.” – Jake Sheehan


6. Doctor Strange

Doctor Strange is dramatic, visually and aurally exquisite, funny and intriguingly clever. A film that is so layered and dense that repeated viewings will result in more surprises and an opportunity to see things from new points of view. Once again Marvel is pushing the boundaries of film-making by utilising the latest technology and taking risks to new and exciting quantum realms.” – Carina Nilma


5. Zootopia

“This was a surprisingly great animated film, with real life lessons that honestly just leave the grown-ups pondering the state of the world more than the kids will. I think Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin) would be a better leader than most people in politics right now.” – Erica Enriquez


4. Arrival

“Denis Villenueve bucks the trend of alien invasion films with his take that is more alien visitation. Visually breathtaking, sonically stunning, and with a sophisticated story that is an exploration of language and communication itā€™s gripping from start to finish. This film left me with chills by the end.” – Carina Nilma


3. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

“Apart from the fact it’s a new Star Wars movie, Rogue One dared to move away from the soap opera formula of its predecessors, and in doing so, created an amazing sci-fi epic that beautifully weaved together incredible visuals with a well acted and written script.” – Christopher Hughes


2. Deadpool

“It’s the anti-super hero film that isn’t afraid to have a laugh at itself and everyone else. ” – Natalie Salvo

“There was so much hype for this and the hopes of so many nerdy comic fans rested on the outcome of this film. Thanks to a combination of the charm of Ryan Reynolds, the direction of Tim Miller and the writing team of Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick the film smashed it out of the park. With just the right mix of origin and vengeance stories combined.It ticked all the R-rated boxes and expectations we had for a gritty, violent, irreverently funny comic book film. I laughed so hard I was in tears and ended up needing to see it multiple times just to pick up on all the in-jokes. Bonus points for Best Blu-Ray Release of 2016 also, the gag reel and commentary with the film is A++” – Carina Nilma


1. La La Land

“Contemporary in its setting but timeless in its tone, Damien Chazelleā€™s joyous mixture of the past and the present is sheer brilliance and, quite frankly, the best thing cinema has produced this year.” – Peter Gray

“Original, visually mesmerising, directorially genius, the example of a film done right. All elements, music and acting and cinematography, coming together in a masterpiece.” – Ben Chapple


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Larry Heath

Founding Editor and Publisher of the AU review. You can follow him on Twitter @larry_heath or on Instagram @larryheath.