After 12 long months, 2016 has come to a close, and it’s time for critics to start composing their end-of-the-year best-of lists. Most are fairly predictable, encompassing the more recent awards-worthy pictures being released around this time—from the grand musical La La Land to the racial biopic Hidden Figures to Martin Scorsese’s religious picture Silence.
But what of the other great films released this year? It’s easy for the movies that came out earlier in the year to become lost in the shuffle and not find a space on any top 10 list. But on this particular list, they’ll get their due. Here are 10 films from 2016 that may not crack any top 10 lists, but are worth noting as movies that should certainly not be forgotten.
1. Swiss Army Man
Otherwise known as the Daniel Radcliffe Farting Corpse Movie, Swiss Army Man was a strange comedy more sweet than one would expect for a picture with farts, boners, vomit, and dead bodies. A marooned man (Paul Dano) decides to commit suicide on an island, but there he discovers a floating corpse (Radcliffe) that cannot stop farting. After riding the farting corpse like a Jet Ski (let that image sink in for a minute), he hits land and makes his trek back to civilization. On his journey, he slowly discovers that the corpse can additionally dispense water, chop wood, use his penis as a compass, and slowly begin to speak. As Dano gradually comes to terms with a woman he never had the courage to ask out, he also begins to form a relationship with Radcliffe that is strangely innocent and hilarious in more ways than one. There’s something both ridiculously comical and sweetly telling when Radcliffe finds it sad that Dano has to hide his farts from others because it’s socially unacceptable. Any subject can be made into a great film, and Swiss Army Man is Exhibit A at how one can make a compelling and unique picture with a high amount of farts.
2. Hunt for the Wilderpeople
Hunt for the Wilderpeople is an offbeat New Zealand adventure that’s odd to describe but such a pleasure to watch unfold. It’s the tale of gangsta-obsessed youth Ricky (Julian Dennison) and his reluctant adoptive father, Hec (Sam Neill), who find themselves on the run in the bush of New Zealand from local authorities and social workers, who believe that Hec has kidnapped the boy for dirty deeds. Ricky and Hec decide to live off the land as they grow to like each other amid running from the government and hunting for food. The chemistry between the always-amused Dennison and the always-grumpy Neill is such a pleasure to watch unfold that I never wanted their adventures to end. Filled with hilarious dialogue, quirky situations, and undeniable heart, it’s unlike any other comedy out there for its charming leads and a multifaceted script—you’d have to be made of stone for it not to make you laugh.
3. Sing Street
If there were ever a movie that inspired one to get up off their ass and do something creative with their life, Sing Street is this year’s coming-of-age tale to do just that. An unfortunate Irish boy in the 1980s has the terrible luck of being in a poor family about to divorce, transferring to a strict Catholic school, and being constantly assaulted by the local school bully. Seeking to do something more with his life, he decides to pursue a girl he fancies across the street from the school. He asks if she wants to be in his band, and she agrees—the only problem is he doesn’t have a band. Thus begins his quest to form one with the outcasts of his school, following the inspiration of his music nerd of an older brother. With some amazing-sounding music from various ’80s genres and an admirably plucky spirit, Sing Street has all the makings of a cult classic guaranteed to generate smiles and inspiration for years to come.
4. The Neon Demon
The latest from Nicolas Winding Refn (Drive, Only God Forgives) is easily the most haunting and stylish movie of the year. Elle Fanning plays the doe-eyed and bewildered Jesse, an underage girl who’s come to Los Angeles to break into modeling. But the further she delves into this world, the more dangerous it becomes, until Jesse allows herself to become consumed by the madness of the business. Sometime satirical, sometimes horrific, and always dazzling to look at, this is easily Refn’s most gorgeous picture to date with the most hypnotic of soundtracks by Cliff Martinez (who scored Refn’s previous pictures). With its colorful cinematography and graphic violence, it’s a dreamlike picture that easily wrapped me up in its beautiful world of decadent evil. In a weird alternative reality, this would be the perfect Jem movie.
5. 10 Cloverfield Lane
This movie was a bit of a trick on the audience, but one that’s pleasantly surprising. Labeled as a spiritual successor to 2008 giant monster picture Cloverfield, 10 Cloverfield Lane doesn’t feature much in the way of monsters. In fact, the script originally had nothing to do with the previous movie or monsters at all—it was a bottle movie in which three survivors attempt to live in an underground bunker and wait out an alien attack. The attack itself bookends the picture, and we don’t see much of it. What we do see is a fantastic performance by John Goodman as an antisocial conspiracy theorist who can hardly get through a dinner with the two other young survivors without crying mutiny. Goodman has always been a magnificent supporting player for years, but 10 Cloverfield Lane proves that he has the strength to be a leading villain in a role that he dominates. You’ll never be able to look at him the same way again.
6. The Lobster
The Lobster may be the driest and weirdest comedy of 2016 by far. The premise is uniquely bizarre, as its setting is in some alternative reality where being married is mandatory. Those who end up single are sentenced to a program in which they must find their mate within a few days or have their brain transplanted into an animal of their choosing. Colin Farrell plays David, a subject in the program who decides on being a lobster if he fails, based on the animal’s long lifespan and fertility. It only becomes more strange from there, as he grows to despise the unemotional methods of seeking a mate and escapes to join a resistance group. The movie features the most ridiculous of dialogue delivered in the most deadpan of tones amid the darkest elements of a relationship-obsessed society. It’s a strange little satire on coupling and conformity that will certainly not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it certainly had me coming back for refills.
7. The Witch
I don’t think I’ve ever seen a period horror picture that ever felt this true to the era or this chilling in conception. The Witch tells the tale of a 17th-century New England family kicked out of their Puritan town and forced to live in the woods; their simple life is soon threatened by a witch who stalks, kidnaps, kills, and torments them with her wicked powers. Not only is the atmosphere of a supernatural force threatening this family sold incredibly well, but the acting is spot-on—the family is able to maintain the speech patterns of the time while still displaying a wealth of emotion. In particular, the child actors in this family deserve credit for not only behaving like children of the time but also maintaining certain mannerisms, while also being required to act possessed. It’s a terrifying little horror from first-time director Robert Eggers, a name worth remembering to see what he’ll do next.
8. The BFG
Written by late E.T. screenwriter Melissa Mathison and directed by Steven Spielberg, The BFG is an absolute delight of children’s fantasy. Faithful in spirit to Roald Dahl’s novel of the same name, Ruby Barnhill plays the determined orphan Sophie with gusto as a girl who is not afraid of drunks or giants. The titular Big Friendly Giant (Mark Rylance) is equally as likable as the pushover who would rather collect dreams for children than have them for supper. Though the picture does become a tad unfocused with the plot of the BFG attempting to quell the mean giants, Spielberg’s direction keeps this fantasy a joy to become lost within. Everything from Sophie catching dreams with the giant to having breakfast with the queen of England is presented both beautifully and with the right amount of fun. And if Spielberg can craft a children’s film that makes me genuinely laugh at a propellant fart joke, he must be doing something right.
9. Pee-Wee’s Big Holiday
At 64 years old, it’s hard to imagine Paul Rubens slipping back into the gray suit and red bowtie of his iconic Pee Herman character. And, yet, here he is back in the role as if he’d never left, with a movie worthy of his weird and innocent nature. Pee-wee finds himself content with manning the malt shop of his hometown perpetually stuck in the 1950s. But when celebrity Joe Manganiello stops by and forms an instant friendship with him, Joe decides to invite Pee-wee to his big birthday party in New York City. Determined to break out of his bubble for his new friend, our hero sets off a cross-country adventure on which he seeks transport from a host of colorful characters. While not as robust an adventure as Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure, Big Holiday still has the same childlike spirit and campy wonderment that will turn grown adults into giggling kiddies once more.
10. Green Room
One of the final films of Anton Yelchin, Green Room is easily the most chaotic and nerve-racking horror/thriller of 2016. A struggling band takes a gig at a secret neo-Nazi club, but the members find themselves trapped inside after they witness a murder they weren’t meant to see. They are soon struggling to stay alive as the neo-Nazis corner them in the club’s green room; guns go off, vicious dogs are sent in to attack, and a sinisterly subtle Patrick Stewart as the neo-Nazi leader decides what to do next. With smart dialogue and the most nail-biting of scenes, there was never a moment I didn’t find myself on edge in a picture that’s just as intense as its hard-rock music.