Derek Taylor Kent's Top 20 Movies of 2016

What does the author of Kubrick's Game think about this year's crop? Better than most years! 


(Note: I did NOT yet see: Fences, Loving, Lion, Silence, Jackie, Kubo and the Two Strings, or Sully, some of which may have made the list)


1. Sing Street

If you didn’t see this you need to get your act together and find it on Netflix immediately. First of all, it has the best soundtrack I’ve ever heard and five of its songs should have been nominated for Best Song over all the other best song nominees. I didn’t see it in the theaters either because for some reason I thought it was about boy band BS, but nope, just like Once is it’s about hard scrabble Irish living but it takes place in the 80s and features the best of 80s music and is the most fun and uplifting film in years. It’s the only movie (besides Rogue One) I’ve seen multiple times this year. I was telling everyone they have to see it, and everyone means everyone because anyone can enjoy no matter your age, tastes or beliefs, and that makes it the best in my book.

2. Arrival

It had me at dealing with extraterrestrial first contact in a smart and scientific way instead of a laserblast war film. Twist ending that gives an ‘a-ha’ moment about the space-time continuum was one of the best movie moments ever. It glossed over too much sometimes and didn’t really delve into Amy Adam’s superpowers, but still, I was so glad this exists and made me look forward all the more to when we will finally meet some cool aliens, which I hope is in my lifetime or I will be very upset on my deathbed.

3. Hell or High Water

The most memorable scene has nothing to do with the story or plot. It’s when a sassy old waitress explains the rules of grimy steak joint and puts Jeff Bridges in his damn place. That’s the type of writing I love. Hardly anybody would think to write it much less leave it in the final cut. Made it the third best movie of the year.

4. Moonlight

I just watched this last night. A lot of big emotion from subtle performances and great well-developed scenes. Puts you in the shoes of a person you would never know about or experience and makes us feel like we are living their lives. The bully stuff seemed very outdated, especially because he had the most awesome hair I’ve ever seen, but in the end I forgave it.

5. Raiders!

Disclosure, my friend Jeremy Coon made this, but man, did I love this documentary. Film geeks will understand these kids as they spend all their spare time for 6-7 years making a shot-for-shot remake of Raiders of the Lost Ark. This doc shows what they went through and what they sacrificed to make it, but alas, it was incomplete due to the inability to procure some massive set pieces like an airplane, and huge explosions, but man, when they finally trying to finish it as adults just as the director is having to choose between completing it or losing his job… isn’t that the choice all artists struggle with? Second disclosure: this may technically be a 2015 film but I saw it mid-2016 so that’s what I’m calling it.

6. Doctor Strange

Did everyone forget how cool this was and how stupidly your mind was blown? Of all the superheroes that came out this year, this is one I’m most looking forward to seeing again. And that includes Suicide Squad.

7. Deadpool

This should win best screenplay. The funniest movie of the year and it had original jaw-dropping action… a bold risk that paid off bigly.

8. Hidden Figures

So glad I got to spend time at NASA with people I had no idea were there, but should have! And so should everyone. It found a way to make math exciting for a whole new generation. If I had seen this as a good, I probably would have cared about math a whole lot more. Also Kevin Costner takes a bat to racism in a very manly way, and when I was 11 years old, I thought he was my dad, so yay, Dad.

9. The Lobster

I love movies that are about different worlds that have their own set of rules, and this surprisingly was about just that and it really hit the spot for me. Also should win best screenplay.

10. Manchester by the Sea

Imagine the hard scrabble Irish living of Sing Street but without any of the cute kids, awesome songs, or Ireland. I’ve been through this before, but the first 10 minutes of the movie are a shot-for-shot remake of the short film I wrote/produced called THE HERO SUPER. Since it was basically an homage to my movie, it had to be in my top ten.

11. Star Wars: Rogue One

The second time I saw this I was crying through the whole ending sequence. I only cry in films once every few years. To care and be moved by sci-fi is so rare it means you are number 11.

12. Life, Animated

Another movie I would tell everyone they have to see. Documentary about an autistic young man who relates to the world through Disney animated films. Was it even possible that a movie could have me crying at the beginning, middle and the end?? It was! Holy crap!

13. Hacksaw Ridge

Mel, you may be an anti-semite, but dammit you make good war films. It’s a story that absolutely needed to be told and I’m glad I know about this person who was both a pacifist and one of our greatest heroes of WWII. Plus, the star, Andrew Garfield, is Jewish and playing a devout Christian, so speaking for all Jews, I give all of us permission to enjoy it.

14. La La Land

I’ll need to see this again to know where this movie will stand in history, but come on folks, they somehow managed to film a whole musical sequence on 10/405 interchange?? Are you kidding me? Never in a million years would I have thought that was possible. I’ve wanted to write a scenes in all my screenplays that would require total freeway shutdown of Los Angeles, but stopped myself needlessly. From now on, in every screenplay I write, I’m going to write a sequence that will require LA freeway closures during rush hour and all of you will be late for auditions and meetings and have me to be blame, but don’t blame ME… blame La La Land!

15. Midnight Special

SPOILER ALERT: I just love the idea that there are interdimensional squatters all around us right now and we have no idea they are there. I also loved that Michael Shannon got to be the good guy for once, but it was still hard to believe the entire time because he’s so inherently creepy.

16. Moana

Jemaine Clement is a crab that sings an awesome song called “Shiny” and it gets my girlfriend in the mood every time I sing it to her, so Moana had to make this list for consistently hooking a brother up. Also, we should all learn more about Hawaiian culture because everyone needs to learn that there’s a deep culture and history right in the middle of vacation central, and we should appreciate that every time we drink a pina colada.

17. City of Gold

Who saw this one? Nobody but me? Awesome. It’s a documentary about my hero, Jonathan Gold, pulitzer-prize winning food critic who put ethnic food and hole-in-the-wall joints on the map and gave them the same recognition and praise as fine dining establishments. He was the first to do this, people! What we eat would not be the same without him! Read his reviews in the Saturday LA TIMES! Also, subscribe to the hardcopy LA Times like I do! It’s comforting to read each day and when it’s time to move, you’ll have plenty of paper for wrapping your plates and cups.

18. The Nice Guys

Shane Black is the best at writing screenplays of all time. Not the best screenwriter, though he is great, but the act of reading his screenplays due to his formating and how he describes action and mixes it with dialogue makes them infinitely easier and more entertaining to read. This could have been a much better film, but I think Russell Crowe is on career coast mode since Les Mis. Still it’s fun. Worth seeing. Funny 70s clothes.

19. Hail, Caesar!

I LOVE the idea of a studio exec running around the lot solving the crazy problems on all of the sets. That’s what the movie should have been about, but wasn’t. Instead we get way too much of George Clooney hanging out with communists and other weird B,C, and D stories, but it’s up here for what it could have been and at times was.

20. Zootopia

Film noir for kids and they pulled it off for the first time since Who Framed Roger Rabbit? I guess noir for kids has to have a cute rabbit. You get the final spot for introducing kids to the reality of the dark underbellies of society.