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Critics Pick the Best Films From the Toronto International Film Festival: And the Winner Is…

45 critics voted on the TIFF lineup. The votes in this year's survey are a mixture of festival favorites and awards season hopefuls.

"Moonlight": Andre Holland, Ashton Sanders, Mahershala Ali, Alex Hibbert, Tarell McCraney, Naomie Harris, Trevante Wright, director Barry Jenkins

“Moonlight”: Andre Holland, Ashton Sanders, Mahershala Ali, Alex Hibbert, Tarell McCraney, Naomie Harris, Trevante Rhodes, director Barry Jenkins

Daniel Bergeron

Anyone who spends more than a few days at a major festival like the Toronto International Film Festival gets used to hearing the same question: “What’s the best thing you’ve seen?”

For this year’s edition of the TIFF Critics Poll, we asked a variety of writers covering the festival exactly that. The results, culled from 45 ballots, point to a particularly interesting mixture of awards season hopefuls and some of the festival’s standout international offerings.

READ MORE: ‘La La Land’ Review: A Lively Supercut of Classic Musicals Starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone

The quartet at the top? Fan favorite “La La Land” (which was named by seven different critics), followed closely by Barry Jenkins’ tender coming-of-age story “Moonlight” (six), Maren Ade’s “Toni Erdmann” (five) and Denis Villeneuve’s “Arrival” (four). However, there were many other votes cast for under-the-radar titles.

The close race partly reflects the varied tastes of the critics we polled, but it also speaks to the wide appeal of the TIFF 2016 program. Unsurprisingly, festival favorites such as “Manchester by the Sea” and “American Honey” appeared on multiple ballots. But critics also singled out various elements of the Wavelengths section, with “As Without, So Within” and “The Ornithologist” also mentioned more than once each.

In addition to favorite films, we also gave critics the option to single out favorite performances or other noteworthy achievements from the fest.

You can find Rooney Mara, a bulldog, some zombie stories and more, all below in this year’s roundup:

Ryland Aldrich, Screen Anarchy
Favorite Film: “Arrival”

Ethan Alter, Yahoo Movies
Favorite Film: “I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House”
Other favorites: Andre Holland in “Moonlight”

Jason Bailey, Flavorwire
Favorite Film: “Loving”
Other favorites: Emma Stone in “La La Land”

Nicholas Bell, Ioncinema
Favorite Film: “The Untamed”
Other favorites: Trevante Rhodes, “Moonlight”

William Bibbiani, CraveOnline
Favorite Film: “Christine”
Other favorites: Rebecca Hall gives the best performance of the year in “Christine,” a harrowing and insightful journey into mental illness. Also brilliant: “The Handmaiden,” a luscious and thrilling feminist thriller that’s as erotic as it is damning.

Charles Bramesco, Rolling Stone
Favorite Film: “Manchester By the Sea”
Other favorites:  “Moonlight”

Tom Charity, Freelance (Sight & Sound; London Times)
Favorite Film: “The Ornithologist”
Other favorites: Sonia Braga in Aquarius; Cyntia Nixon in A Quiet Passion, Rebecca Hall in Christine

Erik Childress, eFilmCritic
Favorite Film: “La La Land”

Julia Cooper, The Globe and Mail
Favorite Film: “America Honey”
Other favorites: Tatiana Maslany in “Two Lovers and a Bear” was tops.

Jordan Cronk, Sight & Sound
Favorite Film: “The Ornithologist”
Other favorites: “Nocturama”

Mike D’Angelo, A.V. Club, Las Vegas Weekly
Favorite Film: “Toni Erdmann”
Other favorites:  “Nocturama”

Peter Debruge, Variety
Favorite Film: “Elle”
Other favorites: “Moonlight”

Michael Dunaway, Paste Magazine
Favorite Film: “La La Land”
Other favorites: Casey Affleck, “Manchester by the Sea”

David Ehrlich, IndieWire 
Favorite Film: “Moonlight”
Other favorites: Rooney Mara in “Una”

Kate Erbland, IndieWire
Favorite Film: “Paterson”
Other favorites: Best Animal Performance of the year to the bulldog in “Paterson.”

Chris Evangelista, Cut Print Film
Favorite Film: “Manchester by the Sea”
Other favorites: “Arrival”

David Fear, Rolling Stone
Favorite Film: “Moonlight”
Other favorites: “Jackie,” “Lady Macbeth,” “After Love,” “Paterson,” “Free Fire”

Kenji Fujishima, Slant Magazine
Favorite Film: “Elle”
Other favorites: Sigourney Weaver, “(Re)Assignment”

Tim Grierson, Screen International
Favorite Film: “American Honey”

Pete Hammond, Deadline
Favorite Film: “La La Land”
Other favorites: Richard Gere in “Norman”

Angie Han, /Film
Favorite Film: “Moonlight”

Tina Hassannia, Movie Mezzanine
Favorite Film: “Toni Erdmann”
Other favorites: Sally Hawkins in “Maudie”

Barry Hertz, The Globe and Mail
Favorite Film: “La La Land”

Peter Howell, The Toronto Star
Favorite Film: “Jackie”
Other favorites: Mahershala Ali in “Moonlight”

Darren Hughes, Senses of Cinema
Favorite Film: “Nocturama”
Other favorites: “As Without, So Within,” “Aquarius”

Alexander Huls, Freelance
Favorite Film: “Toni Erdmann”
Other favorites: “Manchester by the Sea”

Wendy Ide, Screen International
Favorite Film: “Manchester By the Sea”
Other favorites:  “Lady Macbeth”

Jake Jacobson, Westwood, One Radio
Favorite Film: “Into the Inferno”
Other favorites: Woody Harrelson, “LBJ”

Daniel Kasman, MUBI
Favorite Film: “As Without, So Within”
Other favorites: “Nocturama”

Robert Koehler, Cinema Scope
Favorite Film: “Kékszakállú”

Calum Marsh, National Post
Favorite Film: “Toni Erdmann”
Other favorites: “JT + The Tennessee Kids”

Amy Nicholson, MTV News 
Favorite Film: “Barry”
Other favorites: “Boys in the Trees”

Joe Reid, Decider.com
Favorite Film: “Arrival”
Other favorites: “Manchester By the Sea”

Tasha Robinson, The Verge
Favorite Film: “La La Land”
Other favorites: Michaël Dudok de Wit’s “The Red Turtle”

Melissa Silverstein, Women and Hollywood
Favorite Film: “Arrival”
Other favorites: David Oyelowo for “Queen of Katwe” and “A United Kingdom”

Matt Singer, ScreenCrush
Favorite Film: “La La Land”
Other favorites: “The Girl With All the Gifts,” and particularly its lead actress, Sennia Nanua.

Jordan M. Smith, IONCINEMA.com 
Favorite Film: “Toni Erdmann”
Other favorites: “Aquarius”

Jay Stone, ex-press.com
Favorite Film: “La La Land”
Other favorites: Natalie Portman in “Jackie”

Todd VanDerWerff, Vox
Favorite Film: “Arrival”
Other favorites: Isabelle Huppert

Erin Whitney, ScreenCrush
Favorite Film: “Moonlight”
Other favorites: Natalie Portman in “Jackie”

Blake Williams, Cinema Scope
Favorite Film: “Nocturama”
Other favorites: “As So Without So Within” and “Yourself and Yours”

Damon Wise, Freelance
Favorite Film: “Lady Macbeth”
Other favorites: “Moonlight”

April Wolfe, LA Weekly/Village Voice
Favorite Film: “Colossal”
Other favorites: “I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House,” Alice Lowe in “Prevenge,” and Amy Jump and Ben Wheatley for writing of “Free Fire,” as well as Kelly Reichardt’s “Certain Women.”

Jen Yamato, The Daily Beast
Favorite Film: “Moonlight”
Other favorites: Sasha Lane, “American Honey”

Jada Yuan, New York Magazine
Favorite Film: “Moonlight”
Other favorites: “My Entire High School Sinking Into The Sea,” Rooney Mara in “Una”

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