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35 Directors Pick Their Favorite Movies of 2016

Sure, they loved "Moonlight" too, but from "Popstar" to "Childhood of Leader" some of your favorite directors shine a light on 2016 movies that aren't getting discussed.

The Childhood of a Leader

“The Childhood of a Leader”

IFC Films

Paul Feig (“Ghostbusters”)



20th Century Fox

Okay, so here’s the deal.  I didn’t get to see many movies this year and am spending the holidays catching up on them.  So, this list is incomplete because I simply haven’t seen all the fantastic movies that have been made in 2016.  But in the spirit of flagging all the great things I have seen, here is my list of favorite things I actually got to see so far in 2016:


This will be my favorite movie of the year no matter how many other movies I see because it was masterfully made and the perfect fusion of action, emotion and comedy.  I tip my hat to director Tim Miller, writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, stars Ryan Reynolds and Morena Baccarin and everyone else who worked on this film.  It was the most fun I’ve had in a theater in a long time.

“La La Land”

I love musicals and the fact that Damien Chazelle made a modern day musical without irony and embraced what so many of us have been missing from the movies these days makes it even more something we should celebrate.  Hats off to Emma Stone, Ryan Gosling and all the amazing performers who were able to pull off so many of the movie’s dance numbers in long single takes.  A musical that doesn’t rely on heavy editing to make its actors look great is a rare accomplishment these days.

The score from “Westworld”

I absolutely love this HBO series, which raises so many interesting questions about humanity and technology.  But none of it would be as great without the amazing score by Ramin Djawadi, which I absolutely can’t get out of my head for days after I watch an episode.  The minute a player piano started playing an old West version of Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun,” I was hooked.


I wrote and directed a film called “I Am David” back in 2002 that had a very similar story to this film, and seeing how masterfully “Lion” worked made me realize all the things I could have done better when I made my movie back then.  You are invested in “Lion” from the very first frame and the direction, storytelling and music all combine to make this an incredibly moving and uplifting film.  And we are in desperate need of anything uplifting these days.

Dunkin Donuts parody commercial on “SNL”

I consider a short film, even a commercial parody, to be a viable candidate for a top ten list because it was still written, directed and acted and so I can wholeheartedly say that this short film from SNL deserves a proud place on my list.  Aired on 12/17, this spoof starring Casey Affleck still has me laughing when I think about it.  I loved Casey in “Manchester by the Sea,” but I loved him even more in this hilarious character study of a Bostonian whose favorite place is his local Dunkin Donuts.

“The Edge of Seventeen”

This movie checked all the boxes for me, from the masterful writing and directing of Kelly Fremon Craig to the star-making performances of Hallee Steinfeld and Hayden Szeto to pretty much everything else it did.  It’s funny and touching and real and is truly one of the best films I’ve ever seen, this year or any other.

“My Beloved Bodyguard”

I’m a huge kung fu movie fan and one of my favorite stars of the genre has always been Sammo Hung.  On a recent flight to London I found this movie starring and directed by Mr. Hung on the British Airways entertainment system and two hours later I was happier than I’d been in quite a while.  The movie is so touching and so entertaining, with a perfect mix of emotion, humor and action, that it was hard not to wake up the sleeping passengers around me with my desire to cheer out loud as Sammo saved the day.  (I’m actually pretty sure I woke up a few of them.)

“The People v O.J. Simpson”

Okay, here’s another one that’s not technically a movie but the fact that the best shows on TV these days are serialized dramas, it’s hard to not consider them very long movies.  True, it’s a different skill set to tell a complete story in two hours versus eight or ten hours but since I binge watched this series in one sitting, it played like a long movie to me.  And this one was a delight to watch, despite its tragic true storyline.  Simply put, I haven’t seen an ensemble cast like this in quite a while.  Every performance is fantastic and the limited series holds you from start to finish.

“Sing Street”

See it.  That’s all I can say.  See it.  You will not be sorry. John Carney is an effin’ genius.

“Ghostbusters: Answer the Call”

Yeah, that’s right, it’s my movie and I’m not ashamed to put it on here.  I made it, I’m proud of it, everyone involved in making it was great and despite the media focusing on all our haters, a lot of people really liked it.  So, it’s my top ten list and I’m putting my own movie on it.  Boom!  Suck it, trolls.

Hannah Fidell (“6 Years”)

“Moonlight:” Hands down, the best movie of 2016.

“Wayne’s World” screengrab provided by Hannah Fidell

“Manchester by the Sea”

The scene where Michelle Williams kicks all the guys out of the basement…PERFECTION. Also I love Kenneth Lonergan’s cameo.

“Everybody Wants Some!!”

I saw this 3x in the theaters – not only because of Will Brittain’s hilarious performance, but because I was in awe of how Linklater is able to bring so many fully realized characters to life in such a short time.


James Franco’s performance is everything. Can we get a spin off film that follows his character?

“Café Society”

Classic Hollywood, classic woody.

“Other People”

I laughed, I cried, I thought about life, family, purpose…as all great films make one do. Jesse Plemmons and Molly Shannon should both be nominated for Oscars for their performances in this film

“The Edge of Seventeen”

In all honesty, I’m watching the movie as I am writing this list… and I’m so so so in love with this script and these performances. I have a feeling that girls watching this movie today are reacting to it in the same way that I did when I first saw “Clueless,” ie OBSESSED.

“American Honey”


“Always Shine”

Complicated female relationships? Uh…YES!

“Certain Women”

Lily Gladstone’s performance…Chris Blauvelt’s camera work…more movies should be structured this way…it felt like a breath of fresh air.

Andrew Haigh (“45 Years”)

"Neon Bull"

“Neon Bull”

In no particular order…

“Neon Bull”
“Little Men”
“Things to Come”
“The Lobster”
“American Honey”
“The Witch”

Alma Har’el (“LoveTrue”)

The Childhood of a Leader

“The Childhood of a Leader”

IFC Films

I haven’t watched a lot of films…and this is in no order.

“The Childhood of a Leader”
“The Witch”
“Embrace of the Serpent”
“Search Party” (TV)
“Toni Erdmann”
“The Lobster”
“Atlanta” (TV)

“Death in The Terminal” directed by Tali Shemesh and Asaf Sudri

It won Best Doc at IDFA. It’s an Israeli film that I’m coming on to as a producer after watching it in the Doc Aviv festival. One of the best films I’ve ever seen. It tells the story of a terrorist act in a central Israeli bus terminal that turned into a lynching over mistaken identity. It’s told through the security cameras footage and the different witnesses. I brought it to Mark Boal and Megan Ellison, who are now Executive Producers on it.

Chad Hartigan (“Morris From America”)

Andre Royo in Hunter Gatherer

“Hunter Gatherer”

My favorite cinematic scenes or moments from 2016 films:

Anna’s car mechanic “audition” in “Always Shine”
Pagan gets to pick the music and plays The Raveonettes in “American Honey”
Anne and Sasha get intimate over text in “First Girl I Loved”
“Would that it were so simple” in “Hail, Caesar!”
“I can breathe underwater” in “Hunter Gatherer”
The assassination in “Jackie”
Finale in “La La Land”
Chiron and Kevin on the beach in “Moonlight”
All of “The Procedure”
“Help me get home, Manny” Montage in “Swiss Army Man”

My favorite cinematic scenes or moments from non-2016 films

The firing squad in Rene Clement’s “The Battle of the Rails” (1946)
Endurance test in Chen Kaige’s “The Big Parade” (1986)
Siegfried slays the dragon in Fritz Lang’s “Die Nibelungen: Siegfried” (1924)
Jo’s bohemian dance in Stanley Donen’s “Funny Face” (1957)
Cesare tries to break his own arm in Elio Petri’s “I Giorni Contati” (1962)
Andula and Milda have a post-coital talk in Milos Forman’s “Loves of a Blonde” (1965)
Keith and Candice Marie play their original song for Ray in Mike Leigh’s “Nuts in May” (1976)
The priest and Mariana have sex in Joaquim Pedro de Andrade’s “The Priest and the Girl” (1966)
Fatlip tells his transvestite story in Spike Jonze’s “What’s Up Fatlip” (2003)
Hiroshi discovers his condition in Hirokazu Koreeda’s “Without Memory” (1996)

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