While 2016 is currently associated most with death and tragedy, it is hard to deny that it was not a great year for film. This year gave us some fantastic blockbusters, from Deadpool to Captain America: Civil War, and Finding Dory to Rogue One. The films this year have broken records and won our hearts in new and astounding ways, and it baffles me still on how we as a species were fortunate enough to receive so many beautiful films this year.
While there were so many films that had high expectations and hit them perfectly, like Civil War and Rogue One, there were just about as many that astounded us simply because we did not expect them to be as good as they were.
These films slid under the radar of the year's most anticipated films, yet upon their release we realized how extraordinary they were. These films went above and beyond the expectations we had for them and many, though we may not admit it, made our eyes a little wet. Of these films that went beyond our expectations, here are the five I believe to be the best of the best:
5. Pete's Dragon
Disney has started the trend of rebooting their classic films into live-action epics, and Pete's Dragon was no exception. I had no idea what to expect from this film going into, but the classic story I grew up watching became even more powerful in this beautiful film.
Pete's Dragon became a truly heartwarming story about preserving wild life and finding trust in the ones you love. The performances by Robert Redford, Bryce Dallas Howard and Karl Urban made this film even better, turning this particular trip to the theater one of the most delightful and worthwhile trips of the year.
4. Everybody Wants Some!!
Richard Linklater is best known for directing Dazed and Confused, starring Matthew McConaughey. Linklater worked his magic again with Everybody Wants Some!!, which follows incoming college freshman as they adjust to college life, with the help of their new fraternity brothers/baseball teammates.
One of the most intriguing parts of this movie to me is the lack of conflict. Anyone who studies film story structure, like myself, would tell you that conflict is the key to developing stories and characters, yet Everybody Wants Some!! defies all of this. The film has little-to-no conflict, yet still manages to remarkably develop the characters. How Linklater accomplished this is beyond me, but it made the film a truly enjoyable experience.
3. The Jungle Book
Much like Pete's Dragon, The Jungle Book exceeded my expectations for another live-action Disney film. The film brought with it fantastic elements, such as terrific acting by its cast, brilliant new twists to the classic story and even a song sung entirely by Christopher Walken. But it wasn't these elements that placed The Jungle Book so high on my list.
The best element of the film was the catharsis used. Director Jon Favreau did a brilliant job of connecting us to the characters. He did it so well that I was already getting teary within the first 20 minutes of the film, when Mowgli had to say goodbye to his adoptive mother Raksha. The catharsis built up so much that by the end of the film it felt as though I was fully experiencing Mowgli's struggle to adapt to the jungle while still being a man.
There are a lot of Disney films on this list, and even though the film company has been around for 93 years, they still never fail to surprise us. Moana sailed into theaters last month and was a truly delightful film. The incredible voice performance by Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson was not the only incredible part about the latest Disney film, with the beautiful story, music and theme of independence all adding up to making Moana a fantastic film.
I am not ashamed to say that, as a grown man, I have purchased many songs from the soundtrack. Though the music is not as memorable as that of Frozen, I feel that the soundtrack has blown away all the other Disney soundtracks of recent years.
1. Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them
Topping off this list is the Harry Potter spin-off Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them. The trailers and marketing did a great job of advertising the magic of the wizarding world while still maintaining the secrecy surrounding the story. This amplified the beauty of the film, because we really did'nt know what to expect going into it.
What we did finally see when we saw Fantastic Beasts in theaters was a beautiful film with lots of character development. It was a fantastic journey returning to the wizarding world of Harry Potter, and the sub-theme of protecting and nurturing wildlife undoubtedly added to the magic of the film. Of all the films this year, Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them surprised me the most with its beautiful story, development and sheer magic.
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While films like Rogue One and Civil War are arguably stronger films than a lot of the films on this list, they simply did not surprise me as much as films like Fantastic Beasts and The Jungle Book did. Going into Rogue One and Civil War, we had high expectations because they were Star Wars and Avengers films. Moana and Fantastic Beasts differed because we really had no idea what to expect, making the beauty of the films a great surprise.
What movie of 2016 surprised you the most? Let me know in the comments, and thanks for reading!