Let's face it, it's nearly impossible to see everything that cinema has to offer in a given year. Even for those inside the industry, it can be difficult to keep up with the latest and greatest films – 2016 being no different. Sometimes a movie will fly under the radar due to a lack of significant marketing, while many indie pictures simply do not find their way to wide release. Whatever the reason, every year provides moviegoers with more than a handful of great pictures that go relatively unwatched by the vast majority of film fans.
The holiday season can serve as a great opportunity for you to catch up on some of the year's finest titles. But if your desire is to spend free time watching new, quality feature films, then look no further as I have constructed a list of some of the year's best pictures that may have escaped the average moviegoer (and perhaps even the avid cinephile as well).
Here are 10 Great Films You Probably Missed in 2016.
10. Hunt for The Wilderpeople
Director: Taika Waititi
Starring: Sam Neil, Julian Dennison
Summary: A national manhunt is ordered for a rebellious kid and his foster uncle who go missing in the wild New Zealand bush.
"Fun for the whole family" is a term that gets tossed around quite a bit in the film industry, but I find that outside of Pixar, Disney Animation, and the occasional DreamWorks picture, this sentiment rarely proves to be the case. That said, Hunt for the Wilderpeople is a delightful exception. Director and writer Taika Waititi delivers genuine laughs and a handful of heartfelt moments in this charmingly quirky tale.
9. Hello, My Name is Doris
Director: Michael Showalter
Starring: Sally Field, Max Greenfield
Summary: A self-help seminar inspires a sixty-something woman to romantically pursue her younger co-worker.
This under the radar indie flick showcases the difficulties of love at any age. The romance genre has tackled lovers from different generations before, but there is simply an innate charm surrounding Hello, My Name is Dorris that many filmmakers work so hard to achieve, yet most rarely ever find.
8. Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping
Directors: Akiva Schaffer, Jorma Taccone
Starring: Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone, Akiva Schaffer
Summary: When it becomes clear that his solo album is a failure, a former boy band member does everything in his power to maintain his celebrity status.
So called SNL films range in quality, anywhere between 'terrible' to 'cult classics' – Popstar finding its niche closer to the latter description. Not all of its virtually countless gags land, but when this entertainment industry satire hits its stride, it's hard not to enjoy the show.
7. Midnight Special
Director: Jeff Nichols
Starring: Michael Shannon, Joel Edgerton, Kristen Dunst, Adam Driver
Summary: A father and son go on the run, pursued by the government and a cult drawn to the child's special powers.
I will be the first to admit that the payoff to Midnight Special's narrative failed to reach the high bar set by its promising first two acts. Nevertheless, this sci-fi thriller proves that a quality journey can easily be worth the price of admission.
6. Sing Street
Director: John Carney
Starring: Fedia Walsh-Peelo, Kelly Thornton, Jack Reynor
Summary: A boy growing up in Dublin during the 1980s escapes his strained family life by starting a band to impress the mysterious girl he likes.
Before this point of the list, each of the films I have previously mentioned fall into the category: I would recommend this to a friend or family member, but with a caveat or two. That distinction, however, ends with Sing Street. This coming of age, music-infused tale is simply a great film; enjoyable (and relatable) for audiences from all walks of life.
Directors: Josh Kriegman, Elyse Steinberg
Starring: Anthony Weiner, Huma Abedin
Summary: An examination of disgraced New York Congressman Anthony Weiner's mayoral campaign and today's political landscape.
Weiner proved to be a topical film in the most recent election season, and while its relevance in current affairs may have waned, the importance of its message has not. Documentaries may not be everyone's cup of tea per say, but Weiner is more than entertaining and informative enough to merit a 'Must Watch' tag.
4. Neon Demon
Director: Nicolas Winding Refn
Starring: Elle Fanning, Christina Hendricks, Keanu Reeves
Summary: When aspiring model Jesse moves to Los Angeles, her youth and vitality are devoured by a group of beauty-obsessed women who will take any means necessary to get what she has.
Nicolas Winding Refn (Drive, Only God Forgives) is about as divisive a filmmaker as there is working today. His style, however, is undeniably unique. Neon Demon, of course, is no different. Certain scenes form this film may be a bit 'too far out there' for the average moviegoer, but for those seeking a feature quite unlike anything else from 2016, Neon Demon more than fits the bill.
3. The Invitation
Director: Karyn Kusama
Starring: Logan Marshall-Green, Emayatzy Corinealdi
Summary: While attending a dinner party at his former home, a man thinks his ex-wife and her new husband have sinister intentions for their guests.
The Invitation is perhaps one of the most intelligent psychological thrillers to grace the screen in years. An intimate setting, a cast of relative unknowns, and a refreshingly tight script are apparently just part of the recipe for one of 2016's biggest surprises.
2. The Little Prince
Director: Mark Osborne
Starring: Jeff Bridges, Mackenzie Foy, Rachel McAdams
Summary: A little girl lives in a very grown-up world with her mother, who tries to prepare her for it. Her neighbor, the Aviator, introduces the girl to an extraordinary world where anything is possible, the world of the Little Prince.
If you have yet to see the film adaptation of The Little Prince, please do yourself a favor and watch this brilliant animated picture (streaming now, via Netflix). Resembling a Pixar classic, The Little Prince strikes a beautiful balance between heartfelt character moments and quirky comedic beats, resulting in one of the year's most most memorable narratives.
1. Everybody Wants Some
Director: Richard Linklater
Starring: Blake Jenner, Tyler Hoechlin, Wyatt Russell
Summary: In 1980, a group of college baseball players navigate their way through the freedoms and responsibilities of unsupervised adulthood.
Richard Linklater has served as one of his generations finest filmmakers for a few decades now. However, his films tend to fly a bit under the radar at times. In his spiritual successor to the '90s cult hit, Dazed and Confused, Linklater serves up a dose of '80s nostalgia in which nearly every aspect, from costume design to the music choice, are simply unparalleled in film today.
Film is a conversation, and a conversation is only worth having if two or more parties are truly engaged. If you feel strongly about a movie on this list, or perhaps even a picture that I failed to mention, make sure to let me hear it in the comments.