The Best Movies of 2016: Our Interns Picks

By  · Published on December 24th, 2016


Our interns work very hard. We thought we’d let them in on the fun.

Which movies of 2016 connected with the youth of the world? Or as many publications might title it, “Which Movies Connected With Millennials?” We’re not quite as interested in Millennials as a whole – especially seeing as many of our Staff writers are among that particular age group – but we are interested in which movies caught the eyes of our hard working interns. These guys and gals put in a lot of hard work all over the site – from writing articles to editing to crafting social media updates – so it’s only right that we give them their own space in which to show off their best films of the year. We’re proud of this group for the work they do every day and when we began perusing their lists, we were even more hopeful about the future. Because as you’ll see, this is a group of young writers who see a lot of great movies and are developing magnificent taste. Everyone has an opinion about the future of film criticism, but if our interns are any indication, we’d say that the light is winning.

Please enjoy the Top Ten lists of the Film School Rejects Interns.

Certain Women

Andrew Karpan

  1. Everybody Wants Some!!
  2. The Love Witch
  3. Arrival
  4. White Girl
  5. Moonlight
  6. Sully
  7. Certain Women
  8. American Honey
  9. Knight of Cups
  10. The Lobster

The year of death and doom! Another most important election robs whatever finesse that was left of the culture wars. And what finer piece of finesse was there than Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight – hell, even A24 even used it as a marketing tool. But how did the original janky-camera storyteller of love n’ loss do this year? Mallick’s latest ( Knight of Cups) , which debuted in festivals over in Europe last year but took until this March to get a US release, has been described as either a “two-hour perfume commercial” (my girlfriend) or “Ben Kingsley reads Pilgrim’s Progress, man. And then it’s all about sex” (an English major friend of mind). Who are you going to believe? A pertinent question. Even our folk figurines: Clint Eastwood keeps Tom Hanks unsure for almost an entire feature (Sully) and even small-town Montana and Laura Dern can’t shake Jared Harris from losing his damn mind (Certain Women). A few canny metaphors, small (The Lobster) and ostensibly wide (American Honey) try to put this in emotional terms, while Denis Villeneuve’s alien invasion (Arrival) felt like the most remarkable reenactment of November, 9th that I expect to see this side of whatever HBO movie I assume is already in the works. But I’m not perfect – it was Richard Linklater very fine gesture toward returning to his “roots” that most won my “heart” (Everybody Wants Some!!). Speaking in the register of the precise and not the vague and general, as he did on Boyhood, his pleasingly-paced tale of the two days before classes at a college I could hardly care less about became something I could escape to. And college students wreaking Ridgewood, Queens! (White Girl) With their quaint love of drugs and the soft glow of what movies tell me are seriousness and candles! I’m not in Trump’s America anymore, I’m chastising hipsters for not being hip enough. The real issues.


Angela Morrison

  1. Moonlight
  2. Divines
  3. Queen of Katwe
  4. Arrival
  5. The Neon Demon
  6. Nerve
  7. Certain Women
  8. 13th
  9. Justin Timberlake + the Tennessee Kids
  10. Loving

Every year, there are so many movies that I don’t get to see. As much time as I spent watching films this year, there are just some things that either slipped through the cracks or didn’t come out in Canada before the end of the year – Hidden Figures, Fences, Toni Erdmann, 20th Century Women, and Jackie, to name a few. But I saw tons of beautiful, vibrant, thoughtful and unique movies this year. 2016 will be remembered for a lot of terrible things, but it will also be remembered as the year of Moonlight. So many beautiful words have been written on Moonlight, which is incredible considering that its power mostly comes from deeply personal and almost indescribable feelings, gestures, and images. Other wonderful cinematic experiences I had this year include Uda Benyamina’s sparkling ode to female friendship, Divines, Denis Villeneuve’s perfectly constructed alien drama, Arrival, Mira Nair’s emotional and inspiring Queen of Katwe, and Ava DuVernay’s enraging, deeply truthful documentary, 13th. Jonathan Demme re-defined the concert film with JT + the Tennessee Kids, and Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman proved that teen-oriented thrillers can be smart and exciting with Nerve. It’s difficult to narrow down this fantastic year of cinema to just 10 films, but the ones I have chosen moved me, made me think, and will stay in my mind long after the year ends.


Ciara Wardlow

  1. Moonlight
  2. Neruda
  3. La La Land
  4. The Lobster
  5. Jackie
  6. Toni Erdmann
  7. Green Room
  8. Hell or High Water
  9. Arrival
  10. The Nice Guys

In many regards 2016 has been a giant garbage fire that refuses to burn out. But the films of 2016 – these last few months in particular – have demonstrated that even the worst of garbage fires can still have redeeming features. Looking back, the majority of the best films of this year were not just great films featuring remarkable filmmaking and stellar performances, but incredibly, often painfully, sometimes unexpectedly (Arrival and Green Room) relevant. This year, I saw films that inspired everything from delight (La La Land) to terror (Green Room) to cautious hope (Moonlight). Yorgos Lanthimos delivered the grim, darkly comedic social commentary on societal relationship norms I knew I wanted (The Lobster, my most anticipated film of the year), David Mackenzie put together the modern Western crime thriller I didn’t realize I was missing (Hell or High Water), and Pablo Larraín made me reconsider the possibilities of the biopic (Jackie, Neruda). Cinematically, this year gave us everything from hysterically funny father-daughter duos (Toni Erdmann, The Nice Guys) to thematically significant false teeth (Toni Erdmann, Moonlight). Cinema couldn’t save the nightmare that is 2016, but it did make it just a little bit more bearable, and for that I am incredibly grateful.


Fernando Andrés

  1. American Honey
  2. O.J.: Made in America
  3. La La Land
  4. Jackie
  5. Other People
  6. Krisha
  7. Manchester by the Sea
  8. Moonlight
  9. Elle
  10. Demon

For better or worse, I am a filmgoer with an addiction to the cathartic and the visceral. There are many legitimately great films on this list that I returned to time and time again to revisit certain scenes that overwhelmed my senses – Krisha for its strikingly orchestrated kitchen sequences, Moonlight for the scene when Chiron learns to swim, La La Land for everything. But as much as I like to let these kinetic and overpowering films top my end-of-year lists, no film has impressed or stayed with me more than American Honey. It is a film that feels like a journey with characters who feel like real, breathing people – a feat that many films pull off, but not as often with teenagers. I will never forget the way Andrea Arnold sees the youth in her film: some see them as trashy, or immature, but she sees in them a beacon of hope. 2016 was a hard year that robbed many of their optimism for the future, but American Honey gave me a feeling of youthfulness and hope for my generation that will never die.

Don’t Think Twice

Jake Orthwein

  1. Manchester by the Sea
  2. Arrival
  3. O.J.: Made in America
  4. The Witch
  5. 45 Years
  6. Midnight Special
  7. American Honey
  8. Moonlight
  9. Don’t Think Twice
  10. Swiss Army Man

Top ten lists are generally an arbitrary affair, dependent in my case as much on daily whims as any objective preference. As 2016 comes to a close, the whim that feels most salient is, well, feeling. Perhaps it’s because I just finished a piece on the topic, or perhaps it’s because we’ve all felt a pretty wild array of new feelings this year – in and out of the movie theatre. Each of the above films is seared into my memory not because of the force of its images , the intricacy of its narrative, or the strength of its performances (though there is plenty of all of these to go around), but because it made me feel something I’d never felt before. Take the staggering mixture of awkward tragicomedy, biting sarcasm, and humane sincerity in Manchester by the Sea. Not since I last turned on CNN have I been so torn between laughter and tears. Or consider the cosmic humanism on display in Arrival, a film that finds profundity in the sweeping the way Manchester finds it in the specific. O.J.: Made in America and The Witch both terrified me, in different ways, with their examinations of how we turn against one another. 45 Years taught me that a conflict between an old married couple can be as tense as a chase movie, and Midnight Special taught me chase movies still rock. American Honey and Moonlight showed me the crucible of youth through the prism of social disparity. Don’t Think Twice’s bitterly funny look at “making it in the industry” hit close to home, but Swiss Army Man reminded me that we’ll all be corpses soon and shouldn’t waste a minute on shame in the meantime. Cheers, 2016.


Meg Shields

  1. Hunt for the Wilderpeople
  2. The Lobster
  3. The Witch
  4. The Nice Guys
  5. Green Room
  6. Swiss Army Man
  7. Moonlight
  8. 13th
  9. Tickled
  10. The Fits

The terrible no good very bad year is almost over. Mercifully film was there for us, both to take us to task, and to hold back our proverbial hair. The Witch and The Fits offered frightening visions of the violence and magic of girlhood. We were blessed with one of the most endearing father-daughter duos put to film via The Nice Guys (personal note: like Gosling’s character, I also lost my sense of smell this year). Swiss Army Man celebrated imagination in times of crisis, while Green Room revelled in terror qua terror. Tickled traced the genealogy of when the laughable becomes horrifying, which in hindsight feels particularly pointed. The Lobster unraveled an enthusiastically weird romantic comedy, skeptical that modern love is even possible. With grace and tenderness, Moonlight charted the territory of masculinity, race, sexuality, and where all three intersect. And when sitting with hurt and frustration was possible, Ava DuVernay’s seismic 13th held court. This year, Hunt for the Wilderpeople punched me in the solar plexus and stole my wallet. It is fundamentally funny, and moving, featuring enchanting performances from Neill, Dennison and House. With unabashed charm, it outlines the growing pains and contagious delight of letting people in; of becoming porous, receptive, and understanding of others, and of oneself. It’s an optimistic, heroic, and wholly challenging commandment. I take it with me into the majestical new year.

The Intervention

siân melton

Lists are really hard for me. I remember the year I did my first list (2012) and I meant to do a Top 10 and ended up with a Top 15 plus 10 extra thrown in because I’m terrible at making decisions. Each year since has followed similarly but you know what, who cares – it’s my list and I can do what I want! This list is currently “incomplete” in my mind as a handful of films that could very well end up on it haven’t come out in the UK yet. International release dates are weird. (I have to wait until February to see Hidden Figures but Monster Trucks comes out in the UK before it does in the US. Go figure.) My list is also alphabetical because, remember, I’m terrible at making decisions.

The films that I gravitate toward – the ones that stick with me – tend to be about grief. I suppose I’m looking for a shared experience or someone else who “gets it” in an attempt to feel less alone. I found that in Adult Life Skills, Captain Fantastic, The Edge of Seventeen, Hunt for the Wilderpeople, and The Intervention. Death wasn’t necessarily the main plot of all of these films, but it shaped the characters and stories in that unique, profound way that grief does. I laughed and cried, because grief is never just sad. Most of all, I related.

I was also moved by the intricacies of language and human connection, enraged over abortion rights, found my squad with the Ghost Girls, and further deepened my resolve to live in a musical.

Things to Come

Sinéad McCausland

  1. Notes on Blindness
  2. Avril et le Monde Truqué
  3. Before the Flood
  4. Things to Come
  5. Hail, Caesar!
  6. The Lobster
  7. 13th
  8. My Scientology Movie
  9. The Neon Demon
  10. The Shallows

The UK releases films a lot later than America, so some that would have been included in this list were released too late (see: Ingrid Bergman: In Her Own Words) and some haven’t been released yet (for example Moonlight). The films that have made the list, however, all have one thing in common: they focus on the environment, empathy, and the human and artistic subject. The lighter-than-usual tone of Hail, Caesar! makes it worth looking back to: its characters seem more deceivingly innocent, and its post-production methods as deceptive as its characters. Films like 13th, The Neon Demon, and Louis Theroux’s documentary My Scientology Movie each showcase both fictional and non-fictional examinations of race, hate, and loss of innocence and freedom in their own unique and captivating ways. Avril et le Monde Truqué presents a hand drawn steampunk dystopian world, providing emotion through its drawings alone. Notes on Blindness, then, is a portrayal of someone trying to understand their new world. But the most surprising top 10 film in this list is The Shallows. The focus on 21st century technology, the dead whale and the oil-stained sea below it signifies this is a film about the environment as much as it is about survival. The quick thrills and sense of fear come from the moments director Jaume Collet-Serra fills the screen with red or provides a distinctive pace to the threat of the shark. Yet one of the long, looming horrors of The Shallows is also what humans are doing to the world. While some films on this list have moments of hope and others moments of despair, they all show how the world is often better examined and realised through an artistic lens.

An author similar to Hydra. Its articles have many authors. It has many heads. Please don’t cut off any of its heads, we’re trying to work here.