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The Reel Spirituality Community Top Ten Films of 2016 - Individual Lists
With The Reel Spirituality Community on February 06, 2017

Below are each of the individual lists submitted by our community members for our annual poll. Some members included brief thoughts about why they chose each film. Others simply listed their films. Participants were allowed to submit partial lists with films in whatever placings they desired.

Samuel Anderson (filmmaker, instructor - Film Lab)

I also did not see very many new films this year, for a variety of reasons. I still have yet to see Moonlight, Toni Erdmann, 13th, Elle, and many others that I am sure would have a very good shot at making my list. But I do feel very strongly about this handful of films that I did see.  They all moved me with the care they invested in each image, and for their unique attention to human presence (sometimes, as in #1 and #3 especially, through the weight they give to absence).

1. One More Time With Feeling (Andrew Dominik)
2. Paterson (Jim Jarmusch)
3. No Home Movie (Chantal Akerman)
4. Cemetery of Splendor (Apichatpong Weerasethakul)
5. Silence (Martin Scorsese)
6. In the Shadow of Women (Philippe Garrel)
7. My Golden Years (Arnaud Desplechin)

Matthew Aughtry (filmmaker, alumni)

This year more than any other I've come to realize that the films that make my list are not ultimately what I consider to be the best films or the most enjoyable but, rather, stories that function like a film projector in a theater--shooting a beam of light into a seemingly impenetrable darkness. I certainly had lots of fun at the movies this year but I am certain that the films listed below will continue to both haunt and guide me to various degrees as I make my pilgrim journey through this world. As always I'm disappointed that I have not watched more documentaries. 

1. The Innocents (formerly Agnus Dei)

I was lucky enough to see this film at Sundance and recently revisited it on Amazon Prime. As this year has reminded me, violence towards and the sexual abuse of women is certainly not an issue of our past. This film begins with a terrible premise--a group of Polish Nuns during the final days of WWII are pregnant after the monstrous attack by a group of Allied soldiers. They secretly enlist the help of a young woman working as a doctor for the French Red Cross in an attempt to hide the scandal. As always, things get much worse before they get better but somehow director Anne Fontaine is able to exchange ashes for beauty in a way that both honors the horror inflicted on so many of our dear sisters while also pointing to the resilience of women to somehow swallow up death and create new life. I write so many words on this one film because I doubt it will make our overall list and I truly hope with all of my heart that anyone who reads them will be convinced to give this film a chance. It truly is a remarkable movie. 

2. Silence
3. Hell or High Water
4. Hacksaw Ridge
5. Arrival
6. Manchester by the Sea
7. La La Land
8. Loving
9. Moonlight
10. Knight of Cups

Cathy Barsotti (Affiliate Assistant Professor, Fuller Theological Seminary, Centro Hispano de Estudios Teológicos)

1. Moonlight (Jenkins) - the gentlest filmmaking I've seen in a long time
2. La La Land (Chazelle) - creativity and chemistry interlace beautifully
3. Birth of a Nation (Parker) - can't let this important film and history be lost regardless of our brokenness
4. Manchester by the Sea (Lonergan) - the crushing ache of loss
5. Silence (Scorsese) - Japan is a beautiful fierce character in the context of faith and doubt
6. Fences (Washington) - the angst and vitality of being black in America portrayed by two of our greatest actors
7. Hidden Figures (Melfi) - can't let the story of these great women be lost
8. The Unknown Girl (Dardenne Brothers) - no one is to blame and everyone is to blame
9. Julieta (Almadovar) - mother and daughter as only he can portray
10. The Innocents (Fontaine) - women of faith and discipline refuse to succumb to darkness, but rather give birth to new life and light

Special Award for great genre characters and the conversations their films provoked this year: Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (Snyder), Dr. Strangelove (Derrickson)  and Deadpool (Miller). All gutsy filmmakers to play with the genre in such engaging and deep ways.

Lastly, I couldn't put Elle on the list, but the portrayal of human depravity and agency, and the acting of Isabelle Huppert is amazing.

Kutter Callaway (Assistant Professor of Theology and Culture, Reel Spirituaity Co-Director)

1. Silence
2. The Innocents
3. La La Land
4. Captain America: Civil War
5. Zootopia
6. Life, Animated
7. The Lobster
8. Rogue One
9. Finding Dory
10. Deadpool

Kenneth Chang (filmmaker, student, leader - Fuller Filmmakers Student Group)

1. 13th
2. La la Land
3. Arrival
4. Birth of a Nation
5. Silence
6. Zootopia 
7. The Jungle Book
8. Captain America: Civil War
9. The Edge of 17
10. The Nice Guys

Lee Isaac Chung (filmmaker, instructor, Film Lab)

I limited my list to five because I watched too few movies this year.

1. After the Storm (Hirokazu Koreeda)
2. Silence (Martin Scorsese)
3. Toni Erdmann (Maren Ade)
4. Lemonade - (Beyonce and Kahlil Joseph) (Yo, Damien, I'mma let you finish but Beyoncé had one of the best musicals of all time!)
5. Moonlight (Barry Jenkins)

Elijah Davidson (Reel Spirituality Co-Director)

1. OJ: Made in America

I've never seen any film that shows so completely the messy thing that is America. Race, gender, class, celebrity, (lack of) due process, the urban/rural divide, media culture, violence, voyeurism, Conservative and Liberal agendas - it's all here. Even the fact that it was produced by ESPN matters. Ezra Edelman could have called it America: Made in OJ, and it would have still been true. One for the ages.

2. The Fits

Anna Rose Holmer's boxing/dance/coming-of-age movie/urban drama/racial/feminine-identity story owes more to 2001: A Space Odyssey than it does to Rocky. As it should. Singular. Special. Seventy-two minutes long and unforgettable. I've never been more excited to see what a filmmaker does next.

3. 13th

They could have titled this "Get Woke in 100 Minutes." The emotional arc of this documentary is tremendous. DuVernay takes us from confusion to grief to anger to steely-eyed resolve simply by giving us a history lesson. Necessary viewing.

4. The Lobster

I appreciate this film not for its narrative surface tension about dating, marriage, and singleness, but for it's metaphorical import about how to live love under oppressive regimes, what it might cost us, and for its insistence that love is worth it and cannot be squelched by any fundamentalist system. It's blackly-comic, yes, but for me, it's also evocative and soul-stirring.

5. Loving

Loving is The Lobster on the other side of the looking glass. Loving shows sacrificial love in a very real time and place being practiced by very real people. The Lovings are inspiring, not because they are extraordinary, but because they are not. Jeff Nichols' storytelling is appropriately understated and quiet as well. "Love is patient," a wise man once wrote. The Lovings and Jeff Nichols listened. 

6. Certain Women

At numbers 6 and 7, I have two films that present unorthodox cinematic visions of underrepresented segments of society. Kelly Reichardt's Certain Women—certain, not general—live on the Montana prairie, the Rocky Mountains rising imposingly behind them. They are each asserting their identities as best they can. They are each being frustrated by systems bent against them, like imposing mountain ranges so difficult to cross when it's cold. It would be foolish to draw broad lessons from them. Better, we would acknowledge the unique humanity of each of them. Lily Gladstone gets my vote for performance of the year, by the way.

7. Moonlight

We are used to watching urban dramas about black men given to violence and drugs and black women at the mercy of that violence and those drugs. We've never seen anything like Moonlight, Barry Jenkins' elegiac symphony about a young, gay, black man's quest to find his core identity told in three distinct movements, delineated by the name he claims in each part. Movies about black men don't look like this or sound like this, and that's as much an indictment against our society as it is praise for Jenkins' astute cinematic vision. Mahershala Ali deserves Best Supporting Actor if any actor ever did.

8. Silence

At the end of my list, I have three films that deal explicitly with suffering and how to handle it. Martin Scorsese's masterful Silence is a meditation on faith, both that of the exemplars (the martyrs) and the execrulars (the apostates). Crucially, it is a meditation on faith in the context of great suffering. What does Christ require of us when our supposed faithfulness adds to the suffering of others? Which is greater - faith or love? To which should we aspire?

9. Notes on Blindness

This documentary about a theologian, John Hull, who goes blind and records his thoughts on the experience, is one of the most beautiful films about faith I have ever seen. Filmmakers James Spinney and Peter Middleton grant us Hull's perspective. We feel, cinematically, Hull's grief over losing his sight. We go into the theological and literal darkness with him, and so when he finds a new way of seeing there, we do too. Notes on Blindness is a testament to faith born of and enriched by suffering. It is hope.

10. Cameraperson

Finally, the last film on my list is a documentary about about how we film suffering, how we interact with it as a viewer. The individual shots in Kirsten Johnson's Cameraperson were never meant to be a film. They are the moments that have most stuck with her over her career of working as a cameraperson for better-known filmmakers. Cameraperson feels like discovery, as if Johnson and her editors, Nels Bangerter and Amanda Laws, gathered these moments and then sifted them to figure out why they matter. The result is a kind of gentle manifesto about how filmmakers should interact ethically with the suffering they see in the world and how we, the audience, should interact with the suffering we see on screen.

Honorable mentions: Operation Avalanche, Voyage of Time, Midnight Special, Kate Plays Christine, Sing Street, The BFG, Kubo and the Two Strings, Southside With You, Snowden, Passengers

Joe Gallagher (Director of Operations, Brehm Center)

1. Silence
2. Paterson
3. Manchester by the Sea
4. OJ: Made in America
5. La La Land
6. Newtown
7. Fences
8. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
9. Arrival
10. Jackie

Roslyn Hernandez (student, Practicing Critic)

I did not watch enough new films last year! I'll be catching up based on the final list. From what I saw these are my top 10.

1. Hail, Ceasar!
2. Silence
3. Paterson
4. Zootopia
4. Captain America Civil War
5. Kung Fu Panda 3
6. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot
7. The Girl on The Train
8. Cafe society
9. The Nice Guys
10. The Handmaiden

Gary Ingle (alumni, Practicing Critic)

1. O.J.: Made in America

This documentary is absolutely riveting. I've recommended it to others more than any other film that came out this year. I was blown away by the intentionality of its layout and the juxtaposition of O.J.'s story and America's racial injustice occurring amidst (or in spite of) his rise to fame and fall from grace. Yes, it's nearly 8 hours long. And yes, I would watch it all again. 

2. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

The final scene in Rogue One is a perfect build to the original Star Wars trilogy and one of the coolest scenes in any Star Wars film. I also appreciated some of the things that made this film unique as opposed to other Star Wars films: the incredibly diverse cast, the depiction of a Force-user as someone who simply trusts in the Force rather than wields it as a tool (there's a spiritual/theological discussion hidden in there somewhere), and the fact that all of the heroes perish after accomplishing their task. It's one thing to watch Luke Skywalker blow up the Death Star in A New Hope, but that act takes on a much more somber tone when we realize the incredible sacrifice that took place to make it even possible. An uneven first act and the lack of truly deep character development in Rogue One was ultimately what pushed it out of the number one spot for me. But I also feel that the character's backstory wasn't nearly as important as the fact that they were willing to give their lives for something greater than themselves. That idea of sacrifice for the common good was what struck me the most in this film. 

3. Silence

What a powerful film, with so much to say on faith, suffering, doubt, arrogance, and evangelism. Definitely worth repeat viewings and deeper reflection. I'm very proud Fuller was able to host Martin Scorsese for a conversation around this film.

4. Wiener-Dog

This was easily the biggest surprise of the year for me. At first glance it appears to be nothing more than a lighthearted, unassuming film about a dachshund who drifts in and out of several different people's lives. Judging from the mixed reviews I've seen, many people simply don't know what to make of it and therefore just dismiss it. I almost wrote it off myself after the first act. But as I stuck with it I realized writer/director Todd Solondz was up to something much more intentional. The cinematography and score blend perfectly with the screenplay, inviting us to muse on such weighty matters as life itself (and death), all through the perspective of a little dachshund. It's the most indirectly existential film I've seen in a long time. I suspect if I watched it again it would rise even higher on my list. Plus, Danny DeVito's in it, so what more could you ask for?

5. Hell or High Water

A film that is about much more than two bank-robbing brothers and the nearly retired Texas ranger pursuing them. This film showcases family love while also highlighting the reality of economic hardship facing many Americans today. The film presents a morally conflicted scenario if I've ever seen one, keeping you engaged until the very last frame. 

6. The Edge of Seventeen

The best teen movie I've seen in a long time. This film felt like a modern John Hughes classic, but less romanticized and more realistic than any of Hughes' great teen movies. Hailee Steinfeld delivers a fantastic lead performance, one which I believe will be looked back on later in her career as one of her finest. It also features Woody Harrelson playing one of the most humorously deadpan teacher/authority figures the genre has ever seen. 

7. The Lobster

Yorgos Lanthimos' rivetingly original premise: humans checked into a motel which requires that they find a mate within 45 days, or else they will be transformed into the animal of their choosing. It is an intriguing commentary on the societal expectations of marriage as well as on love itself. 

8. Krisha

Trey Edward Shults' first full length feature is painful at times to watch but also evidence of a brilliantly executed vision. The cacophony of sounds and music create an unnerving atmosphere from the perspective of a sorely broken woman named Krisha. Krisha returns home to her family for Thanksgiving after being ostracized from them during years of battling intense addiction, wanting desperately to prove she's changed for the better. Based on one of Shults' own family members who lost a battle to addiction, this film exploring human brokenness will haunt you long after viewing it. 

9. La La Land

Such a fun film, with an incredibly catchy soundtrack that I will no doubt listen to more times than I will probably rewatch the movie. The final sequence was brilliant, unconventional, and touching, questioning my entire interpretation of the film up to that point. A modern day film musical worthy of the old classics, which will no doubt become a classic of its own. 

10. Star Trek Beyond

The most meaningful of the JJ-Treks thus far. What I appreciated most about it was the fact that it wasn't afraid to question the very ideals upon which Star Trek is based. Quite appropriate for Star Trek to go through a midlife crisis as it enters its 50th year. The other reason this film made my list was because it included the greatest use of a Beastie Boys song in a film ever. EVER. 

Honorable Mentions: Sing Street, Free State of Jones, Hail, Caesar!, Café Society, Last Days in the Desert

Rob Johnston (Professor of Theology and Culture, Reel Spirituality Co-Director)

Thanks for the opportunity to reflect back on 2016. Cathy and I were in Spain until December 10th so missed some of the movies, but here is my list of the best movies I saw:

1. La La Land - wonderful chemistry, engaging, a great musical
2. Moonlight - as paradoxical as life itself
3.Silence - kept thinking about it for days
4. Fences - a great portrayal of not only the African-American husband/father, but all husband/fathers
5. Manchester by the Sea - sober, riveted my attention
6. Batman v. Superman - with Silence, the best movie of the year for theological dialogue
7. Dr. Strange - you could see and hear Scott Derrickson, the screenwriter, both thoughtful and fun
8. Sully - exquisite script about a man of courage, resolve, and faith
9. Julieta - another Almadovar masterpiece. Maybe not his best but still great
10. Birth of a Nation - an injustice that this director's past caused this masterpiece to be tabled while Casey Afflect was forgiven

Chris Lopez (student, Practicing Critic)

I wish I could’ve watched a few more films but my wallet and schedule could only give so much. This is my second year of thoughtfully and carefully engaging film, and I’ve been so inspired and challenged by the way you all approach cinema. Very grateful to be a part of this company. 

1. Moonlight - For its relevant and needed poignancy and sympathetic cinematography
2. Hail Caesar - For its ability to simultaneously present the superfluous and the consequential, the sacred and the profane in a comedic and entertaining manner 
3. Arrival - For its clever subversion of a typical Sci-Fi trope and a score that still gives me goose-bumps
4. Kubo and the Two Strings - For its impressive aesthetics and provocative ending
5. Don’t Think Twice - For managing to do and say what La La Land does and says without loosing its gravitas
6. The Lobster
7. Zootopia - For making the more complicated aspects of life concrete and accessible for not just kids, but all of us
8. La La Land - For attempting to demonstrate the ecstasy and bitterness of pursuing the arts and love
9. Silence - For its audacity to ask such explicit, committed, and complex questions of faith
10. Deadpool - For its ingenious promotion campaign and for amusingly reimagining what the comic book film adaptation can be. As a student of comics and film studies this film fascinates me

Andrew Neel (alumni, filmmaker)

1. Moonlight  (D. Barry Jenkins)

Moonlight is a gift. Director Barry Jenkins has created a beautiful film about a boy growing up in Miami. Told over three decades (childhood, adolescent, and adulthood), this story about masculinity and sexuality does not preach or proclaim an agenda. It invites viewers into the complex, heart-wrenching world of one person's uncertainty, anger, and hard-won sense of identity and community. 

2. Operation Avalanche (D. Matt Johnson)

This film about a Sci-Fi movie within a NASA documentary within an indie film is almost too surreal to explain, and seeing it in Park City with a packed house of mystified and exuberant fans was easily one of my favorite Sundance experiences of all time. 

3. Silence (D. Martin Scorsese)

The experience of watching Silence hit me on a number of levels -- as a seminary graduate, as the son of a pastor, and as the son-in-law of a missionary. I found myself falling into the traps of pride that Rodrigues suffers through, and I was forced to reckon with Scorsese's -- and Endo's -- ultimate revelation: faith is a vulnerable, even terrifying act of humble trust in the midst of uncertainty. 

4. Hell or High Water (D. David Mackenzie) - The best combination heist/western/economic parable I've ever seen. 
5. Hunt for the Wilderpeople (D. Taika Waititi) - Welcome to Ricky town, population...Ricky. 
6. Fences (D. Denzel Washington) - A deeply human story, and an acting clinic from Denzel and Viola. 
7. The Innocents (D. Anne Fontaine) - A devastating story of faith in the midst of tragedy. 
8. The Wailing (D. Hong-jin Na) - The most terrifying movie I saw this year. 
9. Captain Fantastic (D. Matt Ross) - The film family I most want to have over to dinner. 
10. La La Land (D. Damien Chazelle) - The last 10 minutes hit me like a ton of bricks. 

Honorable mentions: The Age of Shadows, Arrival, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Southside with You

Kevin Nye (allumni, Practicing Critic)

Rather than writing a small blurb for each of my top 10, I’d rather just muse for a minute on this year in film. It was a fantastic year, and it’s a tragedy to leave so many great films off my top 10. I’ve never more wanted to be granted a top 20 instead than this year, for great, well-known films like Hidden Figures and 10 Cloverfield Lane, or smaller, almost unseen gems like Band of Robbers and The Fits.

My list is always very personal, and I spent 2016 becoming very “woke” as it pertains to racial injustice in America. Two extremely educational experiences helped solidify this year for me in that respect: reading Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow, and participating in Black Lives Matter protests over the killing of JR Thomas by police only a mile from my house. Both experiences, one academic and one experiential, shaped how I watched movies, and how I chose what movies to watch. My seeking out and being moved by Moonlight and 13th and Fences (among others that fell short of my top 10) were shaped by these experiences. I hope this is true for many others as well.

On a lighter note, this was an excellent year for comedy! 4 of my top 10 could be easily classified as such, and I think it’s no shock that we needed to laugh together this year. And while I had some serious problems with La La Land, and wanted to omit it on principle, I can’t deny its exuberance and joy and the importance of that.

I’m grateful for a year full of hard truths, painful meditations, big laughs and deep groans. 2017 has a lot to live up to!

1. Moonlight
2. Arrival
3. 13th
4. Don’t Think Twice
5. Hunt for the Wilderpeople
6. Fences
7. Manchester By the Sea
8. The Lobster
9. La La Land
10. Silence

Andy Singleterry (alumni, Practicing Critic)

As is true every year, I have not seen all the films I'd like to yet, and some that I haven't seen would, I think, make this list. Still, 2016 was an excellent year for the cinema, and I'm very happy with the ten below. Silence and Moonlight are equals to me, but Moonlight gets more attention so I'm putting Silence at number 1.

1. Silence
2. Moonlight
3. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
4. Arrival
5. The Lobster
6. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
7. Hell Or High Water
8. Loving
9. Zootopia
10. Jackie

Avril Speaks (filmmaker, alumni)

As I'm writing this list I'm realizing how few movies I had a chance to see in 2016. I'm slipping! Here we go:

1. Moonlight
2. I Am Not Your Negro
3. Silence
4. 13th
5. OJ: Made in America
6. Hail, Caesar 
7. Hidden Figures
8. Loving
9. Fences
10. Pop Star: Never Stop Never Stopping

Colin Stacy (Practicing Critic)

1. Things to Come
2. Silence
3. The Handmaiden
4. Hail, Caesar!
5. Sunset Song
6. The Neon Demon
7. Cameraperson
8. No Home Movie
9. Kate Plays Christine
10. Certain Women

Jonathan Stoner (student, leader - Fuller Filmakers Student Group)

1. Moonlight

It's been months since my wife and I saw Moonlight and the film continues to haunt me. I just can't seem to shake it and I don't want to. I loved every frame, every expression, every heartbreaking and tender interaction between the characters, the evocative, soul-searing score, the pulsating colors that marked the transitions between timelines, the sensitive direction with fastidious attention to the smallest details, especially the protagonist's soulful eyes and what they revealed about his inner life on his journey from boy to man. There wasn't a false note from start to finish. It's still my favorite film of the year! Do not pass this one up if it's playing anywhere near you.

2. La La Land

Believe the hype. La La Land is bittersweet cinematic bliss. It’s an instant classic that caused our audience to burst into applause after the bravura opening musical number in a LA traffic jam and then held us in its delightful sway for the next two hours of the film’s running time. I can’t remember the last time I had tears of joy steaming down my face from the beginning to the end of a film. It will go down as one of the best moviegoing experiences of my life. Honestly, this is the first time where I had the thought that I would happily pay the exorbitant ArcLight Cinemas ticket prices to sit down and watch it all over again as soon as the lights came up. La La Land will remind you to nurture and protect the flame of the inspiration that set you alight the first time you applied paint to canvas, wrote a poem, played an instrument, sang your heart out, danced like no one was watching, acted onstage in front of an audience, looked through a camera lens, or loved another human being with all your heart. In the immortal words of Kermit the Frog, this is a film for all “the lovers, the dreamers, and me.”

3. Manchester by the Sea

As genuinely funny as it is emotionally devastating, this life affirming film from writer-director Kenneth Lonergan is a sensitive and searing depiction of grief, loss, the raw wounds that resist healing, and the chances we are given to begin again that come in the form of the people in our lives. Casey Affleck and Michelle Williams are pitch perfect in their roles as estranged spouses and completely deserving of all the praise that’s being heaped on them.

4. The Witch

A masterfully crafted horror movie with superb attention to period detail, from the costumes, to the set design, to the dialogue based on the transcripts of the Salem Witch trials, that brings the pervasive Puritan paranoia and religious zealotry of 17th century New England to life to tell a dark and unforgettable tale of female empowerment in a patriarchal society.

5. O.J.: Made In America

An epic, tour-de-force documentary that uses the O.J. trial and the circumstances of his rags to riches life and the highly publicized trial for the murder of his ex-wife to explore issues of policing, race, class, celebrity, and American sports culture. It would be a mistake to call this merely an American tragedy. This deeply troubling and endlessly fascinating film is an edge-of-your-seat exploration of the tragic history of America.

6. 13th

As the rapper LeCrae puts it, “You can’t wipe away a 500-year trauma in 50 years” and the reality is there are links like chains going back to the founding of this nation connecting slavery, mass incarceration, systemic racism, economics, politics, to the pernicious influence of white power and privilege in the 21st century. Even though we might prefer to turn a blind eye to the reality of bigotry and racial prejudice that has been weaved into the fabric of this nation as well as our own hearts, Ava DuVernay’s eye-opening and sobering film is here to help viewers become more aware of the injustice and oppression along color lines that has been and continues to be part of the American story to this day. This film is an excellent primer for anyone and everyone needing to “get woke” concerning the seemingly unending exploitation and oppression of black and brown people that was conspicuously absent from so many of our history books not to mention the comfortingly nostalgic but woefully misleading visions of the so-called “good old days” depicted in Norman Rockwell’s iconic paintings. Now more than ever, we cannot afford to look away.

7. Jackie

This movie exists at the intersection of the direct cinema of the Maysles brothers and the transcendent cinematic meditations of Terrence Malick. This is living history and I mean that as a compliment of the highest order. Pablo Larrain’s film has a documentary aesthetic that relishes the quietly observed moments of whispered conversations, tear streaked eyes, bloodstained clothes, and wisps of cigarette smoke hanging in the air like memories. This is a film about the performances people in the public eye give to control the narrative of how they are perceived and how they will be remembered. And it’s about how a farsighted First Lady, armed with a sense of the weight and importance of our national history, rose to the occasion to ensure her husband’s legacy would endure by laying the groundwork for him to become a national icon who would inspire future generations. Natalie Portman is an emotional powerhouse, exuding quiet strength, shimmering intelligence, and amazing grace in the throes of grief. She effortlessly steals every single scene she’s in - which is all of them - in the performance of her career as Jackie Kennedy.

8. Silence

Silence is lengthy and slow moving, in stark contrast to the sensory overload of popcorn entertainment that requires nothing more than that you sit back and be entertained, but it will reward patient religious and non-religious viewers alike who are willing to invest the time, energy, and attention to this film that demands the singleminded focus of a contemplative spiritual practice. If you are ready for something more substantial and quite a bit stronger than the current crop of faith-based films or Hollywood blockbusters then I would recommend clearing out an afternoon, and possibly your evening as well, to come in a place of silence and stillness to experience Silence with a trusted friend you can process your response to the film with afterward, hopefully over a sumptuous meal and a stiff libation or two.

9. Operation Avalanche

This genre-bender about the space race starts off like a mockumentary in the vein of Rob Reiner’s This Is Spinal Tap, takes a sharp turn into the fast and loose fact-and-fiction fusion of documentary and narrative in the political films of Oliver Stone, and eventually winds up in the paranoid conspiracy thriller territory of All The President’s Men. Highly inventive, with numerous affectionate nods to Stanley Kubrick, this low budget indie brimming with bountiful creativity and an infectious energy is a testament to the abundant talents and a cinephile's passion for the medium that writer-director Matt Johnson has in spades. It was my favorite film I saw at the Sundance Film Festival in 2016.

10. Arrival

Denis Villeneuve, one of my favorite filmmakers of the past 10 years, helmed this heady and heartrending science fiction film about the power of language built around the terrifying and all too real premise that miscommunication can have disastrous consequences for the creatures of earth as well as those who hail from far flung galaxies beyond our solar system. The stars seem to have aligned to ensure that this timely film would come out this year to remind us that words and their meanings matter even in the “post-truth” Trump era.

Honorable Mentions 

1. Hell or High Water
2. The Innocents
3. Captain Fantastic
4. Hidden Figures
5. Lion
6. Toni Eerdmann
7. Everybody Wants Some!!
8. The Wailing
9. Train to Busan
10. Green Room

Films That I Should Have Seen (but hope to see someday soon)

Elle
Fences
20th Century Women
Loving
Fire at Sea
I Am Not Your Negro
Land of Mine
A Man Called Ove
The Salesman
Certain Women

Eugene Suen (filmmaker, instructor, Film Lab, Reel Spirituality Co-Director)

1. Silence (Martin Scorsese, 2016) - The most moving and personal statement of faith from a master filmmaker since Terrence Malick's "The Tree of Life." I don't know if I could still love you if you trample on this one. 

2. Moonlight (Barry Jenkins, 2016) - The most tender love story of the year and the best ensemble of the year.

3. La La Land (Damien Chazelle, 2016) - An impressively sustained piece of spectacle that manages to realize its wild ambitions. You know it's a great romantic fantasy when the characters can park that easily at the Observatory.

4. The Wailing (Na Hong-jin, 2016) - So unsettling that it makes most American horror films look like "Finding Dory".  

5. O.J.: Made in America (Ezra Edelman, 2016) - Binge-watching an eight-hour documentary from ESPN is now a thing.  

6. The Mermaid (Stephen Chow, 2016) - Stephen Chow's funniest film since the original Hong Kong version of "Shaolin Soccer". Mandarin fluency recommended (sorry). 

7. Voyage of Time (Terrence Malick, 2016) - The 90-minute version is even better (and not only because Cate Blanchett's voice is more soothing). 

8. Paterson (Jim Jarmusch, 2016) - Wayne and Ford. De Niro and Scorsese. Driver and Jarmusch.

9. Billy Lynn's Long Half-Time Walk (Ang Lee, 2016) - A 40 million-dollar studio film with an A-list cast that made less money in America than "Shin Godzilla" and the re-release of "Purple Rain". Too bad. Flawed but visionary, and precisely the kind of experiment that pushes the medium forward. Ang Lee is the definition of guts. 

10. Toni Erdmann (Maren Ade, 2016) - The greatest three-hour German comedy in the history of cinema. 

Honorable Mentions (in no particular order): The Train to Busan, Zootopia, The Age of Shadows, Cameraperson, The Handmaiden, Rouge One: A Star Wars Story, Doctor Strange, Julieta, Jackie, The Fits, De Palma

Should Have Seen: Elle, Cemetery of Splendour, American Honey, I Am Not Your Negro, Everybody Wants Some!!, Kaili Blues, that film you like.

Steve Vredenburgh (student)

I had a child in July (my wife did all the hard bits) so I've missed a lot of what came out this year. In fact, I only saw 8 films that were released (or not in the case of Notes On Blindness). I really liked the films that I ranked. The others were fine, but in any other year, probably would not crack the top ten.

1. Hail, Caesar!
2. Silence
3. Notes on Blindness
4.
5.
6. Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping

Captain America: Civil War
Ghostbusters
Star Trek Beyond
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Matt Walker (alumni, Practicing Critic)

Thanks for letting me be a part of this community, friends. I just saw Moonlight tonight and loved it. I had to give it the top spot. I wasn't sure if it would budge La La Land from #1-- a musical that leaves one pondering how to immediately live a better life. I'm also glad to see Hell or High Water getting some love from critics, it was a captivating and delightful look at brotherly love. Here's my top 10:

1. Moonlight
2. La La Land
3. Manchester by the Sea
4. Arrival
5. Hell or High Water
6. Zootopia
7. Hail, Caesar!
8. Snowden
9. 10 Cloverfield Lane
10. Being Charlie

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