18 Best Films of 2016 (So Far)

It’s been an oddly sedate year for cinema thus far. With all the excitement thrown up in the wake of Star Wars: The Force Awakens and a blistering Oscar season, we were due for a downturn, and although we’ve had a solid run of blockbuster material and a few indie classics to munch on, we haven’t had a Mad Max or Whiplash moment yet, not a proper one anyway. None the less, there have been some real gems worked into the roughage, which myself and a few other choice members of the CV team have been more than happy to dig out.


Callum Davies

The Witch

Now, if you took the time to read our official review of The Witch, you might be a bit confused to find it on this list, but that’s the beauty of working for a site like Cultured Vultures, you can disagree with the views of other staff writers (even the editor) without getting all your work deleted and waking up by the side of the road somewhere in Siberia with somebody else’s memory. One thing I will agree with Jimmy on is that The Witch is not a horror film, and it shouldn’t have been advertised as such. Robert Eggers’ directorial debut is a true piece of historical cinematic folklore, transposing centuries of mislaid paranoia into a sinister, abstract character drama as open to interpretation as the stories which inspired it. Not a film to frighten you, but certainly one to burrow into your brain and nest there for a while.


High Rise

Various filmmakers have attempted to tackle J.G. Ballard’s vast literary output over the years and in most cases, they’ve given up. To date, only David Cronenberg’s brilliant Crash and Steven Spielberg’s flawed but affecting Empire of the Sun have proven successful (Solvig Nordlund also had a crack at Ballard’s Low Flying Aircraft, but it didn’t fare so well). That’s a tough act to follow, especially when you look down the list of failed attempts to adapt Ballard’s other works. For a long time, to pick up a Ballard adaptation was to commit it to development hell. So it was with High Rise, first handed to Nicholas Roeg in the 70s and then to Vincenzo Natali in the early 2000s. Finally, Ben Wheatley and Amy Jump took on the job and boy did they deliver. This striking, superbly cast, deliriously bombastic commentary on class struggle embodies Ballard’s spirit in almost every possible way, laying bare the ugliness of human nature in a bitterly beautiful, darkly hysterical dystopia.



The fact that Dheepan swooped in and snatched the Palme D’Or from a shortlist of much bigger, more heavily publicised films at Cannes testifies to just how far Jacques Audiard has come as a director. Rust and Bone and A Prophet are both beautiful, spellbinding films and Dheepan retains that quality, but the tone of it and the significance and resonance of the subject matter give it a whole different kind of edge. Audiard uses his signature blend of social realism and mystical surreality to illustrate how blinkered society can be to the plight of refugees, whether they’re desperately fleeing their war torn homes or struggling to maintain a foothold in a crime ridden Parisian ghetto. By turns a quiet, contemplative drama and a harsh, violent thriller, Dheepan might even be Audiard’s strongest film to date, but I’d need to see it a few more times to be sure of that.


Gabriel Ricard

The Nice Guys

Shane Black and Anthony Bagarozzi have managed something remarkable with The Nice Guys. Borrowing gently from 70s exploitation, buddy cop movies (even though neither Russell Crowe nor Ryan Gosling’s characters are cops), and noir, The Nice Guys delivers one of the most unique films of the summer. The film is gleefully trashy, it is pure, absolutely brilliant escapist entertainment. At the same time, it doesn’t assume the audience is stupid. The Nice Guys is a love letter to those who have been waiting for a half-decent action movie that doesn’t feature superheroes. Except the movie is far beyond half-decent. It’s pure, unapologetic silliness and breathtaking action sequences.


All The Way

It seems strange that so few films have been made on President Lyndon B. Johnson. To be certain, he was an eccentric player in the strange, often horrible showcase of the 1960s. With few actors to compare to, Bryan Cranston gives a performance as LBJ that is entirely his own. Even if several major actors had played Johnson before Cranston, it seems Cranston has topped them all here. Although All The Way certainly takes liberties with the historical source material, which was later adapted into the play that became the film, Cranston’s performance is electrifyingly sincere. He inhabits a version of LBJ that leads us to suspect no one will ever come as close to actually defining the man.


10 Cloverfield Lane

My refrain remains the same: Where the fuck is John Goodman’s Oscar? Decades of exceptional work without a nomination is one of many travesties associated with that award. 10 Cloverfield Lane is a well-plotted, well-acted, and well-paced horror film. None of that is dependent upon whether or not you have seen Cloverfield. Mary Elizabeth Winstead makes for a compelling heroine, but it’s Goodman’s performance that propels an already-excellent film to the top of my list. He is the physical manifestation of an entity that can’t decide between the calm and the storm.


Jay Slayton-Joslin


This fourth wall breaking superhero flick showed us that superhero movies don’t have to be formulaic. Spearheaded with one of the best marketing campaigns in recent years, Deadpool touched our hearts while punching us in our funny bones. Ryan Reynolds portrayed the humour of the antihero perfectly, and even if the story was somewhat formulaic, it shows that franchises should be putting more money into original concepts and talent, rather than solely relying on special effects. The only downside to Deadpool’s brilliance is that it’s sure to inspire a wave of copycat films, after breaking so many box office records.


Captain America: Civil War

The movie that should have been the 2nd Avengers, instead is one of the best marvel movies that’s been made yet. It could have been a lazy cash cow, but instead we were given solid action, writing and story. More characters packed together than a high-school reunion of a comedy series, and each of them get the attention they deserve, and show that the Marvel Cinematic Universe is well worth the investment, if not just for this film alone. Oh, and there’s major points for actually giving us an interesting Spiderman, too. Captain America started with the worst Marvel film, and now ends with the best one in Civil War.


How To Be Single

A cast of wonderful actors, a message about being single that doesn’t condescendingly tell you that everyone should be with somebody in the end, and a portrayal of people being crass in their dating lives, and all the adventures that ensue. How To Be Single may not be packed with as many laughs as it often tries to be, but it’s certainly a progressive film that’s a lot of fun. Plus, it sends out a good message that dating isn’t necessarily easy. It’s always nice to see an accurate portrayal of relationships that is far different from the formulaic message that Hollywood usually sends out.


Tish Wells

Eddie the Eagle

‘Fly like an eagle’ had a whole new meaning at the 1988 Calgary Olympics as the U.K.’s Eddie Edwards ski-jumped. Usually it meant a laugh. Jump to this year’s Eddie the Eagle and you stop mocking the story of an underdog who got there. It’s a feel good flick that uses contemporary footage, as well as the sexy talents of Hugh Jackman as an often-drunk coach, and Taron Egerton as Eddie. There’s some unnecessary sexual innuendo, but it goes by fast. A fun little flick.


London Has Fallen

The sequel to 2013’s Olympus has Fallen where terrorists trash Washington D.C., London has Fallen is your basic boom-boom film with the American President on the run after terrorists (who have totally infiltrated the British police – I mean, really?) have basically taken out the world leaders who are in London for the Prime Minister’s funeral. The President’s go-to bodyguard (Gerard Butler), works hard saving the Prez’s skin with help from the UK’s security services. Why on this list? Coherent plot. Considering the massive plot holes in super-hero films, this was a pleasure to watch, even if you had to suspend your imagination.


13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi

One thing movie viewers can count on from director Michael Bay is a beautiful looking film. 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi had all that beauty and an intriguing premise: what really happened in 2012 when militants attacked the U.S diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, killing Ambassador Christopher Stevens, and others? No matter where you stand on the issue, the film shows the boredom, terror and courage of those involved in protecting the compound and the CIA Annex.


Ashley Bebbington

Green Room

So much for the difficult third album, Director Jeremy Saulnier’s third feature film is a breath of fresh air for the horror genre. When a touring punk band are screwed out of payment by a promoter, they’re forced to play a Neo-Nazi club to earn enough money to keep the tour going. Things quickly turn violent, leaving the band members trapped in the club’s green room, with Nazi thugs baying for their blood. Green Room is brutal, visceral, and – that rarest of things for the genre – feels truly original. Simply a must-see for horror fans.


Eye in the Sky

When killing a target is as simple as pushing a button, who makes the call that will end somebody’s life? This is the essential question at the core of Eye in the Sky, as politicians and military staff in London, Nevada, and Washington grapple over the presence of a high value target in Nairobi. With stellar performances from Helen Mirren, Aaron Paul, Barkhad Abdi, and a wonderful final performance from Alan Rickman, this film will surely be part of the conversation during Oscar nomination season. It refuses to hold your hand, refuses to take a side, and simply leaves you to ponder the difficult grey areas that drone warfare presents to its participants.


Hail, Caesar!

You know the score by now. A crime occurs. Hijinks and capers ensue. Shady characters showcase their incompetence for the audience’s pleasure. Hail, Caesar!’s detractors may point to it as something of a ‘Coen by numbers,’ but for fans of the brothers’ work, it’s a hell of a lot of fun. When a movie studio’s most marketable actor is kidnapped during the ‘golden age’ of cinema, it’s down to Josh Brolin – a grumpy studio enforcer – to set things right. Backed by a superb supporting ensemble, and featuring numerous pastiches of 1950s Hollywood flicks, it feels like the Coens are not just poking fun at the film industry, but also at themselves.


Nik Grantham

Everybody Wants Some!!

Within the confines of Everybody Wants Some!!, Linklater creates a sense of nostalgia for a life many of us will have never lead. With no plot taking us through the motions, we’re left to happily drift through the American equivalent of fresher’s week, with new recruit Jake being accepted into a pack of college baseball players. Taking a similar tone to its spiritual predecessor Dazed and Confused, it veers off from being another ‘coming of age’ story, and instead decides to tackle the nuances of friendship. With every pointless competition, arguments over nothing and apologies without the word ‘sorry’, you find yourself recalling similar memories from your own mandem. In a year where the shit might be hitting the fan every other day, Everybody Wants Some!! reminds us to try and take it easy once in a while.


The Jungle Book

The pitch perfect casting of Bill Murray as Baloo alone could justify The Jungle Book’s position in my top 3 and that’s before getting on to the best photo realistic work since Avatar, and the equally impressive feat of finding a 10 year old actor who, being the sole live action component, doesn’t annoy the hell out of an older audience. The film further cements my belief that Jon Favreau is one of the most capable directors working in Hollywood today. With a range of films now including the likes of the intimate Chef to a Disney behemoth like this under his belt, no-one can argue the guy isn’t versatile. One of the few blockbusters to take a beloved children’s classic and reboot it into a commercial and critical success, The Jungle Book lets a whole new generation who may have never seen the original (I don’t know what constitutes bad parenting but that might be a definite sign) see that man has an important place in nature, without making them sit through An Inconvenient Truth.



Having been burnt by so many films that bring in audiences using a gimmick (here’s looking at you, Hardcore Henry), I was hesitant to give Victoria a chance, believing it was using the single take as nothing more than a marketing ploy. After making my way through the hypnotic Berlin night out, I found the film to be one of the most immersive, innovative pieces of filmmaking I’ve seen in a long time. Beginning in a club that feels all too familiar, the camera is carried a long by a brilliant Laia Costa as Victoria, whom navigates the tension of new friendships whilst on a night out that eventually descends in to a euphoric oblivion. It takes the technical imagination of European cinema, ties it with the displacement of today’s generation and still comes out with an absolute nail biter. It plays to a part of us that always wonders where a night could go and what lengths we’d go to to feel like we belong.

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