Every Movie I Watched For the First Time in 2016: An Analysis

all-of-2016Earlier, I posted my ten favorite movies from 2016. But a “best of” list provides only a snapshot of a yearlong collection of movie-going experiences. If movies can impact a moviegoer’s worldview (by stimulating creativity, encouraging empathy, and raising awareness), then moviegoers should thoughtfully consider which movies they choose to watch. With this in mind, I have posted a list below of every movie I watched for the first time in 2016.

2016 reawakened my appreciation for documentaries. It started with City of Gold, a movie that artfully captures the emotional and cultural relevance of food (and highlights the accomplishments of Jonathan Gold, a clever and intriguing real-life character). Then came Our Last Tango, German Kral’s rousing portrayal of the relationship between Maria Nieves Rego and Juan Carlos Copes, Argentina’s famous tango dancers. Other documentaries like HarmontownWeiner, and The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution further solidified my renewed awareness of the power of documentary film. And it was Fisher Stevens’ Before the Flood that finally nudged me toward tangible changes in my day-to-day life.

I discovered new directors, including Japanese filmmaker Seijun Suzuki,  Portuguese filmmaker Miguel Gomes, and Ohio’s cult hero Henrique Couto. And I finally watched several short films by Don Hertzfeldt, the quirky filmmaker who is adored by IndieWire’s film critics. 2016 nurtured my positive feelings toward Alejandro González Iñárritu and Taika Waititi.

Admittedly, my list contains relatively few films by female directors, and I did not see more than one movie by any one female director. This is a shame, and I plan to do better in 2017.

My 2016 began with Bandslam, Todd Graff’s 2009 teen comedy-drama starring Aly Michalka and Vanessa Hudgens, and it ended with The Color Wheel, Alex Ross Perry’s 2011 black-and-white dialogue-heavy comedy about two siblings who fight the monotony of adult life with wit and awkwardness. Though these bookends do not ostensibly share any themes, they fit nicely into a larger chronological narrative. One movie is about teenagers learning to appreciate life, and the other is about young adults struggling to nurture an appreciation of life amid a barrage of cynicism and mediocrity. Viewed as a pair, the films acknowledge the difficulty of battling against the oppressive temptations of milquetoast adulthood—but they encourage you to fight anyway. And that is the mentality with which I will approach 2017.

Other Observations and Subjective Awards

Oldest film: Otto Preminger’s Laura (1944)

Most debated movie: Zack Snyder’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Most mesmerizing movies: Nicolas Winding Refn’s The Neon Demon, Don Hertzfeldt’s World of Tomorrow, and Sebastian Schipper’s Victoria

Disappointing movies of 2016Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping and X-Men: Apocalypse

Pleasantly surprising movies (meaning movies that exceeded relatively low or nonexistent expectations) of 2016: Tickled and Warcraft

Movies that delivered exactly what I expected—no more, no less—and a note about whether or not that fact has positive or negative connotations: Passengers (positive), Doctor Strange (negative), The Hateful Eight (positive), The Legend of Tarzan (negative), A Bulldog for Christmas (positive)

Movies I FINALLY watched after years of neglectFull Metal Jacket (1987), Jaws (1975), and The Mist (2007).

What is your analysis of the lists below?

Feature Films

Bandslam (2009) dir. Todd Graff
The Hateful Eight (2015) dir. Quentin Tarantino (70mm version)
Donnie Darko (2001) dir. Richard Kelly
Eyes Wide Shut (1999) dir. Stanley Kubrick
The Revenant (2015) dir. Alejandro González Iñárritu
Who Am I This Time? (1982) dir. Jonathan Demme
Carmen from Kawachi (1966) dir. Seijun Suzuki
Smashing the O-Line (1961) dir. Seijun Suzuki
River of Fundament (2014) dir. Matthew Barney
Constantine (2005) dir. Francis Lawrence
Room (2015) dir. Lenny Abrahamson
Full Metal Jacket (1987) dir. Stanley Kubrick
The Big Short (2015) dir. Adam McKay
Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014) dir. Matthew Vaughn
Van Gogh (1991) dir. Maurice Pialat
Under the Sun of Satan (1987) dir. Maurice Pialat
Arabian Nights: Volume 1 – The Restless One (2015) dir. Miguel Gomes
Arabian Nights: Volume 2 – The Desolate One (2015) dir. Miguel Gomes
Arabian Nights: Volume 3 – The Enchanted One (2015) dir. Miguel Gomes
The Last Survivors (2014) dir. Tom Hammock
Brooklyn (2015) dir. John Crowley
Spotlight (2015) dir. Tom McCarthy
Deadpool (2016) dir. Tim Miller
Don Verdean (2015) dir. Jared Hess
Zootopia (2016) dir. Jared Bush, Byron Howard, Rich Moore
Love (2015) dir. Gaspar Noé
Toxi (1952) dir. Robert A. Stemmle
Embrace of the Serpent (2015) dir. Ciro Guerra
Mustang (2015) dir. Deniz Gamze Ergüven
The Mist (2007) dir. Frank Darabont
The Cool World (1963) dir. Shirley Clarke
Victoria (2015) dir. Sebastian Schipper
The Lady in the Car with Glasses and a Gun (2015) dir. Joann Sfar
The Girl King (2015) dir. Mika Kaurismäki
Chevalier (2015) dir. Athina Rachel Tsangari
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) dir. Zack Snyder
The Cheetah Girls (2003) dir. Oz Scott
City of Gold (2015) dir. Laura Gabbert
Justice League: War (2014) dir. Jay Oliva
Miles Ahead (2015) dir. Don Cheadle
Captain America: Civil War (2016) dir. Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
Experimenter (2015) dir. Michael Almereyda
Black Sheep (2006) dir. Jonathan King
The Last Days on Mars (2013) dir. Ruairi Robinson
X-Men: Apocalypse (2016) dir. Bryan Singer
The Lobster (2015) dir. Yorgos Lanthimos
Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping (2016) dir. Akiva Schaffer, Jorma Taccone
Our Last Tango (2015) dir. German Kral
Independence Day: Resurgence (2016) dir. Roland Emmerich
The Saddest Music in the World (2003) dir. Guy Maddin
Volcano (1997) dir. Mick Jackson
The Purge: Election Year (2016) dir. James DeMonaco
Sanctum (2011) dir. Alister Grierson
Tickled (2016) dir. David Farrier, Dylan Reeve
Chi-Raq (2015) dir. Spike Lee
Confusion (2016) dir. Yacine Brahem, Dario Cerruti
Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016) dir. Taika Waititi
Kings of Kallstadt (2014) dir. Simone Wendel
Weiner (2016) dir. Josh Kriegman, Elyse Steinberg
Adult Life Skills (2016) dir. Rachel Tunnard
Unlocking the Cage (2016) dir. Chris Hegedus, D.A. Pennebaker
The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution (2015) dir. Stanley Nelson
Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004) dir. Michael Moore
Harmontown (2014) dir. Neil Berkeley
Laura (1944) dir. Otto Preminger
Petey Wheatstraw (1977) dir. Cliff Roquemore
Suicide Squad (2016) dir. David Ayer
Kubo and the Two Strings (2016) dir. Travis Knight
Snowden (2016) dir. Oliver Stone
Tappy Toes (2011) dir. Darrell Van Citters
Ruby Sparks (2012) dir. Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris
Scooby-Doo! And Kiss: Rock and Roll Mystery (2015) dir. Spike Brandt, Tony Cervone
Hell or High Water (2016) dir. David Mackenzie
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (2016) dir. Tim Burton
Sky High (2005) dir. Mike Mitchell
Before the Flood (2016) dir. Fisher Stevens
Maya the Bee Movie (2014) dir. Alexs Stadermann
Jaws (1975) dir. Steven Spielberg
Doctor Strange (2016) dir. Scott Derrickson
Trolls (2016) dir. Walt Dohrn, Mike Mitchell
Izzie’s Way Home (2016) dir. Sasha Burrow
Arrival (2016) dir. Denis Villeneuve
Life’s a Jungle: Africa’s Most Wanted (2012) dir. Robert D. Hanna
XOXO (2016) dir. Christopher Louie
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016) dir. David Yates
Ratatoing (2007) dir. Michelle Gabriel
The Legend of Tarzan (2016) dir. David Yates
The Intern (2015) dir. Nancy Meyers
Nine Lives (2016) dir. Barry Sonnenfeld
The Edge of Seventeen (2016) dir. Kelly Fremon Craig
Moana (2016) dir. Ron Clements, Don Hall, John Musker, Chris Williams
Mule-Tide Christmas (2014) dir. Gorka Vázquez
Margarita with a Straw (2014) dir. Shonali Bose, Nilesh Maniyar
Cinderella (2015) dir. Kenneth Branagh
The Things We’ve Seen (2016) dir. Tre Manchester
A Bulldog for Christmas (2013) dir. Henrique Couto
Nocturnal Animals (2016) dir. Tom Ford
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016) dir. Gareth Edwards
The Neon Demon (2016) dir. Nicolas Winding Refn
Finding Dory (2016) dir. Andrew Stanton, Angus MacLane
Assassin’s Creed (2016) dir. Justin Kurzel
Passengers (2016) dir. Morten Tyldum
Star Trek Beyond (2016) dir. Justin Lin
Warcraft (2016) dir. Duncan Jones
Obvious Child (2014) dir. Gillian Robespierre
Babysitter Massacre (2013) dir. Henrique Couto
Wiener-Dog (2016) dir. Todd Solondz
Daddy’s Home (2015) dir. Sean Anders
The Color Wheel (2011) dir. Alex Ross Perry

Short Films

EPICAC (2008) dir. Will Tully
2081 (2009) dir. Chandler Tuttle
Everything Will Be Ok (2006) dir. Don Hertzfeldt
World of Tomorrow (2015) dir. Don Hertzfeldt
Rejected (2000) dir. Don Hertzfeldt
Manipulation (1991) dir. Daniel Greaves
Father and Daughter (2000) dir. Michael Dudok de Wit
Alone (2013) dir. Brock Torunski
Stairway to Light (1945) dir. Sammy Lee
We Can’t Live Without Cosmos (2014) dir. Konstantin Bronzit
Sissy-Boy Slap-Party (1995) dir. Guy Maddin
Frontman (2016) dir. Matthew Gentile
Love Comes Later (2015) dir. Sonejuhi Sinha
Ich Sehe Was, Was Du Nicht Siehst (2015) dir. Vivien Hartmann
Otis (2016) dir. Matthew Gordon Levandoski
The Dean Scream (2016) dir. Bryan Storkel
Madam Black (2015) dir. Ivan Barge
A Subway Story (2015) dir. Eugene Kolb
Ernestine & Kit (2016) dir. Simon Bird
A Teachable Moment (2016) dir. Jason Jeffrey
Curmudgeons (2016) dir. Danny DeVito
The Talk (2015) dir. Joe Otting
So Good to See You (2016) dir. Duke Merriman
The Orchestra (2015) dir. Michael Hill
Pearl (2016) dir. Patrick Osborne
Built to Serve (2015) dir. Dylan Chase
All Your Base: Last of Last (2016) dir. Richard F. Roszko
Little Folk of the Arctic (2015) dir. Neil Christopher
Penguins in Space (2015) dir. Jarrod Moschner
Restless Leg Saga (2012) dir. Shana Moulton
Dance Dog Fever (2015) dir. Dandrell Scott
Gravity Is Just a Habit (2016) dir. David S. Vardanyan, Elena Vardanyan
Inner Workings (2016) dir. Leo Matsuda
True Love at Christmas (2015) dir. Henrique Couto


Ben Boruff is a co-founder of Big B and Mo’ Money, and he has reviewed comics for ComicBastards.com and ImpulseGamer.com. Some of his favorite directors are Whit Stillman, Seijun Suzuki, Noah Baumbach, Kathryn Bigelow, Stanley Kubrick, Antione Fuqua, Don Hertzfeldt, Adam McKay, and Tom Hooper.  Follow him on Twitter: @BenMagicAwesome

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