1. Hell or High Water Jeff Bridges is a salty Texas Ranger tracking two surprisingly ethical bank robbers played by Chris Pine and Ben Foster in this clever, exciting and often unexpectedly moving crime thriller, full of flavorful dialogue and indelible small-town Southern detail. Now on home video.
2. Green Room Writer-director Jeremy Saulnier turns a simple siege thriller (after witnessing a murder, members of a punk band attempt to escape a club full of neo-Nazis) into a building symphony of dread, establishing the distinctive details of its grubby location and then using them diabolically against the overwhelmed protagonists. Now on home video and Amazon Prime.
3. Our Little Sister Japanese filmmaker Hirokazu Koreeda is a poet of everyday life, and this lovely, low-key drama about three adult sisters bonding with the half-sister they never knew is one of his best poems, capturing the beauty, heartbreak and wonder of life’s small moments. Now on home video.
4. Kubo and the Two Strings The fourth film from brilliant stop-motion animation studio Laika is visually and narratively beautiful, drawing on Japanese mythology to tell the story of a young boy coming to terms with his family legacy—in the form of a sarcastic monkey, a warrior beetle and a moon god. Now on home video.
5. 20th Century Women This semi-autobiographical coming-of-age drama from writer-director Mike Mills might have a teenage boy at its center, but it’s really about the title characters (played wonderfully by Annette Bening, Greta Gerwig and Elle Fanning), three very different but equally formidable women in 1979 Southern California, facing uncertain futures with determination and openness. Opens January 20 in Las Vegas.
6. Love & Friendship Jane Austen’s early novella Lady Susan gets a delightful (and delightfully nasty) adaptation from writer-director Whit Stillman, who’s a perfect match for Austen’s tale of shameless social climbing and caustic put-downs, delivered effortlessly by Kate Beckinsale in the lead role. Now on home video and Amazon Prime.
7. The Edge of Seventeen This teen comedy reinvigorates the familiar genre with a funny and clear-eyed look at the overdramatic life of high-school outcast Nadine, played by Hailee Steinfeld in one of the year’s most enjoyable and empathetic performances. Available on home video February 14.
8. The Nice Guys Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe play two schlubby private eyes in 1970s LA in Shane Black’s ode to ramshackle detective movies, full of hilarious banter, absurd plot twists and a smart-aleck kid sidekick played with wit and warmth by Angourie Rice. Now on home video.
9. Everybody Wants Some!! Richard Linklater effectively dials down the ambition for his follow-up to Boyhood and delivers a hang-out movie that’s casual and fun, showing the camaraderie, anxiety and goofiness among a group of college baseball players in the few days leading up to the beginning of the 1980 school year. Now on home video.
10. The Handmaiden Park Chan-wook’s lurid take on Sarah Waters’ novel Fingersmith moves the story from Victorian England to 1930s Japanese-occupied Korea, where a pair of thieves attempt to con a reclusive heiress—or so it seems, until the movie reveals hidden motives that get more and more twisted and perverse. Available on home video January 24.
1. Toni Erdmann German filmmaker Maren Ade’s nearly three-hour epic, about a prankster dad who creates a buffoonish alter ego in an attempt to cheer up his workaholic adult daughter, is one half heartbreaking drama, one half gut-busting comedy, and both halves sheer brilliance. Opens February 17 in Las Vegas.
2. Right Now, Wrong Then Though barely released in the U.S., this dual-reality relationship drama, which starts over from the beginning midway through, repeating the story with minor variations that make a major difference, is the best film yet from prolific Korean director Hong Sang-soo. Now streaming on Fandor; on home video April 25.
3. Manchester by the Sea Bring multiple handkerchiefs to Kenneth Lonergan’s almost unbearably sad portrait of a man (Casey Affleck, easily 2016’s best actor) resigned to the remnants of his life following a horrific tragedy, but still determined to do right by his suddenly orphaned nephew (Lucas Hedges). Now in theaters.
4. Tower The year’s best animated film and best documentary uses rotoscoped actors (yes, it’s still a doc; watch it and see) to re-create, moment by moment, Charles Whitman’s 1966 shooting spree at the University of Texas at Austin, with a deeply moving emphasis on acts of courage and selflessness. Airs February 14 on PBS.
5. The Witch Set in the early 17th century, with dialogue taken directly from diaries and court records of the era, this unusual horror movie conjures as much strangeness from stringent period accuracy as it does from the titular witch (plus a literally diabolical goat called Black Phillip). Now on home video and Amazon Prime.
6. Paterson Another great film that hasn’t even opened yet, Jim Jarmusch’s nearly plotless portrait of a New Jersey bus driver (Adam Driver) who moonlights as a poet is pure loveliness, providing a window into how artists view the world. Opens January 20 in Las Vegas.
7. Author: The JT LeRoy Story No matter what you’ve read about this literary hoax (or “myth,” as its perpetrator/creator insists), the details revealed in Author—which sees Laura Albert, aka JT LeRoy, recount her own bizarre story to the camera, semi-corroborated by plentiful photos and tape recordings—will make your jaw drop. Now on home video.
8. Indignation Veteran screenwriter, producer and Ang Lee collaborator James Schamus made an auspicious directorial debut adapting Philip Roth’s heady novel about a ’50s college student (Logan Lerman) whose abortive romance with a troubled young woman (Sarah Gadon) lands him in unexpected places. Now on home video.
9. London Road La La Land is getting all the attention, but the year’s true musical triumph was this little-seen, avant-garde British production, in which all dialogue—even the song lyrics!—was taken verbatim from interviews with the residents of an Ipswich street where a string of serial murders occurred in 2006. Available on home video February 28.
10. Everybody Wants Some!! Billed as a “spiritual sequel” to Dazed and Confused, Richard Linklater’s autobiographical memory piece follows the lunkheaded adventures of a Texas college baseball team in 1980, watching the guys struggle to figure out how to fit in to various competing local scenes. Now on home video.