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The Best Movies of 2016

  • Publish Date: January 4, 2017
  • Comments: ↓ 3 user comments

Moonlight is the best-reviewed movie of 2016

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2016 99 Moonlight
2015 96 Carol
2014 100 Boyhood
2013 97 12 Years a Slave
2012 95 Zero Dark Thirty
2011 95 A Separation
High Scoring Movies by Year
(Minimum 7 Reviews)

Was 2016 a good year for movies? We've seen a variety of opinions on both sides of the argument, but one thing is clear: it was indeed a great year for great films.

And by "great" films we mean high-scoring films. There were 12 movies released during 2016 that scored 90 or higher, more than in any other year this century. (See chart below.)

No 2016 film was greater than Barry Jenkins' coming-of-age drama Moonlight, a three-part look at the life of a gay black man growing up in a broken household in Florida. It's the highest-scoring release since Boyhood in 2014 and one of just four films in our entire database to score 99 or higher.

But the strength of 2016's very best films is such that Moonlight isn't even necessarily a favorite to win the best picture Oscar (though a nomination appears to be a certainty). It will have to contend with other films showered with praise by critics, including Kenneth Lonergan's drama Manchester by the Sea and the throwback musical La La Land.

Then again, there was plenty of love from reviewers to go around. There were 610 films released during 2016 to receive at least seven reviews from top professional critics. Of those, 328 received positive reviews (scoring 61 or higher)—that's an impressive 53%, and up from the 2015 figure (which was around 50%). And 58 of those films received a Metascore of 81 or higher, the cutoff we use to indicate "universal acclaim" from reviewers. That pretty much matches the percentage for the prior year.

More good news: the average Metascore for all 2016 films was 60.3, up from 2015's mark of 58.7. And the number of truly awful films scoring below 20 remained at just 7 for the year, tying 2015's total (and still down considerably from the 14 terrible films released in 2014).

Total number of films scoring at least 90, by year

The year's best films

Below are 2016's highest-scoring overall films, followed by separate lists of the year's best movies in a variety of categories.

Highest-Scoring Movies Released in 2016

Movie still
Movie Score Watch Now
1Moonlight99  
2I Am Not Your Negro97  
3Manchester by the Sea96  
4Toni Erdmann96  
5O.J.: Made in America *96 Buy From Amazon Instant VideoBuy From iTunes 
6La La Land93 Buy From Amazon Instant Video 
7One More Time with Feeling92  
8The Red Turtle92  
9Tower92  
10The Fits91 Buy From Amazon Instant VideoWatch on Amazon Prime 
1113th90 Watch on Netflix 
12Paths of the Soul90 Buy From Amazon Instant VideoBuy From iTunes 
13Paterson89  
14Elle89  
15Things to Come88  
16Hell or High Water88 Buy From Amazon Instant Video 
17Newtown87 Buy From Amazon Instant Video 
18Aquarius87  
19Cameraperson87  
20Fire at Sea87  
21Krisha87 Buy From Amazon Instant VideoWatch on Amazon Prime 
22Cemetery of Splendor87 Buy From iTunesWatch on Netflix 
23My Golden Days87 Buy From Amazon Instant VideoBuy From iTunesWatch on Netflix 
24Love & Friendship87 Buy From Amazon Instant VideoWatch on Amazon Prime 
25Little Men86 Buy From Amazon Instant Video 
26The Treasure85 Buy From Amazon Instant VideoWatch on Netflix 
27April and the Extraordinary World85 Buy From Amazon Instant VideoBuy From iTunes 
28Kaili Blues85  
29 Fireworks Wednesday 84  
30Aferim!84  
31The Handmaiden84  
32Under the Shadow84 Buy From Amazon Instant Video 
33Weiner84 Buy From Amazon Instant Video 
34Kubo and the Two Strings84 Buy From Amazon Instant VideoBuy From iTunes 
35Everybody Wants Some!!83 Buy From Amazon Instant Video 
36De Palma83 Buy From Amazon Instant VideoWatch on Amazon Prime 
37The Witch83 Buy From Amazon Instant VideoWatch on Amazon Prime 
38Ixcanul83 Buy From Amazon Instant Video 
39Being 1783  
40Don't Think Twice83 Buy From Amazon Instant Video 
41Neruda82  
42The Lobster82 Buy From Amazon Instant VideoWatch on Amazon Prime 
43Rams82  
44Nuts!82 Buy From Amazon Instant VideoWatch on Amazon Prime 
45Embrace of the Serpent82 Buy From Amazon Instant VideoWatch on Amazon PrimeBuy From iTunes 
4620th Century Women82  
47Silence82 Buy From Amazon Instant Video 
48Arrival81  
49Closet Monster81  
50Certain Women81  
51Under the Sun81 Buy From iTunesWatch on Netflix 
52Moana81  
53The Wailing81 Buy From Amazon Instant Video 
54Hunt for the Wilderpeople81 Buy From Amazon Instant Video 
55The Love Witch81  
56A War81 Buy From Amazon Instant VideoWatch on Netflix 
57Jackie81  
58Right Now, Wrong Then81  
59Neon Bull80 Watch on Netflix 
60Your Name80  
61Best Worst Thing That Ever Could Have Happened80  
62Gleason80 Buy From iTunes 
63Pervert Park80 Buy From Amazon Instant VideoBuy From iTunesWatch on Netflix 
64Peter and the Farm80 Buy From Amazon Instant VideoBuy From iTunes 
65Off the Rails80  
66Demon80 Buy From Amazon Instant Video 
67Mountains May Depart79 Buy From Amazon Instant VideoWatch on Netflix 
68Loving79 Buy From Amazon Instant Video 
69Green Room79 Buy From Amazon Instant VideoWatch on Amazon Prime 
70Colliding Dreams79 Buy From iTunesWatch on Netflix 
71Sing Street79 Buy From Amazon Instant Video 
72American Honey79 Buy From Amazon Instant Video 
73The Witness79 Buy From Amazon Instant Video 
74Indignation78 Buy From Amazon Instant Video 
75The Age of Shadows78  
76Fences78 Buy From Amazon Instant Video 
77The Last Man on the Moon78 Buy From Amazon Instant VideoBuy From iTunes 
78The Innocents78 Buy From Amazon Instant VideoWatch on Amazon Prime 
79Amanda Knox78 Watch on Netflix 
80Zero Days78 Buy From Amazon Instant VideoBuy From iTunes 
81No Home Movie78 Buy From Amazon Instant VideoBuy From iTunes 
82Hooligan Sparrow78 Buy From Amazon Instant VideoBuy From iTunesWatch on Netflix 
83Zootopia78 Buy From Amazon Instant VideoBuy From iTunesWatch on Netflix 
84Abortion: Stories Women Tell78  
85Command and Control77 Buy From Amazon Instant Video 
86Voyage of Time: The IMAX Experience77  
87Trapped77  
88Finding Dory77 Buy From Amazon Instant VideoBuy From iTunes 
89The Dark Horse77 Buy From Amazon Instant VideoWatch on Amazon Prime 
90The Jungle Book77 Buy From Amazon Instant Video 
91Miss Sharon Jones!77 Buy From Amazon Instant Video 
92Evolution77  
93Baden Baden77  
94Starving the Beast77  
95A Monster Calls77  
 Presenting Princess Shaw77 Buy From Amazon Instant VideoBuy From iTunesWatch on Netflix 
97Don't Call Me Son77  
98The Edge of Seventeen77 Buy From Amazon Instant Video 
99Dheepan76 Buy From Amazon Instant VideoBuy From iTunesWatch on Netflix 
100Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World76 Buy From Amazon Instant VideoWatch on Netflix 


For this and all tables in this article, only movies with seven or more reviews and released in at least one theater in the United States between January 1, 2016 and December 31, 2016 were considered. Re-releases of older films are excluded. The Metascore is a weighted average of scores from top professional critics, on a scale from 0 (bad) to 100 (good). Although scores have been rounded to the nearest whole number, movies are ranked prior to rounding. All scores in this article are from January 3, 2017.

* The eight-hour documentary O.J.: Made in America can be classified as both a television miniseries as well as a film (and will in fact be eligible for both Oscars and Emmys). Because it did screen in a few theaters prior to airing on TV, we are including it here (in addition to on our Best Miniseries of 2016 list).

Best 2016 Films in Selected Genres

2016's Best Documentaries
1I Am Not Your Negro97  
2 O.J.: Made in America 96 Buy From Amazon Instant VideoBuy From iTunes 
3One More Time with Feeling92  
4Tower92  
513th90 Watch on Netflix 
6Newtown87 Buy From Amazon Instant Video 
7Cameraperson87  
8Fire at Sea87  
9Weiner84 Buy From Amazon Instant Video 
10De Palma83 Buy From Amazon Instant VideoWatch on Amazon Prime 
2016's Best Foreign-Language Films (Live-action narrative films only)
1Toni Erdmann96  
2Paths of the Soul90 Buy From Amazon Instant VideoBuy From iTunes 
3Elle89  
4Things to Come88  
5Aquarius87  
6 Cemetery of Splendor87 Buy From iTunesWatch on Netflix 
7 My Golden Days87 Buy From Amazon Instant VideoBuy From iTunesWatch on Netflix 
8 The Treasure85 Buy From Amazon Instant VideoWatch on Netflix 
9 Kaili Blues85  
10 Fireworks Wednesday84  
2016's Best Animated Films
1 The Red Turtle 92   
2 Tower 92   
3 April and the Extraordinary World 85  Buy From Amazon Instant VideoBuy From iTunes 
4 Kubo and the Two Strings 84  Buy From Amazon Instant VideoBuy From iTunes 
5 Nuts! 82  Buy From Amazon Instant VideoWatch on Amazon Prime 
6 Moana 81   
7 Your Name 80   
8 Zootopia 78  Buy From Amazon Instant VideoBuy From iTunesWatch on Netflix 
9 Finding Dory 77  Buy From Amazon Instant VideoBuy From iTunes 
10 Miss Hokusai 74   
2016's Best Sci-Fi, Fantasy, and Superhero Films (English-language, live action)
1Arrival81  
2The Jungle Book77 Buy From Amazon Instant Video 
3A Monster Calls77  
4Midnight Special76 Buy From Amazon Instant VideoBuy From iTunes 
510 Cloverfield Lane76 Buy From Amazon Instant Video 
6Captain America: Civil War75 Buy From Amazon Instant VideoBuy From iTunesWatch on Netflix 
7Tale of Tales72 Buy From Amazon Instant Video 
8Doctor Strange72 Buy From Amazon Instant Video 
9Pete's Dragon71 Buy From Amazon Instant Video 
10Star Trek Beyond68 Buy From Amazon Instant Video 
2016's Best Horror Films and Supernatural Thrillers
1Under the Shadow84 Buy From Amazon Instant Video 
2The Witch83 Buy From Amazon Instant VideoWatch on Amazon Prime 
3The Wailing81 Buy From Amazon Instant Video 
4The Love Witch81  
5Demon80 Buy From Amazon Instant Video 
6Green Room79 Buy From Amazon Instant VideoWatch on Amazon Prime 
7Evolution77  
8 10 Cloverfield Lane 76  Buy From Amazon Instant Video 
9 Nina Forever 75  Buy From Amazon Instant VideoBuy From iTunes 
10 The Invitation 74  Buy From Amazon Instant Video 
2016's Best Musicals
1La La Land93 Buy From Amazon Instant Video 
2Moana81  
3 Sing Street79 Buy From Amazon Instant Video 
4 London Road71  
5 Swiss Army Man64 Buy From Amazon Instant Video 

What about the year's worst movies?

It would be a shame to forget about those. You can find the 15 lowest-scoring films released in 2016 in the gallery below:

What are your favorites?

What are your selections for the best and worst movies of the past year? Let us know in the comments section below. If you are looking for even more of 2016's best films, be sure to check out our compilation of over 200 film critic top 10 lists as well as our 2016 Film Awards Scorecard.

Comments (3)

  • DanBurrito  

    My Top 10: 1. La La Land. 2. Manchester By The Sea. 3. Arrival. 4. Rogue One. 5. Finding Dory. 6. Captain America: Civil War. 7. Sing Street. 8. Jackie. 9. Sully. 10. Miles Ahead. I also liked "Kubo & The Two Strings", "Midnight Special", "Deadpool", "Doctor Strange" and others.

  • Beanstalk086  

    Hey, FYI: Hunt for the Wilderpeople is available for free streaming via Hulu. If anyone's interested, it's well worth a watch!

    V--Also, LOL @ below.

  • TheMetacritiqer  

    Batman V Superman was my movie of the year.

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