Overlooked in 2016

It's estimated that roughly 600 movies come out each year. I see a lot of movies (over 300) each year, and even I end up missing most of them. So I'm going to give you a recap of some of the ones that I enjoyed the most that weren't big blockbusters or tentpole pictures. This is not an exhaustive list, and a handful of movies that are on this list may be ones that did well at the box office.

And now, presented in absolutely no particular order:

 
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SWISS ARMY MAN

A man stranded on a desert island uses a dead body to go on a surreal adventure of self-discovery.

Who will like this movie:
People with an unusual sense of humor; fans of magical realism; soundtrack lovers

Who will hate this movie:
People who prefer straightforward storytelling; the easily offended

What I liked about this movie:
Swiss Army Man is incredibly dumb, purposely ridiculous, and surprisingly poignant. It's a genre defying movie that uses it's goofy, wacky tone to sucker punch the audience when they least expect it.

 
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THE NICE GUYS

Two private detectives in 1970 Los Angeles investigate a missing girl and the death of a porn star.

Who will like this movie:
Comedy fans; murder mystery whodunnit fans; people with a fine appreciation for period films

Who will hate this movie:
People who hate coarse language and nudity; people who don't like Ryan Gosling or Russell Crowe

What I liked about this movie:
The Nice Guys is an awesome throwback crime film. A lot of the sensibilities are very much out of the 1970's (the era that the story takes place in) and applies them to a modern crime film.

 
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THE VVITCH

A New England family in the 1600's is pulled apart by the presence of a witch in the forest near their home.

Who will like this movie:
English majors; History majors; horror fans; aspiring Satanists

Who will hate this movie:
People who don't like horror movies; people who generally don't like movies

What I liked about this movie:
The VVitch (pronounced Witch, duh) is an incredibly period accurate horror movie. The dialogue, themes, and even approach to the supernatural are all incredibly specific, and it makes the movie this weird, surreal nightmare.

 
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THE NEON DEMON

A young model in Los Angeles is challenged when a group of her beauty-driven peers decide to take her under their wings.

Who will like this movie:
People who like very pretty movies; people who like very artsy movies

Who will hate this movie:
Everyone else

What I liked about this movie:
This one is tricky, because I'm not actually sure that I even liked this movie. As a matter of fact, when I finished it I thought it was incredibly stupid, but then I keep thinking about this movie and certain scenes from this movie for the next six months so I guess it did a pretty good job at whatever the hell this is?

 
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NOCTURNAL ANIMALS

A jilted author sends his ex-wife a novel about their marriage deteriorating. She reads the book. It's... kinda intense.

Who will like this movie:
People who like thrillers; acting students; people who want to go 'OHHH I GET IT' about four hours after the movie ends

Who will hate this movie:
People who prefer closure in their movies; people who are fundamentally against the concept of recreational reading

What I liked about this movie:
The movie is pretty solid. Like, it's enjoyable enough. The real reason to watch this movie is a breathtakingly intense, unbroken, twenty minute long dialogue scene in which Aaron Taylor-Johnson acts the hell out of the movie and you get really, really uncomfortable. Note: The first ten minutes of this movie are not representative of the whole movie, but it is a nice metaphor for once the movie is over. Don't turn this off five minutes in and assume I'm a weirdo.

 

OUIJA: ORIGIN OF EVIL

A phony psychic brings home a Ouija board that ends up bringing real ghosts in contact with her family.

Who will like this movie:
Horror fans; people who watched horror movies in the 1970's

Who will hate this movie:
People who aren't going to be impressed by the fact that this movie arrived 40 years too late

What I liked about this movie:
Stop laughing and hear me out. Ouija: Origin of Evil is much, much better than it deserves to be. It's an absolutely pitch perfect nod to old horror movies, and does for 1970's studio horror movies what House of the Devil did for 1980's indie horror movies. A fun movie and a terrible film.

 

THE PURGE: ELECTION YEAR

A man protects a Presidential candidate on the one night of the year when all crimes are legal.

Who will like this movie:
People who like action movies, horror movies, and ham-fisted cultural commentary

Who will hate this movie:
High brow filmgoers; people who hate violence

What I liked about this movie:
The Purge movies are all about action, suspense, and absolutely terrible political commentary. That said, they're genuinely so bad that they're fun, and they usually tend to create genuinely unsettling visual images, even if the movie is generally kinda trashy overall.

 

KUBO & THE TWO STRINGS

A young boy searches for a magical suit of armor to help destroy a demon from the past.

Who will like this movie:
Kids; adults; animation lovers; people looking to be marveled by a movie

Who will hate this movie:
People who are cold and dead inside

What I liked about this movie:
This is literally a sleeper hit animated classic. The fact that more people didn't see Kubo is, frankly, a shame. This movie is beautiful and surprisingly thoughtful in a way that most kids movies don't tend to be.

 

LIGHTS OUT

A girl confronts her childhood demons when she investigates a disturbing truth from her past.

Who will like this movie:
Horror fans; people looking for cheap thrills; students looking for a study in how to create movie tension

Who will hate this movie:
Mental health professionals (plot reasons); people who hate jump scares

What I liked about this movie:
I'm biased, because a friend of mine made the original short film that this movie was made from. The film is not objectively great, but it's very, very good at building scares up. If you like tension in your horror movies, this one has it in spades.

 
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MIDNIGHT SPECIAL

A father and son go on the run while being chased by both a cult and the federal government.

Who will like this movie:
Sci-fi lovers; parents looking for a great parent/child movie

Who will hate this movie:
Sci-fi purists; people averse to child actors

What I liked about this movie:
The less you know the better, Midnight Special draws a lot of parallels from Close Encounters of the Third Kind, something that even ends up on the movie's poster. That said, it's soulful in a way that I didn't get from a modern viewing of Close Encounters. I think most everyone can find something to like in this movie.

 

MONEY MONSTER

A TV show host and Wall Street guru is taken hostage on live television by a gunman who lost his savings listening to his advice.

Who will like this movie:
People angry with 'the man' or 'the system'; people who like financial thrillers

Who will hate this movie:
People who read the Wall Street Journal and casually mention their 401Ks.

What I liked about this movie:
Money Monster is a movie that I'm surprised didn't do better in 2016. It's got an excellent cast and a tight premise, but it has a few stumbling blocks that probably stopped audiences from rolling in. Still worth a Friday night rental with some popcorn though.

 

GREEN ROOM

An anti-fascist punk band accidentally takes a gig at a Neo Nazi bar. It doesn't go well.

Who will like this movie:
Fans of punk rock; fans of violent thrillers; Patrick Stewart fans

Who will hate this movie:
Squeamish people; Neo Nazis

What I liked about this movie:
Green Room (one of Anton Yelchin's last movies) is an exciting thriller where the antagonists are much, much smarter than the protagonists. This makes for a tense, scary, violent thriller combined with some kickass punk music.

 

HAIL, CAESAR!

A Hollywood leading man is kidnapped, and it's up to a studio bigwig fixer to bring him back safely.

Who will like this movie:
Fans of the Coen brothers; people familiar with Golden Era movies

Who will hate this movie:
The average moviegoer; people who don't like esoteric dialogue

What I liked about this movie:
I am convinced that Hail, Caesar is an in-joke between the Coen brothers and every person who likes the classic Hollywood cinema of the 40's and 50's. Your enjoyment of this movie is 100% tied to how many movies made before 1965 you've seen. If you haven't seen many... you're probably not going to enjoy the subtle brilliance of this movie.

 

HARDCORE HENRY

A man is revived from the dead to battle a telekinetic warlord. That's in the first five minutes.

Who will like this movie:
Action fans; people who play lots of video games; film students

Who will hate this movie:
People who get motion sickness easily; people who think too much about plotlines

What I liked about this movie:
Hardcore Henry is essentially an hour and a half long tech demo for the concept, 'Wouldn't it be cool if we filmed action scenes in first person so it looked like YOU were doing all the badass stuff?' The plot is thin, but the action is not, including a highly memorable performance by Sharlto Copley as, well, just watch the movie, it's hard to explain.

 

HIGH RISE

As society collapses, a wealthy man sequestered in his private apartment slowly goes insane.

Who will like this movie:
Fans of the book; people who like social commentary; folks who want to see Loki nude a whole bunch

Who will hate this movie:
People who can't handle slow paced character driven stories; people who are Team Thor

What I liked about this movie:
A difficult to adapt novel, High Rise does a pretty good job at bringing a biting social commentary to the screen. The movie is very visually stunning, and Tom Hiddleston seems to be having a blast acting in it.

 

THE INVITATION

A dinner party gets progressively more uncomfortable when one guest suspects the hosts have sinister plans for their guests.

Who will like this movie:
Fans of thrillers and mysteries; people who hate dinner parties

Who will hate this movie:
Your friend who repeatedly tries to guess 'the twist' halfway through the movie

What I liked about this movie:
The Invitation is the second movie on this list that I would encourage you to learn as little about as possible before viewing. Who is being on the level with each other? Is something sinister going on, or is one man just slowly losing his mind? Only one way to find out.

 

THE CONJURING 2

A pair of paranormal investigators travel to England to hunt for a malicious ghost bothering a family.

Who will like this movie:
Horror fans; people who liked the first Conjuring movie

Who will hate this movie:
Anyone who will roll their eyes when you say the word 'ghosts' to them

What I liked about this movie:
The Conjuring is probably the most consistently solid horror franchise currently running, and The Conjuring 2 is no exception. There are several very, very good scenes in this movie, including one so effective that a particular ghost is getting their own movie now. Forget about your preconceived notions and enjoy what will eventually be considered some of the better horror movies of hte decade.

 

DEMOLITION

Following the death of his wife, a man begins systematically remodeling his house and his entire life.

Who will like this movie:
Gyllenholics; fans of darkly funny dramas

Who will hate this movie:
People with a low tolerance for melancholy and slow pacing

What I liked about this movie:
An excellent cast helps to punch up what is otherwise a somewhat average premise. Jake Gyllenhaal is always a great actor, and he seems to be having a blast in this movie that's both sad, dark, and surprisingly sweet.

 

THE GREASY STRANGLER

A father and son duo run a disco club, and soon find themselves competing for the attention of a woman while a serial murderer prowls the town.

Who will like this movie:
I genuinely have no idea

Who will hate this movie:
Virtually everybody

What I liked about this movie:
Every film dork has a 'WELL, HAVE YOU SEEN ____' movie in their back pocket, usually meant to freak out or gross out their friends. I used to have a different one. Now I have The Greasy Strangler. If you're looking to see what your tolerances are for deviant behavior in a movie, this movie will 100% push you to the edge of your comfort zone. If you were to drink a lot of cough syrup and have a really bad nightmare, it would be exactly like this movie. Please don't say I didn't warn you.

 

PREVENGE

An expectant mother is driven to kill by the fetus still in her womb.

Who will like this movie:
Dark comedy fans; pregnant women who want to be neurotic about it; fans of English comedies

Who will hate this movie:
Squeamish people; people who think a murderous telepathic fetus is in bad taste

What I liked about this movie:
Prevenge is a weird movie in that it's funny, disturbing, gruesome, and oddly moving. Somewhat like the 80's classic Basket Case, but with 100% more evil fetuses, Prevenge is a smart and darkly comic thriller that will leave you scratching your head.

 
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COLLATERAL BEAUTY

A struggling businessman attempts to come to terms with the death of his child by writing letters to the universe.

Who will like this movie:
People who want to ugly cry

Who will hate this movie:
People who hate being emotionally manipulated

What I liked about this movie:
This is, 100%, the most divisive movie of 2016. You either really liked it and thought it was touching, or thought it was exploitive and in terrible taste. I haven't met anybody who was just sorta in the middle ground. I personally thought it was a lovely movie, but I also just recommended a telekinetic murdering fetus movie so take that with a grain of salt.