The return of a heavy-breathing dark lord, first contact like we’ve never seen it before, a humanitarian scrapping with a CGI bear, a 20-storey Paul Rudd – it’s safe to say that in 2016, we’ve seen it all.
While the quality of 2016’s biggest movies has – most would agree – been a little lacking when compared to recent years, overall this has been a cracking 12 months for quality cinema.
No matter the scope, budget or even the overall quality, the year has provided a wealth of memorable cinematic moments. In no particular order, here are our favourites.
– Harrison Ford punched Ryan Gosling in the face on set of Blade Runner 2
– Hugh Jackman took Logan pay cut to ensure final Wolverine film will be R-rated
– Vin Diesel teases Guardians of the Galaxy spin-off starring Groot and Rocket
Warning: spoilers follow.
Airport Battle (‘Captain America: Civil War’)
Marvel Studios’ titanic superhero clash hinged on how it would realise the promised fight between its most popular heroes. With all the pieces in place and the line drawn between Team Cap and Team Iron Man – the titular war did not disappoint.
Tom Holland’s Spider-Man nearly stole the show, but each character had their moment to shine. The highlight was Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) becoming Giant-Man for the first time, turning the tide of the fight and providing a distraction.
Taking on Tony Stark’s collective forces, the giant was eventually felled when Spidey (inspired by “really old movie” ‘The Empire Strikes Back’) comes up with the idea to trip him up like an AT-AT.
A Marvel fight fans won’t soon forget.
Drive It Like You Stole It (‘Sing Street’)
John Carney just can’t stop making delightful films. ‘Once’ was an indie gem that provided the Academy Awards with one of its greatest ever moments, and ‘Begin Again’ was a lovely rom-com that deserved to do better.
‘Sing Street’ is the director’s finest hour however: a joyful ode to 80s music charting the musical journey of a young lad growing up in Dublin. The film’s greatest asset is Carney’s song-writing, which switches genre and style on a dime.
The highlight is when Sing Street (the in-film band) film the video for ‘Drive Live You Stole It’. We see the video as envisioned by frontman Conor, which is a glorious tribute inspired by 80s cinema like ‘Back to the Future’.
Vader Returns (‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’)
Those who have seen the film will know precisely the scene we’re including on this list, but don’t worry, we won’t spoil a thing about the latest ‘Star Wars’ film that hasn’t been seen in its marketing material.
Vader’s return has been heavily advertised for this prequel set mere weeks before ‘A New Hope’. Some may have feared he’d be crammed in to hog the limelight, but director Gareth Edwards used the iconic villain perfectly.
Lord Vader features for only a few minutes overall, but makes a huge impact without ever stealing the show in any way that negatively effects the film’s new characters.
Sabotage (‘Star Trek Beyond’)
It has absolutely no right to work, but somehow the USS Enterprise blasting out Beastie Boys to destroy a swarm of space ships controlled by Idris Elba’s Krall works wonderfully in Justin Lin’s ‘Star Trek Beyond’.
When the film’s first trailer landed, many took exception to the use of 90s hit ‘Sabotage’ as a callback to its memorable use at the start of J.J. Abrams’ 2009 reboot.
In the film however it works excellently, in large because, in the build-up to the moment, most of the audience will be thinking: “No, they wouldn’t. Would they?” They did, and it was fantastic.
Denis Villeneuve’s instant sci-fi classic manages to take a tale many thought wouldn’t translate to film, about a scenario we’ve seen depicted countless times on the big screen and make it work.
There are many incredible moments in the film – chiefly the final twist, which we don’t wish to spoil – so instead we’ve picked the first time Amy Adams’ linguist boards one of the alien ships that have parked around the globe.
Villeneuve’s direction builds tension as she first encounters the aliens, Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner’s performances build anticipation and trepidation ahead of their arrival, and Jóhann Jóhannsson’s extraordinary score ties it all together.
Black Phillip (‘The Witch’)
It’s often difficult for horror films to stand out from the crowd or provide something different in a crowded genre, but ‘The Witch’ managed both for many reasons – not least Black Phillip.
Black Phillip is a goat. A genuinely terrifying goat at the centre of a story set in 17th century America about a small family setting up a farm on the edge of a large, foreboding forest.
It’s a horror film, so in the final act we learn of the great evil residing in that forest and do so through Black Phillip – who reveals his satanic nature.
Bare Necessities (‘The Jungle Book’)
On a lighter note, one of the year’s big success stories was Jon Favreau’s ‘The Jungle Book’ – which retold a classic story through the prism of both Disney’s famed animated film and Rudyard Kipling’s original story.
The balance it strikes between the two is perfect, and aided by fantastic performances from young human star Neel Sethi and a wonderful voice cast including Idris Elba, Lupita Nyong’o and, of course, Bill Murray.
Bill Murray proves he was born to play Baloo the bear, and in the film’s best callback to the famed animation, he and man-cub Mowgli sing The Bare Necessities as they float down a gorgeous jungle river.
Would That It Were So Simple (‘Hail Caesar!’)
Spectacle, terror and joy have dominated this list so far, so here’s a scene entirely about clever writing and excellent performances.
When Western star Hobie Doyle (Alden Ehrenreich) is cast in a period drama for posh director Laurence Laurentz (Ralph Fiennes) the two men for very different cinematic backgrounds clash wonderfully.
Doyle’s inability to ‘properly’ pronounce the phrase “Would that it were so simple” winds Laurentz (or Laurence, we can use Christian names my good dear boy) up no end. Two masterful comic performances.
You’re Welcome (‘Moana’)
Disney’s latest is a trope-skewing wonder that tells a story with a contemporary edge while also adhering to everything that makes Disney animations so wonderfully timeless.
As with ‘Frozen’, ‘Aladdin’, ‘The Lion King’ and countless others, the songs in ‘Moana’ are fantastic. There are many great songs written by ‘Hamilton’s Lin-Manuel Miranda, but we’ve gone for ‘You’re Welcome’.
Dwayne Johnson’s demi-God Maui is the irritating, mainsplaining type and ‘You’re Welcome’ captures the spirit of a character that thinks he’s his own gift to the world. It’s also a thrill to hear The Rock sing a Disney number.
Leo vs The Bear (‘The Revenant’)
Leonardo DiCaprio’s long road to Oscar glory saw him play an African gun-runner, a drug-addled stock-broker and Howard Hughes before he finally won a Best Actor Academy Award for his role in ‘The Revenant’.
Oscar-voters love seeing actors suffer for their craft and it’s down this path that Leo finally found success. And suffer he certainly did on the gruelling set of Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s revenge tale.
While Leo himself went through worse hardships than mock-fighting a CGI bear, his character went through no worse hell than the bloody and viscous attack that very nearly killed him and set the film’s events in motion.