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Top 10 films of 2016

By Dave Schneider

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Every December, I put together my list of top 10 movies for the year. Usually I've missed a couple that would probably make the list, and this year is no different – The Birth of a Nation; Snowden and Weiner, to name three. Nevertheless, here's my Top 10 of 2016:

10. Captain America: Civil War - Crossover superhero blockbusters are almost out of steam, suffering from what Marx called a crisis of over-production. Somehow the third Captain America installment managed to stay afloat by introducing a new Spider-Man (not a joke) and Black Panther, whose solo movie became one of 2017's most anticipated.

9. The Conjuring 2 - The scares don't feel as fresh this time around, but I know I'm not the only one who enjoyed the film's latent critique of Margaret Thatcher. The Iron Lady inflicted far more horrors on working families than the movie's demonic nun ever could, and the film's focus on the haunting of a working class single-mother household in 1980s Britain drives this point home.

8. Green Room - This survival thriller about a punk band hunted by neo-Nazis seemed a little too real in a year marked by the rise of white nationalist groups connected to the Trump phenomenon... and that's exactly what made it an effective horror flick.

7. ARQ - Netflix killed it in 2016 with the best original content of any channel or platform in the game. While TV series like the Get Down; Stranger Things and 3% stood tall, ARQ delivered the year's best original sci-fi movie. It draws on the best elements of Primer; Edge of Tomorrow, and the Mockingjay Part 1 while packing a punch all on its own merits.

6. Money Monster - It's rare to walk into a movie you know nothing about anymore – and even rarer to discover you're watching a sharp anti-Wall Street political thriller. To put it another way, you won't find many blockbusters that explain imperialism this well, linking together stock market crashes, poverty in the U.S. and a South African mine workers strike.

5. 10 Cloverfield Lane - Sharing only a title, this survival thriller far surpasses JJ Abrams' very flawed 2008 found-footage blockbuster, Cloverfield. On one hand, it keeps the stakes high with genuine curveball plot twists instead of gimmicks. But the film also works as a surprisingly uplifting allegory about domestic abuse and the struggles that survivors face.

4. Deadpool - Talk about flipping the script. Comedy trailers have a well-deserved reputation for showing us all the best parts of otherwise unfunny movies (see Adam Sandler's The Wedding Singer for details). Deadpool's trailer, in contrast, made a surprisingly clever and original superhero film look like a shameless cash-grab full of migraine-inducing nerd comedy and hipster cynicism. Another reminder that I should have stopped doubting Ryan Reynolds after Buried in 2010.

3. The Purge: Election Year- I almost couldn't believe a major studio financed this movie. The third installment of the Purge series, which gets better with every installment, contains the most revolutionary politics I've seen in a blockbuster horror flick. Trump's 2016 win renders the film's sequel-teasing ending all the more terrifying.

2. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story - One of the few examples of a prequel improving the entire series. It shows us the struggle against the Empire from the perspective of ordinary people and rank-and-file fighters – something missing from all other Star Wars films – and its dark political underpinnings make the very first film, A New Hope, much more compelling.

1. Free State of Jones - I wrote a full review for Fight Back! earlier in the year. It's as much a work of revolutionary political theory as it is a historical civil war drama. One of the most important films of the last 25 years.

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