A Top 50 Films of 2016, More or Less

As I did last year and the year before, I’m making a Best of the Year list following the conventional system for what counts as a 2016 film, mainly the nonsensical and ahistorical system that decrees that critics may only consider movies to have existed once they have played for a week in a commercial venue in New York City, or, in a new twist this year, on a television or streaming service in New York. This is the system that claims my favorite film of 2013 (La última película), which played for a week in Seattle in 2014, can only be considered a 2015 film because that is when it finally got a New York release, although it played Los Angeles for the first time in 2016. Not to mention the absurdity that my favorite film from 1991, Isao Takahata’s Only Yesterday, qualifies for this list, along with a 30 year old Edward Yang movie and an Apichatpong Weerasethakul movie I saw in Vancouver in 2012. But alas, we all must bow to convention, however silly, every once in awhile.

My 2016 list of course will never be finalized, as there’s no such thing as a final list here at The End: there are always more new movies to discover and old movies to reevaluate. But in a couple of weeks I’ll have the nominations up for the 2016 Endy Awards, with the winners to be announced during the Academy Awards ceremony. This list is a snapshot of my favorites of 2016 as they stand now, on the last day of the year.

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1. Only Yesterday (Isao Takahata)

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2. Paterson (Jim Jarmusch)

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3. Love & Friendship (Whit Stillman)

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4. Toni Erdmann (Maren Ade)

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5. Mountains May Depart (Jia Zhangke)

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6. Elle (Paul Verhoeven)

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7. Lemonade (Beyoncé Knowles & Kahlil Joseph)

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8. Things to Come Mia Hansen-Løve)

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9. SPL 2: A Time for Consequences (Soi Cheang)

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10. Cemetery of Splendor (Apichatpong Weerasethakul)

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11. Moonlight (Barry Jenkins)

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12. Sully (Clint Eastwood)

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13. Sunset Song (Terence Davies)

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14. The Love Witch (Anna Biller)

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15. The Terrorizers (Edward Yang)

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16. Three (Johnnie To)

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17. Kaili Blues (Bi Gan)

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18. Right Now, Wrong Then (Hong Sangsoo)

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19. Everybody Wants Some!! (Richard Linklater)

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20. The Mermaid (Stephen Chow)

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21. Ae Dil Hai Mushkil (Karan Johar)

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22. The Age of Shadows (Kim Ji-woon)

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23. Knight of Cups (Terrence Malick)

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24. The Thoughts that Once We Had (Thom Andersen)

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25. Mekong Hotel (Apichatpong Weerasethakul)

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26. Hail, Caesar! (The Coen Brothers)

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27. Crosscurrent (Yang Chao)

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28. The Edge of Seventeen (Kelly Fremon Craig)

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29. I Am Not Madame Bovary (Feng Xiaogang)

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30. The Shallows (Jaume Collet-Serra)

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31. Tower (Keith Maitland)

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32. Rogue One (Gareth Edwards)

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33. Cameraperson (Kirsten Johnson)

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34. Certain Women (Kelly Reichardt)

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35. Train to Busan (Yeon Sangho)

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36. OJ: Made in America (Ezra Edelman)

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37. De Palma (Noah Baumbach & Jake Paltrow)

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38. Manchester by the Sea (Kenneth Lonergan)

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39. Short Stay (Ted Fendt)

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40. Aquarius (Kleber Mendonça Filho)

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41. The Witch (Robert Eggers)

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42. My Beloved Bodyguard (Sammo Hung)

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43. A Train Arrives at the Station (Thom Andersen)

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44. The Wasted Times (Cheng Er)

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45. One Night Only (Matt Wu)

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46. Indefinite Pitch (James Kienitz Wilkins)

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47. SoulMate (Derek Tsang)

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48. Call of Heroes (Benny Chan)

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49. Garfunkel and Oates: Trying to Be Special (Riki Lindhome & Jeremy Konner)

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50. La La Land (Damien Chazelle)

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Books of 2016

2016 was the first time since I started writing about movies on the internet that I averaged less than one film watched per day, with somewhere around 320 movies seen over the course of the year. Some of that is schedule-related: my kids are at such an age that watching a single movie in one sitting is difficult, let alone the two or three per day I could squeeze in when they were less ambulatory. But some of that is also a shifting of priorities: I read (and finished) more books this year than I had in all my five plus years of parenthood put together. And since this is the end of the year, and since I love to make lists, here is a ranked list of all the books I read (and finished) in 2016:

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1. Where I Was From – Joan Didion

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2. Slouching Towards Bethlehem – Joan Didion

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3. A Death in the Family – James Agee

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4. Mrs. Dalloway – Virginia Woolf

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5. Annals of the Former World – John McPhee

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6. The Fire Next Time – James Baldwin

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7. The Proud Tower – Barbara Tuchman

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8. Harmonium – Wallace Stevens

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9. Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad

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10. Lyrical Ballads – William Wordsworth & Samuel Taylor Coleridge

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11. The White Album – Joan Didion

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12. White Teeth – Zadie Smith

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13. The Souls of Black Folk – WEB DuBois

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14. Eminent Victorians – Lytton Strachey

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15. A Collection of Essays – George Orwell

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16. Meditations in an Emergency – Frank O’Hara

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17. Lady Susan – Jane Austen

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18. Salvador – Joan Didion

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19. Justine – Lawrence Durrell

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20. Violet Energy Ingots – Hoa Nguyen

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21. Kora in Hell : Improvisations – William Carlos Williams

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22. 1177 BC: The Year Civilization Collapsed – Eric Cline

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23. Love & Friendship – Whit Stillman

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24. The Silk Roads – Peter Frankopan

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25. A Galaxy Not So Far Away – Glenn Kenny, et al

The Best Older Movies I Saw in 2016

An annual tradition here at The End, this is a look at my favorite film discoveries of the year, any movie more than a few years old that I saw for the first time in 2016. Previous years include: 201520142013201220112010200920082007, and 2006. I watched 320 or so movies in 2016, less than one third of which qualified for this list. Here are 60 that I liked.

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1. Mahjong (Edward Yang, 1996)

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2. Love Exposure (Sion Sono, 2008)

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3. Canyon Passage (Jacques Tourneur, 1946)

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4. The Yakuza Papers (Kinji Fukasaku, 1973-74)

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5. Distant Voices, Still Lives (Terence Davies, 1988)

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6. School on Fire (Ringo Lam, 1988)

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7. Viva Erotica (Derek Yee & Law Ch-leung, 1996)

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8. Tokyo Sonata (Kiyoshi Kurosawa, 2008)

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9. Isn’t Life Wonderful (DW Griffith, 1924)

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10. La bête humaine (Jean Renoir, 1938)

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11. The Long Day Closes (Terence Davies, 1992)

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12. Prospero’s Books (Peter Greenaway, 1991)

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13. Duelle (Jacques Rivette, 1976)

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14. Phantoms of Nabua (Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2009)

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15. Sonatine (Takeshi Kitano, 1993)

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16. The Big Road (Sun Yu, 1935)

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17. Viola (Matías Piñeiro, 2012)

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18. Suicide Club (Sion Sono, 2001)

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19. Persuasion (Roger Michell, 1995)

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20. Swamp Water (Jean Renoir, 1941)

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21. Noroît (Jacques Rivette, 1976)

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22. The God of Cookery (Stephen Chow, 1996)

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23. Violent Cop (Takeshi Kitano, 1989)

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24. Dirty Gertie from Harlem USA (Spencer Williams, 1946)

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25. Cure (Kiyoshi Kurosawa, 1997)

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26. The Unchanging Sea (DW Griffith, 1910)

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27. Pulse (Kiyoshi Kurosawa, 2001)

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28. La chienne (Jean Renoir, 1931)

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29. Burning Paradise in Hell (Ringo Lam, 1994)

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30. Hearts of the World (DW Griffith, 1918)

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31. Medicine for Melancholy (Barry Jenkins, 2008)

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32. The Golden Coach (Jean Renoir, 1952)

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33. Beyond Hypothermia (Patrick Leung, 1996)

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34. Under the Cherry Moon (Prince, 1986)

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35. The Bitter Stems (Fernando Ayala, 1956)

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36. The Stunt Woman (Ann Hui, 1996)

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37. The Anthem (Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2006)

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38. The Razor’s Edge (Edmund Goulding, 1946)

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39. So Dark the Night (Joseph H. Lewis, 1946)

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40. Ebola Syndrome (Herman Yau, 1996)

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41. Viva (Anna Biller, 2007)

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42. Youth of the Beast (Seijun Suzuki, 1963)

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43. Looking for Mr. Perfect (Ringo Lam, 2003)

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44. Gates of the Night (Marcel Carné, 1946)

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45. Stage Door (Shu Kei, 1996)

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46. Wishful Drinking (Fenton Bailey & Randy Barbato, 2010)

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47. Desk Set (Walter Lang, 1957)

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48. Bastards (Claire Denis, 2013)

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49. Death Duel (Chor Yuen, 1977)

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50. A Letter to Uncle Boonmee (Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2009)

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51. Big Bullet (Benny Chan, 1996)

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52. The Flame and the Arrow (Jacques Tourneur, 1950)

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53. Young and Dangerous 3 (Andrew Lau, 1996)

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54. The Sorrows of Satan (DW Griffith, 1926)

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55. The Black Pirate (Albert Parker, 1926)

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56. Shanghai Grand (Poon Man-kit, 1996)

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57. Mysterious Object at Noon (Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2000)

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58. Mismatched Couples (Yuen Woo-ping, 1985)

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59. The Fun, The Luck and The Tycoon (Johnnie To, 1990)

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60. Prison on Fire II (Ringo Lam, 1991)

This Week in Rankings

We’re coming down to the end of 2016 (at last!) and so here’s one last rankings update before all the lists and whatnot at the end of December. Since my last update I’ve written about I am Not Madame Bovary and Old Stone at Seattle Screen Scene and Sky on Fire at MUBI. I also appeared on the Snakes and Funerals podcast talking about Jean Renoir’s American Films.

These are the movies I’ve watched or rewatched over the last few weeks and where they place on my year-by-year rankings.

La chienne (Jean Renoir) – 10, 1931
La bête humaine (Jean Renoir) – 4, 1938
Swamp Water (Jean Renoir) – 12, 1941
The Southerner (Jean Renoir) – 6, 1945
The Woman on the Beach (Jean Renoir) – 9, 1947

The Golden Coach (Jean Renoir) – 9, 1952
Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr. Leonard Cohen (Donald Brittain & Don Owen) – 31, 1965
It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (Bill Melendez) – 4, 1966
Death Duel (Chor Yuen) – 17, 1977
City on Fire (Ringo Lam) – 4, 1987

School on Fire (Ringo Lam) – 3, 1988
Songs from the Life of Leonard Cohen (Bob Portway) – 41, 1988
Wild Search (Ringo Lam) – 46, 1989
Prison on Fire II (Ringo Lam) – 24, 1991
Touch and Go (Ringo Lam) – 58, 1991

Burning Paradise in Hell (Ringo Lam) – 24, 1994
The Adventurers (Ringo Lam) – 89, 1995
The Suspect (Ringo Lam) – 59, 1998
The Victim (Ringo Lam) – 53, 1999
Looking for Mr. Perfect (Ringo Lam) – 26, 2003

Leonard Cohen: Under Review: 1934-1977 – 44, 2006
Rat Film (Theo Anthony) – 24, 2016
The Shallows (Jaume Collet-Serra) – 29, 2016
I am Not Madame Bovary (Feng Xiaogang) – 33, 2016
Certain Women (Kelly Reichardt) – 34, 2016

Call of Heroes (Benny Chan) – 46, 2016
La La Land (Damien Chazelle) – 53, 2016
Old Stone (Johnny Ma) – 58, 2016
The Handmaiden (Park Chanwook) – 64, 2016
Arrival (Denis Villeneuve) – 68, 2016

Hamilton’s America (Alex Horwitz) – 73, 2016
Sky on Fire (Ringo Lam) – 83, 2016
Ghostbusters (Paul Feig) – 84, 2016
Doctor Strange (Scott Derrickson) – 89, 2016