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)

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

This Week in Rankings

Since the last update, I posted my annual randomized Top 100 Films of All-Time list (see also the Seattle Screen Scene Top 100 Films of All-Time Project), wrote about DW Griffith and Intolerance for Movie Mezzanine, wrote about three Sion Sono films for InReview Online (Bicycle Sighs, Suicide Club and Love Exposure) and covered The Age of Shadows and Soulmate at Seattle Screen Scene.

I’m off to Vancouver in a couple of days for the Film Festival (here’s my proposed schedule) and I’ll be writing about what I see there over at Seattle Screen Scene. I’ll have an index over here of my coverage as well of course.

I’ve been watching fewer movies this year, mostly because as my kids get older it’s become easier to read books. I’ve read more this year than the past five years, since kid #1 was born) put together. Here’s a ranked list of what I’ve read (and finished) so far this year:

1. Where I Was From – Joan Didion
2. Slouching Towards Bethlehem – Joan Didion
3. A Death in the Family – James Agee
4. Mrs. Dalloway – Virginia Woolf
5. Harmonium – Wallace Stevens
6. The Souls of Black Folk – WEB DuBois
7. Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
8. Lyrical Ballads (William Wordsworth & Samuel Taylor Coleridge
9. The White Album – Joan Didion
10. Rising from the Plains – John McPhee
11. Lady Susan – Jane Austen
12. A Collection of Essays – George Orwell
13. Violet Energy Ingots – Hoa Nguyen
14. Basin & Range – John McPhee
15. Salvador – Joan Didion
16. In Suspect Terrain – John McPhee
17. Love & Friendship – Whit Stillman
18. The Silk Roads – Peter Frankopan
19. A Galaxy Not So Far Away – Glenn Kenny, et al

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

The Adventures of Dollie (DW Griffith) – 2, 1908
A Corner in Wheat (DW Griffith) – 1, 1909
Those Awful Hats (DW Griffith) – 2, 1909
The Sealed Room (DW Griffith) – 4, 1909
The Unchanging Sea (DW Griffith) – 1, 1910

The Usurer (DW Griffith) – 4, 1910
The Lonedale Operator (DW Griffith) – 1, 1911
Enoch Arden (DW Griffith) – 2, 1911
The Miser’s Heart (DW Griffith) – 3, 1911
His Trust (DW Griffith) – 4, 1911

The Musketeers of Pig-Alley (DW Griffith) – 1, 1912
The Girl and Her Trust (DW Griffith) – 2, 1912
The Massacre (DW Griffith) – 3, 1912
The New York Hat (DW Griffith) – 5, 1912
The Sunbeam (DW Griffith) – 6, 1912

The Painted Lady (DW Griffith) – 7, 1912
Friends (DW Griffith) – 9, 1912
An Unseen Enemy (DW Griffith) – 10, 1912
The Lesser Evil (DW Griffith) – 11, 1912
One is Business, the Other Crime (DW Griffith) – 12, 1912

The Burglar’s Dilemma (DW Griffith) – 13, 1912
Death’s Marathon (DW Griffith) – 3, 1913
The Mothering Heart (DW Griffith) – 4, 1913
The Battle at Elderbush Gulch (DW Griffith) – 6, 1913
The Last Drop of Water (DW Griffith) – 7, 1913

Judith of Bethulia (DW Griffith) – 5, 1914
Intolerance (DW Griffith) – 1, 1916
Hearts of the World (DW Griffith) – 1, 1918
Broken Blossoms (DW Griffith) – 1, 1919
The Fall of Babylon (DW Griffith) – 5, 1919

The Mother and the Law (DW Griffith) – 9, 1919
Isn’t Life Wonderful (DW Griffith) – 5, 1924
America (DW Griffith) – 13, 1924
The Sorrows of Satan (DW Griffith) – 10, 1926

Showgirls (Paul Verhoeven) – 56, 1995
Young and Dangerous 3 (Andrew Lau) – 53, 1996
Time and Tide (Tsui Hark) – 7, 2000
Suicide Club (Sion Sono) – 9, 2001
Shaolin Soccer (Stephen Chow) – 12, 2001

Love Exposure (Sion Sono) – 5, 2008
Viola (Matías Piñeiro) – 11, 2012
Finding Mr. Right (Xue Xiaolu) – 49, 2013
Sully (Clint Eastwood) – 2, 2016
The Age of Shadows (Kim Jee-woon) – 5, 2016

Cameraperson (Kirsten Johnson) – 9, 2016
A Train Arrives at the Station (Thom Andersen) – 16, 2016
From Nine to Nine (Neil Bahadur) – 17, 2016
Ocean Falls (Ryan Ermacora&  Jessica Johnson) – 18, 2016

Soulmate (Derek Tsang) – 20, 2016
From Vegas to Macau III (Wong Jing) – 29, 2016
The Secret Life of Pets (Yarrow Cheney& Chris Renaud) – 32, 2016

This Week in Rankings

Over the several week since the last update, I wrote about Johnnie To’s Three for Mubi, Edward Yang’s A Brighter Summer Day for Movie Mezzanine and Sion Sono’s Bicycle Sighs for InReview Online (link coming soon). Here at The End I counted down the Best Movies of 2016 (So Far) and at Seattle Screen Scene I wrote about a trio of under-the-radar new Chinese releases, Cold War 2, One Night Only and For a Few Bullets, and a pair of American movies: DePalma and Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates. We also released the final episode of The Frances Farmer Show, on Three and Samuel Fuller’s Shock Corridor.

The are the movies I’ve watched and reattached over the last few weeks, and where they place on my year-by-year rankings.

Singin’ in the Rain (Stanley Donen & Gene Kelly) – 1, 1952
Shock Corridor (Samuel Fuller) – 10, 1963
Dragon Gate Inn (King Hu) – 3, 1967
A Touch of Zen (King Hu) – 1, 1971
Scarface (Brian DePalma) – 9, 1983

My Neighbor Totoro (Hayao Miyazaki) – 2, 1988
Bicycle Sighs (Sion Sono) – 42, 1990
A Brighter Summer Day (Edward Yang) – 2, 1991
Love in the Time of Twilight (Tsui Hark) – 10, 1995
Persuasion (Roger Michell) – 15, 1995

Young and Dangerous (Andrew Lau) – 53, 1996
Young and Dangerous 2 (Andrew Lau) – 59, 1996
Yi yi (Edward Yang) – 5, 2000
State and Main (David Mamet) – 17, 2000
Cold War (Longman Leung & Sunny Luk) – 52, 2012

Kaili Blues (Bi Gan) – 18, 2015
Sixty Six (Lewis Klahr) – 23, 2015
Three (Johnnie To) – 3, 2016
OJ: Made in America (Ezra Edelman) – 9, 2016

One Night Only (Matt Wu) – 10, 2016
Cold War 2 (Longman Leung & Sunny Luk) – 19, 2016
Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates (Jake Szymanski) – 22, 2016
For a Few Bullets (Pan Anzi) – 23, 2016

The Best Movies of 2016 (So Far)

We are now halfway through the year and as has become an annual tradition here at The End, it’s time to look back at the best movies of the year so far. As I discussed in the 2013 halfway post, the consensus movie-dating system is nonsensical and posits New York as the center of the universe. Far more logical (and much easier to use) is a system reliant on imdb’s dating system, which locates a film in whatever year it first played for an audience. That’s what we use here for all Rankings & Awards as it’s the most fair to all eras and areas. (A dating system reliant on playing in a certain locality I think can be valuable for a publication that is geographically specific, like a local newspaper or website. We’ll be putting together a Seattle-specific lists for Seattle Screen Scene later this week, for example. But here at The End, we have a global reach.)

A by-product of the system is that a number of films that first go into wide-release in any given year actually had their premiere in the year before. A number of the films on many critics’ halfway-thorough lists include these films, films that find their proper home here on my 2015 list. And so here we have two lists: the Best Movies of 2016, following the strict imdb dating system, and the Best 2015 Movies of 2016, which includes those films from last year that you might find on a more chronologically-illogical list (and despite the title, also includes one film from 1991 and one from 2012, both of which only premiered in New York this year). I also have a third list, Best Unreleased Movies of 2015, of last year’s films that have yet to see a New York release and therefore don’t (yet) exist by the standards of most critics. And a fourth list, a halfway version of my annual Best Older Movies list, counting the top movies I saw for the first time this year that are more than a few years old.

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This Week in Rankings

Since the last update the Seattle International Film Festival has come and gone. My coverage included fifteen reviews, three podcasts and a trio of previews, all at Seattle Screen Scene. I posted the English language version of a short survey of Contemporary Chinese Cinema I wrote for the Estonian arts magazine SIRP and I listed 50 of the Best Chinese Language Films of the 21st Century. Jealous of the massive Hong Sangsoo retrospective going on in New York, I indexed all of my writing and podcasting on Hong and resurrected a lost podcast episode I helped record last year on Hong and Oki’s Movie. And, with the festival over, I finally was able to watch and review my much-anticipated English-subtitled DVD of Jiang Wen’s 2014 film Gone with the Bullets.

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

The General (Buster Keaton & Clyde Bruckman) – 1, 1926
The Big Road (Sun Yu) – 6, 1935
Merbabies (Vernon Stallings & Rudolf Ising) – 23, 1938
Heaven Can Wait (Ernst Lubitsch) – 4, 1943
A Scandal in Paris (Douglas Sirk) – 13, 1946

Singin’ in the Rain (Stanley Donen & Gene Kelly) – 1, 1952
Los tallos amargos (Fernando Ayala) – 22, 1956
Chimes at Midnight (Orson Welles) – 2, 1965
Dragon Gate Inn (King Hu) – 3, 1967
Distant Voices, Still Lives (Terence Davies) – 1, 1988

The Long Day Closes (Terence Davies) – 6, 1992
Cure (Kiyoshi Kurosawa) – 9, 1997
Pulse (Kiyoshi Kurosawa) – 12, 2001
Tokyo Sonata (Kiyoshi Kurosawa) – 6, 2008
575 Castro St. (Jenni Olson) – 18, 2009
Gone with the Bullets (Jiang Wen) – 26, 2014

Sunset Song (Terence Davies) – 11, 2015
Murmur of the Hearts (Sylvia Chang) – 24, 2015
De Palma (Noah Baumbach & Jake Paltrow) – 47, 2015
Concerto: A Beethoven Journey (Phil Grabsky) – 58, 2015
Thithi (Raam Reddy) – 63, 2015

Tag (Sion Sono) – 74, 2015
The Island Funeral (Pimpka Towira) – 83, 2015
Ten Years (Various) – 91, 2015
The 1000 Eyes of Dr. Maddin (Yves Montmayeur) – 99, 2015
The Final Master (Xu Haofeng) – 114, 2015

Love & Friendship (Whit Stillman) – 1, 2016
Three (Johnnie To) – 3, 2016
A Bride for Rip Van Winkle (Shunji Iwai) – 7, 2016
Trivisa (Jevons Au, Frank Hui & Vicky Wong) – 8, 2016
Creepy (Kiyoshi Kurosawa) – 9, 2016

My Beloved Bodyguard (Sammo Hung) – 10, 2016
Lo and Behold: Reveries of a Connected World (Werner Herzog) – 11, 2016
The Mobfathers (Herman Yau) – 14, 2016
The Seasons in Quincy (Tilda Swinton, et al) – 15, 2016
In a Valley of Violence (Ti West) – 20, 2016

This Week in Rankings

With the Seattle International Film Festival just around the corner, I’ve been spending the last couple of weeks reading actual books (Joan Didion, John McPhee and James Agee) and watching baseball (and playing Out of the Park) rather than watching movies, trying to save up energy for the endless slog that is the world’s most exhausting film festival. But before that little break, I did write some stuff: I watched a bunch of Chinese language films from 1996 to compile an Underrated ’96 piece for Rupert Pupkin Speaks, including Johnnie To’s A Moment of Romance III. I wrote about Richard Linklater’s Everybody Wants Some!! and Alexander Sokurov’s Francofonia for Seattle Screen Scene, along with the Chinese thriller Chongqing Hot PotI also wrote about the state of Chinese cinema for the Estonian magazine Sirp. You can read it here in Estonian, I plan to publish the original English version in a few days.

Since the last update we’ve done four episodes of The Frances Farmer ShowMysterious Object at Noon and Gates of the NightProspero’s Books and The Princess of FranceYouth of the Beast and Sonatine, and A Brighter Summer Day, SPL 2 and Purple Rain.

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

Gates of the Night (Marcel Carné) – 14, 1946
Dirty Gertie from Harlem USA (Spencer Williams) – 17, 1946
Youth of the Beast (Seijun Suzuki) – 15, 1963
Battles Without Honor and Humanity (Kinji Fukasaku) – 6, 1973
Deadly Fight in Hiroshima (Kinji Fukasaku) – 12, 1973

Proxy War (Kinji Fukasaku) – 21, 1973
Final Episode (Kinji Fukasaku) – 18, 1974
Police Tactics (Kinji Fukasaku) – 31, 1974
Purple Rain (Albert Magnoli) – 12, 1984
Under the Cherry Moon (Prince) – 30, 1986

Violent Cop (Takeshi Kitano) – 19, 1989
A Brighter Summer Day (Edward Yang) – 2, 1991
Prospero’s Books (Peter Greenaway) – 7, 1991
Sonatine (Takeshi Kitano) – 9, 1993

Mahjong (Edward Yang) – 2, 1996
Viva Erotica (Derek Yee & Law Chi-leung) – 8, 1996
Stage Door (Shu Kei) – 21, 1996
Beyond Hypothermia (Patrick Leung) – 22, 1996
Ebola Syndrome (Herman Yau) – 28, 1996

Big Bullet (Benny Chan) – 31, 1996
Black Mask (Daniel Lee) -41,  1996
A Moment of Romance III (Johnnie To) – 42, 1996
The Stunt Woman (Ann Hui) – 47, 1996
Dr. Wai in “The Scripture with No Words” (Ching Siu-tung) – 49, 1996

Shanghai Grand (Poon Man-kit) – 57, 1996
Twinkle Twinkle Lucky Star (Wong Jing) – 66, 1996
Yes, Madam 5 (Lau Shing) – 78, 1996
Mysterious Object at Noon (Apichatpong Weerasethakul) – 15, 2000
The Princess of France (Matías Piñeiro) – 40, 2014

Cemetery of Splendour (Apichatpong Weerasethakul) – 13, 2015
SPL 2: A Time for Consequences (Soi Cheang) – 14, 2015
The Force Awakens (JJ Abrams) – 20, 2015
Francofonia (Alexander Sokurov) – 72, 2015

Lemonade (Beyoncé Knowles & Jonas Åkerlund) – 1, 2016
Everybody Wants Some!! (Richard Linklater) – 2, 2016
Chongqing Hot Pot (Yang Qing) – 6, 2016
Confirmation (Rick Famuyiwa) – 10, 2016
Get a Job (Dylan Kidd) – 11, 2016