With so many excellent films hitting theaters in 2016, there’s a good chance that some may have gone by overlooked. While these under-the-radar movies weren’t major box office hits, that doesn’t mean that they aren’t worth watching. All of these features, ranging from indie dramas to animated flicks, earned great reviews, but didn’t get the mainstream attention they deserved. Below, check out 11 of the most underrated movies of the year:
1. The Nice Guys
Shane Black’s action comedy stars Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling as a pair of 1977 Los Angeles private detectives who team up to investigate the disappearance of a teenage girl. Despite its charismatic leads and high critical praise, the movie underperformed at the box office, earning just $50 million against a $57 million budget. To be fair, it was up against some stiff competition (Captain America: Civil War debuted two weeks beforehand).
But if you missed it in theaters, it’s definitely worth a watch ASAP. In addition to the irresistible chemistry between the leads, the film operates off a funny and funny script and features a scene-stealing performance from young actress, Angourie Rice.
2. Sing Street
Set in 1980s Dublin, this musical comedy drama stars Ferdia Walsh-Peelo as Conor, a 14-year-old boy who escapes his strained family life by starting a band to impress the girl he likes. Though the movie made a relatively quiet debut at the box office, it earned overwhelmingly positive reviews — and for good reason. Sing Street is a charming and sweetly funny film that manages to feel both personal and universal in its message about the power of music.
3. Kubo and the Two Strings
The animated flick, set in Japan, follows the story of a young boy named Kubo who must locate his late father’s magical suit of armor in order to defeat a vengeful spirit from the past. While the movie (which features the voices of Art Parkinson, Charlize Theron, Ralph Fiennes, and Rooney Mara) didn’t make as big of a splash as some of this year’s other animated titles, that doesn’t mean it has less to offer. Packed with vibrant and thrilling visuals, the film delivers a compelling and adventure-filled story that will appeal to all ages.
4. Hunt for the Wilderpeople
Taika Waititi is the director behind Marvel’s anticipated Thor: Ragnarok (due out next year), but movie buffs shouldn’t wait until then to check out his work. The director delivered an underrated gem this year with the delightful coming-of-age dramedy, Hunt for the Wilderpeople.
The film follows a young orphan who gets adopted by a gruff New Zealand outdoor enthusiast and his wife. Grounded by strong performances from stars Julian Dennison and Sam Neill, the quirky flick is full of heart and offbeat humor that the whole family can enjoy.
5. Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping
The Lonely Island’s mockumentary that pokes fun at the self-indulgent music industry and some of its current stars, was one of the biggest box office bombs of the year. But even though it failed to strike a chord with mainstream audiences at theaters, that doesn’t mean it’s not worth giving a second look. While it’s not their best work to date, the spoof film is just as funny and entertaining as you’d expect a film from Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer, and Jorma Taccone to be. Plus, it delivers some well-placed jabs at today’s celebrity and social media obsessed culture.
6. Blue Jay
Sarah Paulson had a pretty stellar year, starring in both the critically acclaimed The People vs. OJ Simpson: American Crime Story and the highly hyped American Horror Story: Roanoke. Though it’s easy to see how those prolific TV roles overshadowed her feature work, this indie drama, in which Paulson co-stars opposite Mark Duplass, also deserves its fair share of attention.
In the movie, the duo play two former high school sweethearts who meet by chance when they return to their tiny California hometown and begin to reflect on their shared past. The result is a quiet but moving film that serves as a great vehicle for Paulson’s boundless talent. You can watch the beautifully acted title on Netflix now.
7. Green Room
This R-rated horror thriller stars the late, great Anton Yelchin in one of his final roles. The film follows a punk rock band who must fight to survive against a group of murderous white supremacists after witnessing a violent act at a remote Oregon roadhouse. Brilliantly crafted, the movie is one of those rare genre movies that maintains just the right amount of tension, keeping you consistently engaged throughout and then bringing you to the edge of your seat at perfectly timed moments. The propulsive plot and superb cast make this low-budget film only more worthy of your time and attention.
8. Queen of Katwe
Both Lupita Nyong’o and David Oyelowo deliver outstanding performances in this feel-good Disney movie about a young girl from the streets of rural Uganda whose world rapidly changes when she is introduced to the game of chess. Based on a true story, the under-seen biographical drama delivers a passionate and joyous story about triumphing against all odds.
9. Everybody Wants Some!!
Richard Linklater, the director behind Dazed and Confused and Boyhood, brought audiences another solid comedy this year with Everybody Wants Some!!. Set in 1980, the movie follows a group of college baseball players as they navigate their way through the freedoms and responsibilities of unsupervised adulthood. Though the film was only released in limited theaters, it’s one that’s worth going out of your way to see. Featuring a talented ensemble cast and a great soundtrack, the movie is an endearing and winningly nostalgic portrayal of youth and the journey of adolescence.
The Keegan Michael-Key and Jordan Peele starrer follows two friends who pose as drug dealers in order to get back a stolen cat. The action comedy disappointed at the box office earlier this year, perhaps because audiences just couldn’t buy into its absurd premise. But while the story may be ridiculous (even for Key and Peele), the movie is nonetheless wildly entertaining. Buoyed by the comedic chemistry between its two leads, audiences will find that the film delivers more highs than lows and plenty of laughs to boot.
11. Love & Friendship
It’s been a while since we’ve seen Kate Beckinsale in a good movie, but this period comedy surpasses expectations, even if it wasn’t widely seen. Written and directed by Whit Stillman, Love & Friendship stars the actress as the wry and calculating Lady Susan, who pursues the wealthy and hapless Sir James for a marriage originally intended for her daughter. Filled with snappy dialogue and boosted by a great cast, the movie makes for a delightful and hilarious charming adaptation of Jane Austen’s work.
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