A to Z of the 20 best films of 2016 ... so far, from Anomalisa to Trivisa

Movies from Hollywood, Hong Kong, China, Japan and elsewhere make our cut, with memorable performances from the likes of Brie Larson, Michael Fassbender, Saoirse Ronan, Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 30 June, 2016, 12:32pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 30 June, 2016, 12:32pm

The year 2016 is half over and, putting aside the disappointing quality of the many blockbuster sequels, it’s been a splendid year of movie-going. Here are 20 of the best films released in Hong Kong cinemas in the past six months. It would be easy to recommend at least a dozen more. (And don’t miss our list of 20 of the year’s worst releases so far.)

45 Years

Acting doesn’t get more nuanced than in this sublime marital drama by Andrew Haigh. Flawlessly played by Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay, the couple’s attempts to cope with a haunting secret from the past prove utterly devastating. Read the full review

100 Yen Love

As Japan’s nominee for the 2016 best foreign language film Oscar, Masaharu Take’s indie hit goes from the utterly glum to the ecstatically stirring in its story about a reclusive woman who belatedly finds her worth in amateur boxing. Read the full review

Anomalisa

A stop-motion animation set in a drab hotel, Charlie Kaufman’s romance is also a profound undertaking that alternately sheds light on and poses new questions about the human condition. A one-of-a-kind masterpiece. Read the full review

April and the Extraordinary World

The wildly imaginative vision of the French graphic novelist Jacques Tardi is given vivid life in this hand-drawn animation, which follows a young woman and her talking cat as they navigate an alternate Paris that’s still stuck in the Age of Steam. Read the full review

Brooklyn

Saoirse Ronan might have missed out on the best actress Oscar, but her stunning performance as an Irish immigrant in 1950s New York still provides the emotional anchor in Nick Hornby’s marvellous adaptation of Colm Tóibín’s novel. Read the full review

Captain America: Civil War

Marvel fans couldn’t have hoped for a better appetiser to the two-part Avengers: Infinity War than this superhero extravaganza, which pits Cap against Iron Man in a thoroughly engaging way that Batman and Superman could only dream of. Read the full review

Carol

Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara leave an indelible impression as a pair of lesbian lovers in 1950s Manhattan in this utterly enthralling film by Todd Haynes. His portrayal of longing and desire against social norms is as timely as it is timeless. Read the full review

Dheepan

A trio of immigrants who fled the Sri Lankan civil war form a surrogate family in Jacques Audiard’s Palme d’Or winner, which powerfully reveals the emotional scars that remain in these new residents of a crime-ridden Parisian suburb. Read the full review

Eye in the Sky

Featuring Alan Rickman’s final role, Gavin Hood’s drone warfare drama is intriguingly structured and expertly executed, and wholeheartedly embraces the moral complexities of one of the most divisive issues of modern military combat. Read the full review

The Handmaiden

Billed by some as a lurid lesbian potboiler when it premiered in Cannes, The Handmaiden is much more lavish than this reductive description suggests. Boldly crafted, assuredly told, it’s another splendid work from Park Chan-wook. Read the full review

I Am A Hero

At long last a worthy new entry in the slumping zombie movie genre, Shinsuke Sato’s hugely satisfying manga adaptation follows a few morally ambiguous characters as they look to fend off a zombie apocalypse. A must-see for horror fans. Read the full review

The Jungle Book

Having spawned Disney’s animated wonder, the Rudyard Kipling classic is again turned into a visually stunning and emotionally engaging live-action feature, which retains even the musical staples The Bare Necessities and I Wan’na Be Like You from the 1967 film. Read the full review

Mustang

Playing like a distant cousin of The Virgin Suicides, Turkish-French filmmaker Deniz Gamze Erguven’s Oscar-nominated debut tells the bittersweet story of five sisters discovering their sexuality while being imprisoned in their provincial home. Read the full review

Room

This year’s Oscar winning best actress Brie Larson and child star Jacob Tremblay are immensely affecting as mother and son in this unusual captive drama, which is effectively adapted by first-time screenwriter Emma Donoghue from her own novel. Read the full review

Sing Street

Giddy and heart-warming, this 1980s-set musical-romance by Irish writer-director John Carney (Once) follows a Dublin schoolboy’s attempt to start a band and impress a girl – complete with an endearing cast, beautiful tunes, and an infectious sense of optimism. Read the full review

Mr. Six

One of China’s eminent filmmakers steps forward to deliver a stunning performance in this gritty crime thriller, which sees Feng Xiaogang play a former gang leader who comes out of retirement in a Beijing society dramatically changed by capitalism. Read the full review

Son of Saul

The senseless horror of the Holocaust is given the experimental psychodrama treatment in this year’s best-foreign-language Oscar winner, which follows a death camp inmate’s stoic attempt to retain a trace of humanity in the midst of the genocide. Read the full review

Spotlight

A fact-based drama that’s also surprisingly electrifying, Tom McCarthy’s Oscar winner about the Boston Globe’s investigation into the Catholic church child abuse scandals is a masterful journalism thriller on par with All the President’s Men. Read the full review

Steve Jobs

Michael Fassbender may look nothing like Steve Jobs, but his mesmerising turn as the flawed Apple co-founder lends the needed gravity to Aaron Sorkin’s pitch-perfect script, which thrillingly revisits Jobs before three of his product launches. Read the full review

Trivisa

This Johnnie To production marks a promising start for its three new directors – whether it’s viewed as a philosophical take on true crime stories or an implicit political fable tracing the source of Hong Kong’s gradual decline in the past 20 years. Read the full review

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