1. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
The film that put the "War" in Star Wars. Rogue One pushed the saga into modernity, even more than did The Force Awakens. Filled with more morally ambiguous characters and darkness than the main Skywalker story line allows, the movie makes us feel the losses seen in the galactic civil war through the footsoldiers' eyes, instead of the usual Star Wars power brokers. Plus, it has the most bad-ass Vader scene ever shot. Love, love this movie.
2. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (Ultimate Edition)
OK, so, I know it's hip to bash this movie. The theatrical cut was messy, missing crucial plot points, and a bit overstuffed. The Ultimate Edition cures many of my initial concerns. Is it still too long? A bit, but it had a lot of world building to take care of. Dark? Hell yeah. This Batman is the best on-screen version of the character - I like The Dark Knight better as a film, but this Batman is brutal, a ghoul. The first 10 minutes are a retelling of the climax of Man of Steel from ground level, which is harrowing, and the movie never really pumps the brakes after that. It is bleak and somber, and looks fantastic. Give the Ultimate Edition a spin - you'll be glad you did.
Profane, hyperviolent, and morally bankrupt - everything you want in your comic book movies. This film, along with Logan shortly thereafter, changed everything for the genre business, proving to movie companies that comic book heroes can be sold in adults-only films and still make tons (and tons) of money. Not only a superhero epic, this is one of the funniest movies of the last ten years (the holiday montage is pure genius), and 20th Century Fox should be commended for allowing this meta-fest to make fun of its cash-cow X-Men franchise along the way. Pure brilliance, can't wait for part II.
4. Hell or High Water
A modern western, with a twist - the criminals are just as likable as the heroes. Chris Pine (never better) and Ben Foster play brothers who rob banks not just for the money, but as acts of rebellion against a stacked, oppressive financial system. Written by one of my favorites, Taylor Sheridan (Sicario), Hell or High Water is a character study first and an action movie second, delving into the damage modern life can do to the individual, whether they be beaten-down local boys with nothing to lose or a crusty, close-to-retirement sheriff (Jeff Bridges) who's seen far too much in his years on the job. This film is a masterpiece, underseen in its theatrical run but garnering a well-deserved nomination for best picture. This one will stick with you long after it ends.
5. A Monster Calls
"But what is a dream, Conor O'Malley? Who is to say that it's not everything else that is the dream?" A Monster Calls is haunting, emotional, and thought-provoking in all the ways a movie about a talking tree shouldn't be. Through a fantastical lens, the film is a ground-breaking examination of grief, loss, and growing up and facing the real world, with echoes of the classic Pan's Labyrinth and even E.T. In a fair world, this would have been a gigantic hit - instead, it is an unknown treat that needs to be found. J.A. Bayona, the director, did such an amazing job that Steven Spielberg hired him to helm Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. He shouldn't have a problem drawing an audience to that one.
6. Arrival - cerebral sci-fi by a new master, Denis Villenueve, featuring a great leading performance by Amy Adams.
7. Manchester by the Sea - a profound examination of grief, with exceptional acting all around.
8. Tower - seek this one out on Netflix. It's a documentary about the University of Texas clock tower shooting, told through beautiful animation. A must see.
9. Finding Dory - Pixar is the best, and this is one of their crowing achievements, full of heart and humor.
10. The Nice Guys - a sublime Shane Black joint, more in the Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang mode, full of questionable characters and ridiculous situations.