The 15 Best Movies of 2016

15 of 16

Image courtesy of Amazon Studios

2. The Neon Demon

Maybe it’s because the year has been such a rollercoaster, but my year’s favorites are…demented, shall we say? Drive and Bronson director Nicolas Winding Refn returned in 2016 with another film as beloved as it was reviled, The Neon Demon. The Neon Demon is a gaudy, Valley of the Dolls-esque look at the modeling industry with Elle Fanning as a neophyte model trying to break into the industry.

I understand, this movie isn’t for everyone. One of my most memorable film-watching experiences this year was seeing this with a good friend who asked me to explain what she just watched. At times both eye-opening and reductive, The Neon Demon is a fantastic piece of trash cinema mixed with an art film. Think of a grim children’s drawing where they think glitter saves the whole thing.

I’m explaining things poorly because The Neon Demon is meant to be a messy, garish body-horror film that looks at the literal depravity women will commit to be beautiful because society demands it. Elle Fanning, Abbey Lee and Bella Heathcote are as amazing in their performances as they are beautiful in looks. Christina Hendricks, Keanu Reeves and Alessandro Nivola are the skeezy adults who force the young girls to endure their literal meat market. If you’re a fan of highly-stylized melodrama (or enjoy Showgirls, a lot!), this is right up your alley. (Your mileage will vary based on how you’ve responded to my references in this paragraph.)

Next: Nocturnal Animals