In movies, there’s usually a moment where everything clicks. Where the image, emotion, and sound meet in perfect harmony and no matter what happens before or after, you realize you are in love with this moment. The cinema of 2016 had plenty of these moments, and we picked our 16 favorites.
Note: Many of these moments are considered reveals, so proceed at your own risk!
The Best Movie Moments of 2016
1) The airport battle in Captain America: Civil War
Put 12 superheroes on the screen at the same time and, yeah, it’s going to be hard to top. But besides the sheer scope of this magnificent action scene, what makes it the best moment of the year is how things continue to escalate. Spider-Man gets into the mix, Ant-Man becomes Giant-Man, War Machine gets injured—it’s just a symphony of action-packed, awe-inspiring delights.
2) The card heist in Now You See Me 2
Whether or not you actually saw Jon M. Chu’s Now You See Me 2, it has a scene in it that’s remarkable. The four leads have to steal an item the size of a playing card, in full light, and against security both human and tech-based. What they do took several weeks to shoot, but makes the entire movie, as Chu’s camera breathlessly floats around the room, following the card as the magicians pass it back, forth, up and down. It’s incredible.
3) Darth Vader appears in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Since the movie has just come out, we don’t want to say more than that. But when you see the movie, you’ll know exactly what moment we mean.
4) The orgy in Sausage Party
We’re not sure if there are words to describe the climax of Sausage Party. Except maybe that: “Climax.” Freed of their fears, the food that lives in the supermarket engage in a full-on, porn-level orgy with every position, move, and trick in the book. This level of sexual content would never be on display at your local theater, except when it’s food. Couple the audacity with the side-splitting laughs and you’ve got something truly special.
5) The seashell revelation in Finding Dory
Towards the end of Finding Dory, when Dory finally is about to reunite with her parents, we realize that a small aside from earlier in the movie pays off in a big big way. Dory’s parents have been leaving trails of seashells for Dory to follow back to them, for years. You’re heartless if you don’t get choked up.
6) Quicksilver’s rescue in X-Men: Apocalypse
X-Men: Apocalypse is disappointing overall, but the highlight—for the second X-Men movie in a row—is Evan Peters big scene as Quicksilver. In this film, Professor X’s school is ready to blow up, so in the time it takes for an explosion to happen, he runs through the entire school, saving every single student (and a few pets, too). It’s the perfect blend of superheroics and top-notch visual effects.
7) Godzilla’s first battle in Shin Godzilla
Did you think the final battle in Gareth Edwards’ 2014 Godzilla was good? What if we told you the scene in the middle of Shin Godzilla, the latest Japanese Godzilla film, blew it out of the water? In the scene, a fully-formed Godzilla not only destroys a city like only the King of the Monsters can, he shows all kinds of new abilities you’ve never seen.
8) The twist in Arrival
One of the several genius bits of Arrival is how the whole movie changes on a second viewing. That’s because of a moment near the end of the film where we see Amy Adams’ character meeting the Chinese general in the future to inform the present and realize, holy shit, she’s kind of time-traveling. Then everything you’ve seen in the film that you thought was set in the past turns out to actually be the future, and, oh, we’re sorry, looks like your mind has been blown.
9) The opening credits of Deadpool
There are a lot of fun moments of Deadpool, but they all take their cue from the opening credits where everyone involved is willing to poke fun at themselves in a stunning, slow-motion CG shot of a crazy car crash. Instantly you know this is a superhero movie like you’ve never seen before.
10) “How Far I’ll Go” in Moana
All of the songs in Moana are pretty spectacular but if you had to pick one, it’s “How Far I’ll Go.” It’s talking about the figurative and literal journey the heroine is going on and is catchy as hell to boot. And when it comes back later in the movie? No, we’re not crying, you’re crying!
11) Wonder Woman joins the fight in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is more problematic than not, but the moments when it works are pretty great, and the best of those include when Gal Gadot puts on the golden bracelets and that kick-ass guitar riff hits the soundtrack. Seeing Wonder Woman in action was by far the best part of the movie and thankfully, she’ll get her own film very soon.
12) Jurassic Park slo-mo in Swiss Army Man
On a list of movies we didn’t expect to see referenced so liberally in Swiss Army Man, Jurassic Park would have been pretty high on the list. But there’s a great moment where Hank asks Manny about Jurassic Park and they begin to reminisce about it. We cut to another scene, the familiar music cues up and we see them walking in slow motion. It’s Jurassic Park, but with a dead corpse, and it’s utterly spectacular. A high point in an already wonderful movie.
13) “Living deliciously” in The Witch
The reason The Witch is so good is that it has such a devilish build. After everything you’ve seen you never expect to see the main character, Thomasin, decide to embrace the dark side—to “live deliciously,” as the evil spirit puts it. She forgoes her life, heads naked into the woods, and sees a coven of witches floating in the air. She joins them and it’s just the darkest, craziest, awesomest ending to an otherwise seemingly timid movie.
14) The “Sabotage” sequence in Star Trek Beyond
We know for a fact a lot of people hated this scene but, screw it, I loved it. Of course, I’m talking about the moment when the crew uses “Sabotage” by the Beastie Boys (classic music in this world, the same song Kirk listened to as a kid) to disrupt the drone ships on the way to save Yorktown. It’s very out of place, but it also gives the film an intense kinetic energy.
15) “Try Everything” in Zootopia
You’re making a movie about this massive new world filled with walking, talking animals. How do you introduce everything quickly and so the audience enjoys it? Hire Shakira to write an awesome song, have your character put it on her headphones, and have the train ride through the city with the song playing. Without a character saying a word, the whole world and theme of the movie is introduced beautifully.
16) Basically every minute Kate McKinnon is on screen in Ghostbusters
Few characters were most delightful this year than Holtzmann, played by Kate McKinnon. She was the true definition of a wild card. Not just scene to scene, but moment to moment; you had no idea what she was going to do or say, and everything she did ended up hilarious. She also gets the most badass action moment at the end of the film, too.
The Worst Movie Moments of 2016
1) “Martha” in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
In your wildest dreams did you ever think the moment that would link Batman and Superman in this long-awaited movie would have to do with something so superficial as a name? But that’s what happened. The fact that Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent both have mothers named Martha became the emotional bond between two men fighting. Just total, forced, bullshit.
2) Judd Hirsch in Independence Day: Resurgence
Bringing the classic characters of Independence Day back for Resurgence was pretty cool... until we found out what Judd Hirsch’s character was doing. He spends 90% of the movie with a trio of kids who serve no purpose, and drives a bus for a huge portion of it. It’s jaw-droppingly bad.
3) Enchantress’ dancing in Suicide Squad
What possible villain could necessitate the execution of Amanda Waller’s crazy plan to bring together a team of super villains? One whose evil plan unfolds by primarily gyrating and twirling her arms, of course. The Enchantress’ moments at the end of Suicide Squad, which of course conjure up a huge portal (which is also supposedly a machine? maybe?) is maybe the least intimidating moment in a superhero film ever.
4) Magneto destroys the world for a couple of minutes in X-Men: Apocalypse
We always hear that the extent of Magneto’s power is immeasurable, and X-Men: Apocalypse used that to full effect as he tried to remove all the metal from the planet while working for Apocalypse. It’s way less exciting than it sounds, because he sits there, straining like he’s constipated, to raise all of this metal up. We’ve seen the Master of Magnetism pull a version of this exact same stunt in pretty much every single X-Men movie so far, and it gets more boring and more irritating each time. also, Professor X talks him out of destroying the world with a brief pep talk, and it’s all just terrible.
5) The logo ghost appears in Ghostbusters
Many would argue there were a lot of bad moments in Paul Feig’s Ghostbusters, but one of the worst is that the villain Rowan turns into a giant, evil version of the Ghostbusters logo for them to fight at the end. It was cheesy, dumb, and made little sense. Plus, the Logo Ghost looks almost exactly like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, so it’s also been done. A big disappointment.