Our critic's top five films of 2016 (so far) 

1. Only Yesterday: A bit of a cheat, since this richly detailed animated masterpiece from Studio Ghibli co-founder Isao Takahata was made in 1991, but the film only received an American release this year thanks to a distribution deal with GKids. Only Yesterday is as delicate as Ozu, as powerful as Kurosawa, as possessed as Mizoguchi and as hauntingly beautiful as any film ever made.

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2. Three: This genre-hopping blast from prolific Hong Kong filmmaker Johnnie To works as part solemn morality play and part gonzo white-knuckle thriller, part huge-hearted ensemble dramedy and part pitiless three-hander, with an almost unbearable escalation of tension that explodes into one of the most insane action sequences you'll ever see.

3. The Witch: Robert Eggers' unsettling New England Folk Tale only improves on re-watch, presenting a pre-industrial world so wracked with hypocrisy and repression that consorting with the devil becomes the only sensible feminist option. A soul-withering, vaguely sexual slow creep in the vein of Under the Skin, The Witch feels authentic both as Pilgrim anthropology and as a waking nightmare.

4. Krisha: Another excellent movie about the nightmare of family, but this time with the actual family writing, directing and starring. Insanely talented rookie director Trey Edward Shults remakes his 2014 short film with this low-budget gut punch of a Thanksgiving weekend, using his parents' house as the location and enlisting most of his family as actors. It sounds like a Sundance torture chamber, but the film has energy and style to burn.

5. Love & Friendship: Whit Stillman's first foray into adaptation is an absolute delight, an intelligently dizzy and refreshingly wordy take on Jane Austen's novella Lady Susan. There is an almost perfect overlap between the sensibilities of Stillman and Austen, to the point that all of Stillman's previous films now feel like reverse-engineered Austen adaptations.


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