2016 was a pretty great time for movies. But between the general public electing an orange ogre to be the leader of the free world and all of your favourite role models dying, it's understandable if some of the year's most noteworthy releases lost the fight for your attention in the crossfire.

Interestingly though, while Hollywood continued to pump out some pretty incredible flicks (Creed, 10 Cloverfield Lane, The Nice Guys) in between its usual fodder (Warcraft, X-Men: Apocalypse and, er, Dirty Grandpa), it was the films that circumvented the conventional theatre system entirely that gave movie-goers some of the greatest viewing experiences this year. For perhaps the first time, 2016 proved that it isn't just unwatchable abominations that hit the straight-to-DVD, straight-to-VOD or limited release circuits. In fact, in many cases, these written-off films have been better than their Hollywood counterparts.

But, of course, without the help of a huge marketing push to remind you they exist or the ability to find a screening near you then some of these amazing films will have no doubt completely passed you by last year. But as always, The 405 has you covered, and we've narrowed down an essential list of movies you might have missed in 2016 that you need to see.

The Invitation

Karyn Kusama's haunting cult thriller, The Invitation, was one of the biggest surprises of 2016. Hitting the UK as a straight-to-Netflix release, expectations weren't high going into this small-scale drama. Initially slow-burn, the film spends most of its runtime teasing out an uneasy atmosphere as it builds tension and intrigue before jumping head-first into its explosive final act. Boasting one of the most memorable final shots of the year, you have no excuse for not catching one of 2016's best thrillers now that The Invitation is on Netflix.

Hunt for the Wilderpeople

Taika Waititi's follow up to 2014's cult hit What We Do in the Shadows, Hunt for the Wilderpeople is a much more confident, and much more cinematic offering compared to its predecessor. An odd-ball comedy that wears its love of cinema on its sleeve, the films blends a myriad of inspirations to make for one of the most heartfelt comedies in years. Even though it relishes in the black humour that's always defined Waititi's filmmaking, the movie isn't afraid to treat the core relationship at the heart of the piece with respect, making for some genuinely emotional moments in between the raucous bits of comedy


What starts off as a rather silly investigation into the world of tickling fetishes quickly turns into an ever-growing international conspiracy in the strangely gripping New Zealand documentary, Tickled. Chronicling two filmmakers as they deal with escalating threats by the production company behind a series of online tickling videos, the duo naively stumble onto a criminal web that's been tearing apart the lives of young men for decades. Primed with more twists than your average Hollywood blockbuster, although it starts out as a rather quirky doc, Tickled quickly transforms into one of the most gripping pieces of cinema of the year.

Under The Shadow

A story of a mother and daughter battling encroaching supernatural forces against the backdrop of a 1980s Tehran, Under the Shadow's brilliantly evocative domestic warzone setting makes for a haunting and memorable cinematic experience. Isolated almost entirely to a crumbling block of flats in the heart of Tehran, the film nails a pervasive sense of claustrophobia and anxiety that puts it among the very best horror movies of the year.

Bone Tomahawk

Forget The Hateful Eight, the Kurt Russell-led Bone Tomahawk is the best western of the year. Following a town sheriff and a squad of inexperienced townsfolk as they embark on a thrilling rescue mission, Bone Tomahawk slowly takes a turn for the surreal once the group realises what they're actually up against. Completely outmatched by a terrifying force of nature out in the Old West, Russell's gang becomes engaged in a terrifying game of cat-and-mouse that's more inspired by John Carpenter than it is Clint Eastwood. Full of expertly staged ultraviolence and some surprisingly poignant turns from the entire cast, Bone Tomahawk shouldn't be missed by any fans of the genre.

Swiss Army Man

Swiss Army Man certainly is that "farting corpse movie" you all heard about six months ago but, thankfully, it's got a bit more going for it than just that. Starring the always great Paul Dano, and a surprisingly on-point Daniel Radcliffe (not sure whether it's a complement or a dig that this is my favourite performance by the actor - a movie where he plays a barely eligible corpse), Swiss Army Man is a strange movie. Trapped on a desert island for god-knows how long, Dano's Hank comes to rediscover his will to live when Radcliffe's farting corpse turns up on the shore one day. It's daft, and the movie only gets dafter from there, but there's a genuine heart to the film that somehow manages to tie the whole thing together. Come for the novelty but stay for the genuinely well-told tale of friendship at the centre of this stupid, ridiculous, brilliant film.


Ava DuVernay's sublime follow-up to 2014's Selma, 13th continues the director's trend of chronicling the experience of black men and women in the USA. A documentary that confidently tackles the racial bias inherent in the US prison system, 13th elegantly puts together a compelling argument backed by some genuinely shocking facts and some astute visual storytelling. Drawing parallels between the past and the present, the documentary is sadly more relevant than ever as we move into an uncertain future where the rising "alt-right" is being praised for their sharp fashion rather than being ridiculed for, you know, the whole Nazism thing.

Green Room

The set-up for Green Room more or less sells itself. A dysfunctional punk band (is there any other kind?), trapped in a Neo-Nazi bar after witnessing a crime they shouldn't have seen, are forced to fend off their attackers and their constant attempts to lay siege to the room. Oh and the main Nazi is played by Patrick Stewart in a magnificent villainous turn. It's gory, it's intense, and it's led by a great performance by the late Anton Yelchin, Green Room is the blood-soaked '80s throwback of the year.

Tale of Tales

A gory modern retelling of classic fairytales and fables, Tale of Tales strings together a series of fantastical vignettes to create one of the most memorable fantasy films of the past few years. Soaring where similar films have crashed and burned, there isn't a weak link in the disparate narratives themselves. It helps that each one is completely haunting too, always daring to go to the places you'd least expect (hint: it's usually the bloodiest ones). If you're into weird, twisted takes on fairytales then Tale of Tales is an essential addition to your film library.


I didn't really rate Anomalisa much when I first saw it, but man does this film have a way of staying with you. In fact, this brilliant stop-motion animation from Charlie Kaufman completely buried its way under my skin in a way no other movie was able to all year. Chronicling an ageing professor's weekend stay in Cincinnati, Anomalisa's heartbreaking interrogation of fleeting human connections is like a hit and run of emotion - profoundly impactful but before you can even comprehend everything that's happened, Kaufman wastes no time in fading to black. Brought to life through beautifully mundane imagery and a gimmick that I wouldn't dare spoil here, Anomalisa is one of the best Kaufman films to date, and easily one of the best animations of the year.