Brow Beat

Beyoncé’s Lemonade Makes Sight & Sound’s Best Films of 2016

Is Lemonade a movie? 163 critics and curators say yes.

HBO.

The Sight & Sound poll is one of the most venerable of film institutions. Its once-in-a-decade survey of the greatest movies of all time, last conducted in 2012, is the most widely accepted benchmark of what’s in the canon and what’s out, and its annual survey of the year’s best films, alongside the like-minded polls conducted by Film Comment, the Village Voice, and Indiewire, serves as a powerful indicator of where a movie stands in the first draft of film history.

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This year’s top 10 includes Moonlight and Manchester by the Sea, movies already to familiar to film fans keeping tabs on the awards race, and it’s topped by Maren Ade’s Toni Erdmann, a two-and-a-half-hour German comedy (no, that is not an oxymoron) that was named Best Foreign-Language Film by the New York Film Critics Circle just yesterday. But it also contains movies like Andrea Arnold’s American Honey, Ken Loach’s I, Daniel Blake, and Jim Jarmusch’s Paterson that haven’t gotten much in the way of critical laurels so far—and, due to the poll’s focus on European release dates, a few movies, like the Kristen Stewart–starring Personal Shopper, that U.S. audiences won’t even see until 2017.

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The biggest surprise, though, is the inclusion of Beyoncé’s “visual album” Lemonade, which by most conventional standards doesn’t even qualify as a movie. Sure, it had one-off screenings in a handful of movie theaters, but nothing close to a traditional theatrical run, and the vast majority of viewers experienced it either on TV, on DVD, or online. Granted, you could say the same thing about Ezra Edelman’s five-part, eight-hour documentary O.J.: Made in America, which was made for ESPN and aired on ABC, but it premiered at Sundance, was shown in numerous film festivals, and is officially qualified for the Oscars.

Nonetheless, Sight & Sound’s 163 critics and curators have spoken, and they’ve declared Lemonade not only a movie but one of 2016’s best. “Does Lemonade deserve to be on this list?” writes critic and programmer Ian Mantgani. “I’m not sure, but I can’t deny its energizing rush, its lightning effect on the culture, its blur of the lines between cinema, music video and album, and how explosively it digested the influence of black cultural history.”

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Here’s the complete list, which includes several ties.

Sight & Sound’s Top 26 Movies of 2016

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1. Toni Erdmann (Maren Ade)

2. Moonlight (Barry Jenkins)

3. Elle (Paul Verhoeven)

4. Certain Women (Kelly Reichardt)

5. American Honey (Andrea Arnold)

6. I, Daniel Blake (Ken Loach)

7. Manchester by the Sea (Kenneth Lonergan)

8. Things to Come (Mia Hansen-Løve)

9. Paterson (Jim Jarmusch)

10. The Death of Louis XIV (Albert Serra)

11. Personal Shopper (Olivier Assayas)

=11. Sieranevada (Cristi Puiu)

13. Fire at Sea (Gianfranco Rosi)

=13. Nocturama (Bertrand Bonello)

=13. Julieta (Pedro Almodóvar)

16. La La Land (Damien Chazelle)

=16. Cameraperson (Kirsten Johnson)

18. Love & Friendship (Whit Stillman)

19. Aquarius (Kleber Mendonça Filho)

=19. Victoria (Sebastian Schipper)

21. Embrace of the Serpent (Ciro Guerra)

=21. Everybody Wants Some!! (Richard Linklater)

=21. Evolution (Lucile Hadzhalilovic)

=21. Hell or High Water (David Mackenzie)

=21. O.J.: Made in America (Ezra Edelman)

26. Lemonade (Beyoncé Knowles Carter and Kahlil Joseph with Jonas Akerlund, Melina Matsoukas, Dikayl Rimmasch, Mark Romanek, and Tod Tourso)

=26. Nocturnal Animals (Tom Ford)

=26. The Ornithologist (João Pedro Rodrigues)

=26. Raw (Julia Ducornau)

=26. Neruda (Pablo Larraín)

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