2016 has been a year lacking in real-life heroes and offering too many villains. Luckily, our cinematic fantasy realm has supplemented our supply of the first group and pit them against some creative additions to the second group. Our staff has collected the best of both for you to relive the good v. evil battle that played out in 2016’s theaters.

Heroes

Jillian Holtzman

Columbia Pictures

It must be wonderful to be in a comedy movie and get/improvise all of the best lines. Kate McKinnon’s ghostbuster, Dr. Jillian Holtzmann is a scene-stealer in the classical sense. Every time she spoke, I laughed; every time she was on screen, I was smiling. The character, a morbid genius in killer clothes, is one of those fantastic, delightful creations. She is heroic, intelligent, funny, witty, wild, and is having heaps of fun doing everything that she does. I saw this movie in the cinema with my wife who developed an instant crush on her, and when Holtzmann gets her big moment with her proton pistols when she’s taking on all comers I head my wife whisper, “Yeah, girl! Slay!” And if that isn’t a solid gold seal of approval, I don’t know what is – Sean Fallon

Holland March

The Nice Guys

Warner Bros. Pictures

Holland March is a private eye who spends much of The Nice Guys trying to do right by his disapproving daughter, overcome his grief and guilt over the death of his wife, save a failing career, and control his drinking. Prone to injury, sometimes slow on the uptake, but ultimately well-meaning and caring, March is an interesting take on the trope of a hero who repeatedly fails but ultimately succeeds, often due to some manner of dumb luck. March is written and acted with both slapstick humor and sensitivity that allows for both sympathy for the character and congruence with the absurd tone of the film. The inclusion of a family conflict in the form of March’s precocious, outspoken daughter Holly is one of the strongest most grounding aspects of the film; she is constantly present, pushing March to do the right thing and rise to the high standards to which she holds him. March’s ultimate heroism and success are that much more personal and satisfying because what’s at stake for him is his relationship with his daughter. – Christina Tucker

Michelle

Paramount Pictures

I practically floated out of the theater when I saw 10 Cloverfield Lane, and that was in no small part thanks to its heroine. From the first moment she wakes up in the bunker, Michelle showcases her quick-thinking, determination, and grit. There’s not a minute of this film when she isn’t scheming to escape, making her a thrilling protagonist to watch. The focus on her resourcefulness and intelligence as her primary heroic attributes, rather than some innate righteousness or sense of justice, is a breath of fresh air. Mary Elizabeth Winstead gives a spirited and nuanced performance. – Josh Rosenfield

Mildred Loving

Loving

Focus Features

In Jeff Nichols’ Loving, Ruth Negga portrays Mildred Loving as a hero moved by both circumstance and determination, driven by the most base needs. Mildred wants only to love her husband by the terms that the two of them define together, without the senseless intrusion of their government, and she is unwilling to accept the compromise offered by the court system. It would be nice to believe that the ruling in the Supreme Court case was an inevitability, but when the opportunity presented itself to fight, Mildred pushed onward for the sake of her family, her love, and, almost incidentally, her nation and history. In this sense Mildred is a common citizen made an uncommon hero through opportunity and societal need. – David Shreve

Roy Tomlin

Midnight Special

Warner Bros. Pictures

In a contemporary movie landscape dominated by loud, brash depictions of men in tights and visitors from another planet, Midnight Special was a welcome breath of fresh air in 2016. Standing front and center in that drama from director Jeff Nichols is Michael Shannon’s starring role as Roy Tomlin, a father who is asked to go above and beyond the call of duty in order to protect his son, a young boy possessed of otherworldly abilities. Like Nichols and Shannon’s collaboration on the like-minded psychological drama Take Shelter from 2011, Midnight Special makes a superhero out of someone with no extraordinary abilities, but whose heroism comes in quiet acts of patience, grace, and love. – Sean K. Cureton

Villains

Black Phillip

A24

Black Phillip is just ugly. I don’t feel particularly good about shaming a goat, but The Witch is a movie dancing step-in-hoofed-step with an insidious evil, and the most aesthetically impacting manifestation of that evil is the coal-black goat, crooked and bent in posture, walking unnaturally, and attacking aggressively. Everything is just off in the witch-hunted hellgrounds of the expelled Puritans and the family pet is the spearhead of that Satanic assault. – David Shreve

Batman AND Superman

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Warner Bros. Pictures

Director Zack Snyder divided audiences with his latest superhero spectacle this past summer. Many have seen fit to deride Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice for its bone-headed bravado and outsized ambition. Yet a lot of the core concepts and ideas that stand behind the movie are what make the titular contest of super men in Snyder’s film more broadly compelling than the self-conscious intelligence of the more successful fratricide depicted in Marvel Studios’ Captain America: Civil War. And at the center of that heated battle are two superheroes whose respective vigilante actions are held under a lens of intense scrutiny that lends to a penultimate betrayal of the viewer’s trust and expectations. Batman and Superman were not the heroes that we thought they were or might be in Snyder’s hands, and for that they inadvertently become two of the most disturbing–and politically prescient–movie villains of 2016. – Sean K. Cureton

Darcy

A24

Patrick Stewart is a warm, lovely man. He plays mentors and leaders. He is inspirational in his calm, powerful demeanor that makes you trust him and believe he has your best interests at heart. And that’s why he is so good as the leader of a skinhead neo-Nazi group in Green Room. Those same characteristics above are there, but everything he says, even when delivered in his low, calming voice, is evil. In Green Room, Stewart is summoned to the skinhead compound where the members of punk band, The Ain’t Rights, have seen a murder and locked themselves in the green room away from the skinheads. Stewart’s character treats the whole thing like an inconvenience that can only be solved with proper preparation and planning so they can dispose of the band without alerting anyone. He is perfectly cold and methodical, his temper barely rising and his frustration just below the surface. It is an incredible against type performance from an incredible performer and one of the scariest characters of 2016. – Sean Fallon

Howard

Paramount Pictures

Both Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and the audience are jerked around, confused and mislead by every aspect of 10 Cloverfield Lane. From beginning to end, the nature of the world, the characters, even the genre elude the viewer and the film’s antagonist Howard (John Goodman) is no exception. When Howard is proven right about the nature of the outside world, or shows any semblance of caring, and it seems that he may be no antagonist after all, another terrifying fact is uncovered that creates doubt and confusion. This tension, between trust and doubt, and the way these are manipulated in dire situations where survival comes first, are wrapped up in the nature of Howard. By the time Michelle and her fellow captive Emmett (John Gallagher, Jr.) discover what makes Howard seem so overwhelmingly distrustful, their discovery of the truth comes at a cost. Seemingly omnipotent, controlling, and physically imposing, Goodman as Howard is terrifying largely due to our lack of understanding of the entire truth of the situation at hand and makes us question how much we can trust Howard, Michelle, and our own understanding. – Christina Tucker

Featured Image: Warner Bros. Pictures