Dale Robinette
December 08, 2016 at 06:52 PM EST

For EW’s annual Best & Worst issue, on newsstands Friday, we rounded up the best movies, television, music, books, podcasts, stage productions, and more. 2016 may have had its ups and downs, but this year delivered some truly innovative, affecting, and gorgeous films, from superhero blockbusters to unforgettable indies. Here, EW’s Chris Nashawaty breaks down why La La Land came out on top.

In a year dominated by division, distrust, and disappointment, it might seem strange to anoint a swooning musical as the top film of 2016. But as the escapist Busby Berkeley fantasias of the Great Depression proved, sometimes the best medicine can only be found in a darkened movie theater.

Damien Chazelle’s thrillingly ambitious, unapologetically romantic La La Land is a movie that’s out of time and arrives at just the right time. It’s a balm for our weary national soul. Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, reteaming from 2011’s Crazy, Stupid, Love (with sparks intact), play struggling young artists in modern-day Los Angeles whose dreams seem out of reach. At least until they find each other in, of all places, a traffic jam on the 105 that erupts into a showstopping frenzy of singing and dancing.

The next 120 minutes are just as intoxicating — an irresistible cocktail of heart-swelling joy and heartrending sadness as we follow the ups and downs of their relationship. Nostalgic without seeming old-fashioned, La La Land is pure movie magic. It’s a testament to the timeless, transporting power of cinema.

 

See EW’s full list of the 20 best movies of 2016 here, and for more on the year’s best in pop culture, pick up the latest issue of Entertainment Weekly when it hits newsstands on Friday.

And to read more on La La Land, check out…

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