As with last year, we polled esteemed video essay creators, scholars, programmers, and devoted followers of the form to highlight the best video essays of the year. Each year it becomes more necessary to crowdsource this task, for in the words of notable video essayist David Verdeure / Filmscalpel, "It has become impossible to keep up with all video essays that are made, with the form proliferating in both academic and film fan circles." These poll results might offer some help in sorting out the standouts of the genre. Videos mentioned most frequently in this poll are embedded below, along with the individual lists.

Luis Azevedo, Beyond the Frame
My favorite this year is Holy Motors: Man Without a Movie Camera by Kyle Kallgren (Brows Held High). It uses film analysis to reach interesting conclusions about the current state of cinema and media. It's deeply researched. Stylistically, it's very interesting, with well-written and especially well-performed voice-over, and interesting editing. It was also conceived with a very deliberate "narrative arc," making every piece fit to reach an overall conclusion.

Conor Bateman, Fandor
Adaptation.’s Anomalies - Jason Mittell
A Theory of Film Music - Dan Golding
- Do Pay Attention to That Man Behind the Curtain - Mariska Graveland
Elegy for a Lost Film - Dana Linssen, Jan Pieter Ekker and Menno Kooistra
- Fear Freezes the Soul - Filmscalpel
- Strange Adventures in Film Language - Tope Ogundare
- The Thinking Machine: Death-Drive - Cristina Álvarez López and Adrian Martin
Un/Contained: A Video Essay on Andrea Arnold's 2009 Film Fish Tank  - Catherine Grant
- Who Deserves the 2016 Oscar for Best Picture? - Kevin B. Lee
Why Aliens Is the Mother of All Action Movies - Leigh Singer



Philip Brubaker, Fandor

When Words Fail - Filmscalpel
Cinematic Smiles - Jose Rico
Martin Scorsese's Close-Ups - Jose Luengo Ruiz
100 Years/100 Shots - Jacob T. Swinney
Pasolini's Eye Contact - Daniel McIlwraith
Radiohead: The Secrets of Daydreaming - Rishi Kaneria
100 Faces of Isabelle Huppert - Candice Drouet
Andrea Arnold's Women in Landscapes - Jessica McGoff
Emoji-ing the Century's Best Films - Kevin B. Lee

Nelson Carvajal, video essayist
Barbaric Poetry: Can We Really Film the Holocaust? - Leigh Singer
A diligent survey of Holocaust cinema, pondering whether a piece honors, exploits, or adds any value to the historical event, from the stance of film art.
The Dark Knight — Creating the Ultimate Antagonist - Michael Tucker
As overwrought and over-saturated in the online-cinephile discussion as a film like The Dark Knight may be, this video's effectiveness comes in its thorough commitment to the text of the script, and to the elements of what makes a narrative compelling.
Hitchcock & De Palma Split Screen Bloodbath - Peet Gelderblom
A strong example of when a video essay becomes a wholly entertaining film in and of itself.
Paul Verhoeven's Mass Media - LJ Frezza
A smart meta-use of mass media's depiction and interpretation in Verhoeven's canon; "meta" in that it too is a depiction/ commentary on how we now ingest and digest social media videos: sometimes silent, with all the text/messaging literally spelled out to us on screen.
The Unloved - Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me - Scout Tafoya
Tafoya's poise as a voiceover narrator persists here; there is genuine empathy and affection that he conveys for these passion films; TWIN PEAKS is another potent title
How Jason Bourne Changed Film Fighting - Kevin B. Lee
A terrific cross section of a single scene's anatomy; Lee continues to be a trailblazer in the video essay arena.

Andris and Monta Damburs, 35 MM: A Group for Cinephiles
1. Joel & Ethan Coen - Shot | Reverse Shot - Tony Zhou
2. How Does an Editor Think and Feel? - Tony Zhou
3. When Words Fail in Movies - Filmscalpel
4. The Revenant / A World Unseen - Eliot Rausch
5. References to 70-80's Movies in Stranger Things - Ulysse Thevenon
6. Film Meets Art - Vugar Efendi
7. Everything is a Remix: The Force Awakens - Kirby Ferguson
8. Color Psychology - Lilly Mtz-Seara
9. Radiohead: The Secrets Of Daydreaming - Rishi Kaneria
10. The 25 Best Films of 2016: A Video Countdown - David Ehrlich

My list also does not necessarily compile the essays that provided the most enlightening insights (although all of these examples are works of astute observation). I've listed the video essays that, in my opinion, made exceptional use of the format and explored the potential of this audiovisual practice. These are models not so much for what the video essay should do, but for how it can do that. In no particular order, here are some video essays that stayed with me (and why they did).
Fritz Lang - Guillermo Triguero
For the way it uses fictional lies to reveal biographical untruths.
A Theory of Film Music - Dan Golding
For starting up a truly audiovisual debate instead of reverting to words in this reply to the video essay The Marvel Symphonic Universe by Every Frame a Painting.
The Maze of Susan Lowell - Cristina Álvarez López and Adrian Martin
For the way it uses a typical cinematic form (the trailer) as a research strategy.
Radiohead: The Secrets Of Daydreaming - Rishi Kaneria
For its unapologetic and egalitarian embrace of fan culture and fan theories, balancing extravagant over-interpretation with a soft-spoken nonassertiveness.
Ex Machina: Questioning the Human Machine - Allison de Fren
For its sweeping use of the essay form, placing Ex Machina within a larger framework of film and art history, AI and computer science, and cultural critique.
Which Way Did He Go? Lateral Character Movement in Film (Now You See It)
For the way it translates an academic study (by Cleveland State University) into a resourceful and democratic audiovisual essay.
Gestos do realismo - Margarida Leitão
For its evocative use of the side-by-side form: in this wistful edit two very different films subtly comment on each other.
Los Olvidados / Lazarus - Catherine Grant
For the way it connects cinematic art and pop culture, and for being an instantaneous, almost instinctive audiovisual response to Bowie's death.
Why Is Cinema - Cameron Carpenter
For his hilarious parodies of the video essay form, mocking everything from underresearched assertions to academic namedropping.

Daniel Clarkson Fisher, filmmaker and video essayist
- Wake Up: Spike Lee's Vital 'Chi-Raq'" - Passionate and personal in ways that are rare for video essays, this resplendently made specimen has really stayed with me. It was the first title I thought of.
- (TIE) Terrence Malick's City Symphony by Conor Bateman & No More Parties in L.A.: The Modern City in Terrence Malick’s Knight of Cups by Jack Gracie and James Slaymaker
Two excellent, but stylistically opposing essays that take on a very rich subject in Malick's singular view of Los Angeles in Knight of Cups.
- Who Deserves the 2016 Oscar for Best Picture? - Kevin B. Lee
As someone who loves essay films, this was a favorite of mine from the past year. It's also been really useful in explaining to my friends what essay films are. Wonderful job!
- The Marvel Symphonic Universe - Tony Zhou
Of course.
- The Radical Beauty of TangerineLJ Frezza
Tangerine gets the essay-treatment it so richly deserves with this beautifully crafted video "on creating beauty from a position of marginalization and limited means."
- Carnival of Souls: The Art of Herk Harvey - Philip Brubaker
Short, sweet, and to the point, this essay is a testament to the deep and longstanding influence of a film that deserves way more recognition than it tends to get.
- The Unloved - Knight of Cups - Scout Tafoya
Brilliantly articulated, convincingly argued defense of a film that...yeah, shouldn't need defending.
- Let Me In | The Films of Noah Baumbach - Fernando Andrés
Insightful, affecting supercut/tribute to the work of Baumbach.
- Michael Clayton | The Tortured Path to Redemption - Must See Films
A deep dive into an example of first-rate Hollywood storytelling, with special emphasis on the script and its translation to screen.
- The Hateful Thing - KINO
A very simple but elegant little essay that underlines obvious (and less obvious) tributes to Carpenter's The Thing in Tarantino's The Hateful Eight.

Chloé Galibert-Laîné, video essayist
Right Now Then Wrong - Kevin B. Lee
The Place of Voiceover in Academic Audiovisual Film and Television Criticism - Ian Garwood
Ex Machina: Questioning the Human Machine - Allison de Fren
- Reflections of HAL and Samantha - Tillman Ohm
- The Marvel Symphonic Universe - Tony Zhou
- Queer Godard - Cristina Alvarez López and Adrian Martin
Rudy Giuliani Can't Keep His Hands To Himself - Super Deluxe
Poetry and Propaganda - Filmscalpel
Fabrice Mathieu - Vador aux trousses

Ian Garwood, University of Glasgow
Stereotowns by Miriam Ross – for its spectacular (in)sights
Sound Unseen: The Acousmatic Jeanne Dielman by Filmscalpel – for its quotidian sounds
Fembot in a Red Dress by Allison de Fren – for its critical dexterity
Feminist Film or Exploitation? Takashi Miike’s Audition by Jessica McGoff – for its critical concision
The Semantics of Adventureland’s Mixtape by Adrian Martin and Cristina Alvarez Lopez – for its critical compilation
A Homeless Ghost: The Moving Camera and Its Analogies by Patrick Keating – for its communication of historical research
Right Now Then Wrong by Kevin B. Lee – for its combination of grounded film analysis and formal innovation
Los Olvidados/Lazarus by Catherine Grant – for its affect
Adaptation.’s Anomalies by Jason Mittell – for its ending

Catherine Grant, [in]Transition
It was a great year for the audiovisual essay. As co-editor of [in]Transition and as a curator of an audiovisual essay section at NECSUS, I was able to publish many, many video essays I loved. Leaving all of these aside, here's a list of my favorite thirteen makers this year, and their best one or two videos (in my opinion):
1.     Cristina Alvarez López and Adrian Martin - Haunted Memory: The Cinema of Víctor Erice and Roman Polanski: A Cinema of Invasion
2.     Davide Rapp - The Elevator
3.     Louisa Stein - Lulu's Descent
4.     Christian Keathley (on Kiarostami's Life, and Nothing More) - What It Really Is and FOR VICTOR PERKINS (also on Kiarostami's Like Someone in Love)
5.     Alex Clayton - Spin the Wheel: For Victor (on Johnny Guitar)
6.     David Verdeure/Filmscalpel - Sound Unseen: The Acousmatic Jeanne Dielman and Regarding the Pain of Jeanne Dielman
7.     Kevin B. Lee - Kiarostami: The Anti-Supercut Artist and Right Now Then Wrong 
8.     Leigh Singer - Why Aliens Is the Mother of All Action Movies
9.     Jessica McGoff - Feminist Film or Exploitation? Takashi Miike’s Audition
10.  Drew Morton - 100 Years of Movies from Comics
11.  Petrick - The Revenant by Tarkovsky
12.  Joel Bocko - Black/White - Ousmane Sembene’s Black Girl
13.  Melanie Kohnen Muder Husbands: Queerness, Violence & Cinematic History

H. Perry Horton, Film School Rejects
I watched literally hundreds of video essays, montages, mash-ups, compilations, and supercuts in 2016, and I feel this year the work turned personal for a lot of essayists, challenged as they were by external factors including copyright issues, an ever-crowding field, and the general cultural, social, and political climates.

As a result we saw topical and touching essays like Candice Drouet’s Rainbow Flag of Film: A Tribute to LGBTQ Cinema and Nelson Carvajal’s Wake Up: Spike Lee’s Vital Chi-Raq.

Then there were the personalities, the distinct and erudite essayists who are presenting not only their ideas but also themselves as brands of cinematic expertise. Among these, the standouts were:
- Lewis Bond of Channel Criswell, whose essay Stanley Kubrick – The Cinematic Experience is the definitive on its subject.
- Michael Tucker of Lessons from the Screenplay, who comes at film from the page up in work like The Dark Knight – Creating the Ultimate Antagonist
- Luiza Liz of Art Regard, who offers a more aesthetic, artistic kind of insight through essays such as Roman Polanski and Intersubjectivity.

And no list is complete without a montage that appeals to our emotions and gets us all caught up in the power of filmmaking. For my money, the best of that subset this year was HBO: The Rise of TV as Film by Fernando Andres, which managed to chart the network’s decades-in-the-making ascent using clips from its illustrious history.

While I think it’s safe to say we’re no longer in the infancy phase of the video essay, it’s still very much a nascent form, which is exciting because that means it’s yet to be defined and still ripe for exploration. These are some of the folks and some of the work I think is leading the way.

Rishi Kaneria, Video essayist
- Everything Is A Remix: The Force Awakens by Kirby Ferguson, for its pacing.
- Composition In Storytelling by Channel Criswell, for its beauty.
- The Marvel Symphonic Universe by Tony Zhou, for its insights. 
- The Epidemic of Passable Movies by The Nerdwriter, for its wit.
- Superman - The Golden Age Of Animation by kaptainkristian, for its style.
- 100 Years/100 Shots by Jacob T. Swinney, for teaching and inspiring without ever saying a word.

Jonathan Kiefer, Fandor
- When Words Fail - Filmscalpel
- How Pop Culture Ruined "Hallelujah" - Kevin B. Lee
- 12 Essential Women Cinematographers - Jacob Swinney
- Cats Die Funny, Dogs Die Sad - Jacob Swinney
- Male Love Through Female Eyes - Tope Ogundare
- Queer Godard - Cristina Alvarez López and Adrian Martin
- Barbaric Poetry: Can We Really Film the Holocaust? - Leigh Singer
- Gestos do realismo - Mararida Leitão and The Revenant by Tarkovsky - Petrick
- Any given Cameron Carpenter video and any given Kentucker Audley video
Radiohead: The Secrets of Daydreaming - Rishi Kaneria


Kevin B. Lee, Fandor
This year I had to manage the production of literally hundreds of video essays at a virtually inhuman rate of efficiency and optimization for social media. Perhaps for those reasons, my list of favorites share two significant qualities. Each in their own way addresses the issue of "programming": How do film and media program us to see and behave in certain ways? (In this light, the video essay serves one of its most vital functions as "counter-programming.") They also strike me as deeply invested works that reflect a lot of time and care spent by their makers, to the point that the effort on display becomes moving in itself. In both cases, it's about how the video essay can redeem media from its dehumanizing tendencies, and get us back in touch with the human.

- Debra Paget, for Example - Mark Rappaport
The leading veteran of video essays delivers once more with a deeply affecting investigation into the strange career and lasting legacy of a 1950s sex symbol.
Elegy for a Lost Film - Dana Linssen, Jan Pieter Ekker and Menno Kooistra
The year's best account of the contradictory nature of contemporary cinephile culture, with its promises of limitless accessibility belied by imminent disappearances.
Ex Machina: Questioning the Human Machine - Allison de Fren
Between this and "Fembot in a Red Dress," no video essayist explores the uncanny valley of technology, humanity, and sexuality better than Allison de Fren.
- Fritz Lang - Guillermo Triguero
A lie told by a great director is proven to be "true" through a lifetime of images he filmed. A fascinating reflection of the power of personal myth-making through words and images.
Holy Motors: Man Without a Movie Camera - Kyle Kallgren (Brows Held High)
The best of what I call the "Filmsplaining" strain of video essays (you know, the ones where a dude talks at you for several minutes about how movies work), this one does a great job navigating the complex world of contemporary "post-cinema" in a manner both plain-spoken and profound.
A Homeless Ghost: The Moving Camera and Its Analogies - Patrick Keating
An extraordinary example of how scholarship achieves poetry. Impressive, eye-opening historic research speaks through a vivid range of metaphors.
- How Guns are Advertised  - Julian Palmer (The Discarded Image)
Brilliant critique of how the gun industry uses movie imagery to sell fear and self-confidence through weaponry.
The Place of Voiceover in Academic Audiovisual Film and Television Criticism - Ian Garwood
Simply the most stunning and thorough exploration of any topic found in any video essay this year. A deeply invested personal inquiry into how traditional film scholarship can reconcile itself with the opportunities and challenges posed by internet culture and new media aesthetics.
- Reflections of HAL and Samantha - Tillman Ohm
My favorite mashup. Not just for its flawless execution, but for showing how even fictional robots aren't immune from mansplaining.
-A Theory of Film Music - Daniel Golding
A music scholar takes on the most viral video essay of the year, and deepens and broadens the original's insights. The debate staged between these two videos is an extraordinary case study in how popular video essayists and academically trained scholars can bring out the best from each other.

Honorable mentions:
- Cinematology - Mohamed Abou Soliman - Well-produced and much needed video essays on Egyptian cinema. Every corner of the cinematic globe deserves a channel like this. More of these, and less Hollywood fanboy stuff, please.
- The Elevator - Davide Rapp - one of the most formally innovative video essays I saw this year.
- Joel & Ethan Coen - Shot | Reverse Shot - Tony Zhou - A truly impressive argument for a special kind of auteurial "visual signature," one that isn't predicated on symmetry or spectacle, a.k.a. the stuff that makes for supercut eye candy.
- Kataskopos: Terrestrial Views of Earth in Film - Anthony Patrickson - Simply cosmic.
- The Sexual Transgressions of Carlos Reygadas - Tope Ogundare - Pushes the boundaries of how to visualize scandalous subject matter. For his impressive body of work, Tope is my choice for best newcomer of the year (following Jacob Swinney in 2015 and Tony Zhou in 2014).
Best video essay moment: "Plant Crimes" at the 10:18 mark of Adaptation.’s Anomalies (you have to watch the whole thing to get why this is so amazing).
Video essayist of the year: Filmscalpel

Daniel Massie, University of Stirling
- mothers on the line: the maternal allure of Julianne Moore - Cüneyt Çakırlar
- Reflections of HAL and Samantha - Tillman Ohm
Regarding the Pain of Jeanne Dielman - Filmscalpel
Sound Unseen: The Acousmatic Jeanne Dielman - Filmscalpel
- Steve Jobs: Blocking and Realist Acting - Zachary Ramos-Taylor
- Taking Time to Hear: Accented Rests in Michael Haneke's Cinema - Elsie Walker

Jessica McGoff, Fandor
Male Love Through Female Eyes - Tope Ogundare
Matches - Catherine Grant
Of Oz the Wizard - Matt Bucy
Elegy for a Lost Film - Dana Linssen, Jan Pieter Ekker and Menno Kooistra
Imitation, Contamination, Dissolution: Bong Joon-ho’s Memories of Murder - Adrian Martin and Christina Álvarez López

Daniel Mcilwraith, Fandor
The Place of Voiceover in Academic Audiovisual Film and Television Criticism - Ian Garwood
Saw a work-in-progress screening of this at Screen International Conference and loved it, the finished version is a really great piece of work.
"Before" Trilogy - Three Chapters, One Lifetime - Roberto Bra
A simple yet beautiful little video that really captures the trilogy.
Cate Blanchett Did It - Michael Mclennan
This is the video essay I've watched most this year.
Edward Snowden's Movie Mentors - Tope Ogundare
This one really impressed me - the way Tope cuts between these films seems effortless.
Feminist Film or Exploitation? Takashi Miike's Audition - Jessica McGoff
I'm always impressed with how Jessica balances the analytical voiceover and engaging imagery.

Richard Misek, filmmaker, theorist, and teacher
Sound Unseen: The Acousmatic Jeanne Dielman - Filmscalpel
Filmscalpel is fast becoming one of the video essay’s true auteurs. Eschewing language, he creates works that regularly cross the blurred line between video essay and video art. Following on from last year’s 12 Silent Men, his recent videos explore a related group of themes: sound, silence, stillness, and the spaces between. This is a typically superb example: beautifully crafted and conceptually sophisticated, but also made to be enjoyed. On this occasion, the video takes the form of an avant-garde ‘Where’s Waldo?’
- Ego - Nicolas Provost
The blurred line between video essay and video art is one which Nicolas Provost regularly crosses from the other side. This simple and breathtakingly pure mashup of 2001: A Space Odyssey builds over a few minutes to a single cut, as powerful in its own way as the original film’s famous match cut. But it’s made by a gallery-focused artist, so alas you won’t see it on Vimeo unless you have a password.
Friendzoned Without a Cause - Flavia Scagni and Jessica Allen
However much I enjoy watching video essays, I wonder whether their real power is heuristic—whether they work best not as a ‘product’ to be viewed but as a method for interrogating moving images by experimenting on them, rather than just watching and thinking about them. What makes remixing such a powerful tool for artists also makes it an ideal tool for students: What better way to understand how films are made than by digitally dissecting them? Almost every film studies department I know now uses video-making as a teaching tool, and each year some of the best video essays I see are made by my own students. Here’s one: a transsexual Rebel Without a Cause.
Adaptation.’s Anomalies - Jason Mittell
Finally, a more traditional, voice-over led, close analysis of Charlie Kaufmann’s Adaptation. Or is it? It's a fine line between academic rigor and Room 237-type craziness.

Jason Mittell, [in]Transition
(listed alphabetically)
- Corey Creekmur, Digital Madhubala 
- Allison de Fren, Fembot in a Red Dress
- Ian Garwood, The Place of Voiceover in Academic Audiovisual Film and Television Criticism
- Catherine Grant, Un/Contained—note that Katie originally screened this video live in 2014, but this article about it was formally published in 2016.
- Leigh Singer, Eternal Sunsets of Charlie Kaufman's Mind
- Nick Warr, Honolulu Mon Amour

Tope Ogundare, Fandor
Fembot in a Red Dress - Allison de Fren
- Melodrama & Minimalism - Joel Bocko
- Gone Girl: A Greek Tragedy - Ivana Brehas
- Primal Analysis - Cristina Álvarez López
Honolulu Mon Amour  - Nick Warr
Sound Unseen: The Acousmatic Jeanne Dielman - Filmscalpel
- Whiplash: From Short to Feature - Jacob T. Swinney
- A Girl Like I: An Unruly Duet - Catherine Grant
Right Now Then Wrong - Kevin B. Lee
- Do Pay Attention to That Man Behind the Curtain - Mariska Graveland

V. Renee, No Film School
Composition in Storytelling - Lewis Bond of Channel Criswell
Sicario: The Mirage of the Moral World - Digging Deeper
How Alfred Hitchcock Manipulates an Audience - Julian Palmer of The Discarded Image
Melancholia: Depression on Film - Evan Puschak of Nerdwriter
Movie Geometry: Shaping the Way You Think - Jack Nugent of Now You See It
How Does an Editor Think and Feel? - Tony Zhou of Every Frame a Painting
How a Nightmare on Elm Street subliminally communicates pain infliction - Rob Ager of Collative Learning

Leigh Singer, Sight and Sound, Fandor
How Jason Bourne Changed Film Fighting - Kevin B. Lee
Man // Woman // Mirror - - Joost Broeren / Sandar Spies / De Filmkrant
The Sexual Transgressions of Carlos Reygadas - Tope Ogundare
What Abbas Kiarostami Taught Us About Heaven - Scout Tafoya
When Words Fail in Movies - Filmscalpel
Why Do Marvel’s Movies Look Kind of Ugly - Patrick Willems
Joel & Ethan Coen - Shot | Reverse Shot - Tony Zhou
The Place of Voiceover in Academic Audiovisual Film and Television Criticism - Ian Garwood

And if it’s not too immodest, I’d also like to add one of my own to the list, a piece I am proud of, but more for the very personal family reasons that inspired its making -
Barbaric Poetry: Can We Really Film the Holocaust?

Jacob Swinney, Slate / Fandor / One Perfect Shot
Batman V. Superman: The Fundamental Flaw - Nerdwriter
The Directors Series - The Coen Brothers - Raccord
Man // Woman // Mirror - Joost Broeren & Sander Spies
The Marvel Symphonic Universe - Tony Zhou
Pixar's Tribute to Cinema - Jorge Luengo Ruiz
Radiohead: The Secrets of Daydreaming - Rishi Kaneria
The Social Network - Designing Dialogue - Channel Criswell
When Words Fail in Movies by Filmscalpel

Scout Tafoya,
I want to just highlight the work of the great and preternaturally talented Candice Drouet. She's a friend and a collaborator and I think everyone should seek out all the work she's done for Fandor, Konbini, Cinefilos. Her sense of rhythm is impeccable and she's got creativity that essayists twice her age (or in my case, like ten years older than her) would kill for. She's going to change video essay culture for the better.