In a year when the world seemed to regress socially, politically, and emotionally, motion pictures evolved. There are entries on this list that would not — traditionally speaking — be called “movies,” due to their length, form, or mode of distribution, but whose ambitions, achievements, and narrative scope are indeed movie-sized. And in select cases, their effects reach beyond that of what we expect from a motion picture, challenging our notion of what a film is and what a film can do. Theatergoing may be waning, but the list below suggests that there’s no dearth of interest and creative energy in a medium barely 120 years old. In 2016, the world may have appeared to move backwards, and we may have lost some of our most beloved artists, but the cinema looked forward, and hopefully the rest of us can follow suit — no matter how much we may have to grit our teeth. Below are my picks for the twenty movies released last year in the United States that challenged us to be better.