By: Henry J. Fromage and Movieboozer Staff & Contributors
Well, here we are, finally looking back on the bountiful cornucopia that was film in 2017. Comment with your own favorites below (or get some debate goin’- even better!)
10. The Post: On the surface it looks like Oscar-bait (Meryl Streep AND Tom Hanks in a movie directed by Steven Spielberg!?!) but it’s a riveting watch and feels even more relevant in current day than the time of the original events depicted in it.
9. The Big Sick: Smart, sweet, and often laugh out loud funny with a superb ensemble cast. I dare you not to cry during the end credits.
8. Ingrid Goes West: Aubrey Plaza turns in a career-best performance in one of the most underrated films of the year. Cringe-cinema at its cringiest and a pretty great satire of social media obsession.
7. I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore: I had no idea what to expect when I hit play [on Netflix] on a whim, and I was blown away. Original, unpredictable, and definitely worth a watch for Elijah Wood’s rattail alone.
6. Star Wars: The Last Jedi: This one seemed to split people, but I am firmly in the “loved it” camp. Can’t wait to see what happens next. #reylo
5. I, Tonya: Sharply-written and impeccably acted—who would have thought a biopic about Tonya Harding would end up being one of the best films of the year? This is Margot Robbie’s To Die For and Allison Janney’s Oscar (probably).
4. Brigsy Bear: If you liked Be Kind, Rewind or Son of Ranbow you will love Brigsy Bear. It starts out pretty bizarre and you may consider giving up, but don’t! Stick with it and you’ll be rewarded with one of the most heartwarming and charming movies in quite some time.
3. Get Out: It works on every level, transcending genres. Multiple viewings are encouraged to catch all the little things you may have missed the first time. Flat-out brilliant.
2. The Florida Project: Every now and then a film comes along that just sticks with you, that you can’t stop thinking about for days later. For me, this was one of those. The best word I can think of to describe it is astonishing. Just go watch it now.
1. The Disaster Artist: My favorite film of the year. Because of course it was. Leave your stupid comments in your pocket if you have a problem with that.
10. My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea
9. The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Maki
7. Blade Runner 2049
6. Rat Film
5. Good Time
2. Star Wars: The Last Jedi
10. I, Tonya
8. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
6. The Big Sick
5. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
4. Mommy: Dead and Dearest
3. Nathan for You: Finding Frances
2. The Shape of Water
12. Columbus: Perhaps the single most visually striking film of the year, we’re treated to not only a revolving door of dazzling imagery and locales the entire way through, this also contains one of the most bittersweet, understated romances that’s been committed to film in quite some time. This went under most people’s radar, but don’t miss it if you get the chance to check it out.
11. Star Wars: The Last Jedi: The most vital and refreshing this franchise has felt in decades, it’s entries like this that made people fall in love with Star Wars in the first place, by paying proper respect to the past before literally burning it to the ground and forging a newer, and (hopefully) more exciting path forward. In terms of matching glossy, over-produced Hollywood spectacle with a genuine emotional core and well-earned pathos, nothing else from 2017 came close to matching this puppy.
10. Wonder: Undeniably a feel good crowd-pleaser, but in that regard it’s extremely effective and mostly rings true. It aims big and hits more often than it misses, in large part thanks to another strong turn by child actor Jacob Tremblay, who proves that he’s not merely a one-hit-wonder (pun optional) but is capable of carrying an entire film on his shoulders, though that’s not to discredit the strong ensemble of supporting players herein as well, namely Julia Roberts breathing fresh life into the “beleaguered, worried mother” archetype.
9. 1922: One of the most intriguing Netflix originals I’ve seen in quite some time, and by far the best of the hundreds of Stephen King adaptations released in 2017. It’s a taut, menacing, and oddly melancholic period chiller, bolstered by strong performances all around, not least of which is Thomas Jane in the lead role, giving arguably his best performance to date.
8. Personal Shopper: Deliberately paced and extremely affecting in a very understated manner, anchored by an impressive central performance by Kristen Stewart. It might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but this struck all the right chords with me and left an impact that lasted for quite some time after I left the theater.
7. Lady Bird: Hugely entertaining and moving in equal measure, Saoirse Ronan finally gets to show off some major comedic chops, in addition to her dramatic prowess we were all familiar with beforehand. It doesn’t do anything especially new or groundbreaking with the coming of age formula, but for what it is, it’s a pretty damn good version of it.
6. Good Time: The biggest surprise of the summer: a thumping, nonstop thriller with a Martin Scorsese-like understanding of the streets and city life at night, and a central performance that finally sees Robert Pattinson shedding his Twilight-stained persona and emerging as one of the most intriguing and talented young actors out there.
5. Thelma: A timely, genre-bending tale of self-discovery and coming of age, anchored by a star-making lead performance and featuring one of the sweetest onscreen romances of the year. One of its greatest strengths is its ability to contain elements from so many different film genres all at once (coming of age, science fiction, horror, etc.), all the while still feeling like a completely singular, original piece of work.
4. Split: As a longtime M Night Shyamalan fan turned even longer-time M Night Shyamalan apologist, seeing his recent career resurgence these past few years has been a real treat. But as much as I liked The Visit, that one now almost feels like a dress rehearsal for this, which completely matches the best of Shyamalan’s earlier works in terms of pure, unbroken tension and unpredictable, labyrinthine narratives. And it’s all elevated by one of the most compelling pairs of lead performances the horror genre has seen in ages, with James McAvoy ad Anya Taylor-Joy both matching each other in terms of adding greater depth and intensity to this already well-constructed and incredibly effective thriller.
3. Call Me By Your Name: An utterly mesmerizing summer love affair, without a single false note from start to finish. Even though there’s been no shortage of excellent performances in 2017, this contains maybe the three single best male performances of the whole year, with Michael Stuhlbarg’s final monologue single-handedly elevating this entire film to a whole other level. Gentle and sweet in all the best ways, while narrowly avoiding conventions and cliches that riddle so many other modern romance films.
2. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri: Much like Alfred Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt, it took a Brit (playwright turned filmmaker Martin McDonagh in this case) to come to America and hold a mirror up to all our faces to be both entertained and shocked by in equal measures. It mercilessly lampoons this exact period in American history with the most biting of satire, while also injecting it with enough sincerity and depth to suggest not only the possibility but the necessity of moving forward, and it’s all built around Frances McDormand giving what may very well be her best performance.
1. The Shape of Water: Among Guillermo del Toro’s many outstanding career achievements, the fact that he was able to make a story where a woman falls in unironic, no-other-possible-way-to-interpret-this romantic love with an amphibian man(?) feel not only believable but actually moving and emotional, is certainly chief among his accomplishments. Del Toro lets his imagination run wild, resulting in an exquisitely made and visually breathtaking modern classic that both homages the past with delightful splendor and also manages to be its own wildly imaginative and original genre piece at the same time. I just hope this doesn’t awaken anything in me…
Honorable Mentions: A Ghost Story, After the Storm, The Beguiled, The Big Sick, Blade Runner 2049, Coco, The Florida Project, Get Out, The Killing of a Sacred Deer, The Lost City of Z, mother!, Your Name
Underrated or Overlooked: A Cure for Wellness, Annabelle: Creation, Battle of the Sexes, Beatriz at Dinner, Detroit, Downsizing, First They Killed My Father, It Comes at Night, The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected), Professor Marston & the Wonder Women, To the Bone, Wonderstruck
10. Happy Death Day: A demented, sorority-satire-meets-murdery-Groundhog-Day that’s way more fun than it has any right to be. Stab ya laters, babe!
9. xXx: The Return Of Xander Cage: You will pry my unabashed love of this franchise from my cold, dead hands. There’s a callback to almost everything you could ever want from the first two flicks and the absurd amount of fun to be gained from viewing The Return Of Xander Cage should almost be as illegal as jet-ski-bike-surfing probably is. May Vin Diesel never leave us waiting years for another installment again.
8. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2: If you’re concerned that a friend or loved one may be a robot, I invite you to watch Michael Rooker in this flick and if everyone isn’t ugly-crying by the end, there’s your robot sent from the future to destroy mankind. I’M MARY POPPINS, Y’ALL!
7. John Wick: Chapter Two: Let’s just forget Keanu Reeves did that psycho-sexual thriller Knock Knock in-between John Wick and the second chapter in what is becoming one of the most original takes on underworld assassins you’ve ever seen (we all have to make rent, bae). Get ya hands on this gold coin STAT and don’t worry, the dog doesn’t die.
6. Wonder Woman: Standing alone as pretty much the only thing DC did right last year, Patty Jenks and her glamazons defied gravity (and expectations) to shock and AWWW YEAH with one of the most competent and compelling superhero flicks we’ve seen in years. It’s almost like equal representation in cinema is something people would turn up and turn out for… LULZ.
5. Hulu/Netflix: The Babysitter, The Handmaid’s Tale, & Santa Clarita Diet: Breaking from the mold here, I have to call out the original (and adapted) content from streaming providers this past year that blew me away Dorothy Gale-style. Because in the worlds created by Hulu’s A Handmaid’s Tale (chilling dystopia at its finest) and Netflix’s Santa Clarita Diet (far and away best use of Nathan Fillion ever), we are not in Kansas anymore, Toto. Netflix’s The Babysitter takes teen slasher satire to the next level and can’t be missed.
4. Star Wars: The Last Jedi: Always more a Star Trek girl than Star Wars, Last Jedi punched me so hard in the feels I’m still struggling to breathe. Carrie Fisher is the G.O.A.T but Mark Hamill isn’t far behind in what I hope is a franchise that can survive and thrive on its own two legs now.
3. Baby Driver: Edgar Wright can’t really do any wrong here with a fast, fun, fresh take on the heist genre. Just off-center enough to keep you on your toes, this high-octave, high-octane, musically boosted Baby drove into theaters ready, willing, and able to take you on the thrill ride of your life.
2. Get Out: Pure genius on a level most of us would need oxygen-assisted altitude re-breathers to reach, Jordan Peele FTW as he holds a finger down on the pulse of a nation just hard enough to be uncomfortable in its authenticity. PEELE back the layers on this psychological onion with each new viewing. Sorry not sorry (it had to be pun).
1. I, Tonya: A lady-balls-to-the-wall, batshit-crazy, rocketship ride to the seedy underbelly of competitive figure skating and back as told by one of the most infamous and unreliable narrators of all time. Margot Robbie and Allison Janney make you hate to love them.
10. Brawl in Cell Block 99: Craig Zahler’s savage follow-up to his excellent Bone Tomahawk is a satisfyingly effective fusion of interesting characterization and wild modern grindhouse influences. Vince Vaughn’s intimidating 6’5 frame with muscle mass to spare hides a relatable, sympathetic character dropped into a grim situation that lets its star player resist the system.
9. Gerald’s Game: Mike Flanagan’s savagely unsettling Stephen King adaptation plays into the more frightening implications of what a mind does when backed into a corner. When you’re physically helpless, you psyche begins to play, and Gerald’s Game is a spine-tingling play on existential dread and what lurks in the dark. Halfway through, I had to pause it in order to calm down.
8. The Shape of Water: He’s got a bad way of bringing up his intention to make way more films than he’ll actually be able to make, but the reason we get so excited (and then let down) whenever Guillermo del Toro announces a project is that his actual output is consistently good. The Shape of Water is a love letter to cinema and a damn good love story in general. The performances are universally excellent, and the special effects and production design are some of the best of del Toro’s filmography. It’s satisfying in almost every way.
7. Good Time: Good Time is a tense, propulsive crime thriller with a strong sense of character and engrossingly dark twist on the Comedy of Errors. Its striking ability to handle tone so skillfully is one of its many surprises, along with a performance from Robert Pattison that should finally wash away the aftertaste of Twilight and one of most exciting soundtracks of the entire year. This was one of the best “didn’t see it coming” movies of 2017.
6. Lemon: For her first feature, Janicza Bravo has taken her husband Brett Gelman, Michael Cera, and a number of other characters and dropped them into an aggressively mean-spirited, guiltily goofy black comedy with enough layers of meta-comedy and existential resentment to substantiate several viewings. The astonishingly clever editing peels back layers of character and plot at the whim of a director abusing the horrified, aimless existence of Gelman’s leading man, to the benefit of everyone who gets to watch him squirm. In some ways, it is both the scariest and most bitterly funny film of the year.
5. Columbus: Kogonada’s directorial debut is quiet, speculative, melancholy, and absolutely beautiful. Crisp, breathtaking shot composition makes the unique architecture of Columbus, IN feel like its own character, while the human characters of John Cho and Haley Lu Richardson infuse the film with stunning life. Every shot and every nuance of the performances feels carefully calculated.
4. Sylvio: What delightfully alive movie. Merely trying to describe it to someone is difficult without eventually ending with “You just have to see it.” It just buzzes with wonderful detail, like Sylvio’s bizarre décor and director Kentucker Audley’s strangely appealing challenge to viewers to see who could get the definitive count of just how many cheese puffs are hidden throughout the movie. It’s one of those strange, wonderful movies that you just want to live in, and spend time with its characters. You just have to see it.
3. Blade Runner 2049: Blade Runner 2049 was one of the most incredible theater experiences of my life. The thundering sound design and beautiful practical effects and cinematography are reminders of why the theater is such an important part of the movie experience. It also boasts one of the most insightful and challenging explorations of sentient AI of anything in recent memory. Disinterested in whether or not Deckard was a human in the original, 2049 establishes that Gosling’s “K” is one of this world’s convincingly realistic androids, and explores his journey as one small, yet significant part of the massive dystopia of 2049 Los Angeles. This is a stunning sci-fi achievement.
2. Brigsby Bear: Brigsby Bear encapsulates so much: Social anxiety, the feeling of not quite fitting in, the insatiable urge to create something, and the fear that comes from doing so. It’s also a warm, vibrant and very funny movie that consistently finds the sweet, benign perspective of what should be a much darker narrative. A less confident movie would make this seem overly saccharine, but Brigsby Bear feels hopeful and essential instead.
1. The Florida Project: Given that anyone I talked to seemed physically incapable of saying “The Florida Project” without saying “one of the best movies of the year” in the same sentence, my expectations were high. The Florida Project demolished them. It’s thoughtfully shot, the characters feel real with the genuine care put into how the audience learns more about them, the acting is career-defining, the world feels complete and lived-in, and the different ways in which adults and children perceive and react to hardship is one of the best-developed things in any movie all year.
First, some honorable mentions because 2017 was a stellar year for film.
Baby Driver, Mudbound, A Ghost Story, The Florida Project
10. Good Time: The Safdie brothers deliver an electric, pulse-pounding film, boasting one of the greatest performances in the 21st century from Robert Pattinson. It also has an amazing score which harkens back to the synth scores of the 80s.
9. Blade Runner 2049: Gorgeous set design and cinematography lead this sequel that is so good it can stand alone. However, at the same time is a great addition to the Blade Runner universe.
8. Lady Bird: A coming of age story that resonated with everyone. There is no one fault with this movie, it really is a perfect film, and shows Greta Gerwig is here to stay as a filmmaker.
7. BPM (Beats Per Minute): A film about a harsh reality. It’s not an easy watch but it is absolutely worth every minute. It’s a beautiful film that hit me in my soul.
6. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri: Boasting two of the best performances of the year by McDormand and Rockwell. This film is extremely well-written and even more impressively acted.
5. The Shape of Water: This is another beautiful film. The set design, score, and cinematography really shine through. The message is even more beautiful, and one that should resonate with most people.
4. Call Me By Your Name: I’ve never read a book, then watched the movie and liked the movie more, but I did with this one. Chalamet will rip your heart out with his performance, also showing that he is here to stay.
3. Get Out: I’ve watched this film 4 times and every time I’ve seen something new within. It’s a shame this film didn’t get an Oscar nomination for Editing. I can’t wait for the next horror film Jordan Peele makes.
2. Phantom Thread: PTA can do no wrong and he knocked this film out of the park. In a word it’s exquisite; from the set design, costumes, the score, cinematography, writing, and acting. Phantom Thread is everything I love about film.
1. Dunkirk: I was in complete awe of this film. From the editing, to the storytelling, this film could’ve fallen apart in so many ways and it’s a testament to Christopher Nolan that it was amazing. Equal parts astounding and heartfelt, this film will blow you away and then make you cry.
10. Get Out: I was so worried this was going to be another terrible horror film, especially with Jason Blum producing. Jordan Peele knocked it out of the park with his directorial debut.
9. Phantom Thread: Another amazing film from Paul Thomas Anderson. Daniel Day-Lewis ends on a high note with his performance in this film.
8. Call Me by Your Name: A wonderful love story that happens to be about two men. The music, cinematography, and production design all come together to make this film visually dazzling. Not to mention the wonderful performances from Timothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer.
7. Dunkirk: Christopher Nolan does it again! Hans Zimmer provides a gripping and unique soundtrack. My only problem with it being that it was PG-13 instead of R to truly capture the horrors of war.
6. Coco: It has been a long time since Pixar amazed me. While Coco doesn’t have anything new in terms of storytelling, it has amazing animation and plenty of emotion that makes it the best Pixar film in years.
5. Lady Bird: A funny and heartfelt coming of age film. Greta Gerwig is easily my favorite actress in Hollywood right now. I hope to see more of her writing and directing after Lady Bird.
4. The Shape of Water: Guillermo’s abstract concept makes such a wonderful film. I was thinking about this movie for days after I saw it. I recommend this to everyone, even if you think you won’t like it, go see it!
3. Baby Driver: My favorite Edgar Wright film since Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. Easily the best musical of 2017. And my favorite action-musical film of all time!
2. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri: A fantastic cast, a great story, and an exceptional director to round it all out. Three Billboards is a crime dramedy that will be remembered like Fargo.
1. Blade Runner 2049: It is official, Dennis Villeneuve is my new favorite director (sorry Wes Anderson, David Fincher and Noah Baumbach). He managed to make another great sci-fi film, as well as pull off an amazing sequel to 35 year old movie! I know nothing about Dune, but I cannot wait to see what Dennis does with it after what he did with Blade Runner.
10. The Killing of a Sacred Deer
9. Good Time
8. I Don’t Feel At Home in this World Anymore
6. Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond — Featuring a Very Special, Contractually Obligated Mention of Tony Clifton
5. The Florida Project
4. Lady Bird
2. The Shape of Water
1. Brigsby Bear
Honorable Mentions: Brawl in Cell Block 99; Phantom Thread; Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie; Colossal; It Comes At Night; Ingrid Goes West; Star Wars: The Last Jedi; Beach Rats; Lucky; Call Me By Your Name; The Big Sick; Okja; Blade Runner 2049; Lady Macbeth
Movies I (Unfortunately) Haven’t Yet Seen: Mudbound; The Lost City of Z; First They Killed My Father; A Fantastic Woman; A Quiet Place; BPM; Dina; God’s Own Country; I, Tonya; Columbus; Thelma; Nocturama
10. Sylvio: a low key and silly little film with surprisingly high aspirations, heart to spare and a moving message about being true to oneself.
9. The Ballad of Lefty Brown: The best western of the year, les polished than Hostiles, but exploring the genre from a new and compelling angle. (With a career best performance by Bill Pullman)
8. The Devil’s Candy: A stylish and disturbing horror film that has a cool heavy metal atmosphere and excellent sound design. Building tension towards a rewarding and scary finale instead of relying on cheap jump scares.
7. Only the Brave: One of the year’s biggest surprises for me. Featuring some of the best performances of the year, with a powerful and tragic story to tell. Miles Teller was criminally overlooked this year.
6. Coco: A treat for all the senses, and one of Pixar’s greatest achievements.
5. Darkest Hour: Joe Wright’s best film of his career, perhaps also Gary Oldman’s career-commanding performance as well. This historical drama is full of style without sacrificing character and emotion.
4. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri: Director Martin McDonagh explores rage in all its forms in this thoughtful and darkly humorous film. His characters are all broken, and come to realize this in their own ways. Whether they will seek redemption (or even deserve it) is up to the audience to decide.
3. The Lost City of Z: An examination of a man’s lifelong quest to vindicate himself and his Archaeological Theories, a journey destined to consume him and everyone around him. The film feels like a made in heaven collaboration between David Lean and Werner Herzog at the top of their respective games.
2. The Florida Project: A child’s eye view of life at a run-down slum motel just on the fringes of Disney World. The irony of a “Magical Kingdom” lurking just on the horizon is not lost on the filmmaker, who uses it as ironic contrast for the horrifying realities people populating these motels face on a daily basis. One of the most emotionally charged films of recent memory, with stellar performances from the mostly unknown cast. (Although Willem Dafoe gives a masterful performance as the Motel’s put-upon manager.
1. The Shape of Water: Guillermo Del Toro chose to re-cast The Creature from the Black Lagoon monster in a sci-fi fairytale romance. Quite an ambitious dice throw, but as writer/director Del Toro is nothing if not a degenerate gambler. Luckily his bets all paid off this go around, due in a large part to stellar casting and some creative screenwriting which gives every character satisfying set up and payoff. The early 1960s are often represented in pop culture by clean, even lighting and clean coloring. Del Toro instead gives the movie a green and darkly lit look which makes it stand out. Pure Cinema through and through.
Henry J. Fromage
Once again, I’m giving you way too much to watch. Sue me.*
Studies in Pure Entertainment:
Spider-Man: Homecoming, A Day, Confidential Assignment, It, Free Fire, Baywatch, Vanishing Time: A Boy Who Returned, Okja, Monster Hunt, Baby Driver, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2, The Lego Batman Movie, Hush, Kong: Skull Island, Dig Two Graves, xXx: Return of Xander Cage, Ghost in the Shell, Fate of the Furious, The Boss Baby, The Girl With all the Gifts, Kingsman: The Golden Circle, John Wick: Chapter Two, Logan, Patti Cake$, Thor: Ragnarok, The Villainess, The Lego Ninjago Movie, Bright, Mom and Dad, Jumanji
Docs to Watch:
78/52, Beware the Slenderman, Rat Film, Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story, Abacus: Small Enough to Jail, Last Men in Aleppo, Icarus, An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power, No Stone Unturned, Kedi, Strong Island
2017 Movies You Should Watch (in rough order):
Beatriz at Dinner, Chuck, Have a Nice Day, Kekszakallu, Free and Easy, Detroit, Most Beautiful Island, Good Time, Logan Lucky, mother!, Remember, The Hollars, Saving Mr. Wu, In the Forests of Siberia, The Big Sick, The Beguiled, Super Dark Times, Gifted, Their Finest, Split, The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Maki, A Cure for Wellness, Dark Night, The Blackcoat’s Daughter, Raw, I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore, Tramps, Gerald’s Game, American Made, Silvio, The Meyerowitz Stories: New and Selected, Thank You for Your Service, The Killing of the Sacred Deer, Only the Brave, The Disaster Artist, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri, Last Flag Flying, Brawl in Cell Block 99, The Shape of Water, Downsizing, The Post, Phantom Thread, Molly’s Game, Roman J Israel Esq, Call Me By Your Name, Marshall, The Square, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Brigsby Bear, The Little Hours, Ingrid Goes West, I Tonya, Lady Bird, Prevenge, Get Out, Nocturama, War of the Planet of the Apes, Lady Macbeth, All the Money in the World, Coco, Downsizing, Loveless, Wonder, The Insult
Movies to Catch Up On:
Norman: The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer, The Lovers, Graduation, After the Storm, Harmonium, I Called Him Morgan, My Life as a Zucchini, The Lure, The Void, The Levelling, Hounds of Love, Staying Vertical, Sleight, The Hero, Marjorie Prime, Slack Bay, Stronger, Imperial Dreams, My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea, All These Sleepless Nights, From Nowhere, Karl Marx City, The Wedding Plan, Dayveon, Happy End
Another year of marriage, another Best Of list from my wife. I’d say our tastes still (largely) align, eh?
10. The Disaster Artist
9. Thor: Ragnarok
8. Loving Vincent
7. The Killing of a Sacred Deer
5. Get Out
4. The Florida Project
3. Phantom Thread
2. I, Tonya
1. Darkest Hour
10. Mudbound: This does feel like it should have been a lot bigger deal, and maybe Netflix has something to do with that, but in any case, this throwback drama is exactly the kind of Great Novel adaptation that would have swept awards in years past, but with a modern mindset and real, beating heart.
9. Blade Runner 2049: Maybe the accomplishment here is mostly in the visuals, but good God, what gorgeous, mind-expanding visuals. For my money this tells the classic ‘what makes us human’ morality tale far better than the original as well.
8. A Ghost Story: In a year that Terrence Malick put out yet another low-angle navel-gazer, David Lowery staked his claim on the ‘Malickian’ adjective, delivering a small, simple film with a cosmic canvas and devastating emotion (that ingredient that Malick has lost sight of).
7. Colossal: Forget Wonder Woman, this is the feminist statement film of the year, full of emotional and sociological complexity while using the most absurd of metaphors- kaiju threatening Seoul. It’s a hell of an addiction metaphor as well.
6. Wind River: Taylor Sheridan may not be getting the recognition he deserves just yet, but as long as he tells his signature complex tales of masculinity, violence, and the modern West, I’ll be right there first in line.
5. The Breadwinner: So, Coco held a spot on this list until a week ago, but then I watched The Breadwinner. What a gorgeously, truly human story told in emblematic, thrilling alive animation. A true achievement.
4. Dunkirk: I think folks may have started to forget just how intense and immersive an experience Christopher Nolan delivered here- unlike anything else we’ve ever seen. This is what Imax is for, folks. Support the hell out of it.
3. The Florida Project: In a year where humanity onscreen was my nearly sole criterion for evaluating greatness, there was no more human and heartbreaking film than this. God, what an ending.
2. The Lost City of Z: I haven’t been a James Gray apologist before now, but seriously, folks. If this was made in 1973, ever goddam member of the Academy would have had a poster of it on the way at some point in their lives. Epic.
1. Darkest Hour: I didn’t anticipate how hard this portrait of leadership in difficult times would slam me, but it sure did. Simply the film I had the biggest reaction to this year, and one that somehow delivers cinematic thrills from Parliamentary conversations and one of the most transformative performances we’ve seen in some time. Vive Joe Wright!