My Top 10 Movies of 2017

Below is my top 10 movies of the 2017, with some words on why, followed by 10 very worthy runner-ups. I previously posted my top 10 TV of 2017, which you can check out here.


For reference, my top 10 movies of 2016:

  1. I Am Not Your Negro (Raoul Peck)
  2. Moonlight (Barry Jenkins)
  3. Toni Erdmann (Maren Ade)
  4. 20th Century Women (Mike Mills)
  5. O.J.: Made in America (Ezra Edelman) & 13th (Ava DuVernay)
  6. Little Men (Ira Sachs)
  7. Things to Come (Mia Hansen-Love)
  8. Love and Friendship (Whit Stillman)
  9. The Salesman (Asghar Farhadi)
  10. Jackie (Pablo Larrain)


And onto the best of 2017...


10 | Get Out

Julia Turner’s argument for why Get Out should win Best Picture is entirely correct — incredibly rare is the film that resonates as much among the masses as it does in the arthouse circles, a work of cinematic art that makes money. Jordan Peele’s horror film is satirically relentless, a bloody rendering of the everyday terrors inflicted upon black America. The ingenuity of the approach equals the intensity of the execution. 



9 | Okja

How I adored this messy, jarring, disturbing, irresistibly sweet effort from Bong Joon-Ho. The Snowpiercer director revisits themes of capitalism run amok and the cruelty of corporate hierarchies; yet in Okja, he infuses his vision with a grand animal welfare sentiment and an unlikely hero for our times. Mija, a young Korean farmgirl, races to New York to rescue her “superpig” before coming up against a global corporate empire. I can’t say the movie always works — Jake Gyllenhaal, WYD — but for the most part it floored me. 



8 | The Shape of Water

I’m not quite sure how The Shape of Water balances broad geopolitical elements with an interspecies love story as well as it does. But Guillermo Del Toro’s melodramatic panache brings it all together. This is not only his best movie since Pan’s Labyrinth, but perhaps his most accomplished yet — visually sumptuous and tender, as always, but also thematically rigorous and inclusive. Sally Hawkins is simply extraordinary as Eliza, the film’s mute heroine, and Richard Jenkins does gorgeously understated work as her roommate and confidante. In a story of forbidden love and desire, of marginalized people racing toward purpose, Del Toro’s period epic is just right for the times.



7 | Mudbound

This gave me that Selma feeling: The thrill of watching a director kept on the sidelines by industry gatekeepers, finally with the resources and support to tell a story of enormous scope. Mudbound is a sweeping post-WWII drama as only Dee Rees could execute, with a melody of voiceovers and a dogged commitment to atmosphere over plot, and character over twists. It starts out a little fragmented, but goodness does it build to a moving conclusion. Stunningly shot, fearlessly written, and with a peerless ensemble.



6 | Loveless

No director better fuses the encompassingly political with the closely intimate than Andrey Zvyagintsev. Coming off of his masterwork, Leviathan, Loveless is a thornier film, but no less engrossingly intelligent. It features one of the most harrowing shots I’ve ever witnessed on-screen, coordinated with the element of surprise and the power of patience, and it skillfully navigates a contemporary Russian landscape to assess the fragility — the limits — of family and love in a specific regional context. 



5 | Phantom Thread

Paul Thomas Anderson’s sumptuous period piece smartly provokes questions about artistic temperament, gender and power, and the complicated role that companionship plays across a lifetime. But it’s the twisted elegance with which the writer-director spins his unexpectedly, deeply romantic tale that renders it so memorable and distinct. Daniel Day-Lewis, in what he says is his final film role, works wonders with the wonderfully-named Reynolds Woodcock, bringing the fashion designer’s haughty grandiosity down to a recognizably if hilariously human level. (That breakfast order!) He’s matched by Lesley Manville, strong but slithering as his sister, and especially Vicky Krieps, his other half, who’s able to sell a nasty final-act twist with real tenderness. 



4 | Foxtrot

Samuel Maoz's three-act surrealist Israeli drama is a treasure of cinematic poetry. A father is told that his son was killed in combat, but after an intense grieving period, learns that he's actually alive and well; what transpires beyond that is a strange, weighty, stirring examination  of what it means to absorb and live with the aftermath of death. The film has political undertones, paying close attention to the soul of a nation torn by war and borders, but it's the formal unpredictability and agonizingly tight character framing which sticks like glue. Maoz does what he pleases here as director, veering between slapstick comedy and kitchen-sink drama, live-action and animation, but his sensibility is singular and humane. Foxtrot is a panorama of futility, of the search for meaning when the unthinkable has happened and there's nothing but a body to show for it. 



3 | Lady Bird

This is a movie of endless pleasures and gentle laughs, which can make it easy to write off as less than an absolute triumph. Resist the urge. Lady Bird marks a superb solo directorial debut from Greta Gerwig — a pitch-perfect coming of age film that wisely pits expressions of love and attention against one another. (“Aren’t they the same thing?” Lois Smith’s nun tellingly asks near the movie’s end.) Spanning a year with exquisite pacing, and anchored by the sensational Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf, it’s profound in the way it so complexly gets at preparing to say goodbye to your family and move on to the next stage of your life.



2 | The Florida Project

Sean Baker is one of the best American directors working today, period. After the innovative and scrappy Tangerine comes The Florida Project, a devastatingly humane account of poverty, desperation, and childhood innocence that takes place against the bright purple walls of the Magic Castle motel in sunny Orlando. Baker’s film is bright but starkly naturalistic, harsh yet majestically dreamlike. The finale sequence, surreal and thrilling, is remarkable.  



1 | Call Me by Your Name

I still haven’t been able to shake this. Luca Guadagnino’s heartbreaking, swooning, sexy, achingly beautiful adaptation of André Aciman’s 2007 novel is unquestionably my movie of the year. Speaking personally, few moviegoing experiences have been more meaningful and emotional than simply sitting in the theater and taking this film in, right through to that cathartic final shot, and walking it off afterward. It’s a queer masterpiece. I went in-depth on Call Me by Your Name for EW, which says plenty more than I can say here.




The Runner-ups

11 | Marjorie Prime: A deliberate, carefully composed work with unconventional musical and visual cues, Marjorie Prime demands that you fall into its rhythms and engage with its ideas. Director Almereyda devises subtly cinematic methods of asking the play’s primary questions, as loved ones find ways to finally confide in one another — though, only after they’ve died. A ruminative gem. 


12| BPM: A film that nails the spirit, grind, and vitality of activism like precious few before it. Nahuel Pérez Biscayart, a name you almost certainly don’t know but should, gives a gut-wrenching performance that ought to be racking up awards.


13 | Dunkirk: Christopher Nolan makes the film of his career with Dunkirk, as gripping, immersive, and expansive a theatrical experience as movies provide nowadays.


14 |  A Fantastic Woman: A portrait of a trans woman undone by grief, Sebastian Lelio's polemical melodrama does more than advance a cause. Daniela Vega's swooning performance breathes aching, nuanced life into the character. Her tenacity lingers.


15 | Brad’s Status: Mike White’s stuff never breaks out as it should, and Brad’s Status is no exception. His second directorial effort is a generous father-son study and an extension of his interest in the way the most internally tormented relate to the world. 


16 | A Ghost Story: David Lowery ruminates on existence with childlike sincerity in this perceptive, inquisitive, elliptical tone poem. His moody portrait of time’s passage — of the very nature of eternity — edges toward cosmic.


17 | The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected): Now is not the time to praise Dustin Hoffman, who does admittedly  stellar work here as an embittered patriarch, so I’ll look to Elizabeth Marvel’s magnetic (and underrated) turn as his daughter instead. Meyerowitz, overall, is another solid Noah Baumbach joint.


18 | The Lovers: Azazel Jacobs traces the breakdown of a marriage in reverse, as a couple essentially living separate lives find themselves drawn to each other just as the clock is about to run out. Debra Winger and Tracy Letts are spectacular, the latter giving the film a showstopper of a finish. 


19 | Beach Rats: Eliza Hittman dreamily captures the trappings of the closet in this painfully good study of masculinity. Its turn toward tragedy is too despairing for its own good, but the rest is hauntingly beautiful. 



20 | A Quiet Passion: Terence Davies finds a soulful visual language for the poetry of Emily Dickinson. Even better, Cynthia Nixon convincingly interprets the poet’s biting wit, crippling insecurity, and singular worldview.