In retrospect, 2017 was an impressive year for cinema. Anytime I find myself having to pare down my picks for the Honorable Mentions, I really can’t complain. Now, without further ado, here are my top ten movies of the year.
10. Blade Runner 2049
Though its narrative sags at times, this ambitious sci-fi epic does a fine job paying tribute to the original without being a retread. Dripping with visual and aural atmosphere, director Denis Villeneuve creates a detailed and believable future. Ryan Gosling is excellent in the lead, and – get this – Harrison Ford is actually trying.
9. Good Time
The latest edition to my top ten (I saw it just a few days ago) is a mind-bending bad trip about a criminal’s one-night quest to get his brother out of custody. Thanks to a tight runtime, garishly beautiful cinematography, and a pulsing electronic soundtrack, the story maintains its breakneck pace for the entire movie. Holding everything together is a rock-solid performance from Robert Pattinson as Connie, whose increasingly bad decisions make for edge-of-your-seat viewing.
8. The Disaster Artist
An affectionately mocking tribute to bad-movie auteur Tommy Wiseau, this stranger-than-fiction comedy ends up being the most inspirational movie of the year. See my review for more.
7. The Killing of a Sacred Deer
This pitch-black comedy may be a bit too offbeat for some, but I found myself taken with its purposefully jarring aesthetic. See my review for more.
6. I, Tonya
Perhaps the year’s most effortlessly entertaining movie, this docudrama tells Tonya Harding’s story with intelligence, sympathy, and no small amount of humor. Digging far deeper than the famed incident itself, I, Tonya is the rare biopic that’s enjoyable throughout. Margot Robbie gives a career-best performance in the lead, while Allison Janney slays as Harding’s hilariously cutting mother.
5. I Love You, Daddy
I might get some flack for this one, but I’ve got to be honest. I Love You, Daddy is an intelligent, assured comedy that has more on its mind than any other comedy in recent memory. Read my review for more.
4. Your Name
This anime feature deserves praise for sheer ambition alone, spanning genres from teen romance to body-swapping comedy to others that I can’t mention without spoiling the movie. Amazingly, this jumble of elements smoothly coheres into a poignant story of the growing bond between two very different teens. It’s a piece perfectly suited to its medium, which pulls off its narrative risks in ways live action simply couldn’t. That is to say nothing of the animated visuals themselves, which are never less than stunning.
3. Wind River
This wintry thriller may seem generic at first glance, but its thoughtful screenplay and strong grip on setting elevate it above similar fare. Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen deliver powerfully restrained performances in the lead roles. See my review for more.
Marvel’s sendoff to one of comic book movies’ most iconic characters doesn’t disappoint, delivering on both the brutal R-rated action and the emotional drama. Unafraid of the moral ambiguity that’s usually anathema to its genre, Logan gives us an aging, deeply flawed hero along with believable villains. Patrick Stewart and Stephen Merchant shine in supporting roles, while Hugh Jackman gives us some of his finest work in the lead, painting an affecting portrait of a lonely drunk who used to be a superhero.
1. Call Me by Your Name
A light-yet-substantial ode to young love that embraces both its sublime pleasure and unbearable pain, Call Me by Your Name is a triumph across the board. Read my review for more.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri: This rural dramedy almost made the cut thanks to its strong screenplay and the cast’s layered performances, but lost out because of its fumbling third act and technical shortcomings.
It: Though I quite enjoyed this Stephen King adaptation, it just had too many flaws to make my top ten.
Lady Bird: A solid-if-overrated entry in the coming of age genre, Greta Gerwig’s teen dramedy is a strong execution of a well-worn formula.
Get Out: This racially charged horror movie boasts a perfectly-pitched first two acts, but succumbs to a generic finale.
Raw: This French horror movie about a young girl’s bodily discoveries at veterinary school doesn’t always work, but it’s unique and memorable enough to warrant my recommendation.
Split: This minor return to form for M. Night Shyamalan is bolstered by some of his surest direction in years, as well as a bravura performance from James McAvoy.
John Wick 2: Beautiful to look at and impeccably choreographed, this sequel nonetheless fails to top the streamlined action of the original.
The Florida Project: This loosely structured drama creates a joyful portrait of one girl’s summer in a flophouse near Disney World. Both the child and veteran actors give unselfconscious, naturalistic performances.
It comes at Night: This low-key horror film understands that the scariest monsters come from the audience’s imagination.
The Shape of Water: Though well-acted and richly realized, this film finds Guillermo Del Toro firmly in his comfort zone, and fails to live up to the best of his oeuvre.
Brawl in Cell Block 99: A exciting piece of gritty genre minimalism, Brawl in Cell Block 99 delivers its unforgiving violence and straightforward story with brutal efficiency.
Dunkirk: The perfect companion piece to Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Dunkirk is technically beyond reproach, but quite lean when it comes to story.
A Ghost Story: With a running time of just 90 minutes, A Ghost Story is still too long, but it leaves the viewer with haunting images and profound questions.
Th-th-th-that’s all folks! Stay tuned for my Worst of 2017, coming soon.