In the real world, 2017 was a shit year. But at the movies, 2017 was pretty good. We had our share of franchise entries as always, but from that we also got our first wildly successful female-led superhero movie and a delightful Thor threequel made by a Kiwi indie-comedy director. And, who would have thought a horror-comedy about race in America and a coming-of-age about a Catholic schoolgirl in Sacramento would be two of the best-reviewed movies of the year?
There was an embarrassment of riches, as they say, and narrowing down a top 10 list was wonderfully difficult. I’ve swapped some of these placements dozens of times, but here it is: my ten favorite of the 40+ movies I saw in 2017*.
This Swedish film had one of my favorite trailers of the year, and the real thing more than lives up to the hype. This dark comedy about the instability of arbitrary social mores features a magnetic performance from Danish actor Claes Bang, and a brief yet memorable role for Elisabeth Moss to boot. It made me laugh, it made me squirm, it left me wanting more.
Steven Soderbergh is one of the most interesting filmmakers working today, and he’s back from a brief “retirement” with a return to what he is arguably best at: a heist movie. This one is set in the south and features Channing Tatum, Adam Driver, and Riley Keough, and was one of the most fun times I had at a movie this year. The extended Game of Thrones joke in the middle of it is even better than you’ve heard.
What would happen if Colin Farrell crashed a house full of pent-up beautiful blonde women like Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst, and Elle Fanning in the middle of the Civil War? I went into The Beguiled expecting arch, sexy melodrama and got all that plus a heap of unexpected and very welcome humor. Sofia Coppola is unparalleled at creating worlds somehow both lush and understated, and this exploration of the (privileged, white) female gaze is surprisingly subversive. Bring me my anatomy book!
Confession: I am a huge scaredy cat and very adamantly do not like horror movies. But I loved Get Out. Funny, scary, beautifully shot, and batshit crazy, there’s really never been a movie quite like this one before. The whole cast is note-perfect, especially Daniel Kaluuya, finally getting his big break after years of working in British television. Keep an eye on him, and on writer-director Jordan Peele, in 2018.
If I had to guess, I would say it is probably scientifically impossible not to smile during Baby Driver. The opening heist sequence alone is so inventive and exhilarating it feels like a shot of adrenaline to the system, and the movie keeps going at full throttle. A charming love story, a classic “one last job” setup, and a killer soundtrack means this movie has a little something for everybody. It’s full of homage, yet something special all its own.
Spoiler alert: This movie rules. More specifically, this movie somehow manages to bring utterly new life into a 40 year-old franchise. It’s at once fully aware of its own history and excitingly irreverent of it, and it’s arguably the best-looking and best-acted film of the series. My first viewing left my jaw on the floor the second was even more enjoyable, and I’ve already purchased tickets for my third.
For most of its running time, The Florida Project is a slice-of-life movie about the “hidden homeless” low-income families who live in motels just down the road from Disney World. The lens is mainly focused on an adorable little girl, Moonee, and her friends. The colors are bright and the skies are big, and the movie flits along. Then come the last 10 minutes. This is a beautiful, humane, bittersweet movie full of impressive performances by young actors (like Brooklynn Prince, who plays Moonee) and non-actors (like Bria Vinaite, who plays her mom). And also WIllem Dafoe, who will likely and well-deservedly win an Oscar as the kindly hotel manager doing his best.
You know when you see a movie that you just wish you could live in? I challenge anyone not to get completely swept away by the beautiful Italian vistas, or by the burgeoning love story of Elio (Timothée Chalamet) and Oliver (Armie Hammer) in Call Me By Your Name. This film is so immersive and filled to the brim with emotion, it’s the kind of movie that sticks with you long after it’s over. Do NOT leave when the credits start rolling, stay until the screen goes black. Please. Trust me.
So, I may or may not have seen Dunkirk four times in theaters. Yes, it is as intense and action-packed as you’ve heard. It’s also a true marvel from a filmmaking standpoint: you don’t need four viewings to understand the interlocking timelines of soldiers and civilians alike battling on land, at sea, and in the air, but each viewing rewards with a new appreciation of the detail and the scale of the story Christopher Nolan so masterfully tells. The visuals steal the show but the film isn’t short on moving performances either. Cillian Murphy and Harry Styles (yes, Harry Styles) stand out as two of the 400,000 soldiers desperately trying to get home, and Mark Rylance and Tom Hardy are some of the men who try to help get them there. At the end of the day, this is a story about ordinary men (and boys, really); some trying just to survive, and others trying to do the right thing, simply because it’s the right thing to do.
My friends, family, coworkers, Twitter followers, and everyone in between are probably sick of hearing me say this, but: Lady Bird is the most represented I have felt on screen, ever. Like Lady Bird (nee Christine, brilliantly embodied by Saoirse Ronan), I went to an all-girls Catholic high school where I was not on the high end of the income spectrum. I did musical theater with my friends, and I longed to move away from the town where I grew up. But I promise: even if that doesn’t sound like you, you will find something to relate to, or at least thoroughly enjoy in this movie.
Writer-director Greta Gerwig imbued her semi-autobiographical script with so much detail, and not only understands but also empathizes with each and every character so thoroughly, it’s impossible for the audience not to do the same. The performances are wonderful, and the story hits the sweet spot of specificity and universality that other films try and fail to recreate half as well as Lady Bird. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll possibly even reassess the critical value of Dave Matthews Band, but you do not want to miss this movie.
How many of my Top 10 have you seen? Do you agree or disagree with any of my picks? What does YOUR list look like? Have questions or want to know more about any of the films I chose? Tweet @megistheworst to let me know, because there is truly nothing I would rather talk about.
*Obviously I did not see every major movie to come out this year; The Post and The Phantom Thread in particular seem like the ones with the most potential to make my list once I do see them.