*Compiled by our current editorial and review staff. Excerpts written by Charlie Dickstein and Anthony Zangrillo.
Call Me By Your Name
With some of the best cinematography and acting of the year, Call Me By Your Name follows the romance between two men who form a Summer relationship in the lush Italian countryside. Timothée Chalamet’s virtuosic performance is stunning, charming, and years beyond his age.
Pro tip: James Ivory penned the script and is famous for writing some of the best romance films of all time: A Room With A View and Howard’s End are great starting points.
War of the Planet of the Apes
For anyone who’s seen a few jailbreak or guys-on-a-mission films, you’ll generally know where the rest of War of the Planet of the Apes is going within about ten minutes. However, the film’s combination of intellect and special effects make this film unlike any before it. If you’re interested in what would happen if you crossed Apocalypse Now with the Jungle Book, then you may just love this film.
Moreover, Ceasar played by Andy Serkis is without a doubt the most compelling action hero of 2017. His character is like Clint Eastwood, King Kong, and Moses all in one. Unlike most actors, he does all of his performance in a full body suit. In my opinion, it’s about time Motion Capture Performances got their own awards category.
Greta Gerwig starred and co-wrote in one of the modern classics of coming of age cinema in Frances Ha. In Lady Bird, she directs Saorise Ronan in a heartwarming coming-of-age film. Although, it’s plot is well trod and similar to other movies in the genre, Gerwig’s dialogue and Ronan’s performance are exceptional.
An ode to the Room that is beautifully artistic even if not 100% accurate. James Franco is breathtaking as the strange director of the “best worst movie ever made.” The story is too crazy to be true, which makes the real tale even more unbelievable. While still inferior to Ed Wood, the flick is worth the watch for the performances alone.
Ambiguity is the strongest aspect of this film that sets it apart from other sports bio-pics. Utilizing the interviews of both Tonya Harding and her ex-husband, the director is able to always keep audiences guessing. While the film comes nowhere close to giving an accurate picture of what really happened, it does succeed in humanizing a worldwide villain. All of this is amplified by strong performances by Margot Robbie, Sebastian Stan and Allison Janney.
Although, writer/director Julia Ducorneau would probably reject the following description, the French art house horror Raw is one of the most realistic and intellectual vampire films ever made. It follows a young high school girl who transfers to veterinarian school and gains a craving for raw meat. The film uses themes of puberty and vampirism for a stunning social horror.
Hugh Jackman’s swan song is gritty, realistic and violent. A loose adaptation of Old Man Logan gives newcomer X-23 time to shine, while giving Wolverine a fitting end. Edgy creative choices and a phenomenal performance by Jackman help the film overcome a stagnant 2nd Act and lazy villain trope. Long live R- rated Marvel films.
9. Good Time
With a performance guaranteed to make any Robert Pattinson skeptics a die hard fan, the Safdi brothers Good Time is aptly titled. The film follows Pattinson, who after botching a bank robbery with his mentally disabled brother, mad dashing across New York on the run from the NYPD. The movie is done in an enthralling, wholly unique style that mixes the realism of films like Bicycle Thieves with the pulpiness of Tarantino. Also, its score by electronic producer Oneohtrix Point Never is on par with those of Tangerine Dream and Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross.
Personally surprising, an animated film cracks our list this year. Coco is truly one of Pixar’s greatest offerings. This was the first Pixar film to feature a minority character in the lead role, and it doesn’t shy away from the tough topic of death and remembering ancestors. Also, its resolution has one of the most universally forced crying scenes, which creatively uses a memorable song in different ways.
7. Shape of Water
Guillermo del Toro crafts a dark fairy tale that puts a new spin on Beauty and the Beast. While the film may sometimes push the edge a little too far, the overall outing is pretty tame for del Toro. The most surprising elements involve the film’s loving embrace of old Hollywood and films from a prior generation. Michael Shannon is phenomenal as always as his typical hypocritical lawman, and Sally Hawkins dominates the film through her muted presence. The one misfire hampering the film is the predictable ending, which feels like a missed opportunity.
In one of the quirkiest blockbuster films ever made (and in my opinion Netflix’s best), Okja follows the story of a girl rescuing her best friend (and pet) in the world, a genetically engineered super pig. When a Monsanto-esque corporation intends to use her pig for a giant marketing campaign (but secretly to slaughter), a littler girl with help of a vegan activist group rush to save the adorable CGI animal. In this film, auteur Bong Joon-ho proves again he is one of the most original and exciting filmmakers around.
5. The Post
Steven Spielberg wows audiences with a dramatization of the events surrounding the landmark freedom of the press court case, aptly named the Pentagon Papers. The famed director utilizes his cinematic mastery to turn a possibly dull story into exciting espionage reporting. All of this is heightened by career performances from Tom Hanks, Meryl Streep and a strong supporting cast.
Ticking clock enthusiast Christopher Nolan’s world war ii thriller is a masterpiece of suspense and cinematography. The film is practically silent as you watch three men on Dunkirk beach attempting to either survive or save someone else. Although the plot is as thin as a saltine, Dunkirk is the most cinematic and involving film of the year.
3. Get Out
For his directorial debut, comedian Jordan Peele crafted one of the greatest horror films of all time. Although fans of the genre may not be as terrified by Get Out in the same way as The Exorcist or Dawn of the Dead, the film makes one aware like no film before it of the subtle reality of everyday racism.
2. The Florida Project
Most Hollywood films are designed to be as loud and action packed as possible. Some films however, typically “indies”, stray from traditional three-act structures. The Florida Project is one of these latter films. Its plot flows like a dog day afternoon as it follows a mother and her child in a motel on the outskirts of Disney world. Of all the films released in 2017, Florida Project depicted real world issues with as much heart and authenticity as the biggest blockbuster film depicted explosions and car chases.
1. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
At the top of the list is a dark comedy that subverts all audience expectations in a twisting affair that will keep viewers hooked through the ambiguous ending. Frances McDormand and Woody Harrelson shine in a contentious relationship that will force audiences to take sides. The film truly shines in making viewers care about an originally unlikable character, utilizing him in a great redemption arc.