2017 was a horrible year for many reasons. We all know it, it’s not something I need to get into. But while it feels like the world is burning, I firmly believe that movies have never been better. Blockbusters were good again, I can name at least a dozen that went from fun to truly great, and that’s not something I can say for any other year. But it’s on the smaller scale that I feel cinema shines the brightest, and this year was filled with intimate, personal stories, some of the best films I’ve ever seen.
Before getting into the top ten proper, there are a few films that barely didn’t make my list that I still feel I need to mention:
- Martin Scorsese made me question my understanding of faith in “Silence”, a powerful film about a Portuguese missionary in 17th century Japan who’s internal struggle is incredibly portrayed.
- “World of Tomorrow Episode 2: The Burden of Other People’s Thoughts” like its predecessor, takes the ramblings of a young child and becomes an examination of one’s humanity. It’s the sequel to my favorite short film and it delivers in the best possible way.
- Every time Christopher Nolan makes a new film, it’s a must watch. He crafts cinematic experiences in a way no other director can and “Dunkirk” is no exception. It portrays war in a truly terrifying way and it goes into the essence of heroism and how, sometimes, it isn’t enough.
- “Baby Driver”
Edgar Wright is my favorite director, no contest, and the fact that “Baby Driver” is on this list should be of no surprise. It’s first and foremost, a great action film, my favorite since “Mad Max: Fury Road”. Its chase scenes are a marvel to look at and it’s just incredibly edited to its fantastic soundtrack. But underneath it all is a beautiful love story, that feels taken straight out of a fairy tale, and that makes you want nothing more than to see these characters happy and together.
- “Get Out”
Jordan Peele’s debut is the most important film of the year. Its story of young black man (Daniel Kaluuya) meeting his white girlfriend’s family, a meeting that devolves into something way more sinister, works on so many levels. It does a mix of tension and comedy so well, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a movie with better timing in its delivery. Daniel Kaluuya’s performance is incredible and needs to be mentioned and honored. What the film does best, though, is nail the feeling of otherness, of knowing that some place is not your own, in a way that’s it’s impossible not to understand in 2017.
In “Paterson, Paterson (Adam Driver) is a poet that works as a bus driver in Paterson, New Jersey. There’s no real conflict in Jim Jarmusch’s film, not in the classic storytelling way. What it is, though, is a love letter to poetry and beauty and art. It leaves you happy and hopeful in a way few other films ever do and no other film has ever made me want to read poetry like this one.
- “Blade Runner 2049”
I’d never would have thought a direct to a 35 year-old cyberpunk cult classic could have been this great, but Denis Villeneuve pulled it off in a way I couldn’t have imagined. If the first film challenges the concept of if a replicant can be human, the sequel takes this thesis and gets to go one step further. Its story of K (Ryan Gosling) and what it means to be human, to love, and ultimately to not matter in one’s own humanity. It’s a great story told in an unbelievable audiovisual experience, because both the cinematography and the soundtrack are the real stars of the film.
John Cho should have been a star. The first take away from this film is his poignant, powerful performance as the son of an architecture scholar stuck In Columbus, Ohio, because his father got sick on a trip and is now on death bed. Kogonada, in his first film, tells the story of his grief and his coping with the strained relationship he and his father share through his meeting with Casey (Haley Lu Richardson), a young woman who never got to follow her architecture dreams because of here relationship with her mother. It’s both their story, her coming-of-age, his growth and acceptance, told through one of the most gorgeous films of the year. The love for Columbus’ architecture is given shape through the film cinematography and the city has never looked better.
- “Star Wars: The Last Jedi”
I love Star Wars. It brings me a feeling of almost unbearable excitement, more than any other movie ever could. The Last Jedi delivers as a Star Wars film in every single way: the new characters that I can’t stop loving more and more and the old ones that are at their best, space battles that have so much weight, my single favorite fight scene in all of Star Wars and what I’d call the best storytelling in a single Star Wars film. It kept me on the edge of my seat. It made me laugh. It made me gasp. It made me cry. I’m so happy this is what Star Wars can be.
- “Personal Shopper”
Olivier Assayas’s second time working with Kristen Stewart (after “Cloud of Sils Maria”) is a great exploration of grief and desire, mixed with a ghost story. Kristen Stewart plays a personal shopper for a French celebrity who uses her free time to try to contact her recently deceased twin brother’s spirit. Assayas manages to create in this film a true sense of unease. Watching it almost feels voyeuristic: seeing her deepest, darkest desires emerge through a cloud of grief is one of the most intense movie watching experience I had all year.
- “Lady Bird”
There is a certain universality to the great coming-of-age story and “Lady Bird” is one of the greats. In Lady Bird (Saoirse Ronan), we can all see a reflection of ourselves, independent of age, gender and location and we can empathize and understand every decision she makes. Greta Gerwig creates a world filled with characters that feel so real and alive, I’m sure I could have met a few of them. But it’s the relationship between Lady Bird and her mother (Laurie Metcalf) that is the heart of the film. They truly love each other, and they both know it, but they are a point in life where they just can’t understand the other, or communicate like they really want to, and it’s truly heartbreaking to watch.
- “Your Name”
I wrote about Makoto Shinkai’s new outstanding animated film back in April and how for me, it’s a beautiful story of love across time and distance and those feelings haven’t changed. It tells a great story of two teenagers that switch bodies every other day until, one day, that connection stops. The characters are great, the animation itself is incredible, and it’s a movie that I’ll definitely keep watching again and again.
1 “Call Me By Your Name”
This is why I love movies. I’ve been thinking about this film for months at this point without ever doubting it would top this list. I got out of the theater, completely shook and immediately started listening to its soundtrack, and I still do, those Sufjan Stevens songs still bring out so much emotion out of me.
Adapted from André Aciman’s novel, Luca Guadagnino’s film tells the story of a late teen’s (Timothée Chalamet) coming-of-age, exploration of his desires and his falling in love with a young man (Armie Hammer) that returns his feeling. It’s a slow film, filled with contemplative moments and beautiful shots of Northern Italy, which gives the film and the relationship a feeling of true intimacy. It’s a wonderful film, from beginning to end, a beautiful story of love and loss and it really deserves to be watched.