Update: It’s now February. I’ve had a chance to see a couple of movies that hadn’t opened near me when I made my original list, and reconsider a couple of others. Three Billboards moves further down on my list; it’s good, but there are some screenplay construction issues that keep it from being great. And I added God’s Own Country and Phantom Thread, both films that surprised me in the best possible way. Call Me By Your Name remains the single best movie of the year.
My new Best Films of 2017:
1. Call Me By Your Name
3. The Post
4. Get Out
5. Phantom Thread
6. God’s Own Country
7. The Little Hours
8. Good Time
9. Baby Driver
10. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
What a totally strange year for movies. By the time December rolls around, I invariably have a good two or three movies jockeying for the number one spot on my best-of list, and several others elbowing their way into second and third—movies that have somehow moved or inspired me. Visceral films, intense emotional reactions; that sort of thing.
But not this year.
Only two films this year truly moved me, Call Me By Your Name and Coco, that stunning animated work about a little Mexican boy in search of his deceased grandfather on the Day of the Dead. Call Me By Your Name is, I’m convinced, one of the best films of the past several decades. It’s central star, the rising talent, Timothée Chalamet, whose power and intensity is not entirely dissimilar to early Brando, gives the best performance of the year as the musical prodigy, Elio, who falls in love with his father’s research assistant (an excellent Armie Hammer) during a languid summer in Italy. There isn’t an emotion Chalamet doesn’t touch in this film, from teenage angst to awkward lust, and he does it all with such seamless ease; watch him closely during the haunting final shot and you’ll see a major new talent at work. You can read more about him here. And Michael Stuhlbarg, as Elio’s deeply empathic father, offers a late-breaking monologue about treasuring our losses that will make your heart catch in your throat; it’s an astonishing moment in film.
There were other very good movies, to be sure—like Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, with its firecracker performance by Frances McDormand as a midwestern mom grinding down the local police for clues to her daughter’s murder, or Baby Driver, a thrilling pop-action film from the insanely talented Edgar Wright. Jordan Peele made one of the best thrillers of the year with Get Out, a movie that succeeds beyond its clever skewering of race relations in America. Filled with paranoia and a deep sense of dread, this is a movie that would have made Hitchcock proud. There was The Post, with Spielberg at his most Spielbergian and Meryl Streep at her most Streepian, pairing up to create a real corker of Hollywood Classicism about the Washington Post’s fight to publish the Pentagon Papers. Both director and actor do some of their best work in years, aided by Tom Hanks as the reckless, if well-intended, Post editor, Ben Bradlee. And The Little Hours offered the year’s biggest laughs, riffing on Boccaccio’s The Decameron, with its horny nuns and a flat-out raucous (and highly underrated) slapstick performance from Kate Micucci.
Other films I think were less successful than their critical acclaim would suggest. The Shape of Water is anchored by a strong performance by Sally Hawkins as a mute who develops more than a friendly affection for an Amazonian fish man; but the movie doesn’t hold up under the unbearable weight of incredulity. It’s a rare sort-of misfire from Guillermo del Toro. And Lady Bird seems to be getting attention I don’t quite understand. It’s a nice film, a sweet film, brought to life by Saoirse Ronan as a teenager desperate to escape the boredom of hometown Sacramento, and Laurie Metcalf as her overbearing mother. But the movie breaks no new ground, despite the wickedly funny screenplay by writer-director Greta Gerwig.
So here are my ten best movies of 2017, for better or worse:
- Call Me By Your Name
- Get Out
- The Post
- The Little Hours
- Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
- Good Time
- Baby Driver
- War for the Planet of the Apes
- Wind River
Honorable Mentions: It, The Big Sick, Wonder Woman, It Comes At Night, Detroit, All the Money in the World, Molly’s Game, Ingrid Goes West, Personal Shopper, Atomic Blonde, The Florida Project