How do you judge a year in movies? Is it based on the number of masterpieces you think you saw? Is it based on a wide range of films that fall in the “good” to “very good” category? Or, is it based on the difficulty of formulating a year-end top 10 list? If only it was that easy.
Dan Fienberg, a former colleague and currently TV critic at THR, and I were recently discussing how difficult it was to formulate our year-end lists. He was faced with the problem of sifting through too many selections that could qualify. He simply had too many programs he felt should make his top 10 of the year’s best television content. This writer, on the other hand, struggled to generate sustained passion for more than five or six films all together. Although, perhaps that’s more a statement on the current state of creativity on the small screen then what’s being shown in theaters. Eventually, the list came together, but when it’s that hard to be passionate about your top 10 that might indicate it’s wasn’t an absolutely stellar year in cinema.
That being said, there were masterpieces (two top this list). There were stunning performances (every film on this list has one). And there were images from different films that will be ingrained in our consciousness for years to come (some not even in the “worth seeing” portion of this post). That’s certainly memorable.
As we look forward to a new batch of auteurs debuting works at Sundance in less than a month, here’s a ranking of the top movies over the past 12 months.
[Note: Films qualify based on the year they are screened publicly, not when they are released in theaters.]
Bong Joon-ho’s remarkable imagination is once again on display in this moving dramatic thriller about a teenage girl, (Ahn Seo-hyun) who raises a genetically born “super-pig,” Okja, only to have her returned to the company that created her without her knowledge. The world building is above and beyond, the CG created Okja is gorgeous, but it’s the heart and horror marvelously orchestrated by Joon-ho’s wondrous direction that you remember the most.
9. “The Killing of a Sacred Deer”
What’s so ironic about 2017 is that the year’s best Nicole Kidman performance has already been forgotten under the deluge of praise for her work in HBO’s “Big Little Lies.” Yorgos Lanthimos flips the suburban thriller genre on its head as a young man, Martin (a fantastic Barry Keoghan), torments a well renowned surgeon, Steven (Colin Farrell), who had sympathy for the boy after the death of his father years before. As Martin begins to make threats of a “curse,” Steven’s children suddenly become afflicted with unexplainable paralysis. Kidman plays Steven’s wife, Anna, a woman who eventually becomes the catalyst to do whatever is necessary to end the strange power Martin has over her offspring. Lanthimos exploration about what will make a man (and his family) break to right a wrong is a meticulously crafted drama that is utterly fascinating and horrifying at the same time.
8. “Ingrid Goes West”
A hilarious snap of not only the obsessive instagram culture many of us are living in, but a comedy that focuses on the destructive nature of social media obsession. Not only does Matt Spicer’s big screen debut feature one of the most impressive performances of Aubrey Plaza’s career, but it’s a historical marker that accurately rips the hypocritical, cough, “unique” culture that you find in Venice and Santa Monica, CA. It’s funny and gobsmackingly fascinating at the same time.
7. “The Shape of Water”
Will you believe a woman and a humanoid from under the sea can fall in love? (Doug Jones’ sea god isn’t a fish monster people) That’s one of the marvels of Guillermo del Toro’s moving and gorgeous period drama. It’s a fantastical modern fairy tale that weaves the never-ending discrimination minority groups still face in America (basically anyone but straight white men) around a heartbreaking turn from the wondrous Sally Hawkins.
6. “Blade Runner 2049”
Does it completely live up to Ridley Scott’s original classic? No, but frankly, no one should have expected it to. Denis Villeneuve returns to Philip K. Dick’s no-so distant future with a vision all his own and it’s a vision that seemingly burns into your skull. After their impressive collaboration on “Sicario,” Villeneuve and Roger Deakins reunite for one of the most visually stunning films of the decade. More importantly, “2049” wraps you in a mystery that, thankfully, still leaves you searching for answers. We expected nothing less.