I have an obsession with making lists, let's just get that straight. When I was in elementary school, I'd doodle in my notebooks during class by making lists of the greatest athletes in a given sport. Since then, my tastes and passions have changed slightly, but my love for making lists has endured.
When it comes to movies, the year-end list is a mainstay. I have been keeping tabs of my personal favorite films from throughout the year as I have watched them with the goal of coming up with a final list of my favorites from the year. Below, you will find my 10 favorites with a few honorable mentions. But first, a few caveats.
One, I live in northern Indiana. So, we often don't get many Oscar-buzzy movies until January. There are some major films that I have not seen yet. A few of them I expect to make their way onto this list, but I don't think it's fair to put a film on the list that I have not actually seen. I also feel that it's only fair that I have to put out my year-end list before the year actually ends. So, below are my favorites of the movies that I have seen in 2017, but there's a good chance that I will be updating it throughout January. If I add any new films, I will acknowledge which films were added and removed from the list you see here.
Two, I don't want this particular post to get too bogged down by review material. For any of the films on this list that I have already reviewed, I'll provide a link to the longer review in case you'd like to read my full thoughts on the film. But, for this post, I'll just give a short blurb for each finalist with the reasons why I love that film.
Three, let me be clear - these are my personal favorites. If you don't see a film on here that you loved, don't take that as me slighting any film. I thought this was a year full of incredible filmmaking from a wide array of artists. These are the 10 films that I saw this year that resonated with me the most, but that doesn't mean they are the only films that struck a chord with me. But, as is the nature with lists, you have to end somewhere.
With that, let's begin.*
The Top 10
10. The Big Sick
Simply put, this is an incredibly charming movie. As a romantic comedy, this film works very well. At the early stages, it may seem that that is its only goal. But then it takes a turn and begins to unravel our country's healthcare system in a subtle way. The movie is very well-written, and the acting is fantastic, too - especially from Holly Hunter. This movie made me laugh harder than a movie has in a long time, but it made me think, too.
9. Molly's Game**
When I heard Aaron Sorkin would be making his directorial debut, I marked Molly's Game down as one of my most anticipated films of 2017. It did not disappoint, and though Sorkin's script is spectacular, it was Jessica Chastain's navigation of it that really stood out to me. Her performance is fantastic, and she carries the film to spectacular heights. This is a movie about the games we play and how we must define winning on our own terms.
8. I, Tonya***
The story of Tonya Harding is the exact type of tabloid, reality TV fodder that our culture has come to crave. Sometimes it's difficult to unearth the truth in it all. The creative team of director Craig Gillespie and writer Steve Rogers adeptly bring this to life in I, Tonya through their playful use of the unreliable narrator. Margot Robbie and Allison Janney both give incredible performances, and the script is full of nuance.
This movie showcases a slice of life not often seen in movies. Here we see a life of poverty, but through the eyes of a child. That child is Moonee, who lives with her mother Halley. Willem Dafoe gives an incredible performance as the manager of the motel where they live. The power of this film is in its ability to get us to experience the lives of these people and question how our systems can give them the impossible choices they face. Should they be absolved of wrongdoing? No. But it's sad that they feel the need to even make such choices in the first place.
I don't think I've ever seen a movie quite like A Ghost Story. This film takes a great deal of patience. A perfect example is a scene that feels like it takes an entire hour when Rooney Mara's character eats a pie in real time. But give this film a chance. If you are able to suspend your impatience, you'll see that the film is really using time to craft a narrative. This film has massive ambition. It seeks to investigate whether we can communicate across time. Put another way - can we create something that truly outlasts us? Or does everything fade in time? This movie has a major payoff for those who will indulge in its pace.
If not for a film later on this list, Columbus would be my favorite cinematography of the year. Director Kogonada and DP Elisha Christian have a keen eye for the architectural wonders of Columbus, Indiana. They juxtapose those smooth lines with the often messy lives of two characters played beautifully by Haley Lu Richardson and John Cho. This film also gave me a great deal of pride in my native Hoosier State.
4. Lady Bird
See this movie two, three - as many times as you like. It is endlessly charming, and there are depths to it that I didn't catch the first time. I definitely came in with the hype of its Rotten Tomatoes score on my mind. Push out the hype and just experience what this film has to offer. Director and writer Greta Gerwig is fantastic, as is Saoirse Ronan in the lead role. And Laurie Metcalf might just win an Oscar for her supporting turn. A closing scene at the airport is especially moving. This is a fantastic film!
This is an extremely well-written film with beautiful cinematography and a fantastic ensemble cast. For me, the star was director Dee Rees, who weaves together many storylines and themes to craft a narrative about wars abroad and at home. Mary J. Blige and Jason Mitchell are both incredible in their supporting roles. This is a hard film at times. At others, it is incredibly uplifting.
This was very nearly a masterpiece for me. I saw it twice in theaters. Both times, I was in awe. The first hour and a half or so is virtuoso filmmaking. Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford give fine performances, but the best acting turn of the movie comes from Sylvia Hoeks as a chilling replicant. This sequel showcases a respect for the original while also moving the story forward. But more than anything, this film is a vehicle for the supreme talents of cinematographer Roger Deakins. This might be the best work of his legendary career, and I certainly hope he finally takes home an Oscar. As the movie progresses, I thought director Denis Villeneuve went for too much weight. But even the slowed pace does not drag the movie down much. This film is incredible, and it was my personal favorite for most of the year. That is, until I saw...
1. Phantom Thread***
Paul Thomas Anderson and Daniel Day-Lewis combine to create this masterpiece that is haunting, mysterious and beautiful all together. Those two are the headliners, but Vicky Krieps gives the film's best performance. Add in a fantastic supporting turn from Lesley Manville along with the best film score of the year from Jonny Greenwood, and you have my personal top film of 2017.
*UPDATE 1 (1/3/2018): Darkest Hour was added to Honorable Mention with Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri being removed.
**UPDATE 2 (1/8/2018): Molly's Game was added at #6 on the Top 10 list. That knocked Baby Driver down to Honorable Mention, which subsequently removed The Star altogether.
***UPDATE 3 (1/15/2018): Phantom Thread was added at #1, and I, Tonya was added at #7. This resulted in Star Wars: The Last Jedi and The Meyerowitz Stories: New and Selected moving to Honorable Mention. That also meant that A Quiet Passion and Dunkirk were removed from the list altogether.
****UPDATE 4 (1/19/2018) Wonder was added to Honorable Mention with Wonder Woman being removed.
+UPDATE 5 (1/21/2018) The Florida Project was added at #7, moving Get Out to Honorable Mention and removing Darkest Hour entirely.
++UPDATE 6 (3/4/2018) The Shape of Water was added to honorable mention with Wonder being removed.