I had the privilege of writing the “Top Ten Films” article for The Bottom Line in 2016, so it seemed only natural to write another for the following year as well. I did not see every movie released this year, but these are what I believe to be the top ten films of last year.
- Call Me By Your Name
Every summer, Elio (Timothee Chalamet) and his family (Michael Stuulbarg and Amira Cesar) take in a grad student to assist his father with research. The grad student chosen this year is Oliver (Armie Hammer). The audience watches as Elio and Oliver fall in love and explore their relationship in beautiful Italy. A third of the way into the film, I knew this was going to be my favorite film this year. It’s lush, sensual, and romantic. Armie Hammer gives the best performance of his career and Timothee Chalamet is a breakout star. A must watch for any fans of film.
2. Lady Bird
A very close second, “Lady Bird” is one of the most genuine and honest films to come out in years. The film soars under first-time director Gerwig’s confidant, assured direction. Saoirse Ronan gives another Oscar-worthy performance as the Sacramento-born teen is eager to graduate high school and move as far away from home as possible. Laurie Metcalf plays her well-meaning but very frustrated mother.
3. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri
Mildred Hayes (Frances McDormand) rents three billboards chastising the sheriff (Woody Harrelson) for the lack of a suspect in the rape and murder of her daughter, the catalyst for the film’s plot. The script finds the perfect balance of humor and tragedy as it reveals who these characters are. The racial politics of this film might be divisive, but do not let the noise distract you from a beautifully raw film about anger.
4. I, Tonya
Tonya Harding has always been the punch line to a lot of jokes. If you think you are sure about how you feel about Harding, this black-comedy film will change that as it chronicles Harding’s life and the events that led up to the assault of figure-skater Nancy Kerrigan. Margot Robbie and Allison Janney absolutely demand your attention as Harding and her cold mother.
5. Blade Runner 2049
This might sound like blasphemy, but Blade Runner 2049 is one of the few sequels to reach the heights of its predecessor (and maybe surpass it). It’s absolutely beautifully made. Cinematographer Roger Deakins creates a perfectly moody atmosphere. The cast is also quite stellar. Ryan Gosling holds his own against Harrison Ford, and Sylvia Hoeks is terrifying as Luv. The film tackles what it means to be human, and its ambiguity will leave you thinking about it long after it’s over.
6. Phantom Thread
Reunited with his “There Will Be Blood” star Daniel Day-Lewis, Paul Thomas Anderson comes out with his best film since “The Master.” Day-Lewis plays stellar dressmaker Reynolds. The costuming in this film is meticulously detailed and shows a lot of craft. It’s cinematic, twisted, and has one of the best scores in a film last year. See it just for Day-Lewis’ final performance before he retires.
Director Christopher Nolan’s comeback is nothing short of a spectacle. The script is easily his most cleverly written since Memento, as this movie also plays with time and location. It follows three different stories during the Battle of Dunkirk, and the audience watches as they intertwine and separate. The imagery is striking, and the Hans Zimmer score is intense, but not overwhelming.
8. Get Out
I got to see the pre-screening to this in I.V. Theater, and it was a delight. I originally had some problems with the third act when I first saw it, but it’s a film that I’ve thought about a lot since. Writer-director Jordan Peele carefully foreshadows the plot twist early in the movie and each subsequent watching reveals more details that Peele lays out in the script. Daniel Kaluuya perfectly captures what it’s like to be a person of color living in the United States, and Allison Williams gives a career-defining performance as Rose.
9. Florida Project
Sean Baker’s film about a family living in poverty is captivating, but also prescient given all the discussion and analysis of the electorate since the 2016 election. The film is about a struggling family living outside Disney World in a motel owned by Bobby, played by Willem Dafoe. There may be a lot of well-deserved Oscar-buzz over Willem Defoe’s performance in this film, but the real star is Brooklyn Prince as 6-year-old Moonee.
10. Wonder Woman
If you walked into the theater nervous about this film, you were not alone. The DC Extended Universe (DCEU) has not had an exactly great track record with “Batman Vs. Superman” and “Suicide Squad,” both of which were panned by critics. Wonder Woman is its first true hit, both critically and in the box office. It’s easy to see why. Gal Gadot is absolutely commanding as Wonder Woman and director Patty Jenkins captures the horror of war. The film doesn’t glorify war at all. “Wonder Woman” is one of the best superhero films in years.