Top 10 Movies of 2017

CHARLOTTE, N.C. –With 2017 now behind us and most of the major releases available to audiences across the area, it’s time to take a look at the best of the best. Unfortunately, last year was such a strong one for movies that many excellent titles had to be left off this list. There could have been a strong 20 to 30 titles worthy of a mention but here are the ten best; the ones that stand out as the cream of the crop, no easy feat amidst a sea of greatness.

10. ‘Good Time’

Few movies from 2017 will have your heart racing quite like this New York crime thriller from the Safdie Brothers. A career-best Robert Pattinson plays a low-level bank robber whose mentally disabled brother has been picked up by police. The scheme to free him from life of prison is one that unfolds over the course of one wild, pulse-pounding night. Sure, the year brought wildly entertaining crime pictures such as “Baby Driver” and “Logan Lucky” but “Good Time” is the only one that will have you gripping the seat and covering your eyes out of sheer suspense.

9. ‘The Florida Project’

Most directors making a movie about children in poverty would do so with weight and seriousness. There would be swelling music, emotional speeches, and possibly number at the end for child adoption services. Yet, Sean Baker does none of that. His movies are highly specific, looking at people who live on the fringes of society, but they’re also full of life. “The Florida Project” gives us a look at what it means to live on the edge of poverty but from the perspective of a child. Yes, there’s tragedy in the lives of these characters but the movie never forgets to share with us the warmth and laughter that’s there as well.

8. ‘Blade Runner 2049’

It seems almost poetic that sequel to Ridley Scott’s influential science fiction film would be a flop like its predecessor. Ironically, the thing that makes “Blade Runner 2049” such a marvel is also what likely sealed its fate at the box-office. Director Denis Villeneuve (“Sicario”, “Arrival”) didn’t set out to make a four-quadrant blockbuster, even in a year where many filmmakers managed to make interesting installments in major franchises (Rian Johnson with “The Last Jedi”, James Mangold with “Logan”). Villeneuve went a step further, making a dense, atmospheric sci-fi noir for a mature adult audience. All thanks given to Warner Brothers, who let him bring this visually stunning vision to the largest scale possible.

7. ‘The Shape of Water’

Mixing together 50s monster movie, cold-war thriller, and sweeping romance, “The Shape of Water” feels like a love-letter to an array of classic film genres; yet, one that could only come from the mind of Guillermo del Toro. The plot feels like something pulled from a bizarre dream; a mute woman falls in love with a fish-man and decides to break him out of the government facility from which he is kept. However, the experience of actually watching this picture is one of visual wonder and powerful emotions. Del Toro has always been a master when it comes to creature design and world building but there’s a richness here in characters that he’s rarely shown before.

6. ‘The Killing of a Sacred Deer’

A controversial pick, considering this is one of the most viscerally terrifying and unnerving movie experiences you’re likely to have. Yet, as much as Yorgos Lanthimos’ slice of terror puts a pit in your stomach, it’s also incredibly funny. Colin Farrell stars as a brilliant surgeon whose wife, played by Nicole Kidman, and two kids fall under a curse placed by a creepily awkward teenage boy. The ending result is just as much a dark comedy about intelligent people attempting to rationalize the unexplained as it is a nightmarish horror movie. “The Killing of a Sacred Deer” is likely not the movie you’ll want to watch over-and-over again but it’ll certainly be one that you won’t stop thinking about for months to come.

5. ‘Phantom Thread’

Often considered the finest filmmaker working today, Paul Thomas Anderson is an artist whose work is treasured by cinephiles the world over. His latest is decadently shot, darkly funny romance, featuring the finale (oh god, please don’t be true) performance from the legendary Daniel Day-Lewis. It’s Anderson’s most classical picture to date, with Day-Lewis playing a world-renowned fashion designer in 1950s London who becomes smitten with a younger woman, played by newcomer Vicky Krieps. However, the relationship becomes more and more complicated as the picture progresses, testing the limits of each character and how long they can bear to live with one another. It’s a film crafted in rich classic style but with a modern sensibility that makes it feel like something wholly original.

4. ‘Call Me by Your Name’

A movie that allows audiences to not only see and hear but also feel and taste, “Call Me by Your Name” is a lush movie romance that lets the audience luxuriate in the full sensory experience of its characters. Few films in recent years have quite captured the queasy and exciting feeling of first love as honestly as this one. There’s a dance of attraction, a thrill of first kiss, and a heartbreaking finale that might also be the year’s most powerful ending. Yet, what stays with you the most is the chemistry between the two leads, Timothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer, whose dance of attraction is simply hypnotizing.

3. ‘Lady Bird’

Pure, unshakable joy is about the only way to describe Greta Gerwig’s magnificent directorial debut. What makes the movie so good has less to do with subverting the tropes of a typical coming-of-age comedy than with the sentimental touch Gerwig brings to the story. The characters, places, and themes all feel personal to the writer/director, as if directly pulled from her own past. Plus, it doesn’t hurt to have an actress as commanding, funny, and downright charismatic as Saoirse Ronan in the leading role. Yet, above all else, “Lady Bird” is a story about parents and children, specifically the complicated relationship between a daughter coming into her own and a mother who’s not ready to let go. Whether it’s a movie that conjures up youthful nostalgia or makes you rush to tell your parents you love them, one thing is for certain, it’s a nearly perfect movie that everyone can enjoy.

2. ‘Dunkirk’

The best parts of director Christopher Nolan’s films are always those centered on spectacle. In terms of delivering heart-pounding set-pieces, few are arguably finer in today’s industry. That’s probably why his IMAX shot WWII film is one of his best. “Dunkirk” is completely immersive in its grandeur, as well as its simplicity. Whether it’s the never-ending wide shots of soldiers on the beach, intimate interiors of a rescue vessel, or the soaring cockpits of aerial dog-fighters, you always feel as though you are a part of the action, instead of simply viewing it. Seeing the movie on a big screen might be one of the most breathtaking experiences of 2017.

1. ‘Get Out’

Few filmmakers can deliver the kind of experience writer/director Jordan Peele serves up with “Get Out” and even fewer can do it on their first film. It’s the rare movie that managed to be a critical darling, a box-office monster, and pop-culture phenomenon, all in one year. What makes the “Get Out” so endearing is that it can be enjoyed on two levels; one intellectually and one as pure entertainment. Peele is clearly a master at playing his audience like a fiddle, generating an experience that brings plenty of jumps, screams, and laughs. Yet, he’s also managed to craft a densely layered allegory on the complex subtleties of modern-day race relations.