Jacob Hall's Top 10 Movies Of 2017

Insert obligatory opening statement about how much 2017 stunk overall! Insert obligatory follow-up statement about how the movies of 2017 were a highlight in 365 days of raw sewage!

These are my top films of 2017. So let's go ahead and insert another obligatory comment about how many great movies didn't make the cut. Here are the honorable mentions that are all tied for #11: Baby Driver, The Disaster Artist, Good Time, Colossal, War for the Planet of the Apes, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Ingrid Goes West, Logan, Professor Marston and the Wonder Women, Free Fire, and Thelma.

Garance Marillier in Raw

10. Raw

Raw is the best movie ever made about leaving home for the first time and battling intense and emotionally crippling loneliness as you attempt to carve out your identity in the "real world." It's also a movie about cannibals. Julia Ducournau's coming-of-age horror tale veers between uncomfortable depictions of college life and gross-out flesh-eating with effortless aplomb, a genre mash-up that has no right to work as well as it does. At the center of it all is Garance Marillier as Justine, a young veterinary student who finds herself out of place at college and craving human meat. It's an astonishing lead performance in an astonishing film, one that manages to be about the unbreakable bonds of sisterhood, our inability to escape our parents' shadow, and just how damn hard it is to grow into an adult. And yeah, there's enough gore to turn your stomach. It's tremendous.

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9. The Shape of Water

Eat shit, Dark Universe. Seriously. Why waste $150 million on a remake of The Mummy when Guillermo del Toro can remake The Creature From the Black Lagoon as a fairy tale melodrama about about a mute woman who falls in love with a beautiful fish-man held captive in the government facility where she scrubs the toilets? This tale of men and monsters and the blurry line that divides them is the modernized take on the classic Universal Monsters formula that we need, a creepy and sincere and wholly empathetic creature feature that is about loving who you want to love and not letting society dictate your desires. What a beautiful lead performance from Sally Hawkins and what a beautiful supporting turn from Richard Jenkins. What a beautiful fish-man (played by the great Doug Jones). What a beautiful movie.

blade runner 2049

8. Blade Runner 2049

The most incredible thing about Blade Runner 2049 is that it's a proper Blade Runner movie. Pure and unfiltered. For better and worse. Major corporations gave director Denis Villeneuve over $150 million to make a science fiction movie starring Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford and he turned around and delivered a long, slow-moving, deliberately obtuse meditation on the meaning of existence. In other words, he made a Blade Runner movie. A Blade Runner movie that may actually be as good as the original. Holy mackerel. How did that happen? Gosling and Ford both impress and the visuals are nothing short of astonishing, but it's the ideas that star in Blade Runner 2049. What does it mean to be human? How do we define humanity? How do you grapple with the knowledge that you are not important to your world? How do you deal with the insignificance of your own existence? Villeneuve ponders these questions without holding your hand, letting minor details and stray lines of dialogue fill out the unspoken history of a desolate, fascinating dystopia that feels more fascinating than ever.

The Big Sick Review

7. The Big Sick

Can you imagine how hard it must be to make a great romantic comedy? Can you comprehend working in a genre that is so familiar, so prone to mediocrity, and so defined by a handful of classics that everything else that enters their orbit invites an immediate and damning comparison? The highest praise I can give The Big Sick is that you can place it side-by-side with the greatest rom-coms of all time and realize that yeah, it belongs in that company. Michael Showalter's film is hilarious and sweet and sad, a movie that hits just enough familiar beats to feel comforting while straying from the path and into enough specific tangents to feel proudly unique and personal. The screenplay by Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon (adapting how the couple actually met in real life) is a low-key triumph, as are the lovely, natural performances from Nanjiani, Ray Romano, and Holly Hunter.

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6. The Florida Project

A great deal has been written about The Florida Project from my colleagues at /Film, so I'm just going to focus in on a single scene. Gruff but kind-hearted motel manager Bobby Hicks (Willem Dafoe) is working in his office when a gaggle of children, led by the adorable and abrasive Moonee (Brooklynn Prince) barge in, looking for a place to play hide and seek. Bobby is annoyed and demands they go elsewhere. They don't listen and crawl under his desk. Quietly admitting defeat, Bobby just asks them to not mess with his computer cords. Right on cue, his monitor is pulled across his desk. But while Bobby is clearly irritated, Dafoe allows a smile to creep across his face – this is a distraction and an annoying one, but goddamn it, he loves these kids. And he knows they live in abject poverty, spending their days hanging around the crappy motels (15 minutes from Walt Disney World) that many impoverished central Florida families call home. He knows that these kids mean well, that they're blissfully ignorant of what they do not have. And who is he to stand in the way of them being happy, just for now? Because it's not going to last.

All of this is communicated in a smile from Dafoe, giving the warmest (and possibly best) performance of 2017. Sean Baker's The Florida Project is a machine powered by empathy and Bobby Hicks is its avatar.

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5. Call Me By Your Name

Even before Luca Guadagnino's transcendent love story hones in on the passions of its two leading men, it's remarkable. Few films have ever captured so well the feeling of a lazy summer – warm days where you swim and read and explore the countryside. The sense of time (1983) and place (the Italian countryside) is woven into the fabric of the film with such care that you feel genuinely transported. By the time Elio (Timothée Chalamet) and Oliver (Armie Hammer) act on their feelings, we have been invited into their world with such a warm embrace that it's like watching two friends fall in love.

And love is what defines Call Me By Your Name. Love is in every gorgeous frame, in every conversation, and every nuanced interaction. These characters love one another and Guadagnino loves all of them, often pausing to give minor supporting characters a moment in the spotlight because the film has enough room in its heart for everyone. Our hearts are torn open by Elio and Oliver, but they're healed and strengthened by the men and women in the margins. And then, when we least suspect it, Elio's father (the great Michael Stuhlbarg) delivers a monologue so beautiful and heart wrenching that all of the pain and joy we've endured for the past two hours comes into crystal clear focus. This is Elio's summer. This is Oliver's summer. It is also our summer.

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4. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri believes in people. It believes that they will ultimately achieve grace, that they can fix their broken lives and protect those in need. It also believes that the path to get there is littered with land mines and potholes and that redemption is only achieved after you've stumbled a half dozen times and learned enough hard lessons to leave a mark. It's a bitter pill of a movie, sweetened by Martin McDonagh's searing, stylized dialogue and performances from likable actors bringing flawed and often loathsome characters to life. Not everyone will be on board for this tale of small town fury – the way it proudly waves a middle finger in the face of political correctness has ignited a storm on Film Twitter – but its coarseness, its uncouthness, completes McDonagh's intentionally imperfect portrait. We can all do better. We can all try to be better. And we're going to collect all kinds of scars and bruises to get there. Oh, and the movie is really damn funny. Because the best defense against the abyss is a good laugh.

Michael Caine Dunkirk

3. Dunkirk

In 2017, Christopher Nolan made his best and most experimental film, working from a premise that could have (and should have) been boilerplate. The evacuation of British soldiers from the shores of Dunkirk, a strategic retreat that allowed the Allies to hold on and turn the tide in the early days of World War II, could have been a standard war movie, a tale of brave men and harrowing action and fierce patriotism. Strangely, Dunkirk is a tale of brave men involved in harrowing action that creates a feeling of fierce patriotism (even if you're not English), but it is also bold cinema crafted to be experienced in a theater, where you cannot escape the images on the giant screen in front of you and the booming soundtrack ringing in your ears. And experience it in a theater you must, because Dunkirk is practically a silent movie, one that tells its story through worried glances, accusing stares, and desperate gestures. (Dunkirk is now available on Blu-ray and such, but I imagine it being a perennial repertory favorite.)

And most harrowing of all is the film's structure, which positions time as the enemy. We watch the soldiers on the beaches over the course of one week, as time slows to a crawl as their routes of escape diminish. We watch a British pilot (a stunning Tom Hardy) as he flies into action over the course of one hour, battling the fact that he simply doesn't have enough time. We watch civilian ships come to the rescue of the troops over the course of one day, but it's never clear if they're going to be too late or right on time. The ticking clock woven into Hans Zimmer's score connects these disparate events in a feature-length montage of emotion and stress. When the timelines converge, when time itself is defeated, the resulting catharsis is unlike anything you've ever experienced in a war film.

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2. John Wick: Chapter 2

Earlier this year, I wrote 4,000 words about why John Wick: Chapter 2 is a masterpiece and one of the best action movies ever made, so another paragraph or two here can't help but feel redundant. So I will just say this much: few films have ever utilized the specific skills of Keanu Reeves so well, few films have staged and shot such outrageous action so effectively, few films have created a live-action comic book world as rich and delightful, and few films have so effectively reinvented the "brooding tough guy" archetype. That last one feels especially important in 2017 – John Wick is an unstoppable killing machine, but he's also a kind soul, a friend to dogs, a loyal friend, and a man wrestling with emotional pain that is slowly doing the job that a thousand bullets fired by a thousand bad guys cannot accomplish.

Chad Stahelski's action movie fantasia blends the brutal action of Hong Kong cinema, the outrageous plotting of modern South Korean cinema, and the mythology and world-building of American comic books into a delicious cocktail that goes down so smooth that it feels...well, criminal. Usually, it takes a decade or two before we place the best genre cinema on a pedestal and admit that a concoction this clever and fun is a masterpiece. We could be all dead by then. Let's celebrate John Wick: Chapter 2 right now.

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1. Get Out

Get Out is a great movie because it's scary – it's the best horror movie of 2017. Get Out is a great movie because it's smart – its satire is so hot and sharp that it will cut you and then scorch that open wound into a lasting scar. Get Out is a great movie because it's riotously funny – it always knows when to undercut the terror with a huge laugh. Get Out is a great movie because it announces the arrival of Jordan Peele – this is one of the most assured and confident debuts in decades.

But Get Out is more than a great movie. Get Out is a movie that changed me. After watching it, I knew that it was brilliant, but I couldn't articulate why it was great beyond its gleeful genre pleasures. So I started reading and I started listening. I sought out writers of color who could shed light on what makes this movie so important. I read pieces from folks different than me whose personal and cultural perspectives illuminated details that I, as a clueless white man, never would have caught. Get Out encouraged me to open my ears and my eyes and listen to people, all so I could better appreciate the scariest, funniest, angriest movie of 2017. It's made me a better person.