Feature

Top 10 Films of 2017

The staff at Filmic Magazine is excited to present its fourth annual Top 10 feature! Over a period of two weeks, Filmic members were asked to submit ranked lists reflecting the very best 2016 films they saw.  The following is the final ranked aggregate.

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Logan (dir James Mangold)

LoganIn this current era of superheroes and shared universes on film, there’s an element that appears to be slowly fading over time – self-contained narratives. No matter what earth-shattering crisis our heroes prevent, there’s always yet another that has to be teased. This is what makes Logan such an anomaly; at its core it’s an epilogue. Hugh Jackman had portrayed the character of Wolverine for 18 years and seven films, so, from the beginning of Logan’s production, he reported that this would be the hero’s swan song. The other factor that made this film special was the hard R rating. Up until that point, Wolverine had never gotten to unleash the sheer carnage that made the character iconic. The closest we’d seen up to that point was in the unrated cut of The Wolverine, which was helmed by Logan director James Mangold. It’s apparent with every scene in the film that this is a passion project for Mangold and Jackman, and the fact the film is modeled more on a gritty western than a standard superhero story only makes it that much more engaging. The Oscar-nominated script provides Jackman and Patrick Stewart with career-best moments, as their characters often reflect on how they’ve changed over decades of conflict. Their dynamic is made even stronger with the addition of newcomer Dafne Keen as X-23, who, at 12 years old delivers a scene-stealing performance. To me, this film works mainly because it’s an incredibly satisfying end to Wolverine’s saga. It’s deeply emotional, truer to the character than any previous installment, and most importantly, proves that artistic vision can still exist in a market dominated by corporate interest. Even though the character will inevitably be recast, Jackman’s iconic portrayal has now been properly bookended by a damn good film.-Tyler Jennes

Star Wars: The Last Jedi (dir. Rian Johnson)

LastJediStar Wars: The Last Jedi is the best Star Wars film. Easily. I don’t think I need to keep going, but I will. Rian Johnson is a genius and I’m not saying this for the usual reasons. He’s not a genius because he “subverted my expectations” or “made an original movie,” although, both of those statements are extremely true. He’s a genius because he took the most important franchise in the history of cinema and did the impossible… he created one of the most personal blockbuster films ever made. Johnson’s films have always been interested in deconstruction. Many mistake this for cynicism when, in actuality, it’s a childlike curiosity. “What would happen if the gruff, toxically masculine detectives of the 40’s were transformed into dweeby high-school kids?” (Brick) “What would happen if a cold hearted assassin had to kill either a child or himself?” (Looper) With The Last Jedi, Johnson decided to ask a very dangerous question. “What if you told Star Wars fans exactly what was always wrong with Star Wars?” From there, Johnson crafts a story that operates as a beautiful meta-commentary on the state of Star Wars and, by extension, modern blockbuster filmmaking. What’s somehow even more surprising than that is the amount of heart that he manages to balance. For all of its gentle ribbing of the franchise, The Last Jedi is never truly cynical. It’s a warm hearted, inclusive, achingly optimistic film that stands alongside the originals proudly. Now, we just have to wait for the fans to realize what they were missing.-Seamus Mulhern

The Big Sick (dir. Michael Showalter)

BigSickThe modern romantic comedy has been transformed quite a bit over the past 10 years, and this change has been largely created by the work of many excellent romantic indie dramas. The Big Sick is no exception. Written by Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V Gordon and based on the first few years of their relationship, this film feels like you’re watching a true connection unfold before your eyes. The heart and love for the material is present, not only in the direction and the script, but also the performances. Nanjiani and Zoe Kazan as our main couple shine, but it’s Ray Romano and Holly Hunter as Emily’s parents that really tug at your heartstrings. The impending and potential loss of their daughter is brilliantly portrayed and the two of them connecting with Nanjiani is the true heart of the film and keeps you compelled all throughout the narrative. With great small performances from Bo Burnham and SNL’s Aidy Bryant as well, The Big Sick is what a romantic comedy truly should be and will probably make you cry. And that’s okay.-Elizabeth Esten

The Ten

10. The Florida Project (dir. Sean Baker)

TheFloridaProject

Sean Baker’s The Florida Project takes its name from an early development name for Disney World, and indeed, the theme park looms over the film’s setting. Six-year-old Moonee lives in “The Magic Castle,” a cheap, garishly purple stucco motel. It’s less than a mile from “the happiest place on Earth” but is anything but. Some of its residents are tourists. Others, including Moonee’s mother, who spends her nights stripping and her days running scams, simply can’t afford to live anywhere else. To Moonee, the endless stretch of motels, gift shops, and tourist traps is heaven. She spends her days begging for money for ice cream, befriending the other young residents of the strip, and exploring the wonders of the landscape, from the balconies and pools of the motels to the abandoned condos just beyond. The whole film is racked with a fascinating and tragic tension between the crushing poverty of Moonee’s surroundings and her complete obliviousness to it. Rather than the fast-paced guerilla style of his 2015 cult hit Tangerine, Baker instead draws on the rich tradition of social realist films. Using mostly non-professional and unknown actors, with the notable exceptions of Willem Dafoe and Caleb Landry-Jones, and a meditative, episodic structure, Baker calls to mind classics of the genre like Bicycle Thieves, Kes, and The 400 Blows, while managing to stand alone. The Florida Project is both a gorgeous depiction of childhood wonder and a powerful statement about poverty in modern-day America.-Alex Bird

9. Dunkirk (dir. Christopher Nolan)

Dunkirk

Everything about Dunkirk is vast. The acting is raw. The visuals are delectable. The editing is chilling. The sound design is orchestral. The tension is terrifying. The direction is so good, you don’t even mind Harry Styles’ show stopping musical number—I mean… cameo. The subject matter is so vast, it had to be covered in two films this year, Darkest Hour. That subject matter being the infamous fight on the seas, the beaches, the air, and the painful reality of what it looks like to “never surrender.” Christopher Nolan displays these three arenas of war in a beautiful triadic tapestry of narrative.Yet, unlike Darkest Hour, Dunkirk is vast and simultaneously subdued. The multiple narrative threads provide a personal, memory-like style. The protagonists are just those Brits and French who were trapped there. We never see the behemoth politicians, nor busy war rooms, or even the omnipresent enemy. Instead, we get the overwhelming shadow of the outside world: the just-out-of-reach cliffs of Dover, the naive meek rescue-boats, the effects of the haunting German planes and artillery. The largest sign of a divine wisdom intervening is delivered not by Churchill himself or a commanding officer, but through a fellow soldier who reads a local British newspaper which commends the retreat. The film is not only Nolan’s best, but a triumph of contemporary war cinema. What more is expected out of Christopher Nolan? The only other thing I would expect is an extravagant plot twist. However, Nolan, a filmmaker who cultivated a career out of intricate jigsaw-like thrillers, has done the unimaginable: he has pulled his punches. In Dunkirk, Nolan trades in his gimmicky plot twists for the purest, oldest twist known to humanity: survival against all odds; after all is lost, salvation.-Sam Archie

8. Blade Runner 2049 (dir. Denis Villeneuve)

2049

In 1982, Ridley Scott brought one of Philip K. Dick’s many novels to life in the form of Blade Runner. Starring Harrison Ford, the movie left its mark on pop culture by influencing the look and feel of science-fiction movies for decades. The film garnered a cult following since its release and became popular among fans of the genre. Everything old is new again in Hollywood, and they decided to make a sequel to Scott’s film, set years later. Even though early assumptions would suggest that the movie was going to be a regular Hollywood retread, the people behind the scenes gave hope that the movie will be more than that. Blade Runner 2049 is one of the best sequels ever made. Everyone involved with the making of this movie is at their prime; everything from the production design to the cinematography is some of the best and most enveloping I have ever seen. The performances all around also stand out. Ryan Gosling holds his own as a compelling protagonist to watch and Ford actually seems like he cares about the role he is performing in. Director Denis Villeneuve continues to prove himself as one of the best directors working today by weaving all of the film’s elements together into a story that matters and has something to say. While it is far from a perfect movie (the few boring moments and the portrayals of some female characters hold the movie back) Blade Runner 2049 is one of the best films of 2017. It is a depressingly beautiful movie that will stay with you for days after the credits roll.-David Friedfertig

7. I, Tonya (dir. Craig Gillespie)

I,Tonya

This Oscar season, as expected, was full of standard run-of-the-mill biopics searching for award season gold. Many failed by sticking too much to the classic script, but I, Tonya takes that script and rips it up. Director Craig Gillespie takes the infamous Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding rivalry and makes a brilliantly made mockumentary style black comedy with masterful work of balancing the tone. It’s hilarious when it needs to be and dramatic when it should, never trying to find comedy where there isn’t any. The performances are brilliant all around, especially Margot Robbie as Harding, who plays her so well and injects just enough humanity for the audience to make you connect with her and hope all will work. Allison Janney also pulls off a great performance as Harding’s stern but loving mother, and she thoroughly deserves her impending Oscar. Hilarious and heartfelt at the same time, she pulls off a balance that many would find incredibly hard to do. I, Tonya is a brilliant film with its heart in the right place. It’s also one of the funniest movies of the year. Go see it and laugh and cry and enjoy the amazing soundtrack.-Elizabeth Esten

6. The Phantom Thread (dir. Paul Thomas Anderson)

PhantomThead

The best word I could use to describe Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest film, Phantom Thread, would be haunting.  Many films this year were truly amazing but no film has lingered in my head and caused as much afterthought as Phantom Thread.  Put together like one of the many fabulous dresses in the film, Phantom Thread is breathtaking in its attention to detail and nuance.  Each lingering shot allows the audience to take in the vast yet intensely claustrophobic world the film creates. The central romance is brought to tense reality through the stunningly subtle performances of Vicky Krieps as Alma and Daniel Day Lewis as Reynolds Woodcock.  The sparse cutting and sound design guides the viewer to becoming profoundly attentive to each minute inflection of the performance.  Daniel Day Lewis’ and Vicky Krieps’ performances could single handedly carry the film, with director Anderson’s direction perfectly accenting and intensifying the performances. Anderson’s control of the art of film is on full display, in particular, is his use of restraint.  The deafening silence created by the sound design creates an ever present atmosphere while also making the viewer uncomfortable in the head of Reynold Woodcock.  The scarce cuts allow each shot to impress itself into the mind of the viewer.  The cinematography is both beautiful and thematic, conveying so much without ever drawing any attention to itself.  Lastly, the score by Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood is beautiful, haunting, and perhaps my favorite film score of the year. Phantom Thread is as close to a perfect film as I’ve seen this year.  The amount of control and expertise is astonishing.  The nuanced filmmaking creates an emotionally impactful story that will linger with a viewer long after they have seen it.-Jacob Sullivan

5. Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri (dir. Martin McDonagh)

ThreeBillboards

A beautiful mosaic of comedy, tragedy, humanity, and justice: Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing Missouri was one of the most humane films released in 2017. Via three dilapidated billboards outside of town that never garner a second passing glance, the peace of the miniscule town of Ebbing is completely and utterly annihilated by Mildred Hayes, a mother grieving the rape and murder of her daughter seven months prior. These three billboards, purchased by Mildred at great financial and personal expense hold the Ebbing police accountable for their incomplete and incompetent investigation of her daughter’s rape and murder. Portrayed by Frances McDormand in one of her best roles to date, Hayes’ quest for justice and demand for action resonates deeply with any and all audiences. Under Martin McDonagh’s seemingly effortless candid direction, an all-star cast including Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell, Caleb Landry Jones, and others beautifully balance such a delightfully transient and rapid mix of tragedy and comedy. The precision which tone and atmosphere are executed in this film is what makes it so incredibly engrossing and striking. Three Billboards attacks the pre-conditioned response of the general public to only care about a tragedy for a fleeting moment, becoming completely apathetic toward it after some time has passed. Three Billboards’ relevant social commentary on this throw-away culture we currently live in is what make it resonate so profoundly with viewers. The rage that led to those billboards putting up is recognizable across all of humankind. The connection audiences can make with this film so deeply is what makes it one of the best films of 2017-Michaela Jackson

4. Call Me By Your Name (dir. Luca Guadagnino)

CallMeByYourName

Call Me By Your Name is the most beautiful film of the year. It is about Elio, a teen who is coming of age and becoming an adult, and Oliver, a grad student studying for the summer with Elio’s father in their Italian villa. Elio and Oliver become friends and then more in maybe one of the most subtle and honest budding romances I’ve seen to date. This film is much in the way that Carol was as a film about people realizing their sexualities and trying to make sense of these urges. Elio and Oliver are brought to life by the incredible performances of Timothee Chalamet and Armie Hammer, respectively. One a newcomer to film and the other a veteran of Hollywood, they both beautifully portray the passionate affair between these two people at different places in their lives. The cinematography in this film is astounding as the film makes you feel as if you are in Italy, soaking up the summer sun. Sufjan Stevens has a few songs in the film that punctuate some of the more emotional moments and bring them full circle. This film will make you cry. I sure did both times that I saw it in theaters. This romance is almost doomed from the start and to see these two people at different points in their life fall for each other, both makes you happy and sad. All affairs have to end and that’s why they are called affairs. The film ends with maybe one of the best film monologues I have ever seen delivered by 2017s Movie MVP Michael Stuhlbarg and maybe one of the best final shots I have seen in a film that perfectly encapsulates what Elio is feeling. Call Me By Your Name is a movie that should not be missed.-Stephen Shea

3. The Shape of Water (dir. Guillermo del Toro)

SOW

If there’s one thing I was newly aware of after seeing Shape of Water for the first time, it was the size of Guillermo Del Toro’s heart. I had never deeply loved his films previously. Pacific Rim and the Hellboy films were decent popcorn fare and I had never connected with Pan’s Labyrinth like most folks did. I found myself at a loss with his work. I couldn’t see deeper than the surface of ghouls and monsters. The Shape of Water made me realize something. He doesn’t simply make movies about monsters; he makes movies about outsiders desperate to connect and experience life. It’s quite fitting, then, that after seeing The Shape of Water for the first time, all I could feel was the joys of life. I was particularly moved by one scene. It’s when Elisa embraces the monster and smiles at Richard Jenkins’ character. It was a gesture of almost indescribable beauty that practically acts as the thesis of the film. Greta Gerwig lovingly describes this face as saying “I am in love and you can not shame me.” The Shape of Water is the first Del Toro film that I’ve truly loved and felt a connection with. It’s a profoundly moving and passionate romance that works as well as it does because the love is felt. Through Del Toro’s monsters, we get a glimpse of our world through a lense of hope and compassion that feels deep and true because Del Toro feels it is deep and true. In the words of Del Toro himself, “Monsters are the patron saints of our blissful imperfection.” The world is a crooked and scary place. That doesn’t mean we can’t help each other along the way.-Seamus Mulhern

2. Lady Bird (dir. Greta Gerwig)

LadyBird

Lady Bird is emphatically on a different level. Though the film is based on the familiarity and romanticism of senior year, there is something undeniably incredible and fresh about it. Greta Gerwig’s stunning directorial debut is flawless and accomplished, submerging and stumbling into the joys of growing up and remaining true to the pitfalls and hilarity that accompany it. The relationship between Christine ‘Lady Bird’ McPherson and her mother, Marion, Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf respectively, is a seam that weaves through the film with such great intensity. The two play off each other in the most beautiful way: bitter arguments turn into intimate conversation, and vice versa, a pattern that crafts a nuanced relationship between two women whose love is inadvertently shrouded by their pride and their stubbornness. This dynamic is aided by Gerwig’s screenplay, a compilation of lines that sound as if they were spoken by real people. Every word that comes from a character’s mouth is revealing and raw, their personalities helmed so deftly by Gerwig’s hand and each actor’s ability to convey embarrassment, and sadness, and friendship with grace. As we follow Lady Bird from one point in her senior year to the next, we are enveloped into a world of heartache and love, the two wheels upon which this film turn. We, at every moment, are stunned by the profundity nestled deep in Lady Bird’s rebelliousness and the course through which she follows life, are in constant awe of the film, of the feat it has achieved, and, of course, of her.-Arleigh Rodgers

1. Get Out (dir. Jordan Peele)

GetOut

There are two major film genres that are commonly referred to as being the most ‘visceral,’  as in movies that can trigger instinctive reactions within its viewers. These are horror and comedy, which are responsible for making audiences jump with fright or howl with laughter. Jordan Peele, director of Get Out, can now be considered a powerful voice in both. After years of acting and writing in the comedy scene, Peele’s directorial debut is, if anything, a commendable display of his sheer potential as a filmmaker. While the film contains more than a few comedic moments, its story is mainly one of horror, with a plot almost resembling a lost Twilight Zone episode. What makes Get Out so effective is how entertaining it manages to be without at any point losing its socially conscious nature. A viewer can root for Chris as he fights for survival while, on a deeper level, notice all the themes of racial identity and cultural appropriation presented throughout the plot. From a writing perspective, there are so many foreshadowing moments and subtleties placed throughout the script that it makes watching the film more than once incredibly rewarding. From the way in which Rose behaves, to the recurring connection between Chris and deer, to how the Armitage family interacts with their ‘servants,’ each of these serve another purpose upon a second viewing The scenes of true sci-fi are filmed in a wildly creative fashion and just goes to show how the movie manages to excel at every facet of production. The acting is a joy to witness, the production design exceeds itself with each scene, and the music only adds to the distinctive voice that Peele has created. The film deserves every bit of praise it has received, and is overall as fun to watch as it is to analyze.-Tyler Jennes

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