I believe it’s federal law that movie critics put together a Top 10 list every year, and I’ve been a critic since 1988 and I haven’t missed one, yet.
I’m always looking for those movies that just stand out above the rest — the movies that moved me, challenged me, wowed me, connected emotionally, or flat out just blew me away for one reason or the other. I’ll admit that on any given day, if you ask me to put a list like this together, the films from 5 to 10 might change a little bit. Some really good movies and awards season favorites like “The Post,” “Three Billboards from Ebbing Missouri” and “Get Out” didn’t make the cut.
The first two I would certainly put on my honorable mention list, the latter I would put in the category of over-praised.
So here goes it — My Top 10 Films of 2017:
1) The Shape of Water — A spectacular, moving tale of raw courage, friendship and love. For me, everything in Guillermo del Toro’s film was perfect, from the outstanding score by Alexander Desplat, gorgeous cinematography, deliciously rich sets and costumes, and an amazing looking for lack of a better term –“fish man.” Jarring at times, visually spectacular and moving. There was no other film in 2017 that completely absorbed me and drew me into the tale than this incredible movie.
2) Mudbound — This might be the most underrated film of the year, and I’m not sure why it’s not getting more attention this time of year. It’s a NETFLIX-produced drama and started streaming pretty quickly, so maybe some people are putting it in a different category because of that. But I’d put this tale of two young men returning home from WWII in rural Mississippi among the most powerful stories about race in America in recent memory. Director Dee Rees has not nabbed any best director accolades so far, but I’m hoping Academy voters will correct that.
3) Lady Bird — I’m a huge Great Gerwig fan (SEE “Francis Ha,” a top 10 selection from my 2012 list) and this semi-autobiographical story of a high school senior struggling with finding her way in the world is funny, charming, offbeat and impactful. Saoirse Ronan is amazing. Really loved this movie.
4) The Florida Project — The story of a mischievous 6-year-old girl living with her mom in a budget motel just outside of Disney World. The living conditions are the complete opposite of the Magic Kingdom, and the story is heartbreaking, emotionally riveting and features Willem Dafoe in a role that has already earned him a Critics’ Choice and Golden Globe nomination for Best Supporting Actor.
5) The Big Sick — The real life story of Pakistani-born comedian Kumail Nanjiani and his struggle between the love of his life and the love of his family amid a cultural clash that could blow up both relationships. It’s eye-opening, funny and really charming at times, and it was great to see Holly Hunter get a juicy role that puts her back on the map.
6) Dunkirk — When Christopher Nolan’s World War II epic opened over the summer, I was a little luke-warm to it. But as the movie year progressed, it became clear that this one certainly belongs among the best of the year. If you missed it on the IMAX screen, you really cheated yourself.
7) Darkest Hour — This makes a pretty good companion piece for the No. 6 film on my list. The story of Winston Churchill after he’s appointed Prime Minister and his struggle over whether to lead his country into a war with Germany or negotiate with Hitler. Gary Oldman is one of the favorites to win the Best Actor Oscar, having already garnered Critics’ Choice and Golden Globe nominations.
8) The Disaster Artist –– I’ve never seen the cult favorite “The Room” (widely regard as the BEST worst movie every made) that this movie is centered around but it didn’t matter. James Franco stars and directs and while I’ll admit it’s a really, really weird movie I absolutely loved it.
9) Hostiles — Not sure why this movie isn’t getting more awards traction. Christian Bale stars as an Army captain ordered by his superiors to escort a Cheyenne Chief and his family back to their territory. Director Scott Cooper (“Crazy Heart,” “Black Mass”) delivers not only a great period piece, but an emotionally powerful story with an beautiful backdrop.
10) (tie) Spider-Man: Homecoming/Baby Driver — Just when you didn’t think you ever wanted to see another Spider-Man reboot ever again, this time Marvel finally got it right, and much of that credit goes to Tom Holland as Spidey. Baby Driver stood out as a unique and pure adrenaline-powered, pedal-to-the-metal thrill ride.