Christopher Nolan’s World War II epic feels like the biggest experimental film ever made. It has minimal dialogue, no character arcs, and three different timeframes. In the hands of a director as accomplished as Nolan, though, the film triumphs. Dunkirk never lets the audience breathe over the course of its relatively brief runtime. Nolan weaves together three different storylines: one in the air, one on the beach, and one on the sea, each demonstrating the struggle for survival during the miracle at Dunkirk. Nolan’s sense of the epic has never been on better display. From brilliantly crafted aerial dogfights between Tom Hardy and faceless enemies to Harry Styles and Fionn Whitehead’s fight to escape drowning, Dunkirk is an unrelentingly intense experience, amplified by Hans Zimmer’s unconventional and electrifying score.
2. Get Out
Get Out explores the story of a black man (Daniel Kaluuya) who visits his white girlfriend’s (Allison Williams) family for the weekend, and uncovers a terrifying truth about the black people in the neighborhood. Writer-director Jordan Peele’s brilliant script shines as Get Out seamlessly blends satire with horror to illustrate the harrowing experiencing of being black in America. Kaluuya gives a remarkable portrayal as a fish out of water that is only matched by the haunting antics of the family members, who manage to be equally amusing and frightening. With complicated themes, chilling performances, and a bold, unflinching take on race relations in America, Get Out is one of the best and most relevant films to come out this year.
Logan is a prime example of what the comic book genre can accomplish when it’s willing to push its own boundaries. Set in 2029, the Wolverine is one of the few remaining mutants in existence, but he is no longer immortal, and only a shadow of his former self. On the surface, the storyline may seem basic—an aging superhero must make one final push to protect the people he loves. But the film is elevated by the Wolverine’s humanity as scenes of intense violence no longer feel like a formality. Logan’s fleeting strength becomes more apparent with every punch, kick, and claw. It’s clear that he is now fighting for something bigger than himself: the future of all mutants. While viewers can sense his impending death throughout the movie, the Wolverine’s swan song still elicits its fair share of tears. It may not be flawless, but Logan asserts itself as one of the most satisfying ends to a character arc in recent memory.
4. Call Me By Your Name
Call Me By Your Name is an enchanting and sun-soaked cinematic triumph. Director Luca Guadagnino’s masterpiece generated Oscar buzz even before hitting theaters — and rightly so. Armie Hammer and Timothee Chalamet play two young men who fall into an ethereal summer romance in the Italian countryside. The film is exquisitely shot and deeply relatable, as it studies the uninhibited chemistry between two individuals. Hammer and Chalamet have an undeniable bond that, when coupled with the visual genius of Guadagnino and the musical brilliance of Sufjan Stevens, makes Call Me By Your Name an unforgettable experience.
5. Wonder Woman
Wonder Woman takes the familiar structure of the superhero origin story and introduces a funny, heartfelt, and inspired spin. Gal Gadot is one of 2017’s breakout stars as she shines in the role of Diana Prince. The chemistry between Gadot and Chris Pine’s Steve Trevor provides the emotional backbone as Diana navigates World War I-torn Europe. The No Man’s Land sequence is one of the best set-pieces of the year, and highlights a film that brilliantly blends elements of romantic comedy, action, fantasy, and superhero tropes. Heart and sincerity define what was one of the best films of an otherwise disappointing summer.
6. The Big Sick
Kumail Nanjiani rocketed himself to silver-screen fame by writing and starring in this touching romantic dramedy, based on the real story of himself and his wife. With Nanjiani’s clever deadpan and convincing emotional performances from the whole cast, the movie makes the serious topics it covers—life-threatening illness, rigid familial expectations, and unrequited love—accessible, believable, and moving. The trope of a struggling improv actor is an easy fallback for Hollywood, but The Big Sick’s unflinchingly human and honest interpretation and nearly-tragic twist add depth and refresh the genre.
7. The Florida Project
The Florida Project recognizes the wonder and brutality of daily life without ever stretching either to the point of becoming overly sentimental or cruel. In this slice of the life of a homeless family living in a budget motel just outside of Disney World, the flawed characters are evocative, simultaneously igniting pity and reverence as they navigate unfathomable hardships, and the grainy 35mm cinematography beautifully captures the working class splendor of the Sunshine State in all its faded glory. But what ultimately makes The Florida Project so intoxicating is its ability to deliver the joys of childhood, exploiting the sense of discovery that comes along with a lack of experience and how the mundane can suddenly become magical.
2017 saw the revitalization of the horror genre, and there could have been no better movie to lead the surge than It, an incredible rendition of the Stephen King novel of the same name. Director Andy Muschietti recreates King’s vision with beautifully macabre and meticulous effort put into every set design and costume. The film deeply embeds itself in our popular culture, inspiring memes and SNL skits alike. While the acting and special effects lend a hand in It’s popularity, the film most notably delivers universal messages of friendship and overcoming trauma and grief. The film’s message and heart distinguishes It within its genre and among other films this year.
9. Lady Bird
Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut is a semi-autobiographical look at her senior year in 2002-03 at a Sacramento all-girls Catholic high school. The film follows Saoirse Ronan as she seamlessly slips back into adolescence in Lady Bird’s titular role, an impulsive teenager obsessed with asserting her own individuality, even if she might not even know what that means. In Lady Bird, Gerwig shows us things we have all seen before: breakups, prom, graduation. But she infuses the conventions with freshness and humor, giving us a tender, messy glimpse into life and all its complications.
Mudbound blends the poetic and the realistic in a multi-character, multi-year drama. Director Dee Rees never loses control as the film shifts between the changing perspectives and times, filling the screen with visuals as moving as the powerful emotions she brings forth from her cast. Mudbound transports viewers to the Mississippi Delta in the 1940s to observe the strained relationship between two families: the white McAllans and the black Jacksons. The film is multi-faceted; exploring family, racism, PTSD, and alcoholism. Most of all, Mudbound confronts the truth of how pursuing the American Dream was often dependent on the color of a person’s skin — a past that is inextricably woven into our present.