Several films clustered right at the top for me, making it challenging to pick what I thought was the best. I rated the best as 4.5 or 5 Stars, and my final decision on the top 15 rests on how much of an impact the film made on me. Exemplary acting, music, screenplay, cinematography, are essential and taken for granted in these selections; however, movies I thought about days, weeks, and even months afterward are what topped my list. So, here are my favorites:
- Phantom Thread: Paul Thomas Anderson and Daniel Day-Lewis again team up to create a surprising, weird, and satisfying storytelling experience. The way the story lead me and then took me by surprise left me feeling excited at the end.
- Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri: McDonagh wrote a screenplay that is one of the sharpest in my memory, and Francis McDormand and Sam Rockwell bring to life two fierce and contemporary characters.
- The Shape of Water: This film solidifies Guillermo del Toro as the quintessential storyteller. Once again, his odd imagination results in a story that is strange, beautiful, and endearing.
- Get Out. A black director, black leading actor, and black supporting actress (who should have gotten more recognition) create a thought-provoking horror movie experience about contemporary race relations. The film provides a twist on the genre that is simultaneously serious and funny.
- Call Me By Your Name: I felt like I was in Italy with Elio and Oliver biking the streets and laying by the pool. Timothee Chalamet gives one of the best acting performances of the year, especially in the last scenes. The screenplay writer brilliantly modified the book’s ending in a way that showcases Chalamet’s talent.
- Dunkirk. This film is one of the best war pictures I have seen. While there were critiques of the accuracy, the view of war from those on the ground, the suspense created in the cinematography, the sheer intensity, and the weaving of the three different narratives created a breathtaking movie experience.
- The Florida Project. Sean Baker, who makes outstanding movies about those who live on the fringes of society, gives us his best about an impoverished young girl and her mother living in a low-rent hotel just on the outskirts of Disneyworld. Brooklynn Kimberly Prince, who plays Moonee, the young girl, is a revelation, and Baker captures the joy of childhood from Moonee’s vantage point and the stark contrast between the haves and have-nots.
- A Ghost Story. This film probably came out too early and had long been forgotten at award season, but the story of the Ghost as he remains stuck in location and travels across time is beautiful and profound.
- The Insult: The film explores the personal, family, and social consequences when two men, an Israeli and a Palestinian refugee, exchange words. This film has so much to teach us about healing in societies that are highly polarized.
- Lady Bird. The story of the relationship between mother and daughter during the daughter’s senior year is beautiful and feels real and completely honest.
- Mudbound: Two young men, one Black and one White, return home from the war to very different receptions. The director forces us to confront yet another legacy from the Jim Crow south.
- Wonder Woman: This is what we were waiting for – a female superhero movie by a female director. The story has depth, incredible action, and a awesome performance by Gal Gidot as Wonder Woman. Yay!!
- Baby Driver: Ansel Elgort turns in a magnificent performance as a teenage getaway car driver. The movie is electric from the very first scenes, and Elgort creates a character who is hip and very hard to resist.
- Blade Runner 2049: This follow-up to the original has visually stunning cinematography, a great storyline, and an emotionally deep and believable performance by Ryan Gosling.
- I, Tonya: This is a mockumentary that is based on a true story that should not have worked but turned out to be a hilarious tribute to the skater who is now famous for the Nancy Kerrigan incident. Margot Robbie is fantastic as Tonya Harding, but it is Allison Janney, playing Tonya’s mother, who steals the show.
Other Notables: Stronger (Jake Gyllenhaal gives a wonderful performance as the man who survived the Boston Marathon bombing); Maudie (Sally Hawkins and Ethan Hawke gave award-winning performances in this film based on a true story of a folk artist in Canada); Big Sick (autobiographical film written by Kumail Nanjiani that explores cross-cultural relationships and family in a very humorous and insightful way); Loving Vincent (innovative animated film based on the life of Vincent Van Gogh); Logan Lucky (a light but extremely funny film by Steven Soderbergh about two brothers who plan a heist at a racetrack); Fantastic Woman (from Chile about a woman who loses her partner and the consequences of that loss); War for the Planet of the Apes (which seemed to be to be the best of the series); Star Wars: The Last Jedi (my favorite of the entire franchise in terms of story and emotional connection to the characters); Marjorie Prime (explores artificial intelligence in a multigenerational household).