Whenever I put together a top-ten list for a year in film, I attempt to find a common thread between the films. Not that all the films need to meet some certain themed criteria, but films released in a calendar year share not only that year’s distinction but most often the year prior when production begins, and as such they frequently capture a sentiment or unease of time that many of the world’s citizens feel at a certain time. These timely sentiments creep into blockbusters, too; frequently with casting or subtle dialogue.
The common thread that many will glean from 2017 would be the effects of Donald Trump’s first year as President—but that’s far too simplistic, in my opinion, because that prism serves to discount the millions of people who voted for him and for whom his election was the pinnacle (or summit?) of an uneased response to progress and a fear of the future becoming far, far different. While many 2017 films included swipes at Trump, authoritarianism, sexism, racism, and xenophobia (particularly a fear of refugees), the films that I chose for my top 10 best movies of the year all shared a theme of disruption. And to me, that best encapsulates the year, as an election awakened two sides, one that was asleep as social progress seemed to become a functioning mechanism that worked on its own and the other side that was awakened by the election, feeling like it could finally halt that very mechanism. As such, so many things that we take for granted every day—news, sports, social media, family bonds, respect for coworkers, etc.—were disrupted by the tugging and pulling conversation surrounding how we should progress as a society in relation to work, poverty, the environment, race, gender, and providing sanctuary to citizens in need. And within that disruption comes a reflection on how we got to where we are and what we can actually control about our own outcomes when it feels like so much of what we individually do is in a fight against numerous systems.
That there, the disruption that creates reflection, was the most common device weaved through my top 10 films of the year. The films below include disruptions such as a prison sentence, a refusal to rely on social services, a romantic relationship that requires a relinquish of control to survive, a new form of racism that embodies the expression “they hate us cuz they ain’t us”, the ghostly effects of technological communication, three distinctly different romantic relationships with a visitor that changes an awareness of who love can be with, how 9/11 made college applications a little easier for a small window of time, and a discovery of a civilization that could dispel European societal superiority all together.
Now, I know that disruption and choices are not new to movies in 2017, it’s a device that’s pushed storytelling forever. However, the types of disruption are distinctly of this time and our response to how the filmmakers have decided to use various genres and different approaches to storytelling to propel the story forward are rooted within a space where many of us have felt disrupted every day by real news, fake news, unreal arguments, accusations of improprieties in years past, etc. that are all rooted in how we look at the world now in 2017.
As for me, 2017 was quite personally disruptive, as I moved across the country and then soon thereafter worked my final days at Collider. Over the past three years, I traveled to film festivals and sets for Collider that took me to Venice, Cape Town, Budapest, Telluride, London, and moved me to New York City and back to Los Angeles. I worked with many people who I greatly admire, as they continue to march on against all the movie websites that are dissolving, and covering the cinema landscape by giving the same level of importance to the Sundance Film Festival that they do to Star Wars and Marvel. I am very proud of the work I did for Collider in increasing their reach via social media, digital marketing, events, contests and improving as a writer, reviewer, and interviewer in their fold. I also appreciate them allow me to wrap up my own disruption by writing up one of the items I look forward to each year, the top 10 list.
Now, finally, that’s what you’re all here for! To scan to the bottom and see if it matches a certain amount of movies on your own list, but hopefully I can persuade you to see a film or two that you hadn’t already and disrupt your cinematic view in that way. That’s always what I’ve loved about top 10 lists, if you find one that shares a few similar titles to yours, you might also find some new movies that you’d not heard of on that list, from someone who obviously shares a similar taste.
Thanks for reading Collider and thanks for reading this list. Here are ten honorable mentions from quite a good year of cinema (in alphabetical order): After the Storm (directed by Hirokazu Koreeda), Baby Driver (directed by Edgar Wright), The Beguiled (directed by Sofia Coppola), Columbus (directed by Kogonada), Detroit (directed by Kathryn Bigelow), The Florida Project (directed by Sean Baker), Marjorie Prime (directed by Michael Almendreya), Person to Person (directed by Dustin Guy Defa), A Quiet Passion (directed by Terence Davies), and The Salesman (directed by Asghar Farhadi).