35. Columbus (dir. Kogonada)
Video artist Kogonada’s debut feature seems almost impossibly constructed. A ballad of emotional architecture (or is it architectural emotion?) that breathes as much life into its concrete castles as exhaled by its formidable cast of Parker Posey, John Cho, Rory Culkin, and led by blinding sunbeam Haley Lu Richardson. There isn’t a single frame that isn’t prime mantel fodder.
34. Most Beautiful Island (dir. Ana Asensio)
The less said about writer-director-star Ana Asensio’s deviously devised portrait of a day in the life of an undocumented immigrant in NYC the better. Part of the experience is somersaulting your brain into a tailspin trying to predict what will happen next, not so much to satisfy curiosity than to couch yourself back to safety. Just know this: There is likely no bigger, more heaping spoonful of “Yikes!” to be found in any other movie that came out in 2017.
33. Man Underground (dirs. Sam Marine, Michael Borowiec)
This laugh-shock-sniffle fest about a former government geologist attempting to reconcile his disturbing memories of alien encounters through no-budget filmmaking is as much an endearing ode to friendship as a deconstruction of the evils of one’s own mind. Co-lead Pamela Fila, masterfully matching the film’s high-wire balance of styles and tones, is one of the most exhilarating acting finds of the year.
32. Lady Macbeth (dir. William Oldroyd)
This virulent viper of a movie is like a too-tight hug. Which, of course, is the best kind of hug. Florence Pugh is good, but Naomi Ackie steals the show. She communicates novels with each expression.
31. Nocturama (dir. Bertrand Bonello)
Bertrand Bonello’s signature buttery editing and fetishistic needle drops reach their apex in this fascinating inversion of Dawn of the Dead, in which a group of Parisian teenagers hole up in an empty mall after committing a series of terrorist attacks.
30. Princess Cyd (dir. Stephen Cone)
Uncommonly relaxed and shrewdly observed dual coming-of-age tale of a teenager visiting her novelist aunt for the summer. In a lovingly lensed Chicago, these two characters take bites out of each other, at first as an offensive, and eventually for nourishment. Rebecca Spence and Jessie Pinnick are 2017’s strongest on-screen duo, exchanging some of the richest, most sharply cut dialogue of the year.
29. My Happy Family (dir. Nana Ekvtimishvili, Simon Groß)
Carelessly, offensively, depressingly dumped and buried on Netflix last month is this balletic Georgian drama from the directors of In Bloom, in which a woman struggles to shed the suffocating skin of her family on the eve of her 52nd birthday. Ia Shugliashvili’s monumental performance is mostly reaction to the constant cacophony around her, as the members of her family never stop barking long enough to hear her out. A dynamic drama that unfolds as elegantly as a thriller, this is the Netflix movie every family should have huddled together to watch over Christmas.
28. Der Nachtmahr (dir. Akiz)
This phantasmagoric wrecking ball from German artist Akiz is the most sensory stimulating strip of aural and visual ballast not Play-Dohed by Gaspar Noé. Call it Jim Henson’s Enter the Void. Throw in an inexplicable cameo by Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon, a teenage cast who dresses like The Bling Ring raided Leeloo from The Fifth Element‘s wardrobe instead of Paris Hilton’s, and a cooing, gooey alien creature even E.T. would phone home about. A large, dark theater setting is ideal (hellooooo, epilepsy warning), but thankfully the horror streaming site Shudder was humanitarian enough to add it to their robust catalog earlier this year.
27. To the Bone (dir. Marti Noxon)
The controversy surrounding this unfathomably personal and daring feature debut from UnREAL co-creator and Buffy the Vampire Slayer writer-producer Marti Noxon might not have been so deafening had the louder naysayers waited to actually watch it before crying foul. Noxon’s portrayal of an anorexic 20-year-old (a sublime Lily Collins) is unflinching but never exploitative, dire but always hopeful. Noxon shouldn’t be criticized, she should be celebrated. It’s the kind of movie that could save somebody’s life.
26. Dunkirk (dir. Christopher Nolan)
The ultimate crystallization of every element Christopher Nolan has been toying with since the beginning of his career.
25. mother! (dir. Darren Aronofsky)
Darren Aronofsky’s Dunkirk.
24. The Beguiled (dir. Sofia Coppola)
Even if the movie had just been Elle Fanning begrudgingly hoeing for 90 minutes, it still would have been one of the most delectably fun movies of the year, and an exciting step for masterpiece-factory Sofia Coppola.
23. Wonder Woman (dir. Patty Jenkins)
To see such a massive film with as plain a message as giving a shit about people in 2017 was overwhelming. The scene with the ice cream cone is immortal.
22. The Human Surge (dir. Eduardo Williams)
A series of fuzzy wonderlands connected through electronic portals offer glimpses into pockets of life in Argentina, Africa, and the Philippines. At one point, the camera follows a stream of urine seamlessly inside an anthill, where we watch what may as well be a short live-action remake of A Bug’s Life. As challenging as it is rewarding, millennial director Eduardo Williams may have made the definitive film about our excessively yet tenuously connected generation.
21. T2 Trainspotting (dir. Danny Boyle)
There may be better movies that are sequels (‘sup, Addams Family Values), but T2 Trainspotting is the best sequel I have ever seen. No sequel stands better on the shoulders of its predecessor as an aesthetic extension, as a narrative continuation, or as an honorary tribute. More than cheap nostalgia, it’s also the first direct sequel that might work just as well if you haven’t seen the original.
20. Thirst Street (dir. Nathan Silver)
There’s discomfort, and there are fire baths. And then there are Nathan Silver movies. His latest, about a flight attendant (played by the unstoppable Lindsay Burdge) obsessing over a one-night stand, is a regrettably relatable work of art.
19. Kuso (dir. Flying Lotus)
Grossest movie ever made? Many deemed it so. I still think The Squid and the Whale and Return to Oz are worse. But adventurous viewers would be wise to dive headfirst into this blazing, festering pustule of belligerent madness from renaissance musician Flying Lotus. It’s alive in ways we’ve never seen before, and the lazy Adult Swim comparisons are obliterated in the opening sequence in which Busdriver hijacks the evening news with a fidgety musical number. Quote of the year comes courtesy of rapper Buttress: After a wooly alien creature (voiced by Hannibal Buress) reaches under her skirt and jerks out a fetus (listen for the Mortal Kombat “Get over here!” soundbite), she smokes it like a pipe and drolls, “Art is garbage.”
18. The Levelling (dir. Hope Dickson Leach)
Films about grief are rare, and even more rarely are they this complex and articulate about both the internal and outward chaos caused by untimely loss. Hope Dickson Leach’s lionhearted debut about a young woman (Game of Thrones‘s Ellie Kendrick, with a lip quiver that should be in the Louvre) returning to her father’s dairy farm after her brother’s suicide, makes Manchester By The Sea look like Minions.
17. Kill Me Please (dir. Anita Rocha da Silveira)
Perhaps the most aptly titled film to sum up 2017, Anita Rocha da Silveira’s unhinged debut is part neo-giallo, part ’80s-teen-throwback. As a group of teenage girls’ fascination with an unseen serial killer rampaging through town starts to dominate their lives in increasingly unexpected ways, Silveira merrily grinds the fear of adolescence through genre trappings, churning out something wholly original and intoxicating.
16. Lovesong (dir. So Yong Kim)
If unrequited love is a drug, prepare to O.D. Riley Keough and Jena Malone play friends-but-maybe-more who reconvene before one of them gets married in the most purely romantic movie of the year.
15. Get Out (dir. Jordan Peele)
Whenever I’m reminded of Allison Williams sitting on that bed eating Froot Loops dry, one at a time, and chasing them down with a sip of milk, I get lightheaded.
14. Snowy Bing Bongs (dirs. Rachel Wolther, Alex Huston Fischer)
Actor/comedians/elastic visionaries Tallie Medel, Sunita Mani, and Eleanore Pienta, known collectively as Cocoon Central Dance Team, wreak havoc in this cosmic collision of sketch comedy and performance art that often feels transmitted from another, much more amusing dimension. Watch it in full here.
13. Maurizio Cattelan: Be Right Back (dir. Maura Axelrod)
Unruly Italian sculpture artist Maurizio Cattelan gets a profile befitting of his rambunctious spirit and slippery sensibility in this doc that’s equal parts Exit Through the Gift Shop, Stories We Tell, and The Devil and Daniel Johnston, all set in New York City’s contemporary art world.
12. My Life as a Zucchini (dir. Claude Barras)
From cute to crushing, the range of “Aw”s generated by this stop-motion Oscar-nominee, co-written by Girlhood director Céline Sciamma, has never been wider. It may be the most adorable film about depression ever made.
11. The Lure (dir. Agnieszka Smoczynska)
A Polish! horror!! go-go!!! neon!!!! disco!!!!! musical!!!!!! about man-eating!!!!!!! mermaids???????? Marry me.
10. Sami Blood (dir. Amanda Kernell)
Expanding on her award-winning short, Amanda Kernell’s first feature plumbs the racial prejudices endured by indigenous Scandinavians in the 1930s. The film follows 14-year-old Elle Marja (Lene Cecilia Sparrok in the debut performance of a lifetime) as she struggles to sever ties to her fraught heritage. Unlike any film I’ve seen before, Sami Blood is an infuriating history lesson, a chilly adventure yarn, and a profound twist on the coming-of-age story, one that doubles down on what it means to discover and come to terms with oneself.
09. A Ghost Story (dir. David Lowery)
Laid me out, put me to bed, made me a believer. What a little miracle.
08. The Killing of a Sacred Deer (dir. Yorgos Lanthimos)
Whenever Yorgos Lanthimos – director of Dogtooth, Alps, and The Lobster – releases a new film, I forward him my therapy bill for the month.
07. The Shape of Water (dir. Guillermo del Toro)
Guillermo del Toro’s faultless, peerless masterwork feels completely out of time, achieving an impossible sense of purity, grace, and incorruptible soulfulness in every frame.
06. All This Panic (dir. Jenny Gage)
A staggeringly intimate documentary covering three years in the life of a handful of teenage girls in Brooklyn. I will never, ever forget them.
05. Thelma (dir. Joachim Trier)
The latest from the director of Reprise, Louder Than Bombs, and Oslo, August 31st is a seismic shift into genre territory, a supernatural queer coming-of-age story with enough gasp-inducing set pieces to make you see stars.
04. I, Tonya (dir. Craig Gillespie)
03. Lady Bird (dir. Greta Gerwig)
Every little moment is a big moment. Every character, no matter how peripheral, is so well-defined that you could create trading cards for each, complete with a list of traits on the back. It’s one of the most assured directorial debuts this century, and will continue to patch up fractured maternal relationships till the end of time.
02. Casting JonBenet (dir. Kitty Green)
Who is responsible? Who isn’t responsible? Kitty Green’s audacious Netflix original forsakes a retread of facts surrounding the already laboriously publicized murder of 6-year-old JonBenet Ramsey, and instead parades numerous denizens of Boulder, Colorado – where the murder took place – as they audition for a fake film dramatizing the pageant queen’s short life. There isn’t a single second that doesn’t pull your jaw to the floor, all building toward a gobsmacking finale that reaches celestial heights of emotional power.
01. Raw (dir. Julia Ducournau)
Imagine if David Cronenberg, Ginger Snaps, John Hughes, Suspiria, Catherine Breillat, Trouble Every Day, and every character Isabelle Adjani has ever played all dropped acid and went to Six Flags. You might come close to Julia Ducournau’s historic debut. Full of unforgettable scenes and images, the centerpiece of the film – and the year – is a scene that begins with an ill-advised at-home Brazilian waxing and ends with a solitary tear rolling down one’s cheek. What happens in between is like a mini opera, and the single most euphoric cinematic high of 2017.