2017 was a rough year for just about everyone. At a time when the world seemed intent on burning itself to the ground (sometimes literally) at every opportunity, and Hollywood engaged in a long overdue purging of power-hungry predators, writing about movies often felt hopelessly trivial.
But against the odds, this turned out to be a pretty great year for film. It was a heartening reminder that art can sustain us even in the most difficult of times, and that occasionally we can still have nice things. From the multiplex to the art house, the movies that most spoke to me this year weren't (for the most part) escapist yarns, but stories that said something about the current state of the world, or reminded me of the humanity that makes it worth fighting for.
1. "Call Me By Your Name": Director Luca Guadagnino brings a tactile sensuality to this achingly tender romance between a teen and the handsome research assistant (TimothéeChalamet and Armie Hammer, respectively) who comes to live with his family for one summer at their vacation home in Italy. Rendered with the vivid detail of a long-held memory, it's a love story you can practically smell, touch, and taste.
2. "The Florida Project": This empathetic portrait of the "hidden homeless," from director Sean Baker, is equal parts funny and devastatingly sad, with a remarkable performance from newcomer Brooklynn Prince.
3."The Shape of Water": Guillermo del Toro's lushly-rendered fantasy is a swooning romance, an ode to classic cinema, and a celebration of outsiders, all wrapped in the tale of a mute woman who falls in love with a fish monster.
4. "BPM": Following members of AIDS activist group ACT-UP Paris in the early '90s, Robin Campillo's impassioned, heartbreaking, but ultimately hopeful drama tells a story of young people fighting for their very existence, and learning how to make a life amidst protest.
5. "Columbus": The remarkably assured debut of director Kogonada is a quiet, meditative drama about two strangers (John Cho and Haley Lu Richardson) forming an unexpected connection over architecture in small town Indiana.
6. "Lady Bird": Greta Gerwig's hilarious and heartfelt coming-of-age story features beautifully-calibrated performances from Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf as a mother and daughter who love one another, but can't keep from driving each other crazy.
7. "Get Out": A thrilling, genre-defying high wire act, Jordan Peele's diabolically sharp satire has plenty on its mind as it takes incisive aim at white liberal racism and so-called "allies."
8. "The Big Sick": KumailNanjiani writes and stars in the real-life story of how he met his wife, and delivers the freshest, funniest, and sweetest addition to the romantic comedy genre in years.
9. "The Lost City of Z": In telling the story of early 20th-century British explorer Percy Fawcett (Charlie Hunnam, in his best-ever performance), who ventured deep into the jungles of South America and was never seen again, James Gray turns it into a lyrical, ambiguous exploration of obsession and the human desire to delve into the unknown.
10. "Whose Streets?":SabaahFolayan's vital documentaryprovides a ground-level view of the protest and unrest that erupted in Ferguson in the wake of the killing of Michael Brown. The picture it paints is both infuriating and absolutely necessary.
11. "mother!": No movie more confounded and baffled audiences than Darren Aronofsky's biblical-environmental-social allegory, and I loved every batshit crazy minute of it.
12. "A Ghost Story": An existential contemplation of mortality, time, and the things we leave behind when we're gone. Haunting in every sense.
13. "Mudbound": Dee Rees' beautifully ambitious tale of family, love, and racism in the American South. Picked up by Netflix out of Sundance, the film is a true epic, and I just wish more audiences had the opportunity to enjoy it on the big screen.
14. "Faces Places": New Wave director Agnes Varda and street artist JR tool around the French countryside in a van that looks like a camera in this joyful exploration of the relationship between art and community.
15. "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2": For his follow-up to Marvel's smash hit, James Gunn delivered a mega-budget blockbuster in which his band of galactic superheroes mostly sit around and talk about their feelings. The result was hilarious, exciting, and surprisingly touching.
Honorable Mentions: "Baby Driver," "Blade Runner 2049," "Coco," "Dunkirk," "A Fantastic Woman," "God's Own Country," "Good Time," "I, Tonya," "John Wick: Chapter 2," "The Killing of a Sacred Deer," "Personal Shopper," "The Post," "Princess Cyd," "Professor Marston and the Wonder Women," "A Quiet Passion," "Raw," "Star Wars: The Last Jedi," "The Work."