10. Call Me By Your Name (Luca Guadagnino) After seeing this for the second time, I kept trying to write a review and couldn't. The best review, I think, was my reaction on first seeing the film: I had found the first half or so a little too slow for my tastes, but when the lights came up at the end of the credits, I realized that I had been physically holding myself together so as to keep from falling apart in the crowded cinema. The cumulative power of this film is incredible, thanks to the patient observations Guadagnino makes and the stunning performances from the leads, especially Timothée Chalamet.
9. God's Own Country (Francis Lee) Less heralded than Call Me By Your Name, but even better. The beauty here is watching these two imperfect men overcome the roughness of the land - and within themselves - in order to find the beauty and tenderness within each other. Everything in this feels intimately, sometimes painfully, real, grounded in the kinds of situations and choices we find ourselves in every day. I loved watching these two fall for each other, even as they struggled.
8. Dunkirk (Christopher Nolan) The most intense film of the year is also the most carefully crafted. Not that that's a surprise coming from Nolan, but this time he managed to find a way to inject some genuine emotion into the proceedings. For a full-throttle action film, it's actually quite quiet, and that's the thing that stays with you long after you've left the theater: The images of the men's faces, waiting for their fate, no matter what that might be. The image of Farrier standing in front of his blazing wreck of a plane. The tension and tenderness between Mr. Dawson and the shivering soldier. And most of all, for me, the moment of quiet that opens the film, when a small group of soldiers finds themselves in a storm of papers telling them they're surrounded.
7. Personal Shopper (Olivier Assayas) Kristen Stewart's acclaimed performance is only the start of this masterful film. What starts as a ghost story slowly turns into a low-key thriller for a long stretch, until you get to the end and realize that it's really been a study of grief... and in each and every mode it's working in, it is nothing less than stunning. I had been very nervous that I wouldn't like it at all going in, but Assayas leads this with such a sure hand that I was completely enthralled with it from first frame to last.
6. Lady Bird (Greta Gerwig) The warmth that emanates from every frame of this beautiful first solo feature from Greta Gerwig is just... the only thing I can do whenever I think of it is simply sigh contentedly. Not a single character gets short shrift, even if they only appear on the edges of a couple of scenes; everyone has a moment to shine. Yes, Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf are just perfection in their perfectly modulated performances, but everyone in the cast is aces, from Tracy Letts's careful portrayal of the McPherson patriarch to Odeya Rush as the supposed school mean girl to Stephen McKinley Henderson as the depressed priest to... to... to... I could go on and on. Suffice it to say: This is one of the all-time great coming-of-age movies.
5. Lady Macbeth (William Oldroyd) The leanest, meanest movie of the year, in more ways than one. Florence Pugh is magnetic in the lead, but she's just one part of the whole. Oldroyd marshals everyone and everything around his uncompromising vision of an awakening of feminine power in 1800s rural England. It's pretty dark, but it's also shockingly funny, and the editing is used sharply to heighten that. I was pinned to the edge of my seat for the entire 89 minutes.
4. Wonder Woman (Patty Jenkins) If we had to wait so long for a Wonder Woman movie just so we could get Gal Gadot in the role, and Patty Jenkins in the directors chair, then it was all worth it. For a superhero flick to be centered around its hero's essential goodness is a sad rarity in this day and age, which makes this even more special. And that No Man's Land sequence, hands-down the best scene in any film this year.
3. Atomic Blonde (David Leitch) The hardest-hitting action flick in many a year. Charlize Theron is a BAMF GODDESS. Every fight sequence has a completely different look and feel, and they all look incredible, none more so than that crazy one-take fight (which isn't just about the punches thrown, but about the pauses for breath, something that I don't think I've seen in any fight sequence before). And the plot is equally impressive, waiting until the last possible moment to play its hand, sending you out of the theater with something to think about (and yes, it actually does hold together).The most style-over-substance film of the year, and all the better for it.
2. BPM (Beats Per Minute) (Robin Campillo) If all politics is personal, then this is the best filmic equivalent of that I've ever seen. As well it should be, since writer/director Campillo was actually a member of ACT UP Paris in the late 80s-early 90s. He was in those rooms as peers passionately argued about how to fight for their lives and the lives of their friends, and others who they didn't even know. BPM couldn't possibly be more timely, as a new generation of kids are taking to the streets to fight for their lives against those who would tell them "it's not that simple," when it really is that simple. And that heart-stopping, perfect ending - the best ending of any film this year - tells it like it is: The fight continues, and we must never stop.
1. The Shape of Water (Guillermo del Toro) From the first notes of Alexandre Desplat's score, I fell for this hook, line, and sinker, and only grew more enchanted as it unfolded. It's interesting that one of the most humanistic films of the year features a fish man as one of its main characters, but that's Guillermo del Toro for you; he loves his monsters, and wants you to love them too. He wants you to love all the things he loves, and in Sally Hawkins's gorgeous face and body full of pure emotion, he found the perfect conduit, straight to our hearts.