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The top 10 films of 2017 that you (probably) haven’t seen — but absolutely must

From movies about race - Get Out, Detroit, Whose Streets? - to psychological horror - Raw, mother! -and heartwarming drama - The Big Sick, Brad’s Status - here are the top 10 films of 2017 that you (probably) haven’t seen.

Year Ender 2017 Updated: Dec 28, 2017 13:30 IST
Rohan Naahar
Rohan Naahar
Hindustan Times
Jennifer Lawrence in a still from Darren Aronofsky’s mother!
Jennifer Lawrence in a still from Darren Aronofsky’s mother!

This list should be used as a retort to anyone who says that movies are dead. There were so many excellent films released in 2017 that we were compelled to make two lists (and still cheat by squeezing more than the usual 10 in this one). Not only was this a great year for blockbusters (you can check out our top 10 here), it was an especially remarkable one for original movies too. But most years are, despite what they say.

The conversation shifted from supporting original stories and promising filmmakers to discussing how well those movies actually did. Films like Get Out and The Big Sick were major commercial successes - in fact, many of these movies broke out of the niche arthouse audiences and charged into the mainstream. Whether or not this is a reason to celebrate is up to you, but it certainly helps when as many people as possible watch smaller films.

This list, you’ll notice, leans on the genre side, but that’s simply a matter of taste, and also mostly because we still haven’t seen many of this year’s Oscar contenders (expect another list in the near future). It’s a testament to how spoilt we were this year that movies such as Colossal, The Lost City of Z, Free Fire, T2: Trainspotting, Good Time, Split and Personal Shopper, despite being rather terrific, couldn’t find a spot.

But there you go, suddenly a top 10 list has become a top 20 list. Win-win.

Brad’s Status

Ben Stiller’s quite brilliant at playing entitled middle-aged white men, perhaps almost as great as Brad Pitt is at playing utter imbeciles. What justifies this comparison is that no one really appreciates them in these roles. 2017 was an especially good year for Stiller, who delivered some of the best performances of his career in Mike White’s bitingly insightful comedy about a man trapped in a middle-age crisis, and Noah Baumbach’s Netflix movie, The Meyerowitz Stories,. in which he plays a significantly more successful man, shuffling his way through a different kind of middle-age crisis.

Raw

The problem with Raw is that it’ll always be remembered as the cannibal movie that left audiences at Cannes scurrying for the exits. But it’s so much more than that. It’s a coming of age film. It’s a film about not fitting in. It might even be a film about getting periods. Who knows? But what we do know, however, is that it’s more than just a cannibal movie.

Lady Macbeth

Director William Oldroyd’s film descends so rapidly into morally detestable depths, and settles so comfortably into ‘lady oriented’ territory, that were Pahlaj Nihalani still in charge of the Censor Board, he’d probably have a conniption, and in his final moments before fully passing out from shock, he’d order it to be burned at the stake.

Read our review here.

Brawl in Cell Block 99

For the second year in a row, director S Craig Zahler has emerged from the shadows to make the most brutal movie of the year. In 2016, he made the gut-wrenching Western, Bone Tomahawk, and this year, he transformed Vince Vaughn into an action hero. I know, right? What makes both these films so powerful is Zahler’s ability to cut right to the chase. He strips his stories down to the bone, and in this simplicity finds ways to develop character-based plots of jaw-dropping brutality. Brawl in Cell Block 99 is one of the finest prison movies of the last ten years.

The Beguiled/The Killing of a Sacred Deer

If Ben Stiller had a good year, it was nowhere near as pivotal as the year Nicole Kidman and Colin Farrell had. They starred together in two films in 2017, two films that couldn’t be more unlike - Sofia Coppola’s dreamlike The Beguiled (can she do wrong?) and the latest in Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos’ unparalleled crusade to shock audiences, the psychological horror, The Killing of a Sacred Deer. They might not make for the perfect double bill, but it’ll sure as heck be an interesting one.

Whose Streets?/Detroit/An Insignificant Man

But if double (or in this case, triple) bills are what you’re into, look no further than the monumental documentary on the Ferguson riots, Whose Streets? and Kathryn Bigelow’s Black Lives Matter parable, Detroit. Both films tackle issues most policy makers would rather sweep aside - much like the community these films champion. And as the sole Indian film on this list, the Arvind Kejriwal documentary, An Insignificant Man, has some of that same urgency and spirit.

mother!

One paragraph simply isn’t enough to talk about Darren Aronofsky’s fever dream of a film. But honestly, an entire volume of books wouldn’t be enought to discuss the astonishing vision on display here. They don’t make films like mother! anymore, certainly not on this scale and with such stars - there is never a scene in which the camera isn’t inches away from Jennifer Lawrence’s face. Fair warning though: This is the sort of film that has the power to scar the best of us, so as Walter White once said, “tread lightly.”

A Ghost Story

At just three films old, director David Lowery has proven that he one of the finest filmmakers working today. Understandably, sexual assault accused Casey Affleck’s presence might turn away some viewers, but if there ever was a time to make a case for separating the artist from his art, it is now. With a bare minimal use of dialogue (and a curious use of the Academy ratio), Lowery has made a personal movie about a grieving widow than spans the length and breadth of time, and is as epic in its vision as Terence Malick’s The Tree of Life.

The Big Sick

There hasn’t been a ‘romantic comedy’ as great as The Big Sick probably since (500) Days of Summer. It is a movie that sits comfortably inside the confines of its much-ridiculed genre, and transcends it with its almost unbelievable true story, layered characters, and warm writing. It was a near miracle that it was released in India at all, because the number one pick certainly wasn’t.

Get Out

I can’t remember the last time a film withstood an entire year of competition and emerged on the other side, still at the top. When Get Out was released back in January, it was supposed to be another Blumhouse horror movie, but no one was prepared for what they were about the experience. Like Detroit, Whose Streets?, and even Netflix’s Bright, Get Out is the film most emblematic of this year - a year of division, hatred, and violence. But there’s a reason director Jordan Peele altered his film’s depressing ending in favour of a more hopeful one. Because what else is there to latch on to as we trudge into 2018?

You can read our list of the best TV shows of 2017 here, the best horror movies here, and the 10 worst films of the year here.

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The author tweets @RohanNaahar