These are the must-see films to check off your list before the end of the year.
BATTLE OF THE SEXES
The 1973 showdown between Billie Jean King and Bobby Rigg changed tennis forever. This film, from directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, follows the players leading up to the historic match (Emma Stone and Steve Carell, both great—and resplendent in period costumes) and offers a striking look at the way one tennis player altered the course of history.
There might not have been a more fun movie this year than Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver. The super-charged story of a group of bank robbers (including a refreshingly offbeat Jon Hamm) and the conflicted young man who drives their getaway cars (Ansel Elgort) managed to be both thrilling and touching—and just might have the year’s best soundtrack.
BEATRIZ AT DINNER
Beatriz, a healthcare worker and immigrant from Mexico, finds herself sparring across a client's dinner table with a smug billionaire after a broken-down car leaves her stranded at the residence. We’re still thinking about memorable repartee from Salma Hayek's title character; the film was penned by the sharp, darkly funny Mike White.
THE BIG SICK
Kumail Nanjiani and Emily Gordon wrote this smart, charming rom-com—based loosely on their own romance and directed by Michael Showalter—about a stand-up comic who finds himself falling in love with someone just before she contracts a life-threatening disease. Despite the heavy subject matter, it’s a funny, sparkling movie—thanks in no small part to Nanjiani, who also stars, and a better than ever Zoe Kazan—that made a big splash at the Sundance Film Festival and was among the year’s highest grossing independent movies.
French director Robin Campillo looks back to the 1990s work of ACT UP in Paris for this stunning portrait of a group of activists whose work and personal lives were marked by tenacity, grit, and passion. The movie has picked up a slew of awards at international festivals—including the prestigious Grand Prix prize in Cannes—and early reviews have been strong; Variety called the film, “sprawling, thrilling, [and] finally heart-bursting.”
CALL ME BY YOUR NAME
André Aciman's 2007 novel supplies the story for Luca Guadagnino's film—a hit on the festival circuit—about a 1980s romance between a young man (Timothée Chalamet) living in Italy for the summer and the handsome houseguest (Armie Hammer) whom his intellectual parents have taken in. If the masterful eye of director Guadagnino (A Bigger Splash, I Am Love) isn't enough to lure you in (and it should be) the script by James Ivory will do the trick.
The decisive World War II battle that gives this film its name has been big news this year—also playing a part in films including Darkest Hourand Churchill—but it never gets bigger play than it does in this epic from director Christopher Nolan. The movie boasts a massive cast (with stars ranging from Tom Hardy to Kenneth Branagh and Harry Styles) and delivers the kind of war epic that doesn’t come along every year. Sure, it was a summertime popcorn hit, but expect to hear more about this one come awards season.
The Belgian-born, Paris-based filmmaker Agnès Varda easily qualifies as a living legend. In addition to having spent close to seven decades behind the camera—making films like Cleo from 5 to 7 and The Beaches of Agnès—she’s got one of the world’s most recognizable hairstyles (a silver bob with bright red tips) and this year was the recipient of an honorary Oscar. Her latest film, a collaboration with the French artist JR that’s part buddy movie, part art project, and entirely heartwarming, won top honors for a documentary at the Cannes festival
FIRST THEY KILLED MY FATHER
Angelina Jolie directed this big-screen adaptation of Cambodian writer Loung Ung’s memoir about a childhood spend under the rule of the Khmer Rouge. The movie stars an unforgettable Sareum Srey Moch (only 9 years old here) playing Ung and an impressive supporting cast as well as beautiful cinematography, all in service of a harrowing tale that’s not easy to watch but is undeniably important.
THE FLORIDA PROJECT
This charming, touching, and proudly offbeat film (from Sean Baker, the director of 2015’s Tangerine) would be notable for its casting alone. Take, for example, 7-year-old star Brooklynn Prince, who plays a young girl living in a seedy Florida motel with her troubled mother, or an unforgettable Willem Dafoe, who’s all heart as the motel manager and resident adult. But it’s more than just a great cast; the film is a joyous, honest, sometimes difficult portrayal of childhood by which it would be impossible not to be enchanted.
In this first feature from director Jordan Peele, a young black man (Daniel Kaluuya, in a star-making turn) goes away for the weekend with his white girlfriend (a chilling Allison Williams) to visit her parents. When their eerily pleasant world begins to show frightening cracks, however, it seems as though it might already be too late for him to save himself from the deadly situation in which he’s found himself. Even moviegoers who don’t normally favor horror should do themselves a favor and see this film; it was not only a hit at the box office, but wowed critics also normally averse to the genre.
A GHOST STORY
The title aside, this is not your typical ghost story. The film is yet another 2017 cinematic reflection on grief, this time starring Casey Affleck dawned in archetypal ghost garb: a sheet with two holes. Loneliness and the mystery of death comprise the movie’s haunting message.
In this astounding investigation into the world of athletic steroid use, director Bryan Fogel unravels the horrendous history of Russia’s anti-doping center — an institution that enables the exact opposite of its title. The documentary, which premiered at this year's Sundance Film Festival and snagged an eventual $5 million deal with Netflix, is yet another reason for us all to be talking about Russian influence this year.
AN INCONVENIENT SEQUEL
It's been a decade since An Inconvenient Truth put climate change on the big screen (and on the international stage), and now this sequel from directors Jon Shenk and Bonni Cohen—and starring Al Gore—looks at how the crisis has changed, and where we are in the search for a solution.
INGRID GOES WEST
Drawing on her distinctive brand of compelling ambivalence, Aubrey Plaza is fabulous as the social media obsessed—verging on mentally ill—Ingrid Thorburn. When her character’s Instagram stalking leads to a contrived relationship with a boho influencer (Ashley Olsen), the ensuing complications resonate deeply with members of the media age.
The solo directorial debut of actress Greta Gerwig proves without a doubt that the star of 20th Century Women and Damsels in Distress can hold her own on either side of the camera. In this spirited, funny tale of a teenage girl’s life as she prepares to head off to college, Gerwig makes tremendous use of her star, Saoirse Ronan, and builds a brilliant relationship between the movie’s title character and her mother, played by national treasure Laurie Metcalf. A supporting cast including Beanie Feldstein, Tracy Letts, Lucas Hedges, and Timothée Chalamet is one of the year’s greatest.
When you hear the name Florence Pugh in the coming months, and you will, remember that the British actress got her big break from Lady Macbeth, a dark, quiet from director William Oldroyd. The film tells the story of Katherine, the bored wife of a terrible and terribly wealthy man who decides to take her own life—and subsequently those of the people around her—into her own hands. Don’t take our word for it; the movie recently swept the nominations for the British Independent Film Awards, with 15 nods—the highest of any film this year.
THE MEYEROWITZ STORIES (NEW AND SELECTED)
A beautiful reflection on the unhappy (but unabashedly comedic) relationships between a father and his three children (Adam Sandler, Ben Stiller, and Emma Thompson) and one grandchild, played by the remarkable breakout Grace Van Patten. Noah Baumbach has crafted a visceral tale of the discomfort and acceptance inherent in families.
Two soldiers who fought equally for their country return to post-World War II Mississippi only to find that life there rarely involves equality. Garrett Hedlund and Jason Mitchell lead the cast—which also features impressive turns from Carey Mulligan and Mary J. Blige—as the two men whose friendship breaks rules and taboos in this latest picture from the masterful director Dee Rees
If it wasn’t already apparent that Kristen Stewart has grown up into one of our most impressive performers, this stunner from the French director Olivier Assayas proved it. The film—part ghost story, part rumination on grief—is built around Stewart as its protagonist, working as a personal shopper to afford her stay in Paris. Her ulterior motive? Conjuring her deceased brother’s ghost by night, leading to the electrifying plotline
Swedish filmmaker Ruben Östlund took home the Palme d’Or from Cannes this year for The Square, his stylish art-world thriller starring the Danish actor Claes Bang—who’s been recently rumored to be a contender to take over the lead role in the James Bond franchise—and Elizabeth Moss as a firecracker American journalist.
THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI
Nobody does dark humor quite like Martin McDonagh, who wrote and directed this film about a woman who takes justice into her own hands when a small-town police force fails to solve her daughter’s murder. Actually, there is one person who does it just as well: The peerless Frances McDormand, who stars as Mildred Hayes and gives one of the year’s most impressive performances. (Also, a tip of our hat to Woody Harrelson, who plays a dying sheriff in this film and has this year stunned us over and over again.)
So far, 2017 has seen some incredible moments for women in the entertainment industry. One of the most apparent examples is that of Wonder Woman, the rare female-directed superhero film (helmed by Patty Jenkins) that went on to defy naysayers and gross over $800 million in its first week alone. It also made a superstar of the Israeli actress Gal Gadot and inspired some of the year’s best Halloween costumes—always one of our favorite metrics of success.
A young deaf girl runs away from home to experience a bit of life away from her strict surroundings. Decades later, a boy of about the same age loses his hearing and leaves home under different circumstances. Despite the time lapse, the stories are tied together by a mystery in this beautiful, sweet story from Todd Haynes (Carol), adapted from the book by Brian Selznick.
This story originally appeared on Townandcountrymag.com.
* Minor edits have been made by the Townandcountry.ph editors.