A few notes before we discuss the list, a yearly reminder that this is my list of favourite films of the year, not always necessarily the best films. If you don’t agree with me (or vice-versa), that’s okay, let’s discuss it, not argue about it.
And for those who have told me it’s been a slow year for films, I’m going to prove why that’s wrong, respectfully. This felt like a super strong year for films, there are so many films I loved and wanted on this list, but there were just stronger films that were released.
I have a huge honourable mentions list, but I’ll list them at the bottom. My list will be alphabetical except my top three. It was really hard to choose the rest.
Blade Runner 2049
Directed by Denis Villeneuve
Before we talk in agreement at how we are unaware of why this film is left off of so many different lists, you must be aware that I am not a fan of the original. Even though many films on this list will prove that I love a film that takes its time and is slow, but the original is not one I enjoy. I appreciate it but don’t like it. Now that that’s said, this movie is incredible. It builds on the original in such a way and adds to it in a way that only Denis could.
He and Roger Deakins together is always such a fucking delight. Some of the shots of the film are some of the best shots I’ve ever seen in my life. I went to see it in IMAX opening weekend and went back 3 days later because I couldn’t believe it. Even though it’s super long, I never felt the length once, either time. It’s a movie I can see myself revisiting time and time again, and actually, have considered rewatching the original for another appraisal and I never considered that before. It’s a movie that makes the original better in retrospect.
The Big Sick
Directed by Michael Showalter
Kumail Nanjiani is incredible and hilarious. I found him through Silicon Valley and have been a fan of his since. He was a guest on The Canon, a great podcast that partially was an inspiration for The Film Queue. I was more familiar with Nanjiani and Zoe Kazan then specifically Michael Showalter’s work (outside of Wet Hot American Summer), but after it made huge waves at Sundance, I instantly knew I had to see it. I was and have been obsessed since. I saw it three times in the theatre, and three at home. Each time with someone else, I want more people to be aware of the beauty of the film.
Not only the funniest film I’ve seen in years but absolutely human and emotional (something I might repeat a lot today). The story is fairly simple, but it’s the characters and emotions that shine through the film. Plus, Holly Hunter’s relationship with Nanjiani is to die for. I have trouble making it through their “goodbye” without tearing up.
Call Me By Your Name
Directed by Luca Guadagnino
This is the only film that hit me slowly, over the span of a day. I went to see it with Arianne early in the day, and then we hung out and grabbed food and even though there were moments of the film that I absolutely loved (the first moment I loved was as Armie Hammer began dancing), but the film took its time, more than I had originally wanted. I felt like I wasn’t fully connected to it like I could have been, but then I was on my own for a bit. And some of the moments would hit me. It latched onto me, and wouldn’t let go. The beauty of the moments they shared in Italy, these moments that would stay with both Elio and Oliver forever, regardless of their future/outcome. It helped shape both of them in ways they didn’t expect. It’s such a breathtaking romance to watch, one that we all need to see and appreciate just as Elio’s father (Michael Stuhlberg who is exceptional in this as well) does. The final moments are beautiful and refreshing.
The only reason why the film works is because of the chemistry between Armie Hammer and Timothée Chalamet, it is so fucking electric between the two that you can feel the heat coming off the screen as you watch them together. They both became so utterly vulnerable for their roles and it is a fucking marvel to witness, the world should be only so lucky to have seen it. And Timothée is next-level good, a performance that people would be reciting and paying attention to for years. He gave it his all, considering nobody really knew him before Lady Bird and this, everyone will know his name. I could see him being nominated at the Oscars, and potentially win if it wasn’t for the fact that I have someone else I rather win.
The Florida Project
Directed by Sean Baker
I didn’t write about Tangerine for my top ten list before, but I wish I had. When he was making his next film, I knew I had to watch it, plus it was coming out through A24, so I knew I had to seek it out. And once the trailer I came out, I fell in love with those bright colours, that happy mood, it’s so blissful.
Watching The Florida Project and getting to see the phenomenal Broklynn Prince in person as everyone stood up and cheered our hearts out for her. This film is so endearing, it’s something I feel like I recommend to everyone.
Directed by Andy Muschietti
The movie that almost didn’t make it on my list. I saw the film right before TIFF, and I had kept wishing I would see it again when I was free. I sadly didn’t, until about Christmas. Had I not re-watched the film, I’m not sure I would have included it. But I’m glad I did.
I like the previous adaptation, it works surprisingly well for a TV movie on ABC. That being said, it’s not the scares that make the adaptation work, it’s the bond. And this is what comes through in spades for this film. While yes, It is very much a horror film, both times I’ve seen it, I don’t walk away thinking about how it scared me, I think about the bond between the friends, and what is in stores for them in the future.
It’s hard not to think of Stand By Me, and it’s final line. “I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve. Jesus, does anyone?” The bond that they made while dealing with Pennywise (who surprisingly terrified me, more than I originally expected) is not something they can truly walk away from.
It Comes At Night
Directed by Trey Edward Shults
So I’m very much aware that not everyone liked this film, and that is okay. But I loved it. It’s so nihilistic. And in my honest opinion, It Comes At Night is absolutely terrifying. It is propulsive, relentless, and so hurt. The score shines as percussion just builds, and builds, and builds the tension. And there is so much of it.
As someone who is nyctophobic, I was left on the edge of my seat wondering what unknown was lurking in the darkness that ruled over the frame. Also, the scream at the end of the film breaks me on so many levels, it ruins me.
There’s so much that can be talked about between the great cinematography, to the brilliant choice of having different aspect ratios within the film to mean different things. It asks questions, but doesn’t answer any – but it doesn’t need to. We’ve seen films about the dangerous virus, we know the gist of how it works, we don’t need to explain it, what we need to do is see what happens after, which is pretty fucking grim anyway.
Directed by Greta Gerwig
Who isn’t in love with this film? From the first time I saw Frances Ha (a top ten favourite of all time), I knew I had to see whatever Gerwig does next, forever. So I followed her into Mistress America which just gets better with every watch, and it is endlessly rewatchable.
Lady Bird is Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut about Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson becoming her own person, getting ready to leave the nest in Sacramento in 2002. We see as she how she just wants to get out as soon as she can, she can’t take it at home anymore.
We see her have a boyfriend, we see her first time, we watch her grow and realize that while these feel like they should be milestones, they’re really not as you get used to it. This film is beautiful and pure. One of my favourite moments (which we’ll get to on another day) is when she sees Danny (Lucas Hedges who previously also broke my heart in Manchester by the Sea) cry, and she puts away her anger and just hugs him. It’s when she notices, this isn’t my moment, this is his. And that’s what this film is, that’s what life is, it’s just moments back-to-back, they’re already in motion and unstoppable, you can’t help but sit back and watch. It understands films in ways that others do not, but Gerwig understands when to make things realistic, or cinematic. There’s a cut in the film near the end that jolted me to tears.
I loved the movie as I saw it, but I didn’t realize how much I loved it until I drunkenly gushed about it for like 10 minutes, about how much it warms my heart to see it.
The Lost City of Z
Directed by James Gray
“To look for what is beautiful is its own reward. A man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?”
That line is a quote that has rung through my mind all year, as his this film. Nobody makes movies like The Lost City of Z anymore, and I am in such awe of it. There’s no other modern film we can compare it to, but only those of adventure films of the past.
I saw the film for the first time after a break-up, and at first, I wasn’t sure if it was the right film just because of how it’s a bit slower, and maybe I should see something a bit more upbeat. And perhaps I should have because the finale of the film is one of the biggest gut-punches that still has me a little winded. We spend the whole film seeing Percy thinking about one thing only, the city, but in the film’s last minutes, he’s thinking of home. And the final shot is painful to think about, so much can be said about the walk into the woods.
The Lost City of Z also has Robert Pattinson in what happened to be part one of my reasoning why he’s going to be nominated at the Oscars.
Directed by Darren Aronofsky
The second film this year that gave me an anxiety attack mid-film, and just like the other one, it’s pretty much a non-stop thrill ride. The final act is absolutely insane and relentless. It’s so tough what Aronofsky was able to do with essentially 3 types of shots. Also, the brilliant choice to not use a score, the sound design is perfection. It perfectly sets the mood, which is nothing but pure tension. And as I said, the final act almost made me walk out – just so I can catch my breath.
I saw it twice in theatres and loved it more the second time. Aronofsky doesn’t typically make films that might be considered as re-watchable, but that has never stopped me. Without even truly delving into what the film means, the movie is expertly crafted shot on grimy 16mm which adds into the dirtiness that is shown in full force.
Directed by Dee Rees
Mudbound is another film that I had heard huge things from its premiere at Sundance earlier in January, and when it was announced that the film was bought by Netflix, I was excited to be able to see it in my own living room, and know that so would everyone else. And then it was announced for TIFF, and I thought maybe I spend the money to see it on the big screen. I then realized that the always incredible cinematographer Rachel Morrison (Fruitvale Station, Dope & Black Panther) had shot it and I knew I had to see it on the big screen if it was possible. I was so glad that I did.
There are moments in this film that make you feel uncomfortable and make you deal with the problems in the world face to face, and as the film plays over you at least 30 feet tall instead of two steps away from you, you can’t escape. Mudbound makes you question why the hate, it is so completely unnecessary. A film that luckily had the unfortunate reality make the film be so relevant in our own insane time period.
Directed by Jim Jarmusch
Another film that survived my favourites (so far) of the year. Some people got to see it last year (2016) and had I been able to, I would have included it on mine but I didn’t. But, I did see it after a very shitty day that had an intense panic attack. It left me speechless on a random corner in Toronto. As the world continued, and people walked by, I felt frozen. After coming to, I went back home and relaxed, for only a bit. I knew Paterson was playing, and I very much wanted to make sure to see it before I lost my chance.
I went back out and saw the film, and was floored. Paterson is a beautiful love letter to the simplicity of life, there’s beauty in sitting on a bench in a park and watching the world revolve. There is so much that happens that we can’t control, so why should we spend so much energy on trying to deal with that. Life can be simple, and with Adam Driver’s character Paterson, we see it as he wakes up, goes to work, goes home, walks his dog and grabs a beer. We see him repeat it again, and again. And we love being on this journey. It’s so simple but serene. After seeing it, I felt at peace for the first time in weeks. I felt so rejuvenated, it was like breathing for the first time again.
The Shape of Water
Directed by Guillermo Del Toro
What a beauty of a film.
As if it wasn’t already clear, but Del Toro bleeds for his films. He puts so much of himself in his films, it’s easy to have an understanding of who he is and the lifestyle he loves. You see it in Pacific Rim when he makes a movie for his younger boy self. Or in Crimson Peak for the little girl inside of him. Both Devil’s Backbone and Pan’s Labyrinth are both about where he’s from and his Hispanic background. But The Shape of Water is simply about love. Regardless of how odd, strange or different it may be. A love for creatures and oddities like you may have never seen before.
It’s hard not to be in love with The Shape of Water, it’s something quite beautiful, but simplistic regardless. It’s a love story between two outsiders while having two other outsiders (Octavia Spencer’s character, and Richard Jenkins’ character who are black and gay respectfully) get to steal the spotlight when they can.
It’s so beautiful to watch two people fall in love, yet do so while never uttering a word. So the less I say about how incredible their performances are, just feels super appropriate. A fairytale that only Del Toro can make. One that makes you frightful of the unknown, but willing to embrace it with an egg or two.
Directed by Kogonada
In its own way, Columbus is very much an underdog story first. The director Kogonada is known online to the film community as being a very exceptional video essayist, and one that this writer has been following for a few years. To see him make a movie was exciting in its own way, but to make a movie like this, it was like an out of body experience. From some of the opening frames, it was super clear that Kogonada knew exactly what he was doing. Hugely inspired by Yasujiro Ozu, the camera stands still and we see as life happens.
Kogonada has a voice, and it is so certain and specific. The confidence his camera has is rarely seen in a directorial debut. It’s clear that all his time making video essays were all research for this film. I can see Ozu in Columbus, I can see Kubrick in Columbus, but I also him, and Haley Lu Richardson, and John Cho. Speaking of which, John Cho needs to be in more films, giving him things to do like this. Both of their performances are so understated, but Cho shines in his shell of a body as he slowly comes to the realization that he needs to stay, as we get to see Richardson break out of her shell as she learns that she can’t.
There isn’t much said in the film, a lot of it can be told through cinematic language, the way we see the two leads meet for the first time, both a bit standoffish until the fence ends, and they is nothing holding them from being side by side. Or anytime there’s an argument, there is more empty space in the frame. Columbus is not for everyone, it is slow and takes its time, but if you’re like me, you might find yourself crying as we see, but never hear Haley Lu Richardson talk about the building she loves, freely, not as a guide for once.
2. A Ghost Story
Directed by David Lowery
Time can be a funny thing.
Your week of working 6 days a week lasts forever, but you’ll look back and have trouble realizing that it’s already 2018. It moves quick, and fast sometimes. There is no constant in time, you can’t hold on it, it moves past you, and around you.
In A Ghost Story, that’s all you see. You see what seems like a loving relationship before Casey Affleck’s character dies, and then we watch him become a ghost, always walking under a bed sheet. He chooses not to go into the light, instead, he goes back home. A place that was safe for him. For who’s waiting there, is his lover.
He watches, never able to comfort her as she deals with the loss. Sometimes, we see C (Casey) in the frame, and other times we become the voyeur watching every intimate (or not intimate) moment. And it’s hard to watch. M (Rooney Mara) effortlessly seems like she has lost everything. And you see it most when she listens to the song that C has made, and we cut back from the moment it happened with great surround sound blasting it around us to moments later when she’s on the ground and we can only hear it as it plays out of the earphones she’s wearing.
Time is an interesting thing. You’re in one place at work, but a word, phrase, or a smell appears and suddenly you’re back to when you were younger and happier. Or sadder. This movie captures that, in heartbreaking ways.
There is no real plot. C is just trying to move on, but can’t, he can’t let go until he’s ready, so in the meanwhile, he is attached to his home, to this place that means so much to him as he cycles through time to see the history of the house he loves so much.
A Ghost Story is beautifully shot, edited (lightly edited, might I add), and a story that is filled to the brim with emotion. It is powerful and teaches you that life can be long, or short, but to make your mark regardless (to friends and family, or in a larger scale) because you’re still unsure of how much time you have left. One moment we are here, and the next, we might not be.
1. Good Time
Directed by Benny & Josh Safdie
In reality, any of these films could be my favourite film of the year, and the only reason why I think Good Time is my favourite film of the year might be because it was one of the last films I re-watched.
Where do I even begin?
The score hooks you, immediately. It latches onto you and never lets you go as you deal with this rollercoaster ride. Which is exactly how Good Time is designed. We are thrown into a conversation with Nick (co-director Benny Safdie) that is a bit more relaxing, this is the moment of the car leaving the station on your rollercoaster ride. About five minutes, Connie (Robert Pattinson) walks on frame, and he is like nothing you have ever seen before. Not once during the film did I see Pattinson, I did not see Edward, I did not see Cedric Diggory on screen, I saw the insane human being that is Connie Nikas.
As Connie “rescues” his brother Nick from a psychiatrist, he later makes him help him rob a bank, and it does not go well. At all. After his brother is caught, we see Connie try and save him from prison. This is when we start our rollercoaster ride. And it never ends. As the film continues, we see an awful snowball effect of one thing bleeding and leading to the next awful thing. It never ends.
Connie is Chaotic Good. He is both selfish, and selfless. He does anything and everything he can to get to his brother, he doesn’t care about anybody’s well-being but his brothers, but at the same time, he doesn’t really care about his own either. He does whatever he can. The film makes you feel uncomfortable, as films should, and makes you question why you’re supporting him, or hoping for him to be successful.
I think between the performance in the Lost City of Z and in Good Time, Robert Pattinson might get his first nomination (and even win) at the Oscars. I think it’s more likely he would get nominated for supporting rather than lead, but between the one-two punch, there’s no way we don’t see the love for him. But also, this is the Oscars we are talking about, so it’s a bit tough to predict (without the nominations already done).
When the film ends, the rollercoaster ends, slowly as it pulls into the station, and once the film is over, you realize you’ve been holding onto the armrest so tightly. You realize you’ve been out of breath, and your heart is beating too fast. And as you slowly relax and get the chance to breathe, you realize you started to cry. Or maybe that’s just me. It’s probably just me.
Ten honourable mentions for films I wish I could also write about, so if you read this, ask me about them, because I would love to talk about these as well.
Ingrid Goes West, The Incredible Jessica James, Wonder Woman, War for the Planet of the Apes, Raw, The Bad Batch, The Killing of a Sacred Deer, Split, Dunkirk, and T2 Trainspotting (for one of my favourite shots of the year).