These are the top 10 films I saw in 2017. (You will have to wait until January for three of them, but they’re worth it!)
1. “The Shape of Water”: A romantic fantasy packed with magical storytelling, an amphibious man, a mute lady, spy-movie violence and interspecies erotic shenanigans. Guillermo del Toro’s film plays like a half-dozen cool movies packed into one.
2. “I, Tonya”: The absurdist “Goodfellas” of competitive skating. Margot Robbie is ludicrously wonderful as Tonya Harding. The humor in Craig Gillespie’s film isn’t dulled by the gloomy working-class subtext, but sharpened to a cutthroat razor’s edge. (Opening locally Jan. 5.)
3. “The Post”: Meryl Streep sparkles as Washington Post owner/publisher Katharine Graham in this drama by Steven Spielberg. Tom Hanks equals her as the swashbuckling editor Ben Bradlee, whose staff’s reporting on top-secret files reveals decades of D.C. deceit about Vietnam. (Opening locally Jan. 12.)
4. “Lady Bird”: Saoirse Ronan plays a high school dweeb aching to exit boring Sacramento, Calif., and find adventure in the Ivy League. Character-rich, heartwarming hilarity ensues. Greta Gerwig’s writing/directing debut is, start to finish, a perfect humanist movie.
5. “Lady Macbeth”: A “feminist” gothic melodrama whose leading lady is sympathetic until she becomes diabolical. Newcomer Florence Pugh not only looks perfect for the painterly 19th-century tableaux of William Oldroyd’s film, but she’s an ideal film-noir femme fatale.
6. “Get Out”: A brisk, sure-footed horror film in which the monster is the white upper class. Writer/director Jordan Peele cleverly subverts the simple-minded conventions of most fright films. He crafts a masterful sense of anxiety while adding a level of emotional cruelty to spice up the brutality.
7. “Baby Driver”: A music-mad bank-heist thrill ride in which every moment and move onscreen is syncopated with a throbbing pop soundtrack by director Edgar Wright. Ansel Elgort plays the skillful getaway wheelman and Kevin Spacey the mastermind, in what might turn out to be his farewell performance (he’s really good).
8. “Dunkirk”: A monumental World War II battle epic with an art film’s vivid visual, intellectual and narrative sweep. Christopher Nolan weaves a challenging three-tier chronological design into a flawlessly paced (and surprisingly trim) 106 minutes.
9. “Phantom Thread”: Love is strange in this passive-aggressive psychodrama by Paul Thomas Anderson. Daniel Day-Lewis aces his (last?) role as a revered fashion designer, and Vicky Krieps is a riddle come to life as the lovely waitress who becomes his strong-willed muse. (Opening locally Jan. 12.)
10. “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”: The finest Coen brothers movie not made by the Coen brothers. Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell do their finest work in ages for writer/director Martin McDonagh, playing characters tormented by the cops’ failure to solve a murder case. It’s a comedy.