While 2017 wasn’t always a great year in the social-political sense, it was a pretty stellar year for movies. While movies are not a great litmus test for the culture, since their release dates come years after they are conceived and made, they can still be analyzed using themes with more longevity. For my end-of-the-year list, I looked at the best movies of 2017, and how gender informs each.
Author’s note: She has not seen The Florida Project or The Disaster Artist yet, but hears they’re good and would probably be on this list.
- Lady Bird— A classic coming of age story told fully from a woman’s perspective. Touching, heartbreaking, and honest, Greta Gerwig does a superb job writing and directing the film’s multiple complex and genuine female characters and
developing their relationships with each other. Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, and Beanie Feldstein all shine as Lady Bird, her mother, and best friend, respectively, whose relationships are always at the forefront of the movie, as opposed to the secondary men in Lady Bird’s life. All around the most beautiful and honest movie of the year.
- Call Me By Your Name— Also, a coming of age story, Timotheé Chamalet stars as Elio, a very sensitive teenage boy falling in love. We get to watch Elio and Oliver, played masterfully by Armie Hammer, as they flirt, love and discuss their emotions together, something not frequently seen on the big screen. Michael Stuhlbarg plays Elio’s empathetic father, one more man in the film with a lot of feelings. Watching boys cry is the new action sequence, and its never looked better than in Call Me By Your Name.
- Get Out— The complicated historical relationship between white women and black men is portrayed in Get Out. The groundbreaking horror film that premiered in February depicted racism in ways we hadn’t often previously seen on screen-sneaky and concealed, covered up by white guilt. Or, you could say, realistically. Touching on the many ways racism can pervade our lives, Jordan Peele’s directorial debut never fails to stun.
- Dunkirk— Beautiful boys! Like, really beautiful boys. Just trying to survive, not sure who to trust, soaking wet and cold. All three parts of this expertly crafted film
feature beautiful boys, such as newcomer Fionn Whitehead, Cillian Murphy, Mark Rylance, Barry Keoghan, Tom Hardy, and Harry Styles. Director Christopher Nolan does not disappoint, and adds to his catalog with the intense World War II epic. Also, Nolan figured out how to, successfully, get teenage girls very interested in a war movie– put Harry Styles in it
- The Beguiled– Sofia Coppola’s adaptation of the 1966 novel stars seven women, led by Nicole Kidman, living alone in a Southern mansion during the Civil War. Their lives are peaceful until a lone Union soldier, played convincingly (despite the accent) by Colin Farrell, appears and the women are thrust into competition and lust. Ultimately, though, the women triumph over the intruder, and return to their isolated lives. This engaging, well-made, and evocative work from Coppola was one of the funniest films of the year, but leaves you grappling with the feminism of white Confederate sympathizers.
- The Shape of Water— Guillermo Del Toro’s masterful work about a romance between a mute woman and a fish creature resonates in every way possible. Starring the amazing Sally Hawkins, with equally strong Octavia Spencer,
and Richard Jenkins, The Shape of Water shows us the best examples of pure love seen on screen this year. Spencer and Hawkins are working women with a lot of agency, and every moment we see of their early-1960s life feels genuine.
- Logan– Wolverine experiences love for about the second time in his life in this epic tale, although the love is not inspired by who you would expect. Laura, Wolverine’s secret daughter, is a silent firecracker and a tiny version of himself. Logan learns more about life from being a father to Laura than any of his previous challenges. Laura, portrayed by 11-year-old Spanish actress Dafne Keen, gets to be an amazing, unexpected hero: a complex young female character rarely seen in blockbusters.
- Wind River– Taylor Sheridan of Hell or High Water created yet another terrifying American western. Centered on the disappearance/murder of two American Indian women but starring two white people (Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen), Sheridan begins an important conversation while slightly missing the mark. However, the film is masterfully made, the chase and terror ramping up more and more as the film goes on. It stays with you long after the credits roll.
- A Ghost Story– All I’m saying is, only a man would write a movie about Casey Affleck longingly staring at Rooney Mara for years and years. That being said, this movie is inventive, and although pretentious, very interesting and completely original.
- Wonder Woman– Director Patty Jenkins is a genius and not even DC could ruin this
movie. Probably the most fun film of the year, Gal Gadot leads us through the long-awaited origin story of the Amazon, with complete conviction. Also, Chris Pine’sdedication to subverting typical gender roles makes this film all the more enjoyable. (Although, note: can we please get women to write the next one, not three dudes?)
- Blade Runner 2049– Gender and this movie is complicated. While it attempts to overturn the original’s inarguably objectifying point of view, 2049 fails in most ways, as the women are still either sexualized or completely useless. However, it had the best production design and cinematography of the year, and is full of engaging twists and turns.
- Baby Driver— This geniusly crafted and enormously entertaining film by Edgar Wright is ruined only by the classically bland manic pixie dream girl trope and now Kevin Spacey.
- Okja– Director Bong Joon-Ho creates a magical and effective satire of corporations and the livestock industry starring a 14-year-old Korean
girl with her best friend, a giant pig. Featuring excellent performances from a variety of characters including Tilda Swinton, Jake Gyllenhaal and Steven Yeun, Okja is unlike anything you’ve ever seen before, and an absolutely necessary 2017 watch.
- Star Wars: The Last Jedi– A truly incredible and deserving epic for the franchise. The Last Jedi often recalls to the original trilogy or even to the prequels, but it makes Star Wars feel as modern as ever, with an impressively diverse cast–in race, gender, and age– and many risks taken.