Unlike other Top 10 lists you’ll find on the Internet, ours is subject to its availability in Singapore. Meaning that if a film hasn’t been released locally within 2017, either in theaters or streaming, it won’t find a place here. Sure, that eliminates a number of hyped Oscar contenders (most of them will only arrive here in the first quarter 2018), but that doesn’t mean that we don’t already have an abundance of quality cinema from all around the world to cherry-pick from.
Before we get to the finest films this calendar year, here are some notable movies that were great in their own right, but didn’t quite meet the cut.
Honorable mentions: 20) Gerald’s Game, 19) Battle of the Sexes, 18) Logan Lucky, 17) Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond, 16) The LEGO Batman Movie, 15) Baby Driver, 14) God’s Own Country, 13) The Killing of a Sacred Deer, 12) Girls Trip, 11) The Square
10) First They Killed My Father
Written by: Jolie and Loung Ung
Directed by: Angelina Jolie
Released on: 15 September 2017 (Netflix)
Based on the memoir of the same name, First They Killed My Father is a harrowing historical film set in 1975 Cambodia, during the height of the Khmer Rouge. Told from the perspective of 7-year-old Ung who is forced to be trained as a child soldier, while her siblings are sent to brutal labor camps – this biopic is remarkable for handling such challenging subject matter with empathy and sensitivity. Jolie’s naturalistic film depicts a grounded view of atrocity, as seen through the eyes of a child, offering a quietly affecting portrait of a national tragedy.
9) It Comes At Night
Written by: Trey Edward Shults
Directed by: Trey Edward Shults
Released on: 24 November 2017 (Singapore International Film Festival)
The horror genre has been making an inspired comeback in recent years, but few movies during this renaissance have been as frightening as It Comes At Night. Set within a single home during an unexplained apocalyptic event, this film is essentially a chamber piece, intent on showing the audience that the terror within can sometimes be worse than the terror without. A taut psychological thriller, the movie’s tension is darn-near unbearable. Writer-director Trey Edward Shults presents a masterclass in how to craft a thick atmosphere of slow-burn dread. This vividly realized slice of doom is discomforting, disturbing and believable.
Written by: James Mangold, Scott Frank, Michael Green
Directed by: James Mangold
Released on: 2 March 2017 (theatres)
It’s only fitting that after nearly two decades of serious thespian commitment to Wolverine (through the good and bad of the X-Men franchise), that Hugh Jackman’s final turn as Logan would be a bravely rendered solo film, worthy of the actor’s talent and the comic-book character’s R-rated legacy. More of a mature character study than a superhero spectacle, Logan’s shocking bursts of gritty hyper-violence, while thrilling, doesn’t offer nearly the same gut-punch as the film’s quieter, heart-wrenching moments. Sir Patrick Stewart and newcomer Dafne Keen also showcase sterling performances in this near-future neo-Western.
Written by: Nacho Vigalondo
Directed by: Nacho Vigalondo
Released on: 8 June 2017 (theatres)
One of the year’s most outrageously original films, Nacho Vigalondo’s black comedy about a drunk girl psychically linked to a Korean kaiju is an imaginative genre-bender that’s wild, witty and full of unexpected turns in concept and emotion. What starts out as a sci-fi allegory for the monstrosity of alcoholism subtly turns into an intense psychodrama mid-way through, dealing with surprisingly dark themes such as the evils of male entitlement. Weird and completely novel, Colossal might be an acquired taste, but it’s rewarding on so many levels.
6) The Big Sick
Written by: Kumail Nanjiani, Emily V. Gordon
Directed by: Michael Showalter
Released on: 27 July 2017 (theatres)
Based on the experiences of real-life couple Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon, The Big Sick is sweet and sharp-witted without being being precious. And most importantly, it’s also brave enough to meaningfully delve into difficult cultural and inter-racial issues without being heavy-handed. Romantic comedies rarely make these kinds of “best of” lists, but this film is so utterly hilarious, painfully relatable and unexpectedly perceptive that we couldn’t ignore it’s brilliance. Full of charm, heart and laughs, The Big Sick is best watched with an audience.
Written by: Matthew Aldrich, Adrian Molina
Directed by: Lee Unkrich, Adrian Molina
Released on: 23 November 2017 (theatres)
A beautiful and poignant film about how tradition, family, passion and artistry binds us in life and death. Coco might be the best representation of Hispanic culture we’ve ever seen in mainstream American animation – done with so much craft and thought and love. It’s combination of dazzling visuals, macabre touches, emotional wallop and vibrant energy also puts this near the top of Pixar’s revered canon (alongside the likes of, Up, The Incredibles and Toy Story). Ready some tissues because we guarantee that both adults and kids will cry at least a couple of times.
Written by: Dee Rees, Virgil Williams
Directed by: Dee Rees
Released on: 17 November 2017 (Netflix)
Set in America’s rural south just after World War II, Mudbound is a tough period drama following the McAllan family, who return to the Mississippi delta in an attempt to establish a farm. Alternating back and forth between the viewpoints (and voiceovers) of multiple characters, this Faulknerian film manages to imbue both its white and African-American protagonists with equal dramatic weight. Addressing racism and PTSD in truly illuminating ways, Mudbound is a patient and sobering look at a corner of poverty-stricken Americana that’s rife with hardship.
3) Call Me By Your Name
Written by: James Ivory, based on a novel by André Aciman
Directed by: Luca Guadagnino
Released on: 26 November 2017 (Singapore International Film Festival)
A beautifully languid and powerfully affecting tale of first love between Elio, a precocious Italian teen on the cusp of adulthood, and Oliver, a charming American scholar – Call Me By Your Name is a kind, tender and sensual film that will restore your faith in humanity. An undeniable masterpiece on every level, Luca Guadagnino’s careful and restrained coming-of-age romance is invitingly intimate, breathtakingly acted and gorgeously shot. This isn’t just a triumph for LGBT storytelling, this film’s sun-kissed summer romance should be a joy for viewers of all stripes.
2) The Red Turtle
Written by: Michaël Dudok de Wit, Pascale Ferran
Directed by: Michaël Dudok de Wit
Released on: 29 April 2017 (theatres)
A collaboration between Wild Bunch and and Japan’s legendary Studio Ghibli, The Red Turtle is an exquisite, wordless folk tale by Dutch animator Michaël Dudok de Wit. Magical-realism come to life through gorgeous hand-drawn animation, quiet emotion and Laurent Perez Del Mar’s graceful score – this elegant, dialogue-free story of a young shipwrecked castaway living out the stages of his life on a deserted island will leave you filled with wonder and pondering it’s existential allegory for a long while. A captivating mythical fable that feels timeless.
1) Get Out
Written by: Jordan Peele
Directed by: Jordan Peele
Released on: 16 March 2017
When Jordan Peele, of Key & Peele fame, first announced his intention to make his directorial debut with a horror movie, many took it as a joke. Fast forward a year or so later, and Peele is now hailed as one our generation’s great cinematic visionaries, acclaimed for helming one of the most culturally-relevant films of this era – which just so happens to be that aforementioned horror flick. Get Out is, in no uncertain terms, pure genius.
It’s dark satire not only deftly captures our social zeitgeist, Peele’s confrontation of racial tension is alternately unsettling, hilarious, dramatic and subversive. Get Out makes you scared, laugh and think – often at the same time. The best horror movies have always been underlaid with potent metaphor and clever commentary, and Peele’s freshman film certainly ranks up there as there as one of the smartest examples of that tradition.