10. GET OUT
Building on Ira Levin’s “The Stepford Wives” and Charlie Kaufman’s “Being John Malkovich,” “Get Out” makes for a mammothly accomplished directorial debut from comedy icon and latter-day “Mad TV” vet Jordan Peele, whose script builds a beguiling mix of creepiness, unpredictability, suspense, sci-fi horror and hot suburbia. Following supporting roles in “Kick-Ass 2” and “Sicario,” London-born Daniel Kaluuya proves himself a relatable lead amid a powerhouse supporting cast that boasts Allison Williams, Bradley Whitford, Catherine Keener, Caleb Landry Jones, Lakeith Stanfield and Stephen Root.
9. MOLLY’S GAME
A quarter century after he scripted “A Few Good Men,” Aaron Sorkin (writer also of “The American President,” “The West Wing,” “The Social Network,” “Charlie Wilson’s War,” “The Newsroom,” “Moneyball,” “Steve Jobs” and more) finally decided to direct one of his own screenplays, and the wait was worth it. This very funny dramatic thriller encompasses high-stakes movie-star poker games, world-class winter sports, the Russian mafia and a family so talented it rivals the Royal Tenenbaums.
8. THE SQUARE
Those crazy Swedes!! By turns hilarious, creepy and suspenseful, the latest from Swedish writer-director Ruben Östlund (who was also behind 2014’s searing avalanche dramedy “Force Majeure”) enlists American Elisabeth Moss and Englishman Dominic West (again pretending to be American) to bring a bit more English to this pointed examination of rampant hypocrisy, social norms and an ape-man played by number-one American motion-capture performer Terry Notary.
7. BRAWL IN CELL BLOCK 99
The title perversely only refers to the ending of this shockingly engrossing hillbilly crime-drama character study -- which makes the best argument in years that Vince Vaughn can do a lot more than just fast-talking quipsters. The twists that drive this tale of a good man in a series of tight situations make for one of the fastest two hours and 12 minutes you’ll ever spend staring at a screen. Jennifer Carpenter, Don Johnson, Clark Peters, Udo Kier and Buffy Boy Marc Blucas all lend strong support.
6. THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI
Like “Wind River,” “Three Billboards” deals with the rape and subsequent death of a young woman in a rural community, but “Billboards” adds dark comedy to the drama and thrills. I was wary of its first half, which seemed to stray toward too-familiar “wacky lady tells off people in authority” tropes. But the movie rallies mightily in its second half, which finds unexpected complexities in its central characters. Frances McDormand benefits from the movie year’s best-written female role, but it’s easy to laud also the swell work contributed by Peter Dinklage, Clarke Peters, Sam Rockwell, Caleb Landry Jones, Zeljko Ivanek, John Hawkes, Kerry Condon, Lucas Hedges and the ubiquitous Woody Harrelson. And its all-important ending is perfect.
5. THE DISASTER ARTIST
For a litany of reasons you will be forgiven if you did not expect director-star James Franco to make much of this real-life tale of mysterious man of means Tommy Wiseau, a seemingly weak-minded aspiring actor who wrote, directed, starred in, distributed and somehow financed a famously inept 2003 cult classic titled “The Room.” But. Working from a script by Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber (“500 Days of Summer,” “The Fault in Our Stars,” “The Spectacular Now”), Franco milks so much unexpected entertainment value from the character of Wiseau, Franco is certain to garner a best actor Oscar nomination. And while I would applaud an Oscar win for Franco here, I must also point out that Seth Rogen is perfectly cast and contributes his best performance in years as the veteran movie script supervisor who can’t believe the situation he’s been hired into.
4. STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI
The best Star Wars movie since 1980’s “The Empire Strikes Back” rivals the 1977 original in terms of entertainment value and stands as the ideal tonic for those of us who reagard last year’s “Rogue One” as clumsy snooze-fest Poe’s news of Hux’s mother, Chewbacca’s dinner, Kylo’s missing shirt, Snoke’s reveal of Rey’s parentage, Leia’s third-act greeting and Luke flicking the dust from his Jediwear – it all added up to something superior even to J.J. Abrams’ much-lauded “The Force Awakens.” Disney must feel the same; before “Last Jedi” earned the first of its billion dollars, Lucasfilm contracted “Last Jedi” writer-director Rian Johnson to write and direct between one and three more Star Wars movies.
3. GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2
If one excludes “The Big Sick,” this Marvel superhero blockbuster is for my money the funniest movie of the year. It was also the 2017 action blockbuster with the best final act, which employed Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain” and Rocket Raccoon trying to instruct a hilariously confused Baby Groot. The film wrings emotion from decidedly wacky source material and the quasi-romance between Drax (the incomparable Dave Bautista) and newly introduced insect-girl Mantis (the fabulous Pom Klementieff, who will transition to the next Avengers movie) had me in tears of laughter. Writer-director James Gunn somehow found dozens of ways to improve on the original and demonstrated that 2014’s first volume was no fluke.
2. WIND RIVER
The year’s most gripping movie drama follows a young FBI agent based out of Las Vegas (Elizabeth Olsen) who finds herself a fish out of water in a brutal Wyoming winter, improbably teaming with a professional predator hunter with the U.S. fish and wildlife tracker (Jeremy Renner) with a personal connection to a young woman who died trying to escape the man who raped her. Taylor Sheridan, who wrote screenplays for “Sicario” and “Hell or High Water,” mesmerizes with his first movie as writer-director, a taut thriller that examines harsh realities inside an American Indian reservation.
1. THE BIG SICK
The mostly true tale of an Uber driver/budding comic --whose life is upended when a mysterious life-threatening illness throws him into the company of his disdainful ex-girlfriend’s parents -- may not sound like the feel-good hit of the summer, but boy was it ever. Pakistan-born stand-up Kumail Nanjiani, perhaps best known as software engineer Dinesh Chugtai on HBO’s “Silicon Valley,” co-wrote and stars in the funniest movie of the year. Kudos also to producer Judd Apatow (“Anchorman,” “Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” “Get Him To The Greek,” “Bridesmaids,” “The Five-Year Engagement,” “Pee-wee’s Big Holiday”), who helped steer to greatness one of the year’s unlikeliest comedy hits.