First, a note: this list is not exactly scientific. It's just what I enjoyed. (I saw 27 films this year, these are the top ten.)
10) The Case for Christ - (Directed by Jon Gunn) What with writing a blog about churches in films, I have to watch a lot of Christian films. That often means watching a lot of pretty lousy films (looking at you God’s Not Dead franchise), so I really appreciate a simple story well told. Lee Strobel didn’t believe in God, but he used his skills as a reporter to investigate whether Jesus was who He says He was. Sure, it’s a Sunday School lesson. But there are good Sunday School classes, and this is one of ‘em. (Plus it has a Faye Dunaway cameo that's better than her Oscar appearance this year.)
Rated PG for "Thematic Elements".
Colossal - (Directed by Nacho Vigalondo) This rather strange film has Anne Hathaway as a lost woman with a doppleganger -- who is a giant monster. It's a hipster retelling of Godzilla that could go wrong in so many ways, and yet somehow, it works.
Rated R for "Language".
8) It - (Directed by Andy Muschietti) If Dickens was writing about Stephen King, he might write that King's books have made the best of films (The Shining, The Shawshank Redemption) and the worst of films (Maximum Overdrive, Dreamcatcher). This is good King: a tale of kids coming together to face real evil (and children do die). Pennywise the Demon Clown is not the only Big Bad in the film; some people are pretty awful as well, but there is hope in community, even if it’s a community of odd kids.
Rated R for "violence/horror, bloody images and language".
Get Out - (Directed by Jordan Peele) This is the second horror film in a row on the list, though the Golden Globes nominated it in the Musical/Comedy category (because they are crazy). The movie does have funny moments, but it's definitely a horror film. Unlike all the films where the black guy is a side character killed first, long before Jamie Lee Curtis’ inevitable confrontation with the boogie man, the central character in this film is a black man. (I don't remember this happening since 1968 in Night of the Living Dead.)
Rated R for "violence, bloody images, and language".
6) Wind River - (Directed by Taylor Sheridan) If you can get past the fact that the two lead characters in this film (set on an Indian reservation) are white, you’ll see a very good action film. Jeremy Renner plays a game hunter and Elizabeth Olsen plays a FBI agent investigating the murder of a young Native American woman. It also has some worthy things to say about loss.
Rated R for "strong language, a rape, disturbing images, and language".
Spider-Man: Homecoming - (directed by Jon Watts) There were several films I liked this year, but this was the most fun. (Logan was very good, but not “fun.”) Sam Rami’s first two Spider-Man films were also very good, but they were about a “Man,” and it was fun to have the teenager of the early comics on the screen in all of his innocent, smart aleck glory. Plus Michael Keaton was a much better Bird-Man in this film than he was in Birdman.
Rated PG-13 for "sci-fiction violence, some language and brief, suggestive comments".
4) Your Name - (directed by Makoto Shinkai) One of the most successful anime films of all time, this movie actually came out in 2016, but it received a wide release in the States this year. It's a Freaky Friday-like scenario with a boy of one time and place switching with a girl from another time and place. It's funny, but also poignant.
Rated PG for "thematic elements, suggustive comments, brief langauge, and smoking".
Lady Bird - (directed by Greta Gerwig) - I wrote about this film for Movie Churches. Like the other two films in the top three of this list, it is said to be in contention for a Best Picture Oscar. If so, the Academy will have done something right.
Rated R for "language, sexual content, brief graphic nudity, and teen partying".
2) Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri - (directed by Martin McDonagh) It's a film about revenge for deep hurts and petty slights, but in the end, it's also a compelling case for simple kindness as a more satisfying route. Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell are two of my favorite actors, so watching them together would have been enough for me. But there was much more.
Rated R for "violence, language throughout, and some sexual references".
1 ) Dunkirk - (directed by Christopher Nolan) There are plenty of complaints about this film not providing enough context for the incredible true rescue story of World War II. So if you need context, Google “Dunkirk”. Because the film is about surviving an extreme experience of war when one has no context; when one doesn’t know a rescue is coming, that Hitler won’t win. Ordinary people in an extraordinary event provides the making of a great film. Nolan is one of the few directors today who consistently provides films one can call epic.
Rated PG-13 for "intense war experience and some language".