The most memorable movies of 2017 were often the smallest and most personal. First-time director Jordan Peele said he made his satirical horror film, “Get Out” because he had never seen African-American fears reflected on screen before; Greta Gerwig drew from her own life to create a funny and bittersweet portrait of suburban adolescence in “Lady Bird.” There were a few high-concept, big-budget movies that stood out from the pack -- notably Christopher Nolan’s “Dunkirk” and Guillermo del Toro’s “The Shape of Water” – but even there, it’s because you could see the director’s fingerprints all over the screen. As for “Atomic Blonde,” a trashy action flick starring Charlize Theron, it may not be a work of art, but it was just too cool and sexy to leave off the list.
Here are the best movies of 2017:
The sun finally sets on Hugh Jackman’s “Wolverine” franchise with a film that feels more like an old Western than a flashy Marvel movie.
19. 'PERSONAL SHOPPER'
Kristen Stewart, pictured, plays a fashion model’s assistant who becomes involved in a supernatural murder mystery. Not for all tastes — it’s cerebral, slightly spacey and very French — but compelling and suspenseful throughout.
18. 'MOLLY’S GAME'
Aaron Sorkin’s directorial debut stars Jessica Chastain as Molly Bloom, who for years ran high-stakes poker games for Hollywood stars (and a few Russian mobsters) until her arrest by the FBI. It’s as talky as any Aaron Sorkin-directed movie, but it also has a frenetic energy that matches Bloom’s story of misplaced ambition. Chastain is icy good leading a largely male cast; Idris Elba and Kevin Costner lend solid support.
17. 'PATTI CAKE$'
This funny and very gritty comedy, about a plus-size New Jersey woman (Danielle Macdonald) who aspires to be a rapper, has more natural charm than technical polish, but that’s what makes the movie so great. It’s as earnest and authentic as a homemade demo.
M. Night Shyamalan’s best movie in years stars James McAvoy, pictured, as a kidnapper who — to the confusion of his already terrified hostages — has 23 personalities. It’s as funny as it is suspenseful.
15. 'THE GLASS CASTLE'
A successful New York journalist (Brie Larson) hides a shameful secret: Her parents (Naomi Watts and Woody Harrelson) are all but homeless, living in an abandoned building on the Lower East Side. How these three got here is a harrowing and deeply touching story of an extraordinary childhood, based on Jeanette Walls’ bestselling memoir. Harrelson, as a feral but charismatic dad, gives one of his best performances.
14. 'BABY DRIVER'
Ansel Elgort plays a hotshot getaway driver — improbably named Baby — who tries to leave his life of crime after he falls for a waitress. It’s a heist flick, a teen movie, a “Pulp Fiction” rip-off and almost a musical (!), yet it all works. Pictured: Jamie Foxx, left, and Elgort
13. 'PHANTOM THREAD'
In what he says is his final performance, Daniel Day-Lewis is pitch-perfect as Reynolds Woodcock, a high-society dressmaker whose latest model (Vicky Krieps) proves less docile than most. It’s a directorial tour-de-force from Paul Thomas Anderson, rich with texture and detail, and Jonny Greenwood’s score may well be one of the best in movie history.
12. 'THE LOST CITY OF Z'
James Gray’s drama about the real-life British explorer Percy Fawcett (Charlie Hunnam) is an old-fashioned epic — gorgeous costumes, lavish sets — with a modern-day sensibility about its hero. Pictured, from left: Hunnam, Robert Pattinson and Edward Ashley
11. 'CALL ME BY YOUR NAME'
In the Italian countryside during the summer of 1983, a 17-year-old (Timothee Chalamet) falls for an older graduate student (Armie Hammer). Luca Guadagnino’s film isn’t quite what you might expect from a gay romance, with none of the usual beats of shame, ostracism and tragedy. Written by James Ivory, of Merchant Ivory Productions.
10. 'THE DISASTER ARTIST'
This deceptively light comedy about a notoriously bad filmmaker contains a deep question: What is art? James Franco directs himself as real-life auteur Tommy Wiseau, whose indie drama “The Room” (2003) was so god-awful it actually became a hit. Franco’s version of the story mixes howling laughs with moments of pathos, and in the end becomes a salute to all those brave enough to turn their dreams, no matter how ridiculous, into reality.
9. 'ATOMIC BLONDE'
It wasn’t a critical or commercial hit, but for action-flick junkies, this movie was pure gold. Starring Charlize Theron as a seductive spy in 1980s Berlin, “Atomic Blonde” was essentially a two-hour music video (cue Nena and New Order) full of soft-core sex, retro-chic cinematography and possibly the best stunt work in any film, ever. Style over substance? Absolutely! And your point is...?
8. 'I, TONYA'
Director Craig Gillespie’s wild tragicomedy casts the disgraced figure skater Tonya Harding (a rabid Margot Robbie) as an underclass underdog, undone by a lifetime of abuse and bad judgment. The movie’s punk-rock energy and bitter humor are irresistible, and Allison Janney, as Tonya’s hilariously hideous mother, turns in one of the year’s best performances.
7. 'LADY BIRD'
Greta Gerwig’s semi-autobiographical story about a frustrated teenager (a terrific Saoirse Ronan) trying to escape suburban Sacramento (Gerwig’s hometown) hits all the right notes: empathetic, pathetic, bittersweet, triumphant. Laurie Metcalf and Tracy Letts are sublime as deeply flawed but loving parents.
6. 'WONDER WOMAN'
In the future, we’ll tell our great-grandchildren about the day we saw the first female-fronted superhero blockbuster in history. And the movie wasn’t just “important,” it was fun! It had action, humor, romance and even a few big themes (man’s inhumanity, etc.). None of it would have worked, however, without Gal Gadot, whose warmth and soul make Diana Prince an uncommonly compelling superhero.
5. 'THE SHAPE OF WATER'
Guillermo del Toro’s horror-romance turns just about every possible trope on its head: Here, the pretty damsel (Sally Hawkins) doesn’t want to be rescued from the monster (Doug Jones), and it’s the righteous defender of the status quo (Michael Shannon) who becomes the villain. It’s a typically baroque fairy tale from del Toro, who uses an old-fashioned story to explore a modern idea of love.
4. 'THE BIG SICK'
Kumail Nanjiani turned his life story into art with this comedy about a Pakistan-born comedian whose nontraditional girlfriend (Zoe Kazan) slips into a coma immediately after their breakup. Holly Hunter and a shockingly good Ray Romano play her parents, who slowly form a bond with the immigrant who broke their daughter’s heart. This lovely, heartfelt film, and its box-office success, are a much-needed reminder that Americans haven’t completely forgotten how to see beyond color and culture.
3. 'BATTLE OF THE SEXES'
Here’s the overlooked movie that had it all: Emma Stone as Billie Jean King, Steve Carell as a macho male tennis pro and the true story of their mixed-gender match during the “women’s lib” movement of the 1970s. If you missed this funny, sweet, topical comedy-drama, rent it — you won’t be sorry.
Christopher Nolan’s pummeling version of WWII feels a bit like a military operation itself, a combination of strategic storytelling and brute visual force. Hans Zimmer’s ever-escalating score — using a sleight-of-ear known as a Shepard tone — is almost worth the price of admission.