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Top 25 Movies of 2017

on December 28, 2017, 12:00am
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It’s been a weird year to like movies. Art in general, really. But the film industry has been the near epicenter of what many hope will be a genuine and lasting sea change within American culture. Power structures were challenged at a historic level. Darlings had to be killed. A few deeply unfortunate and untimely films were released. Some of the movies you used to like have become a challenge, in a way you might have hoped they wouldn’t, but now have to be. Victims, from recent years and decades alike, came forward in a world that at once questioned them in vicious ways and upheld their absolute right to be heard.

But in a year where a number of films became lightning rods for so many shifting dialogues about art and culture and inequalities of all sorts, it was sometimes difficult (and arguably, just a shade less relevant) to focus on the fact that 2017 was an exceptional year for filmmaking. Studio movies got weird and challenging, whether successful or not. Newly growing distributors revived a space in the moviegoing market for odder and more challenging stories. Fresh voices broke out while established directors achieved career highs. Film challenged biases, recast old franchises in striking new lights, and reached out to our troubled past in an effort to explain the tumultuous present. As a kind of fever gripped the world, our pop entertainment became part of the landscape, and a new wave of directors told their stories with greater purpose.

In so many words, it’s been a great year at the movies, from the ones you watched on your couch to the ones you caught in one of those perfectly loud Dolby theaters with the rumbling seats. It’s been a pretty difficult year for a lot of people, progress being made through so much pain being exposed on a constant basis. But as the emeritus film critic Roger Ebert once famously put it, “The movies are like a machine that generates empathy.” This world needs more of that these days, and at their best, we can look to the movies to speak to and show a path for our better nature. We can also look to them for compelling stories involving cannibals, killer ancient clowns, fish men, and superheroes of both the mega-budget and everyday varieties.

In 2017, the movies were hilarious and painful, sometimes all at once. So was everything else. Maybe a few of the films we chose below meant something to you or hopefully will. We could all use more things to love right about now.

–Dominick Suzanne-Mayer
Film Editor

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25. It

it highest grossing horror film stephen king box office record Top 25 Movies of 2017

Who’s In It? Bill Skarsgård, Jaeden Lieberher, Sophia Lillis, Finn Wolfhard, Jack Dylan Grazer

“Garth, that was a haiku!”

Pennywise is back

This is what childhood looks like

Needed more Bowers

You Gotta See This: Hype was high after the trailer for Andy Muschietti’s adaptation of Stephen King’s 1986 masterpiece broke YouTube, but the film itself did the unthinkable by delivering an honest-to-god crowd-pleaser. Sure, the CGI is overdone and Skarsgård’s Pennywise is a touch too chatty, but Muschietti succeeds where it truly matters — his Losers are charismatic, funny, and heart-swellingly relatable, their natural bonds forming a tender core to a story cast in so much caked, blood-splattered makeup. Fingers crossed they stick the landing.

Extra! Extra! Read Michael Roffman’s full review here.

–Randall Colburn

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24. Lucky

harry dean stanton lucky movie Top 25 Movies of 2017

Who’s In It? Harry Dean Stanton, David Lynch, Ed Begley Jr., Beth Grant, Tom Skerritt

“Garth, that was a haiku!”

Death’s just out of frame

as we live our messy lives

A lovely farewell

You Gotta See This: There’s much to praise in Lucky, but let’s not beat around the bush. In his feature-length directorial debut, renowned character actor John Carroll Lynch showcases another world-class performer, granting us the perfect final note in the long and remarkable career of Harry Dean Stanton. With Stanton’s death, this lovely posthumous release becomes an epilogue of sorts, but even if he were still with us, this performance, and a scene with a mariachi band in particular, would be both beautiful and bittersweet. What an artist. What a film. What a life.

Extra! Extra! Read Dominick Suzanne-Mayer’s full review here.

–Allison Shoemaker

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23. Wonder Woman

wonder woman Top 25 Movies of 2017

Who’s In It? Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Robin Wright, Connie Bielsen, David Thewlis

“Garth, that was a haiku!”

Amazonian

Check out that Lasso of Truth

Gal Gadot is god?

You Gotta See This: Wonder Woman was such a win in so many ways. It had a breakout lead in Gal Gadot, showing off a hero you’d love to adventure with. It was vengeance for Patty Jenkins after Marvel blew her off with Thor: The Dark World. It also made us forget about the state of DC. It gave audiences the leading heroine they’d been yearning for. It blended action and romance and spectacle in the Donner-esque manner that screamed “verisimilitude.” But above all – it delivered on the “wonder” it promised in the title.

Extra! Extra! Read Alison Shoemaker’s full review here.

–Blake Goble

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22. Whose Streets?

whose streets Top 25 Movies of 2017

Who’s In It? A cross-section of social activists and Ferguson citizens

“Garth, that was a haiku!”

To make your voice heard

Use your phone to film and tweet

Yes, Black Lives Matter

You Gotta See This: Taking a street-level view of the days immediately following the killing of Michael Brown by a Ferguson police officer, Sabaah Folayan’s Whose Streets? not only makes a cogent argument for police reform, but it also offers a powerful call to action for citizens to become activists. The cell phone and the tweet are quickly becoming the most wide-reaching tools for political change, and this film shows the cumulative power of those tools to raise the voices of the marginalized.

Extra! Extra! Read Dominick Suzanne-Mayer’s full review here.

–Clint Worthington

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21. The Square

the square Top 25 Movies of 2017

Who’s In It? Claes Bang, Elisabeth Moss, Terry Notary

“Garth, that was a haiku!”

Modern art is dumb

Full of empty descriptions

And ape men gone wild

You Gotta See This: Ruben Östlund’s Palme ‘dOr-winning piss take on the vapid world of top-dollar modern art exhibition and the people who organize it may be blunt in its purpose, but it’s also a singularly abrasive vision of an artistic practice stuck in constant loathing of the money that sustains it. Bang gives a breakout performance as a man who’s at turns contemptible and hilariously pathetic, Moss embodies a certain type of dilletantish obsessive, and Notary stages one of the year’s most terrifying film sequences, as a performance artist who takes the idea of relentless art to its violent, unsettling zenith.

Extra! Extra! Read Blake Goble’s full review here.

–Dominick Suzanne-Mayer

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20. The Meyerowitz Stories

meyerowitz Top 25 Movies of 2017

Who’s In It? Adam Sandler (just keep reading, trust me), Ben Stiller, Dustin Hoffman, Emma Thompson

“Garth, that was a haiku!”

“This is my protest”

Hoffman says to spurn his kids

“Just like McEnroe”

You Gotta See This: For the first time since Punch-Drunk Love, Adam Sandler offers a wonderful, give-a-shit performance in Noah Baumbach’s snappy, quick-witted, and intensely relatable ensemble dramedy. While its broadest strokes are far too familiar (shades of Royal Tenenbaums abound), Baumbach’s impeccable, overlapping dialogue is handled perfectly by Sandler and the rest of his ensemble.

Extra! Extra! Read Michael Roffman’s full review here.

–Clint Worthington

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19. Good Time

good time Top 25 Movies of 2017

Who’s In It? Robert Pattinson, Benny Safdie, Taliah Webster, Jennifer Jason Leigh

“Garth, that was a haiku!”

Robert Pattinson

You’re gonna have a good time

Are you feeling this?

You Gotta See This: After turning New York into a teenage dystopia with 2015’s Heaven Knows What, directors Ben and Josh Safdie return with a similar harrowing chapter in Good Time. Robert Pattinson mesmerizes as pre-imminent fuck-up Connie Nikas, grinning with the selfish confidence of a lovable loser you can’t help but root for, despite his astonishing inabilities as a mindful human being. Good times for all, indeed.

Extra! Extra! Read Dominick Suzanne-Mayer’s full review here.

–Michael Roffman

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18. Columbus

columbus Top 25 Movies of 2017

Who’s In It? Haley Lu Richardson, John Cho, Parker Posey, Rory Culkin

“Garth, that was a haiku!”

Two lost, lonely souls

Architectural beauty

No easy answers

You Gotta See This: While story is almost always paramount in any, well, storytelling medium, certain films succeed by simply existing. Sure, there’s story in Kogonada’s debut feature, Columbus, but the emergence of stakes and pivotal decisions almost serve to distract from the film’s truest pleasure: Connection, and the simple joy of watching two likable, interesting people open their hearts. It’s like a platonic version of Before Sunrise, a film in which to luxuriate.

Extra! Extra! Read Dominick Suzanne-Mayer’s full review here.

–Randall Colburn

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17. The Lost City of Z

lost city of z Top 25 Movies of 2017

Who’s In It? Charlie Hunnam, Robert Pattinson, Sienna Miller, Tom Holland

“Garth, that was a haiku!”

Percy Fawcett, ho!

Bolivian jungle time

Dangerous beauty

You Gotta See This: And now for the obligatory mention of a James Gray film in a critics’ Top 25 list, because, come on, we love that guy. Just teasing. This film was daring stuff. Gray saw his scope and scale evolve this year with his epic ode to jungle madness and man’s folly, The Lost City of Z. Blending Herzog, Conrad, and nature photography through prim yet obsessive eyes, Z captured something ethereal, striking, and hypnotic in the heart of it.

Extra! Extra! Read Dominick Suzanne-Mayer’s full review here.

–Blake Goble

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16. The Disaster Artist

the disaster artist james franco dave franco Top 25 Movies of 2017

Who’s In It? James Franco, Dave Franco, Alison Brie, Seth Rogen, Zac Efron, and basically everyone else in the comedy industry

“Garth, that was a haiku!”

Big Hollywood dreams

You’re tearing me apart, James!

Rhythm of the night

You Gotta See This: James Franco sheds his boyish looks for the vampirish complexion and weirdo wardrobes of Tommy Wiseau in this inventive adaptation of Greg Sestero and Tom Bissell’s non-fiction novel of the same name. Although it’s sold as a laugh-out-loud comedy, The Disaster Artist winds up being an affecting homage to all the bizarre dreamers of our world. Still, you’ll want to watch The Room beforehand.

Extra! Extra! Read Marten Carlson’s full review here.

–Michael Roffman

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15. The Shape of Water

shape of water Top 25 Movies of 2017

Who’s In It? Sally Hawkins, Doug Jones, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Michael Stuhlbarg, Octavia Spencer, David Hewlett

“Garth, that was a haiku!”

During the Cold War

Two outsiders find true love

Yes, the fish man fuuuuuuucks

You Gotta See This: Guillermo del Toro’s latest phantasmagoria is arguably his best English-language work to date, a darkly funny and unexpectedly sweet love story set within the oppressive trappings of ‘50s Cold War America. With its brilliant ensemble of incredible character actors and a dark fairy tale tone turned up to 11, The Shape of Water is a beautiful tale of outsiders claiming a victory against orthodoxy.

Extra! Extra! Read Sarah Kurchak’s full review here.

–Clint Worthington

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14. Raw

raw Top 25 Movies of 2017

Who’s In It? Garance Marillier, Ella Rumpf, Rabah Nait Oufella, Laurent Lucas, Joana Preiss

“Garth, that was a haiku!”

Two sisters are linked

By forbidden appetites

Oh shit, she did NOT

You Gotta See This: Julia Ducournau does not fuck around. In the writer-director’s debut feature, a budding superstar veterinary student (yes) undergoes a hazing ritual at her vet school (yes) in which she, a vegetarian, has to eat raw rabbit liver (yes). It unlocks certain cravings within her body, about which she’s alternately goaded and encouraged by her wilder older sister, also a veterinarian-in-training. Yes, this is the cannibalism addiction movie, but it’s also a thoughtful and disturbing piece of coming-of-age body horror, anchored by two stellar performances and positively steeped in gore.

Extra! Extra! Read Dominick Suzanne-Mayer’s full review here.

–Allison Shoemaker

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13. I, Tonya

i tonya Top 25 Movies of 2017

Who’s In It? Margot Robbie, Allison Janney, Sebastian Stan, Paul Walter Hauser

“Garth, that was a haiku!”

Tonya Harding skates

With the very best of them

‘Til the Incident

You Gotta See This: I, Tonya doesn’t really attempt to answer the question of whether Tonya Harding actually knew about the plot to assault Nancy Kerrigan. Instead, Craig Gillespie’s freewheeling dark comedy serves to humanize Harding in a more honest way. She’s an occasional liar and a bit of a prick, but she was also the best figure skater in the world at one point in time and a figure wholly undeserving of the fate that ultimately befell her. Margot Robbie gives one of the year’s best turns, and Allison Janney another, as Tonya and her vicious mother LaVona, forming the kind of dysfunctional family that hurts each other the way actual dysfunctional families do.

Extra! Extra! Read Allison Shoemaker’s full review here.

–Dominick Suzanne-Mayer

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12. The Big Sick

bigsick Top 25 Movies of 2017

Who’s In It? Kumail Nanjiani, Zoe Kazan, Holly Hunter, Ray Romano

“Garth, that was a haiku!”

Boy and girl meet-cute

Boy gets freaked out, girl gets sick

Boy and girl write script!

You Gotta See This: A future classic in a wrongly maligned genre, Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon’s intimate and original romantic comedy takes its story from the complicated courtship of its writers. With that knowledge, viewers can appreciate how nimbly The Big Sick manages to have its cake and eat it, too: on the one hand, that lived experience is the likeliest source for the film’s awkward, honest charms; on the other, the pair (and director Michael Showalter) somehow dodge every single pitfall typical of based-on-a-true stories. Also, Nanjiani lands the punchline of the year with a 9/11 joke. See it.

Extra! Extra! Read Dominick Suzanne-Mayer’s full review here.

–Allison Shoemaker

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11. Jane

jane Top 25 Movies of 2017

Who’s In It? Jane Goodall, and a colorful cast of chimpanzees, monkeys, and apes-a-poppin’

“Garth, that was a haiku!”

Chimpanzee lifestyle

She Jane, scholar of the apes!

See Jane bananas

You Gotta See This: Oh what a wonderful life, and Brett Morgen assembled the footage to prove it. National Geographic’s Jane goes beyond stock biography. From the lusciously saturated 16mm of a young Goodall slowly beginning to learn the way of the chimpanzees, to Phil Glass’ beautiful music of discovery, to Joe Beshenkovsky’s miraculous editing (after being handed essentially scraps from Nat Geo and told, “good luck”), Jane is a new high in documentary filmmaking. If only we all could run away with the monkeys.

Extra! Extra! Read Sarah Kurchak’s full review here.

–Blake Goble

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10. Logan

logan movie Top 25 Movies of 2017

Who’s In It? Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Dafne Keen, Boyd Holbrook, Stephen Merchant

“Garth, that was a haiku!”

Wolverine got old

Professor X is fading

Shit is depressing

You Gotta See This: James Mangold’s film may essentially boil down to a revisionist Western about a pair of X-Men in their winter years, but Logan is that superhero movie that people who don’t like superhero movies have been clamoring for since Iron Man brought a pop sensibility to comic adaptations. It’s violent in a way no other Marvel adaptation has been, and it’s the rare comic story that allows for a genuinely deeper understanding of its characters. It’s difficult to fathom a better or more fitting send-off for Jackman and Stewart, who embodied their respective heroes as well as any actor ever could have.

Extra! Extra! Read Michael Roffman’s full review here.

–Dominick Suzanne-Mayer

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09. Phantom Thread

phantom thread Top 25 Movies of 2017

Who’s In It? Daniel Day-Lewis, Vicky Krieps, Lesley Manville, Richard Graham

“Garth, that was a haiku!”

Do it carefully

Farewell, Daniel Day-Lewis!

Every piece of me

You Gotta See This: Paul Thomas Anderson finds his own Barry Lyndon with this twisted period drama about a renowned dressmaker named Reynolds Woodcock, played rather subtly by Day-Lewis in what may be his final role. This is Krieps’ movie, though, and the young star matches the film’s icy narrative with a robust performance that’s both charming and haunting. For a film so centered around the morbid symbiosis of an unorthodox relationship, you couldn’t ask for more perfect leads.

Extra! Extra! Read Dominick Suzanne-Mayer’s full review here.

–Michael Roffman

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08. Baby Driver

baby driver feature Top 25 Movies of 2017

Who’s In It? Ansel Elgort, Jon Hamm, Lily Adams, Jamie Foxx, Eiza González, and Kevin Spacey

“Garth, that was a haiku!”

Musical heist film

Let Baby have his music

Bang bang bang bang bang

You Gotta See This: It was only a matter of time until English genre maestro Edgar Wright made a musical, a feature-length version of that “Don’t Stop Me Now” zombie battle from Shaun of the Dead. And that’s exactly what we got from Baby Driver, a heist film that syncs a killer soundtrack with the rhythms of well-directed action without sacrificing its gut-punch of a story. Great villains, cool cars, and a new, too-cool-for-school hero in Elgort’s Baby that doubles as the easiest Halloween costume ever.

Extra! Extra! Read Michael Roffman’s full review here.

–Randall Colburn

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07. Get Out

get out 2017 Top 25 Movies of 2017

Who’s In It? Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Catherine Keener, Bradley Whitford, Lil Rel Howery

“Garth, that was a haiku!”

Racially charged scares

Call it a “social thriller”

Don’t trust white people

You Gotta See This: A fresh, original horror dramedy that not only draws upon everything great about the zeitgeist-defining horror of the ‘70s — patience, depth of character, plenty of gore — but also conveys a scathing, timely critique on race relations without ever undercutting the horror. Its biggest strength might be its balance; first-time writer/director Jordan Peele effortlessly blends laugh-out-loud comedy with moments of horror both dreadful and shocking.

Extra! Extra! Read Dominick Suzanne-Mayer’s full review here.

–Randall Colburn

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06. A Ghost Story

a ghost story still Top 25 Movies of 2017

Who’s In It? Casey Affleck, Rooney Mara, Wil Oldham

“Garth, that was a haiku!”

Casey Affleck’s dead

Cover him with a white sheet

Let’s go eat some pie

You Gotta See This: David Lowery made Disney’s stellar remake of Pete’s Dragon to fund this transcendent indie drama, resulting in one of those rare one-for-me, one-for-you showbiz exchanges where both films turn out brilliantly. The sheer conceptual daring of its presentation, from its rounded 4:3 frame to the refusal (apart from one scene that is the film’s rare misstep) to hold the audience’s hand, makes A Ghost Story, and Lowery, worthy of celebration.

Extra! Extra! Read Dominick Suzanne-Mayer’s full review here.

–Clint Worthington

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05. Lady Bird

lady bird Top 25 Movies of 2017

Who’s In It? Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, Beanie Feldstein, Tracy Letts, Lucas Hedges, Timothée Chalamet, and two undersung giants of the character actor world in Stephen Henderson and Lois Smith

“Garth, that was a haiku!”

“Crash Into Me” sobs

Feel so fucking good, you know?

You don’t get it, Mom

You Gotta See This: Greta Gerwig’s remarkable solo, debut feature captures exactly what it’s like to love things — friends, boys, dresses, towns, Dave Matthews Band — when you’re 17 years old, but much of what makes Lady Bird brilliant is the compassion it extends to wounded souls of any age. It’s gorgeous and funny and messy and weird, just like you were in high school and probably still are, deep down.

Extra! Extra! Read Sarah Kurchak’s full review here.

–Allison Shoemaker

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04. Call Me By Your Name

call me by your name Top 25 Movies of 2017

Who’s In It? Timothée Chalamet, Armie Hammer, Michael Stuhlbarg, and, what the hell, Northern Italy, 1983

“Garth, that was a haiku!”

Sexy peaches, eh?

Hot fun in the summer time

Psychedelic furs?

You Gotta See This: At the risk of coming off abrasively, this film’s HOT! HOT! HOT! HOT! Sorry. It’s the kind of film that makes you jealous, yearning for a romance this intense and pure. It also makes you wanna chill in Italy and smoke cigarettes even after you’ve quit, but, uh, wow, what a many-splendored thing, Call Me by Your Name. Luca Guadagnino bottles the pure quintessence of young men falling madly in love with each other in a way that most films wouldn’t dare broach. Sexy. Alluring. Stunningly gorgeous. And in possession of some the best, bad dancing you’ll ever see.

Extra! Extra! Read Dominick Suzanne-Mayer’s full review here.

–Blake Goble

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03. Dunkirk

dunkirk Top 25 Movies of 2017

Who’s In It? Tom Hardy, Kenneth Branagh, Mark Rylance, Cillian Murphy, Harry Styles

“Garth, that was a haiku!”

The tide is turning

The bodies are coming back

You don’t speak English

You Gotta See This: Dunkirk is a tour de force in every sense of the term, thriving from Christopher Nolan’s marked blend of tension and drama that knows how to burn the edges of your seat until all that’s holding you is a breathless anxiety attack. But this isn’t a comfortable story, and Nolan didn’t make a comfortable film. Instead, he scraped away the traditions of a modern war film and opted to revel in the smoldering chaos. That might not sit right with some people, but neither should war. Dunkirk is a statement, but its loudest sentiment is that Nolan also belongs in the history books.

Extra! Extra! Read Blake Goble’s full review here.

–Michael Roffman

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02. The Florida Project

florida project Top 25 Movies of 2017

Who’s In It? Brooklynn Prince, Willem Dafoe, Bria Vinaite, Valeria Cotto

“Garth, that was a haiku!”

Life is hell and yet…

The color of hope and dreams

It’s the color mauve

You Gotta See This: Sean Baker’s bright ode to childhood dreams, crushing realities, and the bittersweet American myth of Disney World is an ambient tragedy. Americana maligned. Gerry Winnogrand photography made kaleidoscopic. A Truffaut for 2017. It’s a lot, and it works miracles, really. Simultaneously giddy and grim, it’s a work of vérité that capitalizes on Baker’s strengths as an honest witness to everyday life, filled with Big Ideas, that makes a touching statement about growing-up-and-other-stuff. It’s magic.

Extra! Extra! Read Dominick Suzanne-Mayer’s full review here.

–Blake Goble

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01. Blade Runner 2049

blade runner still 03 Top 25 Movies of 2017

Who’s In It? Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Ana de Armas, Mackenzie Davis, Jared Leto

“Garth, that was a haiku!”

2049

Technology is our god

No joy left but Joi

You Gotta See This: Denis Villeneuve’s neon-soaked hellscape of a future is one of modern sci-fi’s most stunning visualizations of what our world of convenience could one day yield, but 2049 only starts there. In keeping with the spirit of Ridley Scott’s original film, this is a film with the patience to move beyond action and into the realm of existential wandering, a three-hour treatise on what makes a human, well, human when alternate intelligences live as slaves and humans have renounced everything that once defined them. It’s a film that shouldn’t exist by any conventional logic, which makes it all the more miraculous, and for our money, it’s the very finest film of an exceptional year for the medium.

Extra! Extra! Read Clint Worthington’s full review here.

–Dominick Suzanne-Mayer

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