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If 2016 was a year where we lost our heroes, 2017 was a year where the villains took over. Pervasive dread was a common feeling this year, so we turned to the movies. They had the potential to show us how things were not all bad, or confirm that things are more alarming than we may have thought. The best films this year were not escapist, exactly, but they reminded us that leadership, courage, and compassion are more than ideas. They need action and character (in the virtuous sense of the word) to back them up. This year has been terrific for film buffs: there were sensory epics, feminist action films, and genre-hopping social commentary. The breadth and quality of the year’s movies is, well, overwhelming. In a year like this, it’s difficult to pick a conclusive list of the best films, so the BYT film team got scientific. All our movie writers – Jeff Spross, Svetlana Legetic, Alan Zilberman, Kaylee Dugan, Trisha Brown, Vesper Arnett, Ross Bonaime, and Diana Metzger – submitted their top movies of 2017, which were then tallied and ranked. So, without further ado, here are our top eleven movies of 2017, complete with a silly (but still relevant) superlative and our concluding thoughts.

11. Best use of arranged marriage in subverting expectations of feminism: The Wedding Plan

It’s immensely frustrating when misogynists assume feminism fits into a single box (usually a box full of bra-burning misandrists who yell shit). But consciously or not, feminists can be closed-minded too. For example, many of us might assume a film about an Orthodox Jewish woman who is so intent on being married that she decides to go through with planning a wedding, despite getting dumped a month before, doesn’t fit in the “feminist” box. In the case of The Wedding Plan, we would be wrong. Writer/director Rama Burshtein’s funny, moving film serves to push against the walls of our socially constructed boxes, upending our ideas of romance, faith, and what women should want. As Michal, the possible-bride-to-be, Noa Koler makes the story eminently relatable and gradually shows viewers what they should have known all along: the person best positioned to decide what will make Michal happy is, of course, Michal. Acknowledging her freedom to decide what she wants, and celebrating her courage in going after it, is what feminism is all about. –Trisha Brown

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1o. Best examination of millennials’ love-hate relationship with social media: Ingrid Goes West

Ingrid Goes West is a movie that could only have been made in the age of the internet, once the rhythms of Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter had wormed their way into our collective social conscience. Aubrey Plaza gives a sly, spikey, and achingly human performance as Ingrid, a disturbed young woman whose sense of personal worth is entirely defined by Instagram’s shiny plastic terms. Upon moving to Los Angeles, Ingrid attempts a series of bizarre and even sociopathic gambits to bask in the afterglow of a local social media celebrity (Elizabeth Olsen), and then displace her completely. Everyone gives solid performances, especially O’Shea Jackson Jr. as Ingrid’s big-hearted and long-suffering landlord and neighbor. The script, by David Brandon Smith and director Matt Spicer, is a smart, well-paced, and darkly comic character study. Spicer flirts with the tropes of a Fatal Attraction-style thriller without ever losing control of his narrative or tone. The ending is logical, cathartic, and more than a little unsettling. -Jeff Spross

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9. Best Last Supper of 2017: The Beguiled

This was a year filled with a strange, upsetting feeling of helplessness amidst complete chaos. Women, especially, found themselves at odds with the world, at levels way higher than usual. We started the year attacked, demeaned, used, belittled, and dismissed in ways that felt, quite frankly, shameless and archaic. We did pick ourselves up along the way, taking action and demanding change, and while it all still felt a little “too little too late” at times, the world is better for it, we hope. While Wonder Woman got the majority of #GirlPower social media traction, in The Beguiled, Sofia Coppola proved our point in a more subtle way. In her elegant, quietly defiant film, which came out just in time to usher in the second half of 2017, the women in Civil War torn Virginia also took matters in their own hands. They did so without male protection, so with added vulnerability and inherent competition among each other. The teachers and students of Martha Farnsworth’s Seminary for Young Ladies, where the film takes place, are seemingly an easy target for a charismatic male outsider.  In a spare, flawless 93 minutes, Corporal John McBurney makes them fall in love, lust and despair. Just as you think that all hope is lost for them to emerge from this situation unscathed, they step up to the plate, quite literally. Refusing to be victims, and using what little opportunity is given to them, they effectively (and stylishly!) remove the cause of all their stress. They don’t use weapons, just their intuition and ingenuity, and emerge victorious and more together than ever. Here’s hoping we can all pick up where they left off. –Svetlana Legetic

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8. Best break-up film: mother!

One of 2017’s most lively and engaging film discussions has been “what the hell is mother! actually about?” Is it a parable about the muse-creator relationship? A retelling of the entire Bible in one house? Maybe a warning about the dangers of global warming? Shit, it could even just be about how horrible it is to remodel a house. But most obvious after a first viewing of mother! is that it must be a living nightmare to date Darren Aronofsky. I mean, the guy made an entire movie about how dating him is a huge mistake, that he’ll abandon the ones he love for his own devices. It’s entirely impossible to watch and enjoy mother! without knowing that Aronofsky and his star Jennifer Lawrence were dating, but that extra knowledge – and the fact that the two broke up soon after the film rolled out – adds yet another layer that turns mother! into the ultimate breakup film. –Ross Bonaime

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7. Best use of James Franco’s ego: The Disaster Artist

James Franco is known for his eclectic roles, whether it be gold toothed Alien in Spring Breakers or playing identical twin brothers in The Deuce. His desire to flit across and master various art forms, including getting involved with Lifetime movies, gets dizzying for audiences. It’s hard to tell what’s performance art and what he’s truly passionate about, but in The Disaster Artist his performance as the far more scatterbrained and egotistical Tommy Wiseau is wonderfully serious and seriously wonderful. Even as he embodies the bizarre auteur fully, whether it’s performing a monologue in a restaurant to an annoyed Judd Apatow, having to do a million takes to say one line, or wildly berating his co-star, Franco seems to be having the time of his life and perhaps his career. It also helps that his enabler and sometimes unsteady cohort and costar Greg Sestero is played by Franco’s earnest, happy-go-lucky brother Dave. Their brotherly bond and joy in each other’s company resonate and even mirror the unlikely duo of Wiseau and Sestero. It almost helps to understand what brought the two men together to create The Room in the first place. It took an outsized, grandiose figure like Tommy Wiseau to give one of the most honest, thoughtful, and almost humble performances in his entire career. Perhaps he should play megalomaniacs from now on. Imagine what he could do with Trump. Diana Metzger
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6. Best defiled fruit: Call Me By Your Name

Luca Guadagnino’s Call Me By Your Name is the sort of movie you don’t want to end. It is set in idyllic northern Italy, in a house where everyone is sophisticated, and the food/wine is plentiful. The movie looks great, too, with saturated sun-kissed choreography that is like a more exaggerated version of Master of None. On top of all that, the protagonist Elio (Timothee Chalamet) is a charmer. He speaks three languages, plays the piano, and strikes a distinct profile. But above all else, Call Me By Your Name is a coming of age film, so there are awkward moments where Elio experiments and tries to figure out just what he wants. In one such scene, Elio is alone in the attic and ponders a peach. What he does to the peach, out of impulsion and nascent sexual desire, could have been something out of American Pie, but Guadagnino and screenwriter James Ivory don’t want to point and laugh. They let the scene play out for a deeper emotional payoff: Elio’s new lover Oliver (Armie Hammer) discovers the peach, and the subsequent dialogue veers between erotic possibilities and genuine loneliness within seconds. Most films show characters when they’re vulnerable. Call Me By Your Name is one of the few to realize that vulnerability can explode in many directions at once. –Alan Zilberman

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5. Most improved director: Dunkirk

After the less than stellar reception for The Dark Knight Rises, and the ambitious yet borderline bonkers Interstellar, it seemed as if director Christopher Nolan was losing some of his prestige steam. With his penchant for twist endings and attempting to shock audiences, he at times could come off like the next M. Night Shyamalan. But with Dunkirk, Nolan matured his style, both playing up his strengths and fixing his weaknesses. As with Nolan’s other films, Dunkirk still plays with time, and his love of practical effects works wonders for the story. But it’s his attempts to quell his biggest criticisms – cutting his runtime down to under two hours and keeping character, narrative arcs and dialogue to a bare minimum – that truly seems like Nolan learning from his past mistakes, and making one of his best films while evolving into a stronger director. –Ross Bonaime

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4. Best reason to have hope for the future: Wonder Woman

Patti Jenkins has truly blessed us with her interpretation of Wonder Woman. This movie came at exactly the right time—when women have had to repeatedly stand up against the ridiculous notion that we are inferior in any way—and she put fear in the hearts of those who doubted her. The character Diana Prince is worthy of lengthy praise on her own, but not only did this film showcase her in an empowering and positive light, it also features a group of powerful women thriving away from the hellscape of the rest of the world. It showed every single asshole who thinks women just don’t want to be directors exactly what a female director can do with a platform, the same way Girls Trip showed us (again) that Black women can do gross-out comedy. Women are the ones who will save us all. Bet on it. –Vesper Arnett

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3. Best movie to help your hypochondriasis: The Big Sick

2017 is the year I discovered not all romantic comedies are bad, and Kumail Nanjiani’s and Emily Gordon’s The Big Sick easily lead the pack for me. The story handles the complexity of real relationships well, highlighting the sugar high-esque honeymoon period just as well as it chronicles the crushing lows. Even the subplot featuring Gordon’s parents (who are delightfully played by Holly Hunter and Ray Romano) feels captivating in an authentic way. That’s the magic of The Big Sick: it doesn’t turn treacly and melodramatic when things go wrong, nor does treat love like a constant carnival. Instead, it thrives in those awkward in between moments. Even though you know Nanjiani and Gordon’s love story has a real life happy ending, the movie still gets you as close to that edge-of-your-seat feeling as a movie can. It’s also a huge reminder that life is very fragile and everyone you love (or you!) could die any second of every day! I mean, the crux of the plot centers around a young woman who is put into a medically induced coma after falling ill from a mystery disease. What the hell? That shit is terrifying! This movie made me laugh and it made my heart happy, but it also made me afraid I was going to die in my sleep. Or that my boyfriend was going to die in his sleep. Whichever. -Kaylee Dugan
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2. Best use of 90s nostalgia jams: Lady Bird

Lady Bird is a special movie because it simultaneously shares Greta Gerwig’s point of view – coming of age female in Sacramento – while also connecting to older millenials who feel like it was “their” maturation story, too. This comes across with the precise and warm acting of Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, Beanie Feldstein, Tracy Letts, and many more. It also comes from Gerwig’s detailed and heartfelt writing and direction. I think the specificity and the shared nostalgia really comes alive with the music. Some brilliant decisions: Justin Timberlake’s “Cry Me a River” plays as Christine/Lady Bird walks into the “cool kid” party; Dave Matthews Band croons “Crash Into Me” as Christine and her gal pal Julie wallow in Christine’s breakup; Alanis Morissette’s “Hand in My Pocket” plays in the car as Christine explains her brand of feminism to her flummoxed father. They are all so lovingly chosen and set the movie in such a certain place and time. Gerwig was so passionate about these musical choices that she not only put a big budget for them but also wrote sincere letters of admiration to the artists mentioned above. The fact that these songs are so distinctive in time and place don’t detract from the bigger themes in a film of self discovery, mother/daughter relationships, hometown shame/pride, and female bonding. They’re a gift to all audiences, but they’re a special gift to audiences of a certain age (mainly Gerwig’s early 30s) who also lived within that music as the soundtrack to their most sincere passions. -Diana Metzger

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1. Best reason to thank your TSA agent over holiday travel: Get Out

The genre-hopping crowdpleaser Get Out is Jordan Peele’s directorial debut, and he, like Patti Jenkins, didn’t get a Golden Globe nomination. You’d think two of the biggest films of the year, commercially and critically, would bring their directors recognition. Daniel Kaluuya’s face – petrified by horror at betrayal and the acknowledgment of supernatural white supremacy – is one of the most memorable images of the year. Daniel was Posh Kenneth from the original Skins, and that it basically makes him the film version of Drake. Then there’s Lil Rel is the best friend, Rod, who subverts every horror cliche and gets all the best lines. Allison Williams’ fearless performance is what would happen if Marnie read Gone Girl one too many times. But best of all, Jordan Peele, who went started at MadTV and went onto Keanu, now has has the most successful debut film ever. Get Out was made before 2017, and yet this film arrived at the exact right cultural moment. It is about a lot of things, mistrust and doubt chief among them. Sometimes, more often than we would previously admit, that instincts matter more than the veneer of civilization. Get Out could borrow the tagline from another film, a historical one no less, and it could also describe the year in a nutshell: survival is victory. -Vesper Arnett and Alan Zilberman

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