Best Movies Of 2017 : Monkey See You may not agree that a given film belongs on this list, or we might have left your favorite off. But movies are meant to inspire discussion and debate; why shouldn't year-end lists do the same?
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NPR's Favorite Movies Of 2017

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NPR's Favorite Movies Of 2017

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NPR's Favorite Movies Of 2017

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

For Hollywood, 2017 was a mixed bag. Many of the year's biggest releases came up short both at the box office and with critics. But there were some bright spots. Here's our film critic Bob Mondello with his list of the year's 10 best movies.

BOB MONDELLO, BYLINE: Off-screen, Hollywood was rocked by harassment horrors this year. But on-screen, horror meant something different - not just scares but social criticism in the satire "Get Out," which took a romantic situation - a woman bringing her boyfriend home to meet the folks - and gave it a twist designed to make a point.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "GET OUT")

DANIEL KALUUYA: (As Chris Washington) You said I was the first black guy you ever dated.

ALLISON WILLIAMS: (As Rose Armitage) Yeah. So what?

KALUUYA: (As Chris Washington) Yeah, so this is uncharted territory for them, you know? I don't want to get chased off the lawn with a shotgun.

MONDELLO: Oh, if only that were his biggest problem. Comedian Jordan Peele wrote and directed "Get Out." And as he did on TV's "Key and Peele," he subverts genre expectations, mixing race and horror partly for laughs, partly to make you think while he's making you jump.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "GET OUT")

MONDELLO: The French film BPM also makes you jump...

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "BPM")

MONDELLO: ...When members of ACT UP interrupt AIDS conferences by blasting horns and hurling blood-filled balloons. BPM stands for beats per minute, as in heart beats. And as the film's activists hit the streets for demonstrations, hit the discos to relax and hit the skids when they get sick, you'll find your pulse pounding out plenty of beats per minute. When pulses pound in the year's most authentic mother-daughter comedy, it's mostly from...

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "LADY BIRD")

LAURIE METCALF: (As Marion McPherson) Lady Bird...

MONDELLO: ...Exasperation.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "LADY BIRD")

METCALF: (As Marion McPherson) You can't lock the door. We have one bathroom.

SAOIRSE RONAN: (As Lady Bird) Sorry. Sorry. Sorry. It's just this is the only place I can get any privacy.

MONDELLO: Greta Gerwig wrote and directed "Lady Bird." And if the way Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf push each other's buttons feels real, it's 'cause it's based on Gerwig's own experience in high school.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "LADY BIRD")

RONAN: (As Lady Bird) When do you think is a normal time to have sex?

METCALF: (As Marion McPherson) You're having sex.

RONAN: (As Lady Bird) No.

METCALF: (As Marion McPherson) College.

MONDELLO: Lady Bird's asking the question because she has a crush on an indie rock musician played by Timothee Chalamet. It's a bit part, but he has the leading role in the year's lushest romance, the coming-of-age-in-the-1980s story "Call Me By Your Name." Chalamet plays a 17-year-old who encounters grad student Armie Hammer one summer in Italy and falls big time.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "CALL ME BY YOUR NAME")

TIMOTHEE CHALAMET: (As Elio) If you only knew how little I know about the things that matter.

ARMIE HAMMER: (As Oliver) Why are you telling me this?

CHALAMET: (As Elio) Because I thought you should know.

HAMMER: (As Oliver) Because you thought I should know?

CHALAMET: (As Elio) Because there's no one else I can say this to but you.

HAMMER: (As Oliver) Are you saying what I think you're saying?

MONDELLO: "Call Me By Your Name's" screenplay was written by James Ivory and conjures images that may have you thinking of his Merchant Ivory days - ancient statues, say, surfacing from the Mediterranean as if they'd just been taking a dip. When water plays a role in the majestic World War II drama "Dunkirk," it's as a barrier to be gotten across. British troops massed on a French beach, England almost visible across the channel.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "DUNKIRK")

MATTHEW MARSH: (As Rear Admiral) They're not stopping here. We need to get our army back.

JAMES D'ARCY: (As Colonel Winnant) How many men are they talking about, Sir?

MARSH: (As Rear Admiral) Churchill wants 30,000. Ramsay's hoping we can give him 45.

MONDELLO: It would be a history-making rescue.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "DUNKIRK")

KENNETH BRANAGH: (As Commander Bolton) There are 400,000 men on this beach, Sir.

MONDELLO: And director Christopher Nolan tells it exclusively from the troops' perspective, crazily enough, in three different timeframes - a week on the beach, a day at sea, an hour in the air, all unfolding at once in IMAX because Nolan shot most of "Dunkirk" in the biggest of big-screen formats. Denis Villeneuve did that, too, in "Blade Runner 2049," another film with tricky storytelling that benefits from being seen on the biggest possible screen.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "BLADE RUNNER 2049")

HARRISON FORD: (As Rick Deckard) Got a name?

RYAN GOSLING: (As K) Officer KD6-3...

FORD: (As Rick Deckard) That's not a name. It's a serial number.

GOSLING: (As K) All right - Joe.

FORD: (As Rick Deckard) What do you want, Joe?

GOSLING: (As K) I want to ask you some questions.

MONDELLO: That's six of the top ten. The next two are documentaries - "Chasing Coral," made by a guy who'd been deep-sea diving since he was 16.

(SOUNDBITE OF DOCUMENTARY, "CHASING CORAL")

RICHARD VEVERS: I used to go looking for these weedy sea dragons, which are these incredible animals.

MONDELLO: Breathtaking photography...

(SOUNDBITE OF DOCUMENTARY, "CHASING CORAL")

VEVERS: But then one year, they were all disappearing from all my favorite sites. And you go, well, if it's happening to one of my favorite creatures, what else is it happening to?

MONDELLO: The answer to that question is both heartbreaking and galvanizing. It would take a cold soul to watch "Chasing Coral" and not want to help. The documentary "Faces Places," on the other hand, just makes you want to hug Agnes Varda. The 89-year-old filmmaker teams up with a street artist in his 30s to quite literally put faces on places - 40-foot-high faces plastered on buildings, bridges, boxcars. When coal miner's daughter sees her own face covering the whole front wall of her soon-to-be-demolished house, she's wide-eyed.

(SOUNDBITE OF DOCUMENTARY, "FACES PLACES")

JEANNINE CARPENTIER: (Speaking French).

MONDELLO: And you'll be teary-eyed.

(SOUNDBITE OF DOCUMENTARY, "FACES PLACES")

AGNES VARDA: (Speaking French).

MONDELLO: That's eight. The last two of my top 10 are about folks who prove strong in challenging situations. The Chilean film "A Fantastic Woman" stars transgender actress Daniela Vega as a striking, charismatic trans singer who must turn almost heroic to deal with society's snubs when her boyfriend dies. And rounding out my top ten is the story of a spunky 6-year-old who lives with her mom in the shadow of Disney World.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE FLORIDA PROJECT")

BROOKLYNN PRINCE: (As Moonee) Could you give us some change, please?

CHRISTOPHER RIVERA: (As Scooty) Yeah.

PRINCE: (As Moonee) We need to buy ice cream.

RIVERA: (As Scooty) 'Cause we don't have any money. We just have 5 cents.

PRINCE: (As Moonee) Yeah, we just have 5 cents.

RIVERA: (As Scooty) And the doctor said we have asthma, and we got to eat ice cream...

PRINCE: (As Moonee) Yeah.

RIVERA: (As Scooty) ...Right away.

MONDELLO: In "The Florida Project," this kid makes her own Magic Kingdom. Ten best is an arbitrary cutoff. And I still have time, so I'm going to keep going. Kumail Nanjiani's "The Big Sick" is the year's most rewarding romantic comedy. It's based on the comedian's own life and takes its title from the fact that the woman who became his wife was ill. But that was hardly their only challenge.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE BIG SICK")

KUMAIL NANJIANI: (As Kumail) She's white.

ADEEL AKHTAR: (As Naveed) A white girl?

NANJIANI: (As Kumail) OK, you can't look like you and yell white girl. It's OK. We hate terrorists.

MONDELLO: Also dealing with questions of prejudice in ways that have been provoking spirited conversation are the profanely violent comedy "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri" and the sharp street-level documentary "Whose Streets?" about Ferguson, Mo., in the wake of the police killing of Michael Brown. Animated films went places that live action films couldn't this year - "Coco," Pixar's evocation of Dia de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "COCO")

DYANA ORTELLI: (As Tia Victoria) He doesn't seem entirely dead.

SELENE LUNA: (As Tia Rosita) He's not quite alive either.

MONDELLO: And also dimension-hopping is the Japanese body switching comedy "Your Name," which mixes anime, pop music and time travel to become a really eccentric disaster flick. The Swedish satire "The Square" mocks art world pretensions with bite while the heist movie "Baby Driver" mixes music video and car chase conventions...

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "BABY DRIVER")

LILY JAMES: (As Deborah) Your name's Baby - B-A-B-Y, Baby.

MONDELLO: ...Cleverly enough that it makes you not care or at least not care as much that Kevin Spacey is in the movie.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "BABY DRIVER")

EIZA GONZALEZ: (As Darling) Hey, Baby.

JON HAMM: (As Buddy) Hey, Baby.

MONDELLO: More serious passions drive the British drama "God's Own Country," which plays like a rough-hewn "Brokeback Mountain" at first, then goes its own way through the West Yorkshire countryside. And mainstream Hollywood movies also traipse through unusual territory - Marvel's "Logan," for instance, taking a comic book character on a surprisingly down-to-Earth trek into old age, or Tom Hanks' editor and Meryl Streep's publisher wading into uncharted First Amendment waters in the Nixon-era Pentagon Papers drama "The Post."

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE POST")

MERYL STREEP: (As Kay Graham) Do you have the papers?

TOM HANKS: (As Ben Bradlee) Not yet.

STREEP: (As Kay Graham) Oh gosh, oh gosh - because you know the position that would put me in.

MONDELLO: Steven Spielberg made "The Post" in just nine months, figuring there might be interest this year in a story about what happens when a secretive president declares war on the press. I'm almost out of time, but if we allow a special category - films that create gorgeous, hermetically sealed worlds for romances that don't entirely work - I'll add Guillermo del Toro's "Critter From The Black Lagoon" love story, "The Shape Of Water," and Paul Thomas Anderson's control freak designer love story, "The Phantom Thread." That's an extra dozen bests, a long list for a year that fell a little short at the box office. I'm Bob Mondello.

(SOUNDBITE OF ALEXANDRE DESPLAT'S "THE SHAPE OF WATER")

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