Drama is the prestige genre of movies—to the point that we refer to all non-dramas as “genre films.” The “best” movies are dramas, so goes the prevailing wisdom, and while that’s too much of a blanket statement to be truthful, the majority are. They typically provide the best characters and stories, and those are two of the main reasons we watch movies—so it only makes sense they’re seen as the best.
Here are the top 10 dramas from 2017.
Two people who come from different backgrounds and have about 20 years of difference in age discuss their lives, their problems, and architecture for 90 minutes in Columbus. The conversations are fascinating, the observations and revelations are engaging, the characters are well-formed, and the scenery is breathtaking. The two leads—John Cho and Haley Lu Richardson—are great, and even though not a lot “happens,” it’s never dull.
The Florida Project
One of the most enchanting movies of the year, The Florida Project is set near Disney World in Florida and focuses on a six-year-old girl and her mother, who live in a cheap motel and barely get by. We mostly follow the child, as she roams around unsupervised. It’s wonderful and captivating, and showcases a group of people you almost never see in the movies.
A Ghost Story
A Ghost Story details the afterlife of a man who dies and has to watch what becomes of the people and things he knew while he was alive—unable to do anything more than sit by as a passive observer. There isn’t much more to it than that, but it’s insightful, meditative, filmed in a unique way, and contains a two-shot take of someone eating an entire pie.
If that last one doesn’t make you want to see it, I can’t help you.
Coming of age movies are often predictable and formulaic. If Lady Bird is these things, then it does a great job of dressing up its predictability in a charming movie about a girl, her dreams, and her relationship wit her mother. She’s a high school senior and spends the movie trying to figure out what direction she wants her life to take. Saoirse Ronan is amazing in the leading role, Greta Gerwig wrote and directed the film in a way that makes it feel fresh, and the whole experience is lovely.
The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)
The Adam Sandler-Netflix experiment didn’t get off to a great start. Three straight duds made me sad that money and talent were wasted on the projects. But then writer-director Noah Baumbach decided to make one with Sandler in the lead, and we all thought back to Punch-Drunk-Love, which showcased Sandler as a great dramatic actor.
As it turns out, he’s still got those chops when he wants to. The Meyerowitz Stories is about a dysfunctional family, the younger members of which struggle to live in the shadow of their father, a retired artist and professor. It’s pretty funny and a very strong drama.
Aaron Sorkin made his directorial debut with Molly’s Game, which detailed the story of Molly Bloom, an Olympic-class skier who wound up running high-stakes poker rooms after a career-ending injury. It’s a clever movie with electric dialogue—one of Sorkin’s specialties as a writer—and features another amazing performance from Jessica Chastain.
Two soldiers come back from fighting in WWII. One soldier is white, one is black. They’re coming back to Mississippi. How do you think that’ll go?
That’s one of the things that Mudbound is about—but it’s also about the way that the soldiers deal with the resulting PTSD from fighting in the war. So you have racism and PTSD as the topics, well-defined characters at the core, and a story that goes in directions you may not anticipated. Mudbound is great—and one of the best Netflix-exclusive movies we’ve had so far.
Phantom Thread feels like an old-fashioned movie. It’s about an obsessive dressmaker and his relationship with a young woman he hires to model for him. Or, more correctly, it’s about her and her relationship with him; she’s presented as the protagonist, even though it’s clear he’s the star. Whatever. The movie is an interesting watch, one where we watch this woman put up with his various idiosyncrasies in the name of art—if dressmaking is to be considered an art. It’s slowly paced and wonderfully acted and filled with gorgeous dresses.
Professor Marston and the Wonder Women
Professor Marston and the Wonder Women details both the creation of Wonder Woman—the comic book—as well as the way that society looked down upon its creator(s) and their unconventional approach to relationships. That gets more focus than the Wonder Woman part, actually, which is probably for the better. After all, you need characters for almost all great movies, and Professor Marston‘s decision to spend most of our time with them, learning about them, allows it to become a great movie.
The Shape of Water
Humans have fetishized fish creatures for centuries. Mermaids have been folklore forever. The Shape of Water flips this a little bit by making it about a human woman falling in love with fish creature. Also she’s deaf. And the movie adds a heist mission onto its love story. It’s sweet and clever and weird and smart and wonderful, and it contains a tremendous performance from Sally Hawkins.