NPR's Favorite Movies Of 2017

Dec 19, 2017
Originally published on December 28, 2017 8:25 pm

The three of us — NPR movie critic Bob Mondello, Pop Culture Happy Hour host Linda Holmes and me, a writer for the NPR Arts Desk and Pop Culture Happy Hour panelist — didn't share our lists of favorite 2017 movies with one other beforehand, so it's interesting to see us all agreeing on so many great films (The Big Sick, Call Me By Your Name, The Florida Project and Get Out).

But you'll also see films championed by just two or, in many cases, only one of us. That helps make the final list a bit more idiosyncratic than a lot of other year-end rankings out there. But it also means you might find a film or two that one of us (*cough* Linda *cough*) would never put on a list of favorites in a million years. (Three Billboards, are your ears burning?)

You might not agree that a given film belongs on this list, or we might have left your favorite off. But that's the point. Movies inspire discussion and debate, so why shouldn't end-of-year lists do the same? -- Glen

Baby Driver (Bob)

Just watch the three-minute, single-take shot where headphone-sporting heist-driver Baby (Ansel Elgort) bops down an Atlanta street, past graffiti and shop-window signs that match song lyrics he's hearing, gets coffee for his gangster buds and then heads back up the same street past different graffiti and signs that match song lyrics he's now hearing. Gorgeous, funny and verrrry Edgar (Shaun of the Dead) Wright. It took the writer/director 28 takes to get right, and it's sublime enough to make you not care (or at least not care as much) that Kevin Spacey is in the movie. -- Bob

The Big Sick (Bob, Linda and Glen)

Kumail Nanjiani plays himself in the year's most engaging romantic dramedy, which he and his wife, Emily V. Gordon (played by Zoe Kazan), based on their own meet-cute romance. The title refers to the fact that, unknown to either of them at the time, she was very ill, but that was hardly their only challenge. A clash of cultures — his folks hoping for a traditional Pakistani bride, hers (Holly Hunter and Ray Romano) taking a while to warm to him — contributes to making this one of the year's happiest treats. -- Bob

Blade Runner 2049 (Bob and Glen)

Thirty years after the events of 1982's Blade Runner, things have gotten even worse; replicants have been rebooted and upgraded, and Ryan Gosling's K — a replicant assigned to take out replicants — may or may not be in love with his AI companion. Denis Villeneuve's take on the world created by Ridley Scott is deeply thoughtful and darkly beautiful, and it's got a stronger story to tell than the original did — one that Villeneuve, bless him, proceeds to fracture and complicate to create a rich puzzle-box of a film, filled with images you won't soon forget. -- Glen

BPM (Beats Per Minute) (Bob)

An urgent French drama about AIDS activists in Paris in the early 1990s. Protease inhibitors are just being introduced — too slowly, according to the activist group ACT UP. So activists are throwing "blood"-filled balloons to disrupt government forums, tossing crematory ashes at insurance confab buffet tables and invading pharmaceutical offices. Robin Campillo's film follows Sean, a bright-eyed, boyish rabble-rouser, as he gets visibly sicker and falls for a new ACT UP member who is not HIV-positive. As the light starts to go out of Sean's eyes, the film's emotional temperature soars. (This one won the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival.) -- Bob

Call Me By Your Name (Bob, Linda and Glen)

Apricots ripen in the orchard, and romance ripens pretty much everywhere in this gorgeous, coming-of-age-in-the-'80s story penned by James Ivory (his first screenplay in 14 years). It's based on André Aciman's novel in which a 24-year-old grad student (Armie Hammer) spends a summer in Italy assisting an American professor and connecting with the prof's 17-year-old son (Timothée Chalamet). Director Luca Guadagnino's images are lush, summery, surprising (ancient statues surface in the Mediterranean as if they'd just been taking a dip); and the script will open tear ducts far more resilient than mine. Just extraordinary. -- Bob

Coco (Bob and Linda)

Pixar's film about a Mexican boy who dreams of being a musician is colorful, dreamlike, kind-hearted and moving. It's a film of enormous imagination — both in the neighborhoods of Mexico and in the Land Of The Dead, the place young Miguel winds up during the celebration of Dia de los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead. But it's also one of generosity and thoughtfulness; one that, like Inside Out, shows off Pixar's capacity to make abstract concepts like memory feel tactile and present. -- Linda

Dunkirk (Bob)

More than 300,000 Allied troops were rescued in a World War II operation so enormous most filmmakers would use strategizing generals to help audiences understand it. Writer-director Christopher Nolan wants us to experience it as the troops did, so he shoots in IMAX and tells their stories in their own time frames — a week on the beach, a day at sea, an hour in the air, all unfolding at once in a patchwork that somehow captures the shattering terror of war. Masterful visual storytelling on an epic scale. -- Bob

Ex Libris: New York Public Library (Linda)

Yes, you do want to watch a three-hour documentary about the New York Public Library. You do! Director Frederick Wiseman's latest does give you a look at the grand Manhattan building with the lions out front. It does visit with the enormous organization's leadership during searching conversations about what a 21st-century library should do. But Ex Libris is also a beautiful piece about New York City — its neighborhoods, its volunteers, its curious citizens and the little library branches where kids get help with homework. -- Linda

Faces Places (Bob)

Diminutive Agnès Varda — who, at 89, is one of only two surviving members of the French New Wave — and street artist/photographer JR, 34, make a mischievous Mutt-and-Jeff pair as they wander the French countryside in this documentary, seeking France's soul. Enchantingly, they mark their progress by taking (and pasting on buildings) gigantic portraits of the people they meet. A coal miner's daughter bursts into tears when she sees herself plastered on the front of her soon-to-be-demolished house; others burst into smiles as the soles of Varda's feet roll by, tanker-car sized, on a train. -- Bob

A Fantastic Woman (Bob)

Young transgender singer Marina (Daniela Vega) celebrates her birthday in Santiago, Chile, with her much older boyfriend, only to have him suffer an aneurysm. Doctors at a hospital can't save him; they can, however, treat Marina as a freak and a murder suspect while her boyfriend's family is even more cruel. Director Sebastián Lelio treats Marina with the same sensitivity and gives her the same abiding strength as he did the title character of his 2014 award winner Gloria. Marina is heroic, striking and charismatic — a pretty damn fantastic woman. -- Bob

The Florida Project (Bob, Linda and Glen)

Sean Baker's 2015 film Tangerine might be as famous for its low-cost production (it was shot on an iPhone) as for its stunning performances and moving story. Here, Baker has more resources to play with as he follows a 6-year-old girl who lives with her mom in a grungy motel in the shadow of Walt Disney World that often houses the very poor. Naturalistic and unforgettable, The Florida Project features a surprisingly sweet turn from Willem Dafoe as the motel manager who tries to balance enforcing the rules and acting like an on-site surrogate parent. -- Linda

Get Out (Bob, Linda and Glen)

Jordan Peele made a horror film that is also a comedy that is also a satire that is also a blistering provocation in the best way. Daniel Kaluuya as Chris, a young black man meeting the parents of his white girlfriend, captures every step of the escalation from wariness to anxiety to terror, while a brilliant supporting cast spins faster and faster around him. Seminars will be held on the mark Peele left on American cinema with a piece of work that is both timely and timeless. -- Linda

Girls Trip (Linda)

Everything a raunchy best-friends comedy should be, Girls Trip arrived in the heat of summer blessed with a crackling script from Tracy Oliver and Kenya Barris and the distilled greatness of its leads — Regina Hall, Queen Latifah, Jada Pinkett Smith and 2017's Been Around A While But Still Feels Like A Breakout Comedy Person Tiffany Haddish. The set pieces are unforgettable, the friendships are deeply felt, and the inevitable epic fight is just the right combination of wrenching, hilarious and mesmerizing. -- Linda

God's Own Country (Bob and Glen)

Yes, OK, it's about two young male ranch hands on a Yorkshire sheep farm who find each other amidst a harsh, unforgiving natural environment, but just you keep your cheap "Brokeba-a-a-a-a-ack" jokes to yourself, thank you very much. Writer/director Francis Lee's film is by turns tough and tender, as Johnny, a self-loathing Brit, warily circles the lonely, sensitive and soulful Gheorghe, a beardy Romanian whose sweater game is seriously on point. What these two find together may not be conventionally romantic, and it may not last, but it is real, and it matters, hugely, to both of them. And to us. -- Glen

The Killing Of A Sacred Deer (Glen)

Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos' second English-language film — following up last year's creepily funny The Lobster — is even darker, somehow, and returns to the theme of family, one of his favorites. Colin Farrell plays a surgeon engaged in a quasi-paternal friendship with a squirrelly young man (Barry Keoghan) for reasons cloaked in mystery, until they suddenly, and violently, aren't. Lanthimos coaxes his usual affectless, off-kilter performances from his actors, to drive home the decidedly unsettling mood he so prizes. Not a light or diverting film, but a marvelously twisted and unforgettable one. -- Glen

Lady Bird (Bob and Linda)

Greta Gerwig's directorial debut, which she also wrote, follows Lady Bird (Saoirse Ronan) through her final year of high school as she prepares to leave the home of her parents (Tracy Letts and a brilliant, uncompromising Laurie Metcalf). It beautifully captures the excitement and disappointment of teenage love stories, the heartbreak of blithely damaged friendships, and the push-pull of mothers and daughters who cannot figure out good ways to exist together or apart. -- Linda

The LEGO Batman Movie (Glen)

Will Arnett returns to voice — with a rasp that could shred hickory — everybody's favorite Extruded-Plastic Protector of Gotham. It's a kids' movie, so there's a lesson to be duly learned; in Lego Batman's case, it's to open himself to others, to risk building a family that can replace the one he lost. But what makes the movie work is how thoroughly and affectionately the producers know every historic iteration of the character, and his universe. Funny, fast, a bit too frenetic at times, but it really ... clicks. -- Glen

Logan (Bob)

In what feels like a Western, Hugh Jackman is the reluctant claw man, weather-beaten, weary and majestic as he shines up his badge one more time. His surroundings, dark and dystopic even when the sun shines brightly, make this X-Men installment feel grounded in a way most comic-book movies don't. There are stretches where it's possible to forget you're watching a superhero epic, and others where the director pulls out the ultraviolent stops on a special-effects scale that actually makes sense — not overblown and rocking city blocks, but human-sized. -- Bob

The Post (Bob)

Steven Spielberg got the script for his long-planned Pentagon Papers movie in February, rounded up Tom Hanks (as Washington Post editor-in-chief Ben Bradlee) and Meryl Streep (as Post publisher Katharine Graham), and leapt into production as if he were producing a little indie flick on the fly. Only this story is big: a political melodrama with the First Amendment at risk, a power-mad president called to account by a crusading press, and a woman who doesn't just find her voice but ... well, as Spielberg does, I should let you fill in the blanks. -- Bob

Princess Cyd (Glen)

You can see the film that Stephen Cone's small, thoughtful and searchingly kind movie could become, in someone else's hands. Certainly, the setup implies a familiar conflict: A blunt, headstrong teenage girl goes to stay with her aunt, a successful writer, for a couple weeks. But the struggle at the heart of Princess Cyd lies not in these two women's fiery clash, but in their halting but determined efforts to connect, to understand one another and realize what they both want. There's nothing didactic or self-impressed, here: As in all of Cone's films, questions of faith and queer sexuality intersect at oblique angles, such that they remain questions — sincere, deeply felt and quietly revelatory. -- Glen

The Square (Bob)

A Swedish arts-world satire about the pretensions of a cutting-edge museum director whose do-good impulses have unpredictable (which is to say, ghastly) results. There's the performance artist at a benefit who nearly rapes a dinner guest, the equestrian statue that ends up as rubble, the lovemaking interrupted by chimpanzee (about which no one says a word) and lots of other set-pieces (think of them as museum exhibits). Director Ruben Östlund (Force Majeure) makes every frame look suitable for hanging. It's a hoot — as is Elisabeth Moss , who owns that chimp. -- Bob

Star Wars: The Last Jedi (Glen)

Writer Rian Johnson jumps into the Star Wars franchise with both feet, wearing a jetpack, and delivers a rip-roaring, hugely satisfying chapter, filled everything we expect — space battles, buckled swashes, dudes in robes muttering pure hokum about the Force — and adds, believe it or not, nuanced characterization. Yes, the dualistic symbolism of the series' classic Dark Side versus Light Side beef is essential, but eight episodes in, it's about time characters' choices are no longer telegraphed by the color of their space couture. Last Jedi also leans into the franchise's wry humor, to great effect, and finds time to introduce a diverse spate of new characters who feel like they belong. -- Glen

Thor: Ragnarok (Glen)

Handing the third installment of a wildly uneven superhero sub-franchise to a director known for his quirky sense of humor and lo-fi indie vibe was a risk — but it was one that paid off for Marvel hugely. Now that we've come to know Chris Hemsworth's bluff, buff thunder-warrior, Taika Waititi got a chance to take him somewhere new — literally (a gladiator planet) and thematically (a wry, twinkling comic sensibility). There's plenty of super-powered spectacle on display — much of it gorgeous — but Thor: Ragnarok succeeds by finding the human, and the humor, in the god. (Alien.) (Whatever.) -- Glen

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (Bob)

The darkest of dark comedies, Martin McDonagh's scabrous script is smart, funny, affecting and filled with commentary on race. It feels like the sharpest Coen brothers movie the Coen brothers didn't make, possibly because it has Frances McDormand in the lead. McDonagh (In Bruges) loves to mix violence with comic patter, and in McDormand, he has found an American muse: a grieving mom who puts up the titular signs to embarrass police chief Woody Harrelson into finding her daughter's rapist/killer. Doesn't sound like a laugh riot? Well, wait'll you hear what the stars (including Sam Rockwell and Peter Dinklage) do with the dialogue. -- Bob

Whose Streets? (Bob)

This wrenching street-level documentary tells the story of how Ferguson, Mo., became a near-war zone in the days after the killing of Michael Brown. It eschews voice-overs, police interviews and news footage to rely almost entirely on the words and stories of black residents who felt their neighborhood was being invaded. "We're trying to mourn, and you came here with 300 cop cars and riot gear and canine units," says a local activist. Cellphone video documents that assertion, accompanied by the palpable sorrow in voices and visages. -- Bob

Wonder Woman (Glen)

Forget that lackluster third-act battle with a CGI-enhanced Ares (wait, I don't have to tell you to forget it? You already have?), and focus on the big picture: Patty Jenkins made a superhero movie that featured an honest-to-Hera hero: hopeful, inspiring and selfless. Gal Gadot imbued the Amazing Amazon with a steel spine and beating heart, and Allan Heinberg's script set her loose in World War I. As a result, millions of women with no interest in superheroes got a chance to watch a fully realized version of themselves kicking butt for justice, and many understood (maybe for the first time?) what all us nerdy dudes have been going on about, all these years. -- Glen

Your Name (Bob)

What initially seems like a bright, funny body-switching rom-com about two teens — a Tokyo high school boy and a country girl a few years younger — turns into a darker, more affecting story in Makoto Shinkai's adaptation of his own novel. The writer-director provides gorgeous images and pop songs to augment a harrowing survival tale that blends elements of Japan's recent real-life nuclear reactor meltdown with the last reel of the disaster movie Deep Impact ... plus time travel. In short, it's anime doing what anime does best. -- Bob

Nicole Cohen produced this story.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.