In a world of Michael Bays and Christopher Nolans, we seem to expect the film with the most gargantuan budget to yield an indisputable win when award season comes. While Get Out and Wonder Woman stand out among the marvelous releases this year, many others get shoved under the rug of cluttered screenplays, book adaptations, and indie directors. With the dawn of a new year, it is crucial we do not leave remarkable – and underrated – films in 2017’s shadow.
Battle of the Sexes dir. Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris
What it’s about: In a retelling of the iconic 1973 tennis match, Emma Stone and Steve Carell portray legends Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs, respectively, as King fights to prove the merit of female players in a male-dominated industry.
Why you should watch it: Aside from its wonderful composition and perfectly aged setup, Battle of the Sexes serves as a perfect vintage film that accurately translates a message that is still significant today: unequal pay. As Stone’s best performance since Birdman (2014), and Carrell’s accurate fulfillment of the ying to her yang, this film is a glorious blend between a comedic biopic and social commentary.
The Killing of a Sacred Deer dir. Yorgos Lanthimos
What it’s about: In this ominous thriller, things go awry after a practicing surgeon befriends the son of a patient who passed during a procedure.With a family of four, Steven Murphy (Colin Farrell) has a lot to lose after a dark prophecy demands to be fulfilled.
Why you should watch it: Beyond keeping you on your toes from start to finish, The Killing of a Sacred Deer wistfully portrays the horror behind making inalterable decisions. The obscurity of this film alone lands it a spot on my collection of favorite psychological thrillers. Nicole Kidman’s performance was spectacularly reminiscent of her starring role in the 2001 horror flick The Others.
Ingrid Goes West dir. Matt Spicer
What it’s about: In this dark comedy, Aubrey Plaza takes on the role of Ingrid Thorburn – a former psych ward patient with an addiction to social media and its many curators. With a fortune in insurance money from her ill mother’s death, Ingrid finds a new blogger on which to hyperfixate and she only has one goal: to be her best friend.
Why you should watch it: Not only is Aubrey Plaza the unofficial queen of turning social tactlessness into comedy, but Ingrid Goes West beautifully satirizes the exploitation of materialism in a post-Instagram world. Alongside it’s marvelous West Coast visuals and hilarious yet intriguing plot, this film remains a diamond in the rough.
Good Time dir. Josh and Benny Safdie
What it’s about: After a failed robbery lands Nick Nikas (Benny Safdie) in Riker’s Island prison, his brother Connie Nikas (Robert Pattinson), concocts a dangerously desperate plan to save his mentally ill sibling.
Why you should watch it: Practically cursed by his role in the Twilight saga, Robert Pattinson redeems himself among this generation’s actors to watch following his performance in the Safdies’ film. With its adrenaline-pumping score and visuals, Good Time is the perfectly crafted manifestation of a panic attack – in a good way.
Loving Vincent dir. Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman
What it’s about: After the son of a postman receives the task of delivering a letter addressed to Theo van Gogh, he sets out to learn more on its mysterious sender – Theo’s late brother Vincent.
Why you should watch it: Depicted entirely in animated oil paintings reminiscent of Van Gogh’s style, directors Kobiela and Welchman beautifully portray the iconic artist in his best and worst moments. Getting caught up in its raw storytelling and glorious artwork, I found myself moved to tears by Loving Vincent.
The Big Sick dir. Michael Showalter
What it’s about: With pressure from his parents to agree on an arranged marriage and a girlfriend in a medically-induced coma, Kumail (Kumail Nanjiani) must navigate these perils all while attempting to jumpstart a career in comedy.
Why you should watch it: As one of the only comedies receiving Oscar buzz in 2017, The Big Sick masterfully blends the severity of complicated family ties, interracial dating and life-threatening illnesses with magnificent screenwriting and light-hearted jokes.
Columbus dir. Kogonada
What it’s about: Two worlds collide in Columbus, Indiana when a Korean translator, whose father becomes hospitalized, meets a young adult putting her life on hold to help her mother cope with addiction.
Why you should watch it: In a beautiful depiction of day-to-day life, Kogonada crams the themes of architecture, family, career goals and loneliness into skillful composition with a dazzling score and awe-inspiring landscapes.
I, Tonya dir. Craig Gillespie
What it’s about: In a retelling of the case of an infamous Olympic figure skater, Margot Robbie takes on the role of Tonya Harding to set the record straight on the assault of fellow competitor, Nancy Kerrigan.
Why you should watch it: With a shot at being named the best biopic released this year, Margot Robbie’s performance in conjunction with supporting actor, Sebastian Stan, makes this film a masterpiece. Known for his gift of turning bad pitches into good movies, Gillespie’s creative take on storytelling gives the biopic genre a new grade.
Call Me By Your Name dir. Luca Guadagnino
What it’s about: In the summer of 1983, Call Me By Your Name tells the passionate story of a first love sprung in Northern Italy between a young adult and his family’s temporary house guest.
Why you should watch it: As my personal pick for the best film of 2017, Call Me By Your Name offers so much more than just a summer fling. Instead it is a tale of maturity, love, desire and hope, all intertwined with some of the most breathtaking visuals I have seen since The Neon Demon, with the cinematography capturing the audience with beautifully chaotic images. With breakout actor Timothee Chalamet already winning awards for his performance, this movie warrants a viewing.
Lady Bird dir. Greta Gerwig
What it’s about: Living out her year under her parents’ roof, Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson, a too-eccentric-for-her-own-good teen enduring a world of growing pains in Sacramento, figures out her future among waves of self-realization and short-lived relationships.
Why you should watch it: Lady Bird has already claimed Rotten Tomatoes’ spot for best-reviewed movie in the website’s history: firmly remaining at a 100% rating even after 196 logged reviews. Though I have only experienced the film once, I cannot help but agree. The seemingly-banal tale of a high school senior in her last months at home has been told and retold a thousand times over, but there is a hidden mastery in both the writing and cinematography of Lady Bird that makes it too painfully relatable to sift in with the others.