Our minds are screening rooms, equipped with a projector, able to play what we have experienced over and over. I have thousands of such scenes locked forever in my mind, and each year a few more are added. These are the scenes that have lodged their way into the landscape of my mind for 2017. Often I think of them, play the details over in my mind reminding me of the first time I saw the film. They are each in their own way, magnificent. Here is the list of top movie scenes of 2017.
15. The opening, ‘Hostiles’
One of the darkest openings to a film I have ever experienced. The west, in the 1880’s, a family works their homestead, the father Outside, the mother indoors, the children running about helping both. Suddenly their homestead is attacked by a group of marauding natives who slaughter all but the mother. It is startling to see the children murdered, more so to see the infant killed, all of this nightmare searing itself into the forever more haunted mind of Rosamund Pike. Unforgettable.
14. The hypnotism sequence, ‘Get Out’
Listen as she stirs her tea, the silver spoon clinking against the china cup, watch his stunning reaction as it overtakes his entire being. Tears pour down his cheeks as he let’s go of what and who he is and sinks into submission. All the while she stares at him, as though gazing into his very soul. Haunting and frightening.
13. The opening, ‘Lady Bird’
A brilliant film. It opens with a great scene between mother and daughter, and builds to the point of the daughter throwing herself from the moving car. Shocking, it defines their relationship for us. Later in the film they bicker in a dress store, nattering, snapping until they find the perfect dress at which point all arguing is forgotten, and they admire the perfect dress.
12. Caeser is wounded, ‘War for the Planet of the Apes’
In the final film in this trilogy, war comes to the Planet and the film feels like Apocalypse Now (1979) at times. Andy Serkis, magnificent as Caesar is badly wounded towards the end of the film, but like Moses watches the Apes find their new home in a valley with a beautiful lake. Watch his eyes, those beautiful wise eyes as he realizes he has brought them home. They need to give the man an Oscar for his genius in motion capture performance.
11. The charge of Wonder Woman, ‘Wonder Woman’
Wonder Woman charges through the hell of no man’s land, drawing enemy fire, deflecting it all, displaying to all for the first time her compassion, kindness, powers and the wonders she is capable of. The sheer confidence of the performance of Gal Gadot, the powerful direction of Patti Jenkins elevate this to so much more than a superhero film.
10. The fire, ‘Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri’
In the immediate moments following a fire which has been set in the police station, Dixon (Sam Rockwell), who has broken into the building after being fired is caught and badly burned in the blaze. Yet he searches madly for a file he needs to solve the case of a young woman raped and murdered. When he dives through the window in flames, in some way the flames have purified him, made him a better person.
9. Interrogation, ‘Detroit’
The frightening terrorizing of a group of young black men and two white girls by racist cops in Detroit. Will Poulter is the eye of the hurricane, a performance seething with hatred and menace, something so terrifying and ugly we want away from it. Directed with claustrophobic genius by Kathryn Bigelow. Poulter is unsettling throughout the film, a powder keg of danger who in the scenes in the hotel, explodes.
8. The City, ‘Blade Runner 2049’
Just about any single scene in which the exquisite Cinematography of Roger Deakins stands out, which in essence is the entire film. However to keep with choosing one, the reveal of what the city has become thirty years after the first film. Just a stunning moment revealing dark skies, towering buildings with the skies around them cluttered with flying crafts, and massive holograms that seem to everywhere. Just hand Deakins the damned Oscar already.
7. Caught inside the basement of ship, ‘Dunkirk’
The sequences on the beach are breathtaking, the scene in the ship as Nazi bullets tear through the metal, the army of small crafts making their way to Dunkirk are magnificent, but the air battles are truly astonishing. Behind his mask, Tom Hardy is superb as a nerves of steel fighter pilot clearing a path for the small boats headed for Dunkirk. For the first time in film history we get a sense of what it is to be a fighter pilot, the speed with which they move, the speed with which they can be attacked and suddenly, imperiled.
6. Who dies?, ‘The Killing of the Sacred Deer’
Such a strange film this is, yet undeniable in its visceral power. A surgeon, portrayed by Colin Farrell has befriended the son of a patient he lost on his table, an odd and sometimes strange relationship. When the good doctors children take ill, the boy invites his friend to the cafeteria where he explains because his father was killed, the doctor must lose a family member, but the boy will only make them ill, the doctor must decide who dies. Filled with dread and an impending sense of doom, it is a horror film for the ages, beautifully acted by the entire cast.
5. The Choice, ‘The Post’
It is late at night, in the wee hours of the morning and the lawyers for The Washington Post have gathered in the home of their owner Katherine Graham, portrayed with quiet authority by Meryl Streep. They are there to talk her out of running classified government documents which confirm the lies the government has been telling the American public about the war in Viet Nam for decades. Knowing publishing the papers could ruin her and her paper, she must decide if the people have a right to know the absolute truth about what their President and government is doing. Sound familiar? Sounds like, dare I say, now? A true story, it happened in 1971. Streep is superb, Tom Hanks excellent as her editor Ben Bradlee. Oscar bound.
4. The Climax, ‘Call Me by Your Name’
Has there ever been a finer scene between father and son than the one at the end of this film between Michael Stuhlbarg’s father and Timothee Chamalet’s heartbroken son? The gifted character actor Stuhlbarg, owns the scene talking to his son about love, acknowledging his son is homosexual, acknowledging equally he does not care, so long as the experiences love and kindness and never bankrupts himself emotionally. The scene left me in tears, and awe. All fathers should be so accepting. The goodness and purity in the sincerity with what he is saying will sear their way into your brain for all of time. Both actors give a textbook study of listening to the other, utterly astounding. Your heart will fill with love for the actor.
3. You’ll Never Know, ‘The Shape of Water’
In a bold, breathtaking fantasy sequence within this majestic fantasy film, mute Eliza begins cautiously to sing “You’ll Never Know” growing in confidence as her voice explodes with power.nthen in a dance number, reminiscent of the great Astaire-Rogers films, she and the creature dance about the film set, she is a beautiful dance gown, he in a classy tux. As the song winds down reality catches up, and she is mute again, professing her love with actions, looks and touch. Watching the scene unfold you begin to worry that it might be too out there, but audiences go with it, allow it to wash over them and are enveloped in pure rapture.
2. The freedom, ‘The Florida Project’
Faced with being taken from her mother, from the entire and only world she has ever known, six-year-old Moonee (Brooklynn Prince) breaks free from Child Protection Services and runs to her best friends hotel room, where they too live in poverty. Barely able to speak, the huge tears spill down her cheeks as she chokes out what is happening. We watch her friend watch her meltdown, thinking, gathering the courage, the strength to do what she knows she must, until suddenly she grabs her hand and they take flight. Heartbreaking, shattering and agonizing all at once.
1. The climax, ‘The Shape of Water’
(SPOILERS) The breathtaking end of the film where the creature has rescued a dying Elisa, diving underwater, swimming around her in joy. Then gently he touches her, altering and healing her at the same moment, kissing her deeply. As in all fairy tales they will live happily ever after…under the sea. Declared a God just moments before by the evil monster portrayed with arrogant menace by Michael Shannon, the creature proves himself to be just that, healing himself, then his love. Watch closely because people miss it…watch the scars on her neck. In a wondrous film of astonishing enchantment, this was the finest scene, though by no means the only great one.
Read More: Best Movies of 2017