Auggie Pullman is a fifth-grade boy living in Manhattan who suffers from Treacher Collins Syndrome, a rare genetic disorder that results in deformities of one’s facial features. Homeschooled for his entire life, Auggie enters public school for the first time for middle school, where he experiences the ups and downs of friendship and struggles to find his place in the school community.
Wonder was adapted from the best-selling novel and is a winning drama about being so markedly different from other kids and the difficulties those that have physical abnormalities face in trying to fit in. While not the biggest film of the year, or even one with the most mainstream appeal, this sentimental, well-acted film has been very well received by critics, receiving a rare “A+” on CinemaScore.
7. Atomic Blonde
A distaff James Bond, Atomic Blonde made a surprising splash in theatres when it was released in the summer of 2017. Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron) is a top MI6 agent sent to Berlin in the final days of the Cold War to recover a microfilm that reveals the intelligence agents of both sides. Plunged into a world of action and espionage, Broughton races against the clock before the list is sold to the highest bidder and the world’s intelligence offices are thrown into upheaval.
Atomic Blonde smartly gender-flips conventions of the spy genre, offering audiences a female-driven action film while appealing to a large demographic that had long been neglected in this regard.
Featuring slick action sequences, including impressive fight choreography, although Atomic Blonde only received fair reviews by critics audiences turned out to support this film, eventually garnering a $100 million box office on a budget of $30 million. While a familiar story—a spy film set in Eastern Europe during the Cold War—Atomic Blonde reinvents this and reinvigorates the spy picture by placing a female action hero front and center.
8. Dave Made a Maze
Dave is a failed artist who builds a cardboard fort in the living room of his apartment one weekend while his girlfriend is out of town. When she returns, she finds the seemingly small fort and hears Dave inside, but he says he’s lost and that it’s much bigger than it looks. How big is revealed when his girlfriend assembles a team of their friends to enter the maze (although “labyrinth” is a much more accurate name for it) to rescue Dave. Along the way, they come across booby traps, a seemingly endless interior, and a minotaur that roams the cardboard passages.
Dave Made a Maze is one of the most unique films of the year, a quirky handmade comedy/goofy horror film that creates a literal world out of cardboard and stop motion effects. While some may find both the concept and the delivery of the material a little too twee, it’s also a wildly innovative film that fans of creative, Michel Gondry-like effects will enjoy. Though not for everyone, the right audience will enjoy it, just as hand-picked as this Dave Made a Maze was handmade.
9. Wind River
In winter on the Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming, a US Fish and Wildlife Service agent discovers the frozen body of a young woman, who is without shoes, winter attire, and a blood-stained groin. A rookie FBI agent arrives to determine whether this was murder. The young woman’s boyfriend is found the next day dead, nude, and having been ravaged by wildlife. The Wildlife Service agent reveals to the FBI agent that his own daughter had been murdered similarly three years earlier, and their joint investigation reveals that nearby hard-living oil rig workers may be responsible for the spate of murders.
Keeping the focus on the underreported problem of missing and endangered Native American women, this character-driven mystery is a thriller that features outstanding writing and acting and a story worth investing in. This neo-Western murder mystery was critically well-received and a relative box office hit, and for fans of chilly, intense thrillers will find in this one of the best of the year.
10. The Florida Project
The Magic Castle motel is a cheap, rundown, and inexpensive place where transients, the poor, and the despondent live. But it’s also the small kingdom of a group of young children who have befriended each other and aren’t yet old enough to realize the diminished circumstances in which they live. Although they’re so close to the Happiest Place on Earth, there’s no way their parents could ever afford to take them there—so a group of little kids make their own Magic Kingdom in the balconies, swimming pools, and hallways of the motels they inhabit.
Never becoming too cutesy or cloying but depicting the lives of young children living on the edge of poverty without making them out to be objects of pity, The Florida Project instead depicts how the innocence and imagination of children can turn even a bad situation into something a little magical. It’s one of the best films of the year and one that will appeal to almost any film fan.
Author Bio: Mike Gray is a writer whose work has appeared on a number of websites and maintains a TV and film site at MeLikeMovies.com.