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The 20 Best Film Scenes of 2017

The 20 Best Film Scenes of 2017


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In a key scene from Marjorie Prime, a woman explains to her husband that memory functions like a copy of a copy, accessing one’s recollection of an event rather than the event itself. We might say that recalling films works in a similar way: As viewers, we remember a film through scenes and moments that help us to bring the full scope of the film into focus. From the young terrorist in Nocturama happening upon a mannequin in a department store wearing his exact outfit, to the set piece in The Square where an artist’s performance as an ape terrorizes a group of bourgeois patrons of the art, these instances can either be brief or extended expressions of a filmmaker’s big ideas. And whatever their length or scope, the 20 scenes on this list will likely be taking up prime real estate within our collective memories for years to come. Clayton Dillard

Alien: Covenant, Fingering the Flute

Ridley Scott’s recent Alien films are triumphs of visual grammar wrapped in silly, bombastic creation myths, and nowhere is that strange brew more cohesive or potent than in what the Hollywood Reporter described as a “possibly homoerotic” scene from Alien: Covenant where Michael Fassbender’s deviant android, David, teaches the more advanced, docile synthetic Walter (also Fassbender) to play a hymn on a flute. “Watch me. I’ll do the fingering,” David says as the two are cocooned in a golden cave, lit by a paper lantern and surrounded by Giger-esque creature drawings. It’s an indelible wind-up to a smooch for the ages. Christopher Gray

Baby Driver, “Never, Never Gonna Give Ya Up”

Edgar Wright’s mixtape of a film Baby Driver left some wishing there had been a different DJ, but we have to give him and Baby (Ansel Elgort) credit, as there’s nothing like cueing up the right track for the right moment. Or, in the one instance where Baby’s own fastidious playlist fails him, the wrong moment. Baby, a knight in white earbuds, arrives at the diner where his damsel in distress (Lily James) is waiting. After hitting play on Barry White’s luxuriant “Never, Never Gonna Give Ya Up,” Jon Hamm’s unexpectedly persistent hood pops up to tensely turn the beat around. From seduction to showdown, Baby Driver is never more fleet on its feet. Eric Henderson

The 20 Best Film Scenes of 2017

Blade Runner 2049, Caught in a Trap

Over a hundred minutes deep into Blade Runner 2049, Ryan Gosling’s K is just moseying through the amber-colored ruins of Agent Deckard’s (Harrison Ford) Las Vegas retirement villa. After a good five minutes of near-silence, their long-awaited confrontation is emphatically dwarfed by its surroundings: frenetic strobe lighting, half-moon banquettes, haunting echoes, and a glitchy Elvis hologram stuck in the middle of “Suspicious Minds.” It’s odd to be so taken with a scene whose ambience is so superficially dazzling that its rather pivotal content (a shootout that’s meant to be the film’s emotional apex up to this point) is rendered utterly forgettable, but few films have ever encouraged this mode of viewing with more success than Blade Runner 2049. Gray

The 20 Best Film Scenes of 2017

BPM (Beats Per Minute), A River Runs Red

Compositionally, many of the exterior scenes from Robin Campillo’s BPM (Beats Per Minute), from marches to shock demonstrations, exude a constricted feeling, which has the unintended effect of diminishing the scope of what the characters resist: the seeming totality of a city turning its back on the undesirable. And, indeed, it’s precisely the jolt of recognition, specificity, and expansiveness that defines a powerful sequence that transitions from scenes of protest and subsequent dancing, all set to Bronski Beat’s “Smalltown Boy,” that most iconic of songs about traditional culture’s rejection of the homosexual, and an overhead shot of the Seine’s waters running red, almost as a punishment, with the blood of AIDS victims. Ed Gonzalez

Call Me by Your Name, “I Wanted You to Know”

In Luca Guadagnino’s Call Me by Your Name, Elio (Timothée Chalamet) and Oliver’s (Armie Hammer) stroll around a World War II monument situated in a small Italian town’s piazza is the impetus for a confession that will forever change their lives. While Elio talks about his feelings for Oliver in the abstract, the latter directly addresses the reason why Elio is opening his heart up to him. “Because I wanted you to know,” Elio says to Oliver, then over and over again to himself, with a mixture of surprise and relief that he even said the words aloud in the first place. Fittingly for a film that uses the body as a coded form of communication, the camera remains at a distance so as to showcase the body language between the soon-to-be lovers. Throughout this elegantly composed and blocked single take, history attests just as strongly to Elio’s emotional catharsis as the young man’s own words. Wes Greene