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The 10 best movies to see at the 2017 New York Film Festival

Catch the cream of this year’s edition—heartbreaking indies and foreign sensations—before awards season heats up

Call Me by Your Name
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Drawing on the finest that world cinema has to offer, the cherry-picked New York Film Festival is the most elegantly curated film showcase of the year. This year’s 55th annual event is no exception: Sundance and Cannes favorites jostle with some high-profile world premieres in a lineup of 25 “main slate” features. We’ve scoured the list and put in the viewing hours to suggest these ten titles, the best of the bunch. Check out our interviews with The Florida Project’s Willem Dafoe and Call Me by Your Name’s Michael Stuhlbarg but most of all, see these movies.

RECOMMENDED: Full coverage of the New York Film Festival

Best movies at NYFF 2017

1
120 Beats Per Minute
Movies, Drama

BPM (Beats Per Minute)

Alive with political rage, Robin Campillo’s drama re-creates the early ’90s intensity of Paris’s local chapter of ACT UP, a group mostly composed of HIV-positive men who threw themselves into the fight even as their health was fading. We see them strategizing, interrupting fancy galas, making themselves loud and proud, and getting results. BPM is fascinating on this wonky level alone (all activists should check it out), so when it plunges into one achingly personal love affair, the experience becomes devastating. Showtimes and tickets

2
Movies, Romance

Call Me by Your Name

Essentially, the function of a great film festival is to take you somewhere else—hopefully somewhere fabulous—and Luca Guadagnino’s Sundance-approved drama does that like no other movie this year: We’re in one of those leisurely sun-dappled Italian summers, where tantalizing plates of food are passed between exotic guests. This is also the summer in which young Elio (an extraordinary Timothée Chalamet) comes out, ever so slightly. Showtimes and tickets

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3
Caniba

Caniba

This recommendation comes with a big, fat asterisk next to it: You will be repulsed by this documentary. Sickened. Don’t plan dinner before or after your screening. Hell, don’t even plan breakfast the next morning. Made by Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Verena Paravel (the geniuses behind such experimental profiles as 2012’s fishing-trawler-set Leviathan), Caniba immerses you—with alarming bodily proximity—into the life of Issei Sagawa, convicted of killing and eating a Sorbonne classmate in 1981. Per the filmmakers’ oblique methods, we get the story in dribs and drabs, but to be so close to that mouth is one of the year’s most electrifying dares. Showtimes and tickets

4
Faces Places

Faces Places

For decades, France’s revered Agnès Varda has made lovely docu-essays about photography, memory and the concerns of working people. Her latest, directed in conjunction with Banksy-like street artist JR (an irrepressibly energetic and sweet presence, bounding around in his Stan Smiths), chronicles the installation of several frisky, large-scale public art projects, with tangents into Varda’s own history and even a visit to Jean-Luc Godard’s house. Showtimes and tickets

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5
The Florida Project

The Florida Project

Following up his inspired Tangerine, indie wunderkind Sean Baker continues his celebration of communities on the margins. This time his gaze falls on the rambunctious, largely unsupervised children who live in a ratty motel on the outskirts of Disney World. Even as single parents struggle to make the rent, these kids dream big in a movie that vibrates with compassion and energy. Anchoring it is Willem Dafoe as the building’s manager and Christ-like guardian; the role should be his Oscar ticket. Showtimes and tickets

6
Lady Bird
Movies, Comedy

Lady Bird

Greta Gerwig’s semiautobiographical comedy is miraculously free of the usual coming-of-age quirk; the star of Frances Ha is only behind the camera this time, writing and directing, but she’s clearly arrived at a kind of wisdom via distance. Dominating the lens with peerless openness is Brooklyn’s Saoirse Ronan, who brings to life the movie’s free-spirited title character, a suburban Californian aching to leave home and bond with her fantasy of East Coast artiness. Before then, though, she’s got some last-summer-before-college tensions (romantic and otherwise) to transition through. You will recognize this moment. Showtimes and tickets

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7
Last Flag Flying

Last Flag Flying

In all of American filmmaking, there’s no director more relaxed than Richard Linklater, whose long-game process has resulted in such exquisite triumphs as Boyhood and the “Before” trilogy. His new movie, a semi-sequel to Hal Ashby’s 1973 The Last Detail, starring Bryan Cranston, Laurence Fishburne and an unusually quiet Steve Carell, dives intimately into the nuances of soldiering, parental grief and pride in a country that doesn’t deserve it. Showtimes and tickets

8
The Meyerowitz Stories
Movies, Comedy

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)

Noah Baumbach has become so expert at mining a certain brainy dissatisfaction, it’s easy to underrate how wise his films have become. His latest, a penetrating under-dad’s-shadow film, is in the same league as The Squid and the Whale but an evolution, too. As semi-estranged adult brothers, Adam Sandler and Ben Stiller have never been better, but the real star is the script, with sharp dialogue like “You were both such middle-aged men in the making.” Showtimes and tickets

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9
The Square
Movies, Drama

The Square

A vicious art-world satire, Ruben Östlund’s Cannes-winning comedy scores points against the fictional staffers of a Swedish contemporary art museum—especially its chief curator, a stylish nincompoop who gracelessly opens several cans of worms. (Brace for Elisabeth Moss of The Handmaid’s Tale as a nightmarish sexual conquest.) The movie is a brutal takedown of moneyed self-entitlement, with humor that sneaks up on you, as it did with Östlund’s Force Majeure. Showtimes and tickets

10
Zama

Zama

Argentina’s Lucrecia Martel dives into churning internal fury with this demanding but rewarding watch. On the surface, it’s an 18th-century period piece about an insulted Spanish colonial officer (Daniel Giménez Cacho) who seethes at every snub, perceived or imaginary. The material derives from a celebrated 1956 novel, but Martel’s red-faced close-ups of her leading man—scored to a plummeting synthesizer score straight out of Scarface—edge the movie into comic territory. And we haven’t even mentioned the llama yet. If you’re an adventurous viewer, this one’s your jam. Showtimes and tickets

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