Why I Did Not Make a (Real) Cinematic Top Ten List in 2017


Not too long ago I got an email asking from a reader saying that he’d discovered a fair amount of entertainment through my writing and wondered if I was going to write a top ten list for music or film for 2017. 

I posted a fake 2017 top ten list positing 2011’s Albert Nobbs as the ten best films I’d seen but I honestly didn’t think of writing a real cinematic top ten list even if 2017 was the first year since I stopped being a film critic in 2015 that I’d seen a fair number of new movies, almost exclusively due to my partner Clint Worthington suggesting we talk about new movies on our podcast Nathan Rabin’s Happy Cast. 

Even then, I didn’t really think of doing a genuine cinematic top ten list despite knowing what monsters they are, page-view-wise. I didn’t think of doing a top ten list because, for starters, I am no longer a film critic. I’m a civilian, and people generally aren’t all that interested in the top ten lists of non-critics unless they’re famous for both making AND loving movies, like Quentin Tarantino or John Waters. 

It’s a a good thing I wasn’t more invested in my identity as a professional film critic, because if I was the fact that I have become completely unemployable in a field I worked in for eighteen years might bum me out a little. Might be a little discouraging, even. 

I always felt ambivalent about the list-making process when I was a professional film critic. It seemed like arbitrary, perfunctory bullshit to spend your year trying to ascertain which utterly divergent works of art are better than other works of art. But it was part of my job so I did it anyway. Similarly, it seems like bullshit to give ratings to art, but Goddamn if I did not find myself automatically grading movies as soon as The A.V. Club instituted a rating system. And there is undoubtedly value in highlighting films, or albums, or books that might otherwise be overlooked and underrated in top ten lists. 

While I loved getting screeners of all the year’s big releases, I invariably rebelled against the whole system by almost never watching the big, serious, important FILMS my editors insisted we all needed to watch before making our lists, choosing instead to watch mediocre-looking garbage. You know, like movies written and directed by Josh Radnor. 

The wonderful thing about Nathan Rabin’s Happy Place is that I don’t have to do the arbitrary, mercenary, bullshit stuff I would have to do if I were a staff writer for literally any other site on the internet. To me, that includes the half-savored, half-regretted process of having to assemble top ten lists for music and film every year. 


That said, if you guys are really that interested in an arbitrary list of what I dug most over the course of a twelve month period, let me know and maybe I’ll make a top five list for films in 2018 and make it a Patreon exclusive because while I enjoy not having to do what everyone else does, I do want to make you happy, and it sure seems like a lot of you love top ten lists, despite their innate flaws. I used to be one of those people, but not any more. 

Support Nathan Rabin’s Happy Place and, who knows, get to read my thrilling top ten list over at https://www.patreon.com/nathanrabinshappyplace