Written by Aaron Radcliff:
It’s hard to believe that 2017 is almost over, but alas we have reached that time. This was a tumultuous year to say the least thanks to societal conflicts, widespread misconduct scandals, and the price of milk continuing to rise. But before we put a bag over 2017’s head and bury it in a shallow grave, we have to take a moment and reflect on the good things and the film industry graced us with quite a few good films.
This is MY list of the 20 best films in 2017 based on my level of enjoyment plus the quality of the movie. Obviously my list will be different from yours, but I still want to hear what your best films were (also, since I only began this blog a few months ago, much of this list will consist of movies I don’t have reviews for):
20. Spider-Man: Homecoming
The brief look we got of Tom Holland as the web-slinger back in Civil War was brief but enjoyable. Thankfully, that brief glimpse translated well to the first feature length film with the newest iteration of Spider-Man. It brought the humor of the Andrew Garfield version and the hero’s choice conundrum faced in the Tobey Maguire version. Holland plays a relatable and adorkable Peter Parker and gives the MCU a bright future going into the climax of Phase 3 and beyond.
I made it clear when I reviewed Coco just how good it was. Pixar really hit it out of the park with this film, presenting a profound exploration of death, the afterlife, and family. The animation is top notch and this is certainly the most colorful and beautiful film in Pixar’s recent outings, if not their entire filmography. Add on a memorable, toe-tapping soundtrack and you have one of the best films EVER put out by Pixar…too bad you have to sit through that damn Frozen mini-movie first.
18. Battle of the Sexes
Emma Stone and Steve Carell take the lead in this biopic about the famous 1973 tennis match between Bobby Riggs and Billie Jean King. What could’ve been a film focused purely on the match instead builds up the history of the time and the lives of the two famed athletes. We see the changes brought forth in women’s tennis, King’s affair and struggle to hide her sexuality, and Riggs’ struggle with gambling and desire to always be the center of attention. Both characters become sympathetic, even though we’re clearly meant to side with King. Emma Stone’s portrayal of King is one to be seen and is a performance even better than what she did in La La Land (and we all know how well that turned out for her). Battle of the Sexes is a touching drama that encapsulates the struggles of the times and mimics current viewpoints in society.
17. War for the Planet of the Apes
The latest Planet of the Apes trilogy has been absolutely incredible. Each film manages to improve on the last while also maintaining their own identity. We’ve seen tastes of violence but a more philosophical take on events in the prior movies, but now, all bets are off. The action is engaging and intense at times and the characters (even the bad ones) have their moments of being sympathetic. While there is possibly enough story left to tell, I think that trying to milk the series any more would only be a detriment. War was a fantastic end to a fantastic trilogy.
16. All the Money in the World
After the sexual assault allegations against Kevin Spacey came out, the future of Ridley Scott’s biopic about the abduction of John Paul Getty III was in trouble. Instead of shelving the project or taking more time to plan things out, Scott said, “Damn the torpedoes,” and pulled off an incredible feat. He called in veteran actor Christopher Plummer and reshot all of the J.P. Getty scenes in roughly a week and a half and had the film in theaters with just a minor change to its release date. Admittedly there are some scenes where it was obvious there was a reshoot, but for the most part, everything came together flawlessly. Michelle Williams is superb as Gail Getty, but the lion’s share of my praise goes to Plummer. To come in on such short notice and perform the role of a slimey, unlikable son of a bitch like J.P. Getty so well at his age is a testament to his talent. I haven’t loved hating a character this much in a long time. I only wish there were more scenes with Plummer.
15. Lost City of Z
Much has been made over the last year or so about the quality of content coming from Netflix, but Amazon has been doing a fine job themselves. Lost City of Z continues Amazon’s trend of quality films, this time focusing on the life of famed explorer Percy Fawcett and his, for lack of a better word, addiction to exploring the Amazon in the hopes of finding and proving the existence of advanced civilizations hidden somewhere in the depths of the jungle. Charlie Hunnam is great in the role of Fawcett and Robert Pattinson continues to show he’s actually a good actor and that what we saw from the Twilight movies is nowhere close to what he’s actually been capable of.
14. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
A critical darling when it first came out, Three Billboards is Martin McDonagh’s best film since 2008’s In Bruges. An overarching point in this movie is that you don’t always get the results or answers you want despite all the effort you put in, and that’s reflected in the ending. Every character is portrayed as neither all good or all bad, but with flaws that they try to overcome (even the biggest “bad guy” eventually gets his redemption). An enjoyable film with some deliciously dark humor, Three Billboards is definitely worth checking out.
13. Wonder Woman
Gal Gadot’s turn as Princess Diana of Themyscira was (by many accounts) one of the only bright spots in Batman v. Superman and her full-length movie showed that she wasn’t a flash in the pan. The news of Wonder Woman getting her first live action feature film has been a source of empowerment for women and girls the world over, and the movie delivered in spades. While the third act and villain were admittedly weak, the overall film was a damn fine superhero movie. Action packed, witty, and sleek, Wonder Woman gave the DCEU the kick in the pants it needed. Here’s hoping the sequel will continue as planned and will be just as good.
Talk about a divisive movie. Darren Aronofsky’s mother! was certainly a movie that got people talking. Some liked the allegory and the imagery, others thought it was heavy-handed and deplored the violence against women it portrayed. I haven’t found anybody who was down-the-middle with their opinion. They either loved it or hated it. But one thing’s for sure: Words alone will struggle to describe it. You simply have to see it for yourself and decide.
If you remember back to #15, I mentioned how Netflix and Amazon have done a very good job recently in making their own films, and Mudbound has to be up there with Beasts of No Nation as one of the company’s best. Set in post-World War 2 Mississippi, Mudbound tells the story of two families, one white and one black, as they struggle to make ends meet and deal with the struggles of racial and income inequalities while members of each family form a bond in their struggles with PTSD. At times touching and at others infuriating, at points gentle and others brutal, Mudbound unflinchingly reflects Southern life during times of great racial tension while showing parallels to modern times.
10. The Shape of Water
We finally reach the Top 10 and we’re starting off strong. The Shape of Water may have usurped Pan’s Labyrinth as Guillermo del Toro’s magnum opus. Never would I have thought that a woman falling in love with a fish monster would be one of the most touching love stories in years, but here we are. Nothing in this movie goes to waste and everything serves a purpose. And who would’ve thought that a character that doesn’t speak would be the most charismatic and lovable part of the movie, but Sally Hawkins pulls it off. Beautifully shot, masterfully edited, and just flat-out great, The Shape of Water is finally getting del Toro the household recognition that he deserves.
9. Lady Bird
This will no doubt come across as a cop out, but you should read my review of Lady Bird. There’s a reason I gave this a 10 out of 10. “But Aaron, if it’s so good, why is it only here?” Well, this comes back to my overall enjoyment. This was a great movie to watch and very good from a technical standpoint, but after I watched it, I realized that I’d need to let some time pass before I watched it again just because it was so relatable. But trust me when I say it is a VERY good movie. Huge props to Greta Gerwig for what she was able to make.
8. I, Tonya
There’s no denying that Margot Robbie has become one of the premier talents over the last few years, and she continues to shine, this time as troubled figure skater Tonya Harding. Portrayed in a dramatized documentary, I, Tonya focuses on the critical events of Tonya’s life, growing up with a demanding mother, her abusive marriage, and all the other things that led to the infamous attack on Nancy Kerrigan. The film states right off the bat the events depicted are based on multiple different interviews, many of which contradict each other, thus muddying the waters of everything that really happened. The comedy lands, Robbie plays a sympathetic (but clearly an anti-hero) Harding, and Allison Janey is an absolute riot as Harding’s mother. A spunky, tongue-in-cheek documentary, I, Tonya serves as a fascinating look into the life of one of the most fascinating people in professional figure skating.
7. Get Out
It’s hard to believe that this is Jordan Peele’s directorial debut, but Get Out was an enjoyable shock to the system in the horror/thriller genre. Taking on issues like living as a black man in America, racism, and liberal negrophilia (I refer you to this video by Wisecrack for a more in-depth discussion), Jordan Peele gives us a socially-focused thriller with palpable tension throughout and new things to be found on each viewing.
6. The Big Sick
I’m still very annoyed that The Big Sick got absolutely no recognition when the Golden Globe nominees were announced. I’m not big on romantic comedy/dramas, but Kumail Nanjiani absolutely delivers in this loosely-based story on how he and his wife, Emily Gordon, met and her subsequent illness. What really benefited this movie was having the person who actually lived the events star in it and help pen the script with his wife. An absolutely touching and endearing love story, The Big Sick was one of the biggest and best surprises of 2017.
5. Baby Driver
I’ll admit that I didn’t see Baby Driver until it had been in theaters for nearly a month. It just didn’t really interest me at all and then add on all the hype and I was afraid I’d be let down. Boy was I surprised when it not only met the sky-high expectations I had, but even surpassed it. Baby Driver was a slick and sexy action movie with fun chase scenes, an enjoyable and charismatic cast, and a great soundtrack that complimented the action and vice versa. This was one of the only movies I saw this year that I immediately wanted to watch again as soon as I finished it.
4. Call Me By Your Name
Touching, sensual, and endearing are just a few of the things that describe this coming-of-age tale in Luca Guadagnino’s adaptation of the lauded André Aciman novel. It touches on the confusion so many teens go through as they learn to love, understand, and accept themselves while navigating the highs and lows of first love and newfound sexual awakenings. The cast play their roles with exceptional care that makes them all believable and adds weight to the already heavy subject matter that could’ve been botched in a lesser director’s hands. From beginning to the poignant end, Call Me By Your Name strikes every emotional chord.
3. The Disaster Artist
I LOVE The Room. It’s just so…it’s something to experience. So when The Disaster Artist was announced, I was beyond excited. Not only do the Franco Brothers bring the bizarre story of The Room‘s production to the big screen, but you can tell it was a labor of love. This was something everyone involved WANTED to be a part of and it shows. There’s so much heart and care in each scene and I couldn’t help having a huge, goofy smile the whole time I watched. It’s a touching, heartfelt look into one of the most perplexing movies ever made.
2. Blade Runner 2049
Wow. Wow, wow, wow. That was all I could think after I watched this film. I hadn’t seen the original (and I still haven’t), but this outing was good enough alone to give me everything I wanted. Some might have an issue that this is a slow burn, but I really appreciate that about this movie. From the direction to the writing and cinematography, everything about this just worked for me. A rich, interesting world was brought to life thanks to Denis Villeneuve’s direction and Roger Deakins’ absolutely breathtaking cinematography. Everything just worked in this film. But if I love it so much, why is it #2 instead of #1? Simple: As much as I love it, there has been only one movie that I’ve loved just as much and have actively worked to see as much as possible, and that movie is…..
I was never a fan of the X-Men. Sorry, it just wasn’t my thing, so I was more than willing to let this go by the wayside. But after I watched it, I realized that I had seen one of the best superhero films of all time. Logan is an absolutely brutal masterpiece in the superhero and modern western genre. The action is slick but brutal, unflinching in its depiction of carnage. The story of trying to escape your past and become a better person is one as old as time but is told to perfection. Nobody gives a bad performance in this, but the focus is clearly on Hugh Jackman and Dafne Keen’s struggle to find a better life for themselves. Even when given a reason to hate Wolverine, you just can’t. And I’d be lying if I said I didn’t shed a tear when Laura quoted the classic western, Shane, at the end. With Logan, the Hugh Jackman Era as Wolverine comes to its fitting and violent end. While there were better movies from a film making standpoint this year, no film was as continually enjoyable and as good as Logan.
Agree with the list? Disagree? Let me know what your favorite movies of 2017 were.