2017 was an incredible year for film, and an incredible year for myself, engaging with film. A little bit about myself before you go on seeing my top ten opinions of 2017: I’ve been passionate about film for as long as well…forever. I was the kid in elementary school who’d rather walk around during recess and talk about movies, than play kick ball. And I grew into the adult who embarrassingly screams about Star Wars at the bar, after he’s had a second beer. I have a degree in Screenwriting (and Playwriting), and I’ve been on the Story Screen team for over a year now. In that time, I’ve written many articles on various movies, and as Co-Head of Telecommunications, (Co-Podcast boy, for short), I have helped build ‘Story Screen Presents,’ the Podcast arm of the Story Screen website, which now has over eighty episodes. One thing I’ve never considered myself is a completionist of film. To paint a picture, (without outing myself too badly), I saw Terminator 2 and JAWS for the first time this past year, so…please don’t hate me. I’ve seen forty-five 2017 film releases, and it’s by far the most film I’ve consumed in any given year. When I made my “Top 5 of 2016”, I discussed the difference between “best” and “favorite,” and I’d like to echo that same sentiment here. This isn’t a list of the best movies of 2017, this is a list of the flicks that struck a cord in me at the theater, and fueled my favorite thing to do outside of it: talk with some of my favorite people and celebrate film. Alright, lets get into it…
10. Baby Driver
Baby Driver was one of those movies where I went into the theater thinking, “Yeah, this movie is going to be fucking rad,” and I left thinking “Word, that movie was fucking rad.” What I mean is: I knew a post-modern action musical from one of the most unique directors in Hollywood, (Edgar Wright), was going to be simply fucking rad. The movie has breakneck pacing and is not afraid to stop for more intimate moments. The entire cast of the film is on fire – from Jon Hamm and Jamie Foxx having some performances you never knew you’d been waiting for – to Ansel Elgort, the hero of the flick, bringing not only a softness to the film, but a powerful, kinetic physical presence, as he glides and dances to his music. The real star of the film is its use of the soundtrack. Baby is constantly listening to various iPods throughout the film, and his tunes are our soundtrack. This movie has an attitude wholly unique from other heist films that makes it an instant classic.
9. Get Out
Jordan Peele’s debut film as both director and writer was a huge success. Get Out uses Peele’s years of creating satire and comedy to create a horror drama unlike anything you’ve ever seen. The story is truly a master class in genre bending narratives. The monster of this flick isn’t as tangible as a spooky clown or a ginger doll, (listen, I like those monsters too); instead it’s the real world demon of racism that plagues our protagonist in this film. As someone who has seen Get Out about four times, (it lends itself to multiple viewings), on the first go around it’s delightfully hard to follow just what is transpiring. On the second viewing and beyond, you start to see all of Jordan Peele’s narrative seeds growing scene to scene. Also, the DVD has a director’s commentary that might just be as good as the film itself, just sayin’. I’m very excited to see what Peele has in store for us next, because his debut into the world of film has been nothing short of spectacular.
8. The Disaster Artist
The Room is kind of like a Cinderella story. And I don’t mean the actual narrative of the flick; I mean the story surrounding it. Without reading Greg Sestero’s tell all book, “The Disaster Artist,” you can tell that The Room just has something about it, nothing “good” per se, but something. A movie so bad, so awkward, but filled with so much genuine passion from legendary New Orleans (allegedly) man of mystery, Tommy Wiseau, that you can’t help but force all of your friends to watch it. When I first heard about the James Franco biopic, starring himself as Wiseau, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. But after seeing Franco evaporate into this role, it’s one of the most incredible performances I’ve seen all year. The film tells the story of two guys trying to make it in L.A. and the beautiful thing is, they do make it…just maybe not in the way they intended. I never thought a movie about the making of The Room would have me in tears multiple times throughout its entirety, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t relate hard to the plight of Tommy and Greg in The Disaster Artist. Do I recommend seeing The Room prior to checking out this flick? I think you’ll be happier if you do, and if you don’t, you’ll want to by the end of The Disaster Artist.
7. The Shape of Water
The age-old story of a woman falling in love with a fishman is alive and well, and thank goodness for that. Guillermo Del Toro delivers probably one of his tightest cinematic experiences to date with The Shape of Water. Capitalizing on his ability to create post-modern fairytales, he adds a contemporary nuance to some of the tried and true tropes of stories of the ilk. Subverting old heroes and making them into villains, like Michael Shannon as man’s-man Richard Strickland, making his ‘Male-Ego’ a character flaw, instead of something we might’ve championed during the time period when the film takes place. The overall design of this movie is something to marvel in. It’s a tight movie, and home to some amazing real sets, practical effects, great costumes and a whimsical score that will make your belly-butterflies soar, as Sally Hawkins stares into the weird sideways blinking eyes of her aquatic love interest. The work done to make the mysterious amphibian man look real in the film is nothing short of amazing. By the end of the movie, I just found myself smiling with tears in my eyes, and just feeling really, really good.
6. Brigsby Bear
Brigsby Bear was such a pleasant surprise, not because I thought the film was going to be bad, I just had no idea what I was going to get with the flick. It’s a story about stories: about tales we love as kids, and the power those tales impart with us as adults. The film asks if maybe we have a type of Stockholm syndrome with our favorite narratives, hiding from reality and diving deeper into the sub forums of what we already love. In an era of remakes, reboots and reimaginings, Brigsby Bear delivers a more hopeful depiction of what it means to continue the work of old. This is just one of the themes running through the film; it’s also hilarious, home to some amazing performances (particularly from Kyle Mooney and Mark Hamill), and is one of those indie flicks that never loses momentum during its runtime. I’m trying to keep things vague with my description of the flick because I went in not knowing anything about the movie, and I left stunned by the story it gave me. You will not be disappointed with Brigsby Bear; it’s a film with a lot of heart that’s also just pure fun.
We don’t deserve a superhero movie this good. I’m sorry, but I don’t deserve it and I sure as hell know that you don’t deserve it (you know who you are). In the superhero cinematic zeitgeist of the past twenty years, never did I think we would get such a lovingly crafted sendoff to some of these amazing characters. Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart are doing things with these characters that have never been done before on both page ("Old Man Logan" is great, but this is…something else), and silver screen (I mean come on, I’m right, right?). James Mangold crafted something that finally gave fans what they always wanted: a gory R-rated Wolverine story. If you’ve grown up with these characters, you can tell that no one understands them better than the trifecta that is Mangold, Jackman and Stewart. This was an ending to an era of X-Men that I am very comfortable with, and it is one of the greatest superhero stories ever told.
4. The Killing of a Sacred Deer
Last year I named Yorgos Lanthimos’, The Lobster, as my movie of the year because I think I hate myself, or I have a vendetta against happiness. Either way, I love Lanthimos’ lens in which he see’s the world. The Killing of a Sacred Deer gives us something wholly absurd and prods at an open wound of a question we wouldn’t dare ask ourselves. The entire composition of the film, from score to performances, is wholly unsettling. You don’t feel safe during this movie, there isn’t really anyone to root for, and that’s what I love about Lanthimos’ movies. He delivers on concepts that really shouldn’t work in movies, and the way he subverts it makes it work better than most movies I’ve ever seen. This is another movie I’d hate to disappoint for people, and also I wouldn’t want to taint anyone else’s expectations with my own interpretations. See this movie, discuss it with someone you love, and you’ll realize the best thing about this film is what YOU take away from it.
3. Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri
The best thing about Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri is how unapologetic it is. Director and writer Martin McDonagh, honestly doesn’t give a shit if you disagree with his point of view in this flick. This notion is pushed further by a simply brilliant performance by Frances McDormand, who plays a woman of such power, strength and bravery; it’s really something to marvel in. The dialogue of this film is incredible, and what it’s trying to say about a real problem we have in our world is loud and clear. Every moment of this film has you on the edge of your seat. Its characters are dynamic and all go through major changes by the film’s conclusion. This film takes the moral compass and throws it in the trash; it shoves you in a corner and screams, “If you’re okay with this, then you’re part of the problem,” and if you don’t see an issue with that, or you’re not ready for that conversation, then I think there’s a sequel to that terrible Batman vs. Superman movie that might help accentuate the white noise that fills your skull.
2. Blade Runner 2049
This film is a masterpiece. A two hour and forty minute movie that never feels slow and is engaging the entire time. “What does it mean to be alive?” permeates the entire story and is never fully answered. The world of this movie, a lived-in sci-fi dystopia, has never been so realized. Roger Deakins as Director of Cinematography delivers some of the most stunning camera work I’ve ever seen in a movie. Denis Villeneuve should be commended for picking up the pieces of a film with a sordid past; this is a Blade Runner flick you never knew you wanted. I was left speechless by the end of this movie, stunned by its sheer magnitude and beauty, a sci-fi movie with its robos, zoom-zooms and zap-zaps, but at its core, is a question that’ll leave you thinking for a long time.
1. Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Well, it’s my list, and if I want a Star Wars as my movie of the year well guess what? Imma’ do that. It’s been two years since The Force Awakens, a great film and the beginning to a new trilogy that gave fans of the franchise a bunch of questions that they theorized on every hour of every day until the release of Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi. Now, let me tell you, The Last Jedi gives you answers, (a lot of which didn’t match that guy on YouTube or Reddit you really thought knew exactly who Snoke was). The fan base behind Star Wars is huge, and now, it’s split: with people loving the movie and people hating it. I spent days after the movie’s release fighting my case for why I loved the film, for why it might be my favorite Star Wars since The Empire Strikes Back. I don’t want to waste this blurb talking about how people don’t like the movie, but I think it’s important to explain why the hate, why the dark side of fandom put this movie at the top of my list. I love conversations about movies, it’s why I do podcasts, and it’s why I’m writing this article right now. The conversation about this movie is huge, and my apologies to the Sith Lords out there who don’t enjoy things, but your anger will only make this film more powerful than you can possibly imagine. Now, why I love what I saw on the screen that day: I love that I got a movie I didn’t expect; I love that I got answers I didn’t see coming. I loved that this is a film about failure, which is why no character can seem to win in this installment of the franchise. This film has a darkness to it that isn’t just ominous red lightsaber wielding foes, (even though we get some of that too). The darkness of this film is that sometimes you need to lose everything to learn what you can achieve. I am sympathetic towards people who didn’t get the Star Wars they wanted. I feel for you guys, and I’m sorry you’re unhappy, but when the red dust of the mining planet Crait settles, this movie will stand tall, as a classic Star Wars that might be the best in the franchise.
Before I close out my Top Ten list, there are a few honorable mentions I want to shine the spotlight on. War for the Planet of the Apes was incredible and another one of the blockbusters that HAD NO RIGHT TO BE SO GOOD. IT is an awesome horror movie, with great performances from all those little youngsters, and Bill Skarsgard as Pennywise is a joy to watch. Also, the cinematography of that movie is A+. I can’t have a top ten list where I don’t talk about Ladybird or The Florida Project, which are both films that just pull at whatever organ makes you feel (the heart? I dunno). Also, if you haven’t seen John Wick Chapter 2 yet, just stop whatever it is you’re doing and go have a good time. Shit, even the Power Rangers movie that came out this year was pretty good. Finally, I want to talk about mother! and It Comes At Night, two movies that I think a lot of people left feeling upset with. If you haven’t seen either of those flicks, please go into them with an open mind, much like what I was saying with The Killing of a Sacred Deer, these movies are meant to be unpacked and interpreted by YOU, and everyone’s take on these films are supposed to vary. Just keep in mind that people, just like you, make these movies, and you should give them the respect you would want if you yourself were creating something. I’m excited to see what 2018 will bring, and I’m even more excited to return to the microphone with my Story Screen family and bring you even more exciting content. Now get out there to see a movie, bring a friend and celebrate the medium.
Robert has a degree in Screenwriting and Playwriting and works in multiple genres. He's just your typical man-child who enjoys most things nerd culture. You can follow him on Twitter @RoBaeBae