Updated: Mar 30
2017 was cricktey-cray. There was an exorbitant amount of high quality flicks released throughout the otherwise turbulent year. But we all know why you're here. It's not to listen to me whine and champion this or that. Not when there are movies to talk about. I'll get out of this thing's way with only a quick caveat...
This was a rough year to break this list down, even with the healthy self-served serving of 17 films making the cut. And while I can't yell to the heavens about every great film I loved that didn't make this list, I would like to mention several that I will cherish for the rest of my life that just didn't make it, (with a small serving of what made them so special):
The beautiful rage of John Wick Chapter 2. The oh-so-similar feeling(s) of I Don't Feel At Home in This World Anymore. The surprising entertainment and horror of Life. The (insert oxymoron, add 15 synonyms for miraculous) that is Wonder Woman. The much needed breath of fresh air given by Thor: Ragnarok. The most welcoming of second helpings that T2: Trainspotting gave in plenty. The raw sensuality and passively compassionate message of Okja. The cool twist on the old classic zombie flick The Girl with All the Gifts. The awe-inspiring Lost City of Z. How Lucky makes you not only consider, but more importantly, contemplate. Crown Heights, and its phenomenal structure. The way I, Tonya feels like a movie you could just watch on repeat. How The Little Hours keeps you laughing. Absolutely everything about The Beguiled. The amazing cast of Lady Bird. The artistic endeavor of the century that is, Star Wars: The Last Jedi. The timely and gut-wrenching Detroit. The evocative and subtle Burning Sands. The celebration that is Coco. The masterwork and beautiful brutality of Brawl in Cell Block 99. The tasty beats and beautiful characters of Patti Cake$. The haunting reality and lingering dreams of It Comes At Night. The raw sensitivity and honesty of The Big Sick. Super Dark Times, and its ability to sustain mood and tone throughout horror and humor. Gerald's Game's way of defining itself. The lurid seduction that is Beach Rats. The high adventure of the subconscious The Killing of a Sacred Deer allows us to have. The way The Post feels like the perfect movie for the perfect time with the perfect cast. The way you can smell the sweat in Good Time. How Lady Macbeth feels like an instant classic. The way Brigsby Bear makes you want to make everyone love something you love. How The Shape of Water makes you want to hold that one person. How Personal Shopper makes you remember holding that one person that's gone forever. None of these wonderful films made my “Top list” this year, and while I can't really explain why they didn't, I can guarantee you, that the ones that did make it, were put there after much thought. I hope you can forgive me.
Unfortunately, I was unable to catch: The Square, Kingsman 2: The Golden Circle, My Friend Dahmer, Professor Marston and the Wonder Women, Gook, Phantom Thread, Thelma, The Lure, and Darkest Hour. I wil do better next year.
Let's get on with it then. I promise not to cheat....
#17. Ingrid Goes West
This movie is devastatingly self-aware and as dark a comedy can get, all while discussing the addictions that social media can present. Its performances are legendary and every joke lands with flying colors. It acts as an equally relevant companion to The Social Network, where we were presented with the origins of putting the social experience on the internet. Only in Ingrid, we are presented with the crude and horrifying results of learning a new form of social interaction, strictly through the internet, and the unsympathetic consequences of reaching for something real, while yearning to just be yourself. The film is a personal experience, one that has a laugh with, but never fully mocks, our introverted protagonist, whose methods are beyond forgivable, but whose desires are as simple as making a connection with someone she admires.
Aronofsky has crafted a film that will entertain the willing for years and years. There are tons of ways to interpret its multiple layers of metaphors; you will not forget this flick after you have seen it. In a year filled with divisive movies, mother! is the one that will challenge and reward you time and time again, all the while, giving you a real good look at Jennifer Lawrence's nostrils. This film doesn't stray away from cringe-inducing visuals and situations, as if Aronofsky had been taking notes on how to push the envelope further than his other films, Requiem for a Dream, The Wrestler and Black Swan. While I've been a very big fan of his since as long as I can remember, mother! is the movie that really gets me excited about seeing what else this guy is capable of when given the right freedoms to create a specific vision. It would be higher on my list if I weren’t so goddamn afraid of it.
#15. Hounds of Love
Look, I'm gonna be straight with you: this movie is NOT for everyone. It is a rough ride, a beautiful ride of demented proportions. There are strange things, and there are nightmares among every frame. Nothing this year made me feel as horrified as I was during every moment of this film, (okay, that one scene in Gerald's Game got a big “GAAAHNNNNNOOOOO!!” from me). But I will say, that for those accepting of the film’s premise, (which I swear to you, is not as exploitative as it seems), you will be met with a vision of pure cinematic magic, a feeling the very medium was created to invoke.
#14. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
“Hey, let's have some fun!” was spouted across a Marvel table of some kind a few years back when for some unthinkable reason the biggest guns in Superhero Hollywood decided to give the Slither dude free reign of an obscure team of space miscreants set to B-side tunes of the 70's. And perfection was born. Where the first installment suffered solely from a forced larger continuity problem, GotGV2 is a fucking masterpiece of pacing, tone, mood and (my personal favorite), daddy issues. The heart of this movie is so big, so joyful, so welcoming, the multi-colored palette of expression begs even the most casual of viewers to become one with its being. This was one of my most anticipated films of the year, and damn it feels good to wait so long for something that feels so just right for me.
#13. Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri
A gem of a movie, Three Billboards is getting the love it rightfully deserves on the awards circuit, although this particular film critic couldn't have seen it coming. Sure, the movie boasts some fine actors in fantastic roles, and the writer/director is no stranger to churning out some high class dialogue and scenario, but walking away from this movie I couldn't help but think: are people going to get this movie? Its messages are razor sharp, and delicate hands abound. While the film has been met with some backlash, (a conversation that definitely should be started, but also seen through to the end), it nevertheless has already planted itself down as one of the finest cinema experiences of the year, boasting a message of understanding that is needed now, tomorrow and for many years to come.
#12. Get Out
What more can you say about this gift of a movie that hasn't already been said? Jordan Peele's debut is a revelation, cold hard proof that we are witnessing a talented auteur during his first steps towards legendary status. One day, we will all be able to look back on this directorial debut and relish the origins of an icon. On multiple viewings, Get Out not only remains entertaining, but also grows in humor and sensibility, revealing new layers of meditation on the horrors of our racially charged culture. Get Out sets its sights on scaring you, making you laugh, making you think, and it accomplishes all of these goals as naturally as stirring a cup of tea. That is, of course, what a good movie is supposed to do. But with Get Out, we are fortunate enough as an audience to have these accomplishments attributed to a great movie.
Christopher Nolan has delivered his masterpiece. While films like Memento and The Dark Knight will forever remain mainstays in the catalogue of awesome films, Dunkirk is a delicacy to the cinematic palette of even your most conservative movie tastes. The sights and sounds of the film are so well harnessed to its presentation that you would be hard pressed to find someone who wasn't affected by this movie in the many ways it sets out to affect. As good a film as you could hope for, Dunkirk also happens to be one of the most watchable movies of the year, lending itself to the timelessness of its genre and narrative.
#10. War for the Planet of the Apes
It is very rare that a third installment in a trilogy is even a good movie. This. Movie. Is. Incredible. Andy Serkis' performance is literally jaw dropping about 27 times throughout the movie’s generous runtime. The film's construction not only works within itself, it creates a phenomenal arc throughout its placement in its predecessors. It is a miracle and just one more final reason to recommend this amazing trilogy that speaks to the empathy and compassion we all hold inside of us.
#9. The Florida Project
A world shattering blend of innocence and wonderment, this is the one movie you've heard about that deserves all the praise. An actual threshold of magic, The Florida Project, never strays away from the bleakness of reality, all the while basking in the glow of adventure and curiosity through the eyes of children. Not only does this film make you feel like a child again, it leaves you yearning for the simpler desires a certain kind of youth gives.
My second most rewatched film of the year, (the first firmly holds this list’s coveted #1 spot), Logan is not only a formidable film and acceptable farewell to its titular character, but also a superhero movie that you can truly call a “film.” With noir elements bleeding even into its underappreciated score, and enough energy to make even the most tired of us stand up and cheer for yet another superhero story, Logan gives all it can and lays itself wounded and bare during its final moments, celebrating a character and performance that has come to define the past two decades of mutant-filled adventure. Some films reach for escapism to jettison us to far away places filled with glamour and excitement, but Logan simply invites us to look upon the decay of an icon, and the decay of a dream, begging us to consider how we worship our heroes.
#7. All These Sleepless Nights
A hedonistic journey of desire and self-discovery, this is the one flick that will stay with me, intimately, for a long time. I'm having trouble finding the words to accurately articulate just what makes this film feel so vibrant and alive. I will digress, as any adjective filled commentary would simply fall short of the pure, excessive magnetism this film generates, and I will quite vulnerably just say that it is on Netflix and you should watch it again and again.
#6. A Ghost Story
A Ghost Story is a hell of film. I'm not one for the Mallick-ian way of filmmaking, but I am also honest enough to admit that sometimes it feels real good when it’s done right. Song to Song, Mallick's own contribution to the year 2017, is a vast improvement to his recent ventures, but A Ghost Story is a sight to behold. Shot in pure hipster-gram, the film is moody, evocative, luring, dangerous, sensual and electric. And for you foodies out there, there's some damn good action about half way in. This one probably gets my highest recommendation on this list for those looking for dat good weed movie.
Like Hounds of Love, this is an equally, if not slightly sweeter, rough watch. The most impressive film of the year, Raw holds no punches, demonstrating a perfect storm of emotion and dread. Another phenomenally original take on the coming-of-age sub-genre of film, Raw presents us with a young woman who simply doesn't know why, and who is met with difficult answers around every turn, as she slowly begins to discover what life is all about. The film's metaphors are alluring, as intimidating as they are interesting, provoking you into a sense of realism that feels too dirty or too clean to be true. It is feverish. It is a nightmare. It is splendid.
#4. Baby Driver
Edgar Wright has created a masterwork of epic proportions, even the presence of Kevin Spacey, (disgraced af Hollywood actor) can't even attempt to derail the most uptight of viewers. Where to begin with this movie??! Stunts! Dialogue! Music! Costumes! Sets! Glasses! JON HAMM!! Fuck this, I'm just going to watch the movie again right now. Hold on…
Yep. Still fuckin' amazing. (Read more of my words on it here)
An absolutely original story about a woman struggling with addiction, and coming to terms with the type of person she is and the type she wants to be. Anne Hathaway is phenomenal, subtly creating her character with layers and personality that are immediately endearing and relatable. But it is Jason Sudeikis that steals the show in this number, putting in a performance that stands up as one of the best of the year, (in this humble critic's opinion). Without giving too much away, (because, really, the surprises are what make this flick so good), Colossal is a fantastic dissection of toxicity, and a highly relevant commentary on how we treat people who are in need of help and at the mercy of those surrounding them.
(Read more of my words on it here)
#2. Call Me By Your Name
Whew. Call Me By Your Name... A film as beautiful and poetic as it is, well, captivating and timeless. You don't need to look much further for an example of how good actors, a good script and a good director can really produce something visionary and yet quaint. Keeping the stakes firmly low in some regards, and in others dramatically high, Call Me By Your Name is a love story for the ages. It firmly solidifies itself amongst the greats like, Casablanca, Before Sunrise, Roman Holiday, High Fidelity, Brokeback Mountain and Love Story. It yearns for you to feel the desire, it begs for you to empathize, and it demands that you want, whatever it may be, and cheerfully, if not at times, direly, holds your hand to help you find it. It is a sensual meditation on what it means to discover, and be haunted by, love. It is a sensation.
#1. Blade Runner 2049
I am on board with this movie 100%. The acting is fantastic, the design is astounding, the music is transcendent. The film contains one of the most thought provoking and emotionally devastating character arcs of any film I've seen this year, providing twist and turns and revelations galore, without ever coming across as hokey or confusing. The movie is a goddamn masterpiece, a proto-sequel that has no right to be as fantastic as it is. Standing on its own, the film is a lesson on what movies can do, generating so many different tones and emotions that you are simply marveled at every turn. Riveting is a perfect word. A solid contemplation on the nature of meaning, and the meaning of what is real, Blade Runner 2049 is more than a sequel; it is a necessary and wholly original flash of good ol' movie makin'. Yet, as a sequel, Blade Runner 2049 succeeds where many of its ilk normally fall flat, and it does so with resounding dexterity. Denis Villeneuve is not messing around, simultaneously building off of the 1982 classic, while exploring deeper and richer themes that are a natural extension of the original film’s key questions. The movie is long, but this allows the eye to rest on the presentations and completely consume the ideas and splendor that is Roger Deakins' finely tuned frame. Seeing a movie that takes its time this deftly, allowing its characters and themes to naturally evolve, is a joy, one that makes me wish for more. It gives us our best bad “guy” of 2017 (Love), and also one of our most interesting character dynamics between its two leads, (Ryan Gosling's K and Harrison Ford's Deckard), while also providing us with enough attitude and flair to keep the screen electric. Blade Runner 2049 is not only one of the greatest sequels ever made, it is one of the greatest films ever made.
Founder of and programmer for Story Screen. Lover of stories and pizza in the dark. When he isn't watching movies, you can find him reading things about people watching movies. He lives in Beacon, NY with his cat who is named after Kevin Bacon's character from Friday the 13th.