Well, I’ve put it off far too long to get this article put together. There are still movies I want to see from 2017 but at this point, there is too much good stuff in 2018 to see so I don’t see myself catching up. So while imperfect, I think I’ve come up with a strong list of best movies for the year and I strongly encourage you to see these films if you haven’t already. Most should be easy enough to find at home now on some sort of streaming device.
As usual let’s start with calling out the worst of the year, like putting out a warning beacon on LV-426 I’m hoping to keep curious travelers away from these disasters.
Worst of the Year
- Cars 3 – just totally lifeless. Oh, and speaking of which…
- Life – such a big budget, and just so utterly dull and stupid.
- The Lego Ninjago Movie – this blew out my eyes. I guess being a Lego movie doesn’t automatically mean it’s going to be great.
And what I consider to be the worst movie I saw this year…
- The Boss Baby – I’m glad Emily didn’t want to see it again. It had a few good moments but the premise gets old SUPER fast.
Before counting down and listing the top ten best movies of the year, let’s be sure to pay homage to a few honourable mentions this year. Movies that didn’t quite make the list but absolutely deserve special mention.
- Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie – This was Emily’s favourite movie I took her to so it needs an honourable mention. We actually saw it twice. It’s really good and lots of fun.
- Wonder – Other people have liked this far more than I did and older people even have it as their favourite movie of the year. I thought it was very good overall with lots of important messages for children about acceptance and bullying.
- Darkest Hour – Gary Oldman is unbelievable and it’s a fun companion piece to the far greater film, Dunkirk.
- John Wick: Chapter 2 – Just total fun, although I liked the first one better.
- The Lego Batman Movie – Surprisingly deep and a total blast. I think this is actually one of the best Batman movies too.
- I, Tonya – Worth seeing if only for Janney’s performance, fun movie overall.
Now let’s get to the three that I had in my top ten for a long time but ultimately bumped them out for better movies. These were really hard to break out, and I would consider them part of the best movies of this year for sure.
- Logan – This has single-handedly ruined most superhero movies because it’s SO much better and deeper than the rest. It makes me wish each comic book movie was done with this amount of respect. Amazing film.
- Baby Driver – Just pure adrenaline and super artistic fun. Loved Lily James, loved John Hamm. Loved everything.
- Star Wars: The Last Jedi – So much has been said on this movie already. It’s just great filmmaking and a real treasure for the franchise in general.
The Top Ten
Which brings us to what I think are the top ten movies of 2017. All in all, a really strong year for movies. I honestly think that nine of these are masterpieces that I would want to watch again and again.
10. War for the Planet of the Apes
I'm really mixed up about this movie. I feel super conflicted on how I feel about it. The acting is excellent, visually it's very impressive, the special effects are insane... but the screenplay and editing aren't great which doesn't make it compelling at all. For full disclosure, I didn't see the 2nd one (I did really like the first one), so maybe that's why i have no emotional pull at all to any of the characters. Maybe. I'd like to think rather that it's because too much attention was put to the special effects and not enough to the story-telling (which really is as basic as it gets, you'll have new emotional constructs introduced in a scene, only to be immediately resolved in the VERY NEXT scene, what?!).
I'm watching it and I'm fully aware that I'm watching a very well-made film, but i'm just not feeling anything except the passage of time (why is this so long?!). The protagonists are great, but the antagonists barely make any sense. It's hard to understand their motivations.
Honestly, this might be one of the most over-rated movies I've seen in a really long time, but at the same time I have to admit to myself that I'm probably just being too difficult. I saw Dunkirk and Baby Driver two days prior and both were outstanding and deep. So on a relative basis, i feel like i was let down by these filthy apes, but on an absolute basis, I bet there is very little wrong with the film.
Andy Serkis is brilliant as Caesar and really gives a commanding performance. He's great at delivering lines that sound like what an ape would sound like if it could talk, honestly. Whereas other apes in the movie that talk seem to articulate English perfectly, which is super distracting and annoying.
Thank goodness for that little girl to give some much needed emotional weight and baggage to this movie.
Also, when you call your movie, "War for the Planet.." you'd expect some pretty epic battle scenes, and large in scope since it's for the planet. Turns out the war will get decided on a few square acres of forest and snowy terrain.
At the end of the day, I feel like this belongs in the top ten for Serkis’ performance alone. It’s amazing what he’s done, and they’ve made the special effects totally seamless. Never once did I think I was looking at a special effect. Let’s also give it up for putting this many subtitles in a summer blockbuster! Who gave the green light to do that? I like movies that want to get a bit more cerebral.
9. Blade Runner 2049
How did this movie not even make $260 million? Is it the length? I am so happy I didn't miss the chance to see this in theatres.
I think my biggest takeaway is how surprisingly affecting it was. I couldn't get enough of the scenes between K (Gosling) and Joi (great supporting performance by Ana de Armas). The 2nd scene in the movie felt like almost 20 minutes of just setting this up, and at the time I found it surprising to spend this much screen time on developing this sub-plot, but it sure paid dividends. It all sets up a highly impactful dramatic scene down the road that was worth the price of admission for me alone.
I loved so many levels of this movie, it was a joy to watch and to listen to. Villeneuve sure has fun using sound in his sci-fi films, and I find myself really looking forward to Dune. Also, easily the best use of CGI I have ever seen in a movie. It puts Rogue One to shame.
I much preferred this sequel to the original. There's a lot of sci-fi meat here for fans to chew through.
I’m so glad it won best cinematography too.
It certainly exceeded my expectations. Really happy I got to see it. Very powerful.
Pixar pulls off another paradox in delivering a hilarious tear-jerker.
Took my daughter Emily to this and she loved it, as did I. It's visually stunning and the music is great. Really tough subject matter to tackle and they did so in a beautiful way for kids to interpret and understand.
There was this massive short film on Frozen beforehand that seemed to go on forever and felt a little rushed and easy when it came to forcing songs. This led me to better appreciate the use of music in Coco. Where every song is a surprise and you feel the adrenaline and excitement of the hero singing it.
Pixar's smart story-telling was once again in the forefront. Where they found new genius ways to provide back-story and context without awkwardly taking you out of the movie. I absolutely love this studio.
Much like how this year's The Big Sick educated me on Pakistani culture, this film does a great job introducing Mexican folklore to children. I'm embarrassed I didn't really know what the Day of the Dead was about before this. I thought it was a Romero film that I keep meaning to see and ultimately get disappointed by.
I feel like some of Pixar's artists have been dying to animate pinatas for years and really went to town when given this opportunity.
Spirited Away is one of my favourite animated films of all time and I know that John Lasseter is a fan as well, I wonder if he influenced the telling of the spirit world at all in this.
I think it's hilarious that the main knock against this movie seems to be that there are greater Pixar movies that exist. Of course there are, but that doesn't mean Pixar should be a victim of its own success. This is a fun awesome movie.
7. Get Out
I was already paranoid in and around hypnosis but seeing this movie isn't going to help going forward.
This movie did a bang-up job giving me that overwhelming sense of dread that you can't escape from. It's essential to the better creepy movies cuz you don't want to feel too at ease. I thought the performances were very good and although much of it is predictable, i still felt surprise at the direction much of it took..
People keep talking about the social commentary of this film but I didn't find that aspect as deep as people make it out to be. The movie is scary as balls and a fun ride, but I don't think it's quite as profound as that. Still, it doesn't have to be for this genre. Is Bradley Whitford only doing smart-scary now?
It's a rare thing to have such a great movie for the horror/scary genre. Need more of these. Luckily 2018 has already produced A Quiet Place which was amazing, so hopefully we’ll see more and more of this.
6. The Big Sick
An actual funny and deep rom-com? Can it be? Honestly, i don't think it can qualify as a romance as much as a drama. A comedic drama.
I laughed several times and all the initial scenes with Kumail's family are fantastic. There's ton of real-ness and heartfelt-ism (I'm making up words today) in this. There were times it was yanking the emotions right out of me with crafty ease. I laughed, I cried, I was rooting for Kumail and even knowing how it turns out didn't take away at all from the movie.
I wish Zoe Kazan's Emily character didn't have as much vocal fry but she portrayed a very real person exceptionally well. It's funny to hear people say the movie is about 10 minutes too long since I was dying for an epilogue. I wish it hadn't wrapped up so quickly at the end. This viewer needed a little more payola.
I was thinking Kumali's father was going to be the comedic scene-stealer but then Ray Romano hits the screen with this surprisingly deep backstory subplot that also felt super real. It was hilarious watching him try to NOT be funny.
It sounds stupid to describe a movie about a real-life story as honest, but it really is and feels that way throughout. I think there was only one segment in a hospital room which felt like a screenplay, everything else just trucked right along and never pushed me firmly back into my theatre seat.
I really loved it. Can't recommend it enough.
5. Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri
First of all, let me get it off my chest that the movie should have just been called Three Billboards. I don't know why they went with this title.
I loved this movie and was constantly moved while watching it, trying to figure out exactly what it was. Enjoying the ride the entire way, mind you.
I think in many ways this movie is this year's Manchester by the Sea but doesn't hit the same level of perfection (but it's close). I almost wonder if Lucas Hedges called his agent on the wrap-up day of shooting Manchester and said, "put me in another one of these." While Manchester was a heavy drama laced with some very welcome comedy, this one is much more of a comedy laced with extremely heavy drama. Let me say, and this is important, if you disliked Manchester for being too dreary, you will really like this.
That being said, I was the ONLY person laughing in the entire movie theatre which constantly made me wonder if I was offside. I'm finding a ton of this hilarious but there is so much drama going on that maybe lots of people don't get it, and think it's supposed to be a super serious drama. The thing is, why do we have to pigeon-hole it so badly? Can't it be both? Can't it be something to one viewer and a totally different experience to another?
The performances in this film are insane. Frances McDormand well deserved the Academy award, she is stoic as the lead and hugely entertaining to watch. Woody Harrelson blew me away as the police chief. The interrogation scene between the two of them is the stand out scene for me that will stay with me for some time. I was buried in my seat, mouth agape, in awe of what a was watching in terms of masterful filmmaking. Unbelievable.
Sam Rockwell's role was controversial but I really dug it. All the ending scenes were very impactful. And Peter Dinklage might have pulled off one of the first performances post-Game of Thrones where I'm not distracted by thinking of that HBO show during another performance. He was great in this.
Remember, it's okay to enjoy this as a comedy or a drama. You're in for a real solid treat if you can enjoy it for both at the same time.
I grew up on Dunkirk street. I lived in a town where all the street names have some sort of historicmilitary significance. All I knew of the event growing up was that it was a large retreat in early WWII. That certainly doesn't mean much on its own, it's hard to understand or fathom the logistics in moving 400k men off a beach that has only one pier large enough to dock ships.
Christopher Nolan has succeeded in doing something very special here, making you not only understand these things but feel what it was like to be there on that beach. Feel the impending dangers from all sides, from sea, land and air. You will feel the sense of purpose in being the owner of a pleasure boat and being tasked with saving human lives. You'll certainly feel the moments of panic and terror, but you'll also feel the pride as a Spitfire clears dangers for helpless troops on the ground.
I luckily got to see this in 70mm and would strongly recommend doing the same. Anyone that sees this on their iPad is doing both the film and themselves a disservice. It's visually striking in many ways, most of which are following three RUF pilots as they try to provide air cover. Even just the wide expanse of the beach is something that needs to be seen on 70mm to be felt.
This war movie will set the tone early that it is not your typical gore-filled war movie. An early dropped bomb sends a handful of soldiers up into the air, and you are sitting there bracing for body parts to rain down on the beach, but they never come. You are spared what they were not. The movie delivers the full sound and fear of having dive-bombing Stukas coming right for you, without the need to show the gritty aftermath. I think the movie is the better for it as well.
I loved the newspapers at the end as well. I had my hopes up pretty high for this movie and it surpassed them. I’m sure it will get a rerelease at one point on the big screen. When it does, let’s all go and see it again.
3. The Florida Project
I've had to sleep on this a couple of nights before being able to talk about this movie. Is it this year's Manchester By the Sea? ...maybe.
There's so much subject matter to dodge talking about since I would never want to colour anyone's viewing of this movie. I went in completely dark.
It's basically the story of what life is like for a kid growing up, living in discount inn(s) close to Disney World, where her mom can barely afford to live full-time. So it's a mix of what the kid(s) does to pass the time, and what the mom does to try and earn a living. That's a pretty clean description, but there are layers upon layers upon layers of things going on in this movie.
I'm sitting there watching the movie thinking, “yeah, this is a pretty ugly and difficult movie" and then these occasional moments of bliss and huge happiness come out of nowhere, as do feelings of worry and concern. If you have a kid, the impact this movie will have is far greater, that's for sure. I didn't even realize this movie had its hooks in me until the very end. And what…an… end.
Willem Dafoe (i almost put Denis Leary, lol) is unbelievable as the hotel manager. There were times I was wondering if he was supposed to be the main character. I’m glad he got a nomination at least.
But the KIDS in this movie... oh man.. the kid actors are the best I have ever seen. Brooklynn Prince as Moonee is outstanding and pulls off something I have never seen a child actor pull off before. To the point that I wondered if it was CGI. I was a total wreck in that pivotal scene.
This is one of those movies where some people question why they would want to see it. "I go to the movies to be entertained, that's all." There's nothing wrong with that. But if you're like me, and you go to movies to escape and to feel, then don't miss this. At the end of the movie, the ENTIRE theatre stayed seated as the credits rolled. NO ONE got up. I have never seen that happen before. We all just sat there and tried to process what we were feeling.
2. Call Me By Your Name
Great flick on a 17-year old boy falling in summer love for the first time somewhere in Northern Italy in the early 80s. Great lead performance as well as the supporting cast. Chalamet has been in both of my favourite two movies in 2017! Can't wait to see him in more things down the road.
The scene between son and father on the couch is worth the price of admission alone. I'd never believe that the actor who plays the comic relief in Men in Black III would be able to pull off a scene like that, but this guy (Michael Stuhlbarg) is showing up in everything these days which is great.
Really enjoyed the look, feel and sound of this movie.
Loved the ending and closing shot to pieces. Could not leave the theatre.
Which brings us to my favourite movie of the year…
Where did this come from? I swear to God I walked into this thinking this was an early biopic of Lady Bird Johnson. Last year around the same time, i cluelessly walked into Moonlight expecting something completely different as well. I think this must be the very best way to walk into a movie because this is twice that i've been totally blown away. And both times it ended up being my favourite movie of the year. I think I will avoid reading or seeing things about movies more often.
It's similar in some ways to last year's Edge of Seventeen except instead of just supplying the ups, this one also gets into the downs really effectively. In fact, depression is explored on many levels on how it affects those around it. There are a couple of highly impactful dramatic moments in this movie that really surprised me. One behind a cafe that I was not expecting at all.
The performances are completely off the scale here. Ronan is perfect as always, but the supporting cast around her really rose to the occasion. Laurie Metcalf will make you wonder why she didn't elevate above Roseanne after all this years. Very strong performance. The father, Tracy Letts, really impressed me and made me wonder if they approached David Letterman for the role perhaps.
Honestly, the movie is just a total joy and it's worth seeing if only to see a football coach try to direct a school play. I want to re-watch that scene with the volume way up over and over again.
I'm having trouble accepting that this is a directorial debut. It's brilliant, and some of the shots are deeply affecting. There's so much going on in the wings of this movie too, this one shot of a disappointed theatre director looking at the reactions of people leaving.... that stuck with me and it wasn't even the focus of the scene at all.
This totally blew me away. Hope you all see it.
That’s it, a really strong year for movies overall and I hope this year can come close to that. It’s only April and I’ve already seen two great ones.
Thanks for reading! Let me know below if you end up seeing any of these based on this and what you thought.