The Oscars are on tonight and with that the academy will be handing out their hardware for the best films of 2017. But before they do that I hope you will enjoy my personal list of the best films from this great year in cinema. This year it was hard to pick out ten films to represent the best of the year, so I cheated. See below my top 15 films of the year as well as some honorable mentions that did not make the list. So no matter what types of movies you like, I am sure you will find something to enjoy in this absolutely stacked year.
Even though I am listing out 15 films instead of 10, there are still a bunch more films I think are worth your time. John Wick Chapter 2 is a great action movie and has one of the most brutal fight scenes around. A worthy sequel to a B action film cult classic. Mother! Is a very strange two hours but once you peel back some of its layers, it becomes a creative look at the artistic process. This year had some great superhero films and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is one of those films that continues to infuse quality into the comic book film genre. The Shape of Water is a sweet and fantastical adult fairy tale about finding your voice and another reason why GDT is one of the most unique talents in the film industry today. Spotlight was a great movie a couple of years back and Spielberg captures some of that magic with The Post. One of his more minor works but an entertaining journalism film nevertheless. Bigelow’s follow up to Zero Dark Thirty is a harrowing look at racial injustice in the dark and moody Detroit. She is a great director and has now made three great films straight touching on subjects of war, terrorism, and racial tensions. Robert Pattinson is so much more than the twilight movies and he gives a powerhouse performance in Good Time. He is almost unrecognizable as he moves away from his vampire past with an intense and emotional thrill ride.
15. Logan Lucky
Steven Soderbergh is back to his heist movie roots only this time in the mountains of West Virginia. This is a country Oceans 11 with a great supporting cast and one hell of a great GOT gag.
14. Get Out
Jordan Peele is so much more than Kay and Peele as he directs his first feature length film that is both hilarious and horrifying. A great first feature and the best horror film of the year with its smart social commentary and witty satire.
13. Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi
I hate that this didn’t make the top ten because this is my favorite of the new Star Wars films. Taking risks and supplying the series with a much needed creative spark, Rian Johnson is rightfully taking the franchise forward in a new and exciting direction. Fanboys can enjoy the old, as a new generation of fans are experiencing a new type of Star Wars film.
12. The Lost City of Z
This biopic is not for those that aren’t easily engaged by a story. This slow burn of a film is a powerful look at the sacrifices made in the search for greatness and meaning. It also does a great job of giving the world of Amazonia a feel and makes it a character in its own right.
11. Call Me By Your Name
Set in the scenic country side of Italy, Call Me By Your Name is a great love story in the midst of both history and art. First love and the pain it leaves is a recycled story thread here but Call Me By Your Name does it so well.
Now on to the Top Ten Films of the Year
The first of two comic book movies in the top ten, Logan is a rated R version of one of the most bankable superheroes around. This time the story goes in some interesting directions with the film feeling more like an independent film than it does a superhero film. Hugh Jackman goes out on top with this deep and gritty take on Wolverine that also brings some much needed closure to the character. This is one of the best superhero films around and another example that the genre can be so much more than just guys in tights.
9. Baby Driver
Edger Wright’s best film is a thrilling heist movie with a musical twist. Following our main character who uses headphones to drown out an internal humming, Baby Driver mixes both a love of music and car chases for one of the best crime movies to come out in a while. The ensemble here is great with Spacey, Hamm, and Fox giving great supporting turns. Wright has always been a talented filmmaker and I am glad everyone else is starting to figure that out.
This Netflix exclusive is a great meditation on race and social class set in the years after WW2. Netflix has had some exclusive bombs but Mudbound is up there with Beasts of No Nation as one of their best original content. Des Rees direction here is beautiful as Mudbound is a fantastic period piece. Rees is able to capture the culture of a post WW2 south that is both reeling from PTSD and racial tensions which results in both tragedy and surprising progress. This is one you should catch if you have the streaming service.
7. Spider-Man Homecoming
Marvel has hit three homeruns in the year of 2017 with three fantastic superhero films but their best was the welcome comeback of our favorite neighborhood Spider-Man. The biggest reason for this has to be Tom Holland, who is the definitive Peter Parker. Nothing against Toby McGuire but Holland actually looks like a high schooler and he plays Parker with the right mix of humor and smarts. Homecoming doesn’t try to make Spidey save the world or the city of New York but crafts a smaller scaled film that explores Peter and his role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This is a great coming of age story set in the world of heroes.
6. The Disaster Artist
I have never made a film nor finished a whole film script but there is part of me that feels that I need to do it before I pass from this earth. What holds me back is the fear of creating something horrible. The Disaster Artist is a touching film about just that, someone achieving a life long dream that is also one of the worst films ever made. James Franco and Dave Franco give touching performances as the friends determined to make it on the big screen. This friendship is the heart of the movie as the film chronicles the disaster of a film called The Room. The Disaster Artist isn’t all about lampooning the film and its creator but also about celebrating the achievement of a dream realized. Sometimes creating something uniquely you is a victory in itself… no matter how bad it is.
5. A Ghost Story
A Ghost Story is a wonderful and deep film which is anchored by the story of a Ghost and his journey through time and space. Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara are in the film but it is the visuals of the film that carries the weight of the picture. The Ghost rarely communicates and spends his time watching events alone with little to no purpose. This gives smaller moments more significance and gives the picture a type of meditative quality. This is a slow burn of a film and isn’t for everyone but if you can enjoy this meditation on life, death, and grief then you will have discovered one of 2017’s hidden gems.
4. Phantom Thread
I love PTA films (There Will Be Blood is one of my favorites films from the past decade….or any decade for that matter) but even I struggled to make myself see this film. The premise just seemed way too art house, even for me. When I did finally see the film I was engrossed by what a strong and strange story of love this is. A love story dominated by control, precision, and the chaos of loving another human being. Not only does the love story entertain but the use of the fashion world as a back drop is well done. Daniel Day Lewis is excellent as well as his female counter part, Vickey Krieps. This is one of PTA’s best films and one of the great character study films of the past few years.
I love me some Chris Nolan and Dunkirk is one of his best films to date. Put it along side The Dark Knight, Memento, and Inception as one of his crowing achievements and a great change of pace for the master director. This is a great WW2 film that adds the Nolan flair with non linear story telling (to great effect) and a tidy epilogue to wrap things up. The tension builds throughout the story and reaches a fever pitch at the end when all the storylines converge. Dunkirk is a showcase for editing as it weaves three different storylines gracefully. The films structure along with its reverence for one of England’s pinnacle moments in WW2 make this a great new addition to the War Film genre.
2. The Florida Project
There really is no plot in The Florida Project. It is really just a day in the life (or a summer in the life) of a young mother and her daughter. This family stays in a hotel by the magical Disney Land where the hotel isn’t just a place to stay but a much needed home with electricity and hot water. The story is told from a child’s perspective which gives the film a sort of innocence in the midst of harsh poverty. The story unfolds and we bounce from day to day but the reality remains the same, life is not full of Mickey Mouses and princesses. Dafoe is excellent as the manager of the hotel that houses these guests (residents). He feels he is above these people but he is also dealing with his own struggles that mirror those that he serves. The Florida Project is about housing and whether it is a human right to have it but what I loved most about the film is that its also about a child trying to be a child in the only environment she finds herself in.
1. Blade Runner 2049
I like the original Blade Runner. I don’t love it but I respect it for what it is, a sci fi classic. So I wasn’t too pumped to see, what I thought was, the sequel to a film that really didn’t need one. I was wrong because Blade Runner 2049 isn’t about rehashing the old, but infusing an old story with new and fresh ideas. Denis Villeneuve crafts an art house film with a blockbuster budget and even though the film bombed at the box office (which will result in no more Blade Runner films), the final product makes it worth it. The film has beautiful cinematography, contains an excellent score, and has some solid performances but it is the story that has kept me coming back to the Blade Runner universe. The story of what constitutes a life and can a machine contain a conscious that we humans possess. The twist at the end is one of beauty as it takes the audience unaware and creates a very touching conclusion to the film and the journey started back in 1982. Shows like Black Mirror and Electric Dreams have had the same themes and so has films like Ex Machina and A.I. but here it is done so gracefully and with added purpose. The film moved me in a way no other film this year has and had me reading the source material and looking deeper into the works of Phillip K. Dick (the original author the book Blade Runner and Blade Runner 2049 is based). Blade Runner 2049 is a depressing look at our future but it ends on a hopeful note with a scene that represents the best of humanity. A scene of a sacrifice for others so that they may go on, side by side.
Just for fun here is how I would rank the Best Picture nominees tonight
- Phantom Thread
- Call Me By Your Name
- Get Out
- The Shape of Water
- The Post
- Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing Missouri
- Lady Bird
- Darkest Hour