Despite a few rough patches and a few truly terrible offerings, 2017 was a stellar cinematic year. From a thrilling climax of the new Ape series to a truly scary adaptation of a Stephen King novel to a sci-fi sequel that worked spectacularly well thirty-five years after its predecessor hit the big screen, there were an eclectic mix of truly great movies.
It was truly difficult to arrive at my list of the ten best movies of the year but these movies stood above their peers in standing out in a rather incredible year of film.
With that in mind, here’s my list of the 10 best movies of 2017.
10.) Wind River: Hell or High Water was one of the best movies of 2016 and writer/director Taylor Sheridan has followed that up with one of the best movies of 2017. Although both features are character-driven, this movie takes place worlds apart from Sheridan’s previous picture.
Set in a frozen landscape, this feature focuses on an FBI agent (Elisabeth Olsen) who teams up with a tracker (Jeremy Renner) to find a local killer. Sheridan’s world is well-crafted, showing the audience the painful realities of a world often forgotten on the big screen. The mystery unfolds slowly with Renner showcasing his abilities as a leading man with a stellar subtle performance alongside Olsen, who also does great work here.
9.) Wonder: Sentimental films can easily fall over a cliff. They can be manipulative and complacent and nearly unwatchable. Wonder isn’t like that. Director Stephen Chbosky, who brought his novel The Perks of Being a Wallflower to the big screen in 2012 (easily one of the best movies of that year), knows how to set the right tone.
This uplifting story about a teenager with a facial difference (Jacob Tremblay) understands when and how to focus on its characters. The feature transitions between character journeys tremendously well, allowing the story and the unique characters to develop naturally. When the film reaches its climax, the satisfying conclusion feels earned and succeeds because of that.
8.) Wonder Woman: 2017 had its share of memorable superhero movies. From the hopeful spirit of Spider-Man: Homecoming to the dreariness of Justice League, there were plenty of films about iconic characters saving the day. None were as exciting as Wonder Woman. Director Patty Jenkins thrillingly brings this character to life in a beautifully-crafted origin story. Gal Gadot perfectly captures the title character as she finds herself immersed in a strange world (with plenty of fish out of water jokes) while persistently standing up for her values.
When well-done, superhero movies can enrich the genre by crafting something unique and powerful. That’s what Jenkins did remarkably well here.
7.) Get Out: Like Three Billboards, this film comes with a simple-seeming plot. A black man (Daniel Kaluuya) travels alongside his white girlfriend (Alison Williams) to meet her parents for the first time. That concept allows writer/director Jordan Peele the unique opportunity to create something both wildly outrageous and uniquely satisfying. A blend of multiple genres (comedy, drama, horror), this provocative work of art astounds in its ability to change audience perceptions while remaining true to its concept and the twists that are eventually revealed.
6.)Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri: Written and directed by Martin McDonagh, this drama consistently surprises. The premise is simple enough: a woman, frustrated by the lack of progress in solving the case of her daughter’s murder, chastises the police chief by putting up three billboards criticizing him. That’s only how the story begins though. Throughout its running time of one hour and 55 minutes, there are surprising twists, great character arcs, and strong performances (especially by Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell).
When the film ends, it’s exciting to think about the strange emotionally-satisfying journey that McDonagh has taken you in a span of only a few hours.
5.) Dunkirk: Director Christopher Nolan presents his vision of war in this epic feature. Instead of focusing on specific character arcs, he focuses on the scope of the Dunkirk evacuation. He specifically tries to capture the situations as they occurred in the air, on the land and at sea. Featuring a solid ensemble cast, this drama presents Nolan’s unique vision and subtly plays with the timetable in a way that adds additional layers of depth that will reward repeat viewings.
4.) Lady Bird: One of the unique elements of Lady Bird is the feeling that you don’t exactly appreciate everything in the movie until it ends. The different sequences of Greta Gerwig’s coming-of-age story only come together when you realize the depth of her vision. This isn’t a movie about little moments. It’s a movie about the transformation from youth to adulthood and the subtle changes that occur when you’re not paying attention. Saorise Ronan is tremendous in the lead role but it’s Laurie Metcalf (as Lady Bird’s mother) who truly stands out in an Oscar-worthy supporting performance.
3.) Baby Driver: This summer thriller was original, exciting and creative. Bursting with great music and color, watching this feature was the most fun I had in a theater this year. Writer/director Edgar Wright took the heist genre to a new level with a story about a young driver with a hearing problem who listened to music throughout the day. The music was in tune with the thrills, which offered some of the best action sequences of the year.
2.) The Shape of Water: A relationship film about a mute woman and an aquatic discovery sounds like a tricky proposition. How could a director pull off such a feat? The answer can be found in this beautiful vision by Guillermo del Toro. Sally Hawkins, who deserves to win best actress at the Academy Awards, presents a lonely but relatable character who simply longs for companionship.
Her friendship with neighbor Giles (Richard Jenkins) shows the two solitary figures bonding together but she longs for something more. When she encounters a creature (Doug Jones) in the scientific lab she cleans, she discovers another being that seemingly understands what it’s like to be unique. The movie is visually sophisticated and thoughtfully-crafted with a profound climax that brings the story’s themes together magnificently.
1.) Call Me By Your Name: Adapted from the André Aciman novel, this beautifully-filmed drama captures the budding relationship between a teenager and his father’s temporary research assistant. Timothée Chalamet anchors the story as Elio, a studious youngster, who falls in love with Oliver (Armie Hammer). Their relationship is never straightforward but always true, letting viewers glimpse the meticulously-crafted moments that bring these two together.
The complexity of first love is captured in a gorgeous setting that director Luca Guadagnino brings to life with sensitivity and grace. Chalamet is painfully vulnerable in this star-making turn and the supporting performances by Armie Hammer and powerhouse Michael Stuhlbarg are great as well, really rounding out this masterful vision.