Each year that goes by I feel I see less and less films in the theaters. Between work, overtime, and all the activities of two children there just isn’t as much time and money as there used to be. I normally make a mad dash after Oscar nominations are released to see all the award contenders. Luckily, Netflix and other streaming devices have simplified life and become the source for some huge films. Two of my favorite films of the year were made possible via Netflix and Amazon. My list, like many other critics, contains several “superhero” films, but I think if nothing else, 2017 became the year where great “superhero movies” just started becoming “great movies.” Consider of the 5 major studio superhero-themed films I saw this year (sorry, not sorry Justice League), Wonder Woman ranked fifth.
Below are my Top 10 Favorite Movies of 2017…
First, here’s the list of films I fully intend to see before Oscar season officially begins, but didn’t get to view as of yet:
Dunkirk, John Wick 2, Atomic Blonde, I Tonya, Wind River, Lady Bird, The Florida Project, The Disaster Artist, Coco, The Darkest Hour, Logan Lucky, Call Me By Your Name
Now it’s time for HONORABLE MENTIONS!!!
Wonder Woman – No Man’s Land is one of the best scenes in any movie this year. Just wish it had a better final third.
Spider-Man: Homecoming – Tom Holland is the best Peter Parker/Spider-Man since Tobey debuted, and Michael Keaton continues to dominate in roles requiring him to portray costumed flying beasts.
It – The record-breaking success of It relies more on its amazing cast of young actors rather than Pennywise the clown… but he’s good, too. This was such a good year for horror and It was a major reason why.
Beauty and the Beast – Disney took my favorite animated classic, added a few catchy songs, and some adult logic and it just totally worked.
War For the Planet of the Apes – The best modern trilogy in cinema concludes with another amazing film. Somebody please create an Oscar for Andy Serkis to win!
The Big Sick – The true story of how Pakistani comedian Kumail Nanjiani met his American wife Emily, written by them, is heartwarming and inspiring with real messages about family, love, and acceptance. The movie is legitimately funny and you actively root for the people involved despite knowing they inevitably end up together. Stand-out performances here from Holly Hunter and Ray Romano as Emily’s parents, and Nanjiani and Zoe Kazan have such great chemistry. If you’re looking for a break from $200 million popcorn franchise sequels, hit Amazon Prime and check out the best real-life love story of the year.
Okay… so here they are…my picks for Top 10 Movies of 2017…
10. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
It says so much for director James Gunn’s wacky heroes that the Guardians movies are the only ones in the entire MCU that my dad watches and loves despite knowing nothing about “Batista and the hilarious dancing tree.” Gunn somehow did the impossible and made GOTG2 as much fun as the first without rehashing the same jokes. I laughed so much in theaters I had to rewatch it on Blu-Ray to catch the jokes I missed. Not to mention it’s got an awesome scenery-chewing performance from Kurt Russell and if there is a Guardian up there, Michael Rooker will get a deserved Best Supporting Actor nomination. The line of 2017: “I’m Mary Poppins, y’all!”
9. Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Yep, bring on the hate, I don’t care. Shirtless Kylo Ren, love it. Rose and Finn dishing social commentary, gimme more. Snoke’s early demise, epic. I had my nitpicks, but in the end that’s all they felt like, minor little nitpicks. The overall message is that sometimes we put too much faith in our old heroes and use them as a crutch. And that as Luke Skywalker would say, “has to end.” After a second viewing everything felt right and the film has at least three of my favorite scenes from any movie this year.
8. Thor: Ragnarok
The most balls to the wall FUN movie I saw in 2017 was easily Thor: Ragnarok. Thor 2 ranks near the bottom of the MCU, so Taika Waititi turned the entire series on its head and the tonal shift was spectacular in this third film. The colors, the visuals, Cate Blanchett in black leather(!), and some kickass new characters like Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie and Waititi’s Korg made this so enjoyable. Never thought I’d see a Thor film in my top 5 MCU ranking… but 2017 is a weird freaking year!
7. Baby Driver
Director Edgar Wright certainly has a style all his own, I gotta give him that. Baby Driver begins with one of the best opening credit scenes I’ve ever watched featuring long tracking shots, fantastic visuals with the spray painting, and of course… the soundtrack. Baby Driver is a film filled with crazy and exciting characters, but the soundtrack dominates and becomes the star in a way I can’t remember since perhaps Linklater’s Dazed and Confused. Jon Hamm is off the wall insane, Eiza Gonzalez is jaw-droppingly stunning, and while it’s not PC to say it, Kevin Spacey commands a screen like few can. Ansel Elgort manages to say volumes despite not saying much and is really good in the lead. Great stunts, memorable dialogue and characters, and an all-time great soundtrack.
It’s cliche to say that “this is the Wolverine film we’ve all been waiting for,” but THIS IS THE WOLVERINE FILM WE’VE ALL BEEN WAITING FOR!!! Hugh Jackman is Wolverine for the 9th time (!) and finally we get the rated-R masterpiece we knew he was keeping caged up inside. This was not just a phenomenal “superhero movie,” but a compelling character-driven story with real emotional arcs. It is brutal and beautiful and director James Mangold directs the hell out of this film. Jackman, Patrick Stewart, and young Dafne Keen are all great. Jackman put in a life’s work to make this legendary character his own and HE deserved to play him true to his comic book roots. Just a tour de force in filmmaking and proof that comic book movies can just be GREAT films.
5. Brigsby Bear
The most unique and original comedy to come around in years, Brigsby Bear stars Kyle Mooney from SNL as James, a 30+ year-old man who is obsessed with the titualar kids’ TV series only to find that he is the only person to ever watch it. When his whole life is thrown upside down, he goes on a crusade to show the wonders of Brigsby to everyone he comes in contact with. Where other movies would lead the characters down dark paths, director Dave McCary and writers Mooney and Kevin Costello keep everything genuine and surprisingly positive. There are great supporting performances from Greg Kinnear and Mark Hamill and this movie just never stopped making me laugh and feel great about humanity, which in 2017 is a huge plus. This is a must-see!
4. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Sometimes the best films are those where nothing much happens and we just sit back and watch great actors do their thing. So is Three Billboards. From Oscar-winner Martin McDonagh, who knows how to write and direct terrific actors (In Bruges, Seven Psychopaths), this time Oscar-winner Frances McDormand steals the show and may be en route to her second golden trophy. She plays a mother who daughter’s murder remains unsolved so she pays for three huge billboards calling out the local police for not solving the crime. The film could’ve easily been played as over the top comedy and or gone in a darker direction, but McDonagh and his talented cast walk the fine line crafting a realistic and unique dark comedy that comes from a place a true emotion and heartbreak. You will not believe what comes out of her mouth! Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell are equally great as the police.
3. Gerald’s Game
In an amazing year for women in film, I am hoping one of my long-time favorite actresses, Carla Gugino, can grab an Oscar nomination. This is one of the craziest performances I can remember. Despite IT shattering the box offices, THIS was the best Stephen King adaptation of 2017. Directed by my favorite up and coming horror director, Mike Flanagan (Hush, Ouija: Origin of Evil), the film sees Gugino as Jessie, who escapes with her husband (Bruce Greenwood) to a secluded house to “freshen up” their stale marriage and sex life. Within 15 minutes of the opening credits, Jessie is handcuffed to the bed… and seriously go to Netflix right now and watch. There is a scene here that had me shove my fist in my mouth to muffle the screams. Flanagan’s film is taut, suspenseful, horrifying, and heroic, and Gugino delivers an epic performance.
2. Get Out
If you’re just seeing Get Out for the first time, after all the accolades and award nominations, you might be wondering what the fuss is about. But if you remember seeing the trailer for the first time and being there opening weekend, this film is an experience to behold and director Jordan Peele has crafted a masterpiece of modern horror, a film that blends genre filmmaking with social commentary the best I’ve ever seen. The performances are terrific, especially the star-making turns by Daniel Kaluuya and LilRel Howery. Catherine Keener and Bradley Whitford are fantastic, and everything just works. I saw this in a crowded theater by myself. I had an aisle seat sitting next to an African-American man and his white female companion. By the end of the film he was closer to ME than her! Get Out, along with Wonder Woman, arrived at the perfect time to capture the zeitgeist of America in 2017. The difference is while Wonder Woman faltered in its third act, Get Out only got darker and better. One can only imagine had Peele kept the original ending! Get Out is not just an important film, it is a modern classic worthy of every bit of praise you’ve heard.
1. The Shape of Water
There are not enough ways I can praise this film or its creator, Guillermo del Toro. It’s del Toro, so you know you’re gonna get visual mastercraft and unparalleled production design. He and Vanessa Taylor’s script stars just as brightly as the visuals. In this stunningly beautiful world of a Cold War-era research lab, mute cleaner Elisa (Sally Hawkins) meets and bonds with an amphibious creature played, of course, by the incomparable Doug Jones. He is to prosthetic creature acting as Andy Serkis is to motion capture. By my count there are 5 Oscar-worthy performances here with Hawkins giving one of the bravest ones in recent memory. Joining her are psychotic villain Michael Shannon, her neighbor Richard Jenkins, her co-worker Octavia Spencer, and Jones himself. While obviously paying homage to Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954), del Toro instead opts to make the best love story of 2017. There are moments where you will laugh, moments you will scream “WTF?!,” and moments where you’ll just smile and perhaps shed a tear for these amazing characters. No one working today in the industry seamlessly blends dark and gorgeous fantasy with harrowing and haunting real-world drama. Here the master does it again. The Shape of Water is my favorite film of 2017.