Every year it’s worth reflecting on the achievements and progress that we have made together, and one of the ways we can do that is by taking a look at the art that was produced during that time. This can be an important lens for seeing how a culture grows and changes as well as for identifying technical achievement. Some years it’s hard to pick a top 10 because a few movies are so far ahead that it’s hard for the rest to measure up. 2017 was challenging because we saw such a large offering of films that broke new ground, asked important questions, entertained, and made us feel a wealth of emotions that catered to almost every type of personal taste.
Some genres, such as action-adventure, had so many incredible entries that a reasonable list could almost have been completely filled with action flicks. When it comes to talking about the best movies to come out in a year, it’s important to note that based on personal taste, different elements of a film are worth more to different people. I want to start out by saying that we’re not going to be fair here.
For our top 10 of 2017, we want to look at films that tread new ground, often leaving us walking out of the theater feeling giddy and excited or thoughtful and contemplative. Some of these are flawed works and several failed on several levels delivering uneven experiences. Cinema is an exciting medium, and it’s important that this list captures what we found to be inspiring, which is why we picked some of these films over more technically excellent works.
We’ll be overlooking movies we haven’t seen yet, as well. 2017 was filled with so much goodness that we missed gems such as Get Out, The Phantom Thread, The Big Sick, Lady Bird, Logan Lucky, Wind River, and “Call Me By Your Name”. We know we’ve missed out on some fantastic movies, even with everything we did watch this year. I’m sorry. They’ll be watched ASAP.
With all of that said, let’s begin:
10). Happy Death Day
Quirky and strange, Happy Death Day is the suspense-thriller-comedy spiritual successor to Groundhog Day that we never knew we wanted. Bringing together a range of creepy, funny, and outright weird storytelling elements, Happy Death Day is a movie that is almost impossible to forget. While lacking musically and failing to deliver tones that work for all of its themes, Happy Death Day makes our list because of the wide number of genres we wanted to represent as well as the unrestrained joy it brings into its storytelling.
9). Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
This gem stood out because of its sharp writing that was well delivered by an outstanding cast. Despite several pacing problems and often using scathingly witty dialog at the expense of the emotional core of its story, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri has the most thought-provoking ending of the year. It’s impossible to walk away from this experience without questioning what it is saying about its own story and challenging its viewers to think harder and talk more.
8). Alien: Covenant
Ridley Scott returns to the darker horror roots of the Alien franchise as he dives deeper into the more horrific extension of Prometheus. By turning more toward the type of suspense from the original Alien and returning to the classic version of the monster that series is known for, Alien: Covenant manages to be one of the most discussed as well as also one of the most interesting horror movies of the year.
7). Baby Driver
Director Edgar Wright moved on from thoughtful parody to pure action with 2017’s Baby Driver one of the most detailed action flicks in years, and a near perfect thrill ride charged with music that gets your blood moving. Baby Driver is ahead of the crowd, and was so good that even with all of the amazing films this year it was an easy pick.
6). The Last Jedi
The Star Wars franchise has struggled with moving forward or saying anything interesting since the end of the original trilogy. There have been glimpses of goodness here and there, but The Last Jedi is a deeply controversial film that finds something new to say, seems to reflect both on its own nature as well as the nature of Star Wars as a whole as a Disney property. It manages to do all of this while being immensely entertaining. It’s not perfect, and its detractors have some valid criticisms of the film, but at the same time, it is constantly encouraging discussion about what the purpose of the franchise is, what it means, and where it can go from here. Easily the first film in the series to be worthy of the original trilogy.
5). Thor: Ragnarok
Marvel has steadily departed from its original formula over the course of the last year with Doctor Strange and Guardians of the Galaxy 2, moving away from pure action movies to find some of the most emotional space it’s ever occupied. However, despite all the other movies with Marvel characters this year, Thor: Ragnarok stands out with its tight construction, bright sense of humor, and the most intelligent themes in any Marvel movie. Thor: Ragnarok is easily the height of the Marvel Cinematic Universe so far, and hopefully an indication of where we’ll be going in the future.
4). Blade Runner 2049
I never dared hope that anyone would make a sequel to Blade Runner that is this true to the slow burn of the original. Blade Runner 2049 is an artistic work that dives in 30 years after the original and runs wild with the story implied by the director’s cut of its predecessor. Blade Runner 2049 is an absolute must-see for fans of the original and we may not see anything else like it for a long long time.
Pixar doesn’t have the perfect record with me that they used to, but Coco showed that they are still capable of evolving. Coco is packed with incredible imagery that captures the beauty of a culture as well as a story that lands on multiple levels. In addition to all of that, Coco managed to bring out happy tears from me, which is something I have almost never experienced during a film.
2). The Shape of Water
The theme of this year’s top ten is movies that made me feel the magic all over again. The Shape of Water takes the monster movie formula from the golden age of cinema and puts an outlandish twist on it. Think King Kong, but where the girl kidnaps the ape. Director Guillermo del Toro has captured something truly outlandish that is pure joy and entertainment to watch.
I’d like to take a moment to mention movies that would likely have made this list in most other years. Wonder Woman as the very best DC movie in years and for finally delivering an outstanding female superhero, Logan for delivering the Wolverine movie that fans have been craving for over a decade, The Post for addressing a world with the press at war with the American government at a time when it was propagating lies that were costing human lives, IT for capturing the fun of Goonies in a creepy film aimed at adults, Lego Batman for making me laugh so hard that my sides physically hurt within its first ten minutes, and Wonder for showing the whole beautiful range of human emotion and challenging far more what it means to be normal than what it means to be different. Each and every one of these is worth your time and should be watched.
In keeping with our theme of films that remind us of what makes movies so special, Dunkirk is one of the few films ever made that I cannot even imagine outside of a theater experience. It felt like my heart was going to stop. Every element of this work of art went to driving an intensity of emotion and raw tension that is unparalleled.
That’s our list for 2017! Be sure to tell us what you think in the comments below and let us know if you agree or disagree, and let us know what other movies you may have picked instead.