I know we’re a couple of weeks into 2018 now, but doesn’t it still feel like we’re in last year? I know I’m still writing down “2017” any time someone asks me to write down a date and then hastily scratching out the “7” to replace it with an “8.” The movies take a while to move on, too, with several 2017 holdouts still not open nationwide, and the award shows celebrating the past year only just now have gotten started.
With that justification out of the way, here are 10 movies from 2017 that you probably didn’t see, but you definitely should see.
(And for the cinephiles who saw everything on this list, I offer you this: congratulations.)
It’s impossible to know how well Bad Match did—it was only released in 10 theaters for a week, and took in less than $4,000 in that time. But it was released simultaneously on VOD, which means anyone could have rented it if they wanted to. It’s not a high-profile movie, though, and I’m guessing that wasn’t the case; you may never have heard of it.
Bad Match is a stalker thriller … with a twist. It, in a sense, flips the genre on its head, but does it slowly and cleverly, in a way that the audience only gradually becomes aware it’s happening. It’s smart and puts us in a really fun position as a viewer. I enjoy when movies try to test us, and it does that.
Better Watch Out
Another simultaneous-to-VOD horror movie that tries to flip its genre on its head, Better Watch Out is a home invasion movie … with a twist. Okay, I’ll stop that now. It sounds disingenuous. But it’s the truth. A babysitter and her charge are faced with a potential home invasion and need to figure out what to do.
No, it isn’t going to go down like Home Alone. But good guess.
At its widest, Brigsby Bear made it to just over 400 theaters—and its total theatrical gross was barely over $500,000. I wonder if the title and poster art put people off it, making it seem like a movie for children—but, like, still “artsy.”
The movie is about a man who, after decades of living in a secluded location and being lied to about his parents about how the rest of the world is literally toxic, is released and gets to experience that very world—eventually deciding to make a movie based on a show he watched as a child, which allows him to work through his problems adjusting. It’s smart, really sweet, and well worth your time.
Columbus might not sound like a terribly interesting movie on paper. It has a man and a woman and they talk to each other—largely about architecture—for 90 minutes. Sometimes they’re not together, and they deal with their own problems, but for much of the film they are. But the dialogue is fascinating, the architecture really is gorgeous, the insights into the characters are fantastic, and the acting is top-notch. Columbus, at its widest, only made it to 63 theaters, and it took home just over $1 million.
I wasn’t going to include Free Fire on this list, as I genuinely thought it did better than it did. It opened in over 1,000 theaters but didn’t pass the $2 million mark at the box office, despite having a very solid cast, a great director, a fantastic trailer, and a cool premise.
Essentially, it’s a “deal gone wrong” movie in which the various parties are cooped up in a warehouse and are engaged in a gun fight. There isn’t much more to it than that, but it’s a lot of fun and a good chunk of the dialogue is clever and funny. The action is pretty good, too.
A Ghost Story
A Ghost Story made less than $2 million and its widest release was 329 theaters, so chances are you didn’t have an opportunity to see it even if you wanted to. And I know how it is: once it hits home video, you’ve forgotten about it or have so many other things to see and it slips your mind.
A Ghost Story is a very “artsy” movie, one filmed in a very narrow aspect ratio (1.33:1) and containing very little dialogue. It takes place from the perspective of a ghost, one who watches what happens to the people and places he knows once he dies. It’s powerful filmmaking, but it’s also pretty slow. I don’t say that to dissuade you from seeing it; just to let you know what you’re in for.
I mentioned The Lure before when I was talking about human and non-human relationships, but it warrants mention again here, mostly because it’s so good. It only made it to 7 theaters and took in just over $100,000, but it was worthy of being released by The Criterion Collection on home video, which isn’t a small feat.
It tells the story of two mermaids, who wind up working as singers at a club. They’re looking for love, or food, one of the two (and maybe both, simultaneously). The songs are catchy, the performances are great, the effects to create the mermaids are tremendous, and the film is unlike anything you’ve seen before.
Professor Marston & the Wonder Women
Despite opening in over 1200 theaters, Professor Marston & the Wonder Women failed to gross over $2 million during its theatrical run. It was a theatrical bomb, which is a shame because it’s fantastic. It tells the tale of the man who created Wonder Woman—whose own movie made over $800 million earlier in the year—and his … “unconventional” approach to relationships. It’s really great.
The Square is up for the Best Foreign Language Academy Award, but it peaked at 70 theaters during its theatrical run. It’s about an art gallery curator having to deal with … all sorts of problems related to that, particularly when it comes to presentation and advertisement. It has a lot to say about art and society, and also features one of the most uncomfortable scenes you’ll ever watch, as a man pretending to be an ape is put in an upscale dining hall—and he does not break character.
Okay, I said I’d stop talking about horror movies “… with a twist,” but Tragedy Girls also came out in 2017, made just over $60,000 from a handful of theaters, and fits that bill. It’s a clever horror comedy about two high school girls who idolize serial killers, use murders to get clicks on their blog, and mock the entire process. I described after watching it as Scream meets Jawbreaker for the Twitter generation—and I mean it as a compliment.