2017 was a good year for movies. I know people don’t want to hear that, but we had so many really great movies. From the small indie films to the big superhero movies – it wound up being a very solid year. Sure, there were duds, but that’s true of every year.
(Disclaimer: It takes a while to make a definitive “Best of” list for any given year, especially if you don’t live in a privileged city that gets all of the limited releases right away. There are still places around the country that haven’t gotten to see Phantom Thread, for instance. And while it didn’t make my list, it’s one that you have to see before being able to properly complete the list. Everyone will have blind spots, but minimizing those as much as possible is just doing one’s due diligence. I wound up seeing 219 films released in 2017 and still feel like I missed some important ones.)
With that said, here are my top 10 movies from 2017.
The Big Sick
Easily the funniest movie of 2017, The Big Sick tells the true-to-life story of how Kumail Nanjiani (who co-wrote and stars in the film) met his wife, Emily V. Gordon (who was the other co-writer), how she fell into a coma, and how he dealt with that. It’s a true story told by the people who lived it. It’s hilarious, has fantastic performances from Nunjiani, Holly Hunter, and Ray Romano, and it’s sickeningly sweet and cheery, too.
Blade Runner 2049
I was as skeptical of Blade Runner 2049 as anyone. A sequel made more than three decades after the original is a dubious prospect to begin with, and when the original is a classic like Blade Runner, you’re going to have to work really hard to win us over. Blade Runner 2049 did just that, delivering a worthy sequel that both takes the franchise in a new direction and feels like a worthy successor. It’s gorgeous, atmospheric, and thrilling.
Coco is Pixar operating at its near-best. A thrilling adventure set in an interesting locale that will both warm your blackened soul and bring tears to your eyes, all while making you dance along to its music and appreciate its visuals. Coco is the full package – the perfect type of animated movie that works as effectively for adults as it does for children.
The Florida Project
The Florida Project tells an engaging story about a group of people who don’t often feature in movies – and when they do, they’re usually the subjects of documentaries, not narrative features. It follows a few people living in a motel that’s close to Disneyland – people who are just getting by. It primarily focuses on a 6-year-old and her mother, the former of whom gets to run around and play unsupervised for most of the time. It’s funny, it’s emotionally resonant, and it makes you pay attention to people who are underrepresented at the cinema.
Jordan Peele worked primarily in comedy on television prior to writing and directing Get Out. It is his first feature directing job. It is fantastic. It works on its surface as a pure horror movie. It’s scary and it has an interesting plot. But as you peel (ha!) back the layers, you see a movie that tackles racism – both overt and subtle – in a way we almost never see, and it becomes even scarier. What a debut.
A Ghost Story
If you’re going to sit there and tell me that watching Rooney Mara eat an entire pie in just a couple of takes isn’t engaging, I’m going to tell you that A Ghost Story isn’t for you and you should stay far away. That’s the scene that made me recognize its greatness. Her recently-decased-but-brought-back-as-a-ghost husband watches his wife grief-eat her way to sickness, all while the camera refuses to blink. You won’t see another film like A Ghost Story.
We, as a collective, probably were harder on Tonya Harding than we should have been. I, Tonya is here both to set the record straight about the “incident” that happened in 1994, as well as make us feel bad about the way we handled it. It recounts the story with hindsight and humor, explaining what went on from everyone involved. It also gives us insight into Harding’s life before that, showcasing the domestic abuse she suffered in a shocking way. It’s an electric film, and it manages to both be an effective drama and comedy.
Lady Bird is a coming-of-age movie following Saoirse Ronan as “Lady Bird” in her final year of high school. It covers a lot of familiar ground but has its own voice, gives its characters unique challenges, and is both funny and sweet for the entirety of its brief running time. It has complex characters, insight into their situations, and an engrossing charm to its proceedings.
mother! is one of a handful of movies in history that have gotten an F on CinemaScore, which has members of the general audience rate movies right after they’ve ended. So I wager this will be the most controversial film on this list, given that you, statistically speaking, either didn’t see it (it underperformed at the box office) or hated it.
To me, it’s one of the best of the year. It’s a challenging, thoughtful movie that doesn’t shy away from controversial subjects (abuse, religion), is about 90% allegory, and manages to marry several themes – religion, environmentalism, living with a “creative genius,” to name a few – together in a semi-coherent plot, all with an explosive finale that honestly has to be seen to be believed. It’s challenging and unlike almost anything else, and it provokes such a strong reaction from people who saw it. That’s a testament to great art.
Professor Marston and the Wonder Women
Professor Marston and the Wonder Women details both the creation of Wonder Woman – the comic book – as well as the way that society looked down upon its creator(s) and their unconventional approach to relationships. That gets more focus than the Wonder Woman part, actually, which is probably for the better. After all, you need characters for almost all great movies, and Professor Marston‘s decision to spend most of our time with them, learning about them, allows it to become a great movie.