I constantly heard throughout 2017, from numerous people, that it “just wasn’t a good year for movies.” While that maybe true from an exhibitor standpoint - as box office revenue is set to be down 2% from last year - but from an avid moviegoer one, it was actually a terrific year. I couldn’t tell you the last time I had this much trouble compiling my list. Not only has it changed within the last minutes of me writing this, but my top five has shifted at least sixteen times within the last week. THAT’s how impactful cinema was for me in 2017. Of course, they’re were many ups and downs, with some movies - like the amazing “Wonder Woman,” the underated “A Cure For Wellness” and the feel good movie of the year “Wonder” - that I wish I could find a spot for on my list. But other movies stood out more. So in line with my normal tradition, I’ve compiled my top 10 movies of 2017, with, instead of my normal five, seven honorable mentions. The next seven best movies that just missed the top 10. Some of you might be surprised, others won’t. One thing remains the same, 2017 was the best year in film in quite some time.
Without further ado.
10. Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Director Rian Johnson did something few thought he could: deliver an original, fresh and lively “Star Wars” film that fans were craving. Some have pointed out that it “doesn't feel like a ‘Star Wars’ movie” which to them I say, have you ever watched a “Star Wars” movie? “The Last Jedi” isn’t the best in the canon, but it’s the only movie this year that eradicated me with such an overwhelming feeling of joy, and single handedly delivers the best cinematic moment on screen this year. So much so, that I had to give it a nod into my top 10.
9. The Florida Project
Sean Baker had the luxury of delivering a story that audiences these days don’t see that much. The story - about an impoverished Florida community told through the eyes of six year old Moonie (played with exceptional poise by young and upcomer Brooklyn Prince) - is rich and detailed. Willem Dafoe, who is likely to take him a Best Supporting Actor trophy for his work as the overworked hotel manager, is revolutionary. There’s strength in being reserved, and this cast has all that and more. More people need to take note about Baker’s attention to detail. Watching “The Florida Project” is like viewing a documentary.
8. Brigsby Bear
In what might be the weirdest film of the year, “Brigsby Bear” has a ton of heart. The breakout Sundance sensation was a film that few people saw (and one that quickly vanished from theaters) - but for me, it connected on a much deeper level. The movie is from the minds of SNL alum Lonely Island and lead star Kyle Mooney. Mooney plays James Pope, a sheltered young man who doesn’t know much about the world. The only thing he does know is a television program called “Brigsby Bear” that is broadcasted to his home every week. Once he realizes his show was only created for him, he sets out on a journey to create one final adventure with his most cherished character. This movie is oddly offbeat, strange, and wacky. But if it doesn’t leave you with a smile on your face, I’m not sure what will.
I had the privilege of attending the world premiere of Kathryn Bigelow's harrowing drama “Detroit” at the Fox Theater this past summer. And it’s a film that still resonates and speaks truth about certain injustices taking place today. In just two hours and thirty minutes - “Detroit” spans decades of racism, cruelty, and an unfortunate evening that left a pair of black teenagers dead. I saw the parents of those teens, who were killed by police officers that thought they were above the law, after the screening. I could see that while it was tough from them to watch the brutal and graphic film, they were grateful because it was bringing light to serious issues in our country today. “Detroit” does the motor city riots justice, and it’s a shame that more people haven’t witnessed this movie.
6. The Shape Of Water
Guillermo del Toro has created movie magic with his latest and swift fantasy romance: “The Shape of Water” a film that is basically: “The Creature from The Black Lagoon” if it had been conceived as a romantic drama. Sure that might sound strange to some, but Toro knows how to create a lavish world we’ve never seen before. This is his best film since the iconic “Pan's Labyrinth.”
5. Get Out
What else can be said about Jordan Peele’s directorial debut “Get Out” that hasn’t? We have to go all the way back to February when this was released, where nobody knew how much of an impact this was going to have on moviegoers. A horror film that also happened to be a social satire on WASPIFIED elitists? Only in Peele’s creative mind could he come up with such a tale and have it actually work.
4. Baby Driver
Writer and director Edgar Wright has always been one of my top five directors. And his first mainstream attempt at filmmaking (save for fanboy favorite “Scott Pilgrim vs The World”) was a blast of adrenaline that was fast, free and loose. He infuses a classical style of musical interludes to help tell his story of Baby (played effortlessly by Ansel Elgort) - a getaway driver who drives it like he stole it. Most people wrote this film off, because they thought it looked strange. But, as soon as they embraced the heart and soul of the picture, my goodness they came around.
3. The Disaster Artist
A movie that was about the worst movie ever made, ironically, turned out to be one of the best. James Franco took over directing and acting duties playing the infamous and mysterious Tommy Wiseau. The self appointed writer/director of “The Room” that somehow had $6 million bucks to pour into a production that was plagued with many issues. Franco captures the tone and essence of Wiseau’s personality completely. “The Room” went on to become a cult-late night screening hit - and recouped its budget. And now, in an even funnier notion, Wiseau might’ve just punched his ticket to the Oscars.
2. Lady Bird
I wish I could convey how perfect Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut “Lady Bird” is. A film that captures the trials and turbulences of life, parents, and high school. Saoirse Ronan takes on the titular character, who gives herself the nickname Lady Bird, as she goes through the motions of senior year at an uptight Catholic high school in 2002. Laurie Metcalf (who could win Best Supporting Actress at this years Oscars) makes waves as Lady Bird’s mother figure that just wants the best for her daughter. But sometimes they end up bickering more often than not. The result is a beautiful film that might give Gerwig a much deserved Oscar nomination, and, fingers crossed, an earned win.
1. The Big Sick
This was a tough spot for me this year. Because, “The Big Sick” was in my top three all year - and it shifted more than once. But, after watching the film at least six times, it’s clear that “The Big Sick” is my best film of 2017. This is a movie that just made me feel good about everything. Kumail Nanjiani has such heart and terrific comedic presence throughout the movie, he’s just so much fun to watch, we never know what he’s going to do next.
The movie details the true story of how Nanjiani and his wife Emily (played her by Zoe Kazan) met and the cultural impact it would have on Nanjiani’s family. Mainly because he comes from Pakistan and its customary for him to marry a women that his parents choose for him. While yes, this is a romantic comedy, the film tackles serious subjects (like how Emily gets put into a medically induced coma). Nanjiani and his wife co-wrote the script, which likely explains why the movie feels so fresh, and the chemistry sparks electricity. Holly Hunter and Ray Romano turn in exceptional supporting performances as Emily’s parents, in what is the best romantic comedy, and movie, of the year.
HONORABLE MENTIONS: (The next seven best movies of 2017)
“Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond.” “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” “Coco.”
“The Post.” “Dunkirk.” “Wind River.” “Gifted.”
And THE WORST movies of 2017
A Bad Mom’s Christmas
The Dark Tower
The Big Sick
The Disaster Artist
The Shape of Water
The Florida Project
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Did any of your favorites makes the list? Tweet me (@TheOnlyCritic) on Twitter or find me in Instagram.
Until next year.