2017 is slowly winding down and it’s about that time to start listing off some films to keep up with the Joneses. I usually dislike composing these lists, because I feel like films are so much more special than to simply blurb off what I’ve seen and compare it to what you’ve seen.
I’m not one that gets too involved with the Oscars race, yet I’ll do my best to see as many films as I can and hope that the ones I thought were great end up with a few nominations. My top X lists rarely gel with others, because I don’t judge year-end lists based solely on technical merits, but also the experience I had with the films and which ones I continue to re-vist, versus ones that I’ve watched once and never care to see again.
There has been times where I watched a movie once and really enjoyed it and possibly even gave it a high mark, only to re-visit later and find myself completely bored with it — those types of films won’t be gracing my list, instead I have exchanged them for personal favorites that I absolutely love, warts and all.
My top list this year consists of twelve films. I tried to think of ways to cut a couple, but in doing so I would have robbed myself of great cinematic experiences that I had.
So, here’s to my top twelve films of 2017. This list consists of films that I thought were well-made and highly entertaining for various reasons. My ordering doesn’t really matter much, aside from maybe the final three. The rest might move up or down on the list depending on the day, but they’ve all been in my head since watching them.
I’ll admit that 2017 was kind of a bummer for me, theatrically. I found myself less excited to check out new films. I don’t blame comic book movies or sequels or the indies, but just a general lack of excitement coming down the pipeline. That being said, I did find quite a few films that I really enjoyed.
Before getting started, I must mention that I have yet to see Lady Bird, Phantom Thread, The Shape of Water, All the Money in the World and most-likely a few other “must sees”. I have a high interest in seeing a few of those films, but I’ll admit that the rest just don’t interest me.
Feel free to comment down below with your own top ten/whatever lists and let me know if you agree or disagree with me on my pickings.
Without further ado…
Director Gore Verbinski (The Lone Ranger, Pirates of the Caribbean) returns to his horror roots with a moody and sprawling two-and-a-half-hour picture that will both make you squirm in your seat, yet stare wide-eyed at the lush and rich visuals on display. A Cure for Wellness is a stylish and sophisticated horror film that shares traits with Martin Scorsese‘s own Shutter Island only it has the balls to go a few steps further down its insanity plea.
Dane DeHaan gives a cold, yet curious performance, while Verbinski paints the screen with his talented camera work and ability to let a slow-burn horror story unravel over time. Yes, the film’s conclusion is rather weak, but it’s still completely bonkers and goes where most mainstream horror films won’t. I can’t believe Fox released this one wide, because it has all of the makings of a now-VOD rental.
Those looking for a disturbing horror mystery that’s absolutely gorgeous to look at will want to check out A Cure for Wellness whenever they can. It’s a rare horror film that cares more about atmosphere and set design than simply scaring you with blood and gore. I enjoyed it and was able to peel back at its layers with repeat viewings.
It’s far from perfect, but it’s a well-made film that got completely skipped over in theaters.
Luc Besson‘s Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is without a doubt one of the most visually stimulating films that I saw theatrically in 2017. It was hands down the best 3D experience that I’ve had in years and just an all-around creative piece of somewhat original sci-fi that wasn’t directly attached to a franchise.
It may come up short with plot and character development, but it’s engaging and thrilling in ways that Michael Bay only wishes he could mimic. I’m not going to lie and say that Valerian is a perfect movie or even a great one, but I really did enjoy my time with it and have found myself re-visting it in 4KUHD. I feel like big-budget risks like this are becoming less and less of a thing in Hollywood, unless there’s already a mega-franchise attached to it or a string of sequels.
Besson’s world-building talents are on full display in Valerian, despite the film’s weird acting and general wacky concepts. It’s big, bold, messy and crazy all in one and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Yes, I realize that Dane DeHaan is now 2 for 2 on my top twelve of the year list.
As far as I’m concerned, Jordan Vogt-Roberts single-handedly re-invigorated the studio Hollywood blockbuster in 2017 with Kong: Skull Island. Vogt-Roberts not only re-freshed an iconic character, but he managed to do it with creativity and style. Kong: Skull Island is absolutely awesome, featuring a massive monster, a slew of colorful characters and a Vietnam vibe that gives it a sun-soaked setting, filled with paranoia and warfare.
I’ve always been partial to Peter Jackson‘s bloated epic, but Kong: Skull Island changed all of that, thanks to Vogt-Roberts’ ability to give the character a fresh coat of paint. Godzilla showed us how to make one of the largest monsters on Earth boring and depressing, while Kong: Skull Island managed to give us the king of kings in a way that highlighted the epic action and still gave us characters worth following.
It’s kind of hard to come up with a top twelve list and not mention at least one Marvel film. Thor has always been my favorite character from the MCU and I’m glad to say that Thor: Ragnarok is absolutely hilarious and Marvel’s funniest movie yet.
Director Taika Waititi manages to bring a comedic balance to the cosmic mythology of Chris Hemsworth‘s God of Thunder in a way that’s expansive for the cinematic universe and a welcoming shift in tone for the series.
Many are praising James Gunn‘s disappointing Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 as this year’s best from Marvel and I must counter-act that with Thor: Ragnarok. How can you not fall in love with a film that features both Jeff Goldblum and Cate Blanchett absolutely eating up their respective roles and having a blast while doing so?
Matthew Vaughn‘s Kingsman: The Secret Service is a perfect film in my book, capturing the heart and soul of a classic 007 film, while upping the ante with insanely creative action sequences and colorful characters galore.
Naturally, this means that a sequel always worries me and I’m happy to say that Kingsman: The Golden Circle mostly delivers on that tall order. It’s action-packed and over-the-top in the same vein as the original, if not slightly too much. But that doesn’t stop the fun from being had or the creativity from flowing.
The Golden Circle is Vaugh on repeat, but he’s just so damn good with action and set pieces that I barely noticed. There’s a bit more political subtext to chew on and a few more memorable characters.
Lighting rarely strikes twice and while I will say that some are rightfully disappointed in The Golden Circle‘s familiarity, I still had a ton of fun with it. It’s not perfect or nearly as memorable, but The Golden Circle is a damn good time at the cinemas.
7. Logan Lucky
Ocean’s 11, 12 & 13 director Steven Soderbergh returns to the big screen with a hillbilly heist film that’s just jam-packed full of A-list talent. Logan Lucky is just as funny as it is clever, featuring a career-best performance from Daniel Craig, not to mention a convincing duo of dumb dumbs, played with narrow-minded happiness by Channing Tatum and Adam Driver.
Logan Lucky is without a doubt a trashy, deep-fried and rednecked seasoning that gets sprinkled on a “traditional” crime caper film, but don’t let its simple intentions fool you, because its just as engrossing and has a few tricks up its sleeve.
I’m so glad that Soderbergh is back on the big screen and Logan Lucky is only proof that he hasn’t lost a step.
Alien: Covenant is both pioneering and familiar, returning to the franchise’s horror roots, with blood, gore and B movie monsters, yet it’s beautifully shot and ambitious in its attempt to further expand the Alien mythos.
I still can’t believe Ridley Scott managed to get the OK from Fox to release Alien: Covenant into theaters. It’s so mean-spirited and dark in its reflection on society, not to mention Scott’s complete disregard for having likable characters. It closes the loop between Prometheus in a way that some complained was a little too neat, yet it does so in a gory fashion.
Those looking for another Alien film should have no problem visiting Alien: Covenant, not to mention the fact that Michael Fassbender has all but earned his Oscar (yet again) playing the franchise’s now most popular character.
Alien: Covenant isn’t Ridley Scott‘s best film or even the best Alien film, but it’s a bold, yet familiar look at the franchise, promising a new future with familiar scares.
John Wick: Chapter 2 is everything one would want in a sequel — more action, stronger performances and an elevated story that expands on the first film’s mythology.
Director Chad Stahelski has managed to create an action masterpiece in every way that counts with John Wick: Chapter 2. The first film might’ve been leaner and more to-the-point, but the second one is a work of art, a rare representation of cinematic beauty that both displays Stahelski’s skills as an action director and choreographer and Keanu Reeves as an all-star action performer that knows how to kick some pure ass.
I have yet to find someone that doesn’t agree with the praise that the John Wick franchise has earned and that’s simply because both films are some of the best action films to have ever been made.
I cannot wait for John Wick: Chapter 3.
4. Wonder Woman
Wonder Woman is a crowd-pleasing origins story that’s colorful, topical and full of heart. Gal Gadot completely embodies the titular role with a Goddess-like presence, while director Patty Jenkins successfully hones in on finer details of the characters, which makes for great storytelling. Wonder Woman is a shining beacon of hope for the DC universe.
Wonder Woman gave us hope and promise for the future of the DC universe, only to be followed by the truly awful and worthless Justice League. Luckily for us, Wonder Woman still stands strong and proud as one of the better comic book movies to have ever been made and I can confirm that re-watches have only straightened that statement.
3. The Big Sick
One of this year’s biggest surprises for me was The Big Sick. Based on Kumail Nanjiani‘s real-life, The Big Sick might be one of the most touching and emotional films of the year, captured through Nanjiani’s own performance, as well as Zoe Kazan.
The film’s ability to balance the comedy with the sincerity of the drama unfolding left a lasting impression on me and honestly nearly brought me to tears. Director Michael Showalter captures the magic of the story through an honest lens that’ll suck you in and hold you tight until the film’s final moments.
The Big Sick is a great example of not needing to waste millions of dollars on your film’s budget or advertising to tell a great story. It’s simple, it’s real and it’s full of heart in a way that 2017 absolutely needed.
Denis Villeneuve has arguably made one of the best sequels of all-time in Blade Runner 2049, a film that’s every bit as good as the original, recapturing the complex thematics and futuristic atmosphere with masterclass efficiency. Blade Runner revolutionized the genre in the 80s and now 2049 further extends the dialogue.
I said that above paragraph in my original review for the film and I still mean every word of it. Blade Runner 2049 is such a rare cinematic treat that blends together all of the elements in perfect fashion.
I have no idea how Denis Villeneuve managed to make such an all-encompassing film that hits every right beat with so much precision and perfection.
It still drives me crazy that audiences didn’t pick this one up and run with it. If any of these films on my list deserve some serious Oscar credit it would be Blade Runner 2049.
1. Wind River
Hell or High Water writer Taylor Sheridan made the jump to directing with this year’s best film, Wind River. To say that Sheridan has directed a harrowing masterpiece would be an understatement, as Wind River is a gripping, thrilling and uneasy murder mystery/Western hybrid that unfolds across the cold and isolated Native lands of Wyoming.
Sheridan’s ability as a writer to create such deep stories among unique locations is impressive and part of what makes Wind River so chilling. The other part is the fact that it is based on true events.
Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen share the screen with a perfect balance of innocence and regret as the film’s story takes a handful of twists and turns before reaching its satisfying conclusion.
Wind River is the type of film that will sit with you for days as the morality of it stews. It’s powerful and forceful filmmaking that shouldn’t be ignored. Taylor Sheridan has proven himself as a writer already and now Wind River has taken things a step further and told the world that he’s also an A-class director with a vision that must be seen and heard.
Well, that’s my top twelve films of 2017. I hope you enjoyed reading my list and I’d love to hear from you in the comments down below. Do you agree with my list? Am I completely insane? Have I forgotten your favorite film? That last one is highly probable as I know I wasn’t able to see everything this year and there were quite a few films that I liked, but didn’t love enough to include on my list.
Looking into 2018 I can honestly say that there’s not much that looks all that exciting. I am curious to see how Marvel begins to wrap things up with The Avengers: Infinity War, but aside from that, I haven’t really been keeping track of what to expect and what to look forward to.