Would it be a cop-out if I were to concede and say that there were simply too many exceptional films this past year? So many, in fact, that even ranking a top 10 is quite near impossible for me? Because in forming this list (which you’re likely eagerly scrolling through to the bottom only to see my number one choice), I’ve had to not only sacrifice a number of extraordinary films, but have also infinitely gone back and forth on where each of these movies fit into the order. Really, in a year with less competition, each of my top six choices could have easily sat atop a year-end list at the number one spot.
As always, I wasn’t able to catch every film that I wanted to — although I did make it out to theaters over 50 times this past year. And it’s because of that that I can safely say that 2017 was the best year for film in recent memory; I was consistently amazed week after week by the incredible work reaching into theaters and beyond. Before we get to the official list, I have included a handful of honorable mentions as well.
- Logan – Dir. James Mangold
- It Comes At Night – Dir. Trey Edward Shults
- Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri – Dir. Martin McDonagh
- The Disaster Artist – Dir. James Franco
- I, Tonya – Dir. Craig Gillespie
Now that those good (but just not good enough) films are out of the way, below you will find what I consider 2017’s absolute greatest output in terms of motion pictures:
#10 Film: mother! – Dir. Darren Aronofsky
mother! is definitely not a film for everyone. Hell, I’m not even 100% positive that it’s a film for anyone. But Darren Aronofsky’s latest is a bold fever dream that I personally fell in love with. Seen almost entirely through the point-of-view of star Jennifer Lawrence’s character, mother! is a marvelous, one-of-a-kind film that’s ultimately a compelling allegory for one of humankind’s most famous tales, as well as a technical feat of filmmaking. For more thoughts, read my original review.
#9 Film: John Wick: Chapter 2 – Dir. Chad Stahelski
I recently got into it with my partner over the integrity of the plot in the John Wick series. Storytelling is of course an integral facet of any genre of art, and film is no exception. But what John Wick and its superb new sequel may lack in terms of profound, original narrative, they make up for not only in their genre-defining action choreography and set pieces, but also in regards to world-building. While watching Keanu Reeves absolutely tear it up as the titular character in these films adds much to the immense appeal of the series, I love it even more for the attention to detail in Wick’s surroundings and side-characters. Forget about the new Star Wars episodes (which are fine, by the way) — Chad Stahelski’s John Wick series is the next great trilogy that film lovers deserve. For more on my undying adoration of John Wick: Chapter 2, visit my original review.
#8 Film: Raw – Dir. Julia Ducournau
Raw is a film I almost forgot about when deciding upon this list, and I’m actually disappointed in myself for not adding it sooner. Julia Ducournau’s coming-of-age cannibalism tale is inventive, brutal, and in an over-saturated genre of cookie-cutter horror films, pretty damn unique. It genuinely surprised and affected me upon my first viewing early in 2017, and there are still many remarkably disturbing sequences that have lingered in my memory, even though I definitely don’t want them there. If you want deeper thoughts on it, read my full review here.
#7 Film: The Big Sick – Dir. Michael Showalter
Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon’s true story of love and potential loss, as shown in The Big Sick, is not only the 2017’s best romantic comedy, but one of my favorites in some time. Following years of smaller roles and medium-sized stand-up shows, Nanjiani is finally granted the spotlight he deserves here, and makes effective use of his opportunity. The film — which Nanjiani wrote with Gordon in their co-writing debut — juggles profound drama and gut-busting comedy to create an honest and endearing tale that you shouldn’t miss. For more, please read my complete thoughts available in my original review.
#6 Film: Blade Runner 2049 – Dir. Denis Villeneuve
Blade Runner 2049 had so much talent behind it, and yet I was still hesitant to its existence. I should have known better. The incredible Denis Villeneuve has done the impossible with his latest film, directing a sequel to one of the most beloved cult classics ever made and delivering a follow-up that I believe is even better than its predecessor. Featuring a story that deserves telling, and presenting a dedicated cast as well as stunning computer-generated effects and especially phenomenal cinematography, Blade Runner 2049 submits a groundbreaking work of science fiction that’s worth every minute of its (really long) runtime. I have a full-length review if you want to know more about why I love Blade Runner 2049 so much.
#5 Film: Baby Driver – Dir. Edgar Wright
What’s so brilliant about eccentric filmmaker Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver is that it’s a romantic musical dressed up as a crime action film. While no characters ever actually break out into song and dance, the soundtrack, made up of vintage hits and oddities alike, propels the narrative, directly influencing the set pieces onscreen. And the characters that inhabit this world become some of the most lovable of the year, with Ansel Elgort’s breakout principal role leading an excellent cast. Of all of the entries on my list, Baby Driver is probably the year’s most easily accessible and endlessly enjoyable film. My more precise thoughts can be found in my original review here.
#4 Film: Good Time – Dir. Ben & Joshua Safdie
Despite its title, Ben & Joshua Safdie’s Good Time rarely displays anything remotely good. It’s a film devoid of breathing room; its anxiety-inducing cinematography, filthy locations, and grimy characters forcing you to gaze in cautious wonder as the absorbing narrative plays out. Also highlighting a shockingly terrific lead performance from Robert Pattinson and an ominous soundtrack by electronic artist Oneohtrix Point Never, Good Time is an exceptional experience unlike any other film from 2017.
#3 Film: Lady Bird – Dir. Greta Gerwig
Upon my first viewing of Greta Gerwig’s much-awaited directorial debut, Lady Bird, I glided from the theater absolutely enamored by the film; so desperate to want to impart on friends and peers just how much I feel that it is a required viewing for any and every filmgoer. It’s true that Lady Bird doesn’t necessarily present any unique themes we’ve not before seen in similar recent films like Boyhood or Edge of Seventeen, but still it stands tall above even the decade’s best coming-of-age tales due to its compelling, natural, and hilarious dialogues, as well as its lovely direction and particularly in its standout lead performances. Lady Bird is a film that genuinely resonated with me when I first saw it, and I can safely label it as a modern-day coming-of-age masterpiece.
#2 Film: The Shape of Water – Dir. Guillermo Del Toro
The Shape of Water came so close to topping this list that I almost feel bad about its second-place finish, because I know that in almost any other year this would have easily been the medium’s most crowning achievement. Renown director Guillermo Del Toro builds worlds unlike any other, and the one he so perfectly captures here is breathtaking in every way. From its spectacular opening sequence to its utterly satisfying finale, The Shape of Water had me in a sort of trance — my wondrous gaze unable to relocate from the screen for but a moment due to the film’s beautiful production designs, captivating cast of characters, and excellent storyline. Between the entirety of Del Toro’s astounding filmography, I’m almost certain that The Shape of Water may actually be his best showpiece yet.
#1 Film: Get Out – Dir. Jordan Peele
Jordan Peele’s shocking horror debut, Get Out, is the film that I revisited the most this year, having seen it nearly a half-dozen times since its release in February. I ventured to the theater a couple of times during its initial release to see it, caught it a few times at home, and even presented on it for a showing at my school in front of a packed crowd of roughly 100 peers. Somehow, even after all of those viewings, it still manages to perpetually excite and surprise me upon every watch. Get Out is almost implausibly good, and I not only believe it to be a masterpiece in every regard, but my absolute favorite film of 2017 as well. For more glowing thoughts on the film, read my original review.
— Michael Lane, Blog Editor