Top 20 Films of 2017
With 2017 considered by many to be a turbulent year, movies served as a form of escape for the masses. Veteran actors, filmmakers and newcomers alike rose to the occasion, creating impactful and thoughtful films in just about every genre, with underdogs often being pushed to the forefront in order to right wrongs, make dreams come true or seek closure. Below are our picks for the top 20 films of 2017.
1. The Shape of Water
Billed as a fairy tale for troubled times, this masterpiece from auteur Guillermo del Toro celebrates the other while managing to also be visibly striking, highly romantic and socially conscious. Sally Hawkins gives an Oscar-worthy performance as a mute cleaning lady who forms with a amphibian man (Doug Jones) in this rare and special film that sees the viewer rooting for the “monster.”
2. Call Me by Your Name
First love and the excitement and heartache that goes along with it are explored in this nuanced film set in the picturesque Italian countryside circa 1983. Timothée Chalamet, in what is sure to be remembered as a role that launched a long and illustrious career, gives an emotional performance as a teen who falls in love with a handsome young scholar played by Armie Hammer, whose own career gets some new life breathed into it here.
3. Lady Bird
Greta Gerwig doesn’t make one false move in her directorial debut, a dramedy inspired by her own coming of age in early 2000s Sacramento. Saoirse Ronan gives another winning performance as the title character, a teenage dreamer who struggles to navigate her senior year, as well as find common ground with her pragmatic, overworked mother (a brilliant Laurie Metcalf).
This historical action film from Christopher Nolan is all substance, no filler, from beginning to end. The likes of Tom Hardy and Mark Rylance team up with rising actors Finn Whitehead and Harry Styles to bring to life very different, yet equally powerful P.O.V.s of the infamous World War II evacuation.
The racism that plagued the Greatest Generation is explored in this striking Netflix drama about two soldiers returning from WWII, one white (Jason Clarke) and one black (Ron Morgan), as they re-adjust to life in the Jim Crow south. Amongst this top-notch cast, Mary J. Blige stands out with her stripped down performance as a wife and mother forced to hold her tongue as herself and her family are forced to face countless indignities.
6. Faces Places
At age 88, Agnes Varda, one of the leading figures of the French New Wave movement who is also considered to be one of the all-time greatest female filmmakers, teams up with photographer JR in this enchanting documentary. The unlikely pair travel together around France in a van that doubled as a mobile photo booth, and the result is a celebration of ordinary people and the power of the image.
7. Phantom Thread
In what is to be his swan song, Daniel Day-Lewis plays a fashion designer in post-WWII London who turns neurosis into pure dread as he falls for an innocent young woman (Vicky Krieps). Paul Thomas Anderson explores toxic masculinity in this romantic suspense thriller that is not quite like anything the auteur has done before.
8. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Filmmaker Martin McDonagh mixes dark humor and drama in this powerful film that sees the always great Frances McDormand playing a grieving mother who courageously buys three billboards in her quest to seek justice. Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell are equally impressive here as the local sheriff and his second in command at whose door the heroine places much blame.
9. The Post
Steven Spielberg’s best film since “Munich” sees two of our finest living actors, Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep, team up to tell this fascinating true story that carries a very blunt and urgent message about the importance of freedom of press. Tom Hanks is all grit as Ben Bradlee, the legendary editor of the Washington Post, while Streep is the refined and strong Katharine Graham, the Post’s publisher who gets heat for making some tough calls.
10. Star Wars: The Last Jedi
With a return of beloved characters such as Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) and new favorites like Rey (Daisy Ridley), it would have been almost impossible for the latest addition to the “Star Wars” franchise to have been a miss, but writer/director Rian Johnson exceeds all expectations with this sweeping spectacle. Featuring the final performance of Carrie Fisher as Leia, the film is also emotionally powerful, most notably in one particular scene involving the heroine and her villain son (Adam Driver).
This compelling portrait traces the journey of Dr. Jane Goodall, a woman who has served as a role model for generations of women, from her humble origins to becoming the world’s foremost expert on chimpanzees. Director Brett Morgan interweaves previously unseen footage of Goodall out in the field with present-day interviews, in which Jane herself continues to inspire as she speaks candidly about her triumphs and heartaches.
12. The Florida Project
Two years after breaking ground with “Tangerine,” filmmaker Sean Baker returns with this deeply moving film that follows a six-year-old girl (Brooklynn Prince) growing up in a Florida motel. Willem Dafoe has never been better as the hardened motel manager who finds himself acting as a father figure of sorts.
13. The Big Sick
Kumail Nanjiani and his wife, screenwriter Emily V. Gordon, drew inspiration from their own rocky courtship for this romantic comedy about a Pakistan-born stand-up comic (Nanjiani) who is forced to examine his life after his estranged girlfriend (Zoe Kazan) goes into a coma. Along with director Michael Showalter and a stellar supporting cast that includes Holly Hunter, Nanjiani and Gordon have created an impactful romantic comedy for the modern age.
14. A Ghost Story
For one of his first post-Oscar roles, Casey Affleck made the unusual choice to disappear under a white sheet for most of this quiet art house film, which at first glance may seem like a tiny passion project for it’s star and director (David Lowery), but is so much more as it explores time, space and grief. As Affleck’s grieving widow, Rooney Mara is equally compelling, and it’s safe to say that those who viewed this film will never look at a pie the same way again.
15. Baby Driver
Ansel Elgort stars as Baby, a getaway driver who accelerates to the beat of his own tune in Edgar Wright’s groundbreaking film that marries the musical with the action thriller. An awkward kid with a tragic past, Baby finds something to live for after he falls madly in love with the beautiful Debora (Lily James), but he must break away from his life of crime and his criminal boss (Kevin Spacey) before they can drive off into the sunset.
16. Get Out
In his directorial debut, a horror thriller with comedic elements, Jordan Peele tackles two of society’s biggest demons, racism and white privilege. In one of this year’s most memorable breakthrough performances, Daniel Kaluuya plays a young black man who faces more than the usual obstacles while accompanying his white girlfriend (Allison Williams) home to meet her elitist parents (Bradley Whitford and Catherine Keener).
17. Good Time
The seemingly unlikely pairing of former teen heartthrob Robert Pattinson and innovative independent filmmakers Josh and Ben Safdie was a gamble that paid off in this crime drama about a botched bank robbery and brotherly love. Pattinson transforms himself to play Connie, a reckless criminal existing on the margins of society, who spends one fateful night trying to save his mentally disabled (Ben Safdie) after he himself puts him in harm’s way.
18. The Beguiled
The arrival of a wounded soldier (Colin Farrell) on the doorstep of a boarding school for girls sets a chain of life-altering events into motion in Sofia Coppola’s haunting Civil War drama. Nicole Kidman and Kirsten Dunst are both in fine form here as the prim and proper headmistress and a sexually frustrated teacher with dreams of escape, respectively, who find themselves at odds in regards to the mysterious and alluring stranger.
19. Lady Macbeth
What starts off as another tale about an oppressed Victorian wife turns into something else entirely in this gothic drama. The previously unknown Florence Pugh gives a striking performance as a desperate young women whose lust lead her down a dark path from which there is no return.
20. Wonder Woman
With 2017 being a watershed year for women’s empowerment, Patty Jenkins’s superhero film brought to life the hero we need today. Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) is both endearing and inspiring as she heads into battle with a both a deep faith in herself and the goodness of humankind.