My Favorite Movies in 2017
2017 was a genuinely great year for movies. Moonlight was the best movie of 2016, and deserved to win the Academy Award for Best Picture. And then it lost to La La Land…for about 2 minutes, midway into the acceptance speeches. Then this happened:
What followed was a year of fantastic movies, big and small. I saw exactly 200 movies in 2017 (for that list, click HERE), many old, but many new.
2017 also saw the explosion of MoviePass. A monthly membership service that has been around for several years suddenly burst onto the forefront with a new pricing structure that allowed its members to see 1 2D movie EVERY DAY for $9.95 a month. Starting with around 30,000 members in August before the new, flat price for membership came into existence, MoviePass now has over 1 million subscribers. I’d heard about MoviePass before, but the pricing was honestly too high for me. When I saw the new price, I was shocked, pleasantly, and signed up, immediately.
MoviePass transformed how I go to the movies. I worked at a movie theater off and on for 7 years through high school, college, and after, and was pretty accustomed to seeing movies for free whenever I wanted. Then I moved to New York and was terrified at the idea of having to spend $15 on average per ticket to go see movies, so I started going to the theater frequently at 10 or 11 in the morning when movies were half price. MoviePass meant I could see any movie I wanted, WHENEVER I wanted.
My list of favorite movies from this past year won’t be too different from many others from major critics and film writers, but dammit, I’m going to write it anyways.
MY FAVORITE MOVIES OF 2017 IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER, I SWEAR
- Lady Bird — Written and Directed by Greta Gerwig
- Lady Bird is incredibly written, looks beautiful, it’s honest, Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, Tracy Letts, etc. are all incredibly good. Even though it can no longer boast a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes thanks to ONE asshole out of 212 reviewers (seriously, the guy is famous for hating things), it really is a perfect movie. It might be the only genuinely perfect movie of this decade. I know I said this list was in no particular order, but Lady Bird was probably my favorite movie of 2017.
2. The Florida Project — Directed by Sean Baker, Written by Sean Baker & Chris Bergoch
- I saw The Florida Project in a tiny theater in Charlottesville, VA during the Virginia Film Festival. I had time to kill before a couple of screenings, and it was playing at one of the theaters serving as host. I’d seen Sean Baker’s last film, Tangerine, which was totally fantastic and crazy and also shot on iPhones. Baker clearly loves his work to feel both hyperreal and, well, hyper. The Florida Project feels like an indie from 20 years ago, Gummo for the social media age. It’s a movie about forgotten people who haven’t forgotten themselves. Willem Dafoe is better than ever, and the star of the film, 7 year-old Brooklynn Prince, gives a performance that’s so good it’s disarming.
3. Blade Runner 2049 — Directed by Denis Villeneuve, Written by Michael Green and Hampton Fancher
- Denis Villeneuve is on an incredible run. His IMDb has his directing career going back to 1994, but he’s had an unreal string of achievements in the last 4 years. Starting with Prisoners (2013), Enemy (2013), Sicario (2015), Arrival (2016), and Blade Runner 2049 (2017), his smallest film has been Enemy, which was still a fantastic thriller starring Jake Gyllenhaal. Seriously, has another director had such a string of well-received award-winning films in the span of only 4 years before? Villeneuve has a type of film that he seems to excel at, and Blade Runner 2049 is the most fully-developed of all these major films. It’s beautiful, fascinating, epic, and LONG. Jesus, is it long. But, the world of the film is so rich and gorgeous that anything less would feel like you were being cheated out of an experience. Legendary cinematographer Roger Deakins will definitely be getting his 14th Oscar nomination for his work on the film, and hopefully, this will be the one that gets him the statue.
4. Get Out — written and directed by Jordan Peele
- You might be noticing a theme that feels common among my favorite movies of this year — many of them were films that came from writer/directors. Filmmakers who saw the movie in their minds first, wrote that movie out and crafted it from draft after draft, taking notes from producers and studios, and hearing endless opinions about their scripts, and then found a way to go out there and MAKE that movie. Taking the movie from a spark in their minds to a film set, guiding the process and collaborating on their vision with a team of cast and crew over weeks, months, and years, until FINALLY, what was just a spark of an idea that wouldn’t go away became a piece of art available for mass consumption and critical appreciation. It’s impossible to describe how long and complicated the process of being a writer and director of a finished and completed film is, especially when there’s real investors and money on the line. Just ask George Lucas; he took a 22 year break from 1977 to 1999 as a Writer/Director because of the intense stress that making Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope took on him.
- Get Out is Jordan Peele’s first movie as both writer and director, and he knocked it out of the park. You can see how much passion Peele has for horror and thriller films as well as comedy, for which he’s best known, of course. It’s probably the best paced film of the year, and an expertly paced thriller that ranks genuinely among some of the greatest thrillers of all time. A Hitchcock comparison is a bold, and probably unoriginal claim at the same time, but not even Hitchcock was able to so immediately capture the cultural moment, the relevance of a story, and articulate a story that needed to be told in this exact way, as Jordan Peele did with his first film. Get Out was so acclaimed, so popular, and so important to American culture in 2017 that it brought the term “social thriller” to prominence and frequent use in film writing and reporting.
5. It — Directed by Andy Muschietti, Written by Chase Palmer, Cary Fukunaga, Gary Dauberman
- It was one of the scariest things I’ve ever seen. In 2017, yes, but also when I was in the 4th grade at a friend’s birthday sleepover, watching the original 1990 two part miniseries starring Tim Curry as Pennywise. I have such specifically terrifying memories of that party, of how we stayed up ALL NIGHT to watch this movie that was scaring the shit out of all my friends, but we were all individually pretending not to be afraid. It was one of those seminal moments of my childhood because it was the first real scary movie I saw as a kid. I still haven’t gone back and rewatched the original. Partly because of those memories, and partly because it’s over 3 hours long. When I saw the first trailer for the 2017 remake, I couldn’t wait to see how it would turn out.
- It struck at a time when period thrillers about groups of mischievous kids who swear a lot had come back into favor with audiences around the world. Stranger Things was the Netflix and cultural sleeper hit of 2016 that fully exploded, and 2017 brought many similar film and television projects to screens big and small. It was one of those, but easily the most successful. In a year when the annual box office numbers are the lowest in 3 years, It saved theaters in September and October, bringing in $698 million worldwide to date, $327 million of that in America alone. It was well deserved. It was properly scary, stylish, well-crafted, and brought the humor and real friendship of a group of kids to the screen in a way that hasn’t been seen in a long time.
6. Logan — Directed by James Mangold, Written by James Mangold & Scott Frank and Michael Green
- On the heels of Deadpool’s success in 2016 at bringing an R-rated comic book movie to worldwide acclaim and success, 20th Century Fox followed up with another Wolverine movie. After X-Men Origins: Wolverine, The Wolverine, and pretty much alllllllll the other X-Men movies since 2000, Wolverine seemed like a character that had been kinda overdone. Much of Deadpool’s success can be attributed to the fact that Deadpool hadn’t really been in any other films before, and hadn’t had as much exposure. Everything about it felt new for most audiences. But for Logan to feel new, to feel original, it needed to be unlike any other superhero movie. And it was.
- Logan was more of a Western road movie than a superhero film. Inspired by the plot of the classic Shane, and directly quoting it at times, Logan’s life and persona as Wolverine were avoided by the film at all costs, and that paid off. It was about Logan trying to escape his life as Wolverine, and in the end, the unavoidable conflict of who he was and who he always will be. Logan was brutally violent, well-written, well-acted, and well-told. Lots of hyphens there. My hope is that between the success of Deadpool and Logan will lead to a new wave of “superhero” films; ones that aren’t about spandex and saving the world, but explorations of what it’s like to live as these characters.
7. The Beguiled — Written and Directed by Sofia Coppola
- The Beguiled was released at the end of June this year, and I’m worried that it’s badly-timed release will have awards voters forgetting how fantastic Sofia Coppola’s most recent feature film since 2013’s The Bling Ring. A remake of a 1971 movie starring Clint Eastwood, Coppola’s film was a beautiful and unsettling Civil War tale starring Nicole Kidman, Colin Farrell, Kirsten Dunst, and Elle Fanning, a movie that could’ve been a glossy and whitewashed Civil War romance, but instead was a captivating story about temptation, taboo, and ultimately, feminine power and subversiveness in a patriarchy by any means.
- The movie was rich from the first frame to the last. Some of the best cinematography of the year, wonderfully subtle performances from the entire cast, I saw The Beguiled more than once in theaters because I couldn’t stop thinking about the film and what it had to say. A masterful script, incredible costumes, it was one of those small movies that deserved more recognition than it got. Come awards time, it will probably get some recognition for its design elements, but a screenplay or director nomination for Coppola would be well-deserved.
8. War for the Planet of the Apes — Directed by Matt Reeves, Written by Matt Reeves & Mark Bomback
- The 1968 Planet of the Apes film is my favorite movie of all time. I loved it as a kid, watched the entire original series of films, and kept watching them over and over again as I grew up. The original film was a thoughtful allegory that pointed fingers at humans for what we were doing to the planet and our environment, what we were doing to animals, doing horrible things as a society in the name of race and religion, while also exploring the bounds of modern science fiction, brought to life by a screenplay by Michael Wilson & Rod Serling, famous for creating The Twilight Zone.
- The new trilogy of Planet of the Apes films, starting with Rise of the Planet of the Apes in 2011, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes in 2014, and War for the Planet of the Apes in 2017, are the first time in almost 50 years that the story and mythology of that world have been told in a way that was as thoughtful and deep as the original. Each of the films has been fantastic and with its own agendas, and they’ve all tied into each other so well, telling the story of how the Planet of the Apes became just that. Andy Serkis’ work as Caesar, leader of the Apes, in each of these films is iconic, and at this point, he’s long overdue for an Academy Award nomination. When he first appeared on our screens as Gollum in Fellowship of the Ring in 2001, motion capture acting was a novelty, and no one was doing it like Serkis. Serkis wasn’t just wearing a lycra suit covered in ping pong balls — he was fully inhabiting and creating a character that rendered him unrecognizable not just as an actor, but as a human.
9. Dunkirk — Written and Directed by Christopher Nolan
- Okay. After Interstellar, I was so over Christopher Nolan. Don’t get me wrong, I liked it and he’s consistently one of the best major filmmakers working today, but…c’mon. When I heard he was making a movie about the Battle of Dunkirk, I was planning on avoiding it at the theater. I didn’t want to go sit through a 3-hour movie, especially a 3-hour WWII movie, especially a 3-hour WWII movie done by Christopher Nolan. Then I saw the trailer, and the cast, and finally, the runtime. 1 hour and 46 minutes? Who directed this again? After all that resistance, I HAD to go to the theater and see Dunkirk just to see what Christopher Nolan would do with a war movie only slightly longer than an episode of Sherlock.
- I was glad I went. Dunkirk was thrilling, captivating, and the first time in a long time I genuinely sat on the edge of my seat watching a movie.
10. mother! — Written and Directed by Darren Aronofsky
- I don’t think any movie this year had as controversial of a response from audiences and critics alike as Darren Aronofsky’s mother!. Scoring a perfectly acceptable 69% on Rotten Tomatoes and an audience score of exactly 50%, this movie was…f**king crazy. Clocking in at exactly 2 hours, I mean it when I say this movie was F**KING CRAZY. Starring Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem, supported by Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer, with cameos from Domhnall Gleeson and his real life AND movie brother Brian, Aronofsky tells the story of the Old Testament in…seriously…the CRAZIEST F**KING way possible. And, honestly, I loved every chaotic, unsettling, and totally nuts moment of it.
- This movie rounds out my Top 10 list for 2017 because it was bold, risky, singular, and ambitious in a way that no other movie was all year, and even more ambitious than anything else Aronofsky has ever done before. mother! was the epitome of a passion project (pun sort of intended?), and for me, it came through in a big way. Now, I talked to many, many, many people who told me not only did they hate it, but they hated it more than any movie they’ve ever seen. People I know walked out of it, said it ruined all of Aronofsky’s movies for them, and they didn’t even want to talk about it because it made them so angry to think about. I think the singular divisiveness is what makes it such a valuable film in a year when movies are being made more and more not just for mass audiences, but for worldwide audiences. In a time when studio movies are being made to be simpler and simpler, Aronofsky took the biggest swing of his career, and I want him to keep swinging.
Movies I Loved But Didn’t Include In “The List”:
- Atomic Blonde
- T2: Trainspotting
- The Disaster Artist
- The Big Sick
- Baby Driver
- Wonder Woman
- Happy Death Day
- The LEGO Batman Movie
- Brad’s Status
- The Greatest Showman
Movies I Meant To See in 2017, But Will in 2018:
- Call Me By Your Name
- A Ghost Story
- The Post
- Thor: Ragnarok
- The Shape of Water
- Good Time
- I, Tonya
- Darkest Hour
2018 Movies I Can’t Wait To See:
- Phantom Thread
- Black Panther
- Isle of Dogs
- Solo: A Star Wars Story
- Ready Player One
- A Wrinkle in Time
- A Star is Born
- The Incredibles 2
- Red Sparrow
- The Predator
2017 was a great year for movies. Will 2018 be better? Shit, I don’t know.