Well, this took a lot longer than it should have. I know I’ve been moving away from movie reviews on this blog for a long while, but it’s only because music comes out at a much faster pace and takes up much less time to consume/digest. I still care deeply about movies, and to prove it, here are some of my favorites from 2017. I was holding off on this list until I saw Phantom Thread. I didn’t care for it, but that’s a story for another time. For now, here are my favorites, starting off with some movies I wasn’t able to include.
Lots to talk about here; this was a pretty solid year for movies. I had to give it up for the stylized spy thriller Atomic Blonde. Some felt the film’s convoluted plot set it back, but I thought the killer soundtrack and visual style, as well as the much-discussed “stairwell scene,” were enough to make it up for me. Another female-led action flick, Wonder Woman, impressed me this year, standing on its own better than just about any other superhero movie this decade. Its biopic cousin Professor Marston and the Wonder Women also deserves a mention, bolstered by dynamic direction from Herbie: Fully Loaded director Angela Robinson. Another biopic that I appreciated more than I was expecting was Darkest Hour, which went above and beyond typical Oscar bait through the odd, at-times abstract direction of Joe Wright. Following allegations against James Franco, The Disaster Artist was largely removed from the conversation, but it should be noted that it was a well-done, surprisingly tender picture and one of the year’s best movies about filmmaking. Ingrid Goes West is a terrifying Single White Female for the Instagram era, and star Aubrey Plaza delivered one of the year’s finest performances. Another criminally-underrated, utterly creepy lead performance came from Disney Channel star Ross Lynch, who brilliantly channeled serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer in the little-recognized My Friend Dahmer. Beatriz at Dinner was another captivatingly-weird little movie with lots to love, but let’s not limit ourselves to indie movies here. Two of the most fun-filled, visually-stunning blockbusters in recent memory came out this year: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and Kong: Skull Island, the latter of which was perhaps the year’s most pleasant surprise. While it hasn’t left as much of an impression as some of Scorsese’s great films, I still remember being blown away by Silence, and I had to give it a shout-out. Finally, there’s a film that may not deserve top honors, but definitely didn’t get a fair shake: the most underrated film of 2017, Power Rangers. With all that out of the way, here’s the top 25.
25) TRAGEDY GIRLS (dir. Tyler MacIntyre)
X-women Brianna Hildebrand and Alexandra Shipp star in Tragedy Girls, the indie comedy horror film best described as a cross between Heathers and Scream with an added helping of gayness and blogging. Immediately, it sounds right up my alley, and the film largely delivered, thanks in no small part to its tremendously-talented young leads. These girls are two of my favorite actresses on the come-up, and they are electric in this movie, creepy in a way that makes them engrossingly likable while still making believable killers. That’s sort of the magic of this movie: as twisted as their plans are, their personalities suck you in, and you can start to understand how they have the whole town wrapped around their finger, even as they blatantly murder people. One of the film’s highlights is a gut-busting cameo by Josh Hutcherson.
24) BATTLE OF THE SEXES (dir. Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris)
Battle of the Sexes didn’t make the awards season splash it was aiming for, but don’t count it out just for that, because it’s still one of the best sports movies in recent memory. It’s from the same directing duo responsible for Little Miss Sunshine, and its idyllic harshness is engrossing in much the same way. Admittedly, it’s hard to shake the feeling that you’re watching Emma Stone and Steve Carrell, but who’s complaining? It’s a fun, engaging story with excellent dialogue (it was written by Simon Beaufoy, the man behind classics like Slumdog Millionaire and 127 Hours) and some of the best homoerotic haircut scenes in film history.
23) THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI (dir. Martin McDonagh)
One of the most debated films of the latest awards season, it seems like everyone’s got an opinion on Three Billboards. I do, too: it’s pretty good. Is it Best Picture? Nah. Its message is muddled and it feels like Martin McDonagh started writing with no idea where the story would go. On the other hand, it is an engrossing, twisted tale with complex characters, tons of unexpected turns, and a stacked cast. It’s a film that could’ve easily been a by-the-numbers, Tarantino-esque revenge fantasy, but instead chose to present a story with no clear heroes, no easy plot signposts, and a message that, while hard to swallow, definitely gives you plenty to chew over.
22) LOGAN LUCKY (dir. Steven Soderbergh)
Steven Soderbergh is like a box of chocolates: you never know what you’re gonna get. Going from the fun, stylish, free-wheeling Ocean’s Eleven trilogy to Che, one of the most ambitious films of the 21st century, from pulse-pounding thrillers like Contagion and Haywire to the placid male stripper masterpiece Magic Mike, there’s no telling what Soderbergh’s gonna have for us next, but it’s always a fun time. This year, he gave us Logan Lucky, an endearing Southern-fried heist comedy starring the surprisingly-great duo of Adam Driver and Channing Tatum. The two play bumbling brothers who steal millions from NASCAR with the help of an all-star ensemble cast. Effectively, the film is a sort of reverse-Ocean’s Eleven, replacing fancy suits and high society with DIY ingenuity and stark poverty. It’s a silly movie, but like many of Soderbergh’s sillier movies, there’s more to it than you might think.
21) MOTHER! (dir. Darren Aronofsky)
Mother! was easily the most polarizing film of 2017, and with good reason. It’s not the most welcoming movie: it meanders in placid pointlessness for over an hour before anything exciting happens, but if you give it a chance, the end result is more than rewarding. It wasn’t until I made the very final edits to this list that I even decided to include mother!; I came out of it decently impressed, but not exactly blown away. It’s only really stuck with me the more I’ve thought about it; earlier today, I saw Phantom Thread, a film that attempts a similar structure and, in my opinion, fails utterly. It’s upsetting, hard to sit through, and so blatant in its various larger meanings that it forgoes narrative sense altogether, but mother! will stick with you in a way few movies do.