Ok 2017 sucked. It was terrible in just about every single way, except one. We got some damn good movies. Whether they were homegrown affairs or experiences from abroad there was something truly great for everyone this year; from action movies to period pieces it was hard to be upset about the lineup of movies we saw last year. So without further ado I present my Top 26 films of 2017. (Yes it is 26 movies so I could include John Wick and I have no regrets about it).
*Authors Note* This obviously didn't come out late December like a list of this variety usually does but this list is important as it can help show what I like and what kind of movies I vibe with. It was also crucial for quality control as I saw over 200 movies released in 2017 last year and this list helped organize and polish my thoughts on what was truly a great year for cinema.
26. John Wick Chapter 2: Rarely does a sequel come as close as John Wick Chapter 2 does to matching the quality of its lightning in a bottle, instant classic original but through sheer muscular action and world building it does. This film delivers more of the frenetic and stylish action that everyone loved in the original and also deepens the world that John Wick kills in. It is some of the best action filmmaking and the most fun you could have at the movies all year.
25. The Beguiled: Sofia Coppola’s tale of an all-female school in the Antebellum Civil War is filled with incredible cinematography, direction, writing, and performances (especially from Nicole Kidman and Colin Farrell). It really is the whole NINE YARDS (27 FEET!!!!!!!). But all joking aside the way the film handles sexuality, lust, jealousy, so effortlessly and beautifully that it deserves to be admired. On top of that, it’s one of the most satisfying films of the year.
24. Mother!: mother! is far and away the most interesting studio film made this year. Darren Aronofsky’s film has more meanings than this simple man can understand; but the thing this film does so well, apart from being very well made, is that all of those meanings have merit and are just as right as the other. Also, the baby scene still freaks me the fuck out.
23. Thelma: This Norwegian coming-of-age film is criminally underseen. With an engrossing and horrifying first scene that will keep you locked in until Thelma starts to show some of its incredible secrets that need to be seen to be believed. I don’t wanna spoil any of it so do yourselves a favor and see it if you haven’t and if you have DM @AdamYIssa we can have a nice little fireside chat through the internet.
22. The Lure: This is the most ambitious and balls to the wall debut of the year. Agnieszka Smoczyńska crafts a completely bonkers musical/horror/comedy mash-up that is as enchanting as it is ballsy. Rarely do you see ANYONE try something as wild as this, let alone someone who has never made a movie before. It also helps that the music is catchy, the cinematography is dazzling, and the choreography is hypnotizing. Best scene: The Lure is introduced for the first time
21. Okja: Okja is a damn great movie. It’s fun, emotional, and incredibly smart. Building interesting relationships and characters while simultaneously satirizing our society and capitalism as a whole. The thing that separates Okja from the pack is that it does both of these things flawlessly and if that alone doesn’t elevate it Ho’s incredible style pushes it over the edge. This movie is just an incredible story about a bond between a girl and her super pig while also functioning as a hard look at the society we live in. Really the only bad thing about this was that I wasn’t able to see it in theaters (fucking Netflix).
20. Lady Macbeth: One of the most unexpected films I saw this year was Lady Macbeth. This films starts off very interestingly but, nothing incredibly spectacular. But as it goes it beings to get bolder and more calculating, much like the titular character. I don’t want to spoil any of the beats in this film because they are truly incredible and should be seen. But if you need any more reason to see this; Florence Pugh delivers one of the absolute best performances of the year and I have a feeling you’re gonna wanna keep your eyes on her in the near future.
19. Star Wars: The Last Jedi: If you know me, you know I love Star Wars. It’s a staple of my life in many many ways (seeing the amount of paraphernalia I have in regards to this franchise might make one question my sanity) and that may be a reason that I enjoyed this film as much as I did. But that doesn’t negate the fact that I found this film so damn thrilling that in surpassed nearly everything I’d watched this year in terms of satisfaction and pure enjoyment. The Crait sequence, seeing Luke, Kylo and Rey’s connection, and so much more give this film such an energy that infected me and made me feel so much more than any blockbuster film this year. Johnson deserves a medal for this movie; not only for what is mentioned above but also because he has set the new Star Wars trilogy free of the incredibly large shadows of its forefathers. This is a breath of new life in a franchise that started to look like it was feigning. Because of this film, I know that there will be so much more to see and discover in the Star Wars universe. There’s also a shot in this film that is one of the best shots in a film, period.
18. The Big Sick: The big sick is a mix of poignant/emotional and gut-wrenchingly funny that is rarely seen in cinema today. Not only is it those things I also found it to be one of the most relatable films of the year. As a first-generation American Muslim myself, the truths that Nanjiani shows are so damn accurate that I felt instantly connected to him as not just a character, but a person and found myself rooting for him and wanting him to succeed whenever he could. That is another thing this film does so well, it feels incredibly real. While it helps that it is based of off his life and how he came to find his wife it’s also just incredibly earnest filmmaking that grounds everything and makes it easy to find truths in Kumail and Emily’s struggles even if you have nothing in common with them. All of this and some of the years best writing equals a film that is easily one of the best of the year.
17. Get Out: Get Out was the most culturally important film of the year (other than maybe Wonder Woman) and for good reason. Not only did it do incredibly well at the Box Office but it also tackles some of the most prevalent issues in the American landscape right now in a way that is equal parts terrifying and fun to watch. While the performances in this film are strong, it’s true strengths lie in first-time writer/director Jordan (feature films at least) who bursts onto the scene in one of the most original and insane films of the year. Taking social anxieties and problems that he sees in the world and grafting them into a horror film is pure genius and makes this an incredibly unique cinematic experience and holy shit is that third act satisfying. If he keeps releasing movies this bold and original while also honing his directorial skills he will be at the top of future lists for sure.
16. It Comes at Night: It Comes At Night is a horror masterpiece that terrified me on an existential level. It made me question humanity and what’s worth saving/fighting for in a world that is getting progressively more and more despondent with each passing day. Shultz makes this film build and build until it reaches a fever pitch that seem equal parts easily avoidable and inevitable. From it’s incredibly well-shot dream sequences to it’s visceral and intense final scene, It Comes At Night will captivate and terrify you in ways you won’t expect.
15. The Killing of a Sacred Deer: In my opinion this is Yorgos Lanthimos’ best and most interesting work. Centering around a surgeon and an orphaned boy, this film takes the viewer to the absolute depths of human darkness. I refuse to spoil or get into any the specific details of this film as they need to be experienced but things get pretty messed up and they left me reeling for days after watching this. Lanthimos is proving film after film that he knows just what buttons to push and what human behaviors/qualities to challenge in order to make a fascinating and challenging movie. Teaming up with Collin Farrell for the second time these two are quickly becoming on of the best creative duos in film.
14. Baby Driver: I consider Baby Driver to be the reinvention of the movie musical. Only Edgar Wright could take the precision and grace of a musical and meld it with the muscular and visceral intensity of a heist film all while retaining his signature, kinetic style. A technical achievement in every way, Baby Driver contains some of the most kinetic and impressive camera work I have ever seen on top of the best sound editing and mixing of the year (A SHOOTOUT IS SYNCED UP TO A SONG! TWICE!). On top of that it is also one of the most creatively fulfilling as well as we follow Baby trying to fix his life and deepen his connection to a local waitress. The music and how it is integrated is something I’ve never seen before and makes for some of the most inventive and unique action filmmaking not only of the year but ever.
13. The Breadwinner: The Breadwinner is like Mulan but 100x better. Featuring some of the most stunning animation of the year and a story about defying suppressive tradition and seeking something more from life; this is one of the most elating and heartbreaking movies of the year. But what elevates this movie is the shockingly urgent and eye-opening story about an average girl in the middle-east and what she has to go through in life; it is sobering and empowering in a way few animated films are. Make sure you don’t miss out on this one.
12. Logan: A superhero film had never made me cry; that all changed when Logan came along. A perfect swan song to one of the most iconic characters of the 21st century, Logan made me go from pure and unbridled delight at seeing Wolverine finally bloody his claws to complete and utter sadness at seeing his inevitable departure. He may be gone from the silver screen, but Logan made sure he will always have a place in Cinema’s pantheon of greats.
11. The Florida Project: The Florida Project is a film that left me enchanted and full of childlike wonder in a way few films ever have. A perfect balance of bliss and veiled tragedy that plays out almost entirely through the perspective of the devious and energetic main character, brought to life perfectly by Brooklyn Prince, and she is the core of the film. She may live in a poverty stricken and struggling family, but to her life is more about wonder and making the most out of every moment she can, as evidenced by the very last scene of the film which is nothing short of magical. Also don’t forget about Willem Dafoe in this movie because he is so damn warm and good-natured that you can’t help but love him in every single scene he’s in.
10. Lady Bird: Two words: GRETA. GERWIG. This is the easiest movie to love; it’s fast, funny and relatable. Showing us the titular character’s life with blazing speed and a tongue-in-cheek attitude that most directors wish they could pull off. It’s a film that perfectly encapsulates the life of a senior in high school, whether it is dealing with a mother you think hates you or the growing pains of finding new friends and trying to be “cool.” But not only is it one of the funniest movies of the year, it’s one of the most emotional because of her and her mother’s relationship that becomes the emotional core of the movie. Laurie Metcalf and Saoirse Ronan have some of the best on-screen chemistry of the year and made me believe that they could go from arguing to gushing over a dress in two seconds. Speaking of Saoirse Ronan, she gives the most charming and enjoyable performance of the year and I would be extremely happy with her getting an Oscar. This movie proves Gerwig is one of the freshest and funniest voices in film and I’m incredibly excited to see what she does next.
9. Personal Shopper: Personal Shopper holds a very special distinction that no other film this year does; it was the only film this year to give me a panic attack (that damn train scene). It’s easily one of the most interesting films I saw this year in the themes it tackles; everything from technology and grief to the afterlife and hysteria. All of these things that the central protagonist has to confront are incredibly challenging to bring to life. Kristen Stewart is more than up to the task, giving one of, if not the best, female performance of the year as she navigates what is real and what isn’t all while trying to come to terms with losing the person closest to her. It also has some of the best direction of the year from Olvier Assayas who crafts a intricate, beautiful, and philosophical film that seeks the deeper truths in life and left me thinking about it long after it ended.
8. The Shape of Water: I will always be partial to a Guillermo Del Toro movie. Nobody makes movies like he does and that is absolutely the case with The Shape of Water. A love story between a mute women and an amphibian man, this is one of the most romantic and beautiful films I have ever seen. It’s so sweeping and its central romance isn’t tinged at all by the oddity of its premise, which is an achievement in its own right. It’s so superbly crafted in its aesthetic, writing, and direction. It finds these two people who are outcasts and oddities and brings them together in a way only Del Toro can; it also helps that the two main performances from Sally Hawkins and Doug Jones are sublime and are also propped up by the impressive supporting cast of Michael Shannon, Octavia Spencer, Richard Jenkins, and Michael Stuhlbarg.
7. A Ghost Story: A Ghost Story is visual poetry. It is poetry about the expanse of time and how we, as people, are so incredibly small in the grand scheme of things and yet our tiny moments may be the most important things in the universe. It just deals with humanity and time from a perspective I haven’t seen in a film before and that makes this film so engaging. It also has an incredible original song that is the catalyst to a very emotional sequence in this film. Not only that, but the pie scene is essential viewing.
6. Blade Runner 2049: This film is a true sci-fi masterpiece and a damn near perfect sequel to the original. While not many people think this *cough* Connor *cough* I will go to my grave defending this incredibly intricate and sprawling film. The way this story twists and turns and made me relate to and believe in K is truly awe-inspiring. Not only that but it boasts some of the years best production design, cinematography, (if Deakins doesn’t win the Oscar I will start a riot), performances, direction, and writing. Not only is it a technical marvel it’s also a film that successfully followed up one of the best films ever made and stands as its own movie. If that isn’t impressive I don’t know what is.
5. The Post: The post is the most urgent and topical film released in 2017 by a wide margin and you can feel it. Spielberg’s camera, editing, and direction are kinetic and perfectly translates the emotion and feeling that the characters in the story feel. All of it is urgent and important in a way that energizes, invigorates, and gets your blood pumping instead of draining the viewer like many films of this variety tend to do. It’s a rallying cry for everyone who sees it that no matter how determined not willing someone is to silence and censor the people there will always be someone to stand up and challenge that power and much of that rallying cry from Tom Hanks bulldogishness (is that a word) and Meryl Streep’s near-perfect performance (I like to see new blood at the Oscars, but she deserves the statue). In the year of 2017, and for the next three years, The Post is absolutely essential viewing that should equal parts delight and embolden people in the best way possible.
4. Phantom Thread: This is an incredibly unexpected and funny movie that I never thought I’d see from someone like PTA. Mixing dramatic/striking cinematography and comedic writing in a way only a master like PTA can this film is truly special. Combine his artistry with a Johnny Greenwood score that is the best of the year and a Daniel Day-Lewis performance that is more subdued than usual but just as brilliant and the result is another dynamite collaboration that will leave you wishing Daniel Day-Lewis isn’t that committed to retirement. It's also worth mentioning that newcomer Vicky Krieps *almost* steals the show from Daniel Day-Lewis (she is really that good).
3. Columbus: Columbus is the story of two people coming together and while that may seem simple it’s elevated by some of the year’s best cinematography and direction from Kogonada. He crafts a story about two characters on the cusp of change and how they come together in the city of Columbus, Indiana, a sort of mecca for modernistic architecture. Jin, played by an excellent John Cho, is stuck there because of his father suddenly becoming ill and Casey, a criminally underrated Haley Lu Richardson, is stuck there because she wants to take care of her mother who is recovering from a drug addiction. Much of the film centers around the two characters talking and getting to know each other and in the process of this something deeper happens, they begin to discover themselves. Columbus is some of the most interesting and beautiful filmmaking of the year seeing them each struggle to see where they’re going and come to terms with how they feel is something I won’t soon forget.
2. Dunkirk: There is no greater cinematic experience than Dunkirk this year. This is possibly one of the most visceral things I’ve ever seen in a theater (and I’ve seen a lot of movies). Seeing this one on as big a screen as possible is a must, my first viewing (70MM) was nothing short of transportive. The film put me on the ground, in the boats, and in the planes. Nolan crafts not just a film but an experience meant to be felt and lived in as much as watched and it pays off. It may be light on character but when the bombs begin to drop and your heart starts to race, all of that fades into the back of your mind, replaced by one singular thought: survive.
1. Call Me By Your Name: Far and away the best film of the year is the gorgeous love story between Elio and Oliver in Northern Italy. It is hard to articulate just how beautiful this movie is and sometimes that tells you all you need to know about it, but my editor said I had to try. Rarely is a film as passionate and tactile as this. So pure, so human, and so gorgeous and yet not sentimental or cloying; it encapsulates wild summer love in a way that is pure magic. It feels so real and because of that it enchants and destroys in a way few films can. It’s damn near perfect in every single way, from it’s bright cinematography to some of the best performances of the year in Timothee Chalamet, Armie Hammer, and Michael Stuhlbarg. Luca Guadagnino was able to make me feel and experience moments in life that I previously thought were impossible to replicate on film and that makes this film something transcendent.