These are not “the best”. They are simply my favorites.
Some films I wish I had time to see: John Wick: Chapter 2, Raw, The Beguiled, A Ghost Story, Brigsby Bear, Good Time, Ingrid Goes West, Logan Lucky, The Florida Project, The Killing of a Sacred Deer, Call Me By Your Name, The Disaster Artist, I, Tonya, The Post, Phantom Thread
15. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
12. The Shape of Water
11. The Big Sick
10. Okja (Dir. Bong Joon-ho)
Okja is Bong Joon-ho’s (Snowpiercer) latest genre mash-up — think E.T. with a healthy dose of anti-capitalism. The action is well shot and the chase sequence through Seoul is delightfully intense. The story takes a dark turn in the end, but the sense of fun that must have been on set always radiates off-screen. Jake Gyllenhaal and Tilda Swinton play absolute lunatics and their energy is infectious. Okja is a rollicking adventure film – certainly one of the best of 2017. The only downside is that this is a Netflix exclusive… I wish I had been able to see it on the big screen.
9. Logan (Dir. James Mangold)
This is a painful movie. But it’s also a necessary one. Hugh Jackman is Wolverine; after just shy of 20 years and 9 movies it’s impossible to separate the two. That’s a long time to be playing one character, and for Jackman’s final film there was only one way to move forward. Yes, Logan AKA Wolverine, meets his end at the end of this film, but that’s not what makes it so special — it’s the performances. These actors have truly inhabited these characters, particularly Sir Patrick Stewart as a Professor X who is sadly unable to control his mind as he slowly slips away. Newcomer, Dafne Keen, plays X-23 with unbridled enthusiasm, a ferocity that gives Jackman a run for his money.
Did I mention how violent this thing is? Because it’s super violent, but in a way that always feels appropriate to the characters and never gratuitous. This is the X-Men film I always wanted… but I fear we may never get one like this again.
8. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (Dir. Martin McDonagh)
Watching Three Billboards is like getting repeatedly punched in the gut, and you know what? I liked it. Frances McDormand continues to prove that she is one our very best actors, totally owning this film from start to finish. In fact, each performance is rich and lived-in, making it much harder to watch when these characters are bad… which is pretty much all the time.
What makes Three Billboards work is the fact that none of the characters really earn redemption or find what they are looking for. They pass off blame or redirect their anger, often onto people that don’t deserve it. Never once does anyone really prove they deserve better, so it’s fitting to watch them fail. While I may not have necessarily liked the characters, I did find myself completely invested in their journeys. This is a stunning and shocking work with a sharp acidity and oh so much anger. I can’t get it out of my head.
7. Blade Runner 2049 (Dir. Denis Villeneuve)
Blade Runner 2049 deserved better. But, honestly, what did we expect? This is a sequel to a cult sci-fi classic that also happened to bomb at the box office upon initial release. Despite its lackluster box office performance, I’m calling it now: 2049 will go down in history as a classic of its own to be heralded as one of the greatest sequels of all time. Not only is it a touching – often heartbreaking – continuation of the original, it smartly widens the scope and enriches the world on a larger scale. Plus, with cinematography by the great Roger Deakins, it somehow one-ups the visual majesty of the original.
Disclaimer: I am a Ryan Gosling fanboy til I die. He kills it in this.
6. mother! (Dir. Darren Aronofsky)
mother! is a crazy roller coaster of a movie. It’s best to know as little as possible going in (at least in terms of specific moments) because what happens during its 2 hours is truly shocking. From the moment it began my jaw hit the floor and I had a hard time picking it up as the credits rolled.
Boasting some of the finest camera work of the year, mother! keeps us, the horrified audience, completely within Jennifer Lawrence’s point of view. This decision leads to the most immersive theater-going experience I had all year. I became so attached to her character over the course of the film that by the time [redacted] happened, I was recoiling and screaming in horror just like her.
This allegorical nightmare has continued to grow on me since my first viewing. Some of the images on display in this film will never leave my mind. If you’re at all curious, check it out for yourself and come talk to me when you’re done.
5. Baby Driver (Dir. Edgar Wright)
Fast cars, heists, pulse-pounding action, humor, heart, and Jon Hamm… Baby Driver seemingly has it all. As a getaway driver in the heart of Atlanta, Baby (Ansel Elgort) is deep in a bad situation that he desperately wants out of. After meeting Debora (Lily James) he envisions a life away from crime and plans to run away from it all and start over. However, leaving a crooked past behind is never too easy. There are feelings hurt, misunderstandings, botched robberies, and lots of violence. Oh, did I mention this is basically a musical where the song and dance numbers are replaced with action sequences that are timed to match the soundtrack? I didn’t? Well, it is. And it kicks so much ass.
This is a movie that could have only come from the mind of Edgar Wright, the mastermind behind Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, The World’s End, and Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. All four of those films are classics in their own way but have been sadly overlooked by a wider audience. Baby Driver acts as Wright’s true breakthrough with audiences (box office currently stands at nearly $230 million) which only means bigger and better things in the future. Bring it on.
4. Star Wars: The Last Jedi (Dir. Rian Johnson)
Truly the most divisive film of the year, Star Wars: The Last Jedi is definitely risky. I understand the divide. But, having said that, I absolutely adored this weird, shocking, absolute blast of a movie. I could write for days about how writer/director Rian Johnson fearlessly carved a path for Star Wars to finally let go of the past and fly fearlessly into the future.
The Last Jedi is impressive in the way it handles the characters both old and new. Mark Hamill, as a jaded Luke, is the best I’ve ever seen him. Carrie Fisher is a powerful and strong Leia who also understands it may be time to pass the baton. Daisy Ridley’s Rey is tenacious and hopeful but also scared and in search of a teacher. Oscar Isaac as Poe is stubborn and set in his ways but learns to step back and survey the larger picture. John Boyega as Finn is certainly charming, but he is mostly wasted in a side-story that doesn’t feel entirely needed. His story does, however, introduce us to Kelly Marie Tran’s Rose Tico, a maintenance worker with a heart of gold.
What I find so special about The Last Jedi is that it feels like a Rian Johnson film from start to finish, warts and all. Sure, some of the stuff involving Finn is a little dumb (ie. the casino planet is disappointing), but when everything comes together it’s truly a sight to behold. Star Wars is learning to be daring and have fun again. By tearing up the rule book the seeds for an incredible finale have been planted.
3. Dunkirk (Christopher Nolan)
Dunkirk is less a war movie, more an intricate piece about the concept of time. 3 separate storylines — one taking place over a week; one over a day; one over an hour — that cross over, under and between each other, creating a symphony of sight and sound. It’s brilliant to cut these stories of varying length between each other because they show us that time is relative. What is really only one hour stuck in the cockpit of a Spitfire feels like an entire week emotionally for the pilot played by Tom Hardy and so on. The overlap also has huge dramatic benefits and keeps the film moving at a breakneck pace. It worked incredibly as a method to keep me on the edge of my seat from start to finish. Perhaps the single greatest element is the film’s score by Hans Zimmer. A constant ticking clock pushes the story along, adding an overwhelming dread to the proceedings as you wonder if anyone will succeed before time runs out.
Christopher Nolan is a cold, almost heartless, filmmaker in many people’s eyes. I don’t necessarily agree (Inception and Interstellar???), but I do think that Dunkirk is his most heartfelt journey yet. The ticking clock ever-present in the score could easily be a beating heart and the characters wear their emotions out in the open. This is an intense, thrilling, heartfelt, pulse-pounding, experimental war movie. It’s also one of Nolan’s best.
2. Lady Bird (Dir. Greta Gerwig)
Lady Bird is so funny, so pure and so real that I kind of want everyone to start calling me “Lady Bird” just so that I can pretend to be as cool as this movie is. Greta Gerwig has written and directed a debut feature that is so confident it feels like it was made by an old hand. The characters are singular yet believable and fully lived in. Sacramento is treated with love and adoration, shot through a lens of wistful nostalgia that made me want to immediately pack up and go home to Richmond to visit with old friends and family. It made me want to call my parents. The script is full of humor, heart and ends on a perfect note. I teared up multiple times, not always because I was sad, but just because of how beautiful a film Lady Bird is. It’s the perfect coming of age tale, the perfect showcase for Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf, and the perfect debut for Gerwig. I adore Lady Bird.
1. Get Out (Dir. Jordan Peele)
Get Out was released in February. FEBRUARY. It’s been almost an entire year since its release and I’ve only seen it once, but I STILL can’t get it out of my mind. Jordan Peele came storming out of the gate with an instant classic of a debut feature. It’s just not fair.
A thought-provoking, antagonizing, terrifying and humorous rumination on the disease of institutional racism in our country, Get Out boasts strong performances, an expectation-defying story and truly haunting images that are seared into my memory. I can’t get enough of this film. It may very well be the greatest horror film of our time.
In a handy list:
8. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
7. Blade Runner 2049
5. Baby Driver
4. Star Wars: The Last Jedi
2. Lady Bird
1. Get Out