The 20 Best Movies of 2017

You've probably already forgotten about most of the best of 2017 lists you read over two months ago, but listen, I'm not some fancy schmancy movie critic who gets to see everything at festivals or the week before they hit limited release, for us regular folk, catching up on movies takes time. And quite frankly, I'm still missing a few movies which probably invalidates this list to a certain extent, but like I said, I'm not fancy nor schmancy, and the Oscars are this weekend, so you're just going to have to deal with it and take this list at face value.

So without further adieu, below, you'll find a list of my 20 favourite movies of 2018!

20. Brigsby Bear: Kyle Mooney brings us a charming movie about a man who grew up with kidnappers who told him the world had ended, and comes to terms with his newfound freedom and the traumatic experience he went through by filming a movie about the titular Barney-like bear that was the star of the show his fake dad (the wonderful Mark Hamill, who gets to do some of his signature voice work too) showed him for years. It’s a sad, hilarious, weird, moving indie film that I highly recommend.

19. American Made: There’s just something about Tom Cruise that makes this kind of movie work, man. American Made is non-stop fun, packed with action and fast paced. Only a wonky ending stopped it from appearing higher on this list.

18. I, Tonya: Margot Robbie and Allison Janney are getting deserved attention for their wonderful performances in the super-fun biopic about Tonya Harding, and I love how it’s told from her perspective as an unreliable narrator. It’s a movie that could have maybe been something more in the hands of a better director, but a fun ride nonetheless.

17. John Wick: Chapter 2: It feels odd that a John Wick movie that I remember loving not being higher up on the list, but over a year since I first saw it, I can't say that I really remember much about it other than the fact that it was good. Well, that's not necessarily true, I remember that it expanded the world around its titular character, that it had a great cast, some great choreography and a cliffhanger ending. Maybe I just need to watch it again to truly recall how good it was, or maybe the charm of the franchise that arguably changed action films for the entire industry is starting to lose its luster. But hey, it was still a good movie.

16. Atomic Blonde: Atomic Blonde is kind of the polar opposite of John Wick in that it was highly memorable, but probably not as polished as the Keanu films. It’s a little sloppier, but it’s a great action movie with arguably the best tracking shot of the year. Atomic Blonde makes yet another case for Charlize Theron as one of Hollywood’s best badasses, as if that was even a necessary statement to make at this point.

15. A Ghost Story: A Ghost Story is a weird, extremely low budget indie movie about a woman (Rooney Mara) who suffers the loss of her husband (Casey Affleck), whose ghost proceeds to haunt their former house for an indefinite amount of time. And when I say ghost, I mean that they literally put Casey Affleck under a white sheet. And when I say an indefinite amount of time, I mean literally eternity. It would have been easy to write this movie off as pretentious, but David Lowery makes it work really well and really makes you feel something despite how vague everything in the film is. Plus there’s a scene where Rooney Mara eats an entire pie.

14. Spider-Man: Homecoming: 2017 was a transformative year for the superhero movie for many reasons, but one that I can’t believe we’re not constantly talking about is how we finally got a proper Spider-Man movie, no less one set in the MCU that made ample use of Iron Man. Tom Holland is the perfect Peter Parker, Michael Keaton got to play yet another bird-based character, and there’s even a moment in the film that left everyone in the audience speechless. Homecoming is a hell of a ride, hopefully Sony doesn’t proceed to mess it up.

13. Thor: Ragnarok: Continuing the year that was transformative for superhero movies was the third entry in the Thor franchise, a film which completely redefined what a Thor movie can and should be. Ragnarok probably shouldn’t have worked. It copies the formula that worked for Guardians instead of doing what we expect of something like Thor, it sacrifices story and character development for laughs, and its villain is pretty bad. But it continues the trend of Marvel standalone movies actually being veiled team-up movies, which I hope keeps happening forever, and it’s so goddamn funny thanks to the incomparable Taika Waititi that it’s not very hard to forgive its faults. Also Korg is the best movie character of 2017.

12. Wind River: It’s hard to find anything too insightful to say about a movie like Wind River, if I'm being honest. It’s just a solid murder mystery/police procedural with a great cast and pitch perfect pacing. Which is exactly the kind of movie I love to eat up a few times a year, and exactly what I’ve come to expect from filmmaker Taylor Sheridan, who is now on a three year streak of movies to scrape the top 15 of my list after Sicario and Hell or High Water by just being solid and entertaining, by having something to say without portending that his movies are any more remarkable than they need to be. His takes on these deep corners of America are quickly becoming my most anticipated thing about movies every year, and this Elizabeth Olsen/Jeremy Renner starrer about death and crime in a native reserve is no exception.

11. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2: Yes, this is the third superhero movie in my top 15, and there’s one more to come, deal with it. What makes GOTG better than Spider-Man or Thor? While those other two were solid, funny action movies, GOTG did something few movies can do to me, on top of all those other qualifiers, in that it makes me weep like a little baby during its final act. This is supposed to be Space Fast and Furious, but its takes on family overshadow even those of the Toretto clan. Once again matching tone and story perfectly with soundtrack, James Gunn hits such a perfect home run in the final ten minutes of this film that it proves that what he’s doing is the best thing about the MCU these days, and the fact that Thor basically copied his formula a few months later is clear proof of that.

10. The Killing of a Sacred Deer: Yiorgos Lanthimos’ latest effort to blend Greek mythology with modern day concerns is probably the most uncomfortable, awkward, and weirdest movie of 2017. The Killing of a Sacred Deer is so insanely original and different than anything else you’ll see that I actually don't think I'd recommend it to anyone, as much as I want Lanthimos to be in the mainstream. His style isn’t for everyone, as I quickly learned show The Lobster to people over the last couple of years, but his dry wit, his sardonic takes on monstrous topics are quickly making him one of my favourite filmmakers. Sacred Deer returns to the well with Colin Ferrell in the lead role (alongside Nicole Kidman) as a doctor who befriends the son of a man who died on his operating table, only to learn that the child is actually living out an elaborate, mysterious plot for revenge. This is a truly crazy movie with an ending so preposterous that I want to make everyone watch and make them feel uncomfortable.

9. The Florida Project: There has been much debate around the ending of The Florida Project, and while I won’t spoil anything here, I will say that the ending is the reason Sean Baker’s sophomore film sits in 9th place on my standings and not significantly higher. Up to those final moments of the movie, I was completely invested in this story about the innocence of a child living in poverty without even knowing it. The story unfolds from the perspective of young Moonee, a girl living in affordable housing just outside of Disney World in Florida with her mother. It’s a slice of life story that follows her, her mother, her friends and the superintendent of the building (played masterfully by Willem Dafoe) over the course of the summer, and it has an ending that, at first, had me in tears over what was happening before that aforementioned ending took me completely out of what I was feeling for the sake of an unnecessarily saccharin conclusion that truly felt like Baker didn’t know how to end his film, and that was truly disappointing considering how brilliant the film is, otherwise.

8. The Big Sick: A lot has been made about what The Big Sick means to Muslim-Americans (as well as Pakistani-Americans), but I truly believe that Kumail Nangiani and Emily V. Gordon have made a movie that speaks to a much larger audience. The Big Sick has appeal on the level of a romantic comedy as well as anyone who is an immigrant or has immigrant parents and has had trouble sticking to the ideals and traditions that their parents try to impose on them. Despite a very unique plot and premise, the film wound up speaking to me on so many of these levels. I will never forget the scene near the end of the movie where Kumail’s character has a heart-to-heart with his father, while his mother sits silently in a car in the distance, too angry about what Kumail’s done to even talk to him as he’s moving away. That scene is a perfect encapsulation of what it’s like to try and assimilate to a new culture while also trying to hold on to what you come from, and a huge part of what makes The Big Sick the perfect movie for multiculturalism in this day and age.

7. Molly’s Game: I was worried that Aaron Sorkin’s directorial debut would be too self-indulgent without an experienced director to reign in his writing style. And Molly’s Game is a little too self-indulgent, but that’s part of what makes it work so well. Who would have thought that going “full Sorkin” would be exactly what Sorkin would have needed at this stage of his career? What’s more, Jessica Chastain is the perfect muse for both Sorkin’s insanity as well as the information dump that is Molly Bloom’s story about poker, feminism, the mob and the justice system. Molly's Game is a fun movie with a lot to say (maybe a little too much, in fact), and it's a movie that should have made a bigger impact than it did.

6. Logan: The final superhero entry on this list is a superhero movie that holds that label in name and association to previous franchises only. Logan is so much more than a movie about Wolverine and Professor X going on an adventure, it’s a movie that’s actually fucking amazing. It’s heart-wrenching, beautiful, sad, and it has something to say about all the themes that X-Men was originally built on. Logan is not only what the next evolution of superhero movie needs to be, but it surpasses any and every expectation around that very concept, and it perfectly sticks the landing for Hugh Jackman’s swansong as the character that’s defined his career for over 17 years. And on top of that it got a damn Oscar nomination for best screenplay!

5. Blade Runner 2049: Is there any doubt anymore that Denis Villeneuve is the best working director in Hollywood? With Blade Runner 2049, the 50-year-old Quebecois director five films in as many years that are Oscar-worthy, each getting less accessible and more hard sci-fi than the last. It’s only a shame that that lack of accessibility stopped BR2049 from being the same kind of love at the Oscars that Arrival did last year, because it truly deserved it, if for no other reason than making a coherent, compelling, engrossing sequel to a cult movie as beloved and revered as the original Blade Runner. Somehow, he managed to pull it off and exceed expectations yet again, even if the film did not perform amazingly at the box office. Regardless, BR2049 is exactly the Blade Runner sequel that I wanted, in every imaginable way.

4. Get Out: Few films in recent memory have been as original, intense, and culturally relevant as Get Out. Not only that, but it was such a welcome surprise as well, to see a black horror movie from a director previously known only for his work in comedy. And it’s funny, because Get Out totally feels like it came out of a long night in the Key & Peele writer’s room, but the finished product is so much more than that. Peele’s directing is impeccable, the acting is superb (led by Daniel Kaluuya), and the writing keeps you guessing before coming to a satisfying conclusion. There were a handful movies I personally liked better this past year, but Get Out might be the one that stands the test of time the most as an instant classic and a truly prescient film.

3. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri: The backlash to Martin McDonagh’s third movie breaks my heart, because I feel as if his intent with this film was completely misunderstood. In Three Billboards, the Irish filmmaker and playwright tells a difficult story about abuse, race and vengeance. He shows us his perception of the Bible Belt and he reaches conclusions that many people seem unwilling to hear. I sort of get where people who are adamantly against this film are coming from; it tells a story in a way many feel is unneeded at this particular juncture in American history. We live in a time where white supremacists are empowered, where women are struggling to wrangle power from abusive men, so why make a movie that features the redemption of a racist or the unsatisfying conclusion to a woman’s struggle? Maybe my opinion on this doesn’t matter as a white man, but I feel like there couldn’t be a more important time to tell a story about compromise, about forgiveness, about the nuances of people who appear to be bad. Maybe McDonagh’s take isn’t a good take, but that doesn’t mean it’s invalid for him to present it, and it certainly doesn’t mean that the film itself isn’t hilarious, well-acted and surprising at every turn.

2. Baby Driver: The two movies at the top of the list have a lot in common. Both are throwbacks to a bygone era of Hollywood, both are very much not the kind of cutting-edge movie you might expect to top a list like this, but maybe that speaks to the place that I’m at as a filmgoer. I’m not going to sit here and tell you that Baby Driver is a more important film than, say, Get Out, but what attracted me to it is both how feel-good, and how much love and care went into making it. Edgar Wright’s attention to detail, his commitment to the craft is second-to-none (actually, maybe to one, if the film in the #1 spot has claim to anything). The soundtrack is gorgeous, the sound design and editing are perfect, the acting is great and the stunts are great. Baby Driver is probably the movie I rewatched the most since it came out, and the movie I feel the need to go back to the most.

1. The Shape of Water: This is going to sound so weird, but The Shape of Water shares so much in common with La La Land for me, thematically and contextually, at least. Both are movies that are Hollywood throwbacks, movies about love and desire, both are very heavily musically inspired. Both are impeccably crafted and engrossing experiences. Where they differ is that while La La Land comes from the perspective of a young person who’s seen success, TSOW comes from the perspective of an experienced, underrated auteur who somehow hasn’t been jaded after so many years toiling and making movies that he loves and that wind up being so unappreciated. And even though it seems like Guillermo Del Toro is finally going to get what he’s owed at this year’s Oscars, there’s still been this weird backlash against a film he so clearly loves, and it’s incredibly disheartening for a movie that’s so positive and that makes very visible attempts to be inclusive. TSOW may be a throwback, it may not have something prescient to say, but it’s a positive, happy movie at a time where we need something like it the most, and when you look at film as the escape that it’s often supposed to be, I can’t think of a better movie to represent what 2017 in film was to me, especially in the era of trump and the changing socio-political landscape.