The year 2017 is half over, and while it would be interesting to consider the best of cinema so far on the year, I found myself thinking more about what the most underappreciated films are so far in 2017. While some films suffer from a lack of wide release numbers, others are underappreciated due to ignorance of the audience or other factors that hurt the movie’s box-office returns despite the film being a pretty decent viewing. So I decided to give you all a guide to the best of the rest with a list of ten films I personally believe were criminally ignored so far in 2017.
For this list I considered my own opinions, combined with the critic and audience scores on Rotten Tomatoes, to compile a list of movies that underperformed or at least could have and should have performed better at the box office and were worthy viewings that moviegoers didn’t embrace as much as they should have for one reason or another. I avoided any movie STILL in its major theatrical run as a candidate for this list although films on the extreme backend of their run were considered. So if you haven’t gotten to seeing any of these films yet I suggest you check them out once you have the chance.
Considering my own personal takes on these films do play a part in this list there are probably quite a few I may have missed. So, are there any films you believe were criminally underappreciated by moviegoers so far in 2017 and deserved more viewership than they ended up receiving? Let me know in the comments below and enjoy the list!
10. “Power Rangers”
Based on the spectacularly popular live-action children’s television show that defined the 90s and is still going strong, this film portrayed a grittier version of the teenagers with attitude as they took on the evil Rita Repulsa after coming across the lair of Zordon and the five different colored power coins. Pegged to be the next big franchise from Lionsgate films, “Power Rangers” started off with a great opening weekend, but faltered quickly earning only $140 million on a $100 million budget. While as of this list it has a 45% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, it was truly a viewer’s film as moviegoers and fans of the series seemed to enjoy this superhero epic. The audience scored it with a 70% and while die hard fans of the original campy series it was based on may have mixed feelings on the film, as a story in and of itself “Power Rangers” proves to be a fun and engaging origin tale that deserved more attention than it actually got. It provided everything we’ve come to expect from a superhero epic, but in a year littered with other superhero films it seems to have found itself lost in the mix which has put it’s potential franchise status into question.
9. “Before I Fall”
Based on a popular teen novel, “Before I Fall” contained a familiar story. A girl who has been living her life all wrong finds herself the victim of a car crash, but instead of dying wakes up finding the day has reset and experiences the phenomenon over and over again. While this may sound like a “Groundhog Day” rip off, the film is more of a tribute to the concept utilizing the formula to perfection while targeting a demographic who can truly benefit from seeing the error of one’s ways in high school. The film was largely ignored, making just over $14 million on a $5 million budget, but featured some pretty intense acting, some powerful themes, and a certain amount of commitment to its source material that left it with a 67% Rotten Tomatoes score and a 59% approval rating from those who did turn out to see it. Despite being widely released, “Before I Fall” fell under the radar but is definitely a film worth checking out from the first half of 2017.
While it was a box office success, “Gifted” is on this list because it just wasn’t enough of a success. Bringing in almost $30 million on a $7 million budget, “Gifted” told the powerful story of a man introducing his genius niece to the simple world of public school, one where she is self-aware of just how much smarter she really is compared to her classmates. When the grandmother comes back into the picture in an attempt to enroll the young girl in a high-level school for the gifted conflict arises within the family in a well written and presented story that shows that family members can be enemies without ignoring their blood bond and explores the relationship a simple man has formed with a young girl who is mature beyond her years, with a dash of innocence for spice. While some may have passed on this movies thinking it would be a generic family drama, “Gifted” balanced dramatic intensity with more believable personal connections among its main cast and produces a heartwarming story with just enough creative dramatization to satisfy any viewer. Why it only brought in a measly $30 million dollars is anyone’s guess, but it’s possible it was just simply overshadowed by its competition. Regardless this is a powerful, and at times amusing story to sink your teeth into when you get the chance.
7. “It Comes At Night”
A rather simple horror story, “It Comes At Night” fell victim to the same kind of neglect other more sophisticated horror projects have suffered from in recent years. Honestly, it’s just too smart, demanding, and drawn out for fans looking for jump scares and cheep horror, the staples of the genre that viewers have become accustomed to, to bring in a crowd worthy of its quality. Just look at the Rotten Tomatoes scores. A critic 88% compared to an audience 43% shows the disparity pretty well, where critics ate up the nuances and the film’s more grounded look at the horrors within each human soul but the viewers were hoping for a much more over-the-top thrill ride that just never transpired. Still the film topped its estimated $5 million budget with a $15 million take at the box office, but it just didn’t get the attention it deserved. Don’t let the theatrical numbers fool you. “It Comes At Night” is one of the year’s most worthy horror films so far, presenting a dark look at what man is willing to do in a world where trust and insecurity issues run rampant. It may not make you jump out of your seat, but it will make you think and sometimes that is the source of the true horror that a film provides.
6. “The Lost City of Z”
There are actually probably a few reasons why “The Lost City of Z” failed to garner much attention, but it is a film that deserves to be viewed as one of the best of the year so far. “The Lost City of Z” suffered from a limited release, a long run time of 141 minutes, and a significant budget of $30 million that contributed to its failure. It only made $17 million at the box office, despite respectable 88% critic and 63% audience ratings on Rotten Tomatoes, so it’s fair to say that the film’s limited theatrical showings on such a large budget worked against it. Like many limited release films, those who wanted to see it probably found it difficult to locate a theater convenient enough to travel to and settled for more accessible films instead. Still, it is a story worth experiencing as the film depicts the journeys of Percy Fawcett to find the titular lost city, struggling with his duties as a father, a soldier, and a funded explorer along the way. It also shows the respectable side of Charlie Hunnam as an actor in a year where he suffered a blow as the leading man to the epic failure that was “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword”. “The Lost City of Z” is a film worth enjoying on multiple levels and while it can be a dry movie to sit-through at times, it’s a very stripped down and realistic look at a real-life adventure of legendary proportions.
5. “Free Fire”
It’s honestly a bit strange that this film didn’t take off. “Free Fire” had action, several big names in its cast, was released in over 1,000 theaters as opposed to the usual 500 for a limited release, and sported respectable scores from both critics and fans on Rotten Tomatoes and still it only lasted a couple of weeks on the big screen and failed to match its minuscule $7 million budget. Honestly “Free Fire” was a good movie, presenting the story of an arms deal gone wrong that turns into a comedic and action packed shootout. It seemed to have everything any moviegoer would want and still fell flat on its face. It deserved better. It wasn’t even up against any major new competition worthy of viewing that weekend with only the documentary “Born in China” gaining real attention as a new release at the time. “Free Fire” is a well paced, well choreographed, non-stop shoot-em-up film that combined personality and structure with great writing and character development to form a should-be classic that is worth every minute of viewing. It’s a sin that this film didn’t garner more attention, and if you’re one of those who have yet to see it you need to get on it.
4. “The Wall”
Another movie hampered by limited release (sensing a trend yet) “The Wall” only grossed a budget-matching $3 million in its time in theaters but deserved a lot more attention than that for sure. Well liked by critics and receiving a 51% audience score of Rotten Tomatoes, this small project about a cat and mouse game between a U.S. soldier and an Iraqi sniper seemed to provide everything viewers could want. Suspense, national pride, and relatively well-known names in the cast made this film a sure fire hit on the surface, but despite all of that viewers just didn’t want to go the extra mile to find a theater playing the movie. That said it is worth your time if you ever get the chance. It’s a short 81-minute movie with great one-liners and tasteful exchanges between the sniper and the soldier that add philosophical elements to the plot. It truly is a gem hidden behind the bigger titles of the year that deserved much more recognition than it got during it’s delayed theatrical stint.
3. “A United Kingdom”
While I’m a believer that sometimes history can provide some of the greatest stories for a film, not everyone agrees and that’s probably why they didn’t flock to the theater to see this love story play out. “A United Kingdom”, one of the few films I’ve seen this year but didn’t actually post a review for on this blog, was released in the U.S. in February, but was largely ignored barely making back its production budget despite telling the touching and worthy true story of a black king who falls in love with a white woman, putting him at odds with his own people as he struggles to balance his love for his home and his wife despite criticism surrounding him. What’s good is both critics and viewers loved this story, but not enough viewers turned out to view the film on the big screen making it a tragically underappreciated project. Perhaps it was too mushy for some, or perhaps the racial undertones of the story turned some away. Maybe it was its limited release, or maybe it was its lack of massive names that kept viewers from embracing the tale. Hell, maybe it just wasn’t considered a historic true tale worth embracing. Thankfully the movie seems to have found quite a following on rentals so this is one that people really do seem to be embracing now that they have the chance to enjoy it on the small screen at their leisure.
2. “Megan Leavey”
Telling the real life story of a female soldier and her canine partner in war, “Megan Leavey” had everything it took to be a sure fire hit and in its opening weekend it was, grossing $3.8 million in relatively limited release. That was the extent of its success though as it’s theatrical run total, which is just starting to close up as of this countdown, had it at only $12 million. That’s not for a lack of quality. Critics and audiences scored it over 80% on Rotten Tomatoes and the film’s stripped down approach to a touching story has received great reactions since it hit the big screen. “Megan Leavey” is an inspiring experience as a film that shows not all heroes who go to war walk on two legs. Tastefully patriotic and emotionally powerful, “Megan Leavey” comes highly recommended and is destined to be one of the year’s most important must see war films.
1. “A Monster Calls”
In the pantheon of criminally overlooked films, this one is one of the biggest oversights of the past few years. “A Monster Calls” is by far one of the best films 2017 has seen to date, which is interesting because its wide release was on the first weekend of the year, but the movie only managed to just beat its $43 million budget despite scores of over 80% from both critics and viewers on Rotten Tomatoes giving it the clout it should have needed to succeed on a much greater level. Telling the story of a young boy forced to face the impending death of his mother and turning to a strange tree-like monster for guidance, the film serves as a universal guiding light for anyone struggling to find their place in the world in the face of massive change and provides some of the greatest pieces of cinematic dialogue and storytelling you will see all year with should-be iconic lines ripped straight from the pages of the book it was based on. This is an emotionally charged tale for both young and old to embrace and appreciate. It’s a true sin this movie didn’t draw more viewership on the big screen, but of all the films on this list it’s not only the most worthy, but possibly the best made film you have yet to see. This is a viewing must for anyone with a heart and I promise by the end of the film you’ll either have a tear in your eye or a new outlook on life and humanity. You’ll also have a few powerful philosophical one-liners that may help you change the way someone else looks at the world too.