Who’s ready for some action! While 2017 didn’t offer a massive amount of satisfying action films it was still a decent year for fun filled, gun slinging, thrilling entries in one of the most generic genres in film. For today’s entry in my 2017 year-end “best of” series I took a look at the best action, war and thriller films 2017 had to offer. From heroes to hitmen and fast cars to a legendary war story these were the best of the best in the action world and served as sources of escapism and style that satisfied many. These are the Top 10 Action Films of 2017.
For this list I considered any movie that could primarily be considered an action film, war film or a thriller. Thriller mysteries, action comedies, westerns, and true-life stories that didn’t quite fit my other lists all made the list of potential entries for this countdown.
As with all my 2017 “best of” lists no films from other lists were considered for this one and no Netflix films were considered as they have their own list coming around. Also as with my other 2017 year-end countdowns the top three movies here qualify for my overall “Best of 2017” countdown.
I think that’s all the formalities so lets get to it! What’s your favorite action, war or thriller film from 2017? Let me know in the comments below!
10. “Fate of the Furious”
The “Fast and Furious” franchise has risen to legitimacy over its last few entries but the eighth film was admittedly a bit of a step back. While I didn’t completely enjoy this movie it was just fun enough to overlook how ridiculous it truly was, which is kind of what you need from an action film when you really think about it. All the same “Fate of the Furious” proved to be kind of a dull offering compared to previous films in the franchise and I called it “nowhere near as bad as it very well could have been” in my review of the film and what it lacked in true greatness and heart it made up for in no-holds-barred action epicness that gave hardcore fans of the series exactly what they wanted to see. It’s a fun film regardless of how nitpicky you want to be so that gives it a spot here. There’s still plenty of potential in this franchise, but in 2017 we saw it loose a bit of air from its tires. Let’s hope the inevitable ninth film is a return to prime.
9. “The Foreigner”
I never got the chance to review this decent action film, but it was actually a pretty cool viewing experience despite being a generic modern action offering. Jackie Chan pulled off a career reviving turn as a man looking to avenge his daughter after she is killed in a bombing. Chan took a page out of Liam Neeson’s book to embrace a father role with attitude and gravitas who was more than what he seemed, taking on a credible villain played by an equally talented Pierce Brosnan. It might have been generic and bland in many ways, but it served as a great reminder of why movies like “Taken” have become such big hits in recent years. There’s a certain amount of satisfying suspense that comes from revenge flicks like this and “The Foreigner” managed to shine thanks mostly to its talented cast who explored new areas of their acting ranges. This film was one of the more pleasant genre surprises of 2017 and if I got the chance to write up my review it would have landed four stars easily.
8. “Free Fire”
An underrated gem from 2017 “Free Fire” was a criminally ignored thriller that provided loads of fun and excitement even if it did so at the cost of substance in its story. I called the film a standout in action in my review, but also acknowledged it wouldn’t be among the best movies of 2017. Telling the story of a gun deal gone wrong, there was plenty of shooting, killing, one liners, and suspense involved in this film filled with “no-holds-barred action done right”. The characters are delightful, the action never stops, and the acting is pretty impressive despite a few minor flaws in the script. Overall I’d recommend this film if for no other reason than to escape reality for a bit and enjoy some mindless shoot ‘em up action. “Free Fire” fits right at home here on this list, high enough to earn some awareness and respect but low enough to acknowledge that it’s far from perfect despite being a high stakes thrill ride full of personality and charm.
7. “The Wall”
I have a soft spot for single-setting films. “Phone Booth” was one of my childhood favorites I’d watch over and over in my youth. In 2017 we got a similar style film set in a war zone as a pair of U.S. soldiers, played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson and John Cena, took on an Iraqi sniper after being pinned down behind a single standing wall. The game of cat and mouse is so great to watch as soldiers on both sides taunt each other into giving up their cover. What little action it does offer delivers and blends well with the drama of the dire circumstances to create a thriller worth your time. In my review I called “The Wall” “worth the watch” and “one of the best thrillers of 2017”. As you can see by its placement on this list that opinion stands strong. It’s ability to create claustrophobia out of a wide open space makes “The Wall” a fascinating viewing opportunity and if it weren’t for a less than satisfying ending it might have found its way higher on this list.
6. “Patriot’s Day”
I had thought about putting this film on my biopic list still to come, but it’s not really a biopic as much as it is a depiction of true events through the eyes of an original character. “Patriot’s Day” didn’t quite blow the box office away as much as many thought it might, but it still proved to be a heartbreaking and action packed depiction of the Boston Marathon Bombings and subsequent investigation that did justice to the real-life event and respected the harsh realities of the days that followed. One of my first reviews I did in 2017, I called “Patriot’s Day” a film that “truly serves as a good source of closure for an event that, even on film, remains a difficult experience”. This film held nothing back and sure it did include an unwarranted original character played by Mark Wahlberg and some added dramatic tension to up the action, but for the most part “Patriot’s Day” was surprisingly fun and tremendously powerful in its own way. I still hold to my opinion that it’s one of the best action thrillers of the year despite my personal bias as a Nee Englander who saw the aftermath first hand as a member of the region.
5. “Atomic Blonde”
It’s no surprise that this action spy thriller from the director of “John Wick” made its way into the pantheon of action film greats in 2017. Directed by David Leitch this was pretty much “John Wick” with a female lead as Charlize Theron owned her role in this film based on the graphic novel “The Coldest City”. This entry ALMOST made my Superhero and Comic Book Movies top 10, but I chose to save it for this action list because otherwise it would have lost out to other titles and deserved to be higher on a list like this. Here it is at number five here and one scene alone makes this a worthy watch as it contains one of the best one-shot action scenes I’ve ever seen. It has its dull moments and didn’t quite live up to expectations that surrounded it with a relatively dry plot and a disjointed pace, but I still felt “Atomic Blonde” was a cinematic action experience that was “a fun ride not to be missed and actually left me wanting more, in a good way.” Ironically it loses out to a number four that continues the action franchise that David Leitch started AND borrowed from in order to give “Atomic Blonde” that special something.
4. “John Wick: Chapter 2”
Continuing the story of the retired assassin/hitman that David Leitch started, this second entry in a planned trilogy starring Keanu Reeves was a fun ride from start to finish. I called it “fantastically fun” and “stripped down and simple”, similar to the first movie which itself was an awesome ride. The narrative was great, Reeves was great, and the action never stoped as one-shot scenes liter the project giving it a stylistic and smooth presentation. Its biggest problem was its tendency to borrow from the first movie, including a pretty blatant repeat of the nightclub shootout from the first chapter. All the same this film offered numerous memorable antagonists and plenty of character development for Wick that expanded on the legacy the first movie so brilliantly started. It offered everything a true action film should offer and while it won’t be in my 2017 “best of” countdown it more than earned its place here in the best action films of 2017. Personally I can’t wait for the third and final chapter to drop in 2019.
I didn’t enjoy this film as much as other critics did, but the fact that it’s in my top three for action films says a lot for what it really has to offer. This Christopher Nolan project, which he wrote, directed, and co-produced, tells the story of the infamous Durkirk retreat of World War II showing the story of the retreat and rescue from land, sea, and air in individual stories that overlap and span different timelines all leading to the same moment that caps the movie off. If this sounds confusing that’s because it was and that was the biggest issue I had with an otherwise great film that traded in more traditional war action for more thrilling, well paced action drama to capture the harshness and danger of war. Despite its flaws I said, “’Dunkirk’ is still an amazing powerhouse of a movie deserving of all the hype that has surrounded it” that offered a unique take on what a war epic could be. It blends action, drama, and historical accuracy quite well and is a movie I truly wanted to enjoy and have come to respect more in subsequent viewings which is why I put it here at #3 in my list of best action films of the year.
2. Wind River
The third film in what I call Taylor Sheridan’s “Thrillogy” series, “Wind River” was truly one of my favorite original cinematic stories to hit the big screen in 2017. Focusing on a hunter-for-hire who joins with a young FBI agent to solve the death of an American Indian in the Wind River Reservation “Wind River” offered everything a great thriller should offer. It’s extremely well paced, well directed, and well written with committed performances, great set pieces, and an engaging story that keeps you glued to the screen from start to finish with well-timed suspense and a well-handled mystery. In my review I compliment the film saying “a committed cast, beautiful setting, and smart writing make ‘Wind River’ a fluid and incredibly satisfying cinematic experience.” The movie also had a great message to share concerning the lack of attention given to the mistreatment and violence toward American Indian women which it utilized to build on the suspense without coming off as pandering or heavy-handed. It contained heart and emotional depth balanced with thrills and some great moments of action and suspense to make for a near perfect thriller worthy of being among the greats of 2017.
1. Baby Driver
Full disclosure I couldn’t WAIT to put this film at the top of a list after I saw it earlier this year. Let’s ignore the stain that Kevin Spacey’s career ending revelations left on his work in 2017 and appreciate that this movie happened before all that went down. Filled with amazing acting and action complimented by a completely mesmerizing soundtrack this was one of stylistic director Edgar Wrights best works to date. In a word “Baby Driver” was just plain awesome. In my five-star review I boldly called “Baby Driver” “one of the best 2017 has offered in its first six months” and “quite possibly destined to be one of the year’s greatest films”. It’s a smart, flashy, and unique action film and a heist film like nothing we’ve seen in years. Everything about “Baby Driver” was as close to perfect as an action film could be with even it’s most glaring faults overpowered by committed quality acting, directing, and storytelling. It was a work of action art with incredible rewatchability and undeniable quality rarely captured so well by an action thriller and that’s why it tops this list of the best action films of 2017.