First off a very Merry Christmas everyone! I hope you all enjoy(ed) the holiday!
To continue my year end series it certainly wasn’t the most dominant genre of 2017, but science fiction still had its highlights. From space adventures to warring apes and shrinking people this genre captured our wildest imaginations all the same. Continuing my “Best of 2017” series I looked at films that fit within the science fiction genre and picked out the ones I thought were the best of this calendar year. These are my picks for the Top 10 Sci-Fi Films of 2017.
For this list I looked at movies that I personally had the pleasure of viewing in 2017 that primarily fit within the science fiction genre. Admittedly this genre didn’t have the most impressive track record this year, but it still had some impressive products that were worthy of enjoying. As with all my lists for this series no Netflix movies and no films from other “Best of 2017” lists were considered for this countdown. Many films that were skipped for this list also were considered for my list of the top 10 fantasy films so look for that list this week too. Also don’t forget the top three films qualify for my overall year end list on New Years Day.
What’s your favorite science fiction film of 2017? Let me know in the comments below. On with the list!!!
10. “Ghost in the Shell”
Like I said, there weren’t a whole lot of quality science fiction films in 2017 and I will admit I had to get to the bottom of the barrel for this one, but hey this list has to start somewhere. However, there was a reason this 2-star rated film made this list and not my Worst of 2017 list. While the acting and story were bland this take on the classic anime movie makes this list based on its visuals alone. It was a beautifully designed science fiction product and this genre is heavily based on the imagery and technological advancements worked into the presentation. Where “Ghost in the Shell” failed at nearly everything it did not fail in this regard. In my review I acknowledged that “there are stunning visual effects to view with every frame” although I did say we didn’t really go to see this movie for its backdrop. It might be a placeholder at best, but I felt it was important to acknowledge there was at least something redeemable for this sub-par 2017 film.
Now we get to something a little more respectable. When “Life” was first announced and the trailer premiered many compared it to the “Alien” franchise and rightfully so. The movie follows a similar framework as a group of space explorers encounter a space creature that slowly grows and begins to kill each of them off one by one. Featuring decent acting and a creatively designed creature “Life” was a textbook popcorn thriller that I said “harkens back to the greats of the space film genre” in my review. I added “There’s a lot to enjoy about the film from an entertainment perspective, specifically with its exceptional casting”. Unfortunately it was unable to really separate itself from the superior franchise it was compared to and suffered as a result, at times feeling like a well done knockoff. All the same it was a fun ride that was worth the watch and thus earns the number nine spot here.
8. “A Cure For Wellness”
This film was an oddity, but one that proved to be inspired despite its flawed execution. Telling the story of a man who goes to a recovery facility to retrieve his employer only to become the latest patient for a series of strange healing methods “A Cure For Wellness” was a unique science fiction horror that I said “does well to take inspiration from the best in the genre”. It was gruesome and contained a great mystery with the science fiction element building on the creepier details of the movie to make it feel more odd and even more realistic. In my review I said the film was “sure to find its place as a classic of some sort” and I called the movie “intriguing”. While some might see it as more horror than science fiction I chose to include it on this list as the movie plays more like a sci-fi mystery than anything else.
Part superhero origin story, part science fiction drama film “Sleight” followed a young magician who implanted a magnet into his body in order to perform his tricks, eventually utilizing this self-made superpower to protect his loved ones and escape his position in the drug trade. I saw this movie months after its release but still felt compelled to review it and called it “a very good movie with a lot of heart”. Its use of science fiction elements combined with the majesty of magic to create a relatable and more human hero allowed it to stand out in a era where superhero films have dominated the screen. The story felt fresh, its central characters were likable and memorable, and its “engaging and interesting narrative” made for a story worthy of being told. It wasn’t great, but it was more than good enough to deserve this spot on my list.
6. “Alien: Covenant”
Depending on who you are this film was either one of your favorites of 2017 or a complete bust. Ridley Scott’s second prequel movie to his famed “Alien” series and the first in a proposed trilogy I actually thoroughly enjoyed this latest entry in the series which explored how the famed Xenomorphs became the creatures we know today as well as the fate of the Prometheus, the ship from the first prequel movie of the same name. In my review I concluded that “while nothing special in terms of the ‘Alien’ as a whole, (‘Alien: Covenant’) is right up there” with the best films in the series. It was a much-needed return to form that offered promise of better things to come, that is if its failure to draw a truly great crowd to the theater doesn’t sideline the hopes for further advancement in the franchise going forward.
5. “Kong: Skull Island”
I strongly considered this film for my fantasy film list but it made it higher on this countdown getting the credit that it really deserves. “Skull Island” was the second entry in the Legendary MonsterVerse which incorporates some of the most famous giant movie monsters of all time including Godzilla and, of course, King Kong. Telling a new origin for Kong as a group of explorers visit the titular island in the closing days of the Vietnam War this film might have hit all the action and science fiction clichés you can list off, but it did so to perfection creating a fun and memorable experience that made Kong cool again. In my review I said “it may not be the Kong story we are all used to, but ‘Kong: Skull Island’ is a worthy addition to the Kong legacy that builds on the larger universe that Legendary Pictures wants so bad to produce”. It was a movie that showed respect to its origins while also charting a new path forward for the most famous of cinematic apes, and it’s not the only movie on this list to have a monkey as its main mascot, but we’ll get to that soon.
Just missing out on qualifying for my year-end overall list is my latest science fiction review and I’ll admit “Downsizing” disappointed me just a little, but not enough for me to ignore that it’s deserving of a top five spot here. This film saw Matt Damon portray a man who undergoes a procedure known as downsizing, shrinking him to minuscule size to live in a new colony where his money is more valuable and people can do less harm to the world around them. This movie actually sported some pretty great performances, mainly by standout co-star Hong Chau, and had a lot to say about themes of self worth and environmentalism. In my review I concluded “(‘Downsizing’) has a good moral core, a very original concept, great set pieces, incredible design – overall it was a very good movie”. It had its charm and while it didn’t quite live up to everything I personally hoped it would be “Downsizing” was a breath of fresh air for movie lovers everywhere looking for a truly original standout story that was imaginative and unique.
3. “War For The Planet of the Apes”
The final entry, for the time being, in the rebooted “Planet of the Apes” series “War for the Planet of the Apes” was a fitting end to the journey of ape Caesar leading into what would eventually become the “Planet of the Apes” we all know and love from yesteryears. Andy Serkis once again turns in a amazing motion capture performance worthy of recognition and while the film contained very little actual war it did have an amazing amount of emotional depth that brought the series’ story full circle. In my five-star review of the film I called it “a magnificent film of deserving blockbuster caliber” and “a thought-provoking look at not only humanity, but also the demons that lie within all intelligent beings”. “War for the Planet of the Apes” was one of the greatest third-films in any franchise and felt controlled and well paced, giving us one of the year’s best mainstream blockbuster projects that deserves consideration for my best of the year list for sure.
2. “Star Wars: The Last Jedi”
Despite the backlash from fanboys and fangirls about its impact on the “Star Wars” legacy, “The Last Jedi” was an absolute show stopper. Picking up where 2015’s “The Force Awakens” left off we see Rey train with the legendary Luke Skywalker to hone her force skills while Luke deals with his inner demons and the Rebellion faces off against Supreme Leader Snoke’s army and his protégé Kylo Ren. With characters and actors who have matured since we last saw them, “The Last Jedi” is one of the most complete films in the saga featuring great character development and emotional depth which past films had been lacking. In my review I gave the film a soft five-star rating which has sense grown to be a bit more secured. I called “The Last Jedi” “a solid film and spectacular entry in the saga that to this day still holds the world’s attention firmly in its grasp” and said the film “promises great things still to come”. As with “Rogue One” in 2016 “The Last Jedi” made “Stars Wars” more than just a vehicle for epic space battles, but also some true human moments as well. While it might not top the list, it more that deserves its spot here as my penultimate choice for the best science fiction films of 2017.
1. “Blade Runner 2049”
Over 30 years after the first “Blade Runner” became a cult phenomenon we got a long awaited sequel that continues the story of Harrison Ford’s Rick Deckard, but mostly focuses on replicant K, played by Ryan Gosling, who pieces together a mystery with Deckard at its core. To put it bluntly this film was just absolutely BEAUTIFUL in every way. In my five-star review I called this a “solid film and a complete movie experience the whole way through if you’re willing to devote the time to it”. With a modern touch, committed performances, an engaging story with a pretty cool twist, and great atmosphere “Blade Runner 2049” is an example of what science fiction movies are meant to be. As I said in my review, “this is how sequels SHOULD be done”. It’s a fine piece of science fiction, tech noir, and neo noir filmmaking and it’s destined to be included in my best films of the year list on New Years Day. For now though it’s my pick for the best science fiction film of 2017.