Last January I set out on a mission to create my own movie review blog and spread my growing love for the art form to the masses. Nearly a year later I now have the honor of being able to count down my picks for the best movies of 2017. For the last month and a half I’ve been building up to this countdown with nine separate top tens looking at the best films of the year per genre, from super heroes to coming of age dramas, fantastic fantasies, hilarious comedies, groundbreaking horror films and some of the best biographical pictures of all time. The year 2017 was a great one for film and I’m hoping 2018 is just as amazing! So Happy New Year everybody! It’s time to honor the best of the best. These are my picks for the Top 20 Best Films of 2017.
For this list 27 movies qualified for inclusion. Since November I have posted lists exploring the best films in action, animation, biopics, comic book and superhero adaptations, comedy, drama, fantasy, horror and science fiction with the top three on each list qualifying for inclusion here. Just because a film topped its respective list does not mean it will even make the top ten here as films within the top three on another list might all be better overall.
These are the best films that captured the essence of human imagination, emotion, and the artistry of filmmaking like no others in 2017 and while some might be left out its important to note these are the best movies I personally saw this past year. Some bigger movies that are currently contending for Oscars and had a limited release in 2017 such as “I, Tonya”, “The Post”, and “Molly’s Game” will be reviewed when they are released to a wider audience in 2018 and will thus be in contention for my best of 2018 list. Look for those reviews as those films become available.
I usually do not do honorable mentions in my countdowns, but for this one I feel it is warranted. Two films barely missed this list and thus deserve mention before I continue. “Wonder Woman” and “It” were both landmark movies of 2017 and while they won’t be seen in this top 20 I recommend both to anyone looking for a reason why 2017 was just an awesome year for movies.
I look forward to a great second year here on Cinema Spotlight and I hope you all have a safe and happy new year. Welcome to 2018 everyone! Let’s get to the countdown! Also, please let me know what your favorite film was in 2017 in the comments below. Here we go!
20. “Thor: Ragnarok”
The Superhero genre was a huge moneymaker in 2017 and while I debated adding DC’s amazing “Wonder Woman” standalone film to this list it was another god that beat her out barely making it onto this top 20. “Thor: Ragnarok” was a gem of a film and by far the best “Thor” film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to date. It expanded the world of the God of Thunder and ushered in a new era for the MCU by setting up at least part of the upcoming team up film, “Avengers: Infinity War”. It also gave us one of the best villains to date in an MCU film, Hela, and masterfully balanced comedy, action, and superhero-style drama to bring Thor’s story of growth and maturity full circle. In my review I said that “(‘Thor: Ragnarok’) makes its titular hero look cool again and, for the most part, lives up to the heavy expectations set upon it”. It was probably the most overall fun experience that anyone could have had at the movies in 2017 and it’s a perfect place to start this countdown of the best of the year.
19. “Only the Brave”
It takes a lot for a movie to make me cry, although 2017 had its fair share to be honest, but it takes even more for a film to give me goosebumps even long after the credits role. “Only the Brave” was a moving and touching film in almost every way focusing on the lives of the members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots who passed away while battling the Yarnell Hill Fire in 2013 with only one member, a lookout, surviving. In my review I called “Only the Brave” a “true tribute to heroism, bravery, and sacrifice by a group of men who were just as real and human as you and me”. From it’s hilarious beginnings to its absolutely shattering emotional end “Only the Brave” was memorable, significant, and heartfelt doing justice to the men who put their lives on the line to protect others and gave the ultimate sacrifice here on the homeland. It’s easy to respect those who do so in war, as we should, but “Only the Brave” was an important reminder that sometimes the heroes are right there in our backyard ready to do what they must at a moment’s notice.
I could probably get some flack for having this film so low on this list, but “Dunkirk” was a slightly divisive film for me that I still respected more than enough to include it here. Telling the story of the infamous Dunkirk retreat in World War II this was a Christopher Nolan work of art like no other and a war film that redefined what a war film could be. Telling three different stories from land, sea, and air respectively all set in different timelines that eventually intertwine at the end, “Dunkirk” was a truly artistic showcase of wartime struggles and while this time jump format left me a bit on edge about the movie everything else it offered was true cinematic magic. In my review I declared “you have an amazing film in ‘Dunkirk’ – an amazing powerhouse of a movie deserving of all the hype that has surrounded it”. It’s a favorite for Oscar love in 2018 and I’d say, despite my personal issues about the overall product, it certainly deserves every bit of it.
17. “War for the Planet of the Apes”
The revitalized “Planet of the Apes” franchise and prequel trilogy have been amazing to watch and it all came to a head in 2017 with the, supposed, final film in the reboot series. Picking up after the events of “Rise” and “Dawn”, “War” saw Caesar and his colony of intelligent apes take on a ruthless general in a war that would decide the dominant species of the planet for the foreseeable future. In my review I lauded this film and said, “at times it’s a fun and exciting adventure and war epic and at other times it’s a thought-provoking look at not only humanity, but also the demons that lie within all intelligent beings”. Andy Serkis’ Caesar has become one of the most beloved cinematic heroes of the 2010s and to see his story finalized in this film was extremely satisfying. If you haven’t seen this film yet you’re missing out. In fact, I recommend the whole trilogy if you get the chance.
16. “Star Wars: The Last Jedi”
The second science fiction entry in a row on this list, the fan community might have their issues with the latest entry in the “Star Wars” franchise, but I personally loved this film as it expanded, emotionally at least, on the characters that will go against each other one more time in the final installment of the modern trilogy. Picking up immediately after “The Force Awakens”, “The Last Jedi” lacked a bit in scope, but made up for it in emotional depth and character development that made it one of the better entries of the series so far. In my review I called “The Last Jedi” a film that “promises great things still to come from the sequel trilogy” and “takes a decidedly deeper look into the human aspect of the series’ ever-growing cast”. For some it might be a dud, for others a passable film, but for me it was a shining moment in cinema for 2017.
15. “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”
One of the most spectacular comedies of the year “Three Billboards” was a surprisingly deep dark comedy that explored a mother’s quest for justice using three billboards to call out local police for not finding her daughter’s killer. Packed with some amazing performances worthy of Oscar consideration, “Three Billboards” took a sensitive subject and made it both relatable and, in some ways, actually quite humorous without ignoring the weight of the conflict at hand. In my review I said the film is a “satisfying dark comedy that truly shines as a lesson to each of us through the eyes of numerous well-presented characters following a tragic and unthinkable crime”. This is the kind of movie I like to call the “thinking man’s comedy” and it shined as both a worthy drama about humanity and a hilarious stripped-down comedy that made light of the serious take many of its characters had on the world around them.
14. “Darkest Hour”
My final review of 2017 earned enough credit to be included here in my best of 2017 overall list. A biopic about Winston Churchill’s first month in office as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom during World War II this film shines if for no other reason than the magnificent performance by Gary Oldman in the main role. I called that performance “out of this world” in my review and said “(Oldman) completely embodied Churchill in every way”. The rest of the cast and the story aren’t half bad either as director Joe Wright managed to balance humor and dramatic tension for one of the most gripping and satisfying cinematic experiences of 2017 and one that I’m proud to included here on this list. If you have no seen it yet, there’s still plenty of time as it only recently hit theaters for wide release.
13. “Wind River”
The third film in what I termed Tyler Sheridan’s “Thrillogy”, “Wind River” was a fantastic and suspenseful action thriller that focused on a hunter for hire as he worked with a young FBI agent to solve a murder on the Wind River Indian Reservation. Sporting a subtle moral theme about the ignorance of society for crimes against Native Americans, I called “Wind River” a “captivating and engaging” movie in my review and a film that “I personally found to be one of the, most well rounded and pleasant film going experiences of the year”. Sporting committed performances, a delightful dramatic ending, and some of the most brutal comeuppance you’ll ever see for the villains in the story, “Wind River” was a gem and one that showed that action and thriller films don’t have to be so cut and dry to play out as an exceptional and moving cinematic experience.
12. “Baby Driver”
This film topped my Best Action Movies of 2017 list and for good reason. Director and writer Edgar Wright brought his signature unique style back to theaters in 2017 with this musical heist film that featured awesome performances, a kickass soundtrack, and some of the best action 2017 had to offer. The film focused on getaway driver Baby who had to fulfill a debt to his handler and, when he sees a way out, tries to formulate his escape without costing him his life or the girl he loves. Even the revelations about Kevin Spacey, who turned in an awesome performance in this film prior to his scandal, couldn’t dampen the movie’s absolute perfection. I called “Baby Driver” “smart and flashy” in my review and complimented it as a “truly enjoyable cinematic experience – as good as it gets”. To date I still love watching this film on Blu-Ray and I highly recommend it if you’re looking for a top notch action offering from 2017.
The only animated film to make this list, “Coco” was a true return to form for Pixar and told the story of a young boy who, through a series of events, finds himself in the world of the dead where he learns of his ancestors and the true significance of family. Filled with some satisfying twists and a truly heartfelt message that brought a tear to the eyes of many in the theater I absolutely adored “Coco” and in my review I called it “a story that will make you cry, laugh, smile, and gasp all in the span of two hours” and “every bit as mesmerizing, culturally relevant and memorable as it promised to be”. If this film doesn’t win awards for being the best animated film of 2017 it would be a crime. The year 2017 had many different animated films, but as usual Pixar was the one to rise to the occasion and offer something truly top notch to satisfy the young and young at heart in all the right ways.
10. “The Shape of Water”
This film has become a strong contender for many Best Picture awards and I can see why. While it might not have lived up to quite everything I personally expected, “The Shape of Water” managed to be both cliché and unique at the same time showing Director Guillermo del Toro’s fantastic artistic range and reinforcing his eye for great fantasy stories. Some will find this to be an odd movie experience and in my review I called it a “magical, mystical, and at times thought provoking love story between man and beast” that has a lot more under its surface than you may realize at first, kind of like water…how ’bout that! Sporting some amazing performances, a fantastic creature design, and enough eccentricities and underlying morals to keep you watching over and over again to achieve the full experience “The Shape of Water” was one of the most unique films of 2017 in its own way and even won the Golden Lion at the 74th Venice Film Festival in the fall. A very deserving award for a fascinating film.
9. “A Monster Calls”
As I said in my Top 10 Fantasy Films of 2017 I never got the chance to review “A Monster Calls” as at that point in January I had yet to even launch this site. That makes it the only film on this list without a true review from me but the fact that its here is a true testament to its quality. Wide released on New Years weekend in the United States, this film was one of the first offerings for 2017 and was criminally underrated. The movie told the story of a young boy dealing with the impending death of his mother when a tree-like monster arrives to tell him three stories to help him grow into a young man and deal with the struggles he is enduring. Insanely quotable, amazingly inspirational, and packing a conclusion that will melt even the iciest of hearts I knew instantly that “A Monster Calls” would be one of my favorite films of the year even before I started this venture and here it is. If you have yet to experience this amazingly touching film, you really need to check it out. It has a lot to say and does it well earning it a much deserved spot on this Best of 2017 list.
8. “The Big Sick”
By far the best comedy of the year, this film was inspired by the real-life romance between star Kumail Nanjiani and his wife, and the film’s writer, Emily Gordon exploring the cultural boundaries and Emily’s health issues that nearly broke them apart. This film redefined the romantic comedy bringing insane quality laughs to the table that made it a truly memorable entry in a genre that, to be blunt, kind of sucked in 2017. Combining quality emotional drama with comedic levity is hard to do, but “The Big Sick” did it perfectly. In my review I called “The Big Sick” “everything a romantic comedy film is supposed to be” and then some. I also noted it was miles above its comedic competition and it stayed that way all the way to the end of 2017. It was charming and relatable, it was funny and memorable, it was emotional and powerful, and it was one of the best movie of 2017 by far.
7. “Get Out”
This film has topped many film of the year lists at the end of 2017, but for me it lands here at number seven and truly was an early favorite of mine back when it made waves as a credible horror experience with great social commentary. “Get Out” told of a black man visiting his white girlfriend’s family for the first time where he feels discomfort and discovers the family may be stranger than he originally suspected. The entire film is an allegory for racial tensions but doesn’t lean too heavily on this theme to become heavy handed. The resulting product was a memorable modern horror classic filled with tension and mystery as we discovered the family’s true intentions. In my review I complimented the film as “one of the smartest and well written and directed horror films of the past few years” and a continuation of an increase in quality and legitimacy among horror movie in the 2010s.
6. “A Ghost Story”
One of the year’s most profound cinematic offerings, “A Ghost Story” was an intense artistic masterpiece that redefined the idea of the afterlife by showcasing a man’s time as a ghost after his untimely death. The story showcased the main character as a spirit covered in a white blanket, the stereotypical ghost costume used during Halloween of years past, and provided some memorable and inspiring commentary on life after death for both the living and the deceased. In my review I called “A Ghost Story” a “downright fantastic” film that was “ambitious, well directed and acted, and it takes simplicity and makes it complicated not just as a story, but as an emotional experience as well”. Admittedly this is a film that requires a certain taste and respect to fully appreciate, but if you CAN appreciate it it’s worth every minute of your time. It was certainly one of the year’s most artistic and symbolic movies and is very deserving of recognition among the year’s best.
5. “The Disaster Artist”
One of my personal most anticipated movie of 2017 “The Disaster Artist” did not disappoint. The first on-screen team up of brother James and Dave Franco, this film saw James Franco perfectly capture the persona of enigmatic filmmaker Tommy Wiseau who wrote, produced, directed and funded one of the most historically bad movies ever, “The Room”. This film was notable for taking a story of failure and finding true inspiration within it as it complimented Wiseau as a dreamer who saw his passion through to the end despite everything that stood against him. In my review I called this five-star biopic a movie that “delivered in every way” and one that cemented the legacy of both Franco and Wiseau in cinematic history. It takes a truly amazing project to take one of the worst movies and use it to create one of the best of the year and “The Disaster Artist” did just that. Even before it was released many pegged this film as an award season contender and I personally hope to see it rack up the nominations as 2018 rolls on.
The year 2017 will be notable to superhero and comic book movie fans as the year Hugh Jackman hung up the claws and turned in his final performance as Wolverine in “Logan”. Thankfully it was also his best turn as the X-Man turning in an absolutely amazing performance in a story inspired by the “Old Man Logan” comic books. The film was a tremendously deep emotional journey that transcended the superhero genre offering a story of a man in the back end of his life searching for redemption and liberation from his past. In my review I called “Logan” a “violent, uncompromising, unapologetic, tearjerking (picture)” and said that it “sets a new standard for what a superhero or comic book film can be”. It was one of the most highly anticipated mainstream releases of the year and thankfully it delivered giving us the depiction of Wolverine we all waited years to see as it sported an R rating allowing more freedom to explore the character’s violent past. “Logan” was a true masterpiece in its own right that brought Wolverine’s standalone story to an immensely satisfying conclusion.
3. “Blade Runner 2049”
Truly one of the greatest cinematic offerings of 2017, “Blade Runner 2049” was an oddball sequel that was just as visually captivating as its predecessor. Picking up 30-years after the original “Blade Runner” the story follows K, a modern Blade Runner and replicant who unravels a mystery involving the film’s first protagonist, Rick Deckard. Many times films like this tend to lean heavily on nostalgia and fail to find a way to shine on their own. In the case of “Blade Runner 2049” however we saw a film that not only served as a fitting continuation of the first movie but stands strong all on its own as a truly great work of cinematic art. In my five-star review I said “Blade Runner 2049” “is a solid film and a complete movie experience the whole way through – A lot of great decisions were made to bring this world of ‘Blade Runner’ back after 30 years”. This is how a sequel, especially one based on nostalgia, SHOULD be done and makes a great case for bringing old films to life in new ways if truly credible talent is at work behind the scenes. This is a sci-fi masterpiece and one that felt warranted and even necessary when it was all said and done.
Not going to lie, when I first saw this absolute masterpiece of a movie I said outright “this is my favorite movie of the year hands down” however one film managed to top it, but more on that in a minute. “Mother!” was one of the most controversial and divisive movies of 2017 and for good reason. The film was a highly artistic psychological horror film that explored the relationship between God, man and Mother Nature making some extremely bold statements about humanity and its destructive and obsessive tendencies as well as flaws even God himself has in the grand scheme of things. This film won’t likely win any major awards but it deserves so much more praise than it got as not just a movie, but a work of art painting a picture before our eyes of concepts humanity is still trying to fully understand. In my review I complimented “Mother!” as a movie experience like none I have ever witnessed and a mind bender that was built to stir great conversation for or against its symbolic themes. I called it “a breath of fresh air that reminds us movies are art. They’re an opportunity to present thought provoking interpretations and representations of the clichés, mysteries, and difficulties of life and ‘Mother!’ is a prime example of what greatness can come from someone who truly dedicates themselves to their work”. As I said though, one film left an even bigger mark on me and takes home my award for the best movie of 2017, and it’s one that I know for a fact I’m not the only one to honor with a top spot on a list like this.
1. “Lady Bird”
Oh “Lady Bird”. Let me count the compliments this movie has received. It has topped no less than ten other “Best of 2017” movie blog lists I have viewed myself, it holds the record for holding a 100% on Rotten Tomatoes with the most accumulated reviews (dethroning “Toy Story 2”) and it is now a major frontrunner for numerous awards ranging from its acting work to Best Picture selections. “Lady Bird” did not originally strike me as a very flashy film, and that was by design. One of the greatest coming-of-age films of all time “Lady Bird” was a fantastic drama that followed its titular character as a high school senior exploring love, lust, rebellion and even religion in her journey to maturity. In my review of the film I commented “there are few movies that leave me feeling as satisfied and entertained as ‘Lady Bird’ simply due to its ability to present relatable and culturally significant themes while avoiding and overwhelming sense of self-importance”. It took itself seriously enough to understand the significance of its message but also avoids being heavy handed and over the top. The result was not just a great film and a work of art, but a film truly worthy of being called the best picture of 2017.