This past year was kind of a slow burn in terms of incredible movies, with many of the films on this list not coming out until quite late in 2017 (and I admittedly waited until 2018 to watch a few). It was worth the wait. This was a surprisingly innovating year for film, with a lot of unconventional elements introduced into conventional genres, and quite a few more niche films making the rounds this awards season. This list is hardly exhaustive, and I want to briefly give honorable mentions to Blade Runner 2049, Ladybird, and Star Wars: The Last Jedi (a divisive film that I absolutely loved). With that said, let’s get into my top ten for 2017:
X-Men, at its best, serves as an allegory for the issues facing marginalized groups and the real human suffering those issues cause; Logan is X-Men at its best. It is a new kind of superhero movie: a brutal, raw, emotionally charged film that follows a broken man who has lost everything who is suddenly confronted with a responsibility he cannot handle. It treats mutants, who are being hunted by the government, as a powerful allegory for refugees and immigrants. When I saw this movie just a few months after the current administration took power, the impact it had on me was incalculable. For a film about mutants, it is deeply human, and that combined with stellar performances from Hugh Jackman, Sir Patrick Stewart, and Dafne Keen, makes it one of my top movies of 2017.
9. The Lego Batman Movie
There are a lot of superhero movies on this list, but The Lego Batman Movie is perhaps the odd one out of the group–more so even than Logan. Will Arnett’s Batman makes his return as the ass-kicking, hard-rocking, no-help-needing caped crusader, who suddenly has to deal with an adopted son and a new police chief who doesn’t need his services. It’s ultimately a really sweet story about found family, with the best Batman-Joker dynamic in superhero movie history (take that, Nolan). Plus, Michael Cera as Robin is genius.
8. Spider-Man Homecoming
Like a lot of Marvel fans, I was nervous about the MCU reboot of Spider-Man (it being the third discrete Spider-Man series in just 15 years). I shouldn’t have been worried; Homecoming is an absolute joy, and Tom Holland is inarguably the best Peter Parker ever. Holland’s Peter Parker is over-eager and extremely fallible, but good hearted to his core, and that combined with an excellent supporting cast makes me hopeful about the next steps in the series. The movie brings a fresh and youthful feel to the MCU, and is equal parts modern superhero movie, coming of age film, and John Hughes high school flick. It’s the perfect combination.
7. I, Tonya
It’s not every day that Jamie, Greg, and I all agree on a movie, but I, Tonya is special. Every single scene is powerfully raw and shockingly funny. Sebastian Stan and Allison Janney deliver knockout performances as flawed, often unlikable characters, and Margot Robbie shines as Tonya Harding. The film takes a woman who has been demonized by the media for decades and tells a story that keeps you rooting for her, no matter what. The melding of mockumentary with a more standard format keeps the pace whip-fast and the irony palpable, so that moments of genuine vulnerability hit you all the harder.
6. Wonder Woman
I loved Wonder Woman not so much for what it is–though it’s a great movie and indisputably the best in the DECU–but for what it means. The movie is female-led (Gal Gadot is great as the titular character), female-directed (Patty Jenkins was the first woman to direct an American studio superhero movie), with a cast and crew full of incredible women. It was both critically and commercially successful, and it was a big step forward for women in film, especially in more male-dominated genres like the superhero and action genres. I burst into tears the moment I saw Robin Wright on screen, because I was so touched that the helpless Princess Buttercup of my childhood was now a general. Gadot’s Wonder Woman is truly a strong female character in the best sense of the term–she is strong while being soft, powerful because she cares.
5. Baby Driver
The first time I saw Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver, like Greg, I was underwhelmed. As a big fan of the so-called Cornetto Trilogy and especially Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, I was surprised when Baby Driver didn’t wow on first viewing. However, when I saw it a second time, I was able to appreciate it for what it was: a meticulously crafted action movie that combines highly stylized visuals with extremely clever audio for a rip-roaring good time. Word to the wise, though: four viewings in one year may be too many.
4. The Big Sick
If I had to pick a favorite genre, it would easily be the romantic comedy. Romantic comedies had their heyday in the late 80s and early 90s, and the genre has arguably been flagging since then. The Big Sick is truly a genre-reviving movie. Kumail Nanjiani and Emily Gordon have transmuted the true story of how they met into a fresh, funny, touching movie about family and love, drawing on old rom-com standards and innovating at the same time. Of all the movies on this list, it will be the one that I keep coming back to.
3. Get Out
Get Out is a special kind of brilliant in that it is an entirely different movie the second time you see it. Jordan Peele knocked it out of the park in his big-screen directorial debut with a horror film that does something entirely new in a genre that is bogged down with convention and tropes. It is a smart, well-crafted, horrifying commentary on the African American experience in America, and brilliantly acted by all parties. I am not a horror movie person, but this movie blew me away.
2. Call Me By Your Name
Call Me By Your Name is something special. It is powerfully evocative of a time, place, and feeling that are somehow all like the sunny beauty of Northern Italy in the summer. The movie is slow and languorous, building up to a relationship that is both exuberantly happy and devastatingly sad. The soundtrack, powerful performances, and beautiful camerawork combine to evoke a feeling that is somehow profoundly intimate and deeply universal, and the movie’s wont for not showing and not telling somehow makes that connection all the deeper. As I sat in a row full of people all silently sobbing while watching this movie, I felt a stronger sense of solidarity than I have in my life. I walked around in a sort of haze afterward, and was still thinking about the movie days later, and I can pay it no higher compliment than that.
1. The Shape of Water
The Shape of Water is unlike anything I have ever seen. The green-and-blue 1960s aesthetic is whimsically enchanting, as is the dreamlike world Guillermo Del Toro creates. I was touched by the heroes of the story, who are all strong because they care (a theme in this list, apparently); the villain, on the other hand, was the literal embodiment of toxic masculinity, and the movie treats him with contempt. It is a film that celebrates and raises up unlikely heroes, and embodies the hopeful message I sometimes like to believe: that love is truly the most powerful force on earth, in whatever shape it takes.