Hey gang. Part of the reason I’m able to do a top ten every year is that I’m methodical about tracking my viewing habits (plus books, music, and video games – but I don’t consume enough new stuff of any of those to do a top ten list). I use Trakt, Letterboxd, and a couple other apps to do this. I used to use a database that I made myself while taking an online SQL course but these days it’s easier to let someone else do the dev work.
Anyway, because I have all the info stored in these apps I have lots of good stats to look at. I watched 91 films in 2017 of which 54 were actually 2017 releases and the rest were older. Of the 54 movies I watched, I gave positive ratings to 45 of them. This sounds as if I like most movies but I think it just reflects the fact that I’m selective and will usually check reviews and Metacritic (not Rotten Tomatoes, but that’s a rant for another time) before going to see something. I could keep going and show you the breakdowns of time-of-day, genre, length, country-of-origin, but I doubt any of you care.
This year lacked a clear favorite for me – I’m not sure I walked out of anything this year thinking “that was a perfect movie” (honestly, I haven’t felt that way about anything since Mad Max: Fury Road). Still, lots of great stuff.
On to the list! Usual disclaimer: I’m not a real film critic or even that knowledgeable so no one should take my opinions too seriously. This is just for fun.
- The Florida Project. This film by the director of last year’s superb Tangerine follows some young kids over the course of a long summer in a low-rent motel outside of Disney World. Featuring an incredibly humanistic performance from Willem Dafoe, this movie contrasts the colors and imagination of childhood with the harshness of life on the poverty line. Can’t recommend enough!
- Baby Driver. I’m a massive Edgar Wright fan and this movie is tailor made for a musical-loving action fan such as myself. The standard knock on this movie is that “the first 30 minutes are amazing and then the movie bogs down before moving into a terrible ending”. I agree that the first 30 minutes are the best part of the movie, but I’ll defend the ending all night. Tough to do it here without spoiling the movie but happy to go 10 rounds over drinks or on Twitter. Baby Driver #starttofinish, baby!
- mother! This is a tough one because most people who see this movie HATE it. It has an “F” CinemaScore (based on surveys of people walking out of the movie) which is very rare. Some of the people in my theater walked out midway through, others made it to the end but swore a lot afterwards and loudly talked about how awful it was. I think it’s amazing and a cinematic gem and I thought about for weeks. Months. I’m still thinking about it. Seriously though, it’s not for everyone.
- The Big Sick. Unlike mother!, this is an easy one to recommend – a total crowd pleaser that’s funny and warm and insightful. Holly Hunter is a goddamn national treasure.
- Dunkirk. EYYYEEEEEEERRRNNNNNNN. RAT-A-TAT-A RAT-A-TAT-A. BOOM! BOOM! “Get down!” BOOM! WAH-NA-NA. RRRREEEEEEEEEENNNNNNNN. POW! POW! BOOM! BLAM!
- Blade Runner 2049. Atmospheric, operatic, gorgeous. Better than the original. Don’t hurt me.
- Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Here is where I’m going to eat a lot of shit because I’ve been trashing Star Wars for years. I thought The Force Awakens was a pure nostalgia play and Rogue One was utterly disposable (and those prequels, good lord). No one is more surprised to see a Star Wars movie turn up on my top ten list than I am, but I have to give credit. This is a beautiful, poetic movie that’s easily the best of the franchise since Empire Strikes Back. It gets to the core of what these movies are supposed to be about, showing characters making hard moral choices and struggling with the consequences of their failures. Rian Johnson is the first Star Wars director to know how to use the full frame of his camera and construct real cinematic compositions. So many indelible images – the salt planet! The throne room! I’m officially back on the Star Wars bandwagon and while I still think it’d be better if all these huge franchises died, this is one franchise that got a pretty big shot in the arm in 2017.
- Colossal. My Hathaway fandom notwithstanding, I wasn’t prepared for how good this movie is. An incisive look at alcholism and toxic masculinity filtered through a hybrid of comedy and monster movie. Unique and unforgettable.
- Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. This is a tough one to pick because the internet is really turning on it right now. I’ve read the various criticisms of this film, and I agree with many of them. The racial politics are messed up. The crimes of some characters are not treated with the gravity that they should be. But still, this is a film that makes a case for compassion and empathy and I think that’s sorely needed in these times. Sam Rockwell’s character may not deserve redemption (I would argue that he is in no way “redeemed” by the ending) but the film argues that it’s not too late for anyone to try to do better. As someone who isn’t ready to write off the Trump-supporting parts of this country, I want to hope that anyone can look beyond their prejudices. Also, Frances McDormand kicks teenagers in the groin in this movie, which is hilarious.
- Lady Bird. Honestly the internet doesn’t need yet another person recommending Lady Bird. Everyone loves it, you should see it, blah blah blah.
The next ten: Darkest Hour, The Killing of a Sacred Deer, A Ghost Story, Get Out, Thor: Ragnarok, Logan Lucky, Mudbound, The Square, The Shape of Water, Call Me By Your Name.
Sleeper Picks: These are my picks for movies that, unlike most of my top 10, were not necessarily beloved by professional movie critics. Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is a messy film with serious script problems and two clunker lead performances, but it’s endlessly visually inventive (from the director of The Fifth Element) and the world needs more original sci-fi. I also loved Kong: Skull Island which is a Vietnam film, a monster movie, and a great comedy all rolled into one.
Also recommended: Lost City of Z, Logan, Okja, Wind River, Ingrid Goes West, Murder on the Orient Express, The Disaster Artist, Guardians of the Galaxy 2, Graduation.
Still to See: There’s the trio of awards contenders released in LA/NY in December to qualify for the Oscars but that haven’t gotten here yet: I Tonya, The Post, and Phantom Thread. And then there’s all the ones I just missed: Good Time, A Quiet Passion, Faces Places, The Work, Personal Shopper, Nocturama, Columbus, The Beguiled, It Comes at Night, Stronger, It, Thelma, The Lure, BPM.