Best Films of 2017

It has certainly been an interesting year in film. This year’s collective crop of films has been rather lackluster, but there have been quite a few standouts amidst all the clutter. Franchises were both started and continued, indie surprises made big splashes, and blockbusters brought in plenty at the box office. If you’re looking for something to see in theaters or watch at home over break, here are some of my picks for the best films of this year…

John Wick: Chapter 2 is the follow-up to 2014’s action masterpiece, starring the ageless Keanu Reeves as John Wick, an ex-hitman who comes out of retirement to track down the gangsters that killed his dog in the first film. In Chapter 2, John Wick returns to the criminal underworld to repay a debt, only to find that a large bounty has been put on his life. This second installment improves upon the first, and the actions sequences are better than ever. What made this film so good were the continuous, expertly choreographed action sequences and the blood-pumping, edge-of-your-seat feeling it granted viewers.

Get Out is the biggest surprise of 2017. I was not expecting much out of this horror film, but director Jordan Peele wowed me beyond all expectations. It follows Chris, a young African American male, who follows his white girlfriend home for the weekend to meet her family. The family initially seems welcoming and sweet, but before long, the friendly and polite facade becomes a nightmare. The film is simultaneously funny, haunting, and thought-provoking, making relevant commentary on current racial relations.

Logan brings a different neo-noir tone to the superhero genre and the X-Men franchise. Hugh Jackman gives his best (and final) performance as Wolverine, and newcomer Dafne Keen, who plays a young mutant named Laura who is taken under an aging Logan’s wing, is a breath of fresh air. The film is gritty (R rating), yet also heartwarming, as fans are treated to both gruesome violence and the heartfelt relationship between Logan and Laura.

Wonder Woman, driven by the charismatic performance of Gal Gadot, and also by director Patty Jenkins’s dedication, single-handedly saved the DCEU after the massive failure of Batman V. Superman and Suicide Squad. It is hopeful and optimistic, and it represents everything that a superhero film should be. Personally, I would love to see Wonder Woman get some love during  awards season.

The Big Sick was the best romantic comedy in years. It tells the real-life love story of Kumail Nanjiani (starring as himself) and Emily Gordon (Zoe Kazan), which gets complicated by the fact that Kumail’s parents are traditional Muslims and his relationship with Emily conflicts with what his family expects of him. On top of that, Emily is diagnosed with a mysterious illness, and Kumail is thrown into the medical crisis with her parents, who he has never met. What makes this film so endearing is its ability to combine humor, romance, and cross-cultural themes seamlessly.

Baby Driver is a stylish and fast-paced action thriller that is surprisingly well-written. Ansel Elgort plays a young getaway driver named Baby who gets forced into completing a doomed heist for Kevin Spacey’s shady crime boss (ironic). Director Edgar Wright delivers a killer soundtrack, incredible stunts, and an all-around fun time.

Spider-Man: Homecoming did what the two previous Spider-Man franchises could not: it cast the perfect Peter Parker in Tom Holland. He represents everything Peter Parker should be: young, witty, intelligent, hopeful, and enthusiastic. It has a John Hughes or Ferris Bueller vibe to it, and this makes for a hell of a good time. Michael Keaton is another bright spot, as he turned a B-level supervillain into one of the best of the Marvel universe. Overall, it is impossible not to like this movie.

War for the Planet of the Apes should definitely be nominated for an Oscar for Best Picture. It likely will not because the Academy typically disregards franchise/genre films, but nevertheless, this was an absolute masterpiece of a film. It is the epic conclusion to one of the best modern movie trilogies, following Caesar and the apes in their last stand against an army of humans led by Woody Harrelson’s ruthless Colonel. Andy Serkis gives his best motion-capture performance yet as Caesar, and the trilogy ends in an action-packed, emotional fashion.

Dunkirk proves that Christopher Nolan is one of the best directors in the game (he is certainly my favorite). It tells the amazing true story of the heroic, civilian evacuation of British soldiers from the French city of Dunkirk during World War II. The action sequences are so realistic that viewers feel as if they are actually there alongside the soldiers. The cinematography, direction, and special effects are some of the best that film has to offer. You will not find a more visually stunning and heart-pounding movie.

Detroit was a horrifying and gritty portrayal of the real-life story of one of the darkest moments of the civil unrest of 1967 in the city of Detroit. Kathryn Bigelow, director of Zero Dark Thirty and The Hurt Locker, delivers another fantastic film, one that seems particularly relevant amidst all the civil unrest of today. John Boyega (Star Wars) stars as a young African American cop and Will Poulter gives an award-worthy performance as a racist cop who sets in motion one of the worst instances of police brutality in American history. It is powerful and gut-wrenching; it may be hard to watch due to the harsh subject matter, but it is definitely worth it.

It, based off the novel of the same name by Stephen King, was one of the best times I have had in a movie theater. The film is both hilarious and terrifying at the same time. It is not the plot or the terrifying Pennywise the Clown that make it, but rather the kids and their chemistry. Finn Wolfhard (Stranger Things) and Jack Grazer are the standouts among a talented cast of kids, and Bill Skarsgard gives a chilling portrayal of the clown who put the fear of God in young me.

Blade Runner 2049 is one of those movies whose box office numbers did not match its actual quality; not enough people went to see it, but critics loved it. It is a visual feast, with incredible special effects and visuals, and the cinematography is stunning. It is a highly intelligent, thought-provoking film that requires viewers’ full attention at all times. Denis Villeneuve, who directed one of 2016’s best films, Arrival, hits it out of the park once again. Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford in the same movie is enough said.

Thor: Ragnarok could be described, in short, as vividly colorful and epically fun. It is clearly the best of the three Thor movies, and Chris Hemsworth gets to really show off his comedic chops. Director Taika Waititi breathes life into the franchise after the disastrous second installment, delivering a formidable villain in Hela (Cate Blanchett), hilarious and captivating side characters (Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie, Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk, and Tom Hiddleston’s Loki), and beautiful visuals. This might be one of the best Marvel movies to date.

Lady Bird earned one of the highest scores ever recorded on Rotten Tomatoes, which is saying a lot for a film that no one expected to be so good. Greta Gerwig, usually in front of the camera, stepped behind it and directed one of the best films of the year. Saoirse Ronan will likely take home an Oscar for Best Actress for her role as teenager Christine "Lady Bird" McPherson. The film centers around Lady Bird and the complex relationship with her mother, as well as the struggles of growing up and dealing with relationships.

Call Me By Your Name is a beautiful and melancholy tale of first love. Newcomer Timothée Chalamet gives a tear-jerking, award-worthy performance as Elio Perlman, a seventeen-year-old living in northern Italy during the summer of 1983. Armie Hammer also stuns as Oliver, and American scholar working in Italy for the summer. The two fall in love and discover themselves in the process. See this movie please, but make sure to bring tissues.

The Disaster Artist is a fantastic film about the worst film ever made and the eccentric man behind it, Tommy Wiseau (James Franco). Franco is perfect as Wiseau, bringing his charm and comedic timing to the role. It’s laugh-out-loud funny and surprisingly moving. Expect The Disaster Artist to get plenty of recognition during awards season.

The Shape of Water is a heart-wrenching Cold-War-era fairytale of sorts, written and directed by one of the best in the game, Guillermo del Toro. Sally Hawkins is amazing in her role as Elisa, a worker at a high-security government laboratory who makes a startling discovery: a strange water-borne creature being used as a top secret experiment. The relationship that develops between the Elisa and the creature is a heartfelt love story that is bound to pull at your heartstrings.

I, Tonya is a dark comedy about the notorious life and fall from grace of figure skater Tonya Harding, who is most well-known for her involvement in the attack against her fellow Olympic competitor, Nancy Kerrigan. Margot Robbie plays the hell out of Tonya Harding, giving the movie its vivacious, fierce character that makes it so great. Allison Janney co-stars as Harding’s piece-of-work mother, and Sebastian Stan plays Harding’s ex-husband, Jeff Gillooly. The movie is both comedic and tragic in a sense, making a hated former athlete a more sympathetic and complex character.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Enough said. While I have not yet seen it, the early reviews have been overwhelmingly positive, and it is being heralded as one of the best, if not THE best, Star Wars installment yet. It remains to be seen if it surpasses Empire Strikes Back, but from the reviews, I have high hopes that it will live up to the hype. Something to be aware of going into the movie is that there is a tribute to Carrie Fisher after the credits roll, so make sure to stay to honor our beloved Princess Leia. As an enormous Star Wars fan, this is the movie I have been waiting for all year, and I cannot wait to see it over break.