It’s been, in many ways a rough year. Politically, we find ourselves in a nation divided, one in which the discourse feels more broken than ever before. We’ve witnessed countless figures in positions of influence and power, some of whom we had no small measure of respect for, be outed as predators and abusers. We’ve seen wildfires in California,earthquakes in Mexico, and hurricanes in Florida, Texas, and Puerto Rico. It has however been a fantastic year for the arts, especially film. In the spirit of this, and without further ado, I present to you my Top 10* films of 2017.
10. The Fate of the Furious
I’m a recent convert to the Fast & The Furious fan base. I only actually watched all the films in the franchise for the first time in the month or so leading up to the release of the latest installment. I immediately (well at least after reaching Fast 5) became a fan of the franchise and as a result F8 of the Furious (let’s be real here, they want us to spell it that way) felt like an event film. My expectations going in were pretty high and F8 somehow lived up to them. An insane story with soap opera level twists, two wonderful new villains and a sequence in which the family tries to outrun a freaking submarine combine for a movie that may not be winning any awards but is sure to turn into an action classic.
9. Thor: Ragnarok
Let’s be real here for just a second. While they aren’t horrible by any means, the first two Thor movies are not exactly the cream of the MCU crop. There’s just this sense during the first two solo outings that Marvel really wasn’t sure about what to do with the character. They couldn’t seem to decide on a tone or an aesthetic and it drug the films down. That’s what made the hiring of Taika Waititi for Thor: Ragnarok such a master stroke. By nabbing an auteur with a knack for on set improvisation Marvel freed themselves from their script writer’s struggles to make anything compelling out of the character, basically allowing Waititi to finally define him for the first time on set. The result is a gorgeous, hyper violent, laugh out loud, technicolor sci-fi/fantasy romp the likes of which we had never seen before. Thor: Ragnarok isn’t just the best Thor film, it’s one of the very best films in the MCU.
8. Spider-Man: Homecoming
One of the happiest moments of my nerd life was the day it was announced that Spider-Man would be joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Perhaps my favorite superhero of all time was finally going to be able to interact on screen with the heroes of the MCU. Spidey could finally join the Avengers. Interestingly enough, that’s kind of what the plot of Spider-Man: Homecoming is about, well, to Peter Parker at least. This film, in which we get to watch a 15 year old simultaneously struggle with being a teenager and Spider-Man, all the while trying to win the approval of absentee mentor/father figure Tony Stark, was a wonderful breath of fresh air, a movie that manages to somehow be (in my mind at least) the best Spider-Man movie ever and one of the best teen movies of the 21st century. And yeah, Michael Keaton is an amazing super villain.
7. Get Out
I arrived extremely fashionably late to the party for Jordan Peele’s directorial debut Get Out. This was mostly due to me not being the biggest fan of the horror genre, and disinclined to take a chance on a theatrical showing of a movie that doesn’t exactly fall into my niche. That being said when I got around to renting it I was blown away by the film that Peele made. A veritable master class in tonal control and tension, Get Out is an achievement of the highest order and the fact that “the sunken place” has already wedged itself into the lexicon seems to indicate that it will have some degree of cultural staying power.
6. The Big Sick
I’ll be honest, I wasn’t overly familiar with Kumail Nanjiani as a performer prior to watching The Big Sick. At the very least I wasn’t so familiar that the premise of a movie based on the story of how he and his wife met was going to hook me on its own. It was only when the buzz started to build and the plaudits started rolling in that I started paying attention and rented the movie once it became available. Suffice it to say that I currently have The Big Sick down as the best romantic comedy in decades, as the story of how Kumail and his wife Emily Gordon fell in love, and the sickness that nearly robbed them of a chance of being together, is a tale for the ages.
5. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Sequels can be hard. Sequels to surprise critically acclaimed smash hits that breathed life into an entire genre and singlehandedly began reversing a studio’s (somewhat unearned) image of making safe cookie cutter blockbusters, are near impossible. In spite of this Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is a triumph of a film. Not content to kick it into neutral and coast on the acclaim and cachet of his surprise smash, James Gunn went all out with Vol. 2, taking risk after absurd risk to make a film that somehow exceeds its predecessor. It would have been easy to just remake the first movie, keeping all of the characters in the exact states in which audiences fell in love with them, but James Gunn has never been a director content to take it easy. Instead he takes his characters and puts them through the grinder in a way that forces them to adapt, evolve, and change. He evolves existing character dynamics while creating brand new ones. And yes, he made a movie that features a third act in which an intrepid space adventurer fights his evil sentient planet father with the help of his ragtag adoptive family. Gunn is a master of his craft and his work with this franchise continues to defy expectations.
4. War for the Planet of the Apes
2017 was the year of the absurdly bold and risky blockbuster, and the latest installment in the Planet of the Apes franchise was no exception. The modern Apes trilogy at this point feels destined to go down as one of the great film trilogies of all time. Consisting of three astoundingly bold, thematically deep films with surprisingly insightful commentary on the nature of humanity, this trilogy is a work of astounding vision. War may be the boldest and riskiest film of the entire trilogy. Deceptively titled and marketed, the film never gives us the massive man versus ape conflict we all came in expecting, instead creating a movie that scolds us for wanting it. It’s not until the final minutes of the film that the truly astounding scope and vision of this borderline Biblical story comes into focus, but those final minutes are some of the best filmmaking you will see all year.
In a year of strange and conceptually bold movies, Colossal stands apart in the sheer audacity of its premise. While some may feel that the marketing of this film was deceptive, those who approach it with an open mind will find plenty to love. Nacho Vigolando has with this film weaved a stunning and hear wrenching story about abuse, resentment, and toxic masculinity. And yeah, it’s got a giant monster versus robot fight in there too.
2. Wind River
For quite some time, this was my runaway choice for the best film of the year, and it is only due to the sheer brilliance of the film that rounds out my list that it did not remain as such. I’ve gone on record as being a huge fan of Taylor Sheridan the writer. His dark and painful Neo-Western scripts have brought fresh eyes and perspective to a genre that had not seen a true masterpiece in some time, all the while presenting viewers with a look into worlds which they might otherwise never come into contact. His directorial debut, Wind River however may just be his masterpiece. A brutal, unrelenting and heart-breaking story set on the Wind River Indian Reservation, the film forces us to face head on the cruelty that humans are capable of, and the sobering reality of Native life in the United States. Featuring a brilliant script, wonderful performances by Native actors and a career best turn by Jeremy Renner, Wind River is a stunning achievement that must be experienced to be understood.
1. Star Wars: The Last Jedi
I know what you’re thinking, “of course the geek made Star Wars his number one film!”, but for me at the very least, this was anything but expected. I love Star Wars, anyone who knows me knows that, but I don’t know if it’s ever been my favorite nerd property. Don’t get me wrong, it’s easily better than Star Trek, but I think I’ve always been more of a Tolkein or super hero kind of geek than a full on Star Wars nut. I never obsessed over the minutiae of the franchise the way some fans have. That might be why I immediately saw The Last Jedi as the masterpiece that it is, instead of joining the shrieking minority who are furious that it ruined their head-canon. Stunningly directed, impeccably shot, brilliantly scripted, and wonderfully acted, The Last Jedi isn’t just the best blockbuster of the year, it’s the best blockbuster of the 21st century, a movie so brilliant that it stands toe to toe with A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back without giving an inch. It marks the first time since the original film that the galaxy far far away feels almost limitless in scope and possibility as opposed to the small Skywalker centric place that it had become. The Last Jedi argues that we must stop holding onto the past and waiting for the heroes of yesterday to save us, and instead step up, be counted, and choose to ourselves become the heroes of today. Rian Johnson has truly outdone himself with this film, one that has rightfully earned it’s spot as my film of the year.
*At the time of publication I have not seen The Post, Lady Bird, The Disaster Artist, and several other films I would like to have potentially included due to the limited nature of their releases making them unavailable in my area.