2017… where to start.
This was a year full of tragedy, bigotry, and sadness. But, as always, there were bright spots. Roy Moore lost his Senate race. Gorillaz released a new album. My family got a new dog. I finally came out as trans to some people in my personal life and started going by my preferred name: Mavis.
And, of course, there were more than a few fantastic films that got released. There are films I haven’t seen (such as The Florida Project, Mudbound, The Post, The Phantom Thread, War For The Planet of the Apes, Call Me By Your Name, and mother!) that may have made this list if I had seen them, and in the case of one film, the presence of an actor recently accused of many counts of sexual assault has left me uncomfortable with putting a film I loved on this list. But otherwise, this is a completely honest list, consisting of my very favorite films of 2017. And some of my descriptions include spoilers, so just a warning on that front. Here we go!
10. POWER RANGERS
This was my favorite surprise of 2017. A film about a diverse group of teenagers with relatable motivations teaming up to fight a space witch and her pet giant gold monster already sounds up my alley, but on the way, it managed to create nuanced and real characters dealing with bullying, autism, and their sexual orientation. The film is well-shot, very entertaining, and full of memorable action sequences, but the existence of a genuinely good portrayal of an autistic character in a $100-million blockbuster alone is enough to make this one of my favorite films of the year. Don’t dismiss this one, it’s legitimately important.
2017 was a year that was filled with powerful men being revealed as abusers and enablers, from A-list actors to industry executives and everyone in-between. This makes the content and message of Colossal almost ironic, as Neon head Tim League was revealed a few months back to have secretly given work to disgraced journalist Devin Faraci following the latter’s sexual assault scandal. But the content and message of Colossal is still incredibly strong in its own right, with Nacho Vigalondo’s outstanding direction and incredible performances by Anne Hathaway and Jason Sudeikis helping to put real weight behind this story of overcoming abuse.
The fact that it having the single-most cathartic ending in a year full of cathartic endings helps a lot, too.
8. GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, VOL. 2
It was truly a banner year for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with the juggernaut franchise releasing three critically-acclaimed smash hits within six months. And while Spider-Man: Homecoming and Thor: Ragnarok were both a lot of fun and thematically sound, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 managed to top both films for me. Part of it was its lovely thematic statement about the nature of fatherhood and overcoming abuse. Part of it was James Gunn’s sharp wit. Part of it was the candy-coated visual splendor. But what really put this film over the top for me is a purely personal connection with one specific scene: when Peter Quill, enraged by the realization that his father was the one who gave his beloved mother the brain tumor that ultimately claimed her life, immediately pulls out his laser-pistols and barrages him with blasts. As someone who has been through the trauma of having a beloved relative die of brain cancer, this moment was so intensely cathartic for me that I cried right on the spot. Peter Quill is a great character, but this was the moment that got me to connect with him and really get how he ticked. This film is now my favorite in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but with the way the franchise has been going, I may have a new favorite by the next of next year.
7. LADY BIRD
I saw Lady Bird with my mom, and it was probably the ideal way to see it. Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut is as fierce and witty as its titular character, played to perfection by Saoirse Ronan. As a self-described theater freak, seeing stage favorites like Laurie Metcalf, Tracy Letts, and Stephen McKinley Henderson was an absolute delight, as was being introduced to Beanie Feldstein, who is sure to break out after her scene-stealing performance in this film. But it’s Ronan and Metcalf who are the highlights, both of whom are doing some of the best work of their careers here. This was one of those films that made me remember why I loved movies so much, and the fact that it’s only number seven on this list just shows how great movies were this year.
6. MOLLY’S GAME
I’m going to go ahead and call it: Jessica Chastain is finally winning her Oscar this year. Her turn as poker ringmaster Molly Bloom feels like what her whole career has been building towards, and it deserves all the recognition in the world. And most interestingly of all, it turns out that Aaron Sorkin is pretty great at this whole director thing! He’s not particularly flashy, but his framing is solid and he knows how to keep the pace and suspense up. There was a payoff about halfway through the film that I reacted to the way I reacted to the best moments in Star Wars: The Last Jedi, it was that surprising and satisfying.
5. STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI
Forget what all the internet misogynists say, this is the most exciting Star Wars has been in a long time. It builds perfectly on concepts and themes introduced in previous films while still having its own distinct identity, and features stuff that I knew was going to be iconic while I was watching it in the theater. We will be talking about this film forever, and not just in the context of Star Wars, but in the context of the current blockbuster culture and what this means for cinema as a whole. If I ever meet Rian Johnson in person, I’m going to buy him a cup of tea for his exemplary work here.
4. WONDER WOMAN
Everything that I said about this film from my review this past summer stands: Wonder Woman is spectacular, genre-redefining work, a great film that came out at just the right time to really make an impact. It’s arguably the defining blockbuster of the year, and deservedly so, I absolutely loved it.
3. PERSONAL SHOPPER
My first dip into the world of French director Olivier Assayas left me fascinated, unnerved, and ready for more. With Personal Shopper, Assayas has crafted a meditation on grief that’s as beautiful as it is tense, and it manages to make a scene where Kristen Stewart’s Maureen is having a text conversation on a train into one of the best scenes of the year. Watching Stewart’s growth as an actor over the course of her career has been a true gift, and she gives the best performance of her career to date. I cannot wait to see what she has to bring in 2018.
2. GET OUT
For a long time, this was my favorite film of the year. A pitch-perfect satire on race relations in America that terrifies and delights in equal measure, Get Out is the defining film of the ear, bar none. Jordan Peele has made the most confident directorial debut that I’ve seen in a long time, and I absolutely cannot wait to see what he does next.
1. THE SHAPE OF WATER
Guillermo Del Toro has been one of my favorite directors since the first time I saw Hellboy II: The Golden Army, and there is not a single film of his that I don’t at least like. So in a lot of ways, I came into this one with the assumption that it would be on my list. But The Shape of Water surpassed even my wildest expectations. It’s a downright inspiring tale about forbidden love, unconventional beauty, and enduring under persecution in an era dominated by toxic masculinity, racism, homophobia, and xenophobia. It’s a love letter to classic cinema, and not just the monster flicks that serve as the most obvious surface level source of inspiration: there’s some Douglas Sirk in there, some tinges of biblical epics, and best of all, there’s a healthy dose of musicals. There is a black-and-white musical number in the film that ranks among my favorite moments in cinema this year. I cry just thinking about it. Guillermo Del Toro has made the most emotionally raw film of his storied career, and I cannot wait to see what he does next.
Well, that’s my list! Of course there are honorable mentions: the offbeat rage of Okja, the ticking-clock suspense of Dunkirk, the brutal gun ballet of John Wick: Chapter Two, the dual dose of Ridley Scott nihilism that came with Alien: Covenant and All the Money in the World, the sweet romance of Everything, Everything, the lengthy and beautiful Blade Runner 2049, the opulent musical splendor of Beauty and the Beast, the medieval roller-coaster that was King Arthur: The Legend of the Sword, and the Southern-fried wholesomeness of Logan Lucky being among them. But all this does is prove that 2017 was an embarrassment of riches when it came to films, and as bad of a year it was for everything else, at least we were able to get lost in the joys of cinema this year.
Happy New Year, y’all. Let’s try and make it better.