For the past five years, I’ve been ranking every film I see- just the new releases, from January 1st to December 31st. The rankings are subjective, based entirely on how much I enjoyed and/or connected with or appreciated the film rather than on some sort of objective artistic criteria. Basically, this is a list of 105 films released in 2017 ranked according to how much I liked them.
Read the Full 2017 List HERE.
We Made It! Here they are, my favourite movies of my favourite year of movies in a long while (at least since 2012; I talk about 2012 too much). Please note that, contrary to my best guess, I did end up also liking Phantom Thread quite a bit so, even though I didn’t see it on time to include it in this list, just imagine it’s in there somewhere (maybe between Wind River & Dean?).
1. The Big Sick
Sharp script, perfect cast (Holly! Ray! Bo! Aidy!), subtly directed, personal emotional goodness and larger social relevance. For my particular taste, there literally isn’t anything else I could ask for from a movie. I wouldn’t complain if Kumail Nanjiani got more famous and prolific every single day from here through forever.
2. Get Out
The weight of the world is fully down upon us when a climactic moment of heroic self defense is witnessed by an approaching cop car. Allison Williams turns her helpless white waif charm up to 11 and calls out to the approaching officer to save her from the bad black man. Daniel Kaluuya stands there, blood splattered and tortured but able-bodied, young, and black. My mind- most of our minds, surely, given the 2017 of it all- went to the darkest possible outcome, the cynical pitch-dark final shot that we’ve come to expect from the world. Writer/director Jordan Peele (the great “don’t you dare underestimate a sketch artist again!” story of the year) gave us that unforgettable moment of dread in his searing horror comedy debut then had the restraint and insight to give us a triumphant ray of fairy tale-like hope in the end. It’s an almost perfect movie.
3. Brigsby Bear
I absolutely adored this odd little indie with its gigantic beating heart and perfectly cast ensemble (including my favourite Mark Hamill performance ever; dont @ me, nerd bros). The best way to watch it is to know next to nothing about it so please just go experience the heartrending sweetness for yourself. Kyle Mooney is such an under-appreciated gem.
4. Call Me By Your Name
At this point there isn’t much left to say in praise of this gorgeous multi-lingual love story, or about its heart-shattering central performance. Timothée Chalamet’s physicality and vulnerability and immediacy is game-changing, and there’s also heaps of well-earned praise to be read about Stuhlbarg, Guadagnino, and Ivory’s beautiful contributions to this hyper-nuanced deep breath of a film. So I’ll talk about Armie instead. As a longstanding Armie Hammer fan, I adore not only this film’s (long overdue) success for him, and his lovely performance in it, but the incredible insight in his casting. No one else on earth could have captured Oliver’s immense privilege (not just racial and socio-economic but looks and height and voice and intelligence and the whole thing) with such a perfect mixture of obnoxious carelessness and totally redemptive charm. While this was obviously Chalamet’s movie, I do think maybe 1 out of every 20 articles about the acting could be about the very tricky line Hammer walked with so much grace that we barely even noticed.
5. The Shape of Water
Gosh, if there’s little left to write about CMBYN, there’s Very little left to write about this lovely Best Picture-winning monster romance. I adored the piano score and the CGI resistance and the Toronto locations (hey, Lakeview!) and the allegorical resonance in what was ultimately just a very sweet story (I don’t usually like monster movies but this really was just so wonderful). Perhaps most of all I loved the vast array of brilliant supporting performances from the men (Doug Jones, Richard Jenkins, Michael Shannon and Michael Stuhlbarg, again, could have almost filled the entire Supporting Actor category with just this one film) and how Sally Hawkins was able to completely command the screen as a strong silent woman, rejecting the notion that she needed to make herself any bigger to match the scene-stealing men who dominated her world. I don’t know if anyone was actually shooting for that effect but it meant a lot to me.
Loved it. Fun, surprising, beautiful both visually and thematically. It wasn’t a perspective-smashing gut-punch like Inside Out (my favourite Pixar movie), but it came awfully close.
This multi-perspective story about two families on the same land in post-WWII America was fantastic and deserved a proper theatrical run (if only so that cinematographer Rachel Morrison could get her due). I appreciate Netflix making it possible for more movies to actually get out there but some movies should never be watched on a phone and this is one of them.
8. Three Billboard Outside Ebbing, Missouri
To say that this movie is a redemption story for Sam Rockwell’s character is a deliberately simplistic and flat out incorrect reading. Complaining about a foreigner making an American movie and not getting all your precious little details right is also a pretty bad take. Is it a perfect movie? No. But it’s a really good movie and nothing in movie world made me madder this year than people who made up their minds about this film without actually seeing it. This movie starts and ends by throwing out the concept of heroes and villains and grapples instead with ugly humanity. It champions empathy and condemns anger. The cast is goddamn perfect (except Abbie Cornish who is just obnoxiously too young and hot for her role). Movie-goers (or, rather, internet editorialists) need to find more space in their heads to hold two ideas at once, and understand that examining bad behaviour and refusing to write off its perpetrator completely does not make the examiner guilty of said bad behaviour. If anything, the idea that light has the potential to exist even within the cruelest darkness is the concept that will save us.
9. Wind River
Taylor Sheridan has the best recent track record of any screenwriter working right now and his latest is yet another gem- a beautifully constructed, excellently paced story with rich characters, high emotional stakes, and a few lines of dialogue that could stop a beating heart. As a director, he makes excellent use of his white-out landscape with many a beautifully composed but not too showy shot and he elicits across the board wonderful, subtle performances from a strong ensemble led by Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen, both at the very top of their game. Hell or High Water‘s Gil Birmingham’s standout supporting turn hangs a lantern on the problematic fact that this is a story about Indigenous people with two white leads but that’s the lone criticism I have for this extraordinary film about a completely real, shockingly under-discussed reality.
An intimate, deeply moving indie from writer/director Demetri Martin about grief that hits you square in the gut. There’s not much to it but it’s exactly what I needed.
11. The Disaster Artist
This movie’s perhaps a little over-scored on this list but I was so taken with its empathy and heart that I was very willing to tolerate its silliness and lack of truly critical eye. Casting his much less weird little brother as his much less weird best friend was the stroke of genius that made this James Franco project really fly, upping the emotional stakes with built-in complex chemistry.
12. The Florida Project
This ramshackle production about a cheap motel near Disney World is a bit of a slog at times, meandering through a vague plot with an inexperienced leading lady whose rawness sometimes works perfectly and sometimes grows tiresome. But six-year-old Brooklynn Prince is the biggest movie star of the year in my opinion and she gives a supernova of a performance, balanced beautifully by actual movie star Willem Dafoe so grounded you’d think he had literal roots. It wasn’t always the most enjoyable filmgoing experience but the themes pack a wallop and those final five minutes are the most perfect five minutes of anything I’ve seen in a very long time.
13. The Killing of a Sacred Deer
I was not one of those people who loved The Lobster but this much more straightforward but much more emotionally demanding film hit me incredibly hard. I love Colin Farrell, particularly when he fully embraces his inner weirdo and fully sacrifices his prettiness to a role, and he’s fantastic in this film. As is Barry Keoghan, who also made an impact in Dunkirk this year but here delivers something truly star-making in a minefield of a role.
14. The Post
An interesting story well-told. I could have done without the Watergate button and I seriously hate the fact that the company that made the movie also owns the Washington Post (so the whole thing is basically just a really well made commercial) but it’s just an interesting story made into a good old fashioned movie with giant beloved movie stars at the centre and brilliant TV stars everywhere in the supporting cast (seriously, someone in that casting department has the best TV taste ever- Whitford, Brie, Paulson, Plemmons, Woods, Odenkirk, Rhys, Coon, Cross, Lovejoy- it’s ridiculous). Give me an interesting story well-told any day.
15. Speech & Debate
A confident, sexually assured gay character; a teenage girl who loves herself (actually, not like Lady Bird); a semi-realistic portrait of a performing art extra curricular in a high school film! This adaptation of Stephen Karam’s play of the same name was exactly what the doctor ordered, featuring a great cast of supporting adults (Kal Penn! Wendy McLendon-Covey! Janeane Garofalo! Sarah Baker!) and an even greater cast of leading students (Austin McKenzie is great and Sarah Steele gives one of my favourite performances of the year as the overconfident Diwata Jones).
16. The Greatest Showman
This well-paced and well-constructed musical that tells the (selective) history of the circus is pretty joyous as long as you can force that little “but what about…?” voice in the back of your head to shut up. I hated the age differences between the love interests (it’s my biggest Hollywood pet peeve) and desperately wanted a more distinct and impactful song for the opera performance (it would have been really nice if they’d just let it be opera, like how Center Stage used actual ballet in the sequences that were meant to convey how much the characters love ballet) but I otherwise was totally swept up into this extravaganza of emotion and spectacle and the most elaborate for-film choreography I’ve seen in ages. Though they avoid quite a few of the icky realities of history, Jenny Bicks & Bill Condon’s screenplay doesn’t sidestep everything when it comes to the moral ambiguity of PT Barnum which leads to character storytelling that was shockingly three-dimensional. Though Michelle Williams and Rebecca Ferguson’s roles could stand to be played by people more interesting than cardboard, the casting in supporting roles is dead-on (especially Keala Settle as the bearded lady). And I’m a sucker for Efron, even if I found myself wishing for a real singer like Jeremy Jordan or Aaron Tveit (that’s right, I just called Efron not a real singer; he’s got a good voice for a non-musical actor but he does not have the voice to be an actual musical actor and you know it). I would usually complain about the simplicity and emotionally manipulative quality of Pasek & Paul’s songs (a problem that really defines them these days but I don’t remember being an issue in their early work; “Lying There” in particular I think is a masterpiece) but I actually think the songs’ catchy, relative hollowness is interesting on a thematic level in this particular case and, whether that’s intentional or not (definitely not), it kind of adds to the whole experience for me. A fun, elaborate production and a great soundtrack and just a really great time, which is all they were really aiming for.
17. I, Tonya
I love Allison Janney but her character in this film was so broad an actress far less brilliant could have done it just as well. The person who really impressed me here was Margot Robbie who delivers an expansive, multi-layered performance that totally redefined my understanding of her limits as an actress. She also produced the film, which I imagine she did because it’s not the sort of role anyone else would have given to her; she went out and got it for herself, which is just cool. It’s also a well-made film with some interesting things to say about truth. It could have used a bit more of a critical eye but I wouldn’t demand one.
18. Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle
Yup, Jumanji is in my top 20. I saw it in the middle of an Oscar movie sprint where I saw like 12 depressing movies in 3 days; Jumanji was just the funny big-hearted catharsis I needed with its Breakfast Club-ish conceit, fun unexpected casting, surprising pathos, slight but not overwhelming nostalgia, goofy hilarity, throwback adventure score, and also The Rock.
Every single frame of this carefully constructed indie about architecture and human connection could be printed out and hung as art. It’s gorgeously executed with perfect locations, beautiful cinematography, and lovely nuanced performances by king of my heart John Cho and future queen of all your hearts Haley Lu Richardson (I fell hard for her understated honest style in Edge of Seventeen last year and fully expect her to completely take over in the next few years). Sometimes the film’s chill left me feeling a bit too far from its characters but it was just too beautiful not to love.
20. Baby Driver
Consequences! There’s a lot to love about this great crime dramedy from Edgar Wright (easily the best film from a director who’s made lots of good films)- insightful sound motifs with a perfect soundtrack and brilliant editing, a killer supporting cast and strong leading turn by Ansel Elgort, an engaging well-paced plot, awesome dialogue- but it was the consequences that really won me over. I’m sometimes wary of action movies and it’s not because I don’t like the action, it’s because I really hate that there are never any consequences. The heroes spray bullets everywhere and nothing bad ever happens. In this movie, all bills have to be paid and that reality makes absolutely everything matter so much more.
21. Deidra & Laney Rob a Train
Unlike Mudbound, this is a perfect Netflix movie. It’s not lightweight but, story-wise, it doesn’t feel disrespectful to pause it or watch it on your phone or have 2048 open in a second window. The story and performances carry the film without needing it to be on a big screen, and it simply wouldn’t have made it out in a pre-Netflix world, and I’m very glad this movie made it out into the world. Ashleigh Murray gives a spectacular leading performance and Shelby Farrell’s script is lively, honest and complex. A really lovely movie that you should go watch on your phone right now.