2017 had plenty of ups accompanying its many downs. Marked mostly by a lacking summer blockbuster season, there were a few surprise hits that kicked off early in the year, along with some later prestige films reliably packing in its conclusion. Perhaps most notable of 2017 was the diminishing returns yielded from franchise film tickets at the box office, indicating at least a moderate degree of audience fatigue toward sequels.
In preparation for the Oscars, here are some of my top picks for 2017 in film.
My favorite films of the year include a moderate blend of original and sequel films, and it can be argued for many of the latter that they offer such unique takes on the material that they may as well be counted as new properties.
Do note some asynchronies between review scores and list placement. While I include my personal score of how good a movie is, I’ve ultimately decided to organize the list based on how much I enjoyed a film overall.
With so many strong contenders scattered throughout the year, I’d be remiss to not include a few honorable mentions first:
The best film this year featuring Adam Driver, Steven Soderbergh’s “Logan Lucky” was a fun, smart heist film that, though leisurely paced, was nonetheless an engaging, often hilarious take on rural country America. (Grade: A-)
Adapted from an actor’s memoire on the creation of the best/worst movie ever made, “The Disaster Artist” also offered up a great time with a lot of heart and boasted one of the year’s standout performances — James Franco’s portrayal of Tommy Wiseau. (Grade: A)
“Downsizing” was a bafflingly underappreciated film with one of my top five scripts and direction of 2017. (Grade: A-)
“The Shape of Water,” though very familiar from a storytelling perspective, is a beautifully crafted movie with exquisite art direction, music and cinematography. (Grade: A)
Now that the honorable mentions have been accounted for, the following are my top picks for 2017 in film.
10. “Get Out”
I didn’t dig Jordan Peele’s directorial debut as much as other crowds or critics. Still it makes my list for having some of the tightest, most meticulous writing I’ve ever seen. Every line and every scene contains ulterior meaning for an allegorical yet raw exploration on black identity in America. It’s a masterclass in screenwriting and direction that I couldn’t help but appreciate.
9. “Alien: Covenant”
Ridley Scott’s heady return to the Alien franchise was misunderstood by many for an action film, which it partially is. There are also some understandable gripes involving dumb character decisions typical of your run-of-the-mill horror film. However, Old Man Scott has become philosophical as he has aged and “Alien: Covenant” is more of an exploration of humanity and creation than a horror or action picture. While the action is fine and the suspense certainly tense, the quieter moments led by Michael Fassbender’s David are where the real meat of the story is as he soliloquizes on his existence, destruction, and the cyclical nature of creation.
8. “The Big Sick”
This film has been getting robbed of every award nomination it deserves. Holly Hunter and Ray Romano both delivered top-notch performances as the parents bonding with the ex-boyfriend of their comatose daughter while dealing with problems in their own relationship. Impeccably written by and based on the true story of the now married Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon, “The Big Sick” was the best romantic comedy I’ve seen in years.
7. “Lady Bird”
One of many coming-of-age stories this year, “Lady Bird” was easily the best of them all. Centered around Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson’s senior year at a Catholic high school the film is sweet, heartfelt and unabashedly honest — and it’s a true delight to watch. With a great leading and supporting cast plus excellent direction by first-time director Greta Gerwig, “Lady Bird” is probably the most perfect film of 2017.
6. “I, Tonya”
“I, Tonya” is a whirlwind of emotion in its depiction of the life and times of Tonya Harding leading up to the infamous attack on Nancy Kerrigan before the 1994 Winter Olympics. It’s sadistically manipulative in presenting the narrative with fictionalized renditions of real interviews and darkly humorous fourth-wall breaks. The subject matter can get pretty horrific, but the film is invariably entertaining to watch thanks to strong performances from Margot Robbie and Sebastian Stan.
5. “The Lego Batman Movie”
“The Lego Batman Movie” is easily the best superhero movie of 2017, and honestly it’s also my top pick for animated films this year. Scoot over, “Coco.” With its beautifully vibrant stop-motion animation style and surprisingly deep delve into the complex psyche of Batman/Bruce Wayne, “Lego Batman” isn’t just one of the best films of the year, it’s one of the best Batman or superhero movies ever — period.
There was likely no movie quite as polarizing as this year’s “Mother!” Critical reaction was mixed while audience reception was largely negative, probably due to the mis-marketing of the film as a horror thriller when it was actually more of well-budgeted arthouse experiment. Still, “Mother!” is a psychologically unnerving film with interesting societal messages, dizzying cinematography and some of the year’s best acting in Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem. It’s a shame it wasn’t appreciated by almost anyone.
3. “Blade Runner 2049”
Easily the best-looking, most thought-provoking film of the year, the sequel to “Blade Runner” really shouldn’t be as good as it is. Nonetheless, Denis Villeneuve’s nearly three-hour spectacular is possibly better than its sacred cinematic predecessor, eclipsing it with a more emotional narrative, drive and character work. Every facet of this film is an achievement in filmmaking. The haunting score stuck with me well after my first screening. Roger Deakins’ cinematography, paired with some of the best art direction and production design I’ve ever seen, is to die for. The acting is excellent. The direction is impeccable. What else can I say? Go see this movie! No, go buy it! Now!
2. “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”
It took something truly special to edge out “Blade Runner 2049” on my list, and that something is “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” It’s a story of revenge, forgiveness, compassion and pain so relevant to today’s problems that it’s hard not to connect to it. “Three Billboards” is an ambivalent exploration of tough material, one I was deeply moved by thanks to Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell’s incredibly ranged performances. I fully disagree with some of the recent criticisms on its depictions of racism and redemption, and I would urge you to see it for yourself and come to your own conclusions.
1. “Twin Peaks: The Return”
What could possibly beat out so many strong contenders for my top picks of the year? It’s an eighteen-hour film, as its creator describes it, that tosses taste out the window in favor of masterfully articulated moments of pure artistic insanity. A miniseries follow-up to the beloved 90’s soap opera, “Twin Peaks,” “The Return” is a true work of art that benefits from a creatively uncaged David Lynch working at no less than full blast. “Part 8” alone is a disciplinary masterpiece that could be studied for hours.
There’s no possible way to describe what “The Return” is, and that’s likely a good thing. It’s as much an experience as it is a piece of cinematic art that could potentially rub anyone the wrong or right way. Thankfully, I was in the latter, and exponentially so.
Robbed at every awards show in nominations and wins, I have the pleasure of giving Mr. Lynch the top honor on my list for the best of 2017.
Like any sane human being, I didn’t have the opportunity to see every film that came out this year. Tweet me what your favorite films of the year were @hpvalverde and what I got right or missed on my list.
Hector Valverde is a freelance reporter at the Daily Lobo. He primarily writes movie reviews. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @hpvalverde.