10 Best Movies of 2017

Better late than never—with January 2018 fast approaching its conclusion, and with this week’s Oscar nominations placing the spotlight on many great films from last year, here are my picks for the 10 best movies I saw in 2017. Click the links to read my full review of each film.
Phantom Thread: Paul Thomas Anderson’s romantic drama set in the fashion world of 1950s London is gorgeous, strange, and wickedly funny.  Daniel Day-Lewis is marvelous in reportedly his final film role, that of fussy dressmaker Reynolds Woodcock, while Lesley Manville (who plays his sister) and Vicky Krieps (who plays his lover, Alma) play off him perfectly.  It’s a mysterious and complicated study of love that, like all the best movies, demands multiple viewings.

The Shape of Water
Michael Shannon in “The Shape of Water”

The Shape of Water: Guillermo del Toro’s newest fairy tale is set in a top secret lab during the Cold War, and explores the love story that develops between an amphibian man (Doug Jones) who is held captive in the lab, and mute janitor Eliza (Sally Hawkins).  Del Toro puts his signature twist on what may otherwise have been an unoriginal venture, while Hawkins gives a superb performance without ever saying a word.  It’s a film that isn’t afraid to take risks, in its story, its execution, and its characters.

Call Me By Your Name: Luca Guadagnino’s film based on the novel of the same name explores the relationship that develops between 17-year-old Elio (Timothee Chalamet) and graduate student Oliver (Armie Hammer), who spends a summer working with Elio’s father at their home in northern Italy.  Their initially tentative friendship intensifies into a passionate romance as the summer passes, one that forces Elio to confront these emotions that he’s never experienced before.  It’s beautifully shot, features amazing performances, and is devastatingly sad.

The Last Jedi 2
Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker in “The Last Jedi”

Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi: I’ve been a massive “Star Wars” fan for most of my life, so it shouldn’t come as any surprise that Rian Johnson’s entry in the sequel trilogy is on my list.  But this “Star Wars,” while it delivers some heavy doses of nostalgia, is refreshingly different from anything we’ve seen from this series before.  With surprising twists and turns, Johnson turns this sweeping story of good versus evil into an intimate character study, teaching us lesson about failure, and, ultimately, delivers a message of hope that makes me even more excited and intrigued to see how this trilogy will end.

Coco: Disney/Pixar’s “Coco” is the studio’s best film in over a decade.  It’s filled with beautiful songs, colorful and detailed visuals, and a script that is funny, twisty, and heart-wrenching.  Lovingly recreating Mexico and Mexican culture in animated form to tell the story of Miguel, a young boy who journeys into the afterlife to find his great-great-grandfather, a famous singer who has been cast out of his family’s history, Pixar gives us a story not just of the importance of family, but the importance of history and memory.

Lady Bird: Greta Gerwig wrote the screenplay for this coming-of-age comedy that is also her directorial debut, and what a debut it is.  Saoirse Ronan stars as the titular character, a high schooler in a near-constant state of rebellion: against the Catholic school she attends, against her peers, against her hometown of Sacramento, California, and against her family, most of all her mother (played by the fantastic Laurie Metcalf).  It’s a hilarious film filled with eccentric characters but also with a lot of authenticity, particularly when it comes to the loving but volatile mother/daughter relationship, and to the pressures of adolescence.

Brooklynn Prince and Willem Dafoe in “The Florida Project”

 The Florida Project: Sean Baker’s heart-wrenching film follows a struggling single mother living with her six-year-old daughter Moonee (Brooklynn Prince) in a rundown motel in Orlando, just shy of Walt Disney World.  The precocious Moonee is immediately endearing as we follow her and her friends through a summer in their lives, while Willem Dafoe gives one of his best performances as the sympathetic motel manager.  It’s a film that perfectly contrasts the carefree fun of childhood with the responsibilities of adulthood, and the place where dreams come true with the harshness of the real world.

Wonder Woman: Directed by Patty Jenkins, “Wonder Woman” is more than just the next blockbuster instalment in the DC cinematic universe.  It’s also more than the first big female-led superhero movie, because it’s actually really, really good.  Gal Gadot is perfectly cast as Wonder Woman/Diana Prince, the Amazon warrior who leaves her home to aid the Allies in World War II.  Sure, there’s lots of action, some good humorous bits, and solid supporting characters, including Chris Pine as pilot Steve Trevor (essentially taking over the role that usually goes to women) and Robin Wright as Diana’s fierce aunt.  But it’s inspiring in a way that most superhero films have lost sight of, and it’s refreshing to watch this woman sacrifice everything for no other reason than that she wants to help people.

Patrick Stewart and Hugh Jackman in “Logan”

Logan: This is another example of a fantastic superhero movie, although I use that term very loosely here.  The conclusion of Hugh Jackman’s run as Wolverine is unlike anything we’ve seen from the X-Men universe, from the Marvel universe, or from superhero movies in general.  It’s more western than anything else, with our aging hero caring for a sick Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart reprising his role) and finding himself transporting a young mutant who is being pursued across the border to safety.  The story presents us with a desolate, gritty, and violent world in which there are no more heroes, but allows Logan to remake himself as a hero along the way.  I can’t think of a more fitting finale for this character.

“Get Out: Jordan Peele’s thriller is more than just entertaining.  When Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) is invited to spend the weekend with his white girlfriend’s family at their secluded woodland home, he quickly finds himself in the middle of a conspiracy to take control of black peoples’ bodies.  Creepy and darkly funny, “Get Out” uses satire to explore not just blatant racism, but the ignorance to racist behavior that does more harm than good.
Additional Notes: I switched out “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” for “Logan” at the last minute. I wish I had room for “The Big Sick,” “Baby Driver,” and even “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri“.

Shout out to “Paddington 2,” which was only just released in the U.S. in 2018 but came out in 2017 in the U.K. Either way, just see it. It’s fantastic.

I don’t make “worst of” lists, but I really hated “The Mummy” and “The Greatest Showman.”

What were your favorite or least favorite films from last year?  Let me know in the comments!

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