Top 15 Best Films of 2017

I know we're two month into 2018 at this point, and I'm sorry for being late on this, but you have to understand something...making this years list was hard.  There were so many quality movies that I seriously considered stretching my list by another five.  I ultimately decided against that because to do that two years in a row would cheapen the whole point of occasionally expanding it (and make it so I'd hate to make a Top 15 worst list next year), so I heed and hawed, brainstormed, and agonized over what had to eventually be bumped from the number 10 slot too the number 11 when a last minute addition had to be made (Spoiler: "The Big Sick" sadly lost that battle).  Then, I saw a couple of last years releases late, had to redo the list, and couldn't bring myself to leave certain movies off it.  So, here we are at fifteen again.

Also, another slight saving grace is that a movie that I had one point included on the list was discovered to NOT be a 2017 movie, but rather a 2016 release that most theaters just happened to get very late.  Had I seen it in time it would have been on last years list, but I also understand why it can't technically be on this one.  So we're going to give it a special mention so that it gets some recognition on this list.  Before that though, here are the movies that just didn't quite make the cut:

In This Corner of the World
War for the Planet of the Apes

Note: Many of the reviews for these movies have not been written due to major writers block.  The list will be updated with the reviews as I catch up over the next few weeks!

The Movie That Would Have Been on This List Had I Seen it in Time

Your Name
Director: Makoto Shinkai
Studio: Funimation Films
Genre(s): Drama
Rated: PG (For thematic elements, suggestive content, brief language, and smoking)

I loved this film so much, that when I discovered it technically didn't qualify for inclusion of this list, I bent over backwards just to make sure I could put it on here.  Foreign and independent animation really but up all the American films we got this year (sans "Coco"), and I was reminded over and over just how deep animated films could be.  "Your Name" was not only one of the most heartbreaking and emotional experiences of the year, it was one of the most beautiful as well.  Since MoviePass only allows us to see a movie once, I find myself doing just that for most everything I see.  With "Your Name" I not only saw it a second time in theaters, I saw it a few days after I saw it the first time.  It really bothers me that I can't give this a numbered spot, but that speaks more to studios who don't know how to handle a release of something really good (probably because the movie market is extremely unforgiving to unique experiences like this).

15. Logan
Director: James Mangold
Starring: Hugh Jackman
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Genre(s): Drama
Rated: R (For strong brutal violence and language throughout, and for brief nudity)

Not only was it a good year for science fiction movies (as you'll see later), but it was also a good year for comic book movies.  After "Deadpool" became the unexpected success it was two years ago, Fox gave James Mangold and Hugh Jackman the freedom to send off their popular Wolverine character with a strong finale, and a hard R rating.  The fact that it is rated R is just a cherry on top of the cake though, as the rest of the movie is the closest thing the superhero genre has gotten to having its own western.  I should mention, however, that while the movie is excellent in every way, what pushing it onto this list is the black & white version, which (in its own way) adds so much color and depth to the image, that it compliments the (now Oscar-nominated) screenplay.

14. Wonder
Director: Stephen Chbosky
Starring: Julia Roberts, Owen Wilson, Jacob Tremblay
Studio: Lionsgate
Genre(s): Drama
Rated: PG (For thematic elements including bullying, and some mild language)

Family movies are usually mocked for their sentimentality and overly simplistic solutions to tough problems, but "Wonder" lives up to it's title by managing be hugely sentimental while also taking the tough situations seriously.  It's one of the best examples of working within the limits of the source material, and thankfully the director (whose "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" made a previous Top 10 list in the past) was more than up for the challenge, making a movie that is sure to be loved by families for years to come.

13. The Big Sick
Director: Michael Showalter
Starring: Kumail Nanjiani, Zoe Kazan, Holly Hunter, Ray Romano
Studio: Amazon Studios
Genre(s): Comedy/Drama
Rated: R (For language including some sexual references)
Easily the most charming movie I've seen about a girl with a life threatening sickness, "The Big Sick" tells the almost unbelievable true story of a man who bonds with the parents of his ex-girlfriend while she is in a medically induced coma.  The movie is very funny and endearingly sweet, and not at all something you would expect from something titled "The Big Sick."  Also, despite being a streaming title, the movie was so good it got people to actually make it a decent hit in cinemas.

12. The Disaster Artist
Director: James Franco
Starring: James Franco, Dave Franco, Seth Rogen
Studio: A24
Genre(s): Comedy
Rated: R (For language throughout and some sexuality/nudity)
Making movies is tough, regardless what the final product is.  "The Room" may have ultimately been one of the worst movies ever made, but it has been embraced over the years for being one of the most ernest movie experiences you are going to have.  James Franco's "The Disaster Artist" puts that movies existence in context while also being a quirky, ernest movie itself.  Mostly funny with one of the most heartbreaking moments I've experienced in the movies this year, this is a love letter to passionate people who don't let the world get them down.

11. A Silent Voice
Director: Naoko Yamada
Studio: Kyoto Animation
Genre(s): Drama
Rated: Not Rated

Bullying is becoming more of a hot button topic these days, as the gravity and scope of the problem is becoming more and more understood.  We are still far from understanding how to fix it, but "A Silent Voice" has a poignant perspective about the subject: That even the bullies, at some point, will be affected personally by the pain they've caused others.  On the surface the message that everyone is a victim might seem sugary, but the execution is painfully depressing.  This isn't the easiest movie on the list to watch, but it is certainly one of the most worthwhile if you decide to give it a chance.

10. Baby Driver
Director: Edgar Wright
Starring: Ansel Elgort, Kevin Spacey, Lily James, Eiza González, Jon Hamm, Jamie Foxx
Studio: TriStar Pictures
Genre(s): Action/Comedy
Rated: R (For violence and language throughout)

Who would have thought that the musical would evolve into a high stakes, acid trip crime thriller?  Only Edgar Wright would be that forward thinking.  Everything about this movie is a blast to witness.  From the excellent soundtrack, to perfectly directed action scenes, to editing is beyond brilliant.  Cap it all off with a universally excellent cast (and yes, that includes Kevin Spacey), and we have a movie that is delightful and fun on every level I can think of (maybe some levels I haven't [ho ho]).

9. The Shape of Water
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Studio: Fox Searchlight Pictures
Genre(s): Drama/Romance
Rated: R (For sexual content, graphic nudity, violence and language)

Guillermo del Toro has always had a fascination with monsters.  He has claimed many times that monsters are good to him.  They were his friends when he had none, and he couldn't understand why so many people hated stories of them.  I believe his goal in making "The Shape of Water" was to make a movie that could be embraced by the very people who hate monsters.  By giving us a love story where a human woman finds a connection with a monster, he may have just accomplished that goal.  While on the surface this looks like a horror movie, it is actually a tender love story about two outcasts that society has deemed "broken."  The movie may have caught audiences attention because of the stunning visuals, but it has stayed with them because of it's heart.

8. The Breadwinner
Director: Nora Twomey
Studio: GKIDS
Genre(s): Drama
Rated: PG-13 (For thematic material including some violent images)

Considering how prominent the #MeToo movement was, I was sort of hoping "The Breadwinner" would have a chance at being noticed by people, as it highlights a serious social problem for women that has existed in middle eastern countries for years: The absolutely disgraceful treatment of women.  Despite this being a well-known problem, it took a cartoon to not only say it last year, but to say it in such a way that the few people who are unaware of the problem can truly get it.  If I want putting it on this list for politics alone that wouldn't be fair.  No, this movie is on the list because it's heartbreaking, honest, and unique in ways that most American animation is afraid to be.  Now that the movie has been nominated for an Academy Award, hopefully it will encourage more people to seek it out (although, that hasn't always been the case...).

7. I, Tonya
Director: Craig Gillespie
Starring: Margot Robbie, Sebastian Stan, Allison Janney
Studio: Neon
Genre(s): Drama
Rated: R (For pervasive language, violence, and some sexual content/nudity)

The Tanya Harding scandal is one of the most famous in figure skating history, but potentially may be one of the most misunderstood.  Or, maybe it isn't, as the movie is certain to point out that the people in question make for inconsistent storytellers.  What is very consistent is a movie that uses dark humor, violence, and just a bit of truth to remain fascinating to watch and wildly entertaining.  It may not be the most objective biopic you are going to see, but it proves just how much fun subjectivity can be.

6. Phantom Thread
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis, Lesley Manville, Vicky Krieps
Studio: Focus Features
Genre(s): Drama
Rated: R (For language)

If this is indeed the final performance of Daniel Day-Lewis, then at least he goes out in this unique, sort of morbid romantic drama from Paul Thomas Anderson (whose directing methods are rumored to be as strange as Lewis's method acting style).  Anderson is at his best when he is making movies about anti-social outcasts who may have a spectacular talent, but seem unable (in some cases unwilling) to assimilate.  Most of the time his movies are cold observations of these troubled human beings, but "Phantom Thread" is a more personal film, as an outsider comes in, see's this weird man for what he's worth, and slowly finds ways to become closer.  It is fascinating and touching at the same time.

5. Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi
Director: Rian Johnson
Studio: Lucasfilm
Genre(s): Science Fiction
Rated: PG-13 (For sequences of sci-fi action and violence)

In my (still as yet unpublished) review of "Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi," I opened with the suspicion that "a film this great is wasted on fans of the franchise."  I wrote that as sort of a joke that movies that are made with the specific purpose to sell a lot of merchandise and make a billion dollars needn't try so hard.  Little did I realize that this statement would be more literal than I realized, as lifelong fans of the series turned on this movie, claiming it wasn't real 'Star Wars,' and that the franchise had been killed by the new money hungry owners at Disney.  Amazing that these were the complaints we got for a movie that was fresh, unique, and willing to shake up the status quo in order to evolve the series and keep it interesting, as opposed to the paint-by-numbers production that was 'The Force Awakens.' 

It's amazing that science fiction nerds want their stories to be taken seriously, yet when they get something that is special, they can't do anything but be offended.  I mean, come on folks: You were given the BEST Star Wars movie to date and you couldn't even see it?!  *sigh* I would write it off as a fluke, but as you'll see later, this isn't the only case of a science fiction film being too good for the nerds out there.

4. Lady Bird
Director: Gretta Gerwig
Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, Tracy Letts, Lucas Hedges, Timothée Chalamet, Beanie Feldstein, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Lois Smith
Studio: A24
Genre(s): Comedy
Rated: R (For language, sexual content, brief graphic nudity and teen partying)

"Lady Bird" is an interesting choice for me to put on this list, because in retrospect it is practically a care free movie.  It is about a teenage girl who has a good life and seems to secretly resent it, looking outside of her hometown of Sacramento, CA (a city near and dear to my heart) for a bigger life.  What makes it so great is that it has a great understand of how teenagers view the world, how they seem to misunderstand their own situation, and how they find out quickly that the real world does not mesh with their idealized perception of what it will be.  That is does so with instantly likable characters that are usually funny in the most human way you can imagine.

3. Blade Runner 2049
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford
Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures
Genre(s): Science Fiction
Rated: R (For violence, some sexuality, nudity and language)

In a world where studios dig up any old movie that has even a whiff of a cult following, I think I speak for many that I was waiting for the day for one of these shameless cash ins to utterly flop at the box office, sink like a stone, and make all the studio heads realize that dusting off an old IP is not going to guarantee you box office success.  And this year it finally happened.  Audiences stood up and said "NO!  We will stop shilling out money for movie sequels that are thirty years too late!  Enough is enough!"  The only problem with this now is, well...they picked the wrong movie to stand up to.  Because "Blade Runner 2049" is not only the sort of sequel we need in theaters, but it is the rare science fiction film that is intelligent and thoughtful.  It is also a rare movie where special effects are used in service to the story and setting, not just the action scenes (of which there are few). 

I still can't figure out what went wrong.  It makes one's head spin to know that "Justice League" made a lot more money than this (and that was considered a box office bomb...imagine the returns on this).  What is most disappointing is not only are we unlikely to see a sequel like this, but after the fans turned their heads on the equally daring (if not quite as brilliant) "Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi," I think its safe to say we will NOT be seeing anymore ground breaking science fiction films for a LONG time!  I mean, seriously folks, just look at both these movies.  They aren't cheap to make, so if you don't embrace them the studios won't make more like them.

2. Three Billboards of Ebbing, Missouri
Director: Martin McDonagh
Starring: Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell
Studio: Fox Searchlight Pictures
Genre(s): Drama
Rated: R (For violence, language throughout, and some sexual references)

"Three Billboards of Ebbing, Missouri" is a movie that first makes you angry.  Then it makes you frustrated.  Finally, it makes you sympathetic.  There was much made about the supposed politics of the film.  Was it about racism?  Was it about an unsolved murder?  Was it about a woman who felt powerless and misheard in a male dominated world?  I think it touches upon most of these themes, but ultimately, this feels like a film about people who are trying to make sense of the world the best way they know how.  The abrupt ending left many people leaving the theater asking "what's was that about?"  The funny thing is if you really stop and think about it, I think it has more to say in its silence than any words could say.

1. The Insult
Director: Ziad Doueiri
Studio: Diaphana Films
Genre(s): Drama
Rated: R (For language and some violent images)
"The Insult" might use the setting of a conventional courtroom drama, but it's story rings more true today as more and more people let their prejudice dictate who they are and aren't friends with.  It is also a powerful statement that words both have tremendous power, yet also only have the power you give them.  All while giving us a script worthy of those words.  Unlike any other film I've seen this year, "The Insult" is the one movie to truly understand that people may be similar in many ways, but hold onto past sins to an unhealthy level.  In America we have those issues, but no one seems ready to admit that yet.  Thankfully, foreign countries are starting to do some serious soul searching, and I actually feel honored that some of those countries are making movies seriously tackling the issues in ways that are thought provoking and accessible to everyone.

And that is 2017. Will 2018 result in me going beyond ten films again?  We'll just have to wait and see!