Our Picks: The Best Movies of 2017

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It’s 2018, and there are a lot of great movies on the horizon, but fellow GeekDad film writer Rob Huddleston and I are first looking back to 2017, a great year for original cinema, to compile our individual lists of the 10 best films of the year. Keep in mind that some of our picks are NOT kid friendly, so be sure to do your research before watching any of these films around little ones.

Here are our respective lists of the top 10 films of 2017…

It’s Time To Pick the Best Movies of 2017

We’re going to break down our best movies of 2017 separately. One list for Tony, one list for Rob.

Feel free to add your picks in the comments!

Tony’s Best Movies of 2017

10) Coco

While the drama in Coco may lack some of the depth and intricacy of other Pixar stories (see Up), directors Lee Unkrich and Adrian Molina have created a vibrant world full of rich colors, characters, and cultural resonance that is both timeless and heartfelt. Beaming with music and energy, Coco is a glorious celebration of family and life set among a backdrop of the deaths that define us.

9) Baby Driver

Edgar Wright’s signature style of calculated camera movements, edits and whimsical, almost Tati-like choreography, exudes a feeling of relaxed cool. That’s ironic, because his films are anything but relaxed, and Baby Driver is no exception. With a fluid, almost music-video-esque flow, Wright moves his characters along a constantly spinning turntable of action backed by a soundtrack that itself becomes a pivotal character in Baby Driver’s intense heist scenarios. It’s rare and exciting when a movie with this level of tangible rhythm and energy comes along.

8) Raw

The best word one could use to describe the visceral, intense nature of this film is the title of the film itself. Raw is not a movie for the faint of heart. A horror film and coming of age story, Julia Ducournau’s film is a rough, often uncomfortable and gruesome tale of sexuality, cannibalism and the gravitational pulls of freedom. Not since Tomas Alfredson’s Let the Right One has a horror film so simultaneously disturbed and enmeshed me. This one is definitely not for anyone under 17.

7) The Florida Project

For this and his 2015 film Tangerine (which was filmed on an iPhone!), Sean Baker’s name deserves to be beside Vittorio De Sica and Ramin Bahrani on the list of neorealist masters. Set in a low-rent Orlando motel in the shadow of Walt Disney World, The Florida Project presents a subversive counterpoint to the theme park’s looming magic and American dream, which, for many, is financially inaccessible. I’m a Disney Parks aficionado, but I have a real respect for the harsh, challenging juxtaposition works like this, Randy Moore’s 2013 film Escape from Tomorrow and artist Banksy (see his incredible Dismaland exhibition in 2015) have presented to contrast the glossy perfection. By casting few actual actors in his roles, Baker finds real emotion and vulnerability in his subjects, giving the film a rich documentary style on par with neorealist masterpieces like The Bicycle Thief and Chop Shop.

6) Brigsby Bear

Brigsby Bear is a film that crept up on me out of nowhere in 2017. It’s a small dramedy about a man obsessed with a fictional children’s television program who is forced to confront his obsession when the series abruptly ends (for insane reasons I’ll leave you to discover). The movie stars Kyle Mooney in one of the funniest, most sincere performances of the year. Greg Kinnear and Mark Hamill also shine in what may be the most optimistic film of 2017. At its center, Brigsby Bear is a film exploring how nostalgia shapes us, seen through the ironically uncomplicated worldview of sentimentality.

5) The Big Sick

I’ve been a Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon fan since 2011, when I first started listening to their Indoor Kids podcast. Putting my fandom aside, The Big Sick is hands down the funniest film of 2017 and one of the most heartfelt and genuine. Written by the real life couple and starring Kumail as himself and Zoe Kazan as Emily, the film pushes aside rom-com tropes for storytelling that feels fresh and relevant. Holly Hunter shines, as always, as Emily’s brash tigress of a mother.

4) Okja

Had you told me a film commenting on factory farms would be one of 2017’s most entertaining, I would have laughed. But Bong Joon-ho can do no wrong. In his follow-up to 2013’s Snowpiercer, Okja is one of the most original and energetic films of 2017. The cast is incredible, with treasures of performances from the incomparable Tilda Swinton, Paul Dano and Jake Gyllenhall like you’ve never seen him before. But the heart and soul of the film comes from child actress Ahn Seo-hyun and the CGI superpig Okja. Her performance alongside the stunning effects created for the film present one of the most nuanced and real relationships in any film this decade.

3) Get Out

Leave it to Jordan Peele to redefine the horror genre. Get Out is a masterclass in tension, expertly blending abject terror with a dash of biting satire. In his solo-directorial debut, Peele has taken the cultural comedy he was known for on Key & Peele, and filed it down into his own unique style of horror and wit. Get Out expertly balances its theme of causal and systemic racism with a paradoxical view of white liberal naiveté. The suspense is palpable. At the core of this story, Daniel Kaluuya delivers the best performance of 2017.

2) Blade Runner 2049

The idea of a Blade Runner sequel was scary for fans of the original. Some movies just need to say singular. Would the franchise treatment water down the Ridley Scott classic? With the mastery of director Denis Villeneuve behind the camera, the answer was a loud and clear “no.” Blade Runner 2049 enhances the pulp-noir world and story of Blade Runner, and thanks to cinematographer Roger Deakins, is the most beautiful and awe-inspiring film of 2017. Not a moment passed when this film didn’t entrance me. Science fiction done right should always be engrossing. When a world is as visually, audibly (thanks in part to Hans Zimmer’s wonderful score) and thematically rich as this, it should be celebrated.

1) The Shape of Water

For me, the true measure of a great film is my desire for repeated viewings. The movie I most wanted to revisit again and again in 2017 was Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water. This movie is a dance. Every intricate detail comes from the vision and imagination of a master. Michael Shannon, Doug Jones, Octavia Spencer and Michael Stuhlbarg are incredible, but Sally Hawkins and Richard Jenkins soar. In a year that seemed full of monsters both on screen and off, Guillermo del Toro took his love for cinema’s monsters and weaved a poetic and timeless love story full of hope and beauty.

Honorable Mention: Mother!, It, and Mudbound

Rob’s Best Movies of 2017

10) It

I’m not a big fan of horror, and generally not a big fan of Stephen King horror, so I’ll start here by admitting that I’ve never read the novel on which this movie is based. So going in, It had a lot of things going against it from my perspective. Which is a big part of why I came away so pleased at the end result. The movie succeeds in just about every element: the acting is superb (which isn’t always a given with a very young cast), the script is well done, and, even at over two hours, the movie manages to maintain its intensity. But without a doubt the real gem here is Bill Skarsgård’s truly chilling performance as Pennywise.

9) The Foreigner

Jackie Chan fights the IRA after they murder his daughter in a London bombing. This isn’t a period piece set during the 70s, but rather a modern tale of how terrorism can’t really ever be defeated. Chan’s grieving father and Pierce Brosnan’s scheming politician face off in a drama that maintains its tension throughout and yet does so with real heart. Much more than a standard action flick, and a definite highlight in both men’s careers.

8) The Big Sick

This film starts out as a broad rom-com about a young man struggling to make it as a comic while avoiding the constant string of women his parents try to set him up with. He finally meets the right girl, but she’s white, so he has to hide her from his family. And then, suddenly, she’s gravely ill, and he has to figure out his own feelings for her while dealing with both his parents and hers. Funny and touching, it’s basically impossible to get through this without tears.

7) Get Out

The last couple of years have seen a host of really great horror/thrillers, a tradition maintained by Get Out. Daniel Kaluuya heads up to Long Island to spend a weekend with girlfriend Allison Williams’ parents and figures out very quickly that something is very wrong. But just what this family’s secret is will keep you guessing and on the edge of your seat until the very end. This isn’t a bloody slasher flick, but instead an intelligent, thoughtful take on an age-old story.

6) Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

What lengths will a grieving mother go to in the search for justice for her murdered daughter? In the small town of Ebbing, Missouri, Frances McDormand takes the unusual step of buying space on the titular billboards to call out the beloved local sheriff for what she sees as his failure to investigate the case. What she and the town discover over the following few weeks rocks the town to its core, while bringing McDormand, the sheriff (played by the always fantastic Woody Harrelson) and his racist, alcoholic deputy (Sam Rockwell) on an emotional journey none would expect.

5) Thank You For Your Service

I’m not sure when soldiers returning from war and trying to deal with PTSD became a Hollywood trope, but I am sure that Thank You For Your Service is by far one of the best treatments of the subject. Miles Teller plays a man broken by the war and being slowly destroyed over his guilt who comes home and tries to adjust to civilian life. The story is pretty standard: he struggles with his relationships, his perceptions of what life should be like, all the while trying to help others who came home with him. But what sets Thank You apart from the rest is the performances by Teller, Haley Bennett, and a surprisingly restrained Amy Schumer.

4) Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi

I understand the controversy over The Last Jedi, but to me, it’s everything a Star Wars movie should be. It’s fun and action-packed, with just the right amount of humor. It’s hard for me to talk about all of the things I think Rian Johnson got right here without spoilers, so I’m going to skip the detailed analysis and just sum up why this movie is so high on the list with one simple thing: when the closing credits rolled, I felt about a Star Wars movie the way I haven’t felt since I saw The Return of the Jedi for the first time 35 years ago. And that’s enough for me.

3) Dunkirk

In many ways, it’s surprising that the story of how a bunch of civilians rescued the British and French armies at the outset of World War II hasn’t been told a thousand times on film already. It’s equally surprising that when it finally got told, we got two movies about it. While I enjoyed Darkest Hour and its look at the political machinations in London leading up to the evacuation, the story of the men on the beach was in my eyes the far more powerful telling of the story. While Christopher Nolan shows a surprisingly subtle touch in his direction, and the acting by the likes of Kenneth Branagh and Tom Hardy is great, what really makes the movie special is the stunning cinematography and truly incredible use of sound. Dunkirk is likely to be nominated for more than a few Oscars, and if it does and makes another appearance in theaters, do yourself a favor and go see it there. This is truly a movie that should be seen the way it was meant to, on a big screen.

2) Molly’s Game

I’ve long been a fan of Aaron Sorkin’s writing, but it turns out he’s a pretty darn good director as well. Molly’s Game, based on the autobiographical book of the same name, tells the story of Molly Bloom, a young woman (played brilliantly by Jessica Chastain) who, after seeing her Olympic dreams dashed following an accident on the slopes, defied her overbearing father (Kevin Costner) by moving to LA on her own. There, she stumbles into the world of high-stakes no-limit poker games between the rich and mighty in the city. Her competitive drive takes over and soon enough she’s running the games on her own. The movie is almost entirely told via flashbacks, set around her impending trial after the FBI arrests her, and is mostly told with her revealing her story to her lawyer (Idris Elba). The phenomenal acting by everyone involved, combined with Sorkin’s unparalleled ear for dialog makes this one of the truly great movies of 2017. Now that it is finally in wide release, do yourself a favor and check it out.

1) Lady Bird

There’s no doubt that I went into Lady Bird fully expecting to like it. It was both set and shot in my city of Sacramento (and even includes a scene at a small market down the block from my friend’s apartment, a market I’ve been to countless times.) But Greta Gerwig’s semi-autobiographical ‘love letter to Sacramento’ affected  me much more deeply than I was anticipating. It could be all of the familiar sites. It could be that it’s a coming-of-age story about a teenage girl (Saoirse Ronin) who is smart and capable and oh-so-very much wants to leave Sacramento–something I deal with at home on an almost daily basis. But the movie is also touching and beautiful and incredibly real. I’ll freely admit that I spent most of the movie in tears, but just as freely admit that it was a movie that I wanted to see again almost from the moment I finished seeing it the first time. It’s a movie I recommend to everyone without hesitation. It’s not just the best movie I’ve seen this year, it’s one of the best movies I’ve ever seen. It’s a movie I’ll own as soon as I can and will always cherish.

Honorable Mention: Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle

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