2017 was not a good year. For the world. And you know why.
It was an okay year for movies though.
The year 2017 brought us five new and very different superhero movies (seven if you count LEGO Batman and Power Rangers), a new mainline Star Wars movie that’s good partially because it’s divisive, some really great, deeply emotional indie movies, and… well, that’s the kind of stuff we get every year actually. For all of us sweaty nerds, we are truly living in a wonderland of delights, with movies about ideas and concepts we never thought we’d see on screen. And for you those of you out there bemoaning the current state of the movie industry, you’re not wrong, at least not totally, but you are being willfully blind and dismissive. There are still plenty of great, introspective, emotionally resonant movies out there, and, believe it or not, some of those movies are about superheroes.
I think the one thing that came through most clearly in our culture this past year is hatred. Everybody’s angry. It’s the easiest thing to feel, the most automatic and the easiest to fuel and, right or wrong, that anger manifested itself in the movies too. I found that every time in a movie that I saw a villain on screen, that I felt reference to some sort of evil empire or wax exposed to vision of humanity at its lowest, it was hard not to draw parallels to Donald Trump’s presidency. At the same time, the year’s other biggest story — sex abuse scandals — invaded just about everything we saw in entertainment. And for me, one of the saddest part of how pervasive these abuses have been in Hollywood is that these people, producers, directors, actors, are all storytellers. At their base level, stories show us the way, they give us a sense of morality, and who we should hope to (and not to) be. That these people in power, storytellers all, failed to apply the most basic levels of the stories they’ve been telling to their own lives is something I found incredibly disheartening.
Okay, so maybe it was a bad year for movies too. That doesn’t mean there weren’t a bunch of really great movies to watch this year. Though, quite frankly, I know you’re going to hate a lot of our Top 10 picks this year.
Our Top 10 Movies of 2017
Not a great movie certainly and maybe not even a very good one, with some glaring flaws very easy to pick out. But damn did we ever love seeing the Justice League on the big screen anyway. I mean Superman fighting the Justice League? Come on! Read our review >>
The story of how Ray Croc (Michael Keaton) essentially stole the McDonald’s concept out from under founders Dick and Mac McDonald isn’t shocking or traumatic so much as it is energetic and magnetic and absolutely worth your time. Read our review >>
Sparse. Delicate. Complex. Intentional. Everything about Columbus, like the architecture that its central characters spend the film admiring, felt specific and necessary, and only what was needed to tell the right kind of story. It’s far from a movie we would expect everyone to like though.
The Big Sick
A strange, almost reversed look at the real-life story of comedian/actor Kumail Nanjiani’s courtship of his now-wife, Emily V. Gordon. Come for the meet-cute and cultural clashes of Kumail and Emily’s relationship, stay for the coma Emily quickly falls into and how weird and ultimately winning it is to see Kumail win over his girlfriend’s parents he ever really won her over. And it’s pretty funny.
A near-perfect relaunch of a superhero who’s had too many relaunches, Spider-Man: Homecoming is pound for pound the best, most balanced, and most fun superhero movie of the year. Which is funny, because it’s also, technically, we gave the lowest grade to this year. Our bad. Read our review >>
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
A very interesting Star Wars movie, though one traditionalists probably aren’t going to like. Through Rey and Kylo, it follows a very different path than those followed by Luke and Anakin/Darth Vader (spoilers?) before them, and it doesn’t go where you’re expecting. That this type of subversion is happening in a Star Wars movie is almost insane. And important. Review coming next week!
Witty, insightful, heartfelt, and almost perfect. If only its experiences reflect our own a little bit more it might be even higher on this list.
Blade Runner 2049
Another sci-fi sequel movie that’s way too long and subverts expectations that we loved? You got it! Blade Runner 2049 fulfills the promise inherent in the core concept and eclipses the original in every sense, asking progressive, thought-provoking questions that will stay with you. And the blade-running action is actually good in this one too. Read our review >>
Strange, affecting, delightful, and delivering a powerful message about acceptance, Brigsby Bear is the movie that left us . It’s also kind of a movie about a make-believe bear. Review coming soon
Split is actually the first new movie we saw in 2017. Back then it grabbed the top spot by default, but it managed to hold on to the number one for the entire year that followed. Split’s a decent enough movie overall, probably top 15 in an average year, but its ending literally changes everything, and it’s that ending moment, when you realize what’s really happening, that was the biggest single thrill we had this entire year at the movies. Read our review >>
At the end of the day, Wonder Woman is probably the best superhero movie of the year, the most sensitive, and the most capable of inspiring. The No Man’s Land scene alone holds more power and emotional weight than almost any other onscreen depiction of a superhero that’s come before, and it’s followed by really great action scene with more artistry than it gets credit for. But that third act… Read our review >>
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 hit us hard and fast back in May, and it was the first movie of 2017 we gave a 4.5 star rating, but it’s slipped since then. Still really good, just not top 10. And still better than the original. Read our review >>
Movie perfection… for its first half hour. From there the rest of the movie gets a lot more pedestrian than we’d like for a movie about crazy stunt driving. Read our review >>
An emotionally understanding and complex movie about personal growth and teamwork, and to this day we swear this is a far, far better movie than everyone’s giving it credit for. Read our review >>
The worst movie we saw in 2017
Transformers: The Last Knight
We had every intention of writing a Transformers: The Last Knight review, but we couldn’t get it to work. Just too much negativity. Dizzyingly, sickeningly unsteady, stupid, and very often directly insulting towards the whole of humanity. And even if you’re willing to overlook all of that in the name of explosions and widescreen “Bayhem”, we still can’t follow what’s going on in most of director Michael Bay’s action scenes. Just monstrously bad.
The one 2017 movie we couldn’t sit through
The Mountain Between Us
We got a bad feeling about a third of the way in to The Mountain Between Us. By the time we saw it the movie had already been out for a while, which meant we were watching at home, so we decided to confirm our suspicions about where the movie was going by reading its Wikipedia plot synopsis. And it was going exactly where we thought it was going. And that wasn’t a movie we wanted to see.
The most over-rated movies of 2017
The Florida Project
It’s good and hard and truthful to a certain aspect of modern society, but the characters in The Florida Project really bugged us. I see enough of that kind of irresponsibility in real life, I don’t want to see those types of people in my movies.
Again, good movie, but we think people give it more credit than it’s due just because it doesn’t feel like a superhero movie. It still has its problems. Read our review >>
To be clear, none of the movies in this section are bad, they just didn’t move the needle for us the way they did others. Wind River picked up a lot of acclaim in its release towards the end of August, but it struck us as merely a decent movie. It’s also telling that its two main female indigenous roles aren’t played by people with much in the way of indigenous blood.
The most under-rated movies of 2017
A lot of people wrote Atomic Blonde off as simply the female, John-Wick lite movie, but it’s easily better than both John Wick movies. It’s got better action, a much more engaging and vulnerable lead, a far more coherent story, and it benefits greatly by not focusing just on the titular Atomic Blonde herself.
It’s a movie. It’s got an intriguing backstory and charismatic lead actors. It’s fine. Stop bandwagon-ing this movie as awful just because it doesn’t go where you want it to go or reach higher than it should. It’s fine.
The original Trainspotting was a cultural landmark in the mid-‘90s, a game changer, and a career maker for many of those involved. So why didn’t anyone see it? Why aren’t people talking about it? Why do a lot of people not even know there was a sequel? It’s better than the first in a lot of ways! What happened?
The 2017 movies we missed but meant to see
- All the Money in the World
- Molly’s Game
- My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea
The 2017 movies we did see but wish we hadn’t
- Ghost in the Shell
- The Mummy
Movies that missed our deadline for 2017 Top 10 consideration
- Call Me By Your Name
- I, Tonya
And all the other movies we saw in 2017
- American Made
- Battle of the Sexes
- Before I Fall
- The Belko Experiment
- Blade of the Immortal
- The Book of Henry
- Brawl in Cell Block 99
- The Dark Tower
- The Disaster Artist
- The Fate of the Furious
- The Foreigner
- Free Fire
- Get Out
- Ghost in the Shell
- A Ghost Story
- Good Time
- The Great Wall
- Hidden Figures
- An Inconvenient Sequel
- Ingrid Goes West
- It Comes at Night
- John Wick: Chapter 2
- The Killing of a Sacred Deer
- King Arthur: Legend of the Sword
- Kingsman: The Golden Circle
- Kong: Skull Island
- The LEGO Batman Movie
- The Little Hours
- Logan Lucky
- The Lost City of Z
- The Lovers
- A Monster Calls
- Murder on the Orient Express
- Professor Marston & The Wonder Women
- The Red Turtle
- The Shape of Water
- Thor: Ragnarok
- Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
- Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets
- War for the Planet of the Apes
- Win It All
- Your Name. (Kimi no Na wa)
The summation of an entire year’s worth of movies and all the accompanying baggage that can come with it is a sometimes exhausting work, but it’s also cathartic if not revelatory in the end. If I’m being truly honest, it’s a real pleasure on our part that we’ve gotten to bring this thing to you guys every year since this blog started. Not that there’s anything you could do to stop us. I mean, I don’t think we say anything very controversial. It’s not like we’re enjoying the benefits of a corrupt system and need to be taken down a peg. And we’re not doing anything directly evil. And it’s not like you know where any of us live. Right? Right?
The last thing I’ll add about 2017 is that, with all of the chaos and turmoil, it’s clear that many of us are angry and that the hopes we’ve had and dreams we’ve been promised are looking less and less likely to come true. But that doesn’t mean we stop trying. We won’t all become the people we were born to be, we can’t all turn the tide of a losing battle, we’re not all going to be champions. But I guarantee you we — each one of us — can do better.
Editor at Large
(Whatever that means)