The Top 20 Films of 2017
Through the collective efforts of nearly 20 million rankings throughout the year among the hundreds of thousands of Flickchart users, we have established the top 20 films of the year. Our bloggers will describe why each film has earned its place among the year’s best.
Remember – this is NOT just the bloggers’ picks – this is the combined result of your rankings, our rankings, and each and every Flickcharter’s rankings all over the world aggregated together to form the complete chart of the highest ranked, most-loved, and best movies of 2017.
Out of 967 total movies released in 2017, as of today, here are your current picks for the Top 20 of 2017…
To call The Room simply a guilty pleasure, or a midnight movie, or “the Citizen Kane of bad movies” does a disservice to one of the most confounding films of all time. As several celebrity admirers state at the beginning of The Disaster Artist, some of the greatest directors of our generation could never make a film like The Room. It’s not good, but it’s not garbage, it’s a complete mental restructuring of what makes a film successful and worthwhile. Yet it’s not the film itself that has made The Room a new cult classic, but the culture and spirit around it. The Room is an experience unlike any other trip to the movies, filled with people playing football in tuxedos and throwing plastic spoons at the screen. Plus, it is an unusual trip into the mind of Tommy Wiseau, a man of unknown origins and wealth, and who is possibly a vampire or alien.
The Disaster Artist doesn’t attempt to reconsider The Room as an unheralded masterpiece, or Wiseau as the Ed Wood of a new generation. Instead, The Disaster Artist wisely tells a story of ambition and dedication, and the joy that viewing a film like The Room can give. Director and star James Franco showcases the unbridled adoration for The Room and tells the equally insane true story of the making of The Room with care and consideration for Wiseau and the people within, never blatantly making fun of Wiseau, but also never hiding the ridiculousness of his endeavor. The unexpected success of The Room and Wiseau’s rise to popularity through his film is far more fascinating than anything Wiseau could’ve written, and The Disaster Artist taps into the beauty of what The Room actually means to its audiences. – Ross Bonaime
In the past, Pixar has explored the depths of the ocean, the intricacies of French cuisine, and even the inner workings of the human mind. In their latest film, Coco, they take us on a journey through Mexican culture and the traditions related to El Día de los Muertos (The Day of the Dead.) It tells the story of a young boy who has a passion for music, despite the fact that his family has banned all music from their home. It’s a plot that takes some interesting twists and doesn’t resolve quite as you’d expect.
The world created by the animators at Pixar is stunning to look at and the visual magic felt when we are ushered into the Land of the Dead is one of a kind. There is also a great deal of excitement added to Coco through the music (written partially by the Oscar-winning duo behind Frozen), which ranges from emotional to playful and will leave you humming for hours after the film. Coco also features a wonderful voice cast of Latino actors who all work to create characters with unique personalities. And, of course, Pixar won’t let you leave the theater without shedding a few tears with a story that rivals Up‘s legendary opening sequence. Coco utilizes the backdrop of the Day of the Dead to focus in on the importance of family, and it delivers that theme with both humor and drama to entertain audiences young and old. – Ben Lott
18. Wind River
Building off their easy but little-explored chemistry in two Avengers movies, Wind River re-teams Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen as a veteran FWS agent and a rookie FBI agent (respectively) investigating the frozen body of a young woman on the Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming. Renner does the usual laconic-man-of-integrity thing while Olsen does the usual ingenue-with-moxie thing, but to be honest, I’m totally okay with that dynamic when it works well.
Wind River is the third installment in lauded writer Taylor Sheridan’s loose trilogy of films exploring life on the fringes of the law in the American West (including Sicario and Hell or High Water). Sheridan also directs this time, and he shows that he has as patient and skilled a captain’s hand as Denis Villeneuve or David Mackenzie. Highlighting the shocking number of cases of missing women that go uninvestigated on tribal lands, and co-starring Oneida actor Graham Greene and Comanche actor Gil Birmingham, Wind River is the rare “issue” film that is also just a damn good slow-boil thriller. – Tom Kapr
Martin McDonagh‘s films have often seemed as quintessentially Irish to me as his plays. Even Seven Psychopaths, which primarily starred American actors, seemed grounded in an Irish cadence thanks to Colin Farrell‘s lead role. Here, McDonagh settles firmly in the American Midwest, and yet his characters’ dialogue never feels stilted or unnatural, largely thanks to some incredible acting from the cast. Frances McDormand turns in an Oscar-worthy performance as a woman so full of rage you can almost see it pouring out of her, even when (or maybe especially when) she’s just staring in silence.
There are fewer laughs here than we’ve come to expect of McDonagh’s work, or maybe it’s just that it’s difficult to laugh at all because McDormand’s pain is so palpable, not to mention the toll taken by the physical fatigue of her almost boundless hatred of Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell‘s characters. But there is hope in this story: hope that there will be healing, though it is painful and slow; that people are capable of change, though nobody may recognize it; and that justice may even be possible, though not in the way we hoped. The film asks its audience to sit with the characters in their pain and brings both out the other side, perhaps a little shaken but also oddly inspired. – Hannah Keefer
Synergy is something Hollywood loves, and what better way than to make a movie featuring the world’s most popular superhero and the world’s most popular brand of interconnecting toy bricks? Batman was the breakout character in the original The Lego Movie in 2014, so his own spinoff movie was the next logical step, and it did not disappoint. In a year that audiences rejected Ben Affleck’s Batman, they embraced Will Arnett’s. His smooth growl perfectly suited the comedic sensibilities of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, though they are only producers this time.
Director Chris McKay and a host of other writers have admirably transplanted the vision that made the original Lego Movie sing. Jokes and pop culture references fly off the screen, but the movie knows that manic pacing is not always the key to comedy gold — one of the film’s funniest moments involves Batman sitting in a boat in the harbor of his bat cave, slowly eating a lobster as the crunches echo through the space. The supporting cast includes Zach Galifianakis as the Joker, Michael Cera as Robin, Rosario Dawson as Barbara Gordon, and a bunch of surprise inclusions from the vault of Warner Brothers intellectual property that continue the fourth-wall-breaking mentality of the series. The lackluster reception for The Lego Ninjago Movie later in the year demonstrates that not anything with Legos and self-referential jokes will be a hit, making The Lego Batman Movie look even better in comparison. – Derek Armstrong
15. Lady Bird
Through her work in films such as Frances Ha and 20th Century Women, Greta Gerwig has cornered the market in relatable youthful fear, that if played wrong could easily come off as merely quirky. In Lady Bird, her first film as solo director, Gerwig plays to her strengths with an accuracy and specificity beyond that attained by other directors of her work. Gerwig takes what could’ve been a fairly typical coming-of-age story and makes it lived in, honest, and real. There’s not a moment within Lady Bird that feels false, or rather, that didn’t in some way happen to Gerwig herself. The eponymous performance by Saoirse Ronan feels straight out of the early 2000s, yet without any winking self-awareness, and with an effortless simplicity that proves Ronan as one of the best young actors working today. As a debut feature, Lady Bird is a multilayered and realistic portrayal of its people, place, and era, self-assured and beautiful in its intricacies, characters, and tiny details. In the film, Lady Bird has a penchant for greatest hits albums because “they’re the greatest,” and with just one film under her belt, Gerwig has already made a film that feels like the greatest. – Ross Bonaime
“Somebody, please: Get this man a gun.”
Any action junkie who was lucky enough to see John Wick in 2014 knew they had seen something special, and if they were like me, they were chomping at the bit for a sequel. John Wick: Chapter 2 does what all good sequels should: it expands the mythos, widens the scope, raises the stakes, and yet never loses sight of what made the original special. Of course, we aren’t talking The Empire Strikes Back or The Godfather Part II here, but neither is this Speed 2: Cruise Control. John Wick: Chapter 2 only loses points in comparison to its predecessor by way of not coming first. This time around, the action goes global, with the catacomb shootout in Rome a highlight. Chapter 2 ends with a stronger promise of more to come, and while John himself may lament the fact that he can’t escape the life of an assassin, his fans should be more than pleased that his trials will continue. – Nigel Druitt
I was quite skeptical when I read that Andy Muschietti was taking the helm for the new adaptation of one of my favorite Stephen King novels/mini-series – It. With only a handful of titles to his name, the most notable being 2013’s Mama, I was worried my sweet, sweet Pennywise was doomed to mediocre horrorland. However, quicker than the deadlights could sweep over me, I was transported to Derry and could barely come up for air during the 2 hour and 15 minute runtime. Part One covers the lives of the seven members of the Loser’s Club as children as they work through their loves and losses, their friendships, families, bullies (of the human kind), and early teen growing pains; all are painfully realized by a stellar cast of generally unknown kids. Pennywise (beautifully brought to life by Bill Skarsgård) glows while he is on screen, utilizing his baby-faced freshness to make his appearances even more nightmare-inducing, while not solely relying on overused jump scares and CGI (those are his eyes moving!) While not the scariest King adaptation to hit the screens, It is one of the most real, and I have to give a special shout out to Finn Wolfhard and the writing team for Richie’s brilliant injections of humor that had me in tears.
It ended up being not only the biggest September debut and the largest opening for a horror film, but also the best selling horror film in history, coming in with worldwide grosses of $698,060,882. There’s no need to compare It to the original, nor is there a need to forget the original exists, but this crawled out of the sewers of Derry and straight to the top echelons of all-time horror charts. I happily admit that I was wrong, dead wrong, about how this film would turn out. Beep beep.- Becky Hicks
War for the Planet of the Apes is not only a great addition to the Apes saga, but it is also a great film. It doesn’t feel like franchise bubblegum, like most similar blockbusters out now: the sort of movie you enjoy watching, but after it ends you feel empty and hunger for more, just like chewing bubblegum. It feels like a real film, like these types of movies used to, and that alone is worth celebrating. Every character is well written. You care for the main characters, and the main villain. They are all real people, or apes. The structure of the story, the cinematography, the old school film score, editing, top notch motion capture CGI — everything works! It respects its mythology, it respects its fans, and is not afraid to stand on its own feet for new viewers. – Rafa El
11. The Big Sick
The Big Sick is an almost autobiographical film about the two script writers, Kumail Nanjiani and Emily Gordon. It deftly walks the line between comedy and drama, and is overflowing with heart, so that you don’t always know whether you’re crying from laughter or an emotional moment. The story centers around Kumail, a stand-up comic from Pakistan, who falls in love with a white girl despite the efforts of his traditional parents to arrange a match within the Pakistani expatriate community. This may sound a bit pat, but just when you have The Big Sick figured out, it takes an unexpected turn and becomes something more powerful than you’d ever anticipate.
Nanjiani stars as himself, and uses his well-honed comedic timing to cut through some of the tension with a laugh. Zoe Kazan stands in for Emily and has great rapport with Kumail, as well as holding her own with some humorous quips. The movie boasts an amazing supporting cast including Holly Hunter and Ray Romano as Emily’s parents. The way the characters are introduced is smart, and their revolving/evolving relationship with Kumail is fascinating to watch and bolstered by impactful dialogue. It’s also impressive how the story manages to both honor and question certain elements of Pakistani culture. It is one of the best romantic comedies in decades, and easily among the most poignant because it is based on a true story. – Ben Lott
10. Wonder Woman
On paper, Wonder Woman was a huge risk. DC’s attempts to match the Marvel Cinematic Universe were floundering, at least on a critical level, after the mixed bag of Man of Steel and the dubiously received Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad. Hollywood traditionally shies away from big-budget tentpoles with female leads (Marvel has yet to release one), star Gal Gadot was largely an unknown quantity, and director Patty Jenkins’ only other feature was 2003’s Monster, hardly a blockbuster action film. Yet Wonder Woman did what I thought was impossible: it brought heroic idealism back to the DC Cinematic Universe and did so with such heart and gusto that, despite a third act descent into overly bombastic silliness, the film holds easily as my favorite of the year.
Diana’s physical power, though prodigious, is here treated as only one aspect to her heroism, and a less important aspect than her empathy and true goodness. These qualities help make the film feel like more than a stepping stone to Justice League and reminds us what it truly means to be a hero, and why heroism matters even in a world that seems hell-bent on destroying itself. As a woman, the importance of this film treating its female hero the way it does — with respect that’s assumed rather than begrudged, and that values her empathy as much as her strength — cannot be underestimated. Most everyone agrees that the “no man’s land” sequence is a standout of the year, but for women, it’s more than that; it’s a defining moment in our experience of popular film. It’s a moment we didn’t realize we had been waiting our whole lives to see. – Jandy Hardesty
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is a paragon of inevitability. Where the first entry of this sub-franchise within the Marvel Cinematic Universe was one of the bigger risks the studio has taken — throwing a big budget and D-list names from the comic books at an off-beat director — Vol. 2 was anticipated, expected, even demanded from the moment of the first film’s release. Even the title was a foregone conclusion when Star-Lord’s “Awesome Mix” sold a bazillion copies. “Obviously,” stated this sequel’s teaser poster, and yes, it’s a lot more of the same: Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) plays catchy, 40-year-old songs; Drax (Dave Bautista) gets all the best one-liners; Groot (Vin Diesel) steals the show. Yet Guardians Vol. 2 earns its place as one of the better MCU movies through something almost entirely unexpected. It would be a big spoiler to spell it out here, but let’s just say this movie had the gumption to do something that no other Marvel Stuidos film has at the courage to do yet. As such, it sticks a stronger, more emotionally resonant ending, and becomes all the more endearing for it. – Nigel Druitt
Thanks to some legal wrangling by the suits over at Disney and Sony, Spider-Man finally came home to the Marvel Cinematic Universe and made a splash during his limited screen time in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War. Tom Holland reprises his role as Peter Parker in the appropriately titled Spider-Man: Homecoming, which takes place a year after Civil War, and sees Spider-Man swing around Queens, tackling bike thieves, helping old ladies, getting into arguments with other New Yorkers, and finding himself waist deep in a black market weapons conspiracy. This is the sixth Spidey film since 2002 and the third attempt at a franchise. But, after the lackluster and overstuffed Amazing Spider-Man 2, Sony worked with Marvel Studios to bring us a scaled-back Spidey.
Homecoming focuses on Peter Parker’s development as a hero and placement in the world, utilizing elements of John Hughes’ 80s teen comedies to bring him into the ever-growing MCU. Marvel must have been listening to the criticisms about weak villains, because between this and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, they have finally put forth some intriguing bad guys. Michael Keaton’s Vulture was a huge surprise, since in the comics the character is pretty one-dimensional. Keaton brings a lot of intensity to the part, and makes Vulture a relatable character too. What can you say about Tom Holland’s performance as Peter Parker/Spider-Man? He continues to shine with a great amount of earnestness and awkwardness that gets to the heart of why people love this character. This time around, though, we are also treated to an interesting mentor/protege (but more like a father/son) dynamic between Spidey and Iron Man. It’s great to see these two characters interact, and depending on how the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War pans out, hopefully we’ll see more of it. – Nick Jones
I was somewhat disappointed when I learned Christopher Nolan‘s next project was going to be a historical war film – not because I wasn’t interested or didn’t think he’d make a good movie, but because I had come to look to his (non-Batman) films for stories that played with the concepts of reality and led me through a labyrinth of surprising and satisfying twists, turns, double-backs, and doors you didn’t know were there. This has become Nolan’s trademark, bending time to his narrative will, and he has used it to great and surprisingly varied effect in films such as Memento, The Prestige, Inception, and Interstellar. The war film genre, in contrast to all this, is fairly straightforward.
Leave it to Nolan to take a straightforward genre and craft a film that plays with the concept of time and leads viewers through a labyrinth of surprising and satisfying twists and turns while never betraying its foundation in historical reality. Dunkirk is about the miraculous evacuation of more than 300,000 men across the English Channel from their besieged position on the northern coast of France during the second year of World War II. It is told in three parts that play out simultaneously, though one story takes place over the course an hour, one takes place over the course of a day, and one takes place over the course of a week. The difference is in the perspective of the characters, and though Nolan basically tells you this in the introductory scenes, it takes a little while for what he’s telling you to sink in. That realization took me about 30 or 45 minutes, but when it hit me it was a mental light flicking on akin to navigating dreamscapes or traveling across the far reaches of space, and it was then I knew I was not just in a great war film, but a Christopher Nolan film too. – Tom Kapr
If the example of Edgar Wright on Ant-Man was any indication, directors with a distinct vision were not supposed to be able to get a foothold in the MCU. Enter Kiwi director Taika Waititi, perhaps Marvel’s unlikeliest choice in a string of unlikely choices, who took the otherwise underwhelmingly-anticipated third Thor movie and made it a blast-and-a-half. Injecting a heavy dose of his good-natured deadpan humor, most notably in the character Korg that he voices, Waititi takes the absurdity of the Thor franchise and pushes it to the forefront.
Series regulars Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston give their most relaxed and fun performances under the assured hand of their director, who also delivers a special effects spectacle on par with anything in Hollywood today. The film struts to Led Zeppelin as Thor, the Hulk, Loki, an awesome drunken badass named Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), and a host of other friends and foes blaze a trail from Asgard to Earth and everywhere in between. Cate Blanchett even shows up as a villain with a headdress that looks like a deer’s antlers, chewing scenery perfectly in-sync with her co-stars and the concept Waititi has for his whole funky creation. Thor: Ragnarok revels in outlandish silliness, yet also finds a way to squeeze in some shocking developments and “permanent” scars that manage to give it a bit of gravitas. This movie doubles down on what we love about the MCU, and its success provides ample evidence that we still love it. – Derek Armstrong
Arguably, the hardest film to make a good one of, is a sequel. Attach onto that the baggage of forty years of cultural footprints that is the Star Wars juggernaut. Then, attach the expectations of a multibillion-dollar conglomerate eager to make their next billion. Put those all onto the shoulders of a guy in his mid-forties from USC with a few successful films all under $30M in budget.
Then be surprised that not only is it highly successful, eager to upend all expectations, but also delivers the most visually spectacular film in the franchise since 1983. Or maybe we shouldn’t be surprised when Disney has the faith and foresight to hire someone with vision and allows them the flexibility to tell their story with the support of the greatest talents the entire film industry has to offer.
As a lifelong fan of Star Wars, I’ve been waiting for the return to the magic that exists in the original trilogy. This one gives it to you, just maybe not in the way you’d expect, and for that we should be thankful. We shouldn’t want what we expect. Instead, we should expect to be surprised. That might be the most powerful thing about The Last Jedi: large corporate machines can take chances and still be entertaining, creative, critically successful, and profitable. As the audience, we should only be so lucky. – Nathan Chase
4. Get Out
Get Out might be one of the biggest surprises of 2017, sneaking onto the scene in February before excelling at the box office and still receiving accolades come awards season. Jordan Peele, previously known for his comedic work, crafted one of the most effective thrillers in years. Peele does include some laughs, but this movie is not a comedy, and is instead a satirical horror story about the subtle and subversive ways that racism still exists in our world. A superb cast of popular character actors and lesser-known actors do some of their best work here, and Daniel Kaluuya proves he deserves more leading roles. Every beat of the film is filled with tension, and it’s clear that Peele thought through even the most minute details. From music to dialogue to set design, there are many little touches in Get Out that play to the theme in clever ways and pay homage to classic horror films. This makes for an experience that rises above the typical mystery with a twist, and is even more impactful when you watch it again a second time and put all the pieces together. – Ben Lott
3. Baby Driver
From the opening guitar riffs of Bellbottoms, you knew you were in for a treat. The electric distortion roars along with the engine of the red hot sports car that protagonist Baby (Ansel Elgort) sits in before he takes off and begins the thrilling opening action sequence. Director-writer Edgar Wright‘s newest film, Baby Driver, is his celebration of everything American after a career of films that are distinctly British in flavor. There are fast cars, a classic young love romance, and an awesome soundtrack composed of a great collection of pop, rock, and jam hits both old and new. As directors continue to experiment with music in cinema, Wright ups the ante and makes the music a character of the film more than ever. Watch any behind the scenes feature and you’ll see how meticulously the editing and blocking were timed to his song choices. This gives Baby Driver fantastic rhythm and pacing and it never loses a step. Some character arcs may feel short or cheap, but this only adds to the American fairy tale tone that Wright aims for, and with a supporting cast full of talented performances (Jamie Foxx and Jon Hamm are both highlights), it’s hard to care if they’re not entirely believable. In a world dominated by comic book blockbusters and endless sequels, Baby Driver stands as a truly original action film. – Connor Adamson
The X-Men (read: Wolverine) films have been a mixed bag, ranging from the excellent X2 and Deadpool to the abysmal The Last Stand and Apocalypse. Logan fortunately stands in the former group, and was a solid hit among critics, fans, and Flickcharters alike. Hugh Jackman returns for his final(?) appearance as Wolverine and gives the character justice in this R-rated outing with no holds (or claws) barred. While Wolverine struggles with his failing healing ability and caring for an aging Professor X (Patrick Stewart), he is asked by a nurse to protect a young mutant, Laura (Dafne Keen). She’s a girl, also with claws, trying to survive in a world no longer friendly to mutants. While Logan would like nothing more than just to give up and hopefully die someday, he is persuaded to take Laura to a supposed haven where mutants might be safe. Hugh Jackman and the rest of the cast deliver fantastic performances. Each character’s arc is developed and has a satisfying conclusion. This is one of the more emotional X-Men outings, but don’t think that robs the film of some sweet, sweet Wolverine action. This film is a treat, and if you haven’t checked out the “Noir” version, I highly recommend it. – Andrew Kendall
Audiences weren’t exactly clamoring for a sequel to Blade Runner, but if we could have envisioned it in the hands of director Denis Villeneuve and cinematographer Roger Deakins, maybe we would have been. When you consider how many ways sequels to beloved properties can and often do go wrong, Blade Runner 2049 looks like a minor miracle. It expands on the universe created by Ridley Scott and Philip K. Dick while crafting a compelling, beautiful, and ambitious sci-fi thriller that reverses some of the questions from the first Blade Runner while pressing forward into bold new territory. Where Scott’s film was a thinly-plotted neo-noir set in a dirty neon future, Villeneuve’s is a sprawling, patient procedural, more mature than Prisoners and more muscular than the maudlin Arrival.
Ryan Gosling makes an ideal leading man here: perfectly imperfect, charismatically cold. He inhabits a lonely dystopian world in which people connect more with technology than with each other (catch: some of the people are technology). Harrison Ford also returns to another of his career-defining roles (following The Force Awakens a couple of years ago and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull safely buried under a decade of memories) and gives a wounded supporting performance that will undoubtedly be among the year’s most overlooked. Yet it’s the dazzling production design and rich, colorful cinematic choices that will live in the viewer’s mind long after the final shot. The moody score reminiscent of Vangelis’ 80’s original isn’t bad either. With a relatively weak audience turnout but a #1 spot on the Flickchart global chart for 2017, Blade Runner 2049 may be something like its sleeper hit predecessor: a science fiction juggernaut that’s almost too good for multiplexes. – Daniel Stidham
Though the year’s top 20 films represent the best according to the users of Flickchart, many of our bloggers have favorites not represented in the top 20. Check out some of the year’s other films that are worth a look according to our writers!
Digital technology allows filmmakers to conjure supernatural creatures in increasingly sophisticated ways, like director David Lowery did with 2016’s Pete’s Dragon. In 2017, Lowery got up to something a lot more analog, which probably sounded like a joke when most people first heard the concept. A Ghost Story is Lowery’s contemplation on the state of purgatory in which a soul finds itself after death, but his ghost is like something you’d see on Halloween; essentially, it’s a glorified sheet with two holes for eyes. Casey Affleck walks around in that sheet, unseen for the balance of the movie, watching Rooney Mara as she mourns him. And then, when she eventually moves on with her life, he continues to watch the future occupants of the house, haunting it in ways more and less demonstrative, searching for some kind of resolution that will allow him to pass on to the next plane of existence.
Lowery also departs from his simple setup in profound ways that shouldn’t be spoiled. Dialogue is an afterthought in this moody consideration of the core human desire to leave a mark on the people you shared life’s journey with, and the world in which you journeyed. It wrestles with the way time moves for us, hours sometimes seeming to take an eternity, years sometimes flashing by in instants. It’s about the futile attempt to assign meaning and permanence to something as essentially ephemeral as human existence, but neither is it despairing about the ponderous realities it explores. It’s one of the most unusual, one of the most creative, and one of the very best films of 2017. – Derek Armstrong
mother! is easily the most insane film put out by a major studio in 2017. Part Luis Bunuelian nightmare, part what you’d expect from writer-director Darren Aronofsky, mother! is a confounding experience from beginning to end, and one of the rare films where the audience can have no idea what’s coming next. Half the fun of mother! has simply been the discussions that arise around what the hell mother! is even about. Is it a parable about the muse-creator relationship? A retelling of the entire Bible in one house? Maybe a warning about the dangers of global warming? It could even just be about how horrible it is to remodel a house. But no matter your interpretation, there wasn’t an experience at the cinema this year quite like mother! – Ross Bonaime
American Made is my favorite kind of biopic: it’s all kinds of fun and leaves me shaking my head in disbelief at every outlandish twist. Please, nobody tell me how “historically accurate” this film is, because even if it isn’t, I want to believe that Barry Seal’s life really was this crazy. In a decade known for its excesses, the tale of the former airline pilot who makes it big as a CIA spy and drug runner (at the same time) is definitely one that cries, “You can’t make this stuff up.” Tom Cruise is at his charismatic best, a perfect fit for Seal, and Doug Liman’s direction keeps the story hopping. After this one and Edge of Tomorrow, I can’t wait to see Cruise and Liman team up again. – Nigel Druitt
Though Pixar is widely regarded as among the finest purveyors of animated entertainment that’s pleasing to both children and adults, their Cars franchise is much maligned (outside of the young kid set, who love it – trust me, I have a four-year-old who chooses a Cars movie 80% of the time she picks what to watch.) I’ve never disliked it, and actually enjoy the series a lot, so I went into Cars 3 hopeful. I wasn’t disappointed!
In this entry, Lightning McQueen is challenged by the next generation of supercharged racers, and finds himself with a state-of-the-art facility and training staff to get him back on his wheels after a bad crash. But while this sounds like it’ll be a story of a comeback success, it’s actually about the changing of the guard in a positive way, and the fulfillment of becoming a mentor. The film runs a little long, especially considering its core audience, but the message is unusual and great. I really appreciated that the series my daughter loves, which has been quite male-centric to this point, put a female-personified car front and center. – Jandy Hardesty
How do you remake a classic? A top-notch cast doesn’t hurt. Emma Watson is the perfect Belle: smart, lovely, brave, and with a great fondness for books. There’s not one role miscast, from Ewan McGregor’s Lumière to Dan Stevens as the romantic (and beastly) lead. Luke Evans in particular steals the show with Gaston, both egotistically charming and devilishly rotten to the core. The production is amazing, with gorgeous sets and rich colors as well as some truly spectacular musical numbers. From Be Our Guest all the way to the final transformation, you never feel like the movie is forced to be any less magical or sumptuous because it isn’t animated. It fleshes out questions left behind by the cartoon (Why do the villagers never wonder what happened to the castle? Why does the fairy curse the entire waitstaff?) and gives a new peek into the past of several beloved characters while adding enjoyable new songs.
Some people may not see the point of remaking Beauty and the Beast in the first place, as the 1991 version is one of Disney’s greats. But for me, the live action version embodies everything I loved about fairy tales as a child: it’s magical, it’s romantic, it’s beautiful, and it has a strong message. Watching it takes me back into that world of fairies, true love, happy endings, and standing for what is right. I’ve heard it said that what you read as a child becomes a part of you. Watching Beauty and the Beast takes me back to what I read as a child, and reminds me of important parts of myself and what I believe, while taking me somewhere enchanted. – Naomi Laeuchli
You don’t go to a Guillermo del Toro movie for subtlety. The line between good and bad in The Shape of Water is as rigid as H20 is fluid. Michael Shannon is the hypocritical, taunting, mangled personification of the military-industrial complex — he’s bad, mkay? — while the mute Sally Hawkins, her starving artist roommate played by Richard Jenkins, and her loyal coworker portrayed by Octavia Spencer are good; they just are. They’re simple types, plain to the point of parody. But if del Toro has never cared less about his flesh-bound figures, he may have never cared more about his fantastical creatures, and they’re the reason you do go to his movies. I really should say creature, singular, because in contrast to the macabre ghoul’s gallery of Pan’s Labyrinth or the multitude of ghosts in Crimson Peak, the “monster” here is, as far as we see, sui generis. Played by frequent del Toro collaborator Doug Jones, the realistic Creature From the Black Lagoon-esque fishman with a face reminiscent of a luchador mask is never a thing to be feared, despite a couple of offhanded jump scares at the outset. By not disguising his sympathies for the beast, del Toro is free to humanize it in bold and surprising ways. Spoiler alert: who could have predicted a 1940s song-and-dance number in the middle of a 21st-century revisionist creature feature? And who could have guessed how far the movie would go in depicting the fishman’s sexuality? In between these moments of artistic brilliance, don’t let the movie’s obvious foreshadowing and paint-by-numbers character arcs lull you into lazy viewing: del Toro weaves a thread of sly references to the large and often-overlooked world of classic Mexican cinema that adds a new dimension of thematic meaning to the film, making The Shape of Water an allegory that’s far more specific than its characters. – David Conrad
Director Sean Baker‘s (Tangerine) newest film, The Florida Project, seems predestined to leave normal movie-goers saying “What?” if it gets any type of Oscar nomination. Sadly, the film received very little distribution, and I only managed to catch it on the final day of its run in my local arthouse theater. But I’m very happy I did, as The Florida Project remains my favorite film of the year. Baker artfully tackles American poverty today by focusing on a group of poor tenants who live in motels in Orlando right outside Disney World. This juxtaposition between the magic and dreams of Disney and the stark realities many people face is masterfully done, right up to the controversial ending sequence. The Florida Project is host to some superb performances from Willem Dafoe as well as Valeria Cotto and fantastic child actress Brooklynn Prince. Their performances cement you in the characters and keep you riveted as you watch their lives play out. There are some truly heartbreaking moments captured in powerful close-up shots, but the true power of the film is its ability to make you question right and wrong, what constitutes good parenting, and how our position in life may color our answers. – Connor Adamson