As the Academy crown the best in film this evening, it felt as good a time as ever to look back at what really was a terrific year of movies. The following 35 listed below, that were released in 2017, were the ones that stood out the most after several trips to the movie theater (or streams on Netflix and Amazon).
35. The Meyerowitz Stories
Ben Stiller, Adam Sandler, Elizabeth Marvel and Dustin Hoffman
It’s very rare, in recent years, for me to even consider checking out an Adam Sandler. His team-up with director Noah Baumbach and Ben Stiller on Netflix changed that trend and reminded me, “Oh yeah. Sandler DOES have some actual acting chops.”
34. The Hero
Sam Elliott, Nick Offerman, Laura Prepon and Krysten Ritter
The film starts with Sam Elliott (as a veteran Cowboy/Western actor) doing voice-overs for products that feel all too familiar to things he has actually been a spokesperson for. His chemistry with his on-screen pot dealer, Nick Offerman, is also well worth the ticket.
33. The Greatest Showman
Hugh Jackman, Zac Efron, Michelle Williams and Zendaya
While the story is lacking and some lip-synching can be cringe worthy, the music and Hugh Jackman’s enthusiasm were too good to deny The Greatest Showman from this list.
32. Kong: Skull Island
Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson and John C. Reilly
Yes, Kong was entertaining as hell. John C. Reilly steals the show, the music is excellent, and the references to the future World Champion Chicago Cubs were a fine example of some fun writing.
31. American Made
Tom Cruise, Domhnall Gleason and Jesse Plemons
Sign me up for any iteration and telling of the Pablo Escobar story. Narcos on Netflix set the standard, Bryan Cranston’s The Infiltrator was extremely underrated and now this perspective of the American drug smuggling effort was too riveting to not enjoy.
30. Beauty and the Beast
Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Luke Evans and Ewan McGregor
Disney hasn’t messed with their recent live-action remakes (i.e. The Jungle Book from last year). They didn’t miss a step with the new Beauty and the Beast and now all the songs from the original animated film are stuck in my head again.
29. The LEGO Batman Movie
Will Arnett, Rosario Dawson and Zach Galifianakis
Will Arnett in LEGO form > Ben Affleck as Batman.
28. The Lost City of Z
Charlie Hunnam, Robert Pattinson, Tom Holland and Sienna Miller
This story of exploration is only enhanced by the gritty “Jax Teller” voice storytelling by Charlie Hunnam, and the constant worry that anyone could be hit with a blow-dart or arrow from their canoes.
27. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Chris Pratt, Bradley Cooper, Zoe Saldana and Dave Bautista
It wasn’t the best Marvel movie this year (as you’ll see by scrolling down) but Guardians 2 didn’t disappoint with humor, music and over-the-top action.
26. John Wick: Chapter 2
Keanu Reeves, Ian McShane and Laurence Fishburne
The John Wick series pretty much blows the one-man-wrecking crew genre away (Taken, The Equalizer, or any other Liam Neeson film).
25. Good Time
Robert Pattinson, Benny Safdie and Jennifer Jason Leigh
The mood of Good Time is like a horror film, and Robert Pattinson keeps viewers on a non-stop ride of suspense.
24. Molly’s Game
Jessica Chastain, Idris Elba and Kevin Costner
Watch for Jessica Chastain’s performance, Aaron Sorkin’s writing and the unbelievably intriguing sports story…and try not to let Michael Cera bother you too much.
23. Free Fire
Brie Larson, Armie Hammer, Cillian Murphy and Sharlto Copley
Free Fire had one of my absolute favorite casts, ridiculously entertaining banter and action, and the surprise ending I didn’t realize I hoped for.
22. Phantom Thread
Daniel Day-Lewis, Leslie Manville and Vicky Krieps
Daniel Day-Lewis’ last film isn’t necessarily his best, but his acting and the force that he and Leslie Manville his bring to the screen made Phantom Thread a very worthwhile watch.
21. Call Me By Your Name
Timothee Chalamet, Armie Hammer and Michael Stuhlbarg
The Best Picture nominee is a beautiful and heartbreaking love story, which leaves you wanting to instantly book one-way trip to Italy.
James McAvoy, Anya Taylor-Joy and Haley Lu Richardson
The 2nd installment of the Unbreakable series is a great comeback thriller for M. Night Shyamalan. If you check Split‘s IMDB page, James McAvoy has 9 characters listed and he probably plays more.
19. Wind River
Jeremy Renner, Elizabeth Olsen and Jon Bernthal
A great murder mystery with intense moments that come out of nowhere. I’m not sure Jeremy Renner makes bad movies anymore.
18. Blade Runner 2049
Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford and Jared Leto
This long awaited sequel was one of the best movie theater experiences of the year. Sound, visuals and suspense made the wait worth it.
17. Darkest Hour
Gary Oldman, Ben Mendelsohn and Lily James
Gary Oldman should and will win Best Actor at the Oscars, but the film’s marketing doesn’t give enough credit to the performances by the rest of the cast. Lily James pulls the heart strings and Ben Mendelsohn is powerful when he needed to be as King George.
16. Logan Lucky
Channing Tatum, Adam Driver and Daniel Craig
I refers to itself as Oceans 7-11, but it was vastly more entertaining than 12 and 13 combined. I’ll take any and all NASCAR-heist sequels with this cast that Steven Soderbergh wants to make.
15. The Post
Tom Hanks, Meryl Streep, Bob Odenkirk and Michael Stuhlbarg
Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep were good, but Bob Odenkirk, Carrie Coon and the rest of the supporting cast were great. It’s just hard difficult to follow newspaper films like Spotlight and All The President’s Men.
14. Spider-Man: Homecoming
Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Robert Downey Jr. and Zendaya
Hot Take Alert: Tom Holland is a better Spider-Man than Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield. Michael Keaton was an excellent Marvel villain. And this was an excellent YA genre movie.
Tom Hardy, Mark Rylance, Kenneth Branaugh and Cillian Murphy
It’s surprising that Dunkirk is Christopher Nolan’s first Oscar nominated film, but it’s worthy of it. It’s hard to breathe the entire film, for multiple reasons, but feels great when you finally come up for air at the end…Also, try watching this and Darkest Hour back-to-back. History Channel wishes they could pull that off.
12. Wonder Woman
Gal Gadot, Chris Pine and David Thewlis
Wonder Woman is what happens when DC finally lets a great director (like Patty Jenkins) tell a great Superhero story. Gal Gadot’s innocence and genuine approach to the hero made it even better…I still try to picture how much better it could have been with Alan Rickman (skypoint) could have starred as the villain.
Anthony Gonzalez, Gael Garcia Bernal and Benjamin Bratt
Visually, one of the most stunning PIXAR films to date and an incredible original story, that gives a voice to an underrepresented culture in the genre. The music is great as well.
10. Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver and Mark Hamil
I don’t care if this film ruined Star Wars for you. That’s on you and your weird expectations. It was funny, emotional, uplifting and full of the fist-pump moments I ask for from these films.
Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart and Dafne Keen
You guys…a Wolverine movie got an Academy Award nomination…That’s how good this movie is, and it was a perfect exit for Hugh Jackman from the franchise.
8. The Florida Project
Willem Dafoe, Brooklynn Prince and Bria Vinaite
Willem Dafoe deserves all the accolades he gets for The Florida Project, but the kids (led by Brooklynn Prince) made the curiosity, imagination and nostalgia feel so incredibly natural…set in the motels outside Disney World.
7. Thor: Ragnarok
Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston and Tessa Thompson
Thor: Ragnorak was a great payoff for Marvel Cinematic Universe fans that have watched this long, ginormous series since the beginning in 2008. The clash (and eventual team-up) with The Hulk was perfect, Cate Blanchett was an excellent villain, Tom Hiddleston reminded us why we can’t quit Loki, and it was the funniest movie of the year.
6. Lady Bird
Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, Beanie Feldstein and Timothee Chalamet
If it weren’t for Frances McDormand, Saoirse Ronan would be cleaning up the Lead Actress awards, but Laurie Metcalf deserves to take home Best Supporting Actress. The mother-daughter dynamic is moving, Beanie Feldstein is a breakout star, and Sacramento has never seemed so interesting.
5. The Big Sick
Kumail Nanjiani, Zoe Kazan, Holly Hunter and Ray Romano
RomComs are really going to need to step their game up after The Big Sick. The story of Kumail Nanjiani and his actual wife (Emily V. Gordon) will make you feel every emotion, Holly Hunter reminds everyone of how their mom handles any illness they have, and Ray Romano…well, Ray’s got some great moments.
4. Baby Driver
Ansel Elgort, Lily James, Jamie Fox and Jon Hamm
This was the most entertaining movie I had seen, from start to finish. I own the soundtrack on vinyl, it was that good. And Jon Hamm needs to play more villains. The third act was like another movie, and excellent because of him.
3. Get Out
Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams and Bradley Whitford
I applaud Jordan Peele after every accolade this film is recognized for. It took horror to a new stratosphere, practically creating the “social thriller” genre. And I’ll never forget how the theater I watched it in gave a standing ovation for that ending.
2. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell
A year ago, Manchester by the Sea was my favorite film for many of the reasons Three Billboards is this high up for me now. It makes you laugh, then rips your heart out, puts it back in, lets you laugh again, then repeat. In the end, you’re not sure how to feel about any of the characters, but they are all worth investing in.
1. The Shape of Water
Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins and Octavia Spencer
It was so difficult to choose a favorite, but at the end of the day The Shape of Water stood above the rest. It’s an amazing love story. It’s imaginative, strange, heartfelt, beautiful and weird. It pays its respects to films of old, and makes a case for similar treatment years ahead. Also, it’s another nominated film with Michael Stuhlbarg…who stars in 3 this year.
What was your favorite film this year? Let me know on Twitter at @Mike_PiFF03.