Twenty seventeen was a rough one. But as the world sunk further into horror and bullshit, the cinema at least offered a little escape. Sure, this year saw the release of another Transformers movie, Fifty Shades Darker and the monstrosity that is The Emoji Movie, but we got some really good films, too. There was a lot of social commentary and bleak takes on familiar genres, but in even the darkest stories, you can find moments of hope and kindness. Things 2017 really needed.
To reflect upon the good, we both created our own top 10 lists, then did something resembling math to make a definitive one. Here’s our takes on the best 2017 had to offer.
10. Get Out
Amanda’s Take: Though some are outraged by the Golden Globes recognition of this film as a comedy, in truth, Get Out kickstarted a year of tremendous dark comedies with sharp social commentary. For me, the twist wasn’t too shocking, nor was the film all that scary. Still, Jordan Peele made an impressive, entertaining directorial debut that provided insight into the horror of America’s racism.
Stephanie’s Take: Jordan Peele has proven himself a master of genre and social commentary in his work with Keegan Michael Key. His directorial debut is a solo outing, but it masterfully tackles the latent racism of affluent white liberals through horror. It’s not a jump scare fest like most modern horror; it takes its inspiration from Hitchcockian thrillers. There’s slow-building tension, and facades are slowly eroded away. It’s surreal and nightmarish with a biting wit.
Amanda’s Take: As much as Darren Aronofsky and misleading marketing tried to ruin this film, I’m one of the few who are on board with it. Some of the films in this list are celebrated for nuance. This film, however, screams its message at you using a loud, crying Jennifer Lawrence and imagery that I guess is supposed to be shocking. In many ways, this movie is an insane, egotistical piece of shit, but nothing provoked a more visceral response from me this year, and I still find myself thinking about it. Fuck you and thank you, Darren Aronofsky.
Stephanie’s Take: Mother! is a movie I oscillate on. I enjoyed the experience in the theater, but listening to Darren Aronofsky talk about it really makes the film feel heavy handed and almost clumsy. We get it. You hate both God and mankind because you’re a tortured artist. It can feel shocking for shock’s sake and incredibly ununanced. Still, even Aronofsky can’t take away that initial enjoyment. And also, fuck him, it means what I take it to mean because that is part of the relationship between subject and critic.
Amanda’s Take: In the superhero world, we usually count on Guardians of the Galaxy to deliver the most punchlines. But in 2017, Taika Waititi brought us a Thor sequel with a lot of laughs as well as a streamlined plot with fun new characters and striking action sequences.
Stephanie’s Take: Chris Hemsworth is a funny guy. Taika Waititi is a funnier guy. Put them together and you’ve got the best Thor movie. Waititi strips the God of Thunder of the faux Lord of the Rings epicness that can weigh down the character (sigh, The Dark World) and drops him into a colorful cosmic adventure. The action is fun, the jokes are funny and while the villain is boilerplate, she’s played by Cate Blanchett and that’s worth something
7. Lady Bird
Amanda’s Take: A solid, well-acted coming-of-age story about a hipster and written and directed by the ultimate hipster, Greta Gerwig. Oh hey, it’s Timothée Chalamet!
Stephanie’s Take: Lady Bird is sweet, funny and easy to like. Saoirse Ronan is a delight, and Laurie Metcalf is wonderful. It’s refreshing to see a coming-of-age story where falling in love isn’t the point of the story. Lady Bird (both the film and character) isn’t defined by the love interests (who are great nonetheless); instead, its the love story between mother and daughter that leaves the lasting impact.
6. The Disaster Artist
Amanda’s Take: Unlike The Room, this film is intentionally funny, and it definitely got more laughs than any other movie I saw in 2017. As much as James Franco makes fun of the source material, his portrayal of Tommy Wiseau avoids being a mere parody. The film is both a mockery of one of the worst films ever made and a tribute to the incredible entertainment value and intrigue of Wiseau and his ridiculous film.
Stephanie’s Take: The Disaster Artist masterfully pulls off a balancing act. It manages to be a hilarious, cameo-filled farce (Oh hi, Bryan Cranston, Zac Efron and J.J. Abrams) without becoming an overlong Funny or Die skit. This is largely thanks to James Franco who manages to take a man who is basically a living caricature and find an underdog we can root for. The movie actually becomes inspiring—an impressive feat when your source material is a movie so misguided that a character called Mark being named after Matt Damon is only scratching the surface of incompetence.
5. Logan / Logan Lucky (tie)
Amanda’s Take: I’ve never seen this movie, and I don’t really care to because Wolverine and X-Men has never really been my thing. However, Stephanie assures me that this film is the best superhero film of this past year and serves as an exciting spin on the genre. Not my choice, but a lot of people really liked it, and for good reason, it sounds like.
Stephanie’s Take: Twenty-seventeen was a great year for superhero movies. Outside of The Justice League, there wasn’t really a dud in the bunch. Logan, however, stands head and shoulders above the rest. James Mangold delivers a franchise best and the showcase Hugh Jackman has always deserved for the much loved character. Excitingly, it doesn’t feel like a superhero movie, showing creativity and flexibility in a genre known for following formulas. It’s bleak and brutal but manages tenderness and beauty as well. And it made my mom cry … twice.
Amanda’s Take: Sadly, this film hit the box office with little fanfare. Steven Soderbergh walks a fine line between ridiculing and celebrating Appalachian residents to make one of the year’s most entertaining movies. The story of this “hillbilly heist” subverts expectations of white country folk, providing smart commentary on class and disability. Plus, it was great to hear Daniel Craig trade in his British accent for the ridiculous Southern drawl of Joe Bang.
Stephanie’s Take: Ocean’s Eleven with rednecks may sound like a disaster in the making. Thankfully, the man who reinvigorated the heist genre is at the helm of this one, and he’s got a stellar cast with him. The film is hilarious without being mean-spirited. While it does poke fun at redneck stereotypes, Logan Lucky is equally invested in subverting them. The biggest laughs are the unexpected ones. And the film utilizes John Denver’s “Country Roads” the perfect amount (I’m looking at you Kingsman: The Golden Circle).
4. Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri
Amanda’s Take: Martin McDonagh’s trademark dark humor and despicable characters surprisingly make for one of the most moving films of the year. Even while depicting police brutality, intense prejudice and various manifestations of violence and rage, this movie champions every person’s potential to discover their darkness and make efforts to turn towards the light. As cliché as that sounds, it’s far more complex and poignant than any platitude. Sam Rockwell’s performance and the arc of his character prove especially compelling and entertaining.
Stephanie’s Take: This is a movie that has received criticism for its depictions of racism and domestic abuse. Some have seen the film as glossing over these aspects or even giving characters unearned forgiveness and redemption. These are topics that resonant in 2017 in a way they wouldn’t in most years, and I won’t deny that Three Billboard’s handles them a little differently than most films do or how audiences might expect. But it’s a heartbreaking, darkly comedic film that ultimately finds something to hope for amid an abundance of hatred and violence. It’s not a feel-good movie by far, but thanks to stellar performances and McDonagh’s sharp writing, the film offers hope without becoming a standard morality tale.
3. Baby Driver
Amanda’s Take: A fun, inventive action film with a catchy soundtrack and probably some of the best car chases in cinema—not to mention an awesome parkour scene. Director Edgar Wright continues to prove himself the best in comedic action films. (Something to keep in mind: this film was made before we found out Kevin Spacey is the worst, and, spoiler alert, his character dies.)
Stephanie Take: As Amanda mentions, we saw this film before Kevin Spacey was revealed to be a truly vile human being. While it may taint the viewing experience for some, Baby Driver is so exuberant it’s nearly impossible to dislike. The car chases put the Fast and Furious franchise to shame. The editing, the soundtrack, the performances—it’s all just so cool. Wright’s visual flair compensates for a relatively light story. Like The Matrix or Pulp Fiction, this is the kind of flick film students will rip-off for years to come. Now if only Wright had stuck with his casting of the original concept.
Amanda’s Take: Fans of Tangerine will enjoy Sean Baker’s trip from the transgender prostitutes of L.A. to the rambunctious children living in Orlando’s motels. It’s a darkly funny look at class that doesn’t sentimentalize or condemn its impoverished characters. Driven by a subtle yet brilliant performance by Willem Defoe and his amazing interactions with children and cranes, this film shows that Sean Baker continues to dazzle with realistic portrayals of the most marginalized Americans.
Stephanie’s Take: While some films on this list transport audiences to different worlds—bright cosmic adventures, gritty visions of the future, whatever the hell is happening in Mother!—The Florida Project keeps us in reality. The film drops us in familiar, recognizable locations and tasks us with looking at aspects of life that we often ignore. Although it deals with documenting the lives of the disenfranchised, it neither preaches nor mocks. It’s funny and heartbreaking and moves with a kinetic energy befitting its six-year-old protagonist. Willem Dafoe is brilliant, delivering a nuanced performance that is both warm and resigned. While the film is certainly not a visit to Disney World, it makes an impact.
1. Call Me By Your Name
Amanda’s Take: A beautiful film—and I’m not just saying that because of Armie Hammer’s butt. I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen a film portray intimacy so lovingly and realistically. It manages to exist in both a fantasy world of an unnamed town in rural Italy where two men can fall in love without obstacles and the real world where shame and fear threaten their romance. I want to watch this film and its endearing characters forever. Shout out to Timothée Chalamet for my favorite performance of the year and for becoming one of my new favorite celeb crushes.
Stephanie’s Take: This is a film that aches, and I mean that in the best way possible. It aches with the blossoming of first love and the inevitable heartbreak that follows. It captures the excitement, embarrassment and even shame that comes with sexual awakening. It’s a lush, baroque experience you want to hang onto even as the final shot guts you. The performances are fantastic. Michael Stuhlbarg is especially warm and lovely as an understanding father. It is even a special effects marvel, having digitally removed Armie Hammer’s balls after some booty-shorts wardrobe malfunctions. A truly impressive feat.
John Wick: Chapter 2
I’m Not Your Negro
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The Shape of Water