Top 25 Movies of 2017

Better late than never? 2017 was a seriously great year for movies (like I mentioned here) so in a lesser year, any of these could have made my top 10 list. So I’m going to be greedy and write about 25 of my favorites movies from last year. I am human so I didn’t see everything (I will witness you soon, Florida Project) and let’s just call it a subjectively objective list. Feel free to check out my 2017 in Film roundup which is still mostly accurate to the list I’ve culminated below.

Here are some quick honorable mentions: Wonder Woman, Okja, Gerald’s Game, The Big Sick, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle

  1. War for the Planet of the Apes
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A farewell to the Cesar trilogy of Apes legacy. Continuing the thematic and narrative threads of Monkey Moses might be far less subtle than its predecessor’s, though Reeves camera has never felt more appropriate. A throwback to classical blockbuster filmmaking with new gen technology, War takes elements of Apocalypse Now and The Great Escape to close out the Cesar trilogy with the most optimistic ending for the Apes at the expense of acknowledging the darkest exploration of humanities remnants.

 

  1. The Lego Batman

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Effectively satirizes the cinematic legacy of Batman while never failing to acknowledge why the character has endured for several generations and will continue for countless more. Batman’s dark, broody nature has reached peak ridiculousness and way the story maneuvers through the tragic heart of the character wisely brings forth his ultimate secret weapon: Batman is incomplete without a family.

 

  1. Thor: Ragnarok

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Taika Waititi’s fantasynth extravaganza. A love letter to Jack Kirby and finally pushes the character of Thor to new heights. He’s more of a goofball this time but he’s still the resilient, loyal and faithful hero we fell in love with in the earlier MCU installments. Cate Blanchett plays the most devilishly entertaining superhero villain of the year, effectively planting a performance that would go hand-in-hand with Disney’s original Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty. The most surprising thing about her character is how it effectively ties themes all the way from the first film into a story that forces Thor to confront death, the nature of Asgard’s “Empire” and the imperialist roots within.

 

  1. The Lost City of Z

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Another film about the dangers of colonialism and men in power who leave everyone in between scrounging for scraps. An adventure film, yes, but not one defined by the expedition embarking upon a lost city. Rather, the greatest adventure lies within the human connection. Furthermore, this is the movie that helped me finally “get” Charlie Hunnam as an actor. Just a fantastic lead performance that won me over to an actor I was far too harsh on.

 

  1. Split

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I loved M. Night Shyamalan’s last two features but Split remains the superior being. Not to diss the exquisite found-footage nature of The Visit, Split showcases a man who may have been lost in the woods with big budgets but never lost the touch of humanity in his roots. The cinematic nature of Split also bolsters arguably Shyamalan’s most refined language in his editing, use of uniformed performances and racketing tension. While occasionally veering into the route of exploitation, Shyamalan winds up utilizing the shocking material to touch upon true horrors and tragedy that is vital to the genres he wound up playing with. And yeah, that moment that made longtime Shyamalan fan’s collectively explode is every bit as powerful as I remember.

 

  1. A Cure for Wellness

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Gore Verbinski wilding the absolute fuck out. A macabre and classical horror film with such an unsettling atmosphere I’m surprised people aren’t bringing up comparisons to The Shining or other classic horror films. As gross as it is well directed. As it goes with Verbinski joints, it’s too long, a little messy and perhaps even tonally jarring at times. None of that matters. We’re watching a master genre filmmaker at the height of his craft, returning to the roots that made him a household name with his acclaimed remake of The Ring.

 

  1. Song to Song

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Lost. Searching. Found. La La Land for the arthouse crowd; Terrence Malick’s sweeping close-up trilogy of To the Wonder and Knight of Cups come to a close. The enigmatic director’s filmography has gotten experimental to the point of parody, he’s nonetheless maintained the ability to ruminate with his stories. Though, I’d possibly classify his work as “elemental,” unifying his characters and ideas with imagery and bits of life that may feel disconnected from the naked eye.

 

  1. Lady Bird

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#RelatableTeenPosts This is what happens when y’all turned down Greta Gerwig too many times for film and television projects. She had to fuck off and make a minor masterpiece of youth, angst and family drama instead. So many companies could’ve had a piece of this. This is what we refer to as “being slept on.”

 

  1. Raw

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A vegan child’s restrictive upbringing causes her to burst into a feeding frenzy. Aesthetically jarring, deteriorating the bounds of sanity and taste buds. Sequences both sexual and terrifying in a manner that has only been matched by something like the Alien franchise. Blatant metaphors be damned, this is a resounding nightmare of a debut by Julia Ducournau.

 

  1. Logan Lucky

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Steven Soderbergh’s return to cinema doesn’t so much knock the doors off its hinges as it welcomes us back with a warm hug. A lowkey riff on Ocean’s 11, or rather, Ocean’s 7-11, where Soderbergh’s impeccable film craft meets an everyman tale in a time we may need it most. “Take me home,” indeed.

 

  1. Call Me By Your Name

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As energetic, uncertain and reserved as the character who inhabit it, Luca Guadagnino’s film is one of tenderness and melancholy, longing and connections. Sexual discovery drives the story, bringing forth Armie Hammer and Timothée Chalamet’s finest performances to date as lovers who may not be destined for one another. Nonetheless, the fleeting moments are worth holding onto long after they end. It also features Armie Hammer dancing, if you ever wanted to know what euphoria felt like.

 

  1. Baby Driver

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Edgar Wright’s endlessly entertaining jukebox musical where Kevin Spacey gets run over by a police car. Is that a spoiler? Who cares, Kevin Spacey can fuck off. Baby Driver, however, can stay around as long as it likes. Wright’s remix of Thief, The Driver and other classic crime caper’s with car chases is no less his film from the opening frames. At one point, Jon Hamm is bathed in red neon glow while blasting Queen over a megaphone. If that isn’t pure cinema, I don’t know what is. You tell ‘em, baby.

 

  1. World of Tomorrow Episode 2:
    The Burden of Other People’s Thoughts

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Though we may no longer fall in love with rocks, World of Tomorrow Episode 2: The Burden of Other People’s Thoughts continues the first film’s incessant deconstruction of our own emotions. Instead of expanding through space and time again, Don Hertzfeldt journeys within the conscious and unconscious thought. It’s every bit as whimsical and devastating as the first short. Hertzfeldt’s ruminations on humanity through absurdist animation is worthy of Academy Awards multiple times over. What the fuck is up, @ the Academy?

 

  1. Phantom Thread

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P.T. Anderson’s jump into the fabric’s between men and women, specifically a man named Reynolds Woodcock – a name so intentionally hilarious, PTA actually cried from laughing when it was suggested to him. Less about the place of people latching onto the end of an era, more about a kinky series of affairs between a couple who… let’s just say they have an odd way of showing affection for one another. PTA must have had a blast making this one.

 

  1. Dunkirk

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You’d think after several grandstanding cinematic experiences, several of which redefined blockbuster filmmaking, Christopher Nolan would lose somewhat of an edge. You’d also be wrong. Dunkirk takes Nolan’s formalist approach often found in his other films and marries it to the classical silent era style minimalism. Words and names aren’t often exchanged. Experience is primal, tense and unforgettable. It’s a movie about survival. Sometimes that’s enough.

 

  1. Logan
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“Don’t be what they made you.” It doesn’t matter how this fits into a universe. It doesn’t matter that the other X-Men movies are mostly hogwash. It doesn’t matter that even thinking about a timeline will begin to make your head spin. James Mangold’s Logan is a western, science fiction, metatextual tale about how corporations run by white people will be the end of us all and why we ultimately need heroes.

 

  1. Alien: Covenant
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The bugfucknut gonzo, psychosexual more malicious relative of Blade Runner. Ridley Scott’s reknowned interest in the series that made him a house name ironically doesn’t actually focus on the titular Xenomorph creation. Rather, Scott’s infatuation is about the thematic recontextualization on creation itself, the horrors separating hierarchy and humanity designed its own path through hell.

 

  1. Get Out
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“Stay woke!” shouts the “Redbone” infused credits of Jordan Peele’s directorial debut. It couldn’t have been a better fit. Slightly haunting, continuously eery and relentlessly entertaining. Not sure I’d classify it as a comedy (racism is a thing, guys) but Lil’ Rey Howery is the funniest supporting character in years. Daniel Kaluuya rightfully got an Academy Award nomination for his performance here, navigating emotions from his own trauma, uneasiness and sheer terror once the ball gets rolling. Fun fact: This is one of the few movies that actually gets scarier when I watch it.

 

  1. Coco
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The best Pixar movie in a decade. Maybe the best Pixar movie. Takes a similar structure to their other films by pairing an odd couple on a journey of self-discovery, but infuses it with Mexican culture and language. It even adds extended family to a ridiculous degree. As a Mexican, I can confirm I have more relatives than I’ve actually met in person. Blacklight afterlife and a beautiful triumph of what makes Dia De Muertos vital to our people’s essence. Remember me…

 

  1. Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 2

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The best movie in the MCU. No, really. James Gunn’s second outing with this bunch of assholes with the best looking images this side of the first Thor movie (fact: the first Thor is the best looking movie in the MCU). The primary focus of the first film was getting them together, realizing they needed one another. Vol. 2 asks whether they even want to be a family. To do so, the story separates the team, breaking them down through their individual adventures with an non-stop series of odd couplings. There’s no real “plot” driving the first half of this thing, so the characters completely drive the course of the story. Duh, I was going to love it. Instead, we’re treated to a grand space adventure where a lot of assholes learn to overcome Ego and cry together. No, really, that’s the conceit of the movie. More 200 million dollar movies where people cry together, please.

 

  1. The Shape of Water

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Yeah, no shit I was going to love this one too. Guillermo Del Toro is the fantasy filmmaker of our era, picking up where Peter Jackson left off from The Lord of the Rings series. Not that he didn’t make his voice be heard before (see: Cronos, Devil’s Backbone) but his cinematic language, his colors, his camera movements, all feel like they’re continuously evolving. GDT doesn’t just love movies, he loves people and the way we influence one another. He loves monsters because he understands what it means to be “othered” and how cruel people can be when something is different. The Shape of Water is perhaps his most personal statement on that ideology. You will also want to fuck a fishman. God bless Totoro-San.

 

  1. John Wick 2
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The truth about the John Wick films is that John Wick is his own worst enemy. He set up these dominoes in his world long ago, now they’ve all come crumbling down at his own expense. He may be the protagonist, but he’s certainly no hero. Thankfully, directed Chad Stahelski and writer Derek Kolstad are wise enough to allow this thread to continue as we follow John Wick into the criminal underworld: a literal underworld with booming rock opera bombast and a never ending battle for survival. Highlight: The hall of mirrors as John is forced to confront his own reflection before shattering an exhibit of glass. Be seeing you.

 

  1. Blade Runner 2049

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“If anyone’s going to fuck it up, it’s going to be me!” – Denis Villeneuve, probably. We didn’t need a sequel to Blade Runner. Ridley Scott’s original perfectly-imperfect cyberpunk vision of a future riddled by urban decay and corporations (stares directly into camera) is as relevant and flawed and transcendent as it was years ago. But it was bound to have a follow up anyways. Thankfully, Villeneuve and Scott understood what made the original work after all these years.The sense of melancholy and longing at the heart of the picture is why the science fiction images stay with us. It’s long, but also one of the few films that could be classified as a legitimate “film epic” with a slow pace that feels practically alien to modern blockbusters. Like Tarkovsky for the digital age, the overly long and cold look of the picture ultimately paves way for the beating heart of Blade Runner: maybe reality and identity are what we make of them.

 

  1. Star Wars: The Last Jedi
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A grandstanding blockbuster masterpiece influenced by World War 2 films about morality, Akira Kurosawa (specifcally, Roshomon), and even the Star Wars prequels! The Last Jedi is many things, most of which great, some of which even better. Where The Force Awakens was a “Greatest Hits” mashup of iconography with a lowkey lonely center of it all, The Last Jedi forces us to confront the past and its failures. After all, failure and experience are the best teachers. And boy, do our new heroes fail in this one. Even their heroes fail. However, failure is not an ending. War does not make one great. The force belongs to all of us. There will always be another jedi.

 

  1. Personal Shopper
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Kristen Stewart and Olivier Assayas reteam after their masterwork Clouds of Sils Maria to further their dynamic duo’s trajectory to eventual Oscar Gold. Like if Blackhat and The Sixth Sense had a baby, Personal Shopper has a fascination with isolation and how it can impact the world around us. Kristen Stewart’s character, Maureen, mostly withholds herself from reality unless she out at work as a celebrity’s personal shopper. She holds onto the grief because it becomes a comfort zone, an eerily accurate representation of depression. She even resides behind her phone, an all-too familiar reaction we could all relate to. She also engages in a psychosexual thriller sequence that is classical Hitchcock, something hopefully we are not too familiar with. Oh, and there are ghosts in this movie. Personal Shopper is an exceptional exercise in using genre to showcase genuine humanity and empathy. It’s also my favorite movie of the year.

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