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In 2017, the rom-com came back, the remakes were ripe, and even blockbuster films had something to say about the state of the nation. Here are the best silver-screen offerings of the year so far, from lovingly crafted coming-of-age gems to superhero movies that give you much more than the typical zoom, pow, and smash.
Lovers of the romantic comedy rejoice: The form has been rejuvenated this year, thanks to the warmhearted, true story-ish The Big Sick. Kumail Nanjiani and wife Emily V. Gordon’s relationship too an unexpected turn when a mystery illness put her in a coma. In time-honored tradition, this film makes comedy out of tragedy. But the real kick in this film comes from Holly Hunter and Ray Romano, as Emily’s parents, and Anupam Kher and Zenobia Shiroff as Kumail’s parents; who bring this culture clash to vivid life with heart and impeccable comic timing.
Watch The Big Sick on Amazon.
Improving on the original is a tough ask for any remake, and while this live-action take on Beauty and the Beast wasn’t perfect, many of its updates felt just right for our era. Moody and sophisticated renderings of the castle set the stage for Emma Watson’s more active and feminist Belle, whose relationship with father Maurice (Kevin Kline) was more warmly human than the 1991 iteration. Plus, it’s hard not to melt—even just a little—when you hear that theme song.
Watch Beauty and the Beast on Amazon.
Something is rotten in the United States. In the way of the best horror films, the debut feature from Key and Peele mastermind Jordan Peele surfaced racial tensions with a terrifyingly apt premise. Daniel Kaluuya plays Chris, who’s meeting his girlfriend Rose’s (Allison Williams) parents for the first time. Treading in the grey waters of paranoia and caution, Chris notices strange details around the family home. Catherine Keener and Bradley Whitford are the picture of mild, woke white people—but is that really all they are? Get Out really was the right film at the right time: It made Peele the first African-American writer/director to earn $100 million in his debut, and catapulted him from savvy sketch sage to bonafide Hollywood star.
Watch Get Out on Amazon.
Fantasizing collectively that a woman would sweep in and fix the world and its messes…who, us? Well, yeah—and also, apparently, everyone who’s made this superhero film the box office champion of the summer: Watching Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) take on the God of War and win has seemingly been a welcome escape for many. This women-centric Warner Bros. production made audiences weep with its utopian visions of women living and cultivating their strength alongside each other, and its financial success has proven that, yes, we do actually want to watch female-led movies. Who’d have thought?
Watch Wonder Woman on Amazon.
“If any white man in the world says ‘Give me liberty or give me death,’ the entire white world applauds. But a black man says exactly the same thing; he is judged a criminal and treated like one.” James Baldwin’s voice pierces the fabric of history in Raoul Peck’s documentary, which uses archival footage—augmented by narration by Samuel L. Jackson—to bring the Notes of a Native Son writer’s work to life. Beginning with Baldwin’s return to America after nearly ten years in France, the film details his life and his utterly necessary commentary on the intersection of race, culture, and politics. I Am Not Your Negro may talk about the past, but its provocations and observations should be heeded, for the sake of the future.
Watch I Am Not Your Negro on Amazon.
If you put Charlotte’s Web into a blender with, oh, I don’t know, Suicide Squad? The weird chunky smoothie you end up with is Okja. Bong Joon-Ho’s film flips the heartwarming animal-human friendship movie into an engaging comment on Big Food, crammed to the rafters with star power. Tilda Swinton grimaces as the CEO with a lot to prove, Jake Gyllenhaal weirds us out as a down-on-his-luck TV host, and newcomer Ahn Seo-Hyun shines as the plucky young human companion to the “superpig” Okja, who’s as charming as you’d expect a CGI Fiona to be. Don’t forget, this one’s not really for kids.
Watch Okja on Netflix.
The Fast and the Furious is its own genre of movies now. They can’t be rated as “good” or “bad”—merely “very fast and furious” or “neither fast nor furious.” Fate of the Furious is not the best movie in the franchise (that’s a toss up between films 5 and 7), but even after the tragic death of Paul Walker, the eighth in the series is still a very fast and furious film. FF8 features cars racing against submarines and cars on fire driving backwards. It also seems that the team finally figured out that, if you’re going to have Jason Statham in these movies, you should let him be funny. But most of all, this film has family. In an unpredictable world, we can always trust that the famiglia is out there saying grace over some Coronas. Fate of the Furious is exactly the movie you want and need it to be.
Watch The Fate of the Furious on Amazon.
Has there ever been an emotional experience so pure as watching Girls Trip? Well, if there has, any memory of it has been erased by images of Kofi Siriboe’s face, fear of peeing on a crowd from a broken zipline, and the sounds of “grapefruiting” (if you don’t know what that is yet, it’s too rude to even link to a description, you’ve been warned). This R-rated movie knows how to have a good time, but it’s also rooted in the complexities and power of female friendships; plus, the cast is pure flames, with Regina Hall, Jada Pinkett Smith, Queen Latifah, and new favorite Tiffany Haddish on board.
Watch on Amazon.
From the casual, sly humor to the wild ’80s metallic makeup, this installment of the Thor franchise is one of a kind in the superhero-film genre. Eschewing the ponderous attitude of its stablemates, it’s that rare bird among its set-jawed Superman and storm-backed Batman peers: pure fun. Chris Hemsworth puts in a bid for best Chris with his sunny, if somewhat easily tricked, Thor; Cate Blanchett bewitchingly spreads destruction as Hela; Jeff Goldblum paints the town whatever color he likes as the Grandmaster. Forgotten what it’s like to have fun? Here’s something to help you out.
Thor: Ragnarok is in theaters now.
Coming of age can be one of the most tender, specific, and precious of experiences. Greta Gerwig’s loving tribute to it earns every single laugh and tear it provokes. Lady Bird (a.k.a. Christine, played by an incandescent Saoirse Ronan), with her made-up name, love of theater, and pink hair, is the kind of girl you can imagine stern adults dismissing as silly. But, of course, she isn’t. She’s loving, witty, determined, resilient, but not invulnerable: the kind of teen that readily populates the world but is so rarely seen on screen. Falling in love, navigating parental tension, sustaining heartbreak, flying the coop—whatever seemingly familiar story Lady Bird tells, it belongs to her alone.
Lady Bird is in theaters now.
In one of Sundance’s biggest deals earlier this year, Netflix paid $12.5 million for Dee Rees’ extraordinary drama, Mudbound. Based on Hillary Jordan’s 2009 novel, the film introduces two families who exist in an uneasy balance on one plot of land. The McAllans, a white family who buy the land, and the Jacksons, tenants who work the land, become linked in a deeper way when Henry McAllan’s brother Jamie befriends fellow World War II veteran Ronsel Jackson. In a shocking and challenging climax, racist divisions turn their accord from enriching to dangerous. Award-worthy performances from Mary J. Blige and Carey Mulligan evoke both the larger brushstrokes and subtler shades of prejudice.
Watch Mudbound on Netflix.
By definition, first love isn’t something one usually gets to experience again. But Luca Guadagnino’s ravishing adaptation of André Aciman’s novel is the closest you could possibly get to that impossibility. The collision of Timothée Chalamet’s raw, precocious teenager Elio with Armie Hammer’s statuesque graduate student Oliver over a few aching weeks is nothing short of enchanting. Take one golden summer, lush and pointedly sensual surroundings, and these two eager young men, and you have yourself a guaranteed swoon.
Call Me by Your Name is in theaters now.
Tussles between good and evil. John Boyega. Women getting shit done. Unnecessary but nevertheless welcome shirtless scenes. The latest Star Wars instalment had it all—and we haven’t even mentioned the porgs. Rian Johnson’s anxiously awaited take on the much-iterated franchise wove together the fist pump–worthy battles, ethical quandaries, and dad gags fans expected, but also added a welcome swathe of heroic female characters to his moodily modern film. And even though it will be one of the last times we’ll see her on the silver screen, The Last Jedi gave us a huge dose of Carrie Fisher/Leia Organa badass just when we needed it.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi is in theaters now.