Gal Gadot in ‘Wonder Woman’
And here we are, the proverbial end of the line. We’ve already looked at the most underrated movies of 2017, the hidden gems of 2017 and the worst movies of the year. Now, in the ritualized climax, here are my picks for the best movies of 2017. Truth be told, it was a dynamite year for movies. The big movies were pretty good, the indie scene was white-hot and the overall domestic box office was spread out among a much wider batch of multiplex contenders compared to last year.
Yes, the overall domestic box office was down a little from last year, but folks spent $40 million on a Sundance charmer and $188 million on a straight-up World War II action drama. They saw the big comic book superhero movies, but they also spent time and money on buzzy indies like The Beguiled and pulpy B-movie throwbacks like Baby Driver. Sure, not every good movie was a hit, but I’m a heck of a lot more hopeful (about the theatrical movie industry) than I was this time last year.
So, without further ado, here are 11 of the best movies in alphabetical order, followed by the very best picture of 2017.
The Big Sick (Lionsgate and Amazon Studios)
Worldwide gross: $55 million
Director Michael Showalter’s delightful dramedy plays around with romantic comedy tropes and comes up with a (based-on-a-true-story) original. Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V Gordon wrote this humane and thoughtful comedy, about a man who ends up unintentionally courting the parents (Ray Ramono and Holly Hunter) of a woman who just dumped him after said ex (Zoe Kazan) suffers a medical emergency. The picture has much sympathy for all sides of the immigrant experience, as well as a sharp insight into its one-of-a-kind situation. Everybody gets their moment to shine and The Big Sick confronts its darker subtexts with honesty in order to make it a cross-generational delight.
Dunkirk (Warner Bros./Time Warner Inc.)
Worldwide gross: $525 million
Shot with IMAX and 65mm cameras, Chris Nolan’s intimate “you are there” reenactment of Operation Dynamo is a one-of-a-kind cinematic experience that works as a low-key emotional drama and a cinematic wonder. The film deftly balances multiple timelines and multiple points-of-view, and the stiff upper lip just makes the poignant moments sting that much more. I’ll be the first to argue that the world already has far too many World War II movies, but this one justifies itself as a triumph in pure filmmaking and pure unfiltered cinema. Like Mad Max: Fury Road, Chris Nolan’s Dunkirk essentially plays itself out as one long action sequence and challenges the audience to hold our breaths and take the ride.
The Florida Project (A24)
Worldwide gross: $5 million (and counting)
Sean Baker’s follow-up to Tangerine is a deeply affecting and empathetic look at deeply impoverished families living just outside the Disney World amusement parks. Brooklyn Prince is a revelation, while Willem Dafoe may just win an Oscar for one of his most sympathetic characters since Platoon. The movie works as a look at an oft-ignored subculture, as the working (and not working) poor exist in day-to-day existence just outside the so-called Magic Kingdom. It operates as an insightful character study (Bria Vinaite is wonderful) and a look at how this pack of troublemaking kids both cause mischief and provide a sense of community to a group of desperate strangers and often impoverished families.
I, Tonya (Neon and 30WEST)
Worldwide gross: $1.3 million (and counting)
Margot Robbie finally gets her first unmitigated lead role four years after Wolf of Wall Street, and it’s a heck of a role at that. This comedic docudrama shines a sympathetic light on an infamous tabloid tragedy, as an obscenely talented figure skater struggles to succeed against an abusive husband, an emotionally abusive mother and a sport that puts more value on gender stereotypes and would-be economic class than raw talent. Not unlike The People Vs. OJ Simpson, this searing movie offers moral redemption to a 1990’s-era tabloid villain that instead positions her as a victim of a patriarchal system that set her up to fail and made her pay for the misdeeds of male would-be conspirators.
Lady Bird (A24)
Worldwide gross: $29 million (and counting)
Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut is a moving, witty and pointed coming of age story that works on a number of levels. It’s a complex mother/daughter tale, it’s a story of growing up poor in a would-be middle-class environment and it’s a look at first romances and broken hearts. None of this necessarily reinvents the wheel, but Lady Bird is one of the better examples of late, bolstered by superb star turns by Soarise Ronan and Laurie Metcalf and filled with moments of charming humanity. If I were doing this list in order of preference, Lady Bird will be awfully close to the top.
mother! (Paramount/Viacom Inc.)
Worldwide gross: $44 million
Darren Aranofsky’s demonic fantasy may be mostly metaphor, but what a ride! Jennifer Lawrence gives one of her best performances, as some unwanted guests put a damper on an already troubled marriage. What follows is… well, you’ll have to experience it for yourself. Whether you take it as a Biblical parable, a subtextual confession about the challenges of living with an obsessive artist or a surface-level freakout, mother! is the great mindf*** of the year and more of the more overtly intense theatrical experiences I’ve had in awhile. Paramount had a year from hell, snagging just 5% of the market share and earning in total just a little more than Beauty and the Beast earned all by itself. But as long as they put out movies like mother! they aren’t beyond hope.
Only the Brave (Sony)
Worldwide gross: $23 million
It’s no surprise that this true-life film didn’t break out for the same reason (relatively speaking) that Deepwater Horizon or Patriot’s Day struggled. But this is a wonderful, richly character-driven and articulately detailed drama about the Granite Mountain Hotshots. Josh Brolin, Miles Teller and Jennifer Connelly (in a rare “wife of the hero” role that’s worth a damn) are terrific as the film goes about its redemptive business with little in the way of foreshadowing about how its story will end. Just as importantly, director Joseph Kosinski and writers Ken Nolan and Eric Warren Singer refuse to oversell spectacle for the sake of razzle-dazzle, and they also refuse to rely on macho stereotypes or speechifying about heroism and sacrifice. Only the Brave is a “show, don’t tell” character drama of uncommon quality, to the point where I’m willing to give Tron: Legacy another shot.
The Post (20th Century Fox)
Worldwide gross: $1 million (and counting)
A painfully timely film, albeit one that is almost too optimistic for these troubled times, Steven Spielberg offers another big of classical American history of brave Americans standing up for constitutional values during times of turmoil. Meryl Streep is a slow-building delight as Kay Graham and Tom Hanks is as energized as he’s been in years as Ben Bradlee. This literate period piece (courtesy of screenwriters Liz Hannah and Josh Singer) details the Washington Post‘s struggles over whether or not to risk the wrath of the Nixon administration by publishing leaked documents from the so-called Pentagon Papers, and it works as a thriller as well as a history lesson. The Post is Spielberg’s most kinetically alive live-action movie since Munich and reaffirms the former king of the blockbuster as a defining creator of historical morality tales rooted in historical triumph (and defeat) in immoral times.
The Shape of Water (Fox Searchlight)
Worldwide gross: $10 million (and counting)
Guillermo del Toro again attempts to offer his spin on Beauty and the Beast, and this time he hits the jackpot. Sally Hawkins is wonderful as a mute janitor who falls for the amphibian man (Doug Jones) in her top-secret research lab. Octavia Spencer, Michael Shannon and Richard Jenkins offer grand support in this Cold War-era fairytale that avoids many of the icky tropes of the Beauty and the Beast story while succeeding in telling a tale of society’s outcasts from the point of view of those outcast. The film deals explicitly with characters who are actually women, minorities, gay and/or differently abled rather than creating a fantasy race for the purposes of metaphor. This one is a visual wonder and a surprisingly moving fantasy, and it’s Guillermo del Toro’s best English-language film yet.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi (Walt Disney)
Worldwide gross: $891 million (and counting)
This is at least the best Star Wars movie since Revenge of the Sith, if not The Empire Strikes Back, and it boldly takes the franchise to uncharted territories while directly challenging the tropes and wish-fulfillment fantasies it helped imprint upon pop culture. Rian Johnson’s cinematic delight is filled with jaw-dropping action, shocking story turns and a blunt refusal to play by the rules. Lucasfilm and friends take the Star Wars brand not as a crutch or a luxery, but as a responsibility to expand the notions of what an action fantasy can be. The Last Jedi is good enough, bold enough and painfully of our time enough to reassert Star Wars as a top-tier franchise even in an era where would-be big-budget event movies are a bi-weekly affair.
Wonder Woman (Warner Bros./Time Warner Inc.)
Worldwide gross: $822 million
Another great would-be blockbuster, and another that used its brand and the sheer demand not as a luxury but as a responsibility. Patty Jenkins and Geoff Johns delivered a Wonder Woman origin story that became the de-facto movie of the moment, and fortunately, it was also a very good superhero origin story. The lush period-piece actioner offered a star-making turn as Gal Gadot delivered a defining cinematic variation of the Amazon princess, while Chris Pine made being the second banana male love interest seem like the coolest job in the world.
And the action sequences, be they the opening Themiscara smackdown or that second-act “No Man’s Land” sequence that became one for the ages, set Wonder Woman apart and bought loads of earned goodwill for the somewhat by-the-numbers origin story structure. No matter what becomes of DC Films, it gave us a delightfully entertaining Wonder Woman movie that provided a ray of sunshine in a dark year. Come what may, maybe that should be their legacy.And my two-month spree of daily box office updates, which apparently made a lot of people very happy, provided a rare moment where I didn’t feel like a collaborator for discussing box office numbers while the world teetered on edge.
And now the best movie of the year. It was an easy call.
Get Out (Universal/Comcast Corp.)
Worldwide gross: $254 million
After a year dominated by election politics, Stranger Things, Lemonade and Pokemon GO!, writer/director Jordan Peele’s modern masterpiece showed that mainstream theatrical movies could damn-well still matter and could utterly capture the zeitgeist. The picture is both primal (a young man goes to visit his girlfriend’s parents and discovers potentially shady business) and painfully specific (a young black man goes to visit his white girlfriend’s parents and discovers potentially shady business) in a way that made its appeal truly universal. Daniel Kaluuya is superb as our hero, and the likes of Allison Williams, Catherine Keener, Lakeith Stanfield and Betty Gabriel offer distinct character profiles in support of this ghoulish fairy tale.
It’s scary and awkwardly funny and endlessly profound both as an of-the-moment parable and a portrait of the everlasting horror that is institutional racism. And yeah, it snagged a $33 million opening and then legged it to $175m as the movie took the nation by storm to become one of the most successful R-rated horror movies of all time. Call it a comedy, call it a drama, call it a social thriller or call it a foreign language animated short. I’ll just be lazy and call Get Out the best movie of 2017 and a movie that damn well should be drowning in Oscar nominations in a month’s time. It’s not only the year’s best movie, but its success gave me hope that movies might matter again.
'Wonder Woman,' 'Get Out' And The 12 Best Movies Of 2017 – Forbes Now
Gal Gadot in ‘Wonder Woman’