Art by Travis Wilker
Alright, it’s that time of the year where we all look back, take a hit of recency bias and make our top (insert number here) films of the year. I do mine a little differently than most. I pick 25 because I see a lot of great films each year, and this way I don’t have a “honorable mentions” section that goes on forever. Please note, this is a list of my favorite films of the year, not the objectively best ones – that’s a whole other list that’s not as much fun to make. Also please note, I’ll be embedding my original reviews for the films (if I reviewed them) in the title.
Disclosure: I have not seen big titles like The Post, Call Me By Your Name, Phantom Thread and I, Tonya because those are in limited release and will not reach me until January. Some of them won’t be here until during Sundance so I won’t be seeing those shits til like February and I’m not gonna wait until March to write my favorites of 2017 list. So with all due respect to those films which I’m sure I’ll love, they will not be on this list.
Alright, let’s count it down!
There’s a part of this film on a plane where Vin Diesel tells a military guy that he’s going to flush him down an airplane toilet and jettison him out of the aircraft. Later, Vin Diesel does exactly that and then says “Gonna need two flushes.” I started crying. If that doesn’t do anything for you, I don’t know what to tell you.
24. Creep 2
The first film is one of the greatest found footage films ever made, rejuvenating artistry in a tired subgenre. Creep 2 is a terrific sequel that is simultaneously deeply uncomfortable and hilarious for how deeply uncomfortable it is. The sequel continues to delve into a character study and themes about failing at your art, with terrific performances from Mark Duplass and Desiree Arkhavan. The Creep films are proof there is still more to be mined from the found footage subgenre.
23. The Big Sick
There’s a line in this film that had me laughing uncontrollably for a minute straight. You’ll know it when you see it.
FRANK GRILLO. I’ve long been a fan of watching this man, I once wrote a whole column about how he’s our most undervalued action hero, and he delivers here in this minimalist and fun action film. It’s also the first great Netflix film, not because it’s the most artful or well made Netflix film, but because it’s perfect for the Netflix experience of just watching it on the couch with friends.
21. It Comes At Night
Trey Edwards Shults crafts an effective little horror film for his sophomore feature that’s less concerned with what quasi-zombies will do to you, but what we will do to each other. He’s a young filmmaker that I own a lot of stock in, and I suggest you call your stockbroker and do the same. I didn’t quite review the film, but did write about it here.
From Yorgos Lanthimos, director of The Lobster, comes another utterly unique film. Terrifying and hilarious, it’s perhaps the most artful “_____ from hell” movie ever made.
The Disaster Artist is as hilarious as a film about The Room should be, but it has a deeper level to it as an ode to friendship and believing in yourself. I’m excited to watch the Oscar campaign for James Franco.
18. Captain Underpants
I read these books as a kid, so I was fondly looking forward to finally getting a movie of it. Me and my dad went to see it with my younger brother so it wouldn’t look like a 25 year old dude and 50 something dude were seeing it by themselves, but we really went for us. In a theater full of families, me and my dad were laughing the hardest. Captain Underpants is hilarious, inventively animated and brought me back to my 10 year old self laughing hysterically at Uranus jokes. I’m sure it’ll do the same for you.
Rian Johnson has been one of my favorite filmmakers since 2005’s Brick, and to see him make a Star Wars film was a true blessing, creating my favorite Star Wars film to date. The Last Jedi is a wondrous departure, a truly unique film made in the most well known film property. Also, Porgs and Fish Nuns – incredible.
Sean Baker has a rare quality about his films that allows them to tap into authenticity like few other filmmakers. His latest is a beautiful work of New Americana cinema with one of my favorite endings of the year.
15. Atomic Blonde
Did you know you needed action scenes soundtracked to George Michael and New Order? I didn’t, and it was glorious to discover that that had been missing from my life. Charlize Theron is a tremendous action hero as always, and I hope she does more action in the future.
14. Oklahoma City
I originally caught this film at Sundance, and have watched it another 3 times since on Netflix because it just feels that essential. It’s a terrific documentary, smartly reported that is prescient about the resurgence of white nationalism and domestic terrorism that has occured since Trump. It’s the type of film you just want to spend hours talking with the filmmakers about.
13. Tour De Pharmacy
This was the hardest I laughed this year. The latest collaboration from Jake Szymanski, Murray Miller and Andy Samberg is a riotous followup to 7 Days in Hell, and the trio have carved out an industry for themselves in make faux-sports documentaries. I want to watch 50 more of these things.
12. The Fate of the Furious
This film series is not only my favorite film series to start in my lifetime, but the best one too. I once wrote a 6000 word piece on this franchise, these films are near and dear to my heart. The latest installment was another blast, and there’s a part where The Rock moves a missile with one arm while hanging out of a moving vehicle so really it’s the greatest film ever made.
11. Lady Bird
Saoirse Ronan and Greta Gerwig forever.
10. A Ghost Story
I’ve been a huge fan of David Lowery since Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, and his latest is a beautifully emotional and ambitious work about death and the afterlife. He completely self-funded the film with his earnings from Pete’s Dragon, and if that’s not having true passion for your film than I don’t know what is.
Logan is a rare thing of beauty, James Mangold crafts an emotional and gorgeous meditation on death and legacy in the most saturated genre of film. It’s a beautiful sendoff for both Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart, and marks Mangold’s 3rd western as well. There’s just no comic book film like it.
All hail Caesar and Matt Reeves. What Matt Reeves has done for this franchise is just tremendous. This film is a great example of what can happen when you give an independent auteur the budget to match their ambition and the space for them to create. It’s an emotional, visually marvelous and technically groundbreaking work of an epic.
7. Get Out
When I first saw this, I just went “that’s such a brilliant idea.” You’re almost mad you didn’t come up with it yourself. It’s perhaps the most original film of the year, a terrific debut for Jordan Peele. People much smarter than me could write dissertations on this film and race, and I can’t wait to read them. I also wrote some more about the film here.
6. Good Time
“Singular” was the first word that came to mind after I saw this wondrous nightmare from the Safdie brothers. From a career best performance by Robert Pattinson, who we love and support here at Death of Film Criticism, to the way cinematographer inverts the definition of natural lighting, Good Time is a real achievement of filmmaking, storytelling and character. Again, it’s just singular.
Christopher Nolan’s most experimental film, Dunkirk is pure cinema, going straight to the source. Sparse on dialogue and filmed almost like a silent film, he relies on his greatest storytelling strengths with both non-linear storytelling and cross-cutting sequences to create one of his most ambitious works. Nolan is a rare filmmaker that can make a film for the audience, for the studio and for himself all at once, and Dunkirk is a rare art film that pleases all parties. I also wrote some more about the film here.
I wrote about this at the end of the year as well, so I’ll link to it here instead of repeating myself.
I saw this movie 4 times in the theater, and I wanted to weep at the majesty of it each time. Denis Villeneuve managed the impossible, creating a miracle of a film that continued the themes and the ideas of the original in a rare big budget film that was patient and artful. We’ll be talking about this film the same way we talk about the original – as a classic and a pillar of cinema. I also wrote about the film here.
This is not only a great sequel to a film that’s dear to my heart, it’s one of the greatest sequels I’ve ever seen. It’s right up there with The Godfather Part II. John Wick is one of the greatest action heroes I’ve ever seen, I dressed up as him again this Halloween. After all, he did win the action hero power rankings this year. The action sequences in this film will make you sweat, you’ll need a cigarette after several of them. John Wick: Chapter 2 is one of the few films to attain the status of Action Opera. It’s killing me to wait for Chapter 3.
M. Night Shyamalan was the first director I ever loved, when I saw Signs as a 10 year old it blew my mind that a film could have deeper themes and meanings than what was explicitly happening on screen. To see him make a film like Split, after all this time in the wilderness, was just beautiful for me. The ending gave me emotions I didn’t know I had in me, just a rush that I could never replicate again. In more ways than one, it was a film that I had been waiting for Shyamalan to make for a decade plus. One of the main things that keeps me going is the prospect of seeing his followup Glass to close out this incredible trilogy he’s created.