Our Picks For The Best Films, Scenes, Performances and Theatrical Experiences From The Head-Spinning Year In Movies That Was 2017.
Let’s be honest: 2017 was a weird year.
It was an especially weird year for fans of cinema, though. Sure, there have been a number of excellent releases, and everything from the smallest indie to the biggest blockbuster has proven to be a thought-provoking and challenging work of art. But with 2017 on the whole being so stressful in this country that it on its own feels like the longest decade of our lives — and Hollywood only contributing to that in the form of the Harvey Weinstein scandal and its ensuring fallout — it made our movie memories very short.
Did for me, anyway. But something interesting happened as Hollywood began to structurally crumble: The heroes portrayed in its films somehow became more human. They became more nuanced. Sometimes, they weren’t enough. Sometimes, they lost their way. And what’s even more interesting is that, with heroes like Luke or Logan or Caesar, their last stands weren’t epic world-changing affairs but smaller more personal struggles for the very fate of their souls.
Yeah, 2017 was rough. But at least we had the movies.
In this space, my fellow critics and I will, from the good to the bad and everything in between, attempt to recap it for you as best we can. — Javier Fuentes
WARNING: This article contains MAJOR SPOILERS for Star Wars: The Last Jedi and Get Out, as well as for Silence. Yes. that Martin Scorsese film is technically a 2016 release, and it doesn’t make our top 10, but it deserves special commendation since it’s great, and also since it didn’t reach Dallas theaters until this year.
Movie We Liked But Most People Didn’t.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi. For this category, I’m going with something that has split the internet in half: The Last Jedi. Ever since the latest Star Wars film came out, the nerd world has been divided. Some love it; others have petitioned it to be removed from the Star Wars canon. Does the film have story problems? Yes, but what Star Wars movie doesn’t? I don’t believe this film is as bad as people make it out to be. It’s actually pretty fantastic and one of the better Star Wars films. My stance is that nostalgia has clouded the eyes of fans. It’s easy to forget the problems of the original trilogy when you wore out your VHS tapes as a child. Just because the film is different and didn’t play into the fan theories about Snoke or Rey’s heritage doesn’t mean it isn’t good. Calm down, purists. — Angela Jones
Justice League, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, Alien: Covenant and Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. I honestly dug a lot of hot messes this year. All of the aforementioned are bad films, yes, but they have enough cool aspects to warrant some respect. In a time right before Disney buys up all media, it feels good to know that there are still projects being green-lit that were ambitious but ultimately fell short. — JF
Alien: Covenant. I’m going to have to disagree with you there, Javi, and say that Alien: Covenant is unreservedly good. I hope Fox/Disney/whoever ends up with those films’ rights lets Ridley Scott end this trilogy on his own terms. Prometheus was one of the best prequels of all time, far more obsessed with exploring the idea of creation and destruction than in providing scares. Alien: Covenant ups the carnage, but it’s even more nihilistic, running with the theme of: What if you met God, and he was capricious and sadistic? Plus, it features the tremendous dual performance of Michael Fassbender as the evil David and the “upgraded” Walter. — Kip Mooney
Movie We Didn’t Like But Others Did.
Thor: Ragnarok. Yes, the film is funny and revived the character of Thor. And the first viewing of this film was enjoyable. But a second viewing brought to light more of the movie’s flaws. Everything on Asgard is quite boring. And, really, this film is lucky Cate Blanchett is such a wonderful actress because any other person as the villain would have dragged the movie down even more. Also, the comedy doesn’t play as well during a second viewing because you know the punchlines. Yes, the movie is fun, but it’s nowhere near as great as a lot of people think. — AJ
Spider-Man: Homecoming. Look, it was fun to have Spidey as part of the MCU, and Tom Holland is great as an actual high school Peter Parker. But the story doesn’t hold up. It feels comically and thematically incoherent and, beyond the loveliness of its visuals, there’s not much to enjoy there for me aside from a few select jokes. — JF
The Killing of a Sacred Deer. Like all of Yorgos Lanthimos’ movies, your mileage may vary on this one. I personally quite liked his previous films Dogtooth and The Lobster. But this one didn’t do it for me. I get what he was going for — exposing the seedy underbelly of the upper class — but every person in this movie speaks in short, declarative sentences and, while it might make sense for one character to have that affectation, when you give it to every single one, including the kids, it gets irritating very quickly. — KM
Best Aspect of a Bad Movie.
The musical numbers of The Greatest Showman. The Greatest Showman is a mediocre film. It’s a sloppy story with interesting side characters who don’t get as much screen time as they should. But the music and musical performances in the film save it from being a complete bore. Hugh Jackman shows his Broadway roots and leads an energetic cast in fun performances. It’s a theatre-goers dream of creative choreography, bright costumes and belt-worthy songs. — AJ
The inter-dimensional space market sequence in Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. You’ve got action happening in literally two dimensions with Valerian stuck between both as he tries to recover whatever maguffin he was tasked to retrieve. It’s one of the most creative and fascinating action sequences this year. — JF
The cinematography and production design of A Cure for Wellness. For two hours, A Cure for Wellness is an above-average haunted hospital movie. Dane DeHaan (also the star of Valerian) plays a young corporate hotshot sent to retrieve his boss from a remote mountain resort, but ends up getting trapped there himself. The retreat’s endless tile corridors, poor lighting and primitive medical devices add to the creepiness, and there are some gorgeous shots of the local scenery and some neat camera tricks. But then the movie torpedoes itself in its last 20 minutes, going from suitably eerie to uncomfortably icky. — KM
Scene of the Year.
Holdo’s suicide mission in Star Wars: The Last Jedi. The resistance is about to be squashed by the First Order as they make their last escape to an old rebel hideout. Vice Admiral Holdo has decided to stay behind on their main ship so everyone else can make their escape. As the escape pods are being attacked by the First Order, Holdo makes a crucial decision. She turns the ship around, facing the fleet and charges to lightspeed. The sound cuts out as Holdo’s ship splits the fleet in half. Ship particles sprinkle throughout space, the broken ships begin to float away from each other and it takes a moment to register what has happened as an audience member. In a crowd of rabid Star Wars fans on opening night, this scene brought the house to silence. The moment Holdo’s ship goes to light speed, there’s a collective inhale from the audience. We hold our breath in unison as silence fills the screen, and we soak up as much as the visuals as possible. It was a perfect moment. And then we all let our breath go and the applause began. — AJ
Father Rodrigues apostatizes in Silence. Scorsese hit us with a very intense movie earlier this year in Silence. The story of Portuguese missionary monks persecuted in Japan, it asks big questions about the nature and purpose of faith. Father Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) is finally captured by the authorities and blackmailed into renouncing his faith by stepping on the image of Christ. After the last 90 minutes of the movie, to see a man so full of conviction broken, it proved to be a very moving experience thanks in large part to Garfield’s amazing performance. — JF
The ending of Get Out. Get Out succeeds as a horror-comedy because it plays on its audiences’ understanding of well-worn tropes. It anticipates the moments when we’d normally be scared and lets us catch our breath when those sounds turn out to be nothing. But throughout the film, writer-director Jordan Peele saves its scariest moments for when we least expect them. And no moment produced a bigger lump in my throat than its final scene, after Chris has defeated all his white tormentors and a police cruiser pulls up to the mansion he’s fled. There was a collective gasp in the audience as we all assumed this cheap horror flick would take a page from real-life terror and Chris would be gunned down, despite being unarmed and innocent. Luckily, it was just his best friend Rod (Lil Rel Howery) coming to save him. — KM
Performance of the Year.
Sebastian Stan in I, Tonya. I, Tonya has been critically revered for its performances, especially for Allison Janney and Margot Robbie. But the standout performance in that film really belongs to Sebastian Stan as Tonya Harding’s ex-husband, Jeff Gillooly. Stan is smooth and terrifying as Gillooly. He’s been brought up in a rough home like Harding, and they fall in love and get married at a young age. He has a temper and beats Harding on a semi-regular basis, and while she fights back as best she can, he normally wins. Stan is unrecognizable in this role. He’s suave and always is able to talk his way back into Harding’s life. It’s a career-changing performance for him. — AJ
Jennifer Lawrence in mother! In most head-trip movies, it seems that the characters always know more than you. But not in this one. As the events of the movie unravel around her, we’re just as confused as Lawrence’s character is. Her performance truly is one whose journey mirrors that of the audience as she plays things bewildered, scared and ultimately angry. It’s as memorable as the movie’s climax. — JF
Robert Pattinson in Good Time and The Lost City of Z. I pray that we never again see a franchise as thoroughly rotten as the Twilight Saga, which consisted of five increasingly incomprehensible films featuring terrible dialogue, atrocious acting and tepid direction. In the five years since it ended, we’ve been doubly blessed because even the worst blockbusters often aren’t that bad, and that stars Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart have left that life behind. While Stewart’s opted for quiet performances from acclaimed international filmmakers, Pattison went much bolder. Though neither of these film made my top 10, both were brought to life by this former Hot Topic T-shirt icon. In Good Time, he’s a con man spending one wild night trying to get his mentally disabled brother out of jail. With bleached blond hair and an askew moral compass, he’s nowhere near as smart as he thinks, but definitely as determined as they come. In The Lost City of Z, he’s the loyal companion to Percy Fawcett (a never-better Charlie Hunnam), who joins him on several journeys to the Amazon until the cost simply becomes too high. The range he displays here will make you forget all his years spent as a pasty, sparkly vampire. — KM
Best Theatrical Experience.
Wonder Woman women-only screening and my wedding. This is cheating, but I have two answers for this one. The first is seeing Wonder Woman in a female-only screening. There was such a positive and fun energy in the room as Alamo Drafthouse held special female-only screenings — including female servers, managers and police officers on duty. Nothing crazy happened, but it felt empowering seeing a film with a room full of strong women. My second is more personal: This year, I got married in a movie theater! In October, I tied the knot at the Alamo Drafthouse in The Cedars neighborhood of Dallas. It was a perfect venue for a movie nerd like myself; everyone had comfortable seats, great food and good drinks. There were minimal decorations, but the setting made up for that. OK, the movie-themed items during the reception — including a Star Wars AT-AT cake, movie theater popcorn and movie theater candy for parting favors — helped sell the theme, too. For a couple of movie lovers like my husband and me, it was just perfect. — AJ
Dismember the Alamo. Man, I just love these marathons. It sells out consistently each year for good reason, and that’s because this series is full of rad horror movies tied together with recurring motifs. This year, we were #blessed to have not only the Halloween edition, but a Christmas horror mini-marathon too! Sometimes, we get rare 35mm prints; other times, it’s a Blu-ray or even VHS. The medium doesn’t matter, though. They’re all great. — JF
Baby Driver at SXSW. The crowd at the Paramount Theatre in Austin for this thrilling film’s world premiere was electric. We had no idea what to expect, but from its fantastic opening scene, we were hooked. I had no idea at the time that Atlanta (where the movie is set and filmed) would become my home, but it was an exciting glimpse of what was to come. — KM
Movie We Forgot Came Out This Year.
Colossal. Looking back on my list, this movie slipped my mind. Then I remembered what I saw — a creative film featuring Anne Hathaway giving a solid performance as thirty-something trying to figure her life out as a Godzilla-like monster terrorizes Seoul. It’s definitely worth checking out. The story takes a completely different route the last act, but it’s a great little film by director Nacho Vigalondo. — AJ
Dunkirk. I’m not sure why Dunkirk failed to connect with me. Maybe if I was able to have seen it at least twice in the theater, it would have been great? Perhaps Christopher Nolan’s interesting experiment in storytelling chronology hit me more in the brain than in the heart? That’s likely more the case. If people made jokes of the three dark-haired leads all blending together at the time of its release, things have only gotten worse a few months out. — JF
Free Fire. I reviewed this violent comedy — then promptly forgot about it. This movie is a total blast (and available on Amazon Prime Video right now), but unlike Ben Wheatley’s other movies, it’s just not the kind you’ll be thinking about for months after. — KM
Our Combined Favorite Films of 2017.
As before, we each made a top 10 list of our favorite films of the year, assigning 10 points to our top film, nine for our second and so on. This year, we only had two films make each of our lists, and a lot of films that only appeared on one list. So, in the interest of full disclosure – and maybe finding out who you can blame for a movie you hated making this list or a movie you loved just missing the cut – you can find our individual ballots below our collective top 10 that’s posted first. KM
10 (tie). War for the Planet of the Apes and Coco (7 points).
8 (tie). The Disaster Artist and The Shape of Water (9 points).
6 (tie). Kedi and I, Tonya (10 points).
5. Baby Driver (12 points).
4. Dunkirk (13 points).
3. The Big Sick (15 points).
2. mother! (16 points).
1. Get Out (19 points).
Our Individual Ballots.
1. I, Tonya
2. The Disaster Artist
3. Get Out
4. The Big Sick
5. War for the Planet of the Apes
6. Baby Driver
9. A Ghost Story
10. Wonder Woman
3. Get Out
5. Baby Driver
6. Your Name
7. Blade Runner 2049
8. Good Time
9. Loving Vincent
10. War for the Planet of the Apes
2. The Shape of Water
3. The Big Sick
5. Call Me by Your Name
6. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
8. Get Out
9. Lady Bird
10. Baby Driver
Did you enjoy this look back at the year in movies? Check out more of our film coverage right here!