Laramie Movie Scope:
Top, bottom films, etc. of 2017
Best, worst and ruminations on 2017 films
by Robert Roten, Film Critic
February 17, 2017 -- Here is my list of the best and worst films, best actors, etc. from the year of 2017. Included on this page is a list of 2017 top films selected by Patrick Ivers, a fellow critic on this review site.
There are the usual caveats. I saw most of the year's top films with the exception of a few films, such as “The Florida Project,” and a few others that got very little distribution or promotion in this country. Patrick Ivers sees a different mix of movies than I do, since he usually waits for movies to be released on video before he sees them. My picks for the best and worst films I have seen, and many other categories, such as best actor, director, etc. can also be found here.
Two things stand out in the top films of 2017: There are an unusual number of strong roles for women in films this year, and there some really good films about journalism this year, too. This makes it a most unusual year in movies.
Actresses who had great roles in 2017 included Meryl Streep, in The Post, Jessica Chastain in Molly's Game, Margo Robby and Jennifer Janney in I, Tonya, Seo-Hyun Ahn in Okja, Eili Harboe in Thelma, Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf and Beanie Feldstein in Lady Bird, Frances McDormand in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Emma Stone in Battle of the Sexes, Suki Waterhouse in The Bad Batch, Vicky Krieps in The Phantom Thread, Rosamund Pike in Hostiles, Izabela Vidovic in Wonder and Ann Hathaway in Colossal.
Movies about Journalism in 2017 include the based-on-fact dramas, The Post and The Pirates of Somalia and the documentary about political humor Tickling Giants. The documentaries Nowhere to Hide, City of Ghosts and Whose Streets? all celebrate citizen journalists, and include some videos shot by people in chaotic war zones where few, if any, journalists would dare venture.
So where are Get Out, Dunkirk, and some of those other top films on other lists? I saw them, and most of the other top films. Get Out is an effective horror film featuring a seldom seen black perspective on racism in America, but it is a genre film that, in the end, doesn't rise above the genre. Dunkirk is an understated war film that doesn't quite rise to the energy level of the best war films. Other films, like Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Call Me by Your Name and Phantom Thread didn't make my top 10 movie list, but performers in those movies are included in some of my “best of” lists below.
There are also a few 2016 films in the 2017 lists below, mostly foreign films as well as documentaries that got close to zero distribution in this country. Some 2016 foreign films were not released in the United States until 2017. This, thankfully is becoming less common because of digital distribution. It is now much faster and cheaper to duplicate and distribute films than it used to be.
Below the list of top films, are lists of my picks for top director, top actor, top foreign film, etc. Those lists are followed by lists of the worst films, overrated films, funniest, saddest, most romantic, etc. I've included a Dubious Distinction award for a film of “bad faith.” My top 10 lists include more comedy and films starring black actors, two varieties of movies absent from most top 10 lists. Drama is easy, but comedy is tough to get right.
Best 10 films of 2017
This is the most powerful film of the year, a harrowing, intense, searing movie about two families bound together by land, war, hatred and poverty in rural Mississippi in the middle of the 20th Century. This is a very rare film in that it was directed by a black woman and its depiction of the complexities of American racism reflects that seldom seen perspective.
2. The Shape of Water
This science fiction fantasy fish out of water cold war-era love story features a great villain in Michael Shannon, along with a great performance by Sally Hawkins. It is not just a love story, but also a story about prejudice, acceptance and courage.
3. Wind River
This murder mystery set on the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming has a compelling story, written by one of the best screenwriters in the business, Taylor Sheridan (“Hell or High Water”). The dialog in this film is spare, concise and powerful. When the action happens, it strikes like a thunderbolt. Jeremy Renner gives a great performance as a tracker and hunter.
This heartwarming, tear-jerker of a film about prejudice, love, diversity and the complicated dynamics of a family with a highly unusual child is a real crowd pleaser. What impressed me most, however, was the fact that the film did not choose to oversimplify the relationships. Instead, it embraced the complexity of people's feelings and the different ways they choose to deal with each other.
5. Molly's Game
This based on a true story about a woman, Molly Bloom, who made, and lost, a fortune fronting high stakes poker, is one of the best-written films of the year (along with “Wind River”). Jessica Chastain (who gave another great performance in 2016 as “Miss Sloane”) burns up the screen with an incendiary performance.
No film pushed the envelope more than this film, loved by some critics and hated by audiences. It is a master work by writer-director Darren Aranofsky (“Black Swan”) who comes across like a mad genius in this surrealistic film. Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem and Michelle Pfeiffer all give outstanding performances as characters descending into utter madness.
7. The Lego Batman Movie
This is my pick for the best animated film of the year, although “Coco” is a close second. This movie is not only the funniest film of the year, it has some insight into human nature, too. There are some very interesting characters in this film.
8. The Post
This movie is based on the true story of a historic decision by the Washington Post to publish the Pentagon Papers, despite threats of legal action and serious financial problems. Meryl Streep gives another in a long line of great performances as the legendary Post publisher, Katharine Graham.
This uplifting documentary about women on a dance team of the founding class of the Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women is bittersweet. On the one hand, it celebrates the achievements of young women who overcome obstacles to success, thanks to a nurturing school environment. On the other hand, it makes you realize most kids don't get to go to this kind of school.
10. The Work
This is a powerful emotional documentary film about prisoners and outsiders who participate in a series of revealing group therapy sessions inside Folsom State Prison.
Hell on Earth
I thought I knew about ISIS and the Syrian civil war, until I saw this revealing documentary, and discovered how much I did not know. This film gave me insights into one of the largest humanitarian disasters in history, due to the self-destruction of Syria.
Alive and Kicking
This documentary film by Susan Glatzer is a joyous tribute to the energetic, acrobatic and sometimes seductive dance styles born in the 1920s in Harlem, and to the dancers who carry on this tradition.
This is a very heartwarming story about family and the ending is quite emotional. The golden touch of Pixar and executive producer John Lasseter is evident here. The best of the Pixar movies often have these warm, emotional touches.
War for the Planet of the Apes
There have been a whole bunch of Planet of the Apes Movies since the original in 1968, but this new one, the third in the most recent trilogy of ape movies, is the best of them all. In the near future it would be fitting for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to recognize Andy Serkis, star of this film, for his talents as a motion capture and voice actor, and for his contributions as a pioneer in this evolving art form.
The man behind “Hot Fuzz” and “Shaun of the Dead” comes up with another dandy action film with a comic twist, but more subtle, and not a parody this time, more of an homage. This is a cut above the standard crime action drama, but it also bears some of writer-director Edgar Wright's comic touches.
Blade Runner 2049
Sequels or remakes are seldom as good as the original film but this is an exception. It takes the most intriguing elements of the original film and expands on them. Also, the acting is better in this film. It doesn't quite maintain its momentum to the end, but still, this is an exceptional film.
The film has all the extremes of human emotion: Scenes of great joy, street celebrations, parties, dancing and sex, interspersed with heartbreak, hatred and arrests. This film is compelling and the superb performances are part of the reason why.
This film uses a lot of archival film footage to tell the amazing story of how Jane Goodall, an English waitress without a college education ended up being one of the leading anthropological researchers in the world.
Coming of age stories have been done to death, but mostly they are about boys, in movies written and directed by men. This film is written and directed by Gretta Gerwig, so it is a bit different, and it is a lot more than just a coming of age story.
The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)
Overall, this is essentially a light comedy, despite some dramatic overtones. It is a rich exploration of human nature and family dynamics.
Nowhere to Hide
Nori Sharif, a kind of citizen journalist, documents the plight of his family flee their home and move desperately over a dozen times, trying to escape the violence that surrounds them in Iraq as the country crumbles into chaos.
This bittersweet documentary about a banned Egyptian comedian, Bassem Youssef, a fan of influential American comedian Jon Stewart, is both haunting and instructive about rebellions, authoritarian governments and satirical humor.
Patrick Ivers’ favorite 2017 films
The Top Five (unranked):
3 Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
The Second tier of 5 (unranked):
The Battle Of The Sexes
Victoria & Abdul
More lists below
Links to reviews of all the films on this page are indexed in the
following web pages:
1. Dee Rees — Mudbound
2. Guillermo del Toro — The Shape of Water
3. Taylor Sheridan — Wind River
4. Stephen Chbosky — Wonder
5. Darren Aranofsky — Mother!
1. Jeremy Renner — Wind River
2. Michael Shannon — The Shape of Water
3. Daniel Day Lewis — The Phantom Thread
4. Gary Oldman — Darkest Hour
5. Idris Elba — Molly's Game
1. Jessica Chastain — Molly's Game
2. Margo Robby — I, Tonya
3. Meryl Streep — The Post
4. Frances McDormand — Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
5. Jennifer Lawrence — Mother!
Best supporting actor
1. Rob Morgan — Mudbound
2. Jason Sudeikis — Colossal
3. Willem Dafoe — The Florida Project
4. Jaime Foxx — Baby Driver
5. Adam Sandler — The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)
Best supporting actress
1. Jennifer Janney — I, Tonya
2. Michelle Pfeiffer — Mother!
3. Laurie Metcalf — Lady Bird
4. Beanie Feldstein — Lady Bird
5. Lesley Manville — The Phantom Thread
Best child actor
1. Jacob Tremblay — Wonder
Best adapted screenplay
1. Molly's Game — Aaron Sorkin
2. Mudbound — Virgil Williams and Dee Rees
3. The Post — Liz Hannah and Josh Singer
4. Wonder — Stephen Chbosky, Steve Conrad, and Jack Thorne
5. Blade Runner 2049 — Hampton Fancher and Michael Green
Best original screenplay
1. Wind River — Taylor Sheridan
2. The Shape of Water — Guillermo del Toro and Vanessa Taylor
3. Mother! — Darren Aronofsky
4. Lady Bird — Greta Gerwig
5. The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) — Noah Baumbach
Best documentary feature
2. The Work
3. Alive and Kicking
4. Nowhere to Hide
5. Tickling Giants
Best animated feature
1. The Lego Batman Movie
Best foreign language film
2. First They Killed My Father
3. In the Fade
1. Mudbound — Rachel Morrison
2. Dunkirk — Hoyte van Hoytema
3. Blade Runner 2049 — Roger A. Deakins
4. Call Me By Your Name — Sayombhu Mukdeeprom
5. Walking Out — Todd McMullen
1. Baby Driver — Paul Machliss and Jonathan Amos
2. Dunkirk — Lee Smith
3. I, Tonya — Tatiana S. Riegel
4. The Shape of Water — Sidney Wolinsky
5. Wind River — Gary Roach
Best music (scores and/or songs)
1. Step — Song “Jump” written by Raphael Saadiq, Taura Stinson and Laura Karpman, performed by Cynthia Erivo
2. Mudbound — Song “Mighty River,” music and Lyric by Mary J. Blige, Raphael Saadiq and Taura Stinson
3. Coco — Song, “Remember Me,” music and Lyric by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez
4. Sing — good selection of songs
5. The Greatest Showman — Song “This is Me,” Music and Lyric by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul
Best visual effects
1. Star Wars: The Last Jedi
2. War for the Planet of the Apes
3. Kong: Skull Island
4. Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets
5. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Links to reviews of all films on this site are indexed below:
Funniest films of the year
Saddest films of the year
Best love stories
Scariest villain of the year
Oscar (played by Jason Sudeikis) in Colossal
The year's most overrated films
All of these films have won awards or have been highly rated by some critics groups, or have won praise at some film festivals, or are just rated higher than they ought to be. These are listed alphabetically. The most notable film on the list are Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and Phantom Thread which both have ludicrous plots, but Three Billboards is also clueless in its depiction of racism and homophobia. Get Out is a good genre horror film with a seldom-seen black perspective on racism, but it doesn't really rise above the bloody genre in the end.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2
John Wick Chapter 2
The year's best films you've never heard of
The Worst Films of 2017
While I saw most of the best films 2017, I purposefully missed nearly all of the reportedly bad films, including Father Figures – Boo 2! A Madea Halloween – Daddy’s Home 2 – The Mummy – Just Getting Started – Rings – The Snowman – Amityville: The Awakening – Fifty Shades Darker – The Space Between Us – CHIPS – The Last Face – The Book Of Henry – The Emoji Movie – The House – Leatherface – the Flatliners remake and The Shack, among many others. Those are all wide release films which made it to most cities and towns in the U.S. I also missed most of the limited release bad films, among many others, so this is not in any way a list of the worst of the worst films, just the worst of the films I saw. I did see Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, and while it was disappointing, it did not make my “worst of” list.
Let There Be Light
This is a simple-minded faith-based movie which offers the argument that the only real choice between the thousands of religions in the world is between Christianity or ISIS, earning it the Bad Faith Award, below.
This is a disagreeable comedy in which the main character is unlikeable and every single conversation and social interaction is awkward.
The Girl on the Train (2016)This is a film like Fifty Shades of Grey where the women are passive and submissive, falling victim to a cruel man. They finally rise up against him, but I had to suffer through a lot of this nonsense before the unsatisfying, all-too-brief payoff at the end.
This talky drama about a group of people debating whether or not to do the right thing doesn't have enough people of character in it. When the politician in the group has the most moral fiber of the lot by far, that says a lot.
I got talked into watching this mess of a movie, but it wasn't really worth writing a review about it. While the subjects of the film, privacy and surveillance, are worthwhile, the central character is wildly inconsistent. Here is a review from my fellow critic Patrick Ivers, who was one of about 22 percent of critics reviewing this film who liked it.
Bad Faith Award
The Bad Faith Award this year goes to Kevin Sorbo's Let There Be Light.
The only reason I saw this was that I thought I was going to see a different movie that came out the same year with the exact same title, a documentary about scientists working on fusion power. This is a movie about a man who loses his faith, but regains it after a near-death experience where he visits his dead son in the afterlife.
If you meet a dead relative in the afterlife, and he tells you to believe in something, you probably will believe it, but that requires no faith. This film offers some phony arguments to believe in Christianity, like straw man arguments, and a false choice. This movie obviously doesn't have the intellectual heft to persuade atheists and agnostics that they are wrong. Instead, it literally preaches to the choir. It looks to be a movie with very narrow vision of Christianity and a very limited appeal. I like wider appeal religious movies such as Amazing Grace (2007) or Shoes of the Fisherman (1968) or even The Apostle (1997).
Links to all my reviews are indexed below:
Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.
Copyright © 2018 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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