2017 was a great year for movies, ranking right up there with 2014 for perhaps best year in film for the last decade. It was a year when new voices, most notably Greta Gerwig and Jordan Peele, came to the forefront. Big blockbusters had auteurs at the helm, giving us some of the most thought-provoking Hollywood films in recent memory.
Think you know what films will end up on this list? Better think again. This next installment of StudioBinder’s ongoing series to review the last decade in film has plenty of surprises, which any filmmaker should enjoy. If you want to expand your cinematic vocabulary, then make sure to check out the best movies of 2017.
TOP MOVIES 2017
20. The Big Sick
Perhaps no genre of film is filled with tropes and cliches than the romantic comedy. It can be hard to make it feel fresh, but somehow, The Big Sick manages to do precisely that. It doesn’t make fun of the genre or incorporate meta-humor. Instead, it focuses on a unique story involving a Pakistani comedian and a grad student who struggle to maintain their relationship when she’s diagnosed with a severe illness.
The film excels in the way it so swiftly blends tones together. It’s uproariously hilarious one moment, and then the next, you’re dealing with the realities of death in a hospital. You don’t get whiplash though. It feels natural. It feels the way life is and how life can change in an instant. It’s a remarkable achievement and a must-watch for all couples.
2017 BEST MOVIES
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri was one of the most difficult watches of 2017. There is a lot at play here, especially when it comes to feminine anger and racism. The characters are complex, and while the film doesn’t necessarily forgive their shortcomings, it makes them fully fledged-out people who are neither wholly good or wholly evil.
The film excels due to a handful of incredible performances. In particular, Frances McDormand turns in one of the best performances of the last decade. Her portrayal of a woman out for revenge when everyone just wants her to let her daughter’s death go is powerful. The film challenges you, and it forces you to question your beliefs, which is what a good film should do.
BEST FILMS OF 2017
18. I, Tonya
I, Tonya recontextualizes a story most Americans know of Tonya Harding hiring someone to beat Nancy Kerrigan. However, this film dives into Tonya’s psyche in a way we haven’t seen before and how it was ultimately the men in her life who coerced her into cheating to win at the Olympics.I, Tonya is ultimately a tragedy. It’s about a woman who dedicates her life to one pursuit only to come up short time and time again. Instead of consoling her, her husband encourages her to break the rules to get ahead. While she’s certainly not exempt from blame, the film deals with grays rather than blacks and whites. It’s a fascinating portrayal. Special kudos to the team that put together the skating scenes, which look utterly real.
BEST MOVIES OF 2017
Yorgos Lanthimos’s films are not for everyone, but if you have a taste for bleak, dark humor, then The Killing of a Sacred Deer is for you. It’s a darkly hilarious yet horrifying portrait of what goes on behind the scenes of pleasant suburbia. Much of the film is about setting a tone that something isn’t right between Dr. Steven Murphy and Martin, a teenager Steven has a strange relationship with. From there, it turns into a twisted revenge tale.
The film essentially functions as an allegory on concepts of crime and punishment. It’s also a send-up of the pleasantries people give each other to try to maintain the peace. It’s an absurd masterpiece on the subject of morality that is just as provocative as it is violent.
GOOD MOVIES 2017
16. Baby Driver
Much like a well-executed heist, Baby Driver moves seamlessly from one beat to the next without missing a step along the way. Edgar Wright proves himself to be a master of genre as he simultaneously makes a slick action movies that feels like a music video. The witty dialogue and perfectly placed needle drops work perfectly, making for an entertaining experience that’s unlike any other mainstream blockbuster.There’s not a weak link in the bunch. The performances are top-notch. The script is fantastic. And the cinematography has a lot of fun in its contemporary Atlanta setting. You can’t go wrong with Baby Driver.
2017 TOP MOVIES
Netflix is a polarizing force in the film industry. While it’s brought about the “streaming wars,” it’s also responsible for bringing films it’s hard to imagine would have any kind of audience in a modern cineplex. Enter I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore. After a nurse’s home is robbed, she teams up with her seedy neighbor to get back her goods. It sounds simple enough, but the film serves as an excellent springboard to discuss gender roles.
The film manages to both confirm and challenges your notions about the worst in people. Just when you think you have characters pinned down, the film flips the script to make you reconsider all you’ve just seen. It’s filled with ample dark humor to make the messages go down a bit easier even if you still feel a bit unease once the film ends.
POPULAR MOVIES 2017
Coco is a prime example of Pixar working at full capacity. It uses the vehicle of a children’s film about the Mexican Day of the Dead to discuss themes related to family, death, and memories. It’s one of the most vibrant and beautifully animated Pixar films to come out of the studio, but where the film really soars is how it deals with its emotional beats.Many times, Coco does not feel like a children’s films. It never feels condescending or pulls any punches when it comes to the inevitability of death and how we remember those who have already passed away. As the message of the film would want, the film will not soon be forgotten.
MUST SEE MOVIES 2017
It’s hard to put into words, but The Florida Project is one of the most “real” films from 2017. It follows a ragtag group of kids as they go about their summer vacation even as the adults around them struggle. The characters are fully-realized, and it’s one of the most beautiful films to come out of 2017, an impressive achievement considering most of the film takes place around a hotel.
The film is 10 years removed from the Great Recession. The children have only ever known a world in this new reality, and they still manage to find joy in life even as the adults struggle to adapt. It’s a heartbreaking portrait of modern America with an incredible performance from Willem Dafoe.
LIST OF THE BEST MOVIES OF 2017
12. Ingrid Goes West
When talking about modern social media and technology dependency, it’s easy for a film to come across as condescending. However, Ingrid Goes West manages to expertly satirize all the elements of the Instagram age with surprising bite without coming across like it was written by a Baby Boomer. The film follows a woman obsessed with social media who begins emulating the life of Taylor Sloane, a well-known influencer, ultimately befriending her.
At its core, the film is about the authenticity of friendship. What does it mean to actually connect with someone beyond appearing in one another’s Instagram stories? It’s a hilarious yet sobering work of art right up to the final second, which truly summarizes everything the film wants to say.
BEST MOVIES FROM 2017
11. Wonder Woman
It’s hard to make a superhero film feel fresh. You could go down the postmodern route like Deadpool, or you could go back to making genuine expressions of heart and warmth, which is the route Wonder Woman takes. The film is an almost mythic experience, bringing out a positive message on how even in the darkest times, we need to be kind to one another.Wonder Woman feels like a return to form for the superhero origin story. It proves that these characters that stand for truth and justice don’t have to be corny or old-fashioned. They have their place in the modern cinematic landscape. You just need to have someone at the helm who understands the characters inside and out who can bring out a film’s best qualities.
TOP 10 MOVIES 2017
Call Me by Your Name is a coming-of-age romance about a 17-year old student and his father’s research assistant. The film doesn’t feel the need to propel forward unnecessarily. It takes its time portraying the world these lovers live in and the romance forming between them.
The utter beauty of the film is alone enough to behold. The cinematography is incredible as it captures the gorgeous landscape of northern Italy. While their relationship inevitably hits its road bumps, you’ll want to find yourself living in this beautiful world where love is tender and kind.
THE BEST MOVIES OF 2017, RANKED
Sequels that come out 35 years after the original are often cash grabs from Hollywood. However, Blade Runner 2049 feels like a natural progression in the story and an essential component to fully understand and appreciate the themes and ideas from the original. The film expertly handles concepts of humanity and what it means to be human perhaps even better than the 1982 original. It pushes boundaries one would not expect out of a blockbuster, but Denis Villeneuve proves he can take anything and turn it into art.
That’s not even getting into the beautiful visuals of the film. The future feels cold yet vibrant. It is a visual delight with every frame being a sight to behold. It is truly some of Roger Deakin’s best work, and this film is a perfect example of why he’s the best cinematographer working today.
RANKING THE TOP MOVIES 2017
Wonder Woman showed how it was possible to sincerely introduce a new superhero to the masses. Logan showed how you can make character progress and bring his story to an end. It’s a deeply personal story putting you inside the mind of a man who has lost virtually everyone he has ever loved and his one last chance to do right in the world. The film foregoes traditional superhero movie plot points to provide a thrilling ride of survival that is merely a great story regardless of comic book origins.Profanity and extreme violence are not just set dressing. They are essential for telling this particular story, bringing you into a dark, dirty world. Logan wraps up the entire 20th Century Fox X-Men series in such a poignant way, proving to be a fitting sendoff for both the character and this franchise. Just don’t talk about Dark Phoenix.
REVIEWING THE BEST FILMS OF 2017
With The Shape of Water, it’s easy to see Guillermo del Toro’s love of filmmaking. He’s crafted a beautiful story of finding love in the midst of adversity and discrimination. It’s a modern-day Beauty and the Beast story that shows how we all need connection, and maybe more importantly, all need physical, carnal pleasures.In more ways than one, The Shape of Water is an ode to love and acceptance. Setting the film in America in the 1960s is no accident. Everyone is fighting for acceptance in a world that wants nothing to do with them, and the struggle to find happiness is a revelation in what can often be a bleak, desolate cinema landscape.
BEST MOVIES IN 2017
Phantom Thread is just as gorgeous as the fashion present throughout the narrative. Watching the film now makes you sad Daniel Day-Lewis decided to retire after filming it as he proves once again to be the finest actor of his generation. His performance is wonderfully complemented from the surefire direction from Paul Thomas Anderson, who uses an eclectic mix of close-ups and tracking shots to tell a beautiful story.Phantom Thread is an enveloping experience. Perhaps most surprising of all, the film is genuinely funny with Daniel Day-Lewis proving he has just a proclivity toward comedy as he does for drama. The film is almost a dreamlike experience that will make you want to return once it ends.
TOP 5 BEST MOVIE OF 2017
5. Paddington 2
2017 was a tense, stressful year for many. Watching films that dealt with heavy issues wasn’t always the best thing in the world, and ultimately, people want to go to the movies for escapism and to enjoy life for a couple of hours. Paddington 2 filled that hole wonderfully, providing a fun, family-friendly adventure for all with a heartwarming message viewers of all ages could learn from.Plenty of kids’ films preach such a message, but Paddington 2 provides fun for everyone. It doesn’t feel schlocky or condescending. It feels genuine and pure. It’s so gorgeously cheery, you can’t help but have a smile on your face for the entire runtime. When everything seems like too much, do your mental health a favor and put on Paddington 2.
RANKING THE BEST MOVIES OF 2017
After watching The Last Jedi, I thought it couldn’t have been as good as the original films. Now with several years and a few rewatches, I can confidently say The Last Jedi is the best Star Wars film of all time. I know those are fighting words considering the heated response that generally comes discussing this movie, but no other Star Wars films challenges the notions of what makes a Star Wars film so enjoyable more than this one. It’s a deconstruction of the hero mythos and confronts the idea of who is allowed to be a hero.The Last Jedi takes some big risks, and for me, they work splendidly. It never goes in the direction you think it will go, making for a truly unique experience and something that’s rare to find in a series like this. The postmodern ideas present within and how the film turns the traditional Joseph Campbell story structure on its head continue to delight upon rewatches. In the years to come when Disney cranks out dozens more Star Wars films, I believe The Last Jedi will prove to be the most important film in the franchise going forward.
LOOKING AT THE BEST FILMS OF 2017
3. Lady Bird
Lady Bird is a coming-of-age film about a girl stuck in Sacramento who wants to escape her hometown and really start her life. There’s nothing world-shaking about such a premise, and yet, the stakes feel life or death for our young protagonist. Every new romance, every college application is of the utmost importance. It perfectly captures that moment in adolescence when you are so close to breaking out and forming your own identity, but you still find yourself held back.
From quirky misfits to lovable nerds, Greta Gerwig has captured the essence of various high school staples. But no one feels like a caricature. They feel like the kids you went to high school with. Just when you think you know someone, they surprise you. These are fully-fledged characters just trying to make it out of high school, providing a deeply personal experience, especially if you yourself grew up in a likewise small town.
LIST OF GOOD MOVIES 2017
Dunkirk is macro-level filmmaking of the highest order. As if filming most of the movie on IMAX cameras wasn’t enough, the film is split into three different stories, each one spanning a different length of time and occurring on different terrain (land, sea, and air). From start to finish, it’s a tense rollercoaster that encapsulates the terrors of war in a way few films manage.As a viewer, you’re pulled into the escape effort at Dunkirk thanks to the soundtrack and cinematography. Every single component of the film aims toward the same singular goal: making you feel terror for all 107 minutes. Dunkirk is a massive achievement in terms of directing. It raises the bar for what big-budget films can, and should, do.
THE BEST MOVIE OF 2017
1. Get Out
In my opinion, Get Out is as close as you can get to a perfect movie. It makes you life. It fills you with terror. It has social commentary bursting in virtually every moment that will have you chewing on the movie and discussing it with friends for hours. And these elements never cannibalize one another. They all work together to create an idyllic cinematic experience where you are both entertained but also have a lot to think of regarding the world at large.Get Out is an ideal film for movie historians. There’s always something new to learn, new details that come to the forefront on each subsequent viewing. You could watch it 50 times and discover something new to love every time. It didn’t just give horror movies something new to strive for; it gave all movies something new to attain. It’s an amazing piece of art that will continue to be studied for decades.
The Best Movies of 2018
Whether you’re into horror or superhero films, our best films of 2018 list has everything for all cinephiles. Check out the next part of our series to see which films from 2018 you need to watch next.