I’m exhausted on slavery era films, Civil Rights era films and pretty much every other kind where black folks are treated like crap. It takes a special one like Mudbound to tackle rural life in a post-World War II Mississippi and keep me interested. Featuring the year’s best ensemble, highlighted by amazing career best performances from Jason Mitchell, Garrett Hedlund, Carey Mulligan and Rob Morgan, this defied many of the genre clichés best embodied with its hopeful ending.
There’s a conflict within me on this one. Of anything on the list, The Last Jedi is the one I feel like I need a second viewing on to be the most confident in my placement. Arguably the most divisive of any of the Star Wars films, The Last Jedi largely scraps expectations and tons of seemingly major plot points from The Force Awakens to tell a fresher story — one that does a better job of bridging the Original Trilogy and showcasing the characters in the Sequel Trilogy. In the interest of remaining spoiler free, I’ll leave out some major points, but this had me much more intrigued with the third film than I was previously.
There was some OK (Atomic Blonde) to pretty entertaining (Kingsman: The Golden Circle) action films released in 2017, but few were as stylish, cool and chaotic as the John Wick sequel. This was a case where the filmmakers didn’t try and get too cute and screw up the formula. It was fine as it was and the sequel just delivers more of the same with some extra flair thanks to some exquisite battlegrounds and opponents.
Take the action in John Wick and multiply it by 20 and you’ve got a pretty good sense of what’s in store with The Villainess. Featuring some very inspired action sequences and an engaging, Kill Bill type plot, this was a major surprise and 2017’s best all-out action film with a compelling story to match. I rated John Wick 2 higher, but repeated viewings give this the slight edge.
This was a tough sell for me as I’d been burned too many times on remakes of films/TV shows from my childhood. Tim Curry’s portrayal of Pennywise still creeps me out. Turns out there’s enough head space for me to be freaked out over another demonic clown with by far 2017’s most terrifying and nerve-rattling film. From the opening act right through to its final scene, It had me unnerved and exceeded my expectations with great effects and even better performances. The second chapter can’t arrive in theaters fast enough.
5. Wonder Woman
A masterful origin film that wasn’t truly an origin film that made Gal Gadot one of 2017’s breakout stars and showed that DC has another box office draw besides Batman. Pretty much perfect in every way besides that chaotic final act, Director Patty Jenkins made a film with heart and fun that was empowering for all audiences.
What wasn’t to love with this fresh and fun take on Thor? Given the surplus of comic book films this year, Ragnarok’s biggest contribution at the beginning of 2017 was marking the last film until Black Panther. Instead, director Taika Waititi’s colorful and irreverent tone helped to make this not just the best Thor movie, but one of Marvel Studios’ top efforts and 2017’s best comic book film. Now let’s bring on Black Panther!
3. The Big Sick
This semi-autobiographical film about a stand-up comic learning to be a better boyfriend while his ex was in the hospital was sweet, funny and featured a breakout performance from star/co-writer Kumail Nanjiani and supporting roles from Holly Hunter and Ray Romano. I feel like more people need to see this film as it had a ton of heart and deserved more buzz this award season.
Pixar’s latest is such an incredibly amazing experience. It features the trademark humor and emotional roller coaster with a fresh story around a wonderful concept. From the character design to the songs and the thoughtful approach to the Mexican culture, Coco was a winner and another standout effort from Pixar.
1. Get Out
It’s rare when I see a film in February that becomes the film to beat for the rest of the year. But Get Out was a special kind of movie and one that never saw its top spot ranking in jeopardy. Director/Writer Jordan Peele created a modern masterpiece exploring racial issues in a post-Obama world.
While it was had some science fiction/horror elements, it was grounded in reality making it all the more frightening as 2017 would play out. I haven’t seen a film like Get Out that could from one moment to the next leave me laughing hysterically or enrage me another. Most importantly, Get Out encouraged me on the potential of more thought-provoking and entertaining efforts that tackle race, society and racism from a different perspective. That’s more than enough to warrant the top spot of my Top 20 Films of 2017 list.