Looking Back: Jeremy Kirk's Picks for the Top 10 Best Films of 2017
by Jeremy Kirk
January 5, 2018
Another year, another stellar slate of motion pictures seeing release. Despite what others might say about it (once again) being an off year at the movies, there were definitely some true winners worth seeking out. All you had to do was find them. Films that moved us, resonated with us, and out-and-out blew us away all saw release in 2017, so much of them, in fact, that, as with previous years at the cinema, it was difficult coming up with the 10 best. Here you will find my Top 10 Films of 2017, those motion pictures that spoke to me more than others, but someone else's Top 10 could just as easily be a completely different set of movies. It's a testament to just how strong a year is for movies that the Best Of lists are so diverse (view Adam's here).
Found below, for you perusal, are my picks of the Top 10 absolute best feature films from the year 2017:
#10. The Beguiled
On face-value, another cinematic version of The Beguiled, based on the book A Painted Devil by Thomas P. Cullinan, wasn't needed. The 1971 version starring Clint Eastwood offered up enough darkness and melancholic drama to satisfy, but the benefits of another telling of this story began shaping up as soon as Sofia Coppola was announced as writer/director of this new version. Add to that a stunning cast lead by Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst, Elle Fanning, and a small team of impressive, young actresses, and The Beguiled quickly became something to look forward to. Coppola's version of the story lived up to expectations and delivered a powerful depiction of survival in the time of war as well as subtle messages littered throughout. It's a version of the story that could very well be remembered more fondly than the original and a film that once again proves Coppola's worth when it comes to poignant storytelling.
#9. War for the Planet of the Apes
There's no doubt this new trilogy of movies in the Planet of the Apes saga have offered up something impressive and worthy of being considered in one of the best science fiction tales put to cinema. With Matt Reeves at the helm (of this as well as the previous entry, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) the last entry into this new trilogy reached for something grander. The stunning effects and incredible, motion-captured performance from Andy Serkis are the surface-level elements that impress the most. Reeves' take on the Planet of the Apes saga does so much more, though, successfully shifting the point of view from the human's perspective to that of the apes themselves and making a grand statement about war itself and the lines in the sand that divide us, both animal and man. It's an incredible achievement that puts to question where this saga could possibly go from here, but, if Reeves is to return for more, it'll be an exciting endeavor to see just where the filmmaker takes the Planet of the Apes franchise.
#8. John Wick: Chapter 2
Chad Stahelski & David Leitch's action movie John Wick floored audiences in 2014 and brought Keanu Reeves back into the fold of action star excellence. There was little doubt the sequel, John Wick: Chapter 2, wouldn't be just as breathtaking, and Chad Stahelski, co-director of the first film, takes charge and delivers a sequel with authority. Reeves is back, John Wick is back, and the action is faster and heavier than ever before. Expanding on the world in which the eponymous hero thrives, Stahelski and crew offer up something more than a casual, action-packed sequel to its predecessor. John Wick: Chapter 2 builds on the character as well as his environment, bringing to the forefront the dangerous nature of someone whose art is violence and who can't keep his dangerous tendencies bottled up for very long. It makes us all the more excited for what will be in store when John Wick: Chapter 3 comes around.
#7. The Killing of a Sacred Deer
It was a good year for things to go horribly wrong for Colin Farrell and for Nicole Kidman to be included in the mix. Greek filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos' psychological thriller, The Killing of a Sacred Deer, is a nightmare film of domestic dangers and a foreboding depiction of how quickly a seemingly comfortable domicile can turn deadly. With a wry sense of humor firmly in place, Lanthimos' film subtly takes your breath away, casually ratcheting up the intensity until the film's jaw-dropping finale that could very well leave you more shaken than you could possibly imagine. Young actor Barry Keoghan gives a quietly shocking performance as the young man who shakes things up for the quiet family at the forefront, but it's all Lanthimos when it comes to the unnerving nature of how those dangers choose to play themselves out. The Killing of a Sacred Deer is a thriller for anyone looking for more than the run-of-the-mill and one that continues Lanthimos' streak of delivering effective storytelling.
#6. Get Out
Jordan Peele's debut as a feature filmmaker was always going to come with a healthy dose of expectation, but few expected his film Get Out to resonate as well as it does. Clever humor and scares drop in with equal measures of success, and Peele's film ends up drilling into your brain with more effectiveness than anyone could have possibly imagined. With Daniel Kaluuya leading the charge of a very impressive cast, it's no wonder Get Out has generated so much buzz and continues to surprise audiences in so many ways. Whatever Peele delivers next will surely be something to behold, but, regardless of future success in the motion picture world, he can rest comfortably knowing he has delivered a horror comedy that will be remembered very fondly by future audiences.
Even with Christopher Nolan at the helm, Dunkirk was a difficult sell leading up to its actual release. The World War II subgenre has shaped itself around a set form for so long that it didn't seem possible to feel surprise any more from an entry. Leave it to Nolan to shake up expectations and give us something we truly haven't seen before. The editing and structure found within Dunkirk is something so fresh as to be considered groundbreaking and keeps the intensity of one of the earliest events in the war at an all-time high. With breathtaking imagery bringing the battles of the land, sea, and air to cinematic life, Nolan has once again crafted a work of film that is worth going over time and again, and studying all of the subtle eccentricities that make it more than just another war picture. He has become a filmmaker whose success should never be put into question, and all of his future endeavors should be met with the highest of expectations. Dunkirk is one of the best World War II films to come along in quite some time, and it shouldn't be a surprise it's a filmmaker as gifted as Christopher Nolan who has delivered it.
#4. The Big Sick
With heart and humor in equal measures, it's no wonder The Big Sick is easily being considered the most crowd-pleasing film of the year. Based on the true, love story between the film's star, Kumail Nanjiani, and Emily Gordon, the film takes little effort in making its audience laugh as well as cry throughout the film's entire runtime. Nanjiani and Gordon's screenplay is filled to the brim with genuine emotion, and director Michael Showalter brings their screenplay to cinematic life with effortless success. It doesn't hurt that the film boasts incredible, supporting performances from Zoe Kazan, Holly Hunter, and Ray Romano that drives the emotional impact all the more. The Big Sick is a near-perfect and creative, romantic comedy that comes in a time when it is believed all aspects of the genre have been seen and heard. All it takes is some well-placed creativity to make something old feel new again, and The Big Sick refreshens the romantic comedy to the point of success rarely seen in recent years.
#3. A Ghost Story
A supernatural depiction of love and loss that delves deep into the science fiction realm of a grander understanding, A Ghost Story was unlike any film seen this year or any other. Writer/director David Lowery tells the tale of "C", a musician whose death shakes up the relationship he has with his wife, "M". C's ghost haunts the landscape as well as the house the two share, but Lowery isn't satisfied with limiting his tale there. A Ghost Story is an incredibly inventive look at the nature of the universe and the way time plays out for the ghosts of loved ones' left behind, and it's aided by a commendable performance from Casey Affleck who is hidden under a blank sheet for much of the runtime. Likewise, Rooney Mara gives a memorable performance as the grief-stricken M, her single moment in the kitchen with a pie being one of the greatest scenes of the year, and one of the best examples of an actor's commitment to their part. Lowery isn't a newcomer to the filmmaking world, but the story and emotion he offers up in A Ghost Story puts him near the top of expectations as to where a filmmaker's career will go from here.
#2. Lady Bird
Greta Gerwig has become a staple in the world of independent filmmaking with a slew of impressive performances as an actress. It's no wonder her debut as a feature film writer and director would be met with a certain level of expectation, but what she delivers with Lady Bird is something even more magical and grander than could have ever be expected. A coming-of-age story set in 2002 Sacramento, the film could very easily have fallen into the trappings of a subgenre that has been expanding for decades, but Gerwig's film is littered with pitch-perfect drama, humor, and emotion that makes it far greater than the sum of its parts. Those parts, by the way, are equally impressive, with Saoirse Ronan giving a phenomenal lead performance in the eponymous role and her supporting players stepping up to match. It's no wonder Lady Bird is getting the acclaim is has received thus far this year and announces Gerwig as a filmmaking force to be watched in the coming years.
The film that reached the top spot in my opinion is also the film on this list I would be most apprehensive to recommend to anyone. That shouldn't be much of a shock when it comes to anything by filmmaker Darren Aronofsky, a director who never fails to challenge the audiences who dare to take his films in. That level of subversive storytelling is at an all-time high for his latest cinematic creation, mother!, a film that was sold as a straightforward, domestic thriller starring Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem. What we are given here is anything but straightforward, though, and mother! ends up being the most audacious bit of filmmaking 2017 saw across the board.
It's no wonder Aronofsky felt the need to explain his film after it was released to more than 2000 screens, an impressive aspect to the story of this film in and of itself. Even with the extensive analysis surrounding mother! by both critics and the maker of the film, Aronofsky's latest work is dripping with surrealist subtext and biblical allegory, enough, in fact, for numerous rewatches if your visual senses are strong enough to handle the events of the film. He's always been a daring filmmaker worthy of dissection, but, with mother!, Darren Aronofsky has once again proven himself as an artist of the most thrilling of works, a film that dares you to take it in and rewards any audience member courageous enough to experience it. For that audacity alone, mother! deserves its place in the top spot.
Honorable Mentions: Abacus: Small Enough to Jail; Baby Driver; The Breadwinner; Blade Runner 2049; Brigsby Bear; Brimstone & Glory; Colossal; Columbus; A Dark Song; The Disaster Artist; The Florida Project; Free Fire; Gerald's Game; I, Tonya; I Don't Feel at Home in This World Anymore; Ingrid Goes West; It; Kedi; Lady MacBeth; Logan; The Lovers; Okja; Patti Cake$; Personal Shopper; The Post; The Shape of Water; The Square; Star Wars: The Last Jedi; Thelma; Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri; The Work; Thor: Ragnarok; Tragedy Girls; Wonder Woman; XXX: Return of Xander Cage.
What do you think of Jeremy's Top 10 from 2017? Do you agree or disagree with his picks?