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The 30 Best Movies of 2017

01 January 2018 | Features, Film Lists | by Shane Scott-Travis

The bright lights in Tinseltown were especially revealing in 2017, not only displaying the cinematic spectacles that the motion picture industry is famous for but also, as the story of the year boldly blazons, but avowing the predators who have toiled there for too long.

With the gender balance being bravely argued it is with joy that a suiting Hollywood ending be reflected in Taste of Cinema’s year end roundup. So many of our favorite films from 2017 feature brilliant women either in front of the lens or behind it –– from Wonder Woman to Rumble to Lady Macbeth to Lady Bird to Faces Places to The Beguiled –– what phenomenal females!

Beyond that, just a cursory glance at the titles assembled here in our 30 Best Movies of 2017 (and do please note that narrowing the titles down to a workable 30 titles was no small feat –– I cringe at the many worthy films that didn’t make the cut, and a lengthy Honorable Mentions section aims to tow the line) shows a wonderful and wide-ranging miscellany.

The auteur is alive and well, arthouse and blockbusters are plentiful, documentary films are on fire, genre films are stronger than ever, and let’s just echo it all once more for posterity: female-led projects are popular, bankable, and breathtaking, as are strong women characters.

Without further ado, let the roundup commence, and in 2018 let’s catch up in the queue and compare notes, shall we? Enjoy!

 

30. The Beguiled

“I loved the sexual repression under the high lacy collars in the heat of the South, and how under all the melodrama, there were themes I could relate to about the power struggle between men and women,” writes director Sofia Coppola in the LA Times of her award-winning film, The Beguiled, adding: “…I loved that the story was about hierarchies in groups of women, something I’ve looked at with my earlier work.”

Ostensibly both a remake of the Southern Gothic erotic thriller by Don Siegel from 1971 and also an adaptation of Thomas P. Cullinan’s 1966 novel “A Painted Devil”, Coppola (who also wrote the screenplay and won the Best Director Award at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival) smartly and slowly unravels her tale via the female gaze in a film that, if one is patient with it, slowly pulls you under its sunlit and fainéant spell.

Set in Virginia during the Civil War, The Beguiled finds the desperate Corporal John McBurney (Colin Farrell), an injured Union soldier and a deserter seeking refuge at an all-female Southern boarding school. Here the teachers, led by Miss Martha Farnsworth (Nicole Kidman) and students (including Elle Fanning and Angourie Rice) seem more than willing to help and soon, sexual tensions give way to dangerous rivalries in a film that so often, even surreally, moves and swirls like a subjugated fairy tale.

 

29. Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Writer-director Rian Johnson delivers a Star Wars film that is everything a blockbuster should be; exciting, unpredictable, and above all, fun. The Last Jedi builds greatly upon 2015’s The Force Awakens, and as we’re brought up to speed with iconic Jedi du jour Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), the young and Force-friendly Rey (Daisy Ridley) some awkward humor and winning one-liners (Rey quips to Luke, trying to get his tutelage “I’ve seen your schedule, you’re not busy!”), and some pervasive porgs, Johnson also gives us the best directed film in the franchise to date.

We’ve finally gotten a Star Wars film with an auteur’s tenor (and Johnson’s use of red really resonates), and not only that but The Last Jedi hosts a bevy of badass women being smart, solving problems, kicking ass, and taking names (the aforementioned Ridley is joined by the likes of Gwendoline Christie, Laura Dern Lupita Nyong’o, Kelly Marie Tran, and a stunning final bow from Carrie Fisher each memorably offset the testosterone). Also we get a beefcake moment from Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren, as he becomes the most fascinating and complex villain from far, far away.

The Last Jedi also has perhaps the best lightsaber battles yet, some fan service that doesn’t overly distract (Chewbacca has some very funny and fist-pumping scenes, and Yoda even gets a good line and a fine cameo, too), a real emotional punch and at least two epic space battles. This is a genre fan’s delight, that, quite honestly, only the cynical can assault.

For high-stakes space opera on an epic scale, Star Wars: The Last Jedi is a risky, expansive, entertaining and visionary spectacle, made with technical expertism and frequently, bona fide beauty. “Breathe…”

 

28. Tragedy Girls

McKayla Hooper (Alexandra Shipp) and Sadie Cunningham (Brianna Hildebrand) are two social media savvy bffs, each with an unhealthy death-obsession, and desire to be adored both in their high school, their community, and across the Internet in Tyler MacIntyre’s Tragedy Girls. This is a film that treats superficiality and remorseless violence with a comedic sensibility all too rarely seen, earning and deserving its exacted and often evil laughter rather fiercely.

A savage and cynical satire that’s full of colorful off-color status quo commentary, this joyfully fucked up little film also doubles as a paeon to slasher movies and teen exploitation fare (fans of Michael Lehmann’s 1988 cult classic, Heathers take particular note, please).

Part of the fun of the film, which is a pastiche-heavy smorgasbord of slasher film staples –– John Carpenter’s Halloween (1978), Wes Craven’s Scream (1996), and even the prestige horror of Brian De Palma’s Carrie (1976) are amongst those name checked and paid homage –– is the requisite identifying of the pop culture that the characters here typify, but also in seeing just how much gratuitous bloodshed the movie will get away with (spoiler alert: a whole bloody lot!).

 

27. Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World

“Rumble asks us to be still for a moment and to list to the heartbeat,” writes Washington Post critic Michael O’Shea, “at once familiar and newly strange, that pumps the lifeblood that flows through the songs this country is known for.”

Assertive, emotional, and deeply engaging, the new documentary from Catherine Bainbridge and Alfonso Maiorana, Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World sets the record straight on the Native American influence on rock ‘n’ roll and pop music.

Winner of the Audience Award and Best Canadian Film prizes at Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival, this is a film I saw twice on the big screen this past year (and was moved to tears both times, I proudly attest) and one that eloquently makes its case early in the film when an early Charley Patton recording is played and lands like lightning.

And with reference to so many other indigenous artists like Link Wray (the film’s title is a reference to his hit instrumental guitar rock anthem, the first use ever of the power chord, so stirring it was the first and one of the only instrumental tracks to be banned from American air waves), Mildred Bailey, Jimi Hendrix, Wayne Kramer, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Robbie Robertson, Stevie Salas, Howlin’ Wolf, and many more.

“Rumble,” enthuses Martin Scorsese, referring to the Link Wray classic, “Well, it’s the sound of that guitar, and the aggression there…” Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World pays wonderful homage to the artists therein, and while making their remarkable music all the more powerful and resonate, it offers a wise history lesson void of didacticism, and will also send you in search of records to add to your collection. An overdue revelation, if you love Americana, music, and social history do not miss this movie.

 

26. Lady Macbeth

Florence Pugh is a fearless force of nature as a rebellious 19th-century mistress sold to a cruel and disinterested husband (Paul Hilton) in director William Oldroyd’s gloomy yet magnificent Lady Macbeth. Written by Alice Birch, and based on Nikolai Leskov’s 1865 novella “Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District”, the film is set in Northern England of the 1860s. Here we find Katherine (Pugh), the new mistress on a mid-sized farm with a very grey mansion. Straightaway she is put in her place by her cold and indignant spouse, as well as his bullying and dogmatic father (Christopher Fairbank).

Katherine is little more than a servant to both men, who mistreat and humiliate her with a poisonous surety. After both of these men are called away on unspecified business Katherine at long last tastes freedom, and soon is consumed in a brash, passionate affair with Sebastian (Cosmo Jarvis), one of the farmhands. This liaison soon consumes Katherine, and not her petty, mean husband or her cold, cantankerous father-in-law will get in her way.

Oldroyd and Birch provide plenty of smart and stinging commentary on class, race (Naomi Ackie’s bullied black servant is another star attraction to this small-scale showpiece), and sex, but it’s Pugh who takes the top prize. When Katherine makes her volte-face, she doesn’t just go measure for measure, she goes full on enfant terrible on everyone who’s in her way. Lady Macbeth is wild.

 

25. I, Tonya

Hollywood loves an underdog story, and ice skater Tonya Harding (Margot Robbie, excellent), who the world at large saw primarily as fodder for the frenzy of the 24-hour-news-cycle just ahead of the 1994 Winter Olympics when her Team USA competitor/contemporary Nancy Kerrigan (Caitlin Carver) was attacked and a circuitous trail led back too close to Harding herself.

As told by director Craig Gillespie, screenwriter Steven Rogers, and via what the title scroll proclaims as “irony-free, wildly contradictory” interviews, I, Tonya unfolds like a smart salmagundi of Raging Bull and Rocky only with figure skates instead of boxing gloves.

Robbie is alternately radiant, ruinous, severe, and sympathetic as Harding, and seeing her rise through the ranks of competitive figure skating––aided and abetted by Allison Janney’s brutal, tough love mother LaVona Fay Golden, as well as Sebastian Stan’s abusive, codependent boyfriend and later husband, Jeff Gillooly––is never less than compelling.

Harding, assailed on all sides for being white trash; for being the wrong vision of feminine physicality; for being an overblown tabloid tale, Gillespie still shows us, and underscores that Harding was a dedicated, talented athlete––her execution of the triple axel amidst competition is rightly the stuff of legend and is shown here with the right kind of Silver Screen esprit.

A sharp, sobering, and occasionally kitschy tragicomic biopic told with self-aware splash, I, Tonya gets the gold when it comes to displaying the cruelty and confrontation that can pursue just being a strong woman. Bravo.

 

24. Brigsby Bear

Endearing and original, director Dave McCary’s Brigsby Bear takes some great risks––it kinda sorta plays out like Being There as imagined by the sibling team of Sid and Marty Krofft––and the results are a future cult classic that celebrates creativity and madness in many messed up yet warm ‘n’ fuzzy ways.

Kyle Mooney and Kevin Costello penned the screenplay which involves one James Pope (Mooney), a young man utterly obsessed with the obscure children’s television program “Brigsby Bear Adventures”. How obscure? Well, James is the only one who’s seen it. No spoilers here but Brigsby Bear costars Mark Hamill and Jane Adams as a likeable pair of eccentrics who claim to be James’ parents and there’s also Greg Kinnear, Matt Walsh, Michaela Watkins, Alexa Demie and Kate Lyn Sheil, each in very memorable roles.

Produced by The Lonely Island (ahh yes, Andy Samberg has a brief but refreshing role), this is a deliciously uncynical oddity about contagious creativity, fanaticism, and forgiveness. Check it out.

 

23. Lucky

John Carroll Lynch’s generously incidental comic drama of valediction, Lucky is also the farewell performance of its star, the legendary Harry Dean Stanton.

Our eponymous hero Lucky (Stanton), is an aging, beloved, and nonconforming man about town who spends his time smoking, strutting, socializing, sipping milk, doing a strict daily yoga regimen, all while grooving on the full life as only he knows how to. At 90, Lucky may be outspoken, atheistic, and largely opinionated, but that in no way means he’s close-minded, curmudgeon-y, or devoid of spiritual belief and practice.

Lynch’s film is an alternately humbling and hilarious experience, predominantly driven by dialogue, and monologue, but never in a way that’s ostentatious or overdone. Sure this is the sort of film where nothing much happens plot-wise, but it presents a good-humored, keen, and consistent pearl-on-a-string procession of conjecture and insight.

 

22. Wonder Woman

While box-office receipts state otherwise, many cinemagoers have complained of superhero fatigue, but 2017 did give us a handful of invigorating and rejuvenative superheroes (if this list were a smidge longer it would also include James Mangold’s Logan, which here we relegate to our Honorable Mentions postscript section), and we fucking finally got to catch up with Diana, princess of the Amazons in a fist-pumping action film that wasn’t camp, wasn’t prosaic, and wasn’t a parade of chauvinist conceits, either. No, we got our Wonder Woman and she kicked all kinds of ass!

Directed by Patty Jenkins (2003’s Monster), and starring a sensational Gal Gadot as our unconquerable warrior, Wonder Woman pulls us post-haste through Diana’s origins on the gorgeously rendered hidden island of Themyscira (additional props to cinematographer Matthew Jensen, production designer Aline Bonetto and the rest of the hard working crew) while also presenting a compelling World War I-set narrative involving American pilot Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) that first brought Diana to our modern world.

Jenkins and co present a wealth of awesome women, of course (Lucy Davis is great, as are many Amazonians played by Connie Nielsen, Robin Wright, and Lisa Loven Kongsli as well as Elena Anaya’s evil Dr. Maru), but there’s also juicy roles for Danny Huston, David Thewlis, and Ewen Bremner.

And a special tip of the hat goes out to Eugene Brave Rock who’s Chief not only gets to descry the dangers of colonialism and cultural genocide, but shares a scene with Diana spoken in Blackfoot. It’s so rare that aboriginal actors and characters are respectfully acknowledged in a mainstream film, so if you needed another reason to love Wonder Woman, well, there you go!

Part war movie, part doomed romance, overfull with artful and exciting action sequences (the No Man’s Land assault led by Diana is worth the cost of admission alone), and all told some pretty subversive content for a populist DC superhero film –– and easily the best outside of Nolan’s Batman films, from that expanded universe –– this is a charismatic, crowd-pleasing, comic book conversion that works on every conceivable level. Wonder Woman dazzles.

 

21. Song to Song

A visually luxuriant art film from writer-director Terrence Malick, Song to Song is a devastating and delicious love story about anguish, grief, loss, and just being alive. Set within the music scene in Austin, Texas, Malick presents two entwined couples; music magnate Cook (Michael Fassbender), and troubled waitress Rhonda (Natalie Portman); struggling but up-and-coming singer/songwriters BV (Ryan Gosling) and Faye (Rooney Mara). As their lives interlace amidst a panorama of music, temptations, and deceptions.

A moving miracle, and a deeply idiosyncratic one, of course Song to Song isn’t a movie for everyone (interjections: aren’t “movies for everyone” just comforting, non-confrontational vanilla anyways?), but it is a movie that exalts and haunts (Holly Hunter’s reaction to her daughter’s suicide sent me sobbing).

Malick, for reasons I won’t delve into here, has made films as of late that needle and annoy as many audience members as her delights and vivifies, and if you’re in the latter camp, Song to Song is his best work since 2011’s The Tree of Life. This is a film for Antonioni fans, for dreamers, for wanderers, for artists, and for lost causes, and it’s sublime and it will grandly outlive us all.

 

 

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  • Marios Thrasyvoulou

    I would add mother! and Loving Vincent.

    • Gilles Ello

      mother! is garbage.

  • Pieter Van Esbroeck

    Great list, but Dunkirk belongs here and Song to Song doesn’t!

    • MrE

      There is always one in the comments who wants Nolan’s movie on every top list.

      • Sailor Monsoon

        Because it’s objectively better than song to song.
        Which is an expensive perfume commercial.

    • Elizabeth Elize Lima

      Well, it’s a PERSONAL list

  • Rui Daniel

    in retrospect, it was a good year. Especially for the medium-scale films

  • Kosta Jovanovic

    Loveless
    The square
    On body and soul

    • Kosta Jovanovic

      Also phantom tread and you were never really there didn’t make the cut

      • Sailor Monsoon

        Most people haven’t seen them yet.

    • Gilles Ello

      The Square was garbage

      • Kosta Jovanovic

        So? Doesn’t seem like that is problem considering what movies made the cut

  • chrosTV

    Before anyone in the comment section starts complaining about a certain movie missing from this list, keep in mind: this is solely the opinion of the author who compiled this list. If you don’t agree, you don’t agree. But please don’t be pretentious and act as if you’re own opinion is right and the opinion of the author is wrong. That’s a common misconception that many TOC readers seem to have.

    • Hal Jordan

      I understand you, but what was the objective of the author of this post? We know he tried to show his personal opinion. So I think there’s also no problem if someone disagree with the article and show a personal opinion too.

    • LifeOnEarth

      Wouldn’t the article be called “My” 30…and not “The” 30…then?

      Sounds like the author thinks his opinion is right and others are wrong…

      • Gilles Ello

        Do you have any grasp of how film and music blogs work? Clickbait titles to grab attention written by editors NOT the contributing writer. DUh!!

    • grootrm

      That does not apply when you post on the internet, and anonymous boards at that!

  • X Y

    *poorly written list, on some poorly made choices.

  • Dreaming Wanderer

    On Body and Soul was amazing. The Last Jedi is a bad joke. Glad to see Raw so high.

    • Jean-Baptiste

      On Body and Soul is an amazing movie

    • X Y

      *lol, Raw is pile of… crap.

  • Phoenix Ramsey

    In this world, Wonder Woman and The Disaster Artist are better than The Last Jedi. What a fantasy world.

    • Ricardo Correia

      The Disaster Artist is far better than The Last Jedi

  • Ricardo Correia

    10- First Reformed
    9- The Other Side Of Hope
    8- Ghost In The Mountains
    7- The Shape Of Water
    6- The Rider
    5- A Fantastic Woman
    4- The Third Murder
    3- Phantom Thread
    2- Western
    1- The Square

    • How are you guys including The Rider? (Shane put it in his Honorable Mentions) It doesn’t get a wide release until April, 2018.
      Personally, I include movies when they get a wide release, not the first time they appeared at a movie festival.

      • Gilles Ello

        Critics go to film festivals and review what they see there. Show me a site, blog, or magazine that doesn’t do that. I’ll wait.

  • Ricardo Correia

    Horrible list, almost all films are american, and there are some horrible picks

    • Nuwanda

      Yes, in the The Shape of Water review, the reviewer bends over backwards to tell us how wicked America is–and it’s getting worse!!–yet all he does is review American films.

      Talk about cultural arrogance. Talk about cultural appropriation. Smacks of white patriarchy if you ask me. And I’m sure he never once used the metric system.

      • shane scott-travis

        I’m neither white nor American but please, go on.

      • Gilles Ello

        Nuwanda, do you have a blog or a pod cast where you “tell it like it is” because I want to make sure to never come across it. Before blocking you I just want you to know you’re a judgemental and elitist POS who needs to get out of his/her parents’ basmement and face the real world.

        • Nuwanda

          Sharpen your satirical detector, snowflake.

          Someone this thin-skinned shouldn’t have moderation powers at all.

  • David

    The Disaster Artist way too high in this list. It may be his best, but it’s still a Franco directed movie. It’s not that good .

    • Social Disaster

      Anyway, how is your sex life?

      • David

        Totally fine, thanks.

      • X Y

        *mine isn’t, when can we book a session?

  • Lucas Corsi

    D U N K I R K

  • Sebastian Tudor Popescu

    American Made…

    • Dreaming Wanderer

      Probably the most underrated movie of 2017

  • Gilles Ello

    Great list!! Loved The Shape of Water!!

  • David Johnson

    SoW was okay imo

    • Gilles Ello

      It was awesome imo

  • Juan Carlos Ojano

    “Where is [insert film title] this list sucks!”

    It’s called opinion, people. Don’t be a-holes.

  • Hal Jordan

    There are 10 films or more on the honorable mention list and others which were completely ignored are better than mostly of the films on this list. But this list is just a personal opinion, so it’s okay.

    • Gilles Ello

      Thanks Hal Jordan. I’ll take your word and stuff because you use a phone alias to critique cinema.

  • Bergkamp

    Ok, IN MY OPINION, the last Jedi wouldn’t be on my list of top 30, or maybe not even on a top 50 movies. Same goes for song to song.

    Out of these movies, I haven’t seen: The shape of water, and the Florida project, so I’m really exited that I’m gonna get to see those tomorrow.

    Another movies that I could probably include on my list, would be:
    Una, Loveles, Columbus, super dark times, and maybe the blackcoat daughter.

    Why do people hate so much, Christopher Nolan? At least here on TOC.

    • Kosta Jovanovic

      If you find it, give a try to on body and soul

      • Bergkamp

        I will. Is it too heavy on the romance? I like dramas of course, but romance not so much.

  • Bergkamp

    I have a feeling that Call me by your name it’s gonna get most of the big awards this season, also ladybird has a great shot too, and maybe the shape of water, this is all just based on the buzz from the major festivals, rumors and such.

    2017 was a great, great great year for movies.
    Let’s hope 2018 could be similar.

  • grootrm

    “…is an unsettling and transgressive domestic odyssey that astounds with its unrelenting menace and imaginative fluency”

    Ugh, it’s like the writer just wrote a plain sentence and then arbitrarily switched each word using a thesaurus to make a sentence seem more profound.

  • Mark Linton

    Really enjoyed Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, outstanding.

  • Someone

    Mother !
    Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk
    Loveless (Nelyubov)
    You Were Never Really Here/A Beautiful Day
    War for the Planet of the Apes
    See You Up There (Au-Revoir Là Haut)

    • Gilles Ello

      Seriously, mother! was garbage. Why all the fanboys for that pos??

  • MUSTAFA HASAN

    I am using IVACY vpn to stream all my favorite movies.

  • Nuwanda

    The problem is, when The Last Jedi gets a glowing review as it has here, you have to doubt the rest of the picks.

    That said, nobody comes to sites like this for authoritative analysis, but the lists help provide a jumping off point for further exploration.

    And for that I thank TOC.

  • Neither Wind River or Logan cracked your Top 30? Damn, we do not have much in common….at all

    • Gilles Ello

      They’re both Honorable Mentions dude. Have you seen the other 30 films on the list?
      Also why the shit would you want a list that 100% reflects your own. biases? Or you just look for people who have so much in common with you they agree 100%?? You must be insufferable.

  • Cheerlock Holmes

    I enjoyed “Get Out!” it’s a cool film, but i can’t understand the hype.

    • Gilles Ello

      Maybe you’re not black, a genre fan, a writer, or a filmmaker?

      • Nuwanda

        That’s it, Cheerlock, you just don’t have the right skin color or credentials to appreciate this important film. Go back to your white privilege and let the cool kids tell you what you are and are not capable of understanding.

      • Cheerlock Holmes

        Yeah i tried to get into Bruce Lee films, but i aint chinese, i don’t practice Kung Fu and i ain’t water either. Cinema is hard, so many specs to enjoy a film.
        Ps: I Am Black and a Horror fan.

        • Gilles Ello

          Is it also hard being an elitist twonk who makes no art of his own but judges others???

          • Cheerlock Holmes

            Nigga i didnt even trash this film, you actin’ like a enter your house and punched your sister in the mouth hahaha. Got so sensitive about a film, nigga might as well marry Jordan Peele and suck him ’till he say ‘Get Out’!

  • Nuwanda

    It tells me the reviewer recognised a movie that matched their own political agenda and had to jump on the virtue-signalling bandwagon viz “…The Last Jedi
    hosts a bevy of badass women being smart, solving problems, kicking ass,
    and taking names (the aforementioned Ridley is joined by the likes of
    Gwendoline Christie, Laura Dern Lupita Nyong’o, Kelly Marie Tran, and a
    stunning final bow from Carrie Fisher each memorably offset the
    testosterone)…”

    But it’s not really a review, is it, since it preemptively attacks anyone who should disagree: “This is a genre fan’s delight, that, quite honestly, only the cynical can assault.”

    I guess the shamefully low audience score of 50% (and falling) at Rotten Tomatoes makes those folks nothing but cynics, and which is at stunning variance with the critics score of 90%. The people have spoken, and it’s not good.

    Forget plot, character and consistency with canon, The Force is female, so that’s all that matters.

  • angelii

    Japanese do make quality of movies HD …let’s watch HD 2017 movies==>> GOODFILM99.BLOGSPOT.COM

  • Muhammed Nawaal Ul Rahman

    The Meyerowitz Stories should also be among the honorable mentions, in my opinion (I’m assuming the author has not given it a try yet).
    It’s one of Noah Baumbach’s more accessible movies, which are very character and dialogue driven, and stands out and holds it’s own among the other stellar picks of the year despite it’s flaws.
    A couple of other movies that I felt warrant at least a try include The Glass Castle and also the sleeper hit Gifted.
    Great post though, found a couple of movies that slipped past my radar.
    Cheers!