These are not the 10 best films released in 2017 – this list is of my 10 favorites. I saw close to 150 films last year, so narrowing down my top 7% is not easy. There are a lot of great films that didn’t make the cut, and I could list off a paragraph of films as honorable mentions, but I feel like that would be of disservice to this list.
No, you won’t agree with my choices. Some of the films listed here don’t appear on top 10 lists from other critics or even other /Film writers. I haven’t seen my number one film on any lists at all. But that’s the point, right? My list is my subjective opinion! There would be no reason to read this list if it was just a reflection of your opinion. I hope that this list will make you reconsider some of these movies and I hope that it will make you seek out the films you haven’t seen.
Peter Sciretta’s Top 10 Movies of 2017
10. John Wick: Chapter 2
John Wick: Chapter 2‘s action sequences might not be as hard-hitting or spectacularly executed as the original (or maybe my expectations were just higher going in), but what this sequel nails is something I didn’t expect: a sense of world-building. Who would have thought that a franchise like John Wick would create a movie universe that I would want to explore? The first film, while fantastically executed, seemed like a one and done revenge action film, but now I need to see this entire world of the international hitmen and bounty hunters. I think when all is said and done, we could look back at the John Wick films as the best action series of our time.
9. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 might not be quite as great as the first film and it might not be as funny and the music might not be as good (deeper cuts, for sure), but it’s one hell of an entertaining movie. It’s grown on me the more times I’ve seen it, like a track on your favorite band’s album that you don’t instantly fall in love with but somehow wins your heart after a dozen spins. And every time this movie leaves me in tears and begging for more.
8. Spider-Man: Homecoming
For a long while, Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2 was my favorite superhero film of all time. But as much as I loved that movie, it wasn’t quite the same Peter Parker we saw in the comics. While Spider-Man: Homecoming is gimmicky in the sense that it has a lot of connections to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, most of those interactions are fun and enjoyable. But what I really love about the film is the John Hughes-style grounded high school approach and how director Jon Watts plays with these universal moments from our childhood, like the fear of meeting our girlfriend’s parents for the first time. That sequence might be the most nail-bitingly tense and fun five minutes I had in the cinema last year. The action superhero moments are not as great as the grounded school portions of the film, but the characters and drama work so well that it doesn’t matter.
7. Blade Runner 2049
Blade Runner 2049 is the most beautiful looking film of the year. Every frame of this sequel is a painting. The story is more compelling than the original and I love the ideas it explores. It’s a shame more people didn’t see this film and I’m not sure if we can blame the millennials who haven’t seen the original or the tone poem style-marketing that apparently wasn’t compelling enough to sell tickets. In either case, people missed out.
6. Star Wars: The Last Jedi
It’s probably surprising to people that know me that a Skywalker Saga film did not place number one on my list this year. It’s true that I mostly loved Star Wars: The Last Jedi, but I do have a few issues with the film (which I have already discussed at length elsewhere on the site). While I love the risks Rian Johnson took with this franchise, I feel some of them (like some of the humor) felt out of place in this galaxy, and that other choices in the film feel hurtful to the three-film arc of this story. But those quibbles aside, this is the most beautiful looking and continuously surprising Star Wars films ever released.
5. War for the Planet of the Apes
At one point in time, this was my favorite film of 2017, but I have cooled on it just a bit. Ceasar’s last stand is emotional, smart, and filled with everything I love about this series (which may be the best movie trilogy in decades). But the Western-style road trip adventure somehow doesn’t quite match the riveting Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. However, the film is more poetic and less confrontational than the epic title suggests and it’s a different experience. Andy Serkis’ performance is seamlessly translated on screen by the wizards at Weta, resulting in one of the best performances of this year. Period. This is a technological and artistic achievement that will be looked back on for decades to come.
4. The Florida Project
Every time I go to Disney World, I drive by the cheap tourist spots and motels that surround the Disney property and wonder who goes there. Who lives there? Filmmaker Sean Baker finally tells this story, and sets it from the point of view of a precocious six-year-old, played brilliantly by newcomer Brooklynn Prince. This isn’t a typical slum-porn indie drama thanks this brilliant framing, which presents this story from the eyes of an innocent child who has no idea how bad of a hand she has been dealt. It’s an honest portrait of the low-class American childhood, smartly positioned right next to the happiest place on the planet. It’s a tearjerker of a film that doesn’t look down upon any of its characters. It would be higher on this list, but count me among those who don’t love the execution of the last scene in the movie.
3. The Big Sick
The Big Sick has so much greatness and all of the elements I usually look for in a film I see at Sundance. The film tells the story of up-and-coming Pakistani-American comedian Kumail Nanjiani (based on his real-life experience) who meets and dates a white woman named Emily (Zoe Kazan) who would never get the approval of his traditional family. When Emily contracts a severe illness, Kumail finds himself forced to be there for the girl, confronting her parents and his family’s expectations. The film is one of the most hilarious, touching, authentically charming movies I saw in 2017. It would also make a great double feature with Jonathan Levine’s 50/50.
2. Lady Bird
I am a sucker for coming-of-age dramas, and yet, somehow, Lady Bird surprised me. There’s not been a better film about the transition from adolescence to adulthood since Almost Famous. Saoirse Ronan delivers a stellar performance in this heartfelt, charming, funny and moving story. The film succeeds due to the authenticity it lends its characters and the relatable situations (many of which have become a rite of passage in all of our lives) that it depicts. Writer/director Greta Gerwig has solidified her position as a filmmaker and artist to watch.
1. Ingrid Goes West
This is a film that I saw early in the year at the Sundance Film Festival, and while it wasn’t my favorite film of the festival, it is the film that has occupied my mind the most ever since. It’s the film I find myself recommending the most in end-of-the-year conversations. Somehow, someway, Ingrid Goes West floated to the top, in a year when a new Star Wars film was released!
For those of you who haven’t seen it, Ingrid Goes West is like a hilarious dark comedy version of Single White Female set in the age of social media idolatry. Aubrey Plaza plays Ingrid, a not so stable woman who becomes obsessed with an Instagram celebrity (Elizabeth Olsen) who appears to have a perfect life. Ingrid uses her inheritance to move to Los Angeles with plans to befriend Taylor in real life. The result is more dark comedy than psychological thriller, providing a ton of laughs in otherwise horrifying circumstances.
What makes Ingrid Goes West this year’s best film is that it’s a wickedly smart commentary on our social media obsessed world. But this film is a comedy first and foremost and uses the commentary as the canvas to tell this story. It’s not just a great comedy, though – it’s the perfect film to represent our times. No, it’s not about Trump, politics, diversity, or any of the issues we talk about on a daily basis, but it’s about the platforms on which we talk about all of that. It’s about us as a society and how the technology in our pockets has changed our habits and happiness.
One more note: the ensemble cast is just perfect. Aubrey Plaza is at her best and O’Shea Jackson Jr. establishes himself as a charmer to watch out for. You can read my full review from Sundance here.