Published on February 2nd, 2018 | by Clint Davis
Overdue Review’s Top 10 Movies of 2017
I don’t think I’ve ever had a harder time ranking my picks for the year’s best movies than I did in 2017. Several times in the past few months, I saw a film that made me say, “That was my favorite movie of the year!” It was a great year at the theater, full of thoughtful pictures from a wide range of filmmakers.
In Lady Bird, Greta Gerwig took us back to her adolescence and gave us the best coming-of-age story I’ve seen in years. With Get Out, Jordan Peele gave us further proof that comedians can deliver material that is deeply thought provoking and not at all worth laughing at. With The Florida Project, maverick director Sean Baker again proved the value of using non-actors to tell their own semi-true stories. And with Phantom Thread and The Shape of Water, Paul Thomas Anderson and Guillermo del Toro proved how versatile the adjective “romantic” can be.
We were treated to a lot of great movies this year, but only 10 can make the almighty list. Here are my picks for the 10 best movies of 2017:
#10 — Blade Runner 2049
How do you follow up a legendary movie? By following a strict adherence to what made the original great but also brining a new story and characters to the table that belong in its universe. It’s not often that a straight sequel makes its way into my year’s best list but with Blade Runner 2049, visionary director Denis Villeneuve showed the proper way to revisit a beloved story. Perhaps heavier on atmosphere than any other film I saw this year, the look of this movie was the stuff sci-fi dreams are made of. There were images in this film that I will truly never forget. As a bonus, former wrestler Dave Bautista proved once and for all that he’s got a knack for this acting thing.
#9 — Baby Driver
For as great as the sights of the previous film were, it was the sounds of Baby Driver that launched it into my Top 10. Boasting one of the best soundtracks I’ve heard since Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs, writer-director Edgar Wright picked every song for every moment in his script ahead of time—and his dedication paid off. Its story is your typical one-more-job-and-I’m-done criminal’s tale, told from the vantage point of a young getaway driver (Ansel Elgort) who’s at the mercy of a ruthless kingpin (Kevin Spacey in perhaps his final role for a while). But the gimmick is that the driver never does anything without his earbuds in, which is where Baby Driver gets its nonstop energy. Seeing Jon Hamm play against type as a sleazy thug was also a blast. This was the most fun I had at the movies in 2017.
#8 — Coco
It’s been years since Pixar was the studio that cranked out nothing but flawless gems, but Coco belongs in the conversation with Toy Story 3 and WALL-E as perhaps its greatest hits. No movie made me cry as much as this one in 2017—and by the time 12-year-old Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez) sings a sweet duet with his grandmother, the entire theater was wishing they’d brought tissues. But Coco is much more than a cheap tear-jerker. The story is a beautiful celebration of traditional Mexican culture, the animation is gorgeous and the original music stayed in my head for days after I’d seen it. This was one from the heart and an all-Latino cast production couldn’t have been a better statement from Disney in today’s world.
#7 — Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Of all the actors—male or female—who you could pick to carry a “tough-guy” story today, Frances McDormand might be the best. Three Billboards might have been the toughest film of the year and in it, McDormand only flinches when nobody else is around. It follows a small-town woman (McDormand) who makes plenty of enemies by renting a trio of billboards that call attention to her daughter’s unsolved murder and the incompetence of the town’s beloved sheriff (Woody Harrelson). There are no easy answers in this film thanks to the fantastic screenplay by Martin McDonagh. The cast is loaded with powerhouses, including John Hawkes, Peter Dinklage and Sam Rockwell, but make no mistake, McDormand runs the show from start to finish.
#6 — Call Me By Your Name
Movies—especially period films—that center on gay romances are typically so by the books that you can virtually predict every major plot point. But then along comes Call Me By Your Name. This coming-of-age flick set in 1980s Italy about a sudden and intense relationship between a 17-year-old boy and a 20-something man threw all the cliches out the window. The screenplay by the legendary James Ivory (89 years old and still kicking ass) is a flawless exercise in how to study characters without forcing the audience to engage in over-the-top emotions. This film is beyond sexual orientation and gender judgments, perhaps more so than any LGBT movie I can immediately think of. Timothee Chalamet and Armie Hammer show natural chemistry and Michael Stuhlbarg proves again that he’s one of the best supporting actors in the business. After it ended, I immediately wanted to sit though Call Me By Your Name one more time to see what I’d missed.
#5 — The Shape of Water
For people who haven’t yet grasped the appeal of writer-director Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water should convert them. His filmography has been hit and miss but here—like he did with 2006’s Pan’s Labyrinth—he proves again why he’s esteemed as one of cinema’s true visionaries. The production design of this movie, which carries a major torch for old Hollywood, is meticulous in every frame, leading it to be perhaps the most gorgeous movie of 2017, compounded by Alexandre Desplat’s fantastic score. A cast of veterans is led by a brave performance from Sally Hawkins who refreshingly plays a mute woman who’s anything but timid. As usual, del Toro wears his affinity for monster stories on his sleeve but this time he doesn’t shy away from answering the tough questions we all wonder about after watching any movies featuring interspecies romances. The Shape of Water was magic from start to finish.
#4 — Lady Bird
Writer-director Greta Gerwig tapped into some beautiful truths about her own adolescence for Lady Bird and ended up creating one of the year’s most relatable—if not always likable—lead characters. Two years ago, I wrote that Saoirse Ronan should’ve won an Oscar for her natural turn in Brooklyn and what’s perhaps even more impressive about this young actor is that she looked equally at ease playing a buttoned-down Irish immigrant in 1950s America as she does playing a rebellious American teen in 1990s California. This film had so much to say about feeling trapped by growing up in a small-ish town and about the complicated relationships between mothers and daughters. But my favorite thing about Gerwig’s dramedy is how real it all felt and her lack of judgment passed on teens for their often transient desires. The scene in which Ronan and best friend Beanie Feldstein cry pitifully while listening to Dave Matthews Band in a car might have been my favorite movie moment of the year.
#3 — Get Out
No movie this year stuck with me longer than Get Out. I saw it in theaters in February 2017 and, nearly a year later, here I am telling you how great it is. Writer-director Jordan Peele turned in an incredibly layered script, full of metaphors, symbolism and double meanings that make this a perfect candidate for multiple viewings. For the second year in a row, I’ve put a horror film in my Top 10, and like 2016’s The Witch, the images from this one will stick with me and continue to creep me out for a while. Like many of the best “message” episodes of The Twilight Zone, Peele’s approach to discussing American racism in this movie is obviously hyperbolic, but he couldn’t be more serious. There was no movie moment this year that felt more immediately part of pop culture than when Chris sinks into the sunken place.
#2 — The Florida Project
In awards-season circles, The Florida Project has become known simply as the movie that reminded us how great Willem Dafoe is, but this little powerhouse is much more than that. I don’t think any narrative was more painful to watch in 2017 than this story about a wild little girl (Brooklynn Prince) being raised by a young mom in a tacky motel on the main strip in Orlando, Florida. When Tangerine came out in 2015, I was less than impressed with director Sean Baker’s guerrilla filmmaking style (in fact, I called it one of the most overrated movies of the year), but call me converted after The Florida Project. Its story is exhilarating, touching and maddening to watch unfold but it presents a documentary-real look at childhood in the slums and the surrogate families that develop when people huddle there together. Dafoe delivers his best performance in years but in my opinion, Prince should have been nominated for an Oscar herself.
#1 — Phantom Thread
If Daniel Day Lewis indeed calls it a career after Phantom Thread, he will leave us with perhaps the best cinematic swan song since Peter Finch in Network. His performance in this film, as an obsessive and delicate fashion designer, is perfect from start to finish, down to the unspoken cues he gives the other characters with gestures like a simple peer over the rim of his glasses. For a writer-director so fond of furious monologues and dense screenplays, Paul Thomas Anderson keeps things quiet here, allowing his small cast—including Lewis, the mysterious Vicky Krieps and Lesley Manville—to say much of their words with body language alone. This beautifully crafted drama is full of simmering tension and avoids predictability at every turn. If you think you know where Phantom Thread is headed based on its trailers, think again. This film has an interesting take on what makes a great couple and has plenty to say about the sensitive ego that often goes with being an artist.
Honorable Mentions: Like I said above, there was a wealth of great movies in 2017. Of the films I greatly enjoyed but had to cut from my Top 10 list were Darkest Hour, Mudbound, Logan and Dunkirk.
Past Year’s Best Lists: