Michael Dean’s Top Ten Films of 2017

The Top Ten Films of 2017_Update

The time has finally come to reveal my Top Ten Films of 2017!  Looking back at 2017, I found that most of the films I loved came during the first half of the year, which is great as we seem to be getting more quality films early in the year.  Outstanding films such as Get Out released as early as February and Logan released in March.  Also, it was a special year for women in film, as the top 3 films at the domestic box office by the end of 2017 were films with female leads (Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Beauty and the Beast, Wonder Woman).

The big one to mention here is Wonder Woman. The film, led by Gal Gadot, was also headed up by a female director, Patty Jenkins. The movie set the record for being the highest-grossing film by a female director, it is officially the best-performing superhero origin movie of all time, and the film beat every other DCEU film in the domestic box office. Keep in mind, Jenkins was only paid $1 million for the film, but due to how well the film was received, she signed a historic deal to be paid between $7 and $9 million for the sequel, in addition to a significant percentage of the back end. This is very important as Jenkins has now certainly opened the door for other female directors.  With the rise of women’s marches and allegations against men who have committed sexual harassment, Wonder Woman, the film and its director, is a huge part of 2017 for women on and off screen.

In regards to the films making my top ten list this year, choosing the films was a bit easier for me, not that there were not a lot of great films, it is just that those films I truly loved were limited.  With that I found the ranking part to be a bit tougher.  However, after watching each film twice, it came down to the final two spots.  Finalizing the top two spots took a bit of work, but in the end, I followed my emotions to solidify my choices. My top two films are films that stuck with me the longest after watching them, in heart and mind, and after I finalized it, I was so relieved and had a huge grin on my face as I knew the choices were right for me.  Overall, I am very happy with this list of films, more so than I’ve been in recent years.  They’re all great films and most have struck me in some way on an emotional level.  Remember, this is my list, and the films I have selected are what I enjoyed on an objective and subjective level with some weight leaning more so one way or the other, so no egg throwing, please.

So, behold!  My Top Ten Films of 2017!

Honorable Mentions: Thor: Ragnarok, War for the Planet of the Apes, Columbus, and The Villainess.

10.  I, Tonya

I_Tonya

When first hearing of the film, I, Tonya, it was not among those films I anticipated to watch. I remember when the incident happened and I didn’t think I needed to see a film about it. However, after some good word of mouth, I decided to give the film a shot and I am happy to say that I found it VERY enjoyable. It’s a dramatic, emotional, and surprisingly quirky film which didn’t just focus on the “incident” but touched on Tonya’s upbringing and relationship which turned out to be the most interesting part. I did not expect the breaking of the fourth wall, which added that extra flair that made the film special.  Margot Robbie gives an excellent performance as Tonya Harding as she tackles a range of emotions and handles them impeccably.  Allison Janney as Tonya’s stone cold mother was even more fabulous. Any time Allison appeared on screen I had no idea what this woman was going to say or do but she was a highlight each and every time. Sebastian Stan and Paul Hauser also deserve credit for their wonderful performances. Along with a wonderful 70’s and early 80’s soundtrack and outstanding cast performance, director Craig Gillespie and screenwriter Steven Rogers provide a glimpse into the tragedies from Tonya’s life while successfully balancing it with a quirky humor.

9.  Your Name

YourName

I first caught wind of this Japanese Animation Drama in late 2016 and the word on the film was so good I made sure to not miss it when it released in the USA in 2017. Writer/director Makoto Shinkai uses the gimmick of body swapping, as found in many prior films such as Freaky Friday, but does it in very creative fashion. When the swapping occurs between Taki, who is a boy from the city and Mitsuha, a girl from a small rural community, it is quite comedic as they adjust to their new bodies and new lives. Eventually, they work to help each other out and then the drama and emotion build to a story that creatively unfolds to the unexpected.  The animation in the film is visually beautiful. There are plenty of wonderful uses of lighting, colorful animation, and also a sense of realism due to the fine details of the city and its tall buildings, luscious green rural areas, and weather. With the gorgeous visuals, enjoyable soundtrack, and a story that is funny, charming, and magical, Your Name is a captivating film that will touch your heart.

8.  Baby Driver

BabyDriver

If there is one film on my list that defines the word fun, Baby Driver is it!  Edgar Wright creates an original and stylish film that is an action, comedy, thriller, and musical all rolled into one.  It is amazing how much the music plays in sync with the film.  There are subtle movements that the characters make that connect with the beat of the music and some of the song choices pertain to what’s going on in the scene, which makes this film an absolute to joy for rewatching.  The performances are fantastic, the soundtrack is a blast, and it’s pure fun from beginning to end.  Most importantly, the film has renewed my desire to purchase the iPod Classic!

7.  Lady Bird

Lady Bird

How could I not include a film that was based in Sacramento, being that I actually live in the city? Luckily, it was one of the best films of the year!  Lady Bird is a coming of age film, written and directed by Greta Gerwig (who was born and raised in Sacramento) and stars Saoirse Ronan as Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson, the high school student with a rocky relationship with her mom, wonderfully played by Laurie Metcalf.  The film is a drama mixed with comedic tones and a couple emotional punches.  I find it hard to believe someone cannot connect with something in this film as we get glimpses into Christine’s life with her mother, her laid-back father (Tracy Letts), and her friends from school.  Christine’s best friend Julie is played by Beanie Feldstein and her performance is natural and wonderful.  With some highlights of the Sacramento area, which were a pure treat to see on the big screen, and a coming of age story that draws you in and leaves you with an emotional gut punch, Lady Bird is one of the best films of the year.

6.  Logan

Logan

Logan is easily one of the best superhero films made.  The film is gritty, dramatic, emotional, and the cast is fantastic.  Hugh Jackman has given his best performance since Prisoners.  The emotional baggage Logan carries throughout the film is present in Jackman’s watery eyes and his display of emotion is heartfelt.  Patrick Stewart gives an impeccable performance as his character bounces between the Professor we once knew in previous X-Men films to the ill-minded elderly man now reliant on drugs to prevent him from harming others.  Finally, I don’t know where director James Mangold found Dafne Keen to play Laura but oh what a find she was.  She was great as the mini-Wolverine and her action scenes were stunning.  She delivers a ferocity that matches that of Hugh Jackman’s and also manages to bring an audience to tears.  The relationship that develops between Logan and Laura is so heartfelt that it managed to turn on the waterworks.  Logan proved that when a studio allows a director to take a risk and deliver a film as soulful and different than what’s been released previously in the franchise, it is a risk worth taking.  It took 17 years to get a film like Logan made and it was well worth the wait. (Full Review)

5.  The Big Sick

TheBigSick

The Big Sick is a romantic comedy that can be heartwarming, sad, and culturally enlightening.  It’s based on the true story of how Kumail (who wrote and stars in the film) and his wife (Zoe Kazan) fell in love.  The actors Kumail Nanjiani and Zoe Kazan are fabulous in this and I truly enjoyed their chemistry.  However, I absolutely loved Holly Hunter as Zoe’s mom.  She was the spitfire in the relationship between her and Zoe’s father, played by Ray Romano and every bit of screen time with her was a treat.  The time Kumail spent with Zoe’s family and how their relationship developed was a strong part of the film.  Kumail’s parents are also fun to be around and would love to have spent more time with them.  The story is touching and there are many moments where I’m feeling both happy and sad, and I love how this rom-com is about an interracial couple as this connects with me personally with how family and culture are affected.  All of this makes The Big Sick one of my favorites for the year.

4.  Dunkirk

Dunkirk

Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk is an outstanding cinematic achievement. No other film had me clenching my seat the whole way through. Its visuals will stun you, the sound will amaze you, and Hans Zimmer’s score is so intense!  All of this comes with some tears and cheers. The focus of the film is on this historic moment in time, which Nolan manages to make the viewer feel as if they’re actually there trying to survive.  There is not much time for character development, as troopers are constantly on the run, but it does not take away from the dramatic and emotional experience.  Tom Hardy is great as one of the pilots, even though you only see his eyes most of the time, which says a lot about him as an actor.  Ticking watch and all, Dunkirk is an incredible cinematic experience and one of the best films of the year (Nyle’s Full Review).

3.  Get Out

GetOut

Jordan Peele, in his solo directorial debut, really knocked it out of the park with this outstanding comedy horror thriller. He balances the genres very well and successfully manages to put the viewer into the shoes of an African American man in very uncomfortable social situations. The party scene is a prime example and I loved it as instead of the use of horror it is the moments of social discomfort that are most intense. The performances are great but a huge nod goes to Daniel Kaluuya’s natural and emotional performance as well as Betty Gabriel as Georgina who was just outstanding.  This is just a solid film all around and I can see why it has dominated the #1 position in the majority of critics Top Ten lists.  Get Out is a soon to be classic and a must-see for the year.  As a matter of fact, out of the Oscar nominations this year, Get Out is my pick for Best Picture.

2.  A Ghost Story

A ghost story

A Ghost Story, directed by David Lowery, is an original, creative, and thought-provoking film which I actually saw a couple weeks before finalizing my Top Ten, and this film just grew on me.  It moved up and down my top ten until finally landing at number 2.  There is minimal dialogue, and the pace is very slow and steady.  David Lowery stays with scenes for a lengthy time invoking thought and emotion.  There are some evocative visuals by cinematographer Andrew Droz Palmermo and the score is by David Hart is just amazing!  I loved the dark somber strings that play through the film which fits perfectly with the tone of the film, and Dark Rooms’ wonderful I Get Overwhelmed is a song one will not forget This combination of visuals and sound was so mesmerizing; it stuck with me long after the film was over.  Though it can seem silly seeing a ghost walk around in a sheet, with scissor cut holes for eyes, the overall feeling and tone are still very effective.  Rooney Mara gives a great performance even though she does not say much in the film. This is especially shown in the lengthy scene where she emotionally deals with her grief through food. A Ghost Story goes further than I expected and is a film that grew on me and left me thinking about, again and again, days after the credits rolled.  It’s a memorable story of grief, time, legacy, love, and loneliness and, though I’ve seen it a couple times, I already want to see the film again.

1.  Wonder Woman

wonder-woman-image-57

Only love can truly save the world” – Diana

If there is one film that I will remember from 2017, it is Wonder Woman.  Many women stated that this was the movie they had waited their whole life for, little girls came out to see a hero that they could look up to on the screen, and the film comes at an important time when women are taking a stand against gender inequality and abuse.  For a film that provides the power to inspire as much as it did is incredible and worth recognition, but also, I absolutely loved this film.  From the glorious battle of the Amazons on Themyscira to Diana’s journey to fight the war to end all wars and destroy Ares, along with a hopeful message of love, I was all in.  Gal Gadot and Chris Pine are charming as Diana and Steve Trevor, and due to the wonderful chemistry they had, they were a joy to be around.  Patty Jenkins directed the hell out of this origin story and Rupert Gregson-Williams’ soaring score with pounding drums at all the right moments help make this a truly epic experience.  No other superhero film has hit me more emotionally than Diana’s actions in the No Man’s Land scene.  It was this moment, after refusing to accept how things were, she crosses the land no man would cross and does so alone, and in the process reveals herself to the world as the compassionate and inspiring hero as the men follow her across the field.  I found this emotionally inspiring and it affected me long after the credits rolled, and even upon recently rewatching the film.  It is just incredible how well Jenkins and company captured Diana’s heroic heart and I couldn’t be happier that this is a film my daughter can watch and be inspired by.  Full of heart and heroism Wonder Woman is an inspiration to everyone and is my favorite film from 2017 (Full Review).

Recap/Rating

  1. Wonder Woman ⭐⭐⭐⭐½
  2. A Ghost Story ⭐⭐⭐⭐½
  3. Get Out ⭐⭐⭐⭐½
  4. Dunkirk ⭐⭐⭐⭐½
  5. The Big Sick ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  6. Logan ⭐⭐⭐⭐½
  7. Lady Bird ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  8. Baby Driver ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  9. Your Name ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  10. I, Tonya ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Thank you for reading my Top Ten Films of 2017.  Be sure to chime in with your top ten in the comments section.

You can also find me on Letterboxd and Twitter for more rankings and other film chatter.

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