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The Movies/TV 8 Ball: The Top Films of 2017 (#16 – 9)

January 30, 2018 | Posted by Jeremy Thomas
Gal Gadot Wonder Woman

Top Films of 2017 (#16 – 9)

Welcome, one and all, to the 8 Ball in the Movie Zone! I’m your host Jeremy Thomas and as always, we will be tackling a topic and providing you the top eight selections of that particular category. Keep in mind that this list is meant to be my personal opinion and not a definitive list. You’re free to disagree; you can even say my list is wrong, but stating that an opinion is “wrong” is just silly. With that in mind, let’s get right in to it!

The 8 Ball Year in review continues here in the 411 Movie Zone. We looked at the worst films of the year earlier this month (see those here and here), and now it’s time to move onto the best. While 2017 was sort of a strange year overall in film, we had some truly great movies come out. This week we begin our look at 2017’s best movies with numbers sixteen through nine.

Caveat: If the film had its domestic theatrical release this year, it was eligible. I have yet to seen everything that was released in 2017, as much as I always try. The films that I missed that could have possibly qualified based on reputation are Marshall, The Florida Project, The Greatest Showman and Wonder. Other than those, I feel reasonably confident I would have seen every movie that would have likely made the list. For those curious, I saw a total of 138 films that were released in 2017 (down from last year’s 168).

Just Missing The Cut

Professor Marston & the Wonder Women
Molly’s Game
I, Tonya
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
John Wick: Chapter 2

#16: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Top Films of 2017 - Guardians

First up on our list is a film that had a high bar to live up to. In fact, few sequels in 2017 had as high of expectations for it than this one. The first Guardians of the Galaxy is counted as many fans’ favorite entry in the entire MCU to date, and for good reason. James Gunn created the most purely fun space epic in a very long time as he brought Star-Lord, Groot, Gamora, Drax, Rocket and the rest to life and hit the right combination of action, humor, and drama for a real popcorn entertainment movie with staying power. Of course, this being Marvel, there were always going to be plans for another film with Star-Lord and his crew. Even with Gunn back in the director’s chair, it would be completely forgivable to wonder if he could do it again.

Luckily for us, he did. Gunn and his cast delivered here, finding the balance between hitting the first film’s high notes and going its own way. Guardians Vol. 2 can aptly be called a remix of sorts of the first film. It’s similar in form and theme, but shakes the ideas up puts them through a different permutation. That goes for everything, from the music-laden action sequence (this time hilariously more glimpsed than seen) to the shift of the family theme to fathers and sisters. Kurt Russell does fine work as Peter Quill’s father Ego, another improbable cosmic Marvel character that manages to work, while Gamora and Nebula’s hostile relationship gets plenty of room to shine. Michael Rooker steals all the scenes as Yondu and the main cast play off each other amazingly. While some of the MCU films have sagged their second time out, Guardians is still going strong.

#15: It

Top Films of 2017 - It

Generally, I consider the best films of the year to be ones that I look forward to seeing again. It is an anomaly that way. And oddly, that’s part of why it’s on the list. I’ve mentioned before that I have legit coulrophobia; clowns scare the hell out of me. That made the latest adaptation of Stephen King’s story a weird sort of film for me in that I was both looking forward to it and dreading it. That’s because I don’t see a lot of films that legitimately scare me. On the other hand, being actually terrified…well, has its drawbacks. And if there’s one thing I can say about It, it is that the movie quite successfully freaked me the hell out.

It’s not easy to be a film that is better than the book, but It does just that. I like King’s original novel, to be clear. But his eccentric quirks show up in force in a couple of spots. The script jettisons those strange aspects, and director Andrés Muschietti invests the film with a Spielberg/Stranger Things tone that works. The cast of young kids are great; Sophia Lillis and Finn Wolfhard in particular shine. And of course, Bill Skarsgaard is nerve-wrackingly terrifying as Pennywise. This is a film I probably won’t see again until I need to refresh my memory for chapter two. And I’ll be dreading doing so as I sit down and watch. That’s how good of a horror film It is.

#14: The Big Sick

Top Films of 2017 - Big Sick

While most of the best “indie” films come out toward the end of the year, many years will see one or two must-see non-blockbusters come out during the summer months. In 2017, that film was The Big Sick. The microbudgeted dramedy released via Amazon Studios and Lionsgate amidst major blockbusters in June. And yet, it found its niche for one simple reason above all: it’s just that damned good. Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon wrote a touching and funny film about interracial relationships. It’s a film that feels honest and authentic, and that’s because it is. Nanjiani and Gordon loosely based the film on their own relationship and mine the story for both laughs and a few teary moments.

The story is great here (deservedly nominated for an Oscar), but the acting is superb. Zoe Kazan obviously is not Emily Gordon, but she establishes a real chemistry with Nanjiani. Holly Hunter and Ray Romano give top-notch performances as Emily’s parents and director Michael Showalter knows just went to step in and when to lean back and let his actors do their thing. Comedy is such a hit-and-miss genre, and comedies dealing with illnesses are particularly hard to pull off. The Big Sick makes it look easy.

#13: The Disaster Artist

Top Films of 2017 - Disaster Artist

To be honest, I didn’t know quite what to expect out of The Disaster Artist. I find the legendarily bad The Room to be a fascinating, often-entertaining watch just like many do. And that film’s director/writer/star Tommy Wiseau is certainly a strange guy. But a film based on The Room’s making seemed like an odd decision for a major studio release. And yet, The Disaster Artist really works. Mostly, that’s because James Franco is more interested in making a story about the oddball friendship at The Room’s core than the film itself.

It’s impossible, sadly, to talk about this film right now without at least making mention of the sexual misconduct allegations against Franco. But whatever those mean to his career or the film’s awards season, they don’t take factor into the quality of the film. I’m praising the movie and the work on it, not the man himself. And Franco is stellar here, affecting a great and oddly-humanizing performance as Wiseau. Dave Franco has a less-flashy role as Greg Sestero, but is just as good and carries his part of the film. Oddly, I don’t know if The Disaster Artist is a film that The Room fans will/do love because it’s more interested in the people than the film. But it’s one that I think soars at what it tries to accomplish.

#12: Dunkirk

Top Films of 2017 - Dunkirk

Perhaps an odd statement to start off an entry in a best films of 2017 list, but here we go: I didn’t like Dunkirk as much as I’d hoped. Christopher Nolan’s filmic take on the real-life Dunkirk evacuation of World War II is a technical marvel, but it didn’t capture my emotions as much as I’d hoped. That said, it is literally the only bad thing I can say about the film. And when “I didn’t love it as much as I wanted” is the worst thing you can say, you know you have a winner. Even the lesser films on Nolan’s resume are good, and this is middle-tier at worst. Which is to say, it’s pretty damned good.

There’s a lot I can praise about Dunkirk. However, most of it would just be my echoing what almost everyone has said. It looks amazing (no surprise with Hoyte van Hoytema filming it) and the sound design is incredible. On every technical level, it’s near perfect. But what really makes this film work is Nolan’s script. It tells the tale from three different perspectives in different time frames, a tricky proposition. Often when you try to do this, you come off trying to seem overly clever. Nolan’s script arranges it just right though, making for a thrilling and engaging tale of heroes. The cast of largely-unknown actors deliver, and the more well-known veterans are predictably great. I may not adore it as much as I wished, but still, Dunkirk is quite simply a great film.

#11: Wonder Woman

Top Films of 2017 - Wonder Woman

2017 was a pretty good year for superhero movies, all in all. We’ll likely get into that a bit more with the top eight but suffice it to say that the bar was raised for the genre. And factoring into that was Wonder Woman. Even more so than Guardians Vol. 2, this was a film that felt in the lead-up to its release like it was being crushed by the expectations put onto it. DC and Warner Bros. needed to course correct after Batman V Superman and Suicide Squad were profitable but polarizing. Meanwhile, many were wondering how a superheroine-led film would fare. That was admittedly a lot to live up to. But if anyone can shoulder that much weight, it would be Diana. And Wonder Woman delivered in a big way.

Gal Gadot nails the role of Diana, proving that the praise for her in Batman V Superman wasn’t unjustified. Gadot effectively shows Diana’s naivety and optimism as a young woman, coupled with her willpower and determination. Patty Jenkins is stellar behind the camera, helming one of the most anti-war action films in years. Jenkins doesn’t shy away from the horror of war and makes sure Diana can’t. But she doesn’t turn this into a destruction-fest like superhero films often can be. Chris Pine is wonderful as Steve Trevor and the rest of the cast does good work. Sure, it’s not flawless; few movies are. This one’s faults lie in yet another CG-laden climax and a villain reveal that is too telegraphed for my tastes. But everything else about this movie is spot-on. Wonder Woman is a triumph for DC in just about every way and makes for one of my favorite films of the year.

#10: Get Out

Top Films of 2017 - Get Out

It’s tricky to create a horror film that has a socially-relevant message. For every Invasion of the Body Snatchers, there are hundreds of abject failures at speaking to important themes amid legitimate scares. Nailing both sides perfectly helps makes Get Out so damned good. Jordan Peele’s Stepford Wives-style tale follows a black man who meets his white girlfriend’s parents and gets drawn into something terrifying. It’s not only a film with a lot to say and a lot of nerves to hit, but one told in a way that honors the genre’s past while looking forward.

Most of the film’s success, of course, comes from Peele’s work. Peele immediately stamps his name on the list of some of the most exciting voices working behind the camera. His script taps into sociocultural topics that have been important for a long time, looking at they’ve changed today. Daniel Kaluuya is fantastic in the lead role of Chris. And he’s surrounded by a talented cast as the white liberals, whose own prejudices are obvious in their dismissive progressivist attitudes.

But again, the lion’s share of the credit goes to Peele. He makes a film that is uncomfortable in all the right ways for just about everyone. Get Out isn’t preachy and can easily be enjoyed just as a straight-up horror-thriller. It’s easy to make a film full of jump scares; it’s much harder to make a movie that genuinely unnerves while still playing to mainstream audiences. Peele makes it work, and that is what elevates Get Out to the top of the horror pile of 2017.

#9: Wind River

Top Films of 2017 - Wind River

A little bias here: I’m a huge Taylor Sheridan fan. Not everyone may be register that name, and I get it. Sheridan doesn’t exactly make blockbusters, and Wind River is his first major film as a director. But those who do know the name have good reason to appreciate him. Sheridan is a consummate screenwriter who has done his part to reinvigorate the Western for modern audiences with Hell or High Water. He also wrote the stellar Sicario, one of the better crime thrillers in years. He brings both of those to bear with Wind River, which is the best thing he’s done in his career yet.

Wind River benefits from a lot of things, to be fair. For one, the mystery-drama about a tracker and an FBI agent teaming up to solve a murder on a reservation in Wyoming has a cast of fine actors doing some of their best work. Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olson gives career-defining performances as those two characters, embodying their roles in every way. The cinematography from Ben Richardson is both gorgeous and foreboding; Nick Cave and Warren Ellis’ score is fantastic. But this is Sheridan’s film, and he makes it impossible to ignore. The tone is serious and often depressing, but it never feels like a chore to get through. The “white savior” trope that Renner’s character could have been is nimbly dodged and Sheridan treats the Native American culture with respect while making it accessible. It’s not the easiest watch of the year, but it is one of the best.

And that will do it for this! Join me once again later this week as we count down numbers eight through one! Until then, have a good one and don’t forget to read the many other great columns, news articles and more here at! JT out.