Here are my updated top 20 movies of 2017, with mini-reviews. Notably critically acclaimed ones I haven’t seen are noted in the footnote under the list (I reserve the right to edit this list further later). Note several films featured at this year’s True/False Film Festival in Columbia Missouri are on the list.
1. Lady Bird (I rated #1 through #7 all 5 out of 5 stars)
This movie has (or at least for a while had) the highest rating of all time on Rotten Tomatoes, and I think could be the best movie of the past decade and maybe even the best since Sideways, imo. At the same time really creative and rang incredibly true especially if one went to Catholic school. A masterpiece of writing and acting.
2. The Post
Fairly Hollywood, but so important and well done it has to be up here, with the First Amendment and the free press under siege more than perhaps at any other time in the country’s history right now.
Visually and musically stunning and with an intense spiritual message about how we hold those who have passed in our hearts and keep them alive through our memory of them. The best Pixar movie to date?
4. Brad’s Status
I’ve loved Mike White since the very start of his career (Chuck and Buck) and I think this film rates so high in part because I heard an NPR interview of him where he got choked up talking about how much his Dad means to him and how the Ben Stiller character somewhat represents his Dad. Incredibly powerful.
5. I Am Not Your Negro
In-your-face bringing to fruition of an unfinished James Baldwin project profiling MLK, Medgar Evers, and Malcom X and having seen it at two film festivals with the creators and Harry Belafonte in attendance at Q&A’s added to the power of the experience.
6. Still Tomorrow
Perhaps the best film at True/False I saw this year, about a famous Chinese poet with cerebral palsy – great character and great poetry.
Impactful Thurgood Marshall biopic.
8. The Florida Project (#8 through #20 all 4.5 stars)
Nerve-rackingly colorful and stark realism of the seediness and desperation just outside Disney World with stunning acting including by Willem Dafoe.
9. The Shape of Water
Brilliantly visually and magically crafted update of The Creature From The Black Lagoon that makes an unforgettable commentary on disability, marginalization, fascism, and love. Roy Moore won’t understand this movie one iota.
10. Darkest Hour
Gary Oldman on the subway as Churchill rivals any scene in any of The Godfather movies. Great companion to Dunkirk.
11. Meyerowitz Stories
Incredibly funny — what Woody Allen would have been able to do if he was 10 times the writer he is.
12. The Glass Castle
Adaptation of Jeannette Walls’ memoir and really about her father – Woody Harrelson brilliant as usual in that role.
Some say Christopher Nolan’s best film – some historical inaccuracies, and it brushes off the sacrifice of the 4,000 soldiers that Darkest Hour honors, but a terrific film and displaces the beginning of Saving Private Ryan as the most (seemingly) realistic audience battle experience of any movie I’ve seen.
Harry Dean Stanton’s final movie and basically autobiographical of him. Great art house poetry.
15. The Big Sick
Another autobiographical film, about Silicon Valley star Kumail Nanjiani – powerful story of love and death.
16. Our Souls at Night
We watched this because a close friend’s daughter who was a film student at Colorado College at the time was Redford’s personal assistant on the film. Filmed in Florence, Colorado but should have been filmed in Yuma since Kent Haruf based his last book, and all his books, on a fictional version of Yuma. Classic Redford and Fonda and a really touching story about love. Heart-wrenching movie for me in part because Haruf is the most literarily relevant well-known writer to the Northeastern Colorado region where I spent the second half of my formative years.
17. Get Out
No doubt the first of many great things to come from Jordan Peele – acerbic commentary on the horror show of race relations in America.
18. The Greatest Showman
Yet another movie where you sit there slack-jawed thinking, why isn’t Hugh Jackman a huge rock or Broadway star on top of everything else? Up there with Into the Woods and Les Misérables and La La Land among the best musicals of the last several years. The performances are spellbinding.
Another love story about those who don’t fit in and another favorite from the 2017 True/False fest.
20. Whose Streets?
Another standout from True/False, also a favorite of The New Yorker, about the Ferguson police misconduct.
Note: Dozens of other really good movies could not fit on this list. Have not yet seen The Disaster Artist, Downsizing, Ex Libris, Faces/Places, or A Quiet Passion.