The 10 Best Movies of 2017 (So Far)
Last year at this time, things were looking pretty bleak in film world. Moviegoers were suffering through one of the worst summers in recent memory, and things would get much worse before they got any better. 2017 has had its fair share of stinkers, but for all the hand-wringing about the death of cinema and the ascension of television, the first six months of the year have produced a slew of instant classics — so many, in fact, that if 2017 ended tomorrow, there would still be more than enough options to fill out a very respectable year-end top ten list.
So why not get a jump on the list-making right now? As we begin the countdown to awards season, the staff of ScreenCrush convened to select ten films to represent the best of the year so far. There was a fair amount of consensus about the top picks, and enough agreement throughout that editors Matt Singer, Erin Oliver Whitney, and Britt Hayes were able to settle on the following joint list. We can’t wait to see what the second half of 2017 brings. Until then, here are our favorites:
10. A Quiet Passion
Directed by Terence Davies
“Okay, here’s the pitch: It’s a movie about Emily Dickinson writing poetry while she slowly becomes a recluse, refuses to leave her room, and suffers a series of increasingly violent seizures. Also: It’s kind of a comedy! Wait, where are you going?” No plot synopsis or description can do justice to the beauty and, yes, surprising humor of Terence Davies’ Dickinson biopic A Quiet Passion, which chronicles the life of the famous writer (beautifully played by Cynthia Nixon) as she struggles to find her place in an era that refuses to even publish female authors’ work except under a male pseudonym. Davies portrays her struggle for acknowledgement, love, and simple personal acceptance with equal amounts of wit and melancholy. Dickinson’s life was rarely a happy one, but long stretches of A Quiet Passion are so joyful; particularly any time Emily drops barely disguised diss bombs on her relatives and associates. I can’t remember the last time I had so much fun just listening to people talk in a movie. — Matt Singer
9. T2: Trainspotting
Directed by Danny Boyle
Superfluous, belated, and arguably very ill-advised. There’s really no convincing argument in favor of a Trainspotting sequel 20 years after the first film except for the movie itself. T2: Trainspotting (I agree, the title is bad) reunites the original cast and director Danny Boyle for a clear-eyed look at addiction and middle-age malaise. Trainspotting was a cautionary tale about drug abuse, but its high-energy editing, camerawork, and soundtrack inadvertently glamorized the grunge. T2 demystifies its heroes, who are uniformly older, sadder, and more pathetic this time out. As it turns out, only a movie made two decades after its primary reference point could do what Trainspotting 2 does: Show that mortality can be an even more brutal mindf--- than heroin. — MS
Read ScreenCrush’s full review of T2: Trainspotting.
8. The Girl With All the Gifts
Directed by Colm McCarthy
Think The Walking Dead holds the monopoly on zombies right now? Think again. The best zombie fiction of the last couple years is this under-the-radar gem (released briefly in theaters as well as on DirecTV) about a young girl named Melanie (Sennia Nanua) imprisoned in a mysterious government facility along with a bunch of other children. It’s only after the camp is overrun by the undead, and Melanie and a handful of the building’s staff (including Paddy Considine and an outstanding Glenn Close) escape, that the full extent of her captivity and importance is made clear. Like all good zombie films, The Girl With All the Gifts integrates bold ideas with brutal scares, and its ultimate message about humanity is perhaps the most fitting one in any 2017 movie for our very strange and very bleak times. — MS
Read ScreenCrush’s full review of The Girl With All the Gifts.
7. Wonder Woman
Directed Patty Jenkins
I dare the rest of the year’s movies to come up with anything as joyful as watching Diana come of age on the island of Themyscira, a paradise populated solely by Amazon women who spend their lives training to protect the world from the God of War — strong, brave, immensely intelligent women with an evolved view of the world. Women who feel no shame about their bodies, which show signs of aging and parts that righteously jiggle when they land on the ground after leaping through the air. It’s overwhelming to describe exactly why Wonder Woman, the first female superhero movie in 12 years — and a really great one, at that — is so meaningful. It’s the experience of seeing an action-packed adventure through the female gaze for once. It’s the moment when Gal Gadot’s eponymous hero, frustrated by the men ignoring her and telling her to stay back for her own good, emerges from the trenches and marches across No Man’s Land determined to save those deemed beyond salvation. It isn’t just inspiring. It’s breathtaking. — Britt Hayes
Read ScreenCrush’s full review of Wonder Woman.
6. Baby Driver
Directed by Edgar Wright
It almost feels like Edgar Wright is subverting himself with this delightful action-musical, an ode to heist films and romantic song-and-dance classics in which lyrics are replaced by actions driven entirely by diegetic sound. Ansel Elgort plays the title character, a remarkably skilled getaway man who meets the right girl at the wrong time and gets in way over his head with some unsavory criminals, played to perfection by Jon Hamm, Jamie Foxx, Eiza González, and Kevin Spacey, whose performance is cranked all the way up to 11. Baby Driver is a slight gear shift for Wright, who goes from visual to rhythmic flair with an audibly-stylized experience that feels classic and yet entirely fresh — like a muscle car restored to its glistening former glory with a few newfangled parts under the hood to give it a little kick. — BH
Read ScreenCrush’s full review of Baby Driver.
Directed by Julia Ducournau
A story about a vegetarian who becomes a cannibal at a French veterinary school is enough of a titillating premise to hook any curious viewer interested in demented horrors. Julia Ducournau’s coming-of-age thriller adds a nasty twist to hazing culture when Grace Marillier’s Justine, a reclusive young woman, becomes consumed by a morbid lust for flesh after being forced to eat meat. Raw is both an expertly crafted horror film and a wildly inventive take on the voracious appetite of female desire, and how that’s so often censured. It’s simultaneously nauseating and erotic, conflating physical pleasure with body horror in its disturbing, but surprisingly minimal moments of gore. You never quite know where this movie is headed, but each unexpected turn will jolt you out of your seat. — Erin Oliver Whitney
Read ScreenCrush’s full review of Raw.
4. The Beguiled
Directed by Sofia Coppola
Sofia Coppola takes Don Siegel’s bonkers 1971 film about a wounded Union soldier who seeks respite at a girls’ boarding school in the Confederate South and refashions it into a brilliantly nuanced and wickedly sly depiction of misogyny. Colin Farrell’s charms are used to cringe-worthy effect as a soldier whose mere presence, however initially unwelcome, inspires a fit of pearl-clutching and bodice-tightening among the women of the house, including Nicole Kidman’s icy headmistress and Kirsten Dunst’s desperately lonely schoolteacher. Less dreamy than Coppola’s previous tales of privileged ennui but just as well-dressed, The Beguiled says far more than Siegel’s film by saying much less; its violence and vengefulness implied in degrees as calculated as Farrell’s soldier. His deceptive flirtations escalate from casual to aggressive, and ultimately force him to reconcile with an enemy he never expected. — BH
Directed by Bong Joon-ho
Looking at the picture above, and watching the entirety of Okja, it is hard to believe that super pigs are not something that actually exists. Bong Joon-ho and his effects team conjure a running, jumping, swimming, pooping, farting super pig so real you’d swear Tilda Swinton really did breed it in a lab and ship it off to a remote farm in the Korean mountains. The closeups on his eyes and skin, the way she interacts with actress Ahn Seo-hyun, are all incredible. It must have cost a fortune to build this creature, but it was worth it; even in a year of galactic guardians, wondrous women, cogmen, mummies, and pirates, Okja is the year’s most impressive special effect — and certainly the most alive. — MS
Read ScreenCrush’s full review of Okja.
2. Get Out
Directed by Jordan Peele
There’s a reason Get Out received nearly-unanimous praise and shattered box office records: It works really well. In a story about a black man (Daniel Kaluuya) on his first visit to his white girlfriend’s (Allison Williams) family, Peele finds the perfect blend of sci-fi, scares, and comedy to speak to the tensions and violence that stem from the casual racism of supposedly progressive liberals. It’s rare to see a story as richly original as Get Out from a major studio, and Peele further proved himself as a major up-and-coming director by concocting a tense horror story ribbed with humor. While all the casting was pitch-perfect, from Williams’ villainous white girl to Catherine Keener’s aloof therapist mother, Get Out established Kaluuya as compelling dramatic lead I can't wait to see more of. — EOW
Read ScreenCrush’s full review of Get Out.
1. The Big Sick
Directed by Michael Showalter
Film critics have been declaring the rom-com dead for years, but The Big Sick blasts a breath of fresh, earnest, and humorous air into the genre. What makes the film so unique is the sheer vulnerability and honesty of its script, which avoids predictability at every turn. Based on the story of how real-life couple (and Big Sick writers) Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon met, the film charts their relationship before a sudden illness forced Gordon into a medical-induced coma. Nanjiani plays himself, a struggling comic who keeps his relationship with Emily (played by Zoe Kazan) secret from his Pakistani Muslim family, who are desperate to set him up in an arranged marriage. At first a sweet indie romance, the film shifts to more serious subjects when Kumail navigates Emily’s medical crisis with her parents, played in stand-out performances by Holly Hunter and Ray Romano.The Big Sick hits just the right notes of profundity and warmth while delivering big laughs. Plus it charts the perspective of a Pakistani-American man, a character often omitted from the screen. — EOW
Read ScreenCrush’s full review of The Big Sick.