It's that time of year, everybody!
The year 2017 itself has been a bit of a dumpster fire. In the scheme of movies, however, it's been a very good twelve months.
Let's get down to brass tacks.
Brawl In Cell Block 99 (d. S Craig Zahler)
Vince Vaughn's career best performance drives this film about an ex-con returning to the illegal stuff he does best to preserve his crumbling marriage. I don't wanna say anymore about the story than that. The title implies he lands in jail, and that there is a fight. Brawl is part American tragedy, part hilarious and violent exploitation. The most brutal film of the year.
John Wick: Chapter 2 (d. Chad Stahelski)
This was going to make my number ten slot last month. Every scene is filled with theme, and every setpiece is filled with head shots. This had no reason to be a good sequel, but it broadens the world while managing to maintain its charming mystery.
Logan Lucky (d. Steven Soderbergh)
Billed as a "blue collar Ocean's Eleven", Logan Lucky is a miracle of restraint. Soderbergh's love for West Virginia shines as bright as his characters in a underdog tale that refuses to get maudlin. Craig, Driver, and Tatum are next level.
The Book of Henry (d. Colin Trevorrow)
Truthfully, this is one of the very worst fucking movies I have ever seen. But, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the film. It's batshit insane, and frankly its ineptitude is so staggering that it demands to be watch. This isn't The Room, where you watch a man barely grasp at a medium he doesn't understand. This is competently made, with notable name actors being forced to act from a script that is so insipid that you have to wonder if the audience is being subjected to a long Nathan For You prank. Drop everything and watch it.
THE TOP 10 FILMS OF 2017
10. LADY BIRD (d. Greta Gerwig, w. Greta Gerwig)
An indie worthy of all the awards it gets nominated for. A slice of life story with a bone to pick about how children treat their parents, and how parents treat their children. There's a lot going on in this film, and I've never engaged so strongly with a film that wasn't made for me. Gerwig writes and directs with a strong voice, one that is deftly able to balance low-key rib aching hilarity and quiet dramatic bombs. Watch it. Then call your mom.
9. GET OUT (d. Jordan Peele, w. Jordan Peele)
What more is there to say? In some ways, Get Out is the film of the century. Jordan Peele, in his first feature, approaches the horror genre with ease, telling a story that needs to be told in this era. Peele has little interest in depicting the nuances of blue collar racism, but rather the machinations of racism in the minds of white people who cry "I'm not racist". If you haven't seen it, I don't know what you're doing. If you have seen it, I promise you it holds up on repeat viewings.
8. THE BIG SICK (d. Michael Showalter, w. Kumail Nanjiani & Emily V. Gordon)
Through various podcasts on the Nerdist network over the past ten years, Kumail and Emily have been a pervasive presence. We've heard crazy accounts of their story, pieces of their very stirring tale popping up on different episodes over time. When they said they were taking a break from their own gaming podcast The Indoor Kids to work on this film, I remembered to keep it on their radar. Kumail and Emily present a script that's wholly original, yet lures you in with the familiarity of quality romantic comedies.
7. STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI (d. Rian Johnson, w. Rian Johnson)
It hasn't even been a week since release, and I worried about my knee jerk reaction not lining up with what I truly thought of this new Star Wars. But, I've seen it twice now, and I'm sticking with my opinion that it's the second best Star Wars film ever made. There's plenty to spoil, so I'm sure we'll be putting out some pieces in the coming weeks to talk about those things. To take a series and progress it truly after 30 years is one thing, but to give this franchise a new message and a fresh thematic richness is another. Add in superlative performances from Adam Driver and Mark Hamill, and boy - you have the direct inverse of a film like The Force Awakens. This will be pored over for a long time. And good, because Star Wars feels new again.
6. THE DISASTER ARTIST (d. James Franco, w. Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber)
Listening to Greg Sestero's book on which this is based, it was hard to imagine how a two hour film would capture the profound insanity expressed in the memoir. Still, Franco et al manage to distill this truly insane and impossibly true story into a brisk and thrilling feature. Both Francos are good, but my personal stand out was Paul Scheer, an actor I normally cannot stand, bringing real energy and justifiable tension to his scenes. This film about the making of one of the worst films in modern history demands to be watched. Any and all artists will find something personal to identify with and root for. Tommy Wiseau is us, and we are all Tommy Wiseau.
5. LOGAN (d. James Mangold, w. Michael Green and Scott Frank)
I wanna #humblebrag that I got to attend the US premiere of this flick on my birthday. And what a gift it was! One couldn't ask for a better finale for Hugh Jackman's titular claw having murderer. Moreover, Mangold and company seemed less interested in all that lore business, instead wanting to create a singular and definitive tale of tragedy. There's a reason Shane plays on a television early in the film; the western runs through Logan's DNA. If you only watch one comic book adaptation you watch this year, make it this one. This is a film.
4. BABY DRIVER (d. Edgar Wright, w. Edgar Wright)
Edgar Wright swooped into June, delivering us the most bombastic and kinetic film of the summer. And it wasn't based on a comic book, nor was it a sequel to anything. From the opening six minute chase, to the tracking shot over the opening credits, to the Neat, Neat, Neat scene, to the next thing, and the next thing, it's the textbook definition of non-stop. Wright may have been inspired by Walter Hill, but the next big car movie director will be inspired by Wright. It's an instant action classic.
3. WIND RIVER (d. Taylor Sheridan, w. Taylor Sheridan)
There's a trend of writer/directors on my list this year, but man a lot of good writers are making their directorial voices heard extra loud in 2017. Sheridan is no different, rounding out his modern western crime trilogy with an angry screed about the abandonment of an entire people in America, and how we are still doing nothing about it. Wind River is a powerhouse flick and demands your attention. Career best performances for both Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen.
2. BLADE RUNNER 2049 (d. Denis Villeneuve, w. Michael Green and Hampton Fancher)
The IMAX experience of this film is an instant all timer, period. A movie that, straight away, dives into its own modern retelling of Pinocchio, Blade Runner 2049 opts to tell a slow burning detective story with a pace that we haven't seen since Chinatown. More surprisingly, it knows how to use Jared Leto. Miracles do come true.
1. THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI (d. Martin McDonagh, w. Martin McDonagh)
The definitive film of 2017. Three Billboards captures all of our rage at the establishment, conveying nuance rarely seen in dramas anymore. And don't Google this one, either. The premise is simple: a woman's daughter was raped and killed, and police haven't caught the assailant. What follows is truly harrowing, an indictment of the fallibility of law enforcement, and also an embracing of the individuals who are past forgiveness. It's McDonagh's magnum opus, and if there's a just god in this universe, it sweeps the Oscars next year.
At the time of posting, this writer has not seen The Post, The Florida Project, or Call Me By Your Name.
Terry Erickson is a screenwriter, lifelong film fan, and all around good guy based in Baltimore, MD. He's driven across America twice, is obsessed with Back To The Future, and loves almost everybody.