This year has been a big one for me and my love of movies. First and foremost, my amazing friends Kevin and Lauren McCarthy gave me the opportunity to meet Kate Winslet, who anyone who meets me knows is my favorite actress and the person who most inspired my love for all things entertainment. I won’t go into that story because this would likely turn into a dissertation exploring why I have the greatest friends and how much of a fool I made of myself in front of Kate. But just know this was HUGE for me, and words can’t express how much it meant to me. Secondly, I attended both the Sundance Film Festival and Toronto International Film Festival and saw some incredible movies, many of which made it into this best of the year list.
But enough about me, let’s talk about the best and worst movies/performances of 2017. It’s not the end of the year if I am not begrudgingly slumped over my computer writing my 2017 in review article. Having to write this article is easily one my most dreaded parts of the year, because after seeing over 150 new movies, it’s hard ranking favorites and having to cut some well-deserved films from my list! And regardless of what you may be hearing, 2017 has been a great year for movies… making this process even more difficult.
That being said, below is my list of the best and worst films of the year followed by the best performances of the year (with my favorite marked in bold). Oddly enough, I don’t think I saw 10 bad movies that warranted a mention in an end of year list, so I have instead cut it back to the 4 worst movies of the year. Of course there are movies I didn’t enjoy, but the worst of the year list should be saved for those movies you wonder how the hell got made and why you aren’t a screenwriter yourself because you could do so much better.
Best Movies of the Year
10. Star Wars: The Last Jedi
I loved STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI so much. I honestly can’t believe how entertaining, exhilarating, and exciting it was. From the second “STAR WARS” flashed on the screen and the opening crawl started, I had to mentally prepare myself for cheers, tears, and sneers. Cheers for all of the awesome fight scenes, especially that one in the throne room. Tears for my fangirl freakouts and any scene with Carrie Fisher. And sneers to represent my pull to the dark side and the fact I am going to be broke with all of the times I am going to see this film in theaters.
9. Get Out
This is another movie I saw at Sundance this year and knew it was going to be hard for other movies to unseat it from my top 10 list. It’s hard to believe GET OUT is Jordan Peele’s directorial debut. From long takes, to the clever, twisty script, it’s clear Peele knows what he is doing and will be a voice to look out for in the coming years. Of course, he had success writing and starring in KEANU and his hit television series KEY AND PEELE, but this time, the vision of the project was completely his, as he masterfully builds suspense and paranoia through the eyes of our protagonist Chris, culminating in an explosive and memorable ending.
Some of the best horror films are comments on society, and it’s interesting to see the other horror influences Peele used for this film, STEPFORD WIVES in particular. STEPFORD WIVES was created as a commentary on gender, and Peele uses this same story of creepily perfect robotic people to explore the dynamics of race. But unlike other recent movies, who have explored racism through the lens of lower-class white supremacists, Peele brings the focus out of extremist groups into the world of middle and upper class America. Instead of allowing audiences to make excuses about a racist mentality only resting in neo-Nazi groups and the KKK, we are now asked to think about racial tensions in your own neighborhood. The villains in this film aren’t wearing white hoods and burning crosses, they are wearing polo shirts and sipping red wine. They proclaim they aren’t racist and quickly follow that with a story about how they voted for Obama, but have inherent biases that are bubbling under the surface. If GET OUT is any indication, Peele has a long career ahead in whatever he chooses, be it directing, writing, or acting (or all three). I know I can’t wait to see what he has next.
This is a controversial pick, I know. Probably one of the most divisive movies of the year, mother! certainly isn’t for the faint of heart. You know how there are some movies that you forget almost immediately after seeing it? Films that you think you haven’t seen before, but halfway through it you start to realize you know what’s coming next and you did, in fact, see it? Well, mother! isn’t one of them. If you’ve seen this movie once, you will remember it. I’ve seen it only twice and can remember every scene in great detail, which is what I love most about it… a movie that startles you and makes you feel something. Directed by Darren Aronofsky, mother! will keep you on the edge of your seat for its entirety… to the point I had to restrain myself from screaming at Jennifer Lawrence through the screen. Lawrence’s scenes with Michelle Pfeiffer were fire, and in itself would easily be contenders for my end of year list.
It really wasn’t a hard decision to find a place for COCO on my list. This movie was one of the biggest surprises of the year for me and is easily one of my favorite Pixar movies ever released. Seriously, the film gets every element right, from its dazzling imagery and heartfelt message, to the incredible music. It also gave me a better appreciation for the Mexican culture broadly, especially the beautiful focus on family, as well as The Day of the Dead itself. I always thought it was an awesome-looking holiday, but never really thought about the meaning behind it. But after seeing the film I am totally going to start celebrating Dia de los Muertos alongside Halloween.
6. Lady Bird
First-time director (and writer of the film), Greta Gerwig’s LADY BIRD works both as a love letter to Gerwig’s hometown of Sacramento and a brilliant coming-of-age story. Focusing on friendship and the complicated, loving relationship between mother and daughter, LADY BIRD is not just one of the best films of the year, it is also the most highly-reviewed movie on Rotten Tomatoes EVER! So basically, if you don’t believe me that this movie is good, just look at what the other critics are saying.
5. Ingrid Goes West
Directed and co-written by Matt Spicer, INGRID focuses on our social media-obsessed culture, where everyone’s lives are carefully curated to look perfect. But as the cautionary tale shows, the filtered images don’t quite translate into real life. Being “Insta-famous” isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, and unfortunately Ingrid (Aubrey Plaza) has to learn this the hard way after she moves to Los Angeles to be like her Instagram idol, Taylor Sloane (Elizabeth Olsen). Although the script was a smart, wickedly hilarious comment on our social media-obsessed culture, INGRID GOES WEST would be nothing without a fantastic cast, and Aubrey Plaza gives the performance of her career. She puts everything she has into this tortured character, whose mental and emotional breakdowns shows enable her to show her more vulnerable side.
The whole film revolves around the audience rooting for Ingrid, no matter what ridiculous situation she has gotten herself into; Plaza’s inherent charisma made Ingrid likable even when she was at her worst. I am also a huge fan of Elizabeth Olsen, having seen all of her films so far. Her role in INGRID is one of my favorites as she plays Insta-star, Taylor Sloane, with a roll-your-eyes pretentiousness I’m sure you will recognize from your own timeline. We so often get to see Olsen’s sense of humor in television interviews, but now we finally got to see that in a film. Get your likes, up votes, and favorites in now because once you see INGRID GOES WEST, you may think twice about your social media presence. I know I did!
4. I, Tonya
TONYA, directed by Craig Gillespie, is at its best an acting showcase and at its “worst” an incredibly entertaining (and cringy hilarious) biopic of America’s most “villainous” ice skater, Tonya Harding. What I’m trying say here is you can’t go wrong with this one. The second I heard about this project, I knew it was going to be amazing and I was NOT disappointed. Margot Robbie and Allison Janney give two of the best performances of the year, with multi-layered performances to an archetype of women we don’t often see represented on screen. The most compelling (and my favorite) part of the film is that it shines a new light on Harding as a person, her rough life, quest for recognition within the snooty ice-skating community, and “the incident” with Nancy Kerrigan. I think you will be surprised by your thoughts on Harding after the film.
It’s hard to make a war movie seem innovative and one that stands out above the rest, but of course when Christopher Nolan is involved, nothing is generic. Not only is the film magnificently shot for the big screen in glorious 60mm, but the sound design was also some of the best I have heard. I saw it twice at the Smithsonian’s IMAX theater and with the sounds of bullets whizzing by and German aircraft diving down for bombing raids, I actually felt like I was there. It is movies like these that feed into my love of movies, taking me out of the real world and placing me into history. But probably my favorite part of the film was the way Nolan told the story, interweaving the stories of air, sea, and land (the three main elements of the evacuation at Dunkirk). He tells each story within different time frames, sea (over a week), land (over a day), and air (over an hour).
2. Call Me By Your Name
I saw this movie at Sundance in January last year and have been thinking about it ever since. Adapted from André Aciman’s 2007 novel, director Luca Guadagnino just makes too beautiful of a movie, with beautiful cinematography, incredible performances from the entire cast, and the heart-wrenching words from screenwriter James Ivory. I couldn’t even bring myself to review it because I couldn’t put my thoughts and feelings into the intelligent words this movie deserves. There are some movies that are just too hard to write about. However, I had to include it in my end of the year list. Anchored by the white-hot chemistry between Armie Hammer and Timothée Chalamet, who give two of the best performances of the year, this story of a young man’s first love is as authentic as it is sensual. And with that final speech by Michael Stuhlbarg that is still haunting me all of these months later, I don’t see how this film wouldn’t be in every critic’s best of the year list.
1. Wonder Woman
This shouldn’t be a surprise. Directed by Patty Jenkins, WONDER WOMAN is a movie that enjoyed immense critical acclaim and box office success this year. At over $820 million, the Amazonian princess rocketed to the top of the charts to become the highest grossing superhero origin film of all time and the second highest grossing movie of the year (behind BEAUTY AND THE BEAST until THE LAST JEDI probably catches up). But not only did it break the glass ceiling for female superheroes, I think (and hope) it broke the barrier for more female-led films to get the green light. But enough with the numbers, WONDER WOMAN, led by the delightfully heroic Gal Gadot, is an empowering, well-written, and thrilling masterclass in entertainment. It perfectly balances kickass action with humor and heart and is the movie we Wonder Woman fans have been waiting for. I saw this movie four times in theaters, and have watched it multiple times since it came out on Blu-Ray, it’s safe to say this one checked the “rewatchability” criteria.
Honorable Mentions: The Post (which only missed my top 10 by a hair); Atomic Blonde; Baby Driver; Battle of the Sexes; The Beguiled; The Big Sick; Molly’s Game; The Florida Project; The Shape of Water; Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Most Underrated Movie of the Year
I don’t feel at home in this world anymore
I DON’T FEEL AT HOME IN THIS WORLD ANYMORE. is not only the longest, most grammatically correct film title I have ever seen, but also marks writer/actor Macon Blair’s directorial debut. A Northern Virginia native, you may know Blair’s work from his acting projects BLUE RUIN and THE GREEN ROOM with writer/director Jeremy Saulnier. In fact, I DON’T FEEL AT HOME almost feels like a companion piece to Saulnier’s work, complete with crime, violence, and a striking amount of humor. But what Blair did that really made me pay attention and enjoy this film was writing a badass lead heroine… and making that heroine the amazing Melanie Lynskey.
I can always count on Lynskey to choose interesting, entertaining films and find ways to steal pretty much every scene. Ever since I first saw her in HEAVENLY CREATURES, her on-screen charisma was off the charts. But this time, much like in HEAVENLY CREATURES, there are no scenes for Lynskey to steal because she is the heart behind I DON’T FEEL AT HOME, where she is given 90 glorious minutes to shine. With such a dynamic script, that spans genres and has a shockingly bloody finale, Lynskey gives a career-best performance, showcasing her range as a comedic, dramatic, action star powerhouse. And did I mention she easily has the best American accent in Hollywood (she is from New Zealand). It’s easy to gush about Lynskey, who specializes in getting audiences to root for down-on-her-luck characters. Ruth, her character in this film, is no exception. This is the type of indie-film creativity that I revel in, and an easy choice for my list. Lucky for you, it’s available on Netflix!
Worst Movies of the Year
4. The Circle
What started with an interesting idea turned into a boring, underwhelming film that takes itself way too seriously. However, I am most upset that this film wasted the talents of Tom freakin’ Hanks, John Boyega, and Emma Watson. With concerns about technology such a theme in today’s society, it’s disappointing how wrong this went.
I love Kristen Bell and try to support all of her endeavors, but even I can’t excuse this film. Unfunny and mean-spirited, this was one of the worst TV to movie adaptations I’ve seen. I don’t think I laughed one time. I felt nothing but regret for wasting a Netflix DVD rental on this.
2. The Great Wall
Matt Damon’s hair alone should’ve warned me away from seeing this movie, but he usually picks great films. I thought this may surprise me? Wrong. Wrong wrong wrong wrong wrong. SO WRONG. This movie is baddddd and an obvious money grab for all involved. At least I hope it was, because there is literally no other excuse for this movie.
1. Transformers: The Last Knight
I fully admit that I didn’t watch this movie as intended… on the big screen. I instead saw it on a flight home from London. BUT even so, I don’t think the screen choice could fix a rather crappy movie, consisting of an unoriginal (and boring) storyline. How are they seriously still making these movies and spending hundreds of millions of dollars to boot?? Maybe I should just quit my day job and write movies about giant transforming space robots. That’s what it was about, right?
Annette Bening- Film Stars Don’t Die In Liverpool
Jessica Chastain- Molly’s Game
Gal Gadot- Wonder Woman Nicole Kidman- The Killing of a Sacred Deer; The Beguiled
Melanie Lynskey- I don’t feel at home in this world anymore.
Frances McDormand- Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Aubrey Plaza- Ingrid Goes West
Margot Robbie- I, Tonya
Saoirse Ronan- Lady Bird
Meryl Streep- The Post
Kate Winslet- Wonder Wheel
Best Supporting Actress
Hong Chau- Downsizing
Laura Dern- Wilson
Tiffany Haddish- Girls’ Trip
Allison Janney- I, Tonya
Melissa Leo- Novitiate
Tatiana Maslany- Stronger
Laurie Metcalf- Lady Bird
Elizabeth Olsen- Ingrid Goes West
Michelle Pfeiffer- mother!
Allison Williams- Get Out
Timothée Chalamet- Call Me By Your Name
Matt Damon- Downsizing
Ansel Elgort- Baby Driver
Colin Farrell- The Killing of a Sacred Deer
James Franco- The Disaster Artist
Jake Gyllenhaal- Stronger
Tom Hanks- The Post
Daniel Kaluuya- Get Out
Kyle Mooney- Brigsby Bear
Kumail Nanjiani- The Big Sick
Best Supporting Actor
Willem Dafoe- The Florida Project
Armie Hammer- Call Me By Your Name
Woody Harrelson- Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Garrett Hedlund- Mudbound
O’Shea Jackson- Ingrid Goes West
Chris Pine- Wonder Woman
Sam Rockwell- Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Bill Skarsgård- It: Chapter One
Michael Stuhlbarg- Call Me By Your Name
Elijah Wood- I don’t feel at home in this world anymore.