Top 10 Films of 2017 (So Far)

There's a wealth of quality cinema out there if you're willing to look for it


    We’re starting to have the sneaking suspicion that 2017 is going to go down as a pretty great movie year. And yeah, if you were to gesture at the last month or so of film reviews on this site as a counterpoint to our enthusiasm, we can’t exactly disagree. But at this point, bloated franchise movies have become as perennial as death and taxes, so we’re choosing to focus on the good stuff instead. The movies we’ve loved, enjoyed, and cared enough about to argue over. The ones we’ve continued to mull over for months. The ones that play with genre in fresh and exhilarating ways or give new life to overplayed styles of filmmaking.

    And those are just the ones we were able to fit onto a mid-year top 10 list. That doesn’t account for the movies that we greatly appreciated and just missed the cut, like T2 Trainspotting and John Wick Chapter 2 and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. (It’s been a pretty damn great year for sequels, all things considered.) Or the films that we lauded but were disqualified due to the delays between their wide US releases this year and their actual, limited releases in 2016 or earlier (Your Name, My Life as a Zucchini, I Daniel Blake). As always, there’s a wealth of quality cinema to be found if you’re willing to look for it, and streaming services have made it as easy as it’s ever been to do exactly that.

    After much debate among our film critics, we’ve narrowed our favorites down to 10, with the caveat that any film on this list had to have been released, or slated for release, by June 30th. (A Ghost Story missed the deadline by one week, but trust us, it needs to be seen as soon as possible.) With that said, please feel free to holler at us about your favorites that we omitted, or join us in grousing about how nobody went and watched The Lost City of Z in theaters. This is our best and most honest reflection of the movies that you need to see by year’s end, as of now, and we’ll see you in December for round two after new movies by Denis Villeneuve and Kathryn Bigelow and Darren Aronofsky and Rian Johnson and Christopher Nolan and Sean Baker and Lynne Ramsay and Yorgos Lanthimos and Martin McDonagh and the Safdies and Taika Waititi and George Clooney and Tomas Alfredson and…

    –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer
    Film Editor


    10. Wonder Woman

    Release Date: June 2nd

    Who’s in It? Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Robin Wright, Connie Nielsen, Danny Huston, Elena Anaya, David Thewlis

    “Garth, that was a haiku!”

    Come see Gal Gadot

    Smash the patriarchy; Yay!

    DC got one right

    You Gotta See This: Given that the superhero blockbuster machine has been churning for a good 20 years now, it’s a downright shame that it’s taken Hollywood this long to give us a proper tale starring (and directed by) a woman. Even more miraculous is the way that Wonder Woman manages to salvage the heretofore derided DC Expanded Universe by not just rising to the modest expectations of mediocrity, but exceeding those with a bold, enthralling expression of the everyday heroism of womanhood.

    While it tells the same superhero origin story as so many others, Patty Jenkins’ confident, assured direction infuses those familiar formulas with a great, big beating heart — something missing from Zach Snyder and David Ayer’s dull nihilism. On top of that, Gadot is a mesmerizing screen presence, balancing a graceful action physicality with charmingly adroit comedic talents, bouncing wonderfully off Pine’s relaxed star presence. Take notes, DC and Marvel; this is the direction in which superhero films should be heading. Clint Worthington


    Extra! Extra! Read Allison Shoemaker’s full review here.

    09. It Comes at Night

    Release Date: June 9th

    Who’s in It? Joel Edgerton, Carmen Ejogo, Christopher Abbott, Riley Keough, Kelvin Harrison Jr.

    “Garth, that was a Haiku!”

    Earth is super boned

    Three doing fine on their own

    ‘Til three more show up

    You Gotta See This: It Comes at Night has already divided audiences, between those who see Trey Edward Shults’ film as an empty exercise in non-horror and those who appreciate its muted, slow-burning crescendo of hellish dread. By its presence on this list, you know which camp CoS has fallen into. Shults, who stormed onto the American indie scene with last year’s equally cold and precise Krisha, turns a simple story of a couple and their son trying to survive in a left-to-interpretation post-apocalypse into a meditation on the savagery in all people and how even the smartest and most well-prepared people can be destroyed through nothing more than their inalterable humanity. It’s the rare thriller that trusts its audience to sink into a sense of dread, rather than obsess over fine plot details, and it’s a superb accomplishment of mood and fear above all. It might not be the end-of-the-world plague story some might have wanted, but what Shults offers instead will stick with you long after the film reaches its unyielding conclusion. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer


    Extra! Extra! Read Randall Colburn’s full review here.

    08. Colossal

    Release Date: April 7th

    Who’s in It? Anne Hathaway, Jason Sudeikis, Austin Stowell, Tim Blake Nelson, and Dan Stevens sans CGI giant suit.

    “Garth, that was a haiku!”

    My hangover and

    Toxic masculinity

    Might destroy the world

    You Gotta See This: To quote a commenter on this very site’s review of Colossal, what “man hating lesbian” wrote these “caricatures of men” that “is [sic] an attack on you”? The answer would be male filmmaker Nacho Vigalondo, a writer-director whose thoughtful monster movie also makes time to dig into the way that men, well-meaning and otherwise, attempt to control, manipulate, and undermine women — especially when they’re a mess.

    That’s certainly true of Hathaway’s Gloria. Our hero begins the film as a barely-functioning alcoholic whose bags have already been packed by her exasperated boyfriend (Stevens). Left with no choice but to move back into her parents’ empty house, Gloria’s first and only lifeline comes courtesy of a childhood friend (Sudeikis), who offers companionship, new pals (Nelson, Stowell), and a job — in a bar. By total and complete coincidence, her return home coincides with the appearance of a monster in the streets of Seoul. A monster whose attacks line up neatly with her blackouts. A monster that scratches its head just like she does. That this is merely where Colossal takes off is but one of its many delights, chief among them the terrific performances from Hathaway and Sudeikis, who both lean into and bump up against the roles, and public personas, that have defined them. A monster is always a metaphor, or so the saying goes, but Colossal takes that idea and turns the dial up to 11. It’s also a hoot, but hell, that’s just the rubble-covered cherry on top. Cheers to Vigalondo, that lesbian. May he always be this inventive, insightful, and man-hating. —Allison Shoemaker

    Extra! Extra! Read Dominick Suzanne-Mayer’s full review here.

    07. Get Out

    Release Date: February 24th

    Who’s in It? Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Lil’ Rel Howry, Catherine Keener, Caleb Landry Jones, Stephen Root, Bradley Whitford

    “Garth, that was a haiku!”

    This thang, this thang. Ugh.

    Now you’re in the sunken place

    Lil’ Rel handles shit

    You Gotta See This: Escalating micro-aggressions, nice guy condescension, and racial animus as tools for horror filmmaking? How has a film as electric as Get Out not come alongsooner?


    What makes Get Out such a special flick is Jordan Peele’s nimble and newly distinct directorial hand. Get Out thrives on simultaneous levels, and despite the auspices of Blumhouse, it works like gangbusters as something far superior to a jolt-and-prod exercise. Peele toys with awkward comedy, racial realism, flights of surrealism, domestic goosebumps, and well-built dread, all within the framework of a post-Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? experience. It lures you in with its byzantine premise, and even challenges its viewers to not grow too complacent with its experiments on plot, comedy, and genre. Get Out proves that with a balanced script, and the right calculated cues, you can get a hell of a lot out of your low-budget thriller. Get Out is primed to be looked at as a new horror classic, and one of the more impressive debuts in recent memory. And it’s so good, it’s got people second-guessing tea. –Blake Goble

    Extra! Extra! Read Dominick Suzanne-Mayer’s full review here.

    06. Raw

    Release Date: March 10th

    Who’s in It? Garance Marillier, Ella Rumpf, and Rabah Naït Oufella

    “Garth, that was a haiku!”

    Brazilian wax

    French cannibal teenagers

    Coyote ugly

    You Gotta See This: When Julia Ducournau’s terrifying coming-of-age drama premiered at the 2016 Toronto Film Festival, some viewers reportedly fainted from the narrative’s garish brand of ultra-violence. That’s understandable, but it’s also unfortunate, seeing how Raw is far more concerned with its intriguing takes on sexuality, adolescence, and femininity over any of its gory accoutrements that have since come to define the film as a cannibal horror flick. That’s not to say the film isn’t a cold, ghastly affair — it most certainly is — but much of the terror is outweighed by its elegance, specifically Ducournau’s stylish direction that’s at times unnerving, romantic, erotic, or even heartbreaking. Garance Marillier is also mystifying as the film’s primary lead, Justine, toeing the temperate line between haunting and addicting with a performance that should have everyone feeling both confused and exhilarated from beginning to end. Yet those feelings are warranted, especially for those who’ve been enjoying the genre’s generous bout of prestige horror. They just might want to bring a barf bag. Or plan to eat the next day. –Michael Roffman

    Extra! Extra! Read Dominick Suzanne-Mayer’s full review here.

    05. The Beguiled

    Release Date: June 23rd

    Who’s in It? Nicole Kidman, Colin Farrell, Kirsten Dunst, Elle Fanning, Angourie Rice

    “Garth, that was a haiku!”

    Six women stuck here

    The Civil War is ending

    He should stop flirting

    You Gotta See This: The Beguiled takes the sweaty tension of Don Siegel’s 1971 film about an all-girls school invaded by desire, violence, and tragedy in the waning days of the Confederacy in deliciously dark new directions. To say that it’s a departure from Sofia Coppola’s gentler, more existentially curious work would be an understatement, but the filmmaker’s signatures are still present: the soft lighting and photography, the deliberate pace, the lives of wayward young women being permanently altered by “powerful” men.

    The key inversion in this film, however, is that the maleness of Farrell’s wounded Union deserter is the only power he wields, and not for very long. While he’s able to charm every inhabitant of the school for a time, the students (and teachers) are young but hardly foolish, and the Southern Gothic meltdown of the film’s final act is as much about reclamation as it is about the savage distribution of “just desserts.” In embracing the theatrical excess that guided her wildly misunderstood Marie Antoinette, albeit in a more muted context this time around, Coppola may have found the transitional sweet spot between her signature understatement and some bold new ideas. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer


    (Note: Our review of The Beguiled will be published on Wednesday, June 21st.)

    04. The Lost City of Z

    Release Date: April 14th

    Who’s in It? Charlie Hunnam, Tom Holland, Sienna Miller, Robert Pattinson, Angus Macfadyen

    “Garth, that was a haiku!”

    The Amazon blows

    White man chases glory and peace

    You can never go home

    You Gotta See This: The Lost City of Z indisputably cements James Gray as one of the great unheralded filmmakers of this time (at least by most outside of cinephile circles), and it’s appropriate that he’d reach that milestone by delivering his most ambitious, and yet still classical, film to date. Like a Herzogian fugue of despair delivered in the stately manner of David Lean’s best work, Lost City reaches back into the past to comment on our fraught present as only the best period pieces can.

    Working from the true story of an early-20th century British explorer who happened upon evidence of an ancient civilization in the forests of uncharted Bolivia, Gray speaks not only to the perils of assuming one’s dominion over the world, but the more banal evils of misogyny and institutional racism.  Hunnam gives his best performance to date as an explorer who can never know peace again until he finds the true end of the journey, and Gray’s patient, gorgeously photographed film captures the immutable humanity of doggedly chasing one’s wildest dreams to the most inhospitable corners of the Earth. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer


    Extra! Extra! Read Dominick Suzanne-Mayer’s full review here.

    03. Logan

    Release Date: March 3rd

    Who’s in It? Hugh Jackman, Dafne Keen, Patrick Stewart, Boyd Holbrook, Stephen Merchant

    “Garth, that was a haiku!”

    Sad superhero

    End of a generation

    Claws path for young blood

    You Gotta See This: With Marvel carving out a sizable slice of the film industry these days, it was inevitable that the Avengers’ bloated, myth-heavy template was going to start fatiguing its audience. Still, comic book movies aren’t going anywhere, so the key is to start experimenting with genre and tone within that universe, which is exactly what acclaimed director James Mangold did with Logan. Inspired by the comic Old Man Logan, the story follows Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine through a sun-baked alternate timeline where mutants have been mostly wiped out and Charles Xavier is a weepy nonagenarian who can no longer control his powers.

    The result is unlike any Marvel flick before it: vulgar, violent, and fucking sad in its depiction of curdled heroism and the depression that arises in the absence of duty. Logan is also self-aware, in that it serves as both a literal and figurative torch-passing. In this world, the X-Men are as much a property as they are in ours, and while many might lament the commercial perversion of the original visions, they’ve nevertheless gone on to birth their own myths, ones that inspire an entire new generation of storytellers. Logan is as much about myths evolving as it is aging into irrelevance, which allows the film to function simultaneously as a thrilling and heartrending character study and a commentary on the impact of the Marvel cinematic universe as it exists for today’s youth. Impressive, that. —Randall Colburn

    Extra! Extra! Read Michael Roffman’s full review here.

    02. The Big Sick

    Release Date: June 23rd

    Who’s in It? Kumail Nanjiani, Zoe Kazan, Holly Hunter, and Ray Romano

    “Garth, that was a haiku!”

    Awkward true story

    Emily falls for Kumail

    Love in a coma

    You Gotta See This: Romantic comedies get a bad wrap, and for good reason: They’re often miserable. But, when they’re done right — think: When Harry Met Sally, Groundhog Day, Jerry Maguire — they’re usually the type of film you want to revisit forever. The Big Sick is exactly that type of film: a warm, cozy blanket that’s cut from an unusual fabric. Michael Showalter’s strongest effort behind the camera captures the true romantic story between Kumail Nanjiani and his wife Emily V. Gordon, and it’s filled with all the sort of awkward trappings that should feel natural to anyone who’s ever felt something for anyone.

    And because it’s written by Nanjiani and Gordon, there’s a certain weight to every exchange, as if you’re reading their texts and IMs from a long, long time ago. But as with any successful rom-com, there’s an agreeable curveball, and that involves two harrowing conflicts that upgrade the story from being cute to achingly poignant. Of course, it helps that Nanjiani and co-star Zoe Kazan, who plays Gordon with magical grace, get to bounce off award-gazing performances by veterans Holly Hunter and Ray Romano. The chemistry between the four of them is worth a re-watch alone.

    Hell, you might even stay for another screening. –Michael Roffman

    Extra! Extra! Read Dominick Suzanne-Mayer’s full review here.


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