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…
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.