Top Ten Films of 2017

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Top Ten Films of 2017

As we enter a new year and anticipate a completely new slate of films, now is time to look back and show our appreciation for the previous year in film. Although 2017 may have been a disappointing year for some of the larger blockbusters (especially the summer slate), it was an incredible year for film overall. We saw some new filmmakers announce their arrival in a big way. We saw established veterans of the industry continue their trend of excellence. We saw films defy genre norms, allowing filmmakers to have an entirely unique voice. We saw films challenge the political and social climate, inspiring millions of people, not just filmmakers. In a year that has been marred by controversy both inside and outside of Hollywood, the art that has been offered up has served as a form of independent expression and encouraged much needed dialogue. With such an incredible year behind us, the entire Hollywood staff at lwos.LIFE got together and debated the best films of the previous year. Utilizing a voting and ranking system, the staff was able to come up with a consensus top ten films of 2017. Before we get to that list, here are three films that didn’t quite make it but we still felt deserved some recognition.

Top Ten Films of 2017

Honorable Mentions

Brigsby Bear

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Brigsby Bear is a magnificent film that defies easy classification. It runs with a light, hopeful tone, but balances this against a pretty dark narrative that involves kidnapping and a homemade children’s TV show with some questionable messages for its intended audience. A colorful poster on the wall of the protagonist (Kyle Mooney)’s room warns that “curiosity is an unnatural emotion,” one of many such lessons imparted by said TV show, The Adventures of Brigsby Bear.

If it sounds weird, it is, but in the best possible way, like street performers and peanut butter-and-banana-flavored things. What makes Brigsby Bear a must-see is how well Mooney and his creative team perform this balancing act between dark and hopeful and strange. This could easily have been one of the bleakest films of 2017, but the Saturday Night Live performer and his friends have managed to infuse it with humor and heart that will leave you crying tears of joy when the credits roll. The trailer for the film (intentionally) gives nothing of the story away, and to spoil anything else in this blurb would do a disservice to one of the year’s best movies. Brigsby Bear is currently available anywhere top-notch indie films are rented or sold. – Austin Zook

Good Time

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One of the more overlooked films of 2017, Good Time is a crime drama starring Robert Pattinson and directed by the Josh and Benny Safdie. It’s a gritty story about a robbery gone wrong and one man’s trek through New York’s dark underbelly in order to save the one person he cares about. Taking place over the course of one night, Good Time is an uncomfortable, yet all consuming, viewing experience. Robert Pattinson gives a completely unhinged performance as Connie Nikas. It’s great to finally see what he is truly capable of as an actor and he proves here that he’s not to be taken lightly.

The Safdie brothers’ directorial style really elevates the film. Their use of frenetic camera work, long takes, and documentary-esque close ups, combined with the pulse-pounding score, really adds to realism of the film and the urgency of the story. Their portrayal of the city’s nightlife, as well as its dark underbelly, harkens back to some of Martin Scorcese’s earlier works. From the script, to the direction, to the performances, Good Time excels. It is top notch entertainment that is sure to leave you holding your breath all the way through the final frame. – Andrew Semaan

It Comes at Night

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It Comes at Night brings us a newcomer to the limelight in director Trey Edward Shults. Several aspects of this film give it reason to be a top movie of the year, and much is to be credited to Shults. It starts out as a survival thriller that has elements of horror. The lead characters are played by Joel Edgerton, Carmen Ejogo, and breakthrough actor Kelvin Harrison Jr. Edgerton and Harrison showed an on screen chemistry that was captivating and exciting.

This movie has much to like, but it doesn’t come without its flaws. While the excitement and suspense is enough to keep you on the edge of your seat, this movie comes with no release for the suspense. You never get a true answer to what is out there, and it can leave you wondering. Although, this may be what Shults had in mind for this movie based on how the film ended by leaving you to come up with your own conclusions. It Comes at Night is a suspenseful thriller that keeps you engaged all throughout. This was a strong showing for a new director and the performances were strong throughout by all. These are just a couple of many reasons why this movie is one of the top of 2017. –Nick Cottrell

The Top Ten

10) The Big Sick

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The Big Sick is loosely based on the real-life romance between its star, Kumail Nanjiani (Silicon Valley), and his wife, writer and producer Emily V. Gordon. Gordon is played by indie actress Zoe Kazan, with the incredible Holly Hunter and a never-better Ray Romano filling in as her parents. The story begins with Nanjiani and Kazan’s characters meeting at a standup open-mic and follows them as they navigate the complications of an interracial relationship. The title refers to the illness that leaves Kazan’s character in a coma for a portion of the film, allowing Nanjiani to have some appropriately rom-com-y realizations about life, love, and family.

Yet, what’s great about this film is that while it is very much a member of the romantic-comedy sub-genre, it’s the best possible version of that sub-genre. It’s hilarious, sharp, and timely, and made even better by the fact that the leading man’s real-life love story inspired it. There are also plenty of scenes that take place at a comedy club for any standup junkies out there, with Bo Burnham and Aidy Bryant playing Nanjiani’s comedian friends. The Big Sick is currently available to stream on Amazon Prime or to purchase from anyplace that peddles movies. – Austin Zook

9) The Shape of Water

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The coolest thing about The Shape of Water is the way it takes all the ingredients of a classic monster movie (Creature from the Black Lagoon is an easy comparison to make), and then combines them in a way that gives audiences something that feels fresh and original. Director Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth, Hellboy) takes the monster (played by frequent del Toro collaborator Doug Jones) and makes him the love interest of a mute janitor (Sally Hawkins) at a secret government facility where he’s being housed. The straight-laced, WASP-y male (Michael Shannon) in charge of security at the facility would have been an easy sell as the hero if this movie was made in the 1950s, but here he’s played as the villain, the monster referenced in the film’s opening lines, a beast in the shape of a man but corrupted by conviction. The ever-dependable Richard Jenkins, along with Octavia Spencer and Michael Stuhlbarg, round out the main cast, each of them playing off Hawkins and Shannon beautifully.

The movie is a brilliant mashup of horror, thriller, sci-fi, and romance, propelled along by thoughtful cinematography and an enchanting soundtrack. The themes and symbolism del Toro has built it around are too numerous to go through here, but this is a movie with layers on top of layers. It’s been marketed as a fairy tale for adults, which is apt, and like any great fairy tale, you’ll be playing it over in your mind long after your first viewing. The Shape of Water is currently playing in theaters nationwide. – Austin Zook

8) The Disaster Artist

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The Disaster Artist is a film adaptation of a book written by Greg Sestero. This book chronicles the making of one of the worst films ever put to screen, The Room. James Franco stars as Tommy Wiseau, the director, writer, producer, and star of The Room. His performance as Tommy was mesmerizing. He completely transformed into the character, nailing everything from his look, to his mannerisms, to his unplaceable accent. In making The Disaster Artist, Franco walked a fine line between disingenuous admiration and mean spirited mockery. He found that sweet spot right in the middle, acknowledging how nonsensical The Room actually is but, at the same time, how enjoyable it is for so many people. He acknowledges Tommy Wiseau’s shortcomings as both a filmmaker and a friend while still highlighting the amount of heart and passion he had for the project. It’s both hilarious and heartfelt, as well as endlessly rewatchable. A film about the making of one of the worst films ever made is easily one of the best films of the year. – Andrew Semaan

7) It

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A reanimated version of the 1986 TV Mini Series, based off Stephen King’s work, It expands the previous story. This version splits King’s story into two parts. This part encompasses the first half of the story, where seven young kids face their biggest fears, and a killer clown.

The modern day version did a great job of showing the horror the kids felt. It’s reported that the kid actors weren’t shown the scripts of the scariest scenes, meaning all of their horror was genuine. Pennywise the Dancing Clown, the main antagonist, was played by Bill Skarsgard. In his first major role, the 27 year old embraced the horror role entirely. He did a great job of portraying all angles of his character’s personality.

The obvious fear in the kids’ eyes, combined with the phenomenal acting of Bill Skarsgard who played the clown, made this movie a truly great horror movie. There are some subplots in the book that couldn’t be portrayed on the big screen, like Henry Bowers abuse from his dad, the sexual conflicts between Beverly and her father, or the infamous scene between the seven kids that we won’t go into. It is awkward to see how the movie dances around these plot points, but it doesn’t take away from the overall horror. A handful of great (and terrifying) scenes make this movie memorable and finally give the audience a taste of how the book should’ve looked. – Gabriel Foley

6) Lady Bird

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Greta Gerwig makes her directorial debut with Lady Bird and shows, right out the gate, that she has some serious talent. This film has many elements of your standard coming of age story, yet it is so much more than that. The angle it takes on the genre is what’s unique here. Unlike most coming of age films, Lady Bird doesn’t revolve around sappy romances or the “power of friendship”. While it has elements of those themes, the central relationship/conflict revolves around Lady Bird and her parents, specifically her mother. This creates deeply introspective and powerful moments throughout the film and makes the characters relatable to audiences young and old.

Saoirse Ronan is brilliant as Lady Bird. She continues to take on challenging and mature roles and continues to impress in every film she’s in. She is easily one of my favorite young talents in Hollywood right now. Laurie Metcalf as Marion McPherson, Lady Bird’s mother, was riveting. She gave one of those performances that was so emotionally driven that it just had to come from somewhere personal and she makes you both love her and hate her at the same time. Lady Bird is among the best films I saw in 2017 and one of the most introspective experiences I’ve had in a theater in a long time. – Andrew Semaan

5)  Dunkirk

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Dunkirk is Christopher Nolan’s latest work of art. This one steps out from the others, though. It doesn’t feel like a movie. Instead, the whole movie immerses the audience. Nolan took a risk with ‘Dunkirk’, and those risks pay off in tenfold. The film revolves around the Dunkirk Evacuation and proceeding battles. The events have seen numerous film adaptations, but Nolan’s is the best yet.

Dunkirk does a phenomenal job of making the audience feel the batle. Nolan limits all forms of backstory, so the viewers are worried more about the ins and outs of the battle instead of any narrative. He also does a great job of showing every aspect of the fight. From the civilians manning the ferries to evacuate soldiers, to the fighter pilots looping to provide cover fire, to the infantry themselves; Nolan flashes back and forth between stories to show the whole spectrum. By doing this, the audience is able to sense the drama in every aspect of the fight and feel why the evacuation is truly a miracle.

Possibly the greatest aspect of the movie is the music, though. Nolan partnered with Hans Zimmer to create an awe-inspiring performance. In the most tense parts of the movie, the roaring music really pours into the crowd. Whether it’s the roar of the drums overlaying jets up above, or violins in place of gunfire, the amazing performance by Zimmer does everything they can to make the viewers’ hearts beat.

Dunkirk has so many more qualities that made it one of the best movies of the year. The unique camera angles that help show certain things, the perfectly laid out setting, and many many more add to the immersion this movie provides. If you only ever see one Chris Nolan movie, see Dunkirk. – Gabriel Foley

4) War for the Planet of the Apes

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The third installment of one of the bigger trilogies of the decade, War for the Planet of the Apes is arguably the best of the three. Andy Serkis shows you exactly why he is the king of motion-capture. There truly isn’t anybody better at the form than Serkis. War is without a doubt one of the best movies of the year. Having watched it, the one thing that stuck out to me was that this movie doesn’t have many (if any at all) flaws. But it is also one of the safer movies of the top of the year. The performances by our protagonist and antagonist are a true rung above the rest in this film, which is truly saying something because the supporting roles were almost as genius as well. This movie without a doubt should fall into everyone’s top 10, but the fact that they didn’t take that many risks with the storyline and action throughout, sets a ceiling on it as well. – Nick Cottrell

3) Logan

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Hugh Jackman is back, and he has claws again! Logan focuses on Jackman, who is again playing Wolverine. He’s hiding out with Professor X, by the Mexican Border. That is, until another mutant with Wolverine’s powers comes out of the shadows. Jackman’s character then has to protect the young teen from captors.

The biggest difference between Logan and any other X-Men movie is the rating. Logan is rated R, and it lives up to that rating. The bump up gave director James Mangold much more room to explore Wolverine as a character and add loads to the action scenes. In fact, it’s the action that makes this movie. The hacking and slashing done by Wolverine and the young mutant, X-23, are always fun to watch. There aren’t any of the typical fight scenes we’ve come to expect from Marvel, where anything graphic is hidden off screen or through clever camera angles. Instead, Logan shows blades going through one end and coming out the other. It shows realistic blood spread, and the fights seem much more powerful because of it. There’s an increased energy to each action scene with the added realism.

The entire movie was gritty and realistic, but not in an overdone way. The story is lined with scenes that are exciting to watch and fill the audience with adrenaline. While the story wasn’t exemplary, the action is the meat and bones of the movie. In what’s supposed to be his last role as Wolverine, Hugh Jackman knocked it out of the park. – Gabriel Foley

2) Baby Driver

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Baby Driver is unlike any movie I have ever seen. It’s an action-packed musical of sorts that keeps the adrenaline pumping and your feet tapping. The scenes are shot masterfully, and the cinematography and sound editing is absolutely on point. It’s a movie with a story that, at times, lacks a true punch, but the musically driven scenes with the timing of the beat to match the action more than makes up for the lack of a spectacular story. Ansel Elgort puts on a strong performance as a getaway driver with a love for all kinds of music. He suffers from tinnitus and uses music do drown out the ringing in his years. This music begins to serves as a soundtrack to his life and, by proxy, the movie as well. This is a refreshing twist on a heist genre that we’ve seen the same recycled content over and over again for years.

Baby Driver is truly an Edgar Wright masterpiece. The level of control that Wright had in this film shows in a big way on the big screen. Not to mention, this scene has one of the most thrilling car chase scenes in some time. And that happens within the first five minutes. The music, acting, directing, and action make this movie a must watch and easily puts it up there with the best of the year. As soon as this came out on Blu-Ray, I had to snag myself a copy just so I could go back and once again enjoy this Edgar Wright phenomenon that is a musical and an action filled heist film all in one. – Nick Cottrell

1) Blade Runner 2049

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Blade Runner 2049, directed by Denis Villeneuve, is a sequel that expanded on the universe of the original, without cheapening any of the elements that made the first film great. It’s a sequel that both satisfies fans of the original as well as stands beautifully on its own as a masterful work of science fiction. Everything about this film, from the tone, to the complexity of the script, to the meticulosity of the shots, makes it stand out from the plethora of blockbusters that have been released this year. Not to be lost in the shuffle is cinematographer Roger Deakins, who previously worked with Villeneuve on Prisoners and Sicario. Blade Runner 2049 is visually mesmerizing and credit that to Deakins. His masterful cinematography immerses the audience in the dystopian future that they have been transported to and truly drives home the massive scope of the universe presented in this film. With stellar performances from Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford, Blade Runner 2049 exceeds the original in every way and further solidifies Denis Villeneuve as one of the best directors working today. – Andrew Semaan

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