There’s no denying it: 2017 was a banner year for film. In terms of both big-budget blockbusters and intimate indies, every month delivered a slew of critical and commercial hits.
While there were definitely some major duds like Transformers: The Last Knight, Justice League, and King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, the successes of 2017 definitely outnumbered the disappointments. For proof of that statement, look no further than this very list.
This year saw a magnificent mixture of crowd-pleasing epics, deep dramas, and genre-bending movies that combined high-octane thrills with risky storytelling decisions and fascinating characterizations. Here are the best of the best, twenty films which defined 2017.
These are the highest-scoring movies of the year, based on review aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes. There were so many excellent picks from which to choose, but here are The 20 Best Movies Of 2017 (According To Rotten Tomatoes).
It would be a shame to begin without mentioning the numerous runners up; movies like Blade Runner 2049, Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol 2, It Comes at Night, American Made, and I, Tonya, among so many others. The fact that those movies didn’t win a spot on this list is just more proof that 2017 was a tightly competitive year, chock full of incredible cinematic experiences.
20. The LEGO Batman Movie (91%)
The LEGO Movie came out of nowhere in 2014 to become an unexpected smash hit, earning rave reviews and grossing a stunning $469 million worldwide.
The follow-up didn’t quite earn the same acclaim as its progenitor, but The LEGO Batman Movie was still a substantial box office success and critical favorite, to the tune of 91% approval on Rotten Tomatoes.
The LEGO brand’s rapid-fire onslaught of clever visual humor and peppy dialogue is as infectious as ever, and Will Arnett is perfect as a surprisingly deep version of the Caped Crusader, who uses his popularity and heroic visage (to say nothing of his sick rhymes) to overcompensate for his crippling depression.
19. Spider-Man: Homecoming (92%)
Rebooting Spider-Man is a risky proposition; after all, it didn’t work out too well the last time Sony hit the reset button, with 2012’s ill-advised The Amazing Spider-Man and its disastrous sequel.
For their Spidey re-reboot, Sony teamed up with Disney and Marvel Studios to introduce a new version of the webhead into the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Tom Holland’s take on Peter Parker was first utilized in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War, but for Spider-Man: Homecoming, New York’s friendly neighborhood webslinger went from relatively minor supporting player to full-on leading man.
The results were a resounding success, with Homecoming earning universal acclaim, even from the #BringBackTobey crowd! To put it bluntly, this version of Spider-Man likely won’t be rebooted anytime soon.
18. The Disaster Artist (92%)
The Room is revered as one of the worst movies of all time; the 2003 romantic drama transcends being “so bad it’s good” and exists on a different plane of existence from all other movies.
It fails on literally every single level to the point where it’s simply magnificent to watch, over and over again. The only way to tell the story of the worst movie ever made is with one of the best movies of 2017.
James Franco directs and stars in The Disaster Artist, which chronicles the creation of The Room. Franco plays writer/director/star Tommy Wiseau, capturing his mysteriously aloof and uncomfortably vampiric aura.
The film follows Wiseau as he creates his would-be masterpiece– the story is told from the perspective of Greg Sistero (played by Franco’s brother, Dave), Wiseau’s co-star and confidant. The Disaster Artist is as riotously funny as The Room is endearingly terrible.
17. Dunkirk (92%)
The evacuation at Dunkirk was a turning point in World War II. The battle was lost, and the Nazis were closing in on their goal of complete global domination, but the amazing bravery and righteous tenacity of the British and French forces during their darkest hour stoked a fire in the Allies, who managed to salvage a morale-asserting victory from the clutches of bitter defeat.
Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk doesn’t involve itself with politics or global tensions; there’s no Winston Churchill here – for that, look to fellow 2017 releases Darkest Hour and Churchill – the action here is solely dedicated to the soldiers on the ground, pilots in the air, and volunteers in the water who battled for survival against impossible odds.
Nolan’s penchant for visual storytelling is on full display; Dunkirk is a non-stop barrage of white-knuckle tension punctuated by pockets of claustrophobic dread, paranoid helplessness, and poignant glimmers of hope.
16. Thor: Ragnarok (92%)
Thor, the God of Thunder, might be the hunkiest Avenger, but his movies have often been regarded by MCU fans as of a lesser quality than those of fellow Avengers like Iron Man and Captain America.
For his third solo outing, Marvel took Thor’s Asgardian antics and mixed them with the irreverent tone of James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy, with Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk thrown in for good measure, as well as a fantastic villain in the form of Cate Blanchett’s Hela, the Goddess of Death.
Director Taika Waititi was more than up to the task when he crafted Thor: Ragnarok, which is true to the essence of its lead character while balancing its epic scale with wacky comedy.
15. Star Wars: The Last Jedi (92%)
For a time, there was fear that the Star Wars Sequel Trilogy would skew too close to the framework of the original films.
With the release of Episode VIII: The Last Jedi, those fears can confidently be put aside. Writer/director Rian Johnson takes no prisoners in his interpretation of the Star Wars mythology, and the result is nothing short of glorious.
In a way, The Last Jedi does follow the course of The Empire Strikes Back, in that it takes audience expectations and smashes them to bits with shocking revelations, surprise twists, and a complete disregard for the status quo.
Kylo Ren is one of the most complicated characters in modern cinema, and Laura Dern’s Admiral Holdo is a standout addition to Star Wars‘ legendary pantheon of heroes. Star Wars is about boundless imagination and operatic grandeur, and The Last Jedi is rife with both childlike wonder and wizened maturity.
14. Wonder Woman (92%)
The DCEU has had a rough go of it from the start; Man of Steel was greeted with mixed reviews, while Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad were ruthlessly eviscerated by critics. This year saw two films in DC’s Extended Universe; Wonder Woman and Justice League.
While the latter film was met with critical derision and is currently faltering at the box office, Wonder Woman struck a chord with both critics and audiences, and cemented its place as one of 2017’s best movies.
Gal Gadot charmed audiences with her performance as Diana, legendary warrior of Themyscira, whose naiveté about the outside world and disappointment with the wars they wage is matched only by her unparalleled skills in combat.
13. War for the Planet of the Apes (93%)
The final chapter in the modern Apes trilogy failed to match the box office heights of its predecessors, Rise and Dawn, but that’s not to say it’s any less of a great film; in fact, many agree that War for the Planet of the Apes is the best entry in the series since the 1968 original.
The modern Apes trilogy is a blockbuster action saga like no other, going to great lengths to show the futility of violence before remorsefully leading audiences into battles where everybody dies and nobody wins.
Peace, and its presence just outside the grasp of those who wage war on the those who are different from themselves, has been a central theme of the Apes series since its inception, and it resonates as strongly today as it did in 1968.
Woody Harrelson is terrifying as the fascistic military leader of humanity’s final stronghold, and what more can be said about Andy Serkis as Caesar? One day, Serkis will finally win his long-deserved Oscar. One day…
12. Logan (93%)
From the beginning, Wolverine has been the face of The X-Men film franchise, and Hugh Jackman has been the face of Wolverine. For nine films (two of which was mere cameos, but still!) over seventeen years, Hugh Jackman has been at the forefront of Fox’s X-Men saga. That era came to an end with Logan.
Jackman and director James Mangold agreed that it was time for Wolverine’s story to come to an end, and they got Fox to agree to let them end it on their terms.
Logan is not a family-friendly superhero movie, but a bleak modern Western starring an aged and cynical killer who is dragged into one last battle. Fights in Logan are shockingly bloody, brutal, and emotionally cathartic.
Wolverine is a Ronin, a samurai without a master. The Western equivalent is the wandering drifter who reluctantly helps those who can’t help themselves, and Logan channels the best of Clint Eastwood, to say nothing of its obvious inspiration, 1953’s Shane.
11. Baby Driver (93%)
Edgar Wright is the king of the cult classic. His movies are critical darlings with a dedicated fanbase, but they rarely break out at the box office. Even Scott Pilgrim vs The World, considered by many to be his magnum opus, was an outright bomb in its theatrical run.
It came as a welcome relief, then, when Baby Driver became a solid hit for the beloved director. Starring Ansel Elgort as the titular getaway driver who lives his life to the beat of his numerous MP3 players, Baby Driver is a stylish crime thriller with a distinct aesthetic identity. The visuals are crafted around the music and even sound effects play in time to the current musical selection.
10. Logan Lucky (93%)
Logan Lucky is essentially “Ocean’s 11 with rednecks,” and that’s not a criticism. Ocean’s director Steven Soderbergh presents Logan Lucky as something of a spiritual successor and antithesis to his classic Vegas-set heist movies.
While Danny Ocean and his crew were the epitome of cool and their heist was meticulous, detailed, and precise, the crew of Logan Lucky are slovenly – but endearingly so – and their robbery, of a NASCAR event, is an outrageous comedy of errors.
It never feels overly derivative of Ocean’s 11, partially due to its impressive cast: Channing Tatum, Daniel Craig, Adam Driver, Katie Homes, Sebastian Stan, and Seth MacFarlane are just part of Soderbergh’s massive ensemble. Simply put, Logan Lucky is a one-of-a-kind heist film, and it is not to be missed!
9. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (93%)
Martin McDonagh, director of such acclaimed films as In Bruges and Seven Psychopaths, returned in 2017 with the intriguingly titled Three Billboards Ouside Ebbing, Missouri.
Frances McDormand stars as Mildred Hayes; upset at the lack of progress in the violent murder of her teenage daughter, she rents the titular billboards and uses them to publicly throw shade at the police department’s failure to make any breaks in the case. To say things escalate from there would be a severe understatement.
Like McDonagh’s previous works, Three Billboards is packed with scathing black comedy, effortlessly jumping from knee-slapping humor to grim tension without warning, and jumping back again just as quickly.
8. The Shape of Water (94%)
Like Edgar Wright, Guillermo Del Toro is an acclaimed auteur director who just hasn’t had a significant mainstream box office hit. The Hellboy films failed to break out, and Pacific Rim only barely squeaked past $100 million domestically, relying on foreign grosses to justify its upcoming sequel.
Del Toro’s latest film, The Shape of Water, is a provocative fairy tale love story starring Sally Hawkins and Doug Jones. Hawkins is a mute and mild-mannered laboratory janitor.
Jones is a captured aquatic creature, clearly based on one of the all-time great movie monsters, The Creature from the Black Lagoon. Of course, their romance is frowned upon by the powers that be (led by a ice cold Michael Shannon), who treat the fish-man as a little more than a science project, to be studied and disposed of.
It’s unclear if The Shape of Water will be able to resonate with general audiences, but with a ~$20 million budget, it doesn’t necessarily have to, especially if it gets the awards season attention it clearly deserves.
7. The Florida Project (95%)
It’s a reductive assessment, but every year has at least one heartbreaking, soul-crushing awards-season shoo-in.
This year, that film is The Florida Project, a snapshot of the modern-day Americana that is often swept under the rug and ignored. Directed and co-written by Sean Baker (Tangerine), The Florida Project is set in Orlando, in the neglected shadows cast by its picturesque theme parks.
The Florida Project might be the most uncomfortable movie of the year, thanks in part to its effective use of a child’s point of view for much of the film, to Baker’s earthy visualizations of the outskirts of paradise, and a career-affirming performance from Willem Dafoe, who has already been nominated for a Golden Globe for his work in the film.
6. Call Me by Your Name (96%)
For a few years now, Armie Hammer has gotten unfair criticism for being an unmarketable actor.
All this, despite his acclaimed performances in films as varied as The Social Network, J. Edgar (questionable makeup notwithstanding), and The Man from UNCLE. The latter film was by no means perfect, but the charisma of Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer as Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin was unanimously praised.
To many, Call Me by Your Name, the adaptation of the 2007 novel by André Aciman will do little to dissuade Hammer’s relentless hatedom, but everyone else can watch and appreciate his performance in one of the best movies of the year.
A coming-of-age story about youth, forbidden love, societal pressure, mutual respect, and the bittersweet melancholy that comes with reflection on one’s past, Call Me by Your Name is this year’s timeless love story to beat.
5. Coco (97%)
Pixar has had a mixed record of late– while Inside Out is regarded as a classic, The Good Dinosaur struggled at the box office and derivative features like Cars 3 and Monsters University failed to flaunt the vaunted animation house’s signature creative spark.
Fortunately, it looks like they’re back at the top of their game with Coco, directed by Lee Unkrich (Toy Story 3).
Set in an splendorous underworld inspired by Mexico’s Day of the Dead, Coco features an entirely Latino cast, including Edward James Olmos, Benjamin Bratt, and Gael García Bernal… Okay, John Ratzenberger probably isn’t Latino, but he gets a pass, and, besides, it’s just a cameo.
4. Mudbound (97%)
While Netflix didn’t develop Mudbound from the ground up like some of their other movies, this festival acquisition is more than just a solid addition to the Netflix library.
It’s a phenomenal study of post-WWII America, PTSD, racial tensions of the era, and how things change – or don’t – over time.
Mudbound follows two families as their patriarchs return home from World War II, and features an all-star cast that includes Jason Clarke, Jason Mitchell, Garret Hedlund, and Carey Mulligan.
Despite the established actors on display, the breakout star of the film is pop singer Mary J. Blige, who practically comes out of nowhere to steal the whole movie with a performance that could have been operatic and overwrought, but instead received universal acclaim.
3. The Big Sick (98%)
Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon wrote The Big Sick, loosely based on their own relationship (with Kumail playing himself and Zoe Kazan playing a character based on Emily).
Simultaneously a peppy romantic comedy with a healthy helping of racial humor and cultural dissonance, The Big Sick is also a serious tear-jerker… Without spoiling anything, the word “sick” in the title isn’t just for kicks.
Nanjiani has been around for a while, known for his stand-up comedy and his charming supporting role in the zany courtroom series Franklin & Bash, but now he’s a bona fide movie star, and he deserves all the acclaim he’s earned for this dramatization of his real-life love story.
2. Lady Bird (99%)
Nominated for four Golden Globes, Lady Bird is currently the big front-runner this awards season. This drama is directed at teenagers and their parents, and is an empathetic look at teen angst, as well as the angst of the parents who have to deal with, well, teens being teens.
Frequent Noah Baumbach collaborator Greta Gerwig writes and directs, and Saoirse Ronan (Brooklyn, The Grand Budapest Hotel) is perfectly cast as Christine, aka Lady Bird.
Every scene in the film is an encapsulation of one corner or another of being a teenager just trying to find one’s place in the world while feeling suffocated by loving, if difficult, parents.
Boyfriends, best friends, cool kids, prom, heartbreak, and after-school drama class – Lady Bird checks every box. It would be terribly reductive to call Lady Bird the best Degrassi episode ever, but it wouldn’t be wrong.
1. Get Out (99%)
Sometimes a movie comes out of nowhere and manages to dominate the conversation for the entire year. For 2017, Get Out is that movie. Jordan Peele is best known for being one half of the comedy duo, Key & Peele, so it came as a surprise when it was announced that he was making his directorial debut with a racially-charged horror film.
When the trailer dropped, audiences were unsure if the film was supposed to be a parody or if it was utterly doomed. When the movie finally hit, it became an instant sensation, and a box office smash, grossing $254 million worldwide, a staggering 54 times its budget of $4.5 million.
Daniel Kaluuya plays a young man in an interracial relationship with a young woman, played by Allison Williams. They go to visit her parents… and some crazy stuff happens, to say the least.
Equal parts nail-biting horror and biting satire, with some genuine belly laughs thrown in for good measure (courtesy of a scene-stealing Lil Rel Howery), Get Out is the one movie, above all others in 2017, that tickled the entire audience’s collective unconscious.
What do you think? Did your favorite movie make the list? What movie would you have put on this list? Sound off in the comments!
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