While 2017 may have been another rough year, it had no shortage of truly spectacular films. From the jungles of the Amazon to the beauty of northern Italy, 2017 in cinema took us on some unforgettable journeys. This guide and cinematic video recap takes a look back at the very best.
This overlooked gem harkens back to the golden age of Hollywood adventure films with an added existential twist. Retelling the true story of British explorer Percy Fawcett (Charlie Hunnam, “Pacific Rim”), a World War I veteran obsessed with discovering the ruins of an advanced civilized buried deep in the Amazon, director James Gray (“The Immigrant”) handles the proceedings with patient and meditative hand. The lush cinematography and riveting slow boil of a plot is bested only by the performances of Hunnam and Robert Patterson (“Twilight”), who had a career year starring in this and the excellent crime thriller “Good Time.”
Comedic directing legend Edgar Wright (“Shaun of the Dead”) got the toes tapping with this high octane caper fueled by an out of this world soundtrack. Following tetanus-stricken getaway driver Baby (Ansel Elgort, “The Fault in Our Stars”) as he attempts get out of the business and hit the road with his sweetheart Deborah (Lily James, “Cinderella”), the film is an edge-of-your-seat charmer that pumps up the volume and never stops. While tainted by a role from Kevin Spacey (“House of Cards”), who is mired in sea of sexual assault allegations, the film is still worth checking out for the pure genius of its music-driven execution.
A cosmic tale of love, loss, and time, this indie darling follows a deceased Casey Affleck (“Manchester by the Sea”), drawn in Charlie Brown style ghost attire, traveling through the history of his home while observing the grief of his widow (Rooney Mara, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”), the families who come after and more. An admittedly strange but profoundly beautiful examination of life itself, this is a haunting to remember.
The latest entry in the “Star Wars” saga follows Rey (Daisy Ridley, “The Force Awakens”) as she trains with a broken and isolated Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill, “Star Wars”) in an attempt to turn the tide against the First Order and a tortured Kylo Ren (Adam Driver, “Girls”). Masterful director Rian Johnson, who has long been turning heads with his gritty films (“Brick”, “Looper”) and some legendary episodes of television (“Breaking Bad”), takes the franchise in a bold and much needed new direction with this risky subversion of what it means to be a “Star Wars” film. Ignore the online fury, this is a smart and superb blockbuster that rivals even its classic predecessors.
A dark, sensual Southern gothic which follows a handsome injured Union soldier (Colin Farrell, “The Lobster”) as he recovers in an all-female Confederate boarding school where the entire house cannot help but desire him, this tale of jealousy and seduction will make your typical Saturday night rom-com look like child’s play.
Following the poor young residents of a Florida motel and the complex adults who raise them, this brilliantly acted and gorgeously shot take on childhood in impoverished America is a thought-provoking and heart-wrenching film that will stick with long after you’ve left the theater. Oh, to be young again.
An utterly insane follow-up to his genius film “The Lobster,” director Yorgos Lanthimos directs (“Dogtooth”) this modern-day take on an ancient Greek play follows a duel of wills between an arrogant surgeon (Colin Farrell) and the disturbed teenager (Barry Keoghan, “Dunkirk”) whose father he killed in a botched surgery. To reveal how the boy torments his enemy’s perfect family, which includes a sharp-tongued Nicole Kidman (“Big Little Lies”), would be to spoil the fun of deliciously twisted nightmare.
Based on his actual relationship with his wife Emily (played by Zoe Kazan, “Ruby Sparks”), comedian Kumail Nanjiani (“Silicon Valley”) writes and stars in this retelling of the complex beginning of their lives together. When Emily falls into a coma, Kumail realizes the extent of his feelings for her and must confront his cultural conflicts with his family and identity as he grows close with Emily’s concerned parents (Ray Romano, “Everybody Loves Raymond” and Holly Hunter, “The Piano”). The film is a frequently hilarious and surprisingly poignant story that is the best romantic comedy to hit screens in quite some time.
The master Guillermo del Toro returns with this unconventional love story between a mute cleaner (Sally Hawkins, “Blue Jasmine”) and amphibious man plucked out of the Amazon and kept prisoner where his new lover works. A homage to cinema from top to bottom, this gorgeous and meticulously crafted fantasy is a compelling blend of the conventional love story and the monster films that del Toro clearly has deep affection for. If you’re looking for romance a little on the peculiar side, this is the escape you need.
If you thought horror was already on the upswing, “Get Out” arrived to shake the genre up even more. This ruthlessly efficient takedown of “closeted” racism is not only a pitch perfect scarefest, it’s a haunting and intelligent exploration of race relations in America, particularly a rich, liberal America convinced its “moved past” racism when in reality people of color continue to suffer under their thumb just as any stereotypically racist individual. The film is darkly funny, scary and smarter than most dramas aspire to be.
Somehow, as if by a miracle, a sequel to arguably the greatest science fiction film ever made is not only worthy of the original, it may even rival it. While this new “Blade Runner” is vastly different than its predecessor, this new iteration rests easy on the laurels of amazing performances from Ryan Gosling (“La La Land”) and Harrison Ford (“Star Wars”) and next level direction and cinematography from Denis Villeneuve (“Sicario”) and Roger Deakins (“Skyfall”).
Christopher Nolan’s (“The Dark Knight”) unique take on the battle that changed European history forever is a tightly constructed masterpiece that intertwines three narratives into one breathless set piece. Nolan’s steady hands guides the proceedings with the help of top notch cinematography, a tick-of-the-clock score and human performances from a hugely talented cast to create one of the most superb war films in recent memory.
In what he says is his final role, Daniel Day Lewis (“Lincoln”) stars as an obsessive fashion designer caught in the throes of an unexpectedly intense relationship. Lewis, the actor of our generation, is on the top of his game as usual here, but the real star is the worthy sparring partner he finds in newcomer Vicky Krieps. Their intoxicating battle of wits and desire is a surprisingly multifaceted examination of the toxicity of masculinity and the madness of love. If you thought master writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson (“There Will Be Blood”) would actually settle down for a routine period drama, you’re in for a surprise.
An effortlessly divine tale of first love, this Italy-set tale of an affair between a charming graduate student (Armie Hammer, “The Social Network”) and the reserved son (Timothee Chalamet, “Lady Bird”) of the professors hosting him is a slow build that aches with the quiet passion only this kind of love can inspire. Chalamet turns in the performance of a lifetime, conveying every feeling with a raw intensity only the finest actors can achieve. Add on an intoxicating soundtrack, the most beautiful shots of Italy perhaps ever produced and a cast and crew that clearly respects the tender and special nature of a film that feels as rare as this and you have a certified masterpiece.
Without a doubt one of the finest coming of age stories ever produced, Greta Gerwig’s (“Mistress America”) solo writing and directing debut is why films are made. This story of the complex relationship between a precocious teenager with her eyes on anywhere but home (Saoirse Ronan, “Brooklyn”) and her brash but deeply loving mother (Laurie Metcalf, “Roseanne”) is the sort of film that seems resonate with every viewer. It’s a loving and warm homage to all the confusion, joy and pain of growing up. It’s more than just the best film of the year; it’s a shining example of human drama. Call your mom.