It’s easy to gauge watercooler talk against box office stats and Metacritic scores to select the “best movies” released in any given year. In fact, we did just that for 2017, and ended up with some truly incredible films. Still, there’s something to be said for individual preference (there’s no accounting for taste!), which is why we asked our team members to choose their favorite movies of 2017 and tell the world why they loved them.
Just like our favorite games of 2017, contributors from every corner of the DT family have come together to talk about their favorite flicks. We even recruited some folks from our sister sites — Digital Trends Español and The Manual — to get a more varied selection of opinions. These are the movies that made 2017 memorable.
Christopher Nolan’s take on war movies breaks from genre traditions in many ways. For starters, there is his choice of subject matter. Rather than focus on one of the glorious Allied victories in World War II, Nolan chose the evacuation of Dunkirk, in which British and French forces, having fallen back to the coast as the German armies advanced, awaited rescue by sea.
The film opens in near silence, as a squad of British troops drift down a street, German propaganda leaflets raining down around them. They rummage through houses before gunshots puncture the stillness, driving them to flee. It’s a near wordless opening — the protagonist’s only line is to cry out that he’s English upon reaching a French barricade — and it sets the tone for the film to come. Telling the story from land, sea, and air, Dunkirk immerses the viewer in the soldiers’ perspectives, with spectacular cinematography and sound design bleeding through every scene.
Associate Editor, Home Theater and Entertainment
There were plenty of great movies in 2017, but this one really comes down to the main reason most of us go to the movies in the first place: Fun. Glee, in this case. Pure, unadulterated, movie-magic good times. While Get Out was damn close, Thor: Ragnarok is the most fun I had in theaters all year. Disney set out to reinvent its whimsical God of Thunder for the third film by playing to Chris Hemsworth’s strengths — namely, rippling muscles and surprisingly good comedic timing.
As such, the company handed a $200 million check to Taika Waititi, a relatively unknown writer/director out of New Zealand who was best known previously for his This is Spinal Tap-esque vampire movie, What We Do in the Shadows. The result is a rip-roaring space epic/buddy comedy featuring Marvel’s two muscle-bound demigods, Thor and Hulk. Sprinkled with tinges of ’70s cult classics like Buckaroo Banzai and Flash Gordon, but grounded in brilliant self-awareness, Thor: Ragnarok is a film alive and pulsing with colorful cinematography, gritty analog synthesizers, and spectacular action. Add in a killer cast and Marvel’s latest raises the bar, not only for Thor and Marvel, but also for superhero flicks at large.
Lady Bird isn’t going to impact everyone the same way, and in general I wouldn’t classify it as a sad movie. For the right person, however, it’s a movie that will keep eyes watering as the credits roll. This is a movie for anyone who struggled through adolescence, fought with their parents, grappled with sexuality, or moved far away from home. Life is not perfect, and Lady Bird captures that in its writing. It’s a comedy, but the jokes don’t feel written. Everything happens in such a natural way that scenarios become relatable whether they mirror your life or not.
Associate Editor, The Manual
Directed by Sofia Coppola (The Virgin Suicides), this period piece sends up 2017’s wave of rekindled feminism with its unflinching depiction of women who show a capability for cruelty, pettiness, and violence to compete with any man.
Overall, this slow-burning affair struggles to stay afloat under its weighty atmosphere (as with most Coppola films), but it manages to surface and finally come out on top with a few unexpected twists. Some delightfully (and surprisingly) well-rounded performances are turned in by the young actresses who play the students.
Nobody Speak: Trials of the Free Press
Associate Editor, Emerging Tech
Flying under the radar, one of the best movies of 2017 was a documentary that quietly appeared on Netflix in late June. It’s called Nobody Speak: Trials of the Free Press, and it’s one of the most illuminating, timely, and provocative documentaries in recent memory.
The film follows the saga of Gawker Media, and the high-stakes legal battle that ensued after the organization published a sex tape featuring Terry Bollea (aka Hulk Hogan) in 2012. Initially, the case seemed to pit privacy rights against the freedom of the press, but as it progressed, it soon became clear that Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel — who Gawker outed publicly nine years earlier — was funding Hogan’s legal team, presumably to get revenge on the organization that had slighted him.
Most of the film is focused on the bizarre legal proceedings that occurred between 2012 and 2015, but toward the end, writer/director Brian Knappenberger goes beyond the courtroom drama. He uses the Gawker saga as a case study to highlight a larger and far more troubling trend — the fact that billionaires and other powerful people are waging war on the free press. It’s well-argued, incredibly compelling, and a must-watch for anybody who cares about the state of journalism in the United States.
Associate Editor, Outdoors
In a Stephen King year – seven total adaptations across TV and film – nothing stood out quite like the horror thriller It. Despite a somewhat tumultuous road to completion that saw the director’s baton shift from True Detective alum Cary Fukunaga to up-and-comer Andy Muschietti (2013’s Mama), the silver screen debut of Pennywise the Dancing Clown was as fear-inducing as King’s literary opus itself. Set in the fictional town of Derry, Maine, It follows a group of kids navigating their way through early teenage life while simultaneously avoiding the wrath of a deranged, shape-shifting clown hell-bent on exploiting their worst fears.
The film features superb support from the young actors, but Bill Skarsgård gives a master class in method acting as Pennywise, providing both immense dread and oddly appropriate comedic relief – oftentimes in the same scene. This tense roller coaster is packed with unsettling set pieces that show exactly why Muschietti’s name adorned the director’s chair. It faithfully follows its source material while giving the horror genre a much-needed breath of fresh air.
Managing Editor, The Manual
Logan was the bloodiest, saddest, and arguably best installment in the now-10-movie X-Men franchise. Despite its violence, Logan plays out more like an old Western, thanks mainly to its source material, Old Man Logan, a stand-alone storyline in the larger X-Men universe. Hugh Jackman’s final turn as Logan/Wolverine was awesome (and made me forget how bad X-Men Origins: Wolverine was). Patrick Stewart is a beast as usual, and his portrayal of an aging, ill Charles Xavier is both touching and hilarious.
Those two amazing actors — Jackman and Stewart — are nearly upstaged by then-11-year-old Dafne Keen, who plays Laura. She makes me wish I had more little girl role models like Laura when I was younger (well, maybe someone a little less murdery, but still). In the end, Logan manages to pay homage to a beloved comic book character, as well as appease the box office to the tune of $616.8 million.
The Disaster Artist
This masterful chronicle of the production of the infamously awful 2003 cult classic The Room has been summed up perfectly by co-producer and actor Seth Rogen in a single tweet: “The best movie about the worst movie.” The main reason for the The Disaster Artist’s greatness is the acting work of James Franco, who truly embodies the strangeness and idiosyncrasies of The Room’s Tommy Wiseau. Franco, who also directed the film, definitely carries it on screen, but his brother Dave, who plays Wiseau’s friend Greg Sestero, does an excellent job as well. The two work seamlessly together to perfectly show the unique friendship of Sestero and Wiseau, while also making you root for the duo’s underdog spirit.
The Disaster Artist is ridiculously absurd at times, yet through the sheer craziness of the story (which is true) and some truly amazing acting, it becomes an extraordinary film.
Associate Editor, Computing
Beneath the talking animals and fantastical settings, Pixar has always put a beating, human heart in their films. But like Inside Out before it, Coco continues to take things a step further by placing human characters and cultures at the forefront, and the results are surprisingly deep and thoughtful. Who knew an animated movie could tackle the dramatic themes of death and family more effectively than most independent dramas could ever hope to?
Coco does that all while honoring Mexican culture, offering plenty of twists and turns, and stunning you with its art direction. Coming out of the movie, did I think it was too heavy for kids? Who knows — I was too busy considering the implications of the film’s themes for my own life.
30 for 30: Nature Boy
This might seem like a ridiculous choice — and it is, sure — but just try to watch this ESPN 30 for 30 doc and tell me that Ric “The Nature Boy” Flair isn’t the most documentary-worthy human on the planet. Despite the fact that Flair (real name: Richard Fliehr) was a notorious drinker and womanizer, watching the charred old legend reflect on his life becomes very intimate, especially when he discusses his late son, David.
Professional wrestling is a joke to many (which is reasonable), but the evolution of a region-run carnie business into the multimillion-dollar spectacle that is Wrestlemania is fascinating, and even more so because it mirrors the long, storied career of Flair himself. This is not a man that most people would hold sympathy for — for good reason — but there’s nonetheless something captivating about someone who claims to have downed 10 drinks per day and slept with 10,000 women. He is, after all, the Rolex-wearin’, diamond ring-wearin’, kiss-stealin’, wheelin’-dealin’, limousine-ridin’, jet-flyin’ son of a gun!
Contributing Editor, Entertainment
While Blade Runner 2049, Get Out, and Baby Driver topped my personal list of the year’s best movies, director Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman was right up there with them among the most entertaining films of the year. Jenkins’ record-setting superhero feature proved to be a shining beacon of light in a DC cinematic universe that often seems determined to drown in its own darkness, and the film’s critical and commercial success was one of the most praiseworthy stories to come out of Hollywood this year.
Wonder Woman lead Gal Gadot embodied everything that the iconic DC Comics heroine should be, and found the perfect balance between the character’s physicality and empathy to make the role her own. Jenkins also managed to find the emotional resonance at the heart of the story while serving up some of the most cheer-worthy action sequences of the year. It isn’t a perfect movie, but Wonder Woman is a movie deserving of all the love it received from audiences, and it’s very likely to be my most-rewatched movie from 2017.
The Big Sick
Love isn’t always straightforward, but it’s not always as intricate as it is in the The Big Sick, a film that deftly follows the real-life courtship of actor-comedian Kumail Nanjiani and his now-wife, writer/producer Emily V. Gordon. The premise, which sees a fictionalized version of Nanjiani fall in love with Gordon while she’s in a medically induced coma — is a deep, thoughtful springboard for a mess of familiar complications, namely those that stem from race relations, sex, and the generational divides that continue to be commonplace in 21st century America.
While these examinations may seem conventional — they’re certainly not revolutionary for a rom-com — it’s the way producer Judd Apatow (Knocked Up) and company imbue a narrative form that’s been around for ages with the actual unpredictability of life that makes the film worthwhile. The Big Sick is messy, but then again, so is every relationship.
The Shape of Water
Only Guillermo del Toro could have given us The Shape of Water. This charming fairy tale about a mute cleaning woman falling in love with a merman held captive in the facility where she works bears all the signatures of his work — relentless imagination, a studied and playfully reverent knowledge of genre and myth, cynicism about men and institutional power balanced by a genuine love of weirdos and underdogs, the strange, the whimsical, the disturbing, the romantic, and just enough body horror to make you squirm.
Master physical performer Doug Jones tops it off with another brilliant, costumed turn as the creature, though Sally Hawkins shows just as much of a knack for wordless expression playing the mute Eliza. Michael Shannon sits squarely in his menacing, intense wheelhouse as their foe. From Pan’s Labyrinth to Pacific Rim, del Toro’s work has always been surprising, genre-savvy, and delightful, and The Shape of Water is all of that in spades — just pure, cinematic bliss.
Video Production Assistant
In a year filled with groundbreaking movies, there were none quite as controversial as mother!. The film, written and directed by Darren Aronofsky, found itself in an odd position — praised by many critics, but largely hated by many viewers. Rooted in the framework of a psychological thriller, the film is deceptively thought-provoking and touches on massive thematic elements (religion, feminism, environmental consciousness) hidden within cleverly disguised allegories.
Fans drawn to theaters by an Oscar-worthy cast (Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris, and Michelle Pfieffer) and the promise of more typical horror were likely disappointed and confused by the murky symbolism and art-house visuals. However, it is the surprising and uncomfortable nature of the film that makes it so important.
Through the use of close, reverse-point-of-view shots, a labyrinthine set, and some spine-chilling sound design, Aronofsky is able to evoke terror in an entirely unexpected way. The film is a perfect slow burn, building from long, quiet, anxiety-inducing passages to a truly visceral and chaotic climax that is decidedly “punk.” The film defies expectations to create one of the darkest and most poignant movies to see a major release this year.
Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi
Depending on who you ask, The Last Jedi is either one of the franchise’s best entries, or its worst. As a Star Wars fan, it’s not the movie I was expecting, nor the movie I personally would have written — but it’s a better movie than either of those could have been. Multiple viewings haven’t changed my mind. The Last Jedi is great because it defies expectations. Characters have unexpected motivations, there are genuinely surprising answers to big questions, and the film isn’t afraid to let its heroes fail.
For a franchise built on a bedrock of mythic cycles and the hero’s journey motif, those are big risks to take. But The Last Jedi retains the spirit of Star Wars better than any film in the franchise since Empire Strikes Back precisely because it takes those risks. If swallowing our pride and discarding preconceived notions is the price demanded to live in a world where Star Wars is exciting, mysterious, and surprising again, then I’m happy to pay it.
More than just about any other filmmakers in Hollywood, brothers Benny and Joshua Safdie understand that little details – not grandiose themes – are what turn good films into great films. In Good Time, this is particularly true, as the film’s narrative is merely a conduit for its characters. Connie Nikas (Robert Pattinson) botches a bank robbery that leaves his mentally handicapped brother, Nick (Benny Safdie), incarcerated, and he spends an entire night swindling and back-stabbing the people of Queens in an effort to earn enough money for bail. Some of these people are as nefarious as Connie, including an injured criminal on the run from the police, but none of them ever deserve his abuse.
Connie is a wholly deplorable person, but in a breathtaking performance, Pattinson plays him with a level of restraint and authenticity that makes it easy to forget we’re watching a film – it feels like we’re being shown the dark underbelly of New York City firsthand. This is true all the way to the closing credits, which leave the viewer simultaneously depressed and relieved in a way few films are bold enough to do.
Managing Editor, Digital Trends Español
Es fácil entender por qué Loving Vincent es una de las mejores películas del año. Es una entrega que valió la pena ser vista en pantalla grande, ya que no se trata de una simple historia sobre la muerte de Vincent Van Gogh, el famoso pintor holandés que murió en la pobreza y que es hoy considerado uno de los más importantes en la historia. La belleza de esta película radica en su estética ya que la totalidad de la cinta es hecha en pinturas al óleo, basándose en los rasgos faciales de actores conocidos.
En total, tomó seis años enteros producir este film, que requirió de la habilidad de 125 artistas para producir un total de 65,000 cuadros individuales que juntos, hacen de esta entrega una de las animaciones más ambiciosas y únicas hechas en el séptimo arte. La película se inspira en los característicos brochazos y reconocidas pinturas de Van Gogh que incluso aquellos que no conocen mucho sobre el artista podrán reconocer y disfrutar.
In English: Loving Vincent is one of the best movies of the year, and one of the most unique films you’ll ever see. It’s a complex, bittersweet biopic of Vincent Van Gogh, the famous Dutch painter who died in poverty and is today considered one of the most important artists in history. The beauty of this film lies in its aesthetics as the entire movie is made in oil paintings based on the facial features of well-known actors. In total, it took six whole years to produce this film, requiring the skill of 125 artists to produce a total of 65,000 individual paintings that, together, make this an ambitious project showing the value of Ricciotto Canudo’s “seventh art.” The film is inspired by Van Gogh’s characteristic brushstrokes, and even those with little knowledge of the artist or his work will be able to appreciate and enjoy the film.
Super Dark Times
If you took the Stranger Things kids, removed the supernatural elements and put them in a high school crime drama with a heavy dose of ’90s nostalgia, you have an idea of what to expect from Super Dark Times.
As the title suggests, the kids aren’t alright after a tragic accident causes a rift between two best friends and they struggle to readjust to their lives. Both are unable to talk about what occurred, fueling feelings of paranoia as the viewer gets pulled into their waking-nightmare school days.
Super Dark Times serves as a taut loss-of-innocence tale set in the pre-Columbine 1990s and a reminder of how the toxic masculinity that permeated the era created maladjusted young men in its wake. With that, it may be the scariest (fictional, monster-free) high school horror film you ever see.