Best Films of 2017

The final Box Office numbers for 2017 show the top eleven highest grossing films were some mixture of sequel, remake, and/or superhero movie. With that level of ticket sales, is there any wonder why the studios continue to focus on these big budget tentpoles?

I’m a believer that any movie is a good one if it makes you think, or if you learn something, or if you are simply entertained. With the high number of films I see (234 new releases last year), I feel a responsibility to make recommendations to those who aren’t as fortunate – or as addicted.

The cinematic art form has much to offer, but sadly, many really excellent film projects slide through undetected by the general public. Because of this, following my Best of 2017 list, you will find some recommendations that might have eluded your movie radar this year.

The Top 3

These were my top 3 movies of 2017, and there was simply no way I could pick a single favorite. Each of these represents filmmaking and story telling at the highest level…while using quite different styles:


Christopher Nolan’s masterpiece focuses on a critical turning point in WWII. It’s a triptych told from 3 different viewpoints and with minimal dialogue. The will to survive has never before been showcased in this manner, and neither has courage. Challenging though the structure may be, once it clicks for you, it’s a revelation.

The Shape of Water

Turning a creature-feature into a romantic work of art could only be accomplished by Guillermo del Toro. This is a gorgeous film to watch with a story that will likely touch you. Commentary on our society inspires much post-viewing discussion, but it’s also a very intimate look at the strength of misfits and outcasts in a world that tries to ignore them.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Racism and grief clash in this difficult-to-label film from the brilliant Martin McDonagh. It’s part dark-comedy and part personal and family drama, as various characters seek their own form of justice. Exceptionally well-written and acted, the film serves as a harsh reminder that, no matter how much we wish otherwise, life simply isn’t fair.

The Next Best:
Coco – another gem from Pixar
Lady Bird – the best film about a teenage girl
The Big Sick – remarkable true story told in humorous fashion
Big Sonia (doc) – inspirational true story of Holocaust survivor
Wonderstruck – unique and beautifully heart-warming film
Abacus: Small Enough to Jail (doc) – true story of integrity
The Florida Project – an incisive slice of life through a child’s eyes
The Post – true story of free press vs government
Hostiles – slow burn western questioning whether redemption is possible
Loving Vincent – an absolute work of art presented through many works of art

Underrated and Worth Watching:
A Quiet Passion
Baby Driver
Brigsby Bear
City of Ghosts (doc)
Free Fire
The Lost City of Z
Trophy (doc)
Truman (Spain/Argentina)
Wait for Your Laugh (doc)
Wind River

*** I have not yet seen Phantom Thread, the “final” film of Daniel Day-Lewis. The list might be revised after the January 10 screening.