2017 has been an interesting year in film, mainly filled with critics & fans alike telling you what movies you’re supposed to like and why you should like them. Lucky for you, I’m neither of those things. On the surface, I’m yet another critic making a Best Of list filled with all the same award season contenders but in reality I’m just a guy who calls himself Deezus and has weird taste in movies. Not that you won’t see Oscar hopefuls on my list, but I can guarantee my list is different than most you’ve seen from this year. I made the decision to see less new releases this year than last (80 to 105). In doing so, I trimmed off the lower-tier movies or movies I just didn’t want to see. I spent more time catching up on movie blind-spots and films I was genuinely interested in (mainly A LOT of horror), thus expanding my film knowledge and honing in on my movie sensibilities.
So with that in mind, here are my favorite movies of 2017. And when I say my favorite, not saying these are the best movies (my scores lean 70/30: film enjoyment/film quality) this year. So don’t try and take what credibility I have by arguing my list because even though I do care about those sweet clicks, I also don’t really care about anybody else’s film opinions but my own. And that’s the way it should be. I’m just hoping this list encourages you to check out some films you haven’t seen, or look at one you have seen in a different light. Each film will be followed by the score which lean, if it’s highlighted that means I reviewed it if you want further thoughts. Sorry for the long intro, it’s time.
*Busta Rhymes voice* LET’S GOOOOOOOOO! (cause I feellikeimrunningbsvkjldalkgjvbekajbvkwbgrjkvwbrf)
Notables You Won’t See on This List
There are many movies on this list that you’ll be confused are not in the Top 12, because like I mentioned above: this is very personal list. But also, I didn’t see very many bad movies (only 13/80 films scored negatively, below 6/10). So even if it’s listed “low”, doesn’t mean it was bad or I didn’t like it. Here’s a rapid-fire section of movies of movies still worth mentioning: Though I’m not a big Star Wars fan, but I enjoyed the weirdness of The Last Jedi at a solid 7.9/10 (#45). Yes, Blade Runner 2049 (#30) is a near-technical masterpiece, Gosling & Deakins balled out, but the shoe-horning of Deckard’s story dropped it to 8.4/10. Ingrid Goes West (#19) & Brigsby Bear (#21) are two films I’m confused flew under the radar, telling these very modern stories incorporating social media. Both contain break-out performances from Aubrey Plaza and Kyle Mooney, respectively, that hopefully prime them for big years to come. Thor: Ragnarok (#14) was not only one of the best comic book movies of the year, but it’s also the best comedy of 2017. Taika Waititi spread his secret sauce over the MCU and gave it some much needed flavor, just missing the the Top 12.
The Shape of Water (#20) is a film that had my name written all over it, as most Guillermo Del Toro films do. This thing is absolutely gorgeous, from the expertly colored cinematography to Desplat’s score. Hawkins and Shannon deliver phenomenal performances, Del Toro is on point…except for the romance, which is the crux of the film and a big blow to it’s score. Would be top 5 if the love story was stronger, an absolutely magical theater experience. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri (#24) was one of my most anticipated films of the year, being a native Missourian myself. It’s definitely a McDonagh film which hurts a bit, making too many jokes during serious subject matter. Which can be tastefully done, but cam off a bit insensitive. Aside from that, this film is brilliant. McDormand and Rockwell are titans in this film and the world-building is quite impressive. IT (#15) proved that not only is horror one of the strongest genres in film right now, it also proved that it can appeal to large audiences as a box office smash, merging creepy atmosphere, inventive scares, and the rich Stephen King source material. Last honorable mention is A Ghost Story, a fantastic arthouse film in a year filled with boundary-pushing cinema. David Lowery crafts an inventive ghost tale, carried by Rooney Mara & Case Affleck. Can’t say too much except go in openminded and enjoy the experience. But now onto the real deal: my Top 12 Films of 2017.
12. Baby Driver (Edgar Wright)
When I heard Edgar Wright was doing a pseudo-musical heist film about a young get-away driver, it instantly shot to the top of my most anticipated movies list. Scott Pilgrim vs The World is one of my favorite films of all-time, which is also heavily influenced by music. I think it’s been a little forgotten how big of a cinematic achievement this film is, with it’s sharp editing to a soundtrack that was written into the script. Featuring an incredible opening, you’re instantly swept away into Baby’s world and the foot is never taken off the pedal. Ansel Elgort, Jon Hamm, and Jamie Foxx give killer performances, so good you kind of ignore the character motivation issues that bring the film down. So with each subsequent re-watch (which I’ve seen more than any film this year), I cared less and less about Baby Driver‘s flaws and just enjoyed the ride. Score: 9.0/10 Killer Tracks
11. The Florida Project (Sean Baker)
The Florida Project was a film I feared wasn’t going to live up to the hype, but thank goodness it did. I love what I call “slice of life” movies, where you’re dropped into a world or situation and just observe the events going on like a fly on the wall. This movie shines light on a lifestyle you don’t see portrayed often in film, which is conflicting to watch. Brooklyn Prince does things in this film that kid actors just don’t do, she’s something special. The kids in general were great because you’re literally just watching them…be kids. Willem DaFoe finally gets a chance to let his warmer side show and deserves all the acclaim he’s received. This film would be higher if the final scene didn’t ruin it for me. I see what they were going for, but you gotta understand: I WAS MID TEARS and was pulled out of it. Can’t mess with a man’s crying, Sean Baker. Score: 9.3/10 Ice Cream Cones
10. Lady Bird (Greta Gerwig)
It wasn’t until my second viewing that I realized how amazing of a job Greta Gerwig did on this film, between her direction and screenplay. Gerwig exploded onto my radar in 2016, having gigantic year in Maggie’s Plan, Jackie, and one of my favorites 20th Century Women. Another “slice of life” movie, set during the senior year of the titular character Lady Bird. You just live and breath with her, from her relationship with her mother to losing her virginity. The film doesn’t jump out at you because it’s not exactly a fresh formula, but the way the comedy and dialogue is presented does feel fresh and genuine. Saoirse Ronan was perfect casting, but the entire supporting cast was on point (Lucas Hedges, Timothée Chalamet, Laurie Metcalf). One aspect Gerwig hasn’t been given enough credit for is the film’s EXPERT pacing, scenes just kind of start and end so seamlessly. Watch it with you mom or sister! Score: 9.2/10 Clove Cigarettes
9. The Disaster Artist (James Franco)
Oh hai top 10. The Disaster Artist is a movie I knew I wanted to like, but wasn’t sure if I would because I hadn’t seen The Room. Wanting to know the background, I saw it a couple days beforehand and not gonna lie: kind of dipped my excitement because I don’t get the hype of it. It’s just a bad movie. But this was probably good, because my hype wasn’t through the roof. This film did something so inspiring, cutting to the core of what the enigmatic Tommy Wiseau and his film stood for: having a dream and making it come true. As a creator, one that wants to move to LA and make movies, it hit me hard. I felt the ambition. James Franco was the perfect man to helm this project because he gets the creative yearning, while also giving one of the best performances of the year. This film has moments that will make you cry from laughter and from heartbreak. I’ve always been a big James Franco fan, I’m glad that he is finally receiving the attention he deserves as an artist. Score: 9.4/10 Is Good Movie
8. The Killing of a Sacred Deer (Yorgos Lanthimos)
When people asked if Lanthimos could make a weirder movie than 2015’s The Lobster, my man said “hold my beer.” The Killing of a Sacred Deer is a suburban horror story about a boy who inserts himself into a family to teach them a lesson (I think). The film stars Colin Farrell and Nicole Kidman (second film of the year together), who are always good, but the breakout star is easily Barry Keoghan as Martin. As seen in this and The Lobster, Lanthimos uses this off-putting style of dialogue that has to be delivered perfectly and Keoghan perfects it here. The cinematography is great, the score is amazing, but what’s impressive is how well everything works together. On the surface, this film is a artsy-thriller but in reality is a questioning of morality and what you’d do for your loved ones. Though it wasn’t as well received as some of their past releases, I’m glad that A24 continues to stick to their guns and produce these thought provoking genre-benders. Score: 9.4/10 Plates of Spaghetti
7. Better Watch Out (Chris Peckover)
Man, what a surprise this thing was! Better Watch Out is easily one of most fun horror movies of the year. This thing is filled with twists and turns, it’s much more than your typical babysitter slasher. The script for this film is top-notch, subverting your expectations on more than one occasion. Not to brag, but I’m a pretty smart cookie and I did NOT see the main twist of this film coming (albeit, I was smart to avoid the trailer and you should be to). Once the film kicks into gear, there is no stopping it. It’s funny, has some sweet kills, wickedly clever, and Levi Miller absolutely shines. The film is a pretty straight forward horror flick, but if you peel back the layers it tells a compelling story on masculinity. I’m a notorious scrooge, but I’m a sucker for a horror movie set during the holidays. Better Watch Out has ridiculous re-watchability and I can see myself throwing it on every winter for years to come. Score: 9.4/10 Paint Cans
6. Life (Daniel Espinosa)
I’ve been so vocal about my love for this film, I even had to throw some virtual fisticuffs over it when I said I liked it more than Alien (I still stand by that statement). Like, I really really really love this movie, more than any other film critic by a mile. I actually saw Life before I had watched Alien for the first time and I think that was a benefit to me because I could watch the film on it’s own merit, without comparisons. I can now see the influence, but what sci-fi horror movie hasn’t been influenced by the Ridley Scott classic? But it’s much more than the standard alien-horror it’s been made out to be. Wanna know the easy way to my heart with a movie? Have some balls. Life gave zero fucks and I love it. Like, they casted Ryan Reynolds and had him all over the marketing to capitalize on his Deadpool success and they killed him off first. Really, they had a great cast in general at their disposal including my boy Jakey G, yet they didn’t canter the film around them. Why? Because an alien-monster movie should be all about the alien-monster. I may have found my new favorite horror movie monster: my boy Calvin is a straight SAVAGE. The film starts off so hopeful until Calvin rips it away. The crew, for the most part, does everything right and have good intentions. But all it took was one mistake and they were doomed. I love movies where the villain wins and Calvin is unstoppable, equipped with his own score (which is lit) and everything. Capped off with one final “fuck you” to the audience, Life is my kind of horror movie. Score: 9.5/10 Actions Against Protocol
5. Get Out (Jordan Peele)
Getting down to gritty, rounding out the top 5 is surprise hit Get Out. Nobody, including me, knew what to expect when Jordan Peele announced his directorial debut would be a horror project. Dubbed a “social thriller” by Peele himself, Get Out is the most relevant film of the year taking on an issue that nobody has really brought to the horror genre: racism. As a POC, the whole time I was watching I kept thinking “holy shit, I’ve been in all of these situations before”. It spoke to me, but it spoke to others too who might not be aware of what I call “casual racism”. Peele really made himself known as a force to be reckoned with in horror, crafting one of those rare screenplays that requires a second viewing to appreciate the sheer brilliance. The subtlety, the score, the scares, it has all the makings of a great horror but elevates to a phenomenal movie with tight performances from the cast. Daniel Kaluuya and Caleb Landry Jones (who already had a big year) in particular deliver strong work, priming them as rising stars in Hollywood. This thing is funny, creepy, and entertaining from start to finish. Score: 9.5/10 Coffee Cups
4. mother! (Darren Aronofsky)
If you know me at all, it won’t surprise you seeing the most divisive film of 2017 this high on my list. I like weird shit and this definitely falls under that umbrella. I admire amition in film; whether it works out or not, I’m going to at least respect your film if it doesn’t work. Some say it worked, some say it didn’t, but that’s the beauty of (this) film. Darren Aronofsky had some things he needed to get out, he poured it out into a script, and found a studio to give him a big budget to make his passion project with. So kudos there, first. But I’m not one that hides behind that, I genuinely think this a fantastic slow-burn. mother! rests on the shoulders of Jennifer Lawrence (literally, she’s present in every shot of the film), who gives her most subdued performance of her career. It was nice to see her dial back from her usual big personalities, showing a tender vulnerability I hadn’t seen from her before. The cinematography is spectacular, especially the camera work during the scenes where all hell is breaking loose. The way the camera follows the action through this gigantic house, which is a character in itself, is so kinetic and must have been difficult to film. Javier Bardem and Michelle Pfeiffer give great supporting performances, Pfeiffer in particular who really knows how to get under someone’s skin. The quality of a slow burn boils down to one question for me: was the pay-off worth it? And say what you want, but this third act pays off in spades. I’m one of the sadistic people that roots for fucked up things to happen in horror movies (a stretch, but I think the movie does fall under the horror umbrella) and mother! didn’t disappoint me there, either. But what really captivated me was after the film, seeing the wild and varied reactions to this film. That’s what I want from a film, to feel something and for it to affect people. Whether it was good or bad, this film provoked feelings in people. I couldn’t stop thinking and reading about this film for a solid week. This film is 100% not for everyone, yet it’s a film that I hope everybody watches at least once. I can see this thing getting studied in a film class down the road. Score: 9.5/10 Unwanted House Guests
3. Logan (James Mangold)
Talk about the end of an era, I cried more during this film than any other this year. It didn’t hit me until I sat down to watch it in theaters that the first time I saw Hugh Jackman as Wolverine was when I was 6 years old. I remember seeing X-Men Origins: Wolverine on my birthday, being the first PG-13 movie I saw (legally). I literally grew up with this character and what a perfect swan song. This film captured the true essence of Logan, the reluctant hero who wants to help but usually ends up hurting people. The guardian he never wanted to be. Finally seeing him as a dad (which is just precious) to X23, after years of being a father figure to the younger X-Men. It was special seeing this character at the end of his journey, one you’ve been on with him for 16 years, and feeling that. Jackman’s performance is heart wrenching, watching a man who is just exhausted, mentally and physically. Jackman has given his all to this role for 17 years and left it all out there on the screen, I saw the pain (I mean look at that picture!) in his eyes the whole film. They also give a fitting send off to Patrick Stewart’s Professor Xavier, letting Stewart be a crazy old man. But character stuff aside, Logan still told a great story that’s (sort of, but not really) in line with the rest of the franchise. We saw things that we have been waiting years for, like a true berserker rage. Also closing out Wolverine’s story with a rated-R movie, viciously killing people and cursing up a storm, was the cherry on top. If you didn’t feel even a little something when Laura turned the cross into an ‘X’, you have no heart. Score: 9.7/10 Pairs of Reading Glasses
2. The Bad Batch (Ana Lily Amirpour)
Another pretty personal pick, I remember seeing the trailer for this film and thinking, “this movie looks right up my alley, I’m probably gonna love it” and I got my wishes. Often playing out like an extended music video, I was sucked into the world of The Bad Batch from the opening which doesn’t have any dialogue for the first 15-20 minutes. Powered by a dynamic, physical performance from Suki Waterhouse (who also has one of the coolest names in Hollywood), The Bad Batch is a sun drenched odyssey of self-discovery. In a world where the ne’er-do-wells of the world are dubbed “Bad Batch” and dumped in the outskirts of Texas to fend for themselves, we follow Arlen who seeks revenge on the cannibals who took her arm and leg. But along the way, she begins to question her identity and what it really means to be “bad batch”. It’s really a film about diversity and identity, just set to a sensual soundtrack and the screams of people’s limbs being cut off. This film is also especially easy on the eyes, being an acid trip (in one scene quite literally) of color and landscape. The film has a lot to offer, including a mute Jim Carrey and Keanu Reeves as a cult-leading DJ. Many people wrote the film off as being too stylish, but I just think people weren’t looking hard enough. Another film on this list not for everybody, but it’s a film I felt was made for me. I saw this at the Overlook Film Festival back in April and it held the #1 spot on my list until the last week of the year. If you enjoy stylish, violent genre pieces, let The Dream inside you and give The Bad Batch a chance. Score: 9.8/10 Severed Arms
1. Call Me By Your Name (Luca Guadagnino)
Wow, wow, wow, wow, wow. Another film I wasn’t sure was going to live up to the hype, I held out making my final list to see this movie and was rewarded the best gift on Christmas day in my new #1 film of the year. The best thing about this movie is that it just…happens. For 2.5 hours, Guadagnino transported me to 1983 Northern Italy and I didn’t want to leave. There is so much to talk about in this film, but I’ll start by saying that Call Me By Your Name is not a gay love story. I didn’t get what people meant when they said that until I watched the film, but it isn’t. This movie is one of the most pure, genuine love stories ever put to film. The story follows Elio (Timothée Chalamet), an intellectual 17 year-old who falls for his father’s latest graduate student, Oliver (Armie Hammer) during a steamy summer in 1983. The pair exchange numerous moments of sexual tension before giving into their desires, resulting in a special bond being forged between them. The acting in this film is top notch, with 2017 breakout star Timothée Chalamet giving one of the most subtle and tender performances I’ve seen in a long time. His vulnerability, the way he held his gazes, his cool charisma that never comes off pretentious…it was like watching a veteran actor at work.
Speaking of veterans, Michael Stuhlbarg has appeared in THREE Best Picture contenders this year but gives his finest performance here. I also don’t think Armie Hammer has recieved enough credit, pulling off the difficult ‘supporting/co-lead’ role perfectly. He did the perfect amount to have his presence felt without overshadowing Chalamet, while also having good chemistry. It’s hard to talk about the film because not a lot happens on paper, but when watching you just witness these moments. People mention the piano scene, the peach scene, the monologue scene; beautiful moments and scenes that can be picked throughout the film to illustrate the gorgeous tale being told. The editing is quite interesting: scenes would linger past where you’d think they would end, time shifts without warning, and you just ride the wave of the film. Guadagnino did a wonderful job adapting the source material, making the story easier to take in. One little detail that helped capture that was the decision to film in chronological order, so you can really feel the time spent with these characters. Since the moment the hauntingly beautiful credits ended, I’ve wanted to return to the world of Call Me By Your Name. Or just like the characters in the film, I yearn to watch this film again. Give me the gorgeous music, the scenery…hell, put the film in 4D so I can smell the creeks Elio and Oliver swam in. My only complaint of the film was that it wasn’t long enough, I could have been swept away by this erotic tale for 5 hours. This film was the perfect film to end the year, as all year I desired for a film to hypnotize me the way Call Me By Your Name did. Score: 9.9/10 Peaches (sorry, no such thing as a perfect movie, but this one is close!)
New Year, Who Dis?
Welp, hopefully you made it to the end of this thing! The 2017 cinematic year has just about wrapped up, minus award shows. Final assessment: while the year offered a higher number of pretty damn good movies, there were less movies that really moved me like the 2 previous years. I still can’t decide if that’s good or bad, but I’m a week late on this list as it is so no time to dwell on the past. 2018 is already underway and a lot of movies to see. That’s it for my list, hopefully it makes you wanna watch at least one of them. If you want to keep track of all the movies I watch this year or see my FULL LIST of ranked 2017 releases, follow me on Letterboxd! And of course the quickest way to get my thoughts is on Twitter: follow me, let me know what you thought of my list, send me your list, shit on my hot takes, whatever floats your boat! Keep an eye out on the website, too, many projects, articles, and reviews to come. Until then, keep it weird.
“DeVaughn, DeVaughn, DeVaughn, DeVaughn, DeVaughn, DeVaughn, DeVaughn…”
“2017, I remember everything.”