2017 has been a hell of a year. In this ninth year for Punch Drunk Critics, we grew our staff, reviewed even more movies, and sat back as Hollywood moved in some long-awaited (Wonder Woman!) and much-hyped (Star Wars: The Last Jedi!) directions. There were reboots and sequels galore, from Jumanji to Spider-Man to Trainspotting to XXX. A female-led, R-rated comedy — starring women of color, no less — was one of the huge earners this summer, as Girls Trip achieved phenomenal success. Toward the end of the year, indies like Lady Bird and Call Me By Your Name dominated conversation, while Jordan Peele’s Get Out remained relevant for months after its spring release. And there were some big-budget missteps, too, like DC’s Justice League, and some you-shouldn’t-have’s, like Transformers: The Last Knight and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales.
But we’re not here to talk about the year’s disappointments — we’re here to list our favorites of 2017! For your reading pleasure, our picks. (And check out Travis’s list of his top films of the year, which you can find here.)
NO. 3: THE SHAPE OF WATER
Guillermo del Toro has a particular formula: a fairy-tale-like princess placed in disenfranchised circumstances; an otherworldly task that seems impossible; a desire for acceptance and affection and love, even for beings that seem monstrous or unnatural. He’s already made one masterpiece in that mold with Pan’s Labyrinth, and he comes damn close to another one with The Shape of Water. Del Toro’s specific preferences and thematic obsessions are all over this film — fascism parading as everyday bureaucracy, a female protagonist rejecting the limitations placed upon her, a fascination with the details of an at-first horrifying being — and everyone in it is perfect, especially Sally Hawkins, doing the most in a performance that asks her to speak with her eyes and her face and her body, never her voice. But she makes herself heard regardless, and it’s damn impressive that she and Doug Jones, in that full-body fish-man suit, are able to draw viewers into a love story that shouldn’t make sense but still resonates deep within your bones and your heart. Another opportunity for del Toro to explore what makes the “other,” and another beautiful result.
NO. 2: BLADE RUNNER 2049
Blade Runner 2049 is everything we could have wanted from a sequel to Ridley Scott’s original, a visionary work that casts an imaginative eye toward the future while still considering the ramifications of the past. Director Denis Villeneuve and cinematographer Roger Deakins create a world that is unsure of its own reality, that has taken so many steps toward innovation that it has lost everything natural and organic, and yet still longs for it. Agent K’s desire to be human. Wallace’s obsession with creating a replicant that can give birth. Joi’s yearning to truly touch K and be loved by him. And, of course, Deckard’s memory of Rachel and his rejection of a false representation of her — his knowledge that nothing copied can compare with the real thing. Blade Runner 2049 confronted questions of personhood and identity with gorgeous visuals and measured grace, and it underperformed at the box office, much like the original Blade Runner did, and yet it is deserving of the cult status we provided the first film. It is phenomenal.
NO. 1: MUDBOUND
I already fear what is going to happen with Mudbound, and I’m already pissed off about it. The film from director Dee Rees is a new American classic, an examination of the country’s ugly history and a consideration of the impacts of racism, segregation, and prejudice through economic and social means. The script is insightful and nuanced; a speech toward Mary J. Blige late in the film is a heartbreaking admission of parental love and devotion. The ensemble is perfect, with staggering work from the aforementioned Blige, along with Jason Mitchell, Rob Morgan, Garrett Hedlund, and Carey Mulligan. The visuals are gorgeous, tapping into the beauty of the American south yet capturing the violence rotting it from within. And yet this is a Netflix film, and one that I doubt many AMPAS voters will bother to watch given the industry-wide bias against the streaming giant. What a mistake they would be making. What an epic they would be ignoring. Mudbound is the best film of the year.
NO. 3: WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES
It’s very hard to finish a trilogy strong. Even the OG, the Star Wars trilogy had Ewoks. Needless to say, most of them, while entertaining, don’t live up to the legend of their predecessors. However, the “reboot” series of the Planet of the Apes franchise finishes strong with War for the Planet of the Apes.
Andy “Someone Give Him His Damn Oscar” Serkis, once again dons the latex and dots to deliver yet another outstanding performance as Caesar, now the leader of the apes in the war against mankind. He still wants to find a way out of the horror of war, yet he has to lead and protect his own. Like the previous Apes film, this is a damn near flawless anti-war film hidden in an action blockbuster film. It throws in some Easter Eggs to the original Apes films as well as deliver some great performances by both humans and apes, especially Steve Zahn as “Bad Ape” and Woody Harrelson as The Colonel. War for the Planet of the Apes concludes the trilogy and sticks to the landing.
NO. 2: GET OUT
When the trailers for Get Out first started airing, it would have been laughed off. After all, Jordan Peele was the guy from Mad TV and Key and Peele, not exactly a guy best known for his horror writing. However in his directorial debut, Peele change the landscape for not only the thriller genre, but he knows how to make a damned good social commentary film.
Daniel Kaluuya, who we really only knew from Black Mirror and Sicario gets his American breakout as Chris, who goes to meet his white girlfriend’s parent for the first time. At first, it can seem like Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner for a new generation. Through the next 90+ minutes, we get a very nuanced look at race through the prism of Chris as he struggles to deal with these supposed white liberals. However, something’s wrong, and we get to see just how far out of left field the movie can go. As a result, we now know what the “Sunken Place” is, and many frequently use that to describe someone who’s lost their way, especially on “Black Twitter.” Get Out is a monumental film that will be studied for years to come.
NO. 1: BLADE RUNNER 2049
I gotta confess… I did not see the original Blade Runner when it came out. It was just one of those movies that passed me. I knew it was a classic, but it just looked “old” by the time it was my turn to see it. At the urging of friends, I saw the original “Director’s Cut” just before the sequel was about to come out. I was like, “this is boring, this is boring, this is… HOLY %$% THIS IS AWESOME!!” After finally seeing the original and falling in love with it, I knew I was gonna eat up Blade Runner 2049.
And eat it up I did! Continuing in the world build on the classic, Blade Runner 2049 gives us the story of a new Blade Runner, this time Ryan Gosling goes outside his comfort zone as agent K. This time, they don’t leave you wondering or guessing if he’s a replicant or not, they just flat out tell you his status. As a result of one of his missions of taking down rogue replicant, he comes across a new mystery surrounding the idea that replicants could reproduce. From there on, we go deep down the rabbit hole of the Wallace (and Tyrell) Corporation to figure out the mystery of everything that has happened since the original movie. Harrison Ford returns after 35 years to yet another one of his iconic roles of Rick Deckard, and like his work in The Force Awakens, he still does it flawlessly (just don’t do Indy another time Harrison!). Director Denis Villeneuve, who’s been on a roll since Sicario, continues to be at the top of his game, director-wise (CANNOT WAIT for his take on Dune). The visuals, especially K’s holographic girlfriend Joi, are outstanding. The film once again makes you listen to each word uttered, while taking in some breathtaking shots, for a story we have waited more than 30 years for. Blade Runner 2049 is easily one of the best films of the year!
Dee Rees was already an amazing filmmaker but Mudbound was a completely amazing film that as of right now I don’t feel is getting the credit it deserves. This film is set in time period of the second world war and with two families, one white and one black on a sharecropping farm. Each member of the cast excels in their performances full of nuance and subtlety. Clearly one of the best films of the year let alone the decade that most likely won’t get it’s due because of the industry’s beef with Netflix and it’s original films. I hope as many people as possible watches this film.
War for the Planet of the Apes:
There are very few franchises that I really care about these days. Ones that not only well crafted but also have depth and the current reboot/prequel/reimagining of The Planet of the Apes is the one for me. The story of Ceaser and his battles against humanity to just keep his clan of apes safe. This last film with its mix of a classic western like the Searchers and a prison film Cool Hand Luke really kept this story interesting for me something to go back to at a later time. The Performances were top notch from the great Andy Serkis to the always good Woody Harrelson. If you haven’t seen this underrated gem put that on your make up list to watch in 2018.
Blade Runner 2049:
The more I think about this film the more I think that this is one of the few times that a sequel surpassed the original. The tale K and his journey into the mystery of the special replicants he had to “retire” had me on the edge of my seat. With a by far the best visual & production design and cinematography of the year. There’s a lot going on in this film in how it deals with race and society like the first and like the first one it didn’t do as well with critics and did poorly with the box office but it’s a film that like the first will stand the test of time in my opinion and inspire more folks to push and make even better work.
favorite films of all time happens to also be the worst thing ever made. In
what’s basically a real-life version of The Producers, 2003’s The
Room attempts for high drama and fails so spectacularly that it turns
around and becomes one of the funniest movies of all time. Throughout the film,
writer/director/producer/star/space-alien-trying-to-blend-in Tommy Wisseau
displays a very loose grasp of how movies work or people behave. When coupled
with his ambiguously Eastern European accent and genuinely haunting appearance,
this creates such a perfect storm of madness that mortal human minds can’t even
attempt to comprehend what’s happening in front of them. Over the past decade
and a half, the film has become legendary, inspiring Rocky Horror-rivaling
midnight screening parties. Eventually, its unlikely popularity led to a “how
did this even happen” memoir by Greg Sestero, one of the co-stars. Now, thanks
to noted crazy person James Franco’s legitimately admired new movie The
Disaster Artist (which takes its title from Sestero’s book), Tommy
Wisseau has finally achieved the impossible: Oscar buzz.
bizarre mannerisms while somehow managing to make us relate to him. We start to
understand why he insists on making this film and dragging Sestero (played by
James’ brother Dave) down with him. An exploration of the weirdest possible
friendship, Disaster Artist is equal parts hilarious and heartbreaking. We’re
shown both Tommy’s and Greg’s perspectives on the hell that was shooting The
Room, without taking sides. Frame-for-frame recreations of the now
infamous scenes from the original film are presented by a brilliant (and
surprisingly high profile) cast nailing their straight-man reactions to
Wisseau’s hostile strangeness. The film services both fans of the cult classic
Room newcomers, letting Tommy’s story speak for itself. Its strange,
underrated five minute funk-punk song from 90’s weirdos Jon Spencer Blues
Explosion, begins to play. A car pulls up outside of a bank. Three robbers get
out and pull their guns preparing to rob the place. We see them enter the
building and begin to fire in the air, but instead of following the violence,
we focus on their driver, in his own world behind the wheel, enjoying the music
on the radio, reactionless to the bank robbery across the street. As the music
builds, the three bad guys get back in the car and, with no dialog, the chase
begins. Outrunning and outsmarting the cops, the driver calmly pulls into a
parking garage, where everyone gets out like nothing happened.
and now with Baby Driver, writer/director Edgar Wright has at
last given me the gift I’ve always wanted. A romantic dramedy/music video/heist
movie, Baby Driver also figured out how to make Ansel Elgort likeable,
casting him as the titular reluctant getaway driver who times his crime sprees
to the music on his iPod (one of the coolest plot devices ever).
slick and stylized, with every footstep and bullet shot synched up perfectly to
its incredible soundtrack. But it never goes overboard. Wright’s story gives
legit heart to its hero, adding substance to the style, and emotional weight to
the action set pieces.
tired of it. It’s just so rad.
of Water. Guillermo Del Toro’s dark fantasy is a meditation on the
blind, powerful beauty of love and the equally powerful flipside-of-the-coin:
the fear and hatred of things beyond our understanding.
year as the mute cleaning lady of a secret government facility in the early
1960’s, who meets and falls in love with an equally nonverbal amphibious
monster being housed in the building’s basement. Meanwhile, the ominous shadow
of Michael Shannon’s sociopathic All American Agent looms over the heads of the
unlikely couple, as well as every other oppressed voice he encounters,
determined to destroy anything he views as a threat to his power.
poem, using its setting and characters to comment on the nature of being
powerless in America. In every other movie, Michael Shannon is the hero,
defending society from the Communists and monsters who threaten our way of
life. By reversing the perspective, Del Toro gives voice to the voiceless.
Literally. As soon as those themes kick in and register with you as an audience
member, your mind spends the rest of the movie spinning, questioning all of the
other deeply flawed conventions and stereotypes you’ve been conditioned to
accept, while you’re simultaneously being swept away by the literal story being
told as well. At its core, Shape of Water is a rather simple
story about the desire to love and connect, which is just as powerful as the
film’s dark, satirical undertones. Both aspects of the story carry their weight
and break your heart.
of Tomorrow 2
long short film World of Tomorrow Episode Two: The Burden of Other People’s Thoughts is
one of the year’s best films as well. It’s difficult because it’s a short, so
it doesn’t carry the same End-of-Year-Listicle appeal as a feature would, but
setting aside length, this is just as dense and compelling as any of the other
films we’ve mentioned.
World of Tomorrow, this latest installment The Burden of Other People’s
Thoughts continues the high-concept silly existentialism that the
original so brilliantly introduced. This film had me uproariously laugh-crying
at its whimsical, optimistic hopelessness. Short or not, this is one of the
best things I’ve seen all year.
No. 3: Logan
This is a movie that was rightfully praised when it first came out near the beginning of the year, but I think has since kind of been forgotten about in this wave of great cinema for the year and I think that’s part of the reason as to why I chose this for my personal top three; Logan deserves love too. Besides that fact, the biggest reason as to why I picked this movie is because it showed me the potential of superhero movies. Being as big of a film lover as I am, I have a semi-love/hate relationship with the genre; they’re the bane of my film buff existence because while I know what their presence means to the public (comic book fans especially), I also know what their presence means to the industry as a whole as well.
With that being said, this movie showed me that superhero movies have the ability to just be great movies and that they don’t have to rely on the same plot and beats every single time (even though one can’t help but to draw parallels between the plot for this movie and the plot of a video game called “The Last of Us”). Hopefully, this movie has started the train of putting to rest the “well it was good for a superhero movie” reviews and actually raise the bar for the genre as a whole if it is what we have to look forward to in the upcoming years.
No. 2: Baby Driver
It was so good, I paid to watch it twice. Baby Driver is one of those movies that I believe will stand the test of time. It’s fresh and original take on the tropey, criminal-heist story that we’ve all seen before and mixing that in with it’s new-age musical feel that makes you redefine what an actual musical is, is what makes this movie stand out to me as being the best of the best. Whether it’s the infamous Edgar Wright transitions and edits, the phenomenal acting jobs from everyone involved (except maybe Baby’s love interest in the movie, I found her to be a bit “eh”), or the incredible attention to things like color or music, this movie was amazing from start to finish and deserved every single bit of praise that it got.
No. 1: The Disaster Artist
The Disaster Artist is a movie that from start to finish is incredibly inspiring, genuinely funny, and just downright entertaining. James Franco delivered what I think is his best work in a role that I believe will get him the Oscar by being able to bring out the humanity and eccentricity of someone like Tommy Wisseau without walking past that fine line and making him feel to cartoony or alien-like. To me there were no flaws for this film; and if there were, they went undetected by me. I think that that is a testament to just how entrancing this entire movie is and how it will keep you engaged from start to finish.
No. 3: Coco
Coco is not only the best animated film of the year, but one of the best films of the year period. It tells the story of Miguel, who wants to break away from his family’s long line of shoemakers to become a musician. The movie is heartfelt, spotlights Mexico’s day of the dead in a way that ties it in to the importance of family. Even more than that, the film touches on heavier themes, like that of being forgotten. The music is memorable and what’s also great about the film is not only does Miguel come to see things through his family’s eyes, but his family learns to do the same. Death is a heavy subject to tackle, but Coco does it in a way that is both lighthearted, riveting, and emotionally moving.
No. 2: Ingrid Goes West
This choice is shocking to me, to be honest. I saw this film at Sundance in January of 2017 and loved it, but didn’t think it would make my list by year’s end. I saw it again over the summer and it’s easily one of the more overlooked films of the year. While making end of the year lists and rearranging the order, Ingrid Goes West just wouldn’t leave my thoughts. In the age of social media, it’s easy to discard this film as another one of the “too much social media and phones are dangerous” types, but it’s much more than a PSA. Ingrid, played masterfully by Aubrey Plaza, and Taylor (Elizabeth Olsen), are both similar, but in very different ways. Ingrid Goes West dives into the effects of loneliness, the rose colored glasses that shape the way we view people’s lives through Instagram, and the realness we can miss out on while too busy chasing the dream of being social media famous while wanting to be seen.
No. 1: Mudbound
Mudbound is one those masterfully made films that has largely gotten overlooked during awards season. Director and co-writer Dee Rees brings together a racially charged drama that is as exceptionally made as it is written. Set post-World War II, the film focuses on two families who share land, but are separated by racial segregation, economic class, and societal power structure. Visually beautiful and powerfully executed, Mudbound is intense and heart-wrenching; it touches on topics in a way that isn’t afraid to make those reluctant to acknowledge racial issues uncomfortable. It also boasts a tremendous ensemble cast who put in phenomenal performances. It might be getting shamefully overlooked, but it deserves to be seen by everyone.
of others that I considered worthy of being on this list. In the end, I am happy with my choices. I did find it interesting that
in all three of these movies the director also wrote the film. Maybe this is just a
coincidence, or maybe this enabled them to truly take a hold of the project and
make it their own – just some food for thought. Without further ado, my top
three films of 2017:
film that tells a powerful story of a wildlife tracker and FBI agent working
together to solve the murder of a teenage girl on the Wind River Indian
Reservation in Wyoming. Jeremy Renner
and Elizabeth Olsen both give memorable performance that help drive this
compelling murder mystery. The film also touches on personal loss, overcoming tragedy,
racial ties, and family bonds all while providing the viewer a glimpse into the
rarely seen dynamics of Indian Reservations. Taylor Sheridan, who is known for
penning the screenplays for Sicario and Hell or High Water, has his
fingerprints all over Wind River
which he wrote and directed. I could not have been more impressed with this
being his first major directorial project. Wind
River is chilling at times and will leave you thinking about messages
portrayed throughout the film long after it ends.
Baby Driver is one hell of a ride. Baby Driver is a refreshing take on the
classic heists movies – combining action, humor, and music to deliver a
memorable product that I could not recommend enough. Wright’s use of music
throughout the film is truly fantastic. He manages to weave music throughout
the narrative bringing it to the forefront of the film at times and leaving it
in the background at others, but it is always present in some form. Combine
this with stellar performances from Ansel Elgort, Kevin Spacey, Jon Hamm, and
Jamie Foxx (as well as others) and you’ve got yourself a movie that is clearly
one of the best of 2017.
Jordan Peele’s directorial debut. Of course everyone knows him from his comedic
efforts, but as more information was released about Get Out it was clear that he was entering some uncharted territory
for himself – not only in directing a film for the first time, but one that was
not centrally focused on comedy. Don’t get me wrong, Get Out has consistent humor throughout, but it is so much more
than a silly comedy. Peele manages to touch on a litany of racial and social
issues while telling a fresh and innovative story. The entire cast excels and
meshes incredibly well, the story leaves you captivated throughout the runtime,
and the film has staying power. Everyone I know was talking about it for weeks
after having seen it, many of them going back for multiple viewings. Get Out was a fantastic film that
deserves to be my best movie of 2017.