This may have been a terrible twelve months for humanity, but it was a phenomenal time for movies.
With epic spectacles Dunkirk and Blade Runner 2049, slices of life Lady Bird and The Florida Project, and nightmarish horror stories IT and Get Out, 2017 distinguished itself with standout pictures across all genres—and gave us plenty of opportunities to hide away in the darkness of the theater.
Blade Runner 2049
While it’s not exactly surprising that an R-rated sci-fi neo-noir underperformed at the domestic box office, Blade Runner 2049 is by far the best movie of the year and one of the best movies in the past several years. The story is as clever as it is captivating, Roger Deakins’ cinematography is jaw-dropping... Ryan Gosling is in it. 2049 hits every note and works seamlessly. Did we mention there are badass fighting robots? As of press time, we’re still waiting to see Steven Spielberg’s The Post, Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water, and Paul Thomas Anderson’s Phantom Thread, all of which have received early praise from critics. But it’d be difficult for any of them to unseat Blade Runner 2049 as the year’s best.
The Dead Horse Award:
Transformers: The Last Knight
Speaking of fighting robots, 2017 saw Michael Bay once again punishing millennials with his fifth assault on the once-beloved Transformers franchise. The Last Knight was, to no one’s surprise, the worst-reviewed movie in the series, but that’s not stopping Paramount from pumping out a Bumblebee spinoff in 2018 and a sixth Transformers installment in 2019, tentatively titled Transformers 6: The Search for More Money. Somebody please make it stop. Optimus Prime doesn’t deserve this.
As previously mentioned, Phantom Thread hasn’t been released yet. So giving Daniel Day-Lewis the ol’ tip of the cap seems a bit premature. But seeing as he’s probably the greatest actor of his generation and is sure to go hard in what will be his final acting gig, and seeing as how this is our list and we can do whatever we want, here we go—Best Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis. In Phantom Thread, he’s again teaming up with Paul Thomas Anderson, whose 2007 masterpiece There Will Be Blood snagged Day-Lewis his second of three Best Actor Oscars. How could this not be legendary? Honorable Mention: Let’s also acknowledge Daniel Kaluuya here, since neither he nor Get Out will likely get any love from the big award ceremonies. It’s a shame given the sneaky brilliance of both Kaluuya’s performance and Jordan Peele’s directorial breakout as a whole.
Best Original Screenplay:
You know what, let’s go ahead and give Get Out its due. Jordan Peele’s inventive, terrifying, and insightful screenplay goes so far beyond your typical horror movie that it’s hard to even classify it. (The Golden Globes certainly fumbled when determining the film’s genre.) Peele’s been doing amazing work for years, but nobody could have predicted just how good his directorial debut would be. Get Out is easily one of the best movies of the year—and the fact that it’s not your typical award winner makes it all the more worthy of accolades.
Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
The Post, The Shape of Water, and Molly’s Game have all received buzz for Best Actress, but as far as released movies go, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri’s Frances McDormand tops the list. McDormand is perennially solid, but her latest role as a woman fed up with the police after her daughter’s murder stands out as one of her best. McDormand flexes so many different muscles here, knocking everything out of the park, that it’d be a shock if she didn’t take home some hardware this awards season.
Worst Stephen King Adaptation:
The Dark Tower
This year saw four Stephen King stories turned into movies: IT, The Dark Tower, Gerald’s Game, and 1922. While Gerald’s Game is considered one of King’s worst books, it was actually the film rendition of The Dark Tower, King’s self-proclaimed magnum opus, which distinguished itself as the biggest flaming pile of garbage. Idris Elba’s casting was a huge cause for optimism, but rather than going with a close adaptation of the first book, The Gunslinger, the studio mashed a bunch of plot points together for a less engaging and far more scatterbrained storyline, which it tried to play off as intentional and crafty. Matthew McConaughey’s acting as the Man in Black doesn’t help, as he basically plays a weird, almost comical, villainous version of himself. The tragedy here is that fans of The Dark Tower have been waiting decades for a movie adaptation of Roland Deschain’s near-eternal quest. This is how their patience is repaid.
Best Supporting Actor:
Willem Dafoe, The Florida Project
While the kids steal the show in The Florida Project, Willem Dafoe’s turn as a big-hearted motel manager is the best supporting role of the year. Dafoe’s career has been largely defined by more intense portrayals, so seeing a tender side, and how well he can pull it off, is a treat that will surely up people’s perceptions of the actor. That’s not to say he’s without some ferocity. One of the more noteworthy scenes finds Dafoe’s character catching a strange man hanging around the motel kids—and handling the creep with quick-witted, papa bear dominance.
Most Unnecessary Remake:
This is one of the more hotly contested categories. You’ve got Beauty and the Beast, which remakes a classic and at times feels like a shot-for-shot copy—but worse. Then there’s Baywatch, which had 21 Jump Street potential, but fell far short of the mark. And then there’s The Mummy, an action movie so blah not even Hollywood’s most reliable presence, Tom Cruise, could save it. Since Beauty and the Beast and Baywatch weren’t outright offensive, The Mummy takes the crown here. It’s the franchise reboot that nobody wanted, only made worse by its execution. The trailer did give us that hilariously bad Tom Cruise scream, though, and for that, we’re forever grateful.
Most Accurate Depiction of a Catholic School:
Greta Gerwig’s coming-of-age tale of Sacramento angst hit a bunch of nails on their heads: teenage sexuality, complex maternal relationships, marching off to a college as far away as possible. But for those of us reluctantly sent to Catholic high schools, it also offered a spot-on depiction of private religious education. Not that this is wholly unexplored territory, but Gerwig manages to capture the little nuances—like keeping six inches for Jesus between you and your S.O. while dancing—that make Catholic school such a weird place to grow up. Lady Bird never makes any judgment, only presenting the backdrop and allowing its characters to wander. So while Lady Bird chomps on communion wafers and fights back against a teacher’s guilt-trippy abortion narrative, she still ultimately deems it sad that some people can’t believe in God. Only a truly authentic Catholic school setting could inspire that sort of spiritual dissonance.
Best Superhero Movie:
This year saw a few decent superhero movies (and then Justice League), but Logan separated itself from the pack by taking risks and subverting the stale Save the Universe storyline so omnipresent in Marvel pictures. It was great seeing Wolverine, a character known for brutally murdering people in the comics, finally unleashed in an R-rated movie. Tackling the downswing of aging superheroes was an interesting avenue for the film to take, with a broader human storyline outdoing the coolness of mutant powers. We live in hope that Logan’s success shows Hollywood there’s demand for more adult-oriented comic book stories.
Best Use of a Bed Sheet:
A Ghost Story
If you saw the trailer for A Ghost Story, you might have laughed at the ridiculous Charlie Brown-type phantom walking around a field. But David Lowery’s meditation on life and death is anything but funny. The filmmaker initially tried using a real bed sheet, but ultimately had to use a custom piece of cloth and simplify his blocking to give his protagonist the spectral quality he desired. The result is a stupidly simple idea come to life in an utterly brilliant fashion.
Most Disturbing Act of Cannibalism:
Mother! was troubling for a lot of reasons, but—spoiler alert—a baby getting ripped apart and eaten probably tops the list of disturbing acts.
Best Supporting Actress:
Laurie Metcalf and Sylvia Hoeks (tie)
Laurie Metcalf has had quite the year, filming the Roseanne revival, winning a Tony award, and perfectly embodying the overbearing mother archetype in Lady Bird. Metcalf’s role is small in scope, but she articulates so much that her performance seems wholly real. If you, like us, found Lady Bird astoundingly true to life, Metcalf plays a huge part in that. On the polar opposite side of things, we have Sylvia Hoeks as the murderous replicant Luv in Blade Runner 2049. Hoeks’ progression is fascinating to watch: She begins as a buttoned-up corporate type, courteously showing Ryan Gosling’s character around the office. Sooner rather than later, she devolves into a sadistic killing machine and the best villain of the year.
Charlize Theron, Atomic Blonde
Charlize Theron’s British accent in Atomic Blonde is abysmal. Sure, it winds up a plot point rather than a failure on her part, but that only undermines the film further. Somehow no master spy picks up on her dubious origins? We’re as unimpressed with their powers of observation as we are with Theron’s unplaceable brogue.
Goofiest Looking Villain:
David Thewlis, Wonder Woman
Like all DC movies of late, Wonder Woman has some major flaws. Yes, Gal Gadot is great as Princess Diana of Themyscira. But her nemesis? Not so much. Spoilers: As a very telegraphed plot twist reveals David Thewlis’ Sir Patrick Morgan to actually be Ares, god of war, Thewlis undergoes a magical transformation from dapper British gentleman to armor-clad god—all the while maintaining his accent and his distinctly British period-piece mustache. It’s hard to take the ultimate battle for the fate of the world seriously with a foppish cookie-duster poking out every other shot.
Feel-Bad Movie of the Year:
The Safdie bros’ Good Time is the kind of movie where anything that can go wrong does go wrong, and with every twist of terrible fate we’re pulled deeper into the mire. Robert Pattinson dominates the movie as bank robber Connie Nikas, showing off terrific acting chops that years of Twilight movies kept hidden. It’s not easy making a scumbag likable, and while Connie is too deplorable to ever been seen as a good guy, Pattinson’s range helps us sympathize with his quest to save his brother from the clink. That doesn’t mean it’s easy to watch.
Best Animated Feature:
There weren’t many good animated pictures this year, but that shouldn’t detract from the wonderful novelty of Coco. Pixar’s tale of a boy who crosses into the land of the dead was a huge step toward telling more diverse stories. Its realization was both respectful of traditional Mexican culture and fresh in its storytelling approach. Coco is the complete animated package: a poignant story fleshed out with a dazzling spectacle—Pixar’s most eye-catching visuals in years.
Worst Opening Short Ever:
“Olaf’s Frozen Adventure”
We're still mad that we were forced to sit through twenty-some agonizing minutes of “Olaf’s Frozen Adventure.” While we're glad Disney and Pixar have decided to remove the shameless Frozen plug from theaters, we're sad that we’ll never get those minutes of our lives back. Fuck you, Olaf.
The Big Sick
The Big Sick tackles some seriously heavy subject matter, but having lived through the experience, co-writer and star Kumail Nanjiani is able to bring a necessary dose of levity to an otherwise harrowing story. Nanjiani shows surprising range for a comedian, but above all he shows off his ability to make anything funny, a fact that fans of less mainstream comedy have been keen to for years. Ray Romano almost steals the show, but it’s ultimately the former’s film.