Woohoo! Another year done and hundreds of movies seen, and countless more to go. But none of that matters. Right now, we’re taking a look back on what I believed to be the best, my favorite, and most impactful films of this past year.
Before we begin, here are a few honorable mentions. Others will be listed as the countdown continues.
THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS
GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2
WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES
VICTORIA & ABDUL
RESIDENT EVIL: VENDETTA
THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE
#10 – THE FOUNDER
The biopic of Ray Kroc, played by Michael Keaton (BATMAN ), and how he took the fast-food company McDonalds and made it the worldwide sensation that it is today. This is arguably the movie that I got the most unique kick out of, both in the sense of humor and utter terror. Being someone who works in the restaurant industry, I’ve worked for companies that were only interested in one thing, and Ray Kroc said it best: “Franchise, franchise, franchise!” Expansion of name and cutting corners to raise profit and income at the expense of quality food, service, and maintenance. Anyone who works in the restaurant industry will probably get an eye-full of what their respective big-wigs discuss behind closed doors and may not be surprised why certain decisions are made. But at the end of the day, this is a great and enjoyable film. With Keaton at the helm, supported by the likes of Laura Dern (JURASSIC PARK) and Nick Offerman (PARKS AND RECREATION), it’s a serious winner.
IMDb – 7.2/10
RottenTomatoes – Critics: 83% / Audiences: 82%
#9 – WIND RIVER
The story of a young FBI agent, played by Elizabeth Olsen, and her local hunter de facto partner, played by Jeremy Renner, and how these two try and give justice to a young Native American girl who was raped and died in the snowy wilderness. If you haven’t noticed, this isn’t a movie for the faint of heart. This is not set out to give you warm fuzzies. Having said that, it is an important film that tackles a subject that isn’t often talked about, at least in America: the Native Americans in reservations. With statistics that will either baffle you, anger you, or both, it’s an eye-opener unlike anything I’ve seen this year. Granted, the film isn’t based on a real, specific case, but the events depicted are truth as far as what goes on in these remote places that are far too easily ignored and overlooked. With strong performances from veteran Avengers actors Renner and Olsen, this is about as dark and disturbing as you can get, but it’s an important film and one that I urge to be seen at least once.
IMDb – 7.8/10
RottenTomatoes – Critics: 87% / Audiences: 91%
#8 – GET OUT
Talk about a movie that takes your expectations and nonchalantly throws it in the garbage and shows you something beyond screwed up, but utterly mesmerizing and cheer-worthy. The story is about a young interracial couple, a black boyfriend and a white girlfriend, who go off to visit her wealthy parents. What’s supposed to be a romantic getaway turns into something uncomfortable as the parents have servants of color, make racist remarks that may or may not be intentional, and the help around the house acts strange as well. This psychological horror is creepy, hilarious… but what else could you expect from the mind of Jordan Peele (KEY AND PEELE), who wrote and directed this? Amazing writing, acting, and visuals, you really can’t go wrong with this.
IMDb – 7.7/10
RottenTomatoes – Critics: 99% / Audiences: 87%
#7 – ONLY THE BRAVE
One of the most emotionally powerful films of the year, this film centers around the true story of the 2013 Yarnell Hill fire that killed nineteen firefighters: the Granite Mountain Hotshots. While I take slight issue with the fictionalization of certain aspects of these peoples’ lives, the movie shows its respect when it needs to most: during the Yarnell Hill fire itself. And while certain details that proceeded the disaster were left out of the movie, I believe the film is ultimately respectful of the brave men who lost their lives and effectively makes your appreciate the efforts of these people everyday, thanks to wonderful performances by Josh Brolin (SICARIO), Miles Teller (WHIPLASH), and Jennifer Connelly (REQUIEM FOR A DREAM) in one of her best performances in years. Borderlining more on a horror movie than a biopic drama, this movie is hard to watch, but it’s incredible and one that deserves the highest of respect.
IMDb – 8.0/10
RottenTomatoes – Critics: 88% / Audiences: 93%
#6 – THE RED TURTLE
Technically this movie was made and released in 2016, but that was overseas. America didn’t get this gem until 2017, so I say it still counts. Arguably one of the most unique animated films I’ve ever seen in my life. The story follows a shipwrecked man, who eventually finds his way to dry land. With no hope of rescue, he learns to survive and eventually falls in love with a woman and they have a son together. This film is gorgeous, and a good chunk of that is likely due to this being a Studio Ghibli film… kinda. You see, only six Ghibli animators worked on this and it wasn’t made in Japan, but rather France. So this is a French-Japanese animated film. One of the most unique aspects of the film is that there’s barely a shred of dialog. The expressions of the characters say everything and it’s even more incredible considering that the characters are very basic in their design. You feel every emotion. It’s an ode to the circle of life and if the animation itself doesn’t move you to tears, then the story will. Beautiful, powerful, masterfully crafted, this is about as perfect as an animated movie can get.
IMDb – 7.6/10
RottenTomatoes – Critics: 94% / Audiences: 80%
Here are some more honorable mentions:
Similar to RED TURTLE, this film was technically made and released in 2016, but also like RED TURTLE, this is also a French film. It was really hard to choose which animated film I liked better, but I ultimately chose this over RED TURTLE because, it’s stop-motion animation, which I always think is the most impressive kind of animation, and it’s an adoption story, and anyone that knows me really well knows that those are some of my favorites. This movie is not for kids, mind you. While it’s light-hearted, it has some deeply rooted dark and disturbing subjects that are tackled. It’s about a little boy named Zucchini, who accidentally kills his violent and drunken mother in fear and is sent to an orphanage, where he meets other troubled youths. Slowly but surely, he finds his place there, making friends, falling in love, and develops a family in its own right. This film is masterfully told. The script is so simple, but the simplicity is what makes it so endearing. These aren’t kids who talk like adults. They’re kids who grew up too fast and are dealing with their own respective problems, hoping to one day find real homes of their own. Even if you’re one of those English-speakers who don’t like foreign films and don’t want to read subtitles, fear not, for there is an English dub with an impressive voice cast, consisting of Ellen Page (JUNO) and Nick Offerman. It’s a story that will break your heart and make you laugh, it’s the best animated film of the year.
IMDb – 7.8/10
RottenTomatoes – Critics: 98% / Audiences: 87%
#4 – DUNKIRK
Christopher Nolan does it again. When he’s not being groundbreaking in superhero and sci-fi films, he’s gotta do something amazing in period war films too. Seriously, just do a musical comedy and show us that your feet are made of clay, Nolan. Anyway, the movie centers around three stories taking place over different courses of time around the World War II British mission, Operation Dynamo. It’s a unique film, in that it’s not character driven. The main character is Dunkirk itself, the battles and near-nameless soldiers that fought, died, and survived their German attackers. But that’s not to say that there isn’t some great star-power inserted. Tom Hardy (THE DARK KNIGHT RISES, MAD MAX: FURY ROAD) as the pilot, Mark Rylance (BRIDGE OF SPIES) as a civilian sailor, and Cillian Murphy (BATMAN BEGINS, INCEPTION) as a shell-shocked British soldier, there’s a ton of talent to get behind. This film may not be my number one favorite film, but I can’t deny that I think it’s the best-made film of the year. With practical effects, intense action sequences, and sound design to utterly die for, this movie needs to be re-released in theaters periodically or watched on the a home theater system with amazing sound, otherwise you may not get the proper experience. And with the approval of actual British soldiers that fought in Dunkirk, ignore any critics or historians who are naysayers. This is one of Nolan’s best films.
IMDb – 8.2/10
RottenTomatoes – Critics: 92% / Audiences: 81%
#3 – BLADE RUNNER 2049
I admit, I wasn’t a huge fan of the first film. Granted, I probably saw it at a time when I couldn’t appreciate that caliber of film-making. I thought it was slow, uninteresting, among other likely bulls**t reasons. But after seeing its successor, I am very curious if my current taste in films would see it in the same light. This film is incredible. The visual style, the cyberpunk post-apocalypse setting, the mythology of this universe, the imaginative technology, the incredible performances by Ryan Gosling (LA LA LAND), Harrison Ford (STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS), and Ana de Almas (HANDS OF STONE, WAR DOGS), this is arguably one of the most impressive and intelligent sci-fi films I’ve seen in years. In fact, I have no idea when I last saw a sci-fi film of this caliber… actually, it might have been Denis Villeneuve’s last sci-fi outing, ARRIVAL. But this movie has visuals, a great story, interesting characters, and a world that’s just ripe for exploration. Honestly, I don’t know if I’d want to see another sequel. Who knows what kind of care would go into the film like this one. But if this is where it ends, then I can’t claim that to be a bad thing. It’s a spectacular film and it’s motivated me to give the previous film a second chance.
IMDb – 8.4/10
RottenTomatoes – Critics: 87% / Audiences: 81%
#2 – BRIGSBY BEAR
I bet you have no idea what this movie is. That’s okay. A lot of people criminally don’t. I bet it doesn’t even sound interesting, does it? I mean, just listen to that title. “Brigsby Bear?” That sounds like something a toddler would watch. Well… actually, you’re not too far of the mark, but it’s a far more complicated story than that. The story is about a late twenties man who lives with his parents in an underground home. All his life, he’s ever known is one television kids program called “Brigsby Bear.” A show that has entertained him since childhood, and challenges him in his adulthood, mathematics and science and all that. His parents are loving, but as it turns out, they’re not his real parents. One day, the police arrive and his parents arrested. Turns out, the man’s parents kidnapped him as a baby and raised him as their own. But as efforts are made to settle back in to his life with his real parents, all he can think about is the unfinished series of Brigsby Bear, which was a TV show his kidnapper father created for him. After getting introduced to movies, he sets out with new friends to make his own movie based on his beloved TV show. This is bar-none, the most original film I’ve seen this year, as well as the most emotional. It’s not a movie about a kid’s show. It’s about a man who has to adjust to his new life, it’s an ode to creativity and imagination, and learning to let go and embrace the future. It’s an inspirational story that is so expertly crafted. With a heartbreaking and hilarious performance by SNL veteran Kyle Mooney, who also wrote the script, I couldn’t recommend this movie more fiercely if I had a million years to try. I promise you won’t regret it.
IMDb – 7.4/10
RottenTomatoes – Critics: 80%/ Audiences: 88%
Before I hit my number one pick, here’s the last of my honorable mentions.
Also, guys a quick word, I am a member of Amazon Associates
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#1 – WONDER WOMAN
Ain’t a single one of you should be surprised by this. DC films, outside of Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, have been… lackluster, to say the least. Sure, Tim Burton’s first Batman film is a classic, as well as the first couple Christopher Reeves Superman flicks, but other than them, a good DC adaptation isn’t easy to find. MAN OF STEEL and SUICIDE SQUAD were either loved or hated, BATMAN V SUPERMAN was unanimously disliked, there was a ton of pressure for WONDER WOMAN to do well, and many didn’t believe it could work. How could it? DC’s top two best selling comic characters were being terribly represented. Not to mention, after the disastrous BVS, it was announced that certain big-wigs were being removed from helming future DC films and a new set of talent was brought in. It may only partially have saved SUICIDE SQUAD, but unless it was a stroke of luck, it saved WONDER WOMAN. It was a gargantuan hit and widely beloved. Basically it’s the best DC film since THE DARK KNIGHT and the best lighter DC film since the Reeves Superman films. That’s… scary to think about. But more than anything, it’s both appropriate and important that this holds such popularity and success. For one thing, even though this isn’t the first time a female has led in the action drama (Underworld, Resident Evil, the Alien franchise). It’s not even the first female-led superhero film (SUPERGIRL ). Hell, if you want to get really technical, it’s not even the first Wonder Woman movie. There was a direct to TV version made back in 1974 staring former tennis player turned actress Cathy Lee Crosby, which was supposed to serve as a pilot to a TV show that eventually became the Linda Carter-led TV show. However, few, if any, of those aforementioned films were considered good. Maybe they hold popularity, but they’re not critical successes, and audiences probably don’t see them as well-made films. Entertaining, or possibly cool and stylish. But not good. WONDER WOMAN had all of it. It’s own visual style, compared to the rest of the DC Extended Universe, it was a critical success, it was widely beloved by audiences, made huge sums of cash, and it was entertaining, cool, and most importantly, great. Subverting many clichés, endearingly simplifying the characters and making them likable, distinguished, and memorable, this film was about as all-encompassing as a DC film has been able to get for years. On a personal level, it should probably say a thing or two when I tell you that I saw this film five times in theaters. And since having it on Blu-Ray, I’ve seen it a couple more times, and it still hasn’t gotten old. I laughed, I got choked up, I cheered, I got inspired, this film had so much fearfully working against it, but it came out on top spectacularly. Is it technically the best film made this year? No, DUNKIRK holds that distinction. Is it the most emotionally impactful movie this year? Nope, BRIGSBY BEAR holds that one too. But WONDER WOMAN changed the course of DC films and got the world hopeful for a brighter future in their films. JUSTICE LEAGUE has gone on to be a mixed bag in of itself, but it’s still considered not too bad and an improvement over what could have been, but no matter what angle you look at it, WONDER WOMAN paved the way for a fresh set of expectations. We want to see more. We want to see this same level of quality characters and storytelling. As such, this holds firm as my favorite film of the year.
IMDb – 7.6/10
RottenTomatoes – Critics: 92%/ Audiences: 88%