It makes perfect sense that, with everything else messed up about America in 2017, the year in movies would be so lackluster. The summer box office returns were the worst in years, but even more generally, I didn’t find that 2017 stacked up to past years. Even my favorite movie from 2017 didn’t blow me away like the top movies of 2016 or 2015. So while I would normally spotlight my 10 favorite movies in this list, I don’t think 10 really deserve it. So, of the 112 movies released in 2017 that I have seen so far, here are my 5 favorites, followed by my 5 least favorites.
In my opinion, “Brad’s Status” (from writer/director Mike White) didn’t get nearly enough attention this year. In the film, Ben Stiller plays a father on a college visit with his son. The trip drudges up old memories of his college days, and makes him think (too much, probably) about how financially and personally successful his college friends are now. Brad’s relationship with his son (played by Austin Abrams) plays a major role—as a man, and as a son, I related to both Brad and his son at different points. Watching “Brad’s Status” was a deeply personal experience for me. Maybe it would be for you, too.
4. Get Out
Jordan Peele stunned the world when he released his directorial debut, “Get Out,” and it was better than any directorial debut since “Citizen Kane”…okay, so maybe that’s a stretch, but the social satire—about the dangers of casual and internalized racism—was an instant horror classic, bound to be watched and enjoyed for decades. Hopefully its grim message is no longer relevant in the future, but, sadly, I’m sure it will be.
“Kedi” (“cat” in Turkish) is by far the most joyous surprise I encountered this year. Never has a documentary filled my heart with so much cheer. Did you know that on the streets of Istanbul you’ll find thousands of cats? They beg for food, they fight over territory, they nap on park benches and awnings. The film focuses on a number of cats, and the citizens who help to take care of them—they feed them, they take them to the vet. In return, they say, the cats’ very presence makes their every day a little brighter. It’s something to behold.
2. War for the Planet of the Apes
After James Franco and some not-yet-perfected motion-capture technology ruined “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” for me, I had low hopes for its first sequel, “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.” After the 2014 blockbuster blew me away, with its incredible visual effects and compelling rooted-in-myth storyline, I feared “War for the Planet of the Apes” would be a let-down. I shouldn’t have worried so much. Andy Serkis’s Caesar is a sight to behold. If the Academy Awards never finds it in their hearts to reward motion-capture performances, they better give Andy Serkis a lifetime achievement award before he dies. The conclusion to this epic trilogy lands it firmly among the great action franchises of all time, even despite the wobbly first entry.
1. The Post
Steven Spielberg’s hastily made journalism procedural about the leaking of the Pentagon Papers was bound to be a success. Meryl Streep had never before worked with Spielberg (aside from some minor voice work) or her co-star Tom Hanks. Considering they may be the most accomplished director, actress, and actor of the modern era, that alone should have caused excitement. But with a story as timely as this one, about the second most damning Nixon scandal, “The Post” quickly became the year’s best film.
Proceed with caution. Below you’ll find the 5 movies (let’s call them “flicks”…it feels more fitting) that I found the most annoying, most disappointing, and least everything else.
5. (tie) Lost in London Live and Wilson
Woody Harrelson almost redeemed himself with decent performances in “War for the Planet of the Apes” and “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” (I still think his co-star Sam Rockwell is leagues better in that movie), but he had an awfully disappointing start to 2017. First, he got experimental with “Lost in London,” which played on screens as he recorded it. It was surprisingly successful…or, at least, the technique was. The story, based on partly true events that happened to him twenty years ago, when he was arrested in London, is so uninteresting I would be bored even if he told it as a 5-minute anecdote at a holiday party. In “Wilson,” based on Daniel Clowes’s graphic novel, about a socially dysfunctional man who discovers he’s the father of an emo teenager, Harrelson’s character is so unlikable it’s impossible to enjoy a movie with him in it.
When the best part of your movie is the semi-decent vagina pun in the title, you’ve got problems. People thought having Goldie Hawn back on screen after a notably long absence would be a good thing. It turns out, movies are better without her. Or maybe, this movie was just unsalvageable from the get-go. Probably that.
Somehow, the fact that “9/11” wasn’t the worst movie of the year seems like a small victory. Terrible production value would have killed it had they not shot almost all of it in an elevator. If it had been more about the attack, and less about five people trapped in an elevator, it would have been worse. Somehow, by the grace of God, “9/11” wasn’t as bad as it could have been. But still, it was really, really bad.
The worst movies of the year are often saved for the earliest months. Maybe they think critics will forget how bad they are by the time these end-of-the-year lists come out. Lucky for “Sleepless,” the first movie I saw in 2017, that’s partly true. I’ve forgotten nearly every single thing about this movie. It wasn’t that “Sleepless” is laughably bad, like the last movie on my list, it’s that it is so unoriginal and forgettable that it seems like a gigantic waste of money that it was even made in the first place. If reports of its budget are accurate, it barely made a profit–about $2 million.
I never had any doubt about this one. No movie this year was so eye-rollingly terrible, so laugh-at-not-laugh-with silly, and so egregiously wasteful of my time as “47 Meters Down.” After last year’s “The Shallows,” I was excited when another female-led shark movie was set to release. How wrong I was.