Ezra’s Top 10 Favorite Movies Of 2017

By Ezra Stead 

These choices don’t get any easier to make year after year, but I do become increasingly more aware of just how inconsequential they really are. I certainly hope no one reading this takes my opinions any more seriously than I do. Anyway, this year I managed to see 125 new releases, so this top ten plus the 20 constitutes roughly the top 25% of all that I saw. Just know that I really liked even more movies than that, which might account for all the superhero and/or “space battle” movies you might be shaking your fist at me for not including. I’ve also included my three least favorite movies of 2017 at the end, because life’s too short to not make fun of bad movies. Let’s do this thing! 

1. GET OUT—Who knew the debut horror film by a sketch comedian would end up being the best movie of the year? I mean, anyone who watched Key and Peele knew Jordan Peele was a talented writer with a particularly keen sense of satire, but when I heard he was making a horror movie, I thought it would be an interesting novelty, maybe an above-average horror-comedy at best. From the opening scene, though, it’s clear that this is legitimate horror first, scathingly brilliant social commentary as a close second, and comic relief only a distant third (mainly relegated to Lil Rel Howery’s excellent supporting role). Peele has called his debut feature a “social thriller,” and it’s the best kind of social issues movie: one that delivers its message via an incredibly gripping and absorbing story, thereby reaching far more people than a direct polemic ever could. With influences ranging from The Stepford Wives to Being John Malkovich, Get Out is nonetheless an excitingly original vision that I have little doubt will be talked about for years to come. Peele is on top of the game right now, but I don’t envy him the impossibly high expectations he’s raised for his second feature (just kidding, of course I do).

2. THE FLORIDA PROJECT—I could tell from the trailer that this was going to be one of the most beautiful movies of the year, and it did not disappoint. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a more convincing, resonant portrayal of childhood in poverty—the sweat, the mischief, the endless waiting for nothing. From the first frame, the children in this movie are delightful, and the level of realism writer-director Sean Baker achieves is remarkable. So, too, is Willem Dafoe as Bobby, the property manager who acts as a sort of surrogate uncle to the kids who live (though never establish permanent residence) in the budget motel he oversees, but the movie really belongs to those kids, especially the wonderful Brooklynn Kimberly Prince as Moonee. Words really can’t do justice to this heartbreaking, hilarious, exceptionally human film.

3. MOTHER!—Unlike The Florida Project, this is a movie whose trailer gave me almost no idea what to expect, and judging by the divisive response, I’m guessing I was not alone. Truth be told, there was really no way to properly market this insane gem, and Jennifer Lawrence fans expecting a new starring vehicle for Katniss Everdeen can be forgiven for not knowing what to make of this one. Fans of Darren Aronofsky—the visionary director of Pi, The Fountain, and Black Swan (just to name the three I find most similar to this one, in various ways)—may have been slightly more prepared. However one comes to it, though, Mother! is not an easily digested movie, and one that practically demands repeat viewings, unpleasant as it certainly is to watch at times. The Biblical allegory is the most apparent and easiest way into the rich layers of meaning contained within the narrative, but it also has fascinating insights into environmental catastrophe, domestic partnerships, separating art from the artist, and the very nature of creation and destruction. It’s one of the most brilliant and daring monstrosities ever released by a major Hollywood studio.

4. BRIGSBY BEAR—This is (unofficially) the best Saturday Night Live movie since Wayne’s World. Of course, it doesn’t really count, since the characters and story weren’t first developed on the late-night sketch-comedy institution, but a good deal of talent both onscreen and off came from there, so I like to think of it that way. Anyway, read my full review here.

5. IT—Both of my regular readers know what a Stephen King fanatic I am, so this shouldn’t surprise either of you. Despite its flaws, this is the best theatrically released King adaptation in a long time, and it could be just the beginning of something really special if Chapter Two lives up to the promise of this one. Full review here.

6. JOHN WICK CHAPTER 2—Speaking of living up to high expectations established by a terrific first movie…. This is, no hyperbole, one of the all-time great second entries in a franchise, doing everything a worthy sequel should do: upping the ante, further developing the world and its characters, and setting up nigh-impossible expectations for the next one. The fight scenes are mesmerizing; I could watch Keanu Reeves demolish people with his bare hands and their own guns all day. Beyond the fights, though, the secret underground world of assassins is expanded here in ways that are just glorious to behold, including a certain franchise-hopping reunion on a rooftop that should bring a smile to even the most weathered, blood-spattered face. Here’s hoping the legendary emcee Common returns as Cassian in Chapter 3!

7. LADY BIRD—I was frankly shocked by how much I ended up loving this movie. There are just so many ways it could have gone wrong and turned out cutesy, or trite, or too obvious, and it avoids every pitfall by just staying genuine and true. I also just wasn’t really expecting it to be so damn funny. It’s quietly heartbreaking in equal measure, but never maudlin and always authentic. From the hilarious cold open to the guest speaker in the gymnasium, this is a movie for everyone who was ever a rebellious, overly dramatic teenager (which is to say, a teenager). One thing I love is the way writer-director Greta Gerwig deftly sidesteps any lazy villainous characterizations. There are no bad guys in this movie; Marion McPherson (Laurie Metcalf, in a career-defining performance) may lean too heavily into the whole “tough love” thing at times, and Lady Bird (Saoirse Ronan, also phenomenal) herself is kind of a pain in the ass at other times, but they are fully realized, wholly believable people with real love and affection between them. What’s really miraculous is how the movie’s supporting characters receive equally empathetic treatments, especially Lois Smith as the coolest nun at Lady Bird’s Catholic high school, and Stephen McKinley Henderson as the saddest priest.

8. BRAWL IN CELL BLOCK 99—I hope you didn’t think I went soft on you just because I teared up a little writing that last entry. Let’s get into the staggering brutality of S. Craig Zahler’s neo-grindhouse masterpiece. It’s a slow burn (fans of Zahler’s also excellent debut Bone Tomahawk know that means anything but dull), but if you’re not hooked from the moment Vince Vaughn’s Bradley Thomas tears apart a car with his bare hands, this one might not be for you. Bradley is a calmly efficient killing machine, but a smart and principled one, and Vaughn’s pivot away from his usual sarcastic motormouth persona is impressive; he’s really never been more convincing than he is here. The title’s similarity to John Carpenter’s classic Assault on Precinct 13 is no coincidence, as Zahler is perhaps the most worthy heir to Carpenter’s throne who’s come along yet, which is to say he’s one of the most exciting filmmakers currently working. The title of his next feature is Dragged Across Concrete, which indicates he’s not planning to water down the elements that make this one so great in the slightest.

9. COCO—At this point, Pixar movies come with a reasonable expectation of extreme quality, but even with that in mind, this is some top-tier work, a movie that manages to feel really intimate and personal while simultaneously being really big and extravagant. It really kicks into gear when Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez), the aspiring-musician protagonist, finds himself in the Land of the Dead, a simply gorgeous vision of brightly colored cityscapes, living alebrijes (spirit-guide animals), and multiple Frida Kahlo impersonators. Miguel’s alebrije, accompanying him from the land of the living, is a dog named Dante (get it?), and he is one of the great onscreen canines of history. Wisely, the filmmakers did not imbue him with speech; he is all the more charming without it.

10. GERALD’S GAME—This is my oddball pick for the year, a movie that is probably not on anyone else’s list or mind at this point, but I think it’s terrific. Director Mike Flanagan has become one of my favorite new filmmakers over the last few years, beginning with the surprisingly great Oculus in 2013 and culminating in 2016’s Hush, of which I felt vindicated in my opinion after I heard Stephen King loved it at least as much as I did. In many ways, Flanagan’s adaptation of King’s novel in this movie is a more perfect adaptation even than It; he captures the narrative perfectly, right down to its not insignificant flaws (primarily in the denouement). Those flaws take it down a few pegs, but great performances from Carla Gugino and Bruce Greenwood, as well as some incredibly striking images, keep it afloat. As scary as It is, this movie has the most frightening moment I saw all year, as well as one of the most viscerally hard to watch (there’s really no missing either one of these moments).


THE BEST OF THE REST (in alphabetical order): Baby Driver; The Big Sick; Blade Runner 2049; Colossal; Detroit; The Disaster Artist; The Girl with All the Gifts; Good Time; I, Tonya; Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond—Featuring a Very Special, Contractually Obligated Mention of Tony Clifton; Kong: Skull Island; Raw; The Salesman; The Shape of Water; Split; Strong Island; Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri; Vore King; Walking Out; Your Name.



1. THE LITTLE HOURS—Painfully unfunny period farce, made all the more painful by the wealth of talent involved. I’ve wasted too much ink on it already. Read my full review here.

2. MAYHEM—This movie feels like it was directed by a guy whose favorite movies are The Boondock Saints and Wanted, and who only realized after cutting all his footage together that it was horribly incoherent, so he brought his lead actor back to record a bunch of expository voice-over. This gambit did not pay off. Seriously, even beyond the near-constant voice-over (you think it’s gonna end after the first five minutes or so, but it just keeps going and going), at least half of the actual dialogue is also clunky exposition, and the other half is just threats shouted with GREAT! INTENSITY! Walking Dead fans who miss Glenn and just want to see Steven Yeun all covered in blood again might get some enjoyment out of this, but anyone else intrigued by the premise is advised to watch last year’s vastly superior The Belko Experiment instead.

3. THE SNOWMAN—Watching the opening credits, I couldn’t help but wonder if this movie could really be as bad as its reputation. The names of the people involved, even beyond Michael Fassbender… Charlotte Gainsbourg, Chloe Sevigny, Toby Jones, J.K. Simmons, freaking Val Kilmer? In a production directed by the guy who made Let the Right One In and cut by Scorsese’s favorite editor, Thelma Schoonmaker? No way this movie’s not awesome, right? Well, sad to say, it’s not. Most of the aforementioned actors are really just glorified cameos, with a lot of them speaking in accents that may or may not make any sense given the story’s locale (at any rate, they’re certainly not super-consistent), and the good things about the production are drastically undermined by the way the whole thing just screams, “We’ll fix it in post!” Far too many scenes are carried by some of the sloppiest, most obvious ADR work I’ve ever seen, and did I mention the main character’s name is Harry Hole? It is. Just like it sounded in your head when you read that. With the talent and resources involved taken into account, this has to be technically one of the worst movies ever made, which is what makes so much of it perversely enjoyable. Let’s just call it the best of the worst.

Ezra Stead is the Head Editor for MoviesIDidn’tGet.com. Ezra is also a screenwriter, actor, filmmaker, rapper, and occasional stand-up comic who has been previously published in print and online, as well as writing, directing and acting in numerous short films and two features. A Minneapolis native, Ezra currently lives in New York City, where he is working on his first novel.

For more information, please contact EzraStead@MoviesIDidntGet.com

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