The 10 Best Films of 2017 (JimmyO)

Another year has come to an end, and that means it’s time to look back at a mostly impressive selection of features. Sure there were a number of disappointments, but there were more than a few pleasant surprises. Patty Jenkins gave us a Wonder-ful superhero origin story. Andy Muschietti gave life to a terrifying clown haunting the children of Derry, Maine. And let us not forget the modern day adult fairy tale that Guillermo del Toro gifted us this holiday season. In fact, oftentimes in 2017, I found it very easy to disappear into the world of cinema and forget about the real world for a couple of hours.

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While putting my personal list together this year, I did something slightly unusual, I tried not to look at other top 10 lists beforehand. Instead, I went back to the beginning of the year to see what inspired, what terrified, what broke my heart and what created an unforgettable movie going moment. And yes, there were a ton of adventures to take. Of course working on a site with other critics, there are a few features I missed out on in theatres. I never had the chance to see I, TONYA, DARKEST HOUR and ALL THE MONEY IN THE WORLD. Thankfully, I’ll have quite a few movies to check out after the new year.

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Generally I start off with a few runner-ups, movies that didn’t quite make my list this year. For starters, I was astounded by the gorgeous cinematography in BLADE RUNNER 2049, courtesy of the legendary Roger Deakins. Anne Hathaway shined as an alcoholic who may or may not be triggering a monster attack in Seoul in COLOSSAL. And James Franco made something truly special by doing a hilarious, yet touching, take on the making of THE ROOM in THE DISASTER ARTIST. It will be ironic to see Franco and company up for possible Academy Award nominations, especially since the inspiration for the film is considered by many one of the worst movies ever made.

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Weird can be wonderful, and COLOSSAL embraces the bizarre. The real star here is Anne Hathaway who is outstanding as a woman who may be the cause of a Godzilla style attack on Seoul, while Jason Sudeikis adds terrific support. If you are looking for something truly original, this might be the perfect beast to take on.


My expectations were high for James Franco’s take on the making of the classic bad movie THE ROOM. I was expecting funny thanks to a smart advertising campaign and the talent involved, but I wasn’t ready for such a heartfelt portrait of Tommy Wiseau. Not only did James do a great job as the cult figure, but he also did a fantastic job directing this love letter to bad movies. Look out for a terrific performance from Dave Franco as Tommy’s pal Greg Sestero as well. If you want to do it right, have a double feature with THE ROOM and THE DISASTER ARTIST, and you'll be in for a treat.


It’s not controversial to say that putting Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep together in a Steven Spielberg movie might be a guaranteed success. And yes, THE POST is a success on many levels. Yet the drama itself is surprisingly grounded in this story about the first female newspaper publisher faced with posting a story about a massive government cover-up during the Vietnam War. The performances are terrific, and it is certainly engrossing watching this unfold in today’s political climate. A must see for anyone interested in our history and just how the relationship between political power and newspaper reporters has changed in only a few decades.


Taylor Sheridan has a real talent examining the darker side of human nature. This was evident by his screenplays for both HELL OR HIGH WATER and SICARIO, but it's especially powerful here. WIND RIVER also features what may be the best performances we’ve seen from Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen. This is an excellent and very disturbing feature that is well worth checking out.


Much like the original film by Ridley Scott, BLADE RUNNER 2049 divided audiences. For this viewer, the slow burn sci-fi sequel was impossible to take your eyes off of. Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford work off of each other especially well, and director Denis Villeneuve creates a world that seems to expand perfectly from the 1982 original film. However, it is the exceptional cinematography from the legendary Roger Deakins that was absolutely jaw-dropping. It feels as though we are saying this every year, but his work here is most assuredly deserving of Academy Award recognition.

10. Brigsby Bear

BRIGSBY BEAR is a delightful surprise, yet it's a comedy with an unusually dark story. If you’ve not experienced it, I’d rather keep the plot of the film secret because it's perhaps one of the most original screenplays you’ll see this year. As disturbing as it could have been, it’s hard not to find joy in the insanity as James (Kyle Mooney) attempts to recreate a children’s show called Brigsby Bear Adventures made only for him. Directed by Dave McCary, there is more humor and heart than you’d expect. Add to that an incredible supporting cast that includes Mark Hamill, Jane Adams, Greg Kinnear, Matt Walsh and Michaela Watkins. This is a brilliantly bizarre trip and it will put a huge smile on your face.

9.  Call Me By Your Name

One of my favorite filmmakers happens to be James Ivory. As a writer and director, he has given us incredibly eloquent works like HOWARDS END, A ROOM WITH A VIEW and THE REMAINS OF THE DAY. While he did not direct CALL ME BY YOUR NAME, his screenplay is reminiscent of some of his very best features. Thankfully however, this is a beautifully directed feature by Luca Guadagnino. It's a confidant romance that simply tells the story of two people who fall head over heels for each other. Armie Hammer gives one of his best performances to date, yet it's the instant chemistry he shares with Timothée Chalamet that really makes it work. This lush and provocative film also features one of the most emotionally impactful moments of the year courtesy of Michael Stuhlbarg. Leave your expectations behind and just enjoy this modern love story.

8.  War For The Planet of The Apes

It’s beyond impressive what Matt Reeves has accomplished with this incredible franchise – he took over the series for DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES. And this third film is a charm. WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES once again gives Andy Serkis the chance to shine with his brilliant work. Along with the groundbreaking effects, Andy continues to give Caesar life, and he certainly deserves to be recognized for his heartfelt portrayal. Another fine addition to the cast is Woody Harrelson who continues to prove what a fantastic actor he is. This is an incredible tale, and yet another reminder that Mr. Reeves is one of the most exciting filmmakers around. The effects are outstanding, but as visually astonishing as it is, it never loses sight of the epic and profound story.

7.  Maudie

Most of you probably have never heard of this intimate, yet striking biographical feature. The title only caught my eye thanks to a critic friend of mine – the same one who recommended BRIGSBY BEAR. This came up after talking about Sally Hawkins acclaimed performance in THE SHAPE OF WATER. And here she is again. Much like her other work, she is absolutely brilliant as Maud Lewis – a folk artist suffering from severe arthritis. This quiet and honest love story revolves around her unique relationship with her husband Everett Lewis (Ethan Hawke). The two actors deliver vivid and exceptional portraits of this real life couple, so much so that it is easy to get lost in their sweet story. Filmmaker Aisling Walsh embraces the beauty of the landscape, the rich characters and this fine romance perfectly.

6. Brawl in Cell Block 99

In the age of hyperbole, you really have to be careful when you hear something like "this is the best thing ever." Yet, saying Vince Vaughn gives the best performance of his career may not be an exaggeration. BONE TOMAHAWK writer and director S. Craig Zahler gives us yet another intense work with BRAWL IN CELL BLOCK 99. The story of a former boxer turned criminal builds and builds to a intensely – and not surprisingly –  brutal climax. Smart and compelling, this revenge drama unfolds with an effective slow burn that only makes the final sequence all the more thrilling. Add to that, another great character for Don Johnson who is proving to be quite the talent at this kind of supporting role.

5. Wonder Woman

Gal Gadot is a revelation as a modern day hero with a heart. And Patty Jenkins tells the story of WONDER WOMAN with style, tons of thrills and glorious inspiration. In many ways, this origin story reminded me of the very first time the world saw the legendary Christopher Reeve and his take on SUPERMAN. Gadot’s Diana Prince is something special, someone that truly wants to make the world a better place without cynicism or a need for vengeance. The rest of the cast is also quite good. Chris Pine – who is quite heroic himself – is excellent as Diana Prince’ first love. The same can be said about Robin Wright, Connie Nielson, Danny Huston, and especially Lucy Davis

4. It

Horror is tricky, and creating a satisfyingly scary feature is not an easy achievement. And yes, some folks didn’t feel the scares that this big screen take on Pennywise the Dancing Clown brought, but for this viewer it worked brilliantly. This is as much a coming-of-age drama as a frightening look into the darkness that the town of Derry, Maine hides. Bill Skarsgård may be fantastic as the evil being living inside the visage of a creepy clown, but it's the Losers’ Club that gave this flick a huge heart. Jaeden Lieberher, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Sophia Lillis, Finn Wolfhard, Chosen Jacobs, Jack Dylan Grazer, Wyatt Oleff all reminded us about the horrors, humor and heartache of being young. After a fantastic part one, I cannot wait to see what Andy Muschietti brings to the next round.

3. Logan

After years of watching Hugh Jackman truly own the character of Logan/Wolverine, it was writer/director James Mangold who took this story to a brand new level. LOGAN may have elements of a superhero movie, but it is more than that… much more. Jackman is at his best as we see his complete emotional and physical journey as Logan. And then there is Patrick Stewart and Dafne Keen, both of whom give Academy Award worthy performances. The talented Boyd Holbrook is terrific as well, making for a solid bad guy. Mangold gets this right. This R-rated take on Logan is brutal with intense action sequences, yet it has an emotional impact that is equally as important. If Hugh Jackman is officially done with Wolverine, there was no better way to say goodbye than this.

2. Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri

I loved IN BRUGES and I had a terrific time with SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS. Yet, the latest from Martin McDonagh hit me in unexpected ways. This story of a mother and her quest to pressure the police department to find her daughter’s killer makes for a hilarious and heartbreaking journey. The script is fantastic, and Frances McDormand once again gives us a brilliantly complex performance. The cast as a whole is perfect, both Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell deserve plenty of accolades as well. McDonagh is one of the most impressive filmmakers working today, and this is a perfect example of great storytelling.

1. The Shape of Water

This is something special. Guillermo del Toro’s masterful feature is a celebration of the beauty and power of cinema. It’s more than a monster movie, a romance, or even a musical, it’s everything that makes going to the movies wonderful. Sally Hawkins gives one of the best performances of the year, and lets not forget the incredible talent of Doug Jones. If that wasn’t enough, you also have Octavia Spencer, Michael Shannon, Michael Stuhlbarg and an exceptional performance from Richard Jenkins. This is an extraordinary work, and ranks up there with del Toro’s very best.


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JimmyO is one of’s longest-tenured writers, with him reviewing movies and interviewing celebrities since 2007 as the site’s Los Angeles correspondent.