2017 was another great year for film. Maybe the best movies of the year didn't come from the most traditional places, but it was a year marked by stellar superhero flicks, clever comedies, and multiple hidden gems that proved streaming services are now a force to be reckoned with. Here are 2017's best of the best.
We went far too long without a new Edgar Wright movie, thanks to that whole "Ant-Man" business. Thankfully, Wright made up for lost time this year with "Baby Driver," a stylish and delightful action movie that blends dynamic visuals and sound into one effective whole. If anything, Wright only seems to be getting better with age.
'The Big Sick'
Authenticity is a key ingredient for good comedy, and that's one reason "The Big Sick" has emerged as one of the best comedies of the year. This story of a struggling comedian (Kumail Nanjiani basically plays himself, in the movie he co-wrote) confronting unexpected love and an equally unexpected tragedy. The awards contender is as hilarious as it is heartfelt.
'Blade Runner 2049'
There's no reason why "Blade Runner 2049" should have worked as well as it does. The original film came out 35 years ago, and in that time it's become an untouchable sci-fi classic. But depending on whom you ask, the sequel either lives up to or even surpasses the first. It's a gorgeously crafted film, one that explores the oldest, deepest question in science fiction: What makes someone truly human? This sequel argues that those manufactured with programs have more humanity than those built with souls.
'Call Me By Your Name'
The last shot -- over which the end credits roll -- is so damn good, and powerful, and emotional, and layered that you'll get choked up just thinking about it. I am. There are many love stories set during the lazy days of summer in Europe, but none achieve the heartbreaking romance of this deserved awards contender. It's the type of film you watch and wish you could tell your friends you made.
'The Disaster Artist'
There's no small amount of irony in the fact that a movie about the making of one of the worst films ever wound up being one of 2017's best. "The Disaster Artist" offers a hilarious and compelling glimpse inside the mind of eccentric actor/director Tommy Wiseau (with James Franco similarly pulling double duty here. His directing style also highlights the importance of believing in your dreams, even when no one else does.
'The Florida Project' (2017)
With an effortless, "you're-right-in-it" approach to impoverish life at a rat trap hotel in Florida, director Sean Baker achieves near-documentarian levels of realism with this tale of a young, rebellious child, her responsibility-immune mother, and their earnest (but broken) landlord (Willem Dafoe). All of them try to make ends meet and find each other in the process.
Is there any distributor with a better track record than Blumhouse these days? "Get Out" proved to be another instant horror classic, one that showcased the unique voice of writer/director Jordan Peele. "Get Out" proved so resonant because it's a horror film with a lot to say about the state of race relations in our post-Obama climate.
Were "I, Tonya" simply another feelgood sports biopic about an aspiring figure skater working her way up the ranks, it would still be well worth watching, thanks to the mesmerizing performances of Margot Robbie and Allison Janney. But this isn't just any biopic, it's the story of infamous Olympic hopeful Tonya Harding. The result is a slick, hilarious and slightly unnerving look at one woman whose thirst for glory led her badly astray.
Greta Gerwig has repeatedly impressed us in front of the camera, but she really blew us away with her directorial debut. "Lady Bird" draws heavily from Gerwig's teenage years as it explores the titular teen heroine's (Saoirse Ronan) various coming-of-age struggles in early 2000's Sacramento. It's a smartly crafted teen comedy that avoids so many of the tropes of that genre.
We're glad director Steven Soderbergh gave up on that whole retirement thing. Basically the Southern-fried inverse of the "Ocean's Eleven" films, "Logan Lucky" offers a darkly comic caper about a group of siblings plotting a heist at a North Carolina race track. Soderbergh clearly didn't lose his touch during his time off.
The success of "Logan" is all the more impressive when you consider how terrible the first solo Wolverine movie was. Director James Mangold pushed the X-Men franchise in a starkly different direction, one that proved to be far more tragic Western than superhero epic. The film gave us a fitting sendoff to Hugh Jackman's Wolverine and Patrick Stewart's Charles Xavier, while also establishing Dafne Keen's X-23 as a worthy replacement to the late, great Weapon X.
"Mudbound" helped establish Netflix as a new force to be reckoned with in the film distribution world. Great writing, assured performances (especially from Mary J. Blige), and confident directing all bolster this film, which explores the parallel journeys of two men (one white and one black) returning home to Mississippi after WWII.
"Okja" is another film that showed how big a player Netflix has become when it comes to new movies. This film captures acclaimed director Joon-ho Bong at his most charming, chronicling the misadventures of a young girl (Seo-Hyun Ahn) who does her best to protect her hippo-like companion from a sinister corporation.
It was pretty much a given that another joint effort between director Paul Thomas Anderson and star Daniel Day-Lewis would rank among the best films of the year. "Phantom Thread" doesn't necessarily reach the height of the duo's magnum opus, "There Will Be Blood," but it's nonetheless a beautifully made film that serves as a fitting final bow for the now-retired Day-Lewis.
Clearly, coming home to the Marvel Cinematic Universe is the best thing that could have happened to Spider-Man. After a decade of progressively more terrible movies, Peter Parker found his second wind in a film that blended epic superhero conflicts with John Hughes-worthy high school comedy.
'War for the Planet of the Apes'
The Planet of the Apes has experienced an amazing resurgence in recent years, culminating with the third and final part of this rebooted trilogy. The amazing motion capture work and special effects have to be seen to be believed. But beneath all the fancy special effects, this sequel tells a very dark, satisfying tale about vengeance and compassion.
'Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri'
Despite a second half that gradually devolves into an over-plotted, almost forced, collection of scenes and dynamics, "Three Billboards" succeeds on its first half alone, telling a very R-rated, very funny, and very tragic tale of one mother's search for justice at the cost of almost completely losing herself in it. Frances McDormand gives a career-best performances as the mother hardened by grieving, regret, and the all the messiness of life in-between that her gaunt face tells us she's really lived. Woody Harrelson is also scary-good and likable as the small-town sheriff standing between the mom and what she wants. And while the film more than implies a payoff to her search, setting up a potential culprit and unlikely pairing of characters en route to deliver that a-hole's comeuppance, it wisely never delivers that resolution. Because that's what a lesser movie would do, one more concerned with a fourth-act revenge plot instead of "Three Billboards'" more honest take on how life, especially when it concerns the unresolved loss of a loved one, is unfair. It's all about the journey here, chronicling the price that vendetta -- that need to find solace in why and how and who -- has on those willing to take on, and be surprised by, the path they let it take them on.
2016 gave us two highly disappointing new entries in the DC Extended Universe. WB needed to prove that there's hope left for this cinematic universe, and "Wonder Woman" rose to the challenge. This epic story of an Amazonian princess discovering her inner hero was exactly the sort of defiant, hopeful superhero adventure we needed this summer.
'The Shape of Water'
Who would have thought that a movie about a woman falling in love with a hideous fish-man would emerge as one of the most moving and romantic films of the year? That's the power of director Guillermo del Toro, who once again blends quiet character drama with the fantastical to amazing effect.
"The Post" is considered to be the first major film crafted specifically as a response to the 2016 Presidential election. Even though it chronicles the clash between crusading Washington Post and New York Times reporters and the Nixon Administration, it's a film deeply relevant now. And with the winning combination of director Steven Spielberg -- and stars Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks -- the film has no trouble drawing in viewers and leaving them enthralled.