2017 was a great year for movies, especially if you were a horror buff. While the media downplayed it immensely, horror movies kicked major ass in theaters and streaming services, and a few of the highest grossing an most acclaimed films were horror, including a new adaptation of a Stephen King novel, which broke all records. While America wondered if there would be nuclear war tomorrow, Hollywood kept us entertained and laughing, with great superhero cinema, and of course some cathartic genre films of the horror, fantasy, and science fiction variety.
Without further ado: my top 10 of 2017.
10. The Disaster Artist
Directed by James Franco
Release Date: December 1st
The Tommy Wiseau we meet in the funny and surprisingly satisfying “The Disaster Artist” isn’t so much a hack movie maker, but someone trying to prove something to himself. James Franco is brilliant in portraying Tommy Wiseau as a man who likely had been told he was ugly his entire life, and convinced himself he had what it took to become a humongous Hollywood legend if he just threw money at it. “The Disaster Artist” depicts Wiseau and Greg Sestero as Hollywood upstarts looking for their big break, and the Wiseau fears will be placed as Sestero begins to form minor fame. With a great sense of humor and some genuinely funny one-liners, The Franco brothers disappear in their roles, including James who makes Tommy a genuine individual rather than simply parodying him as everyone else had.
Watch With: Ed Wood (1994) 9. Sleight
Directed by Justin Dillard
Release Date: April 28th
The storyteller in me loved the tale of crime, love, redemption and the tale of two tortured souls coming together to form a tight bond in the face of violence. The comic book geek in me loved how “Sleight” is also the origin story of one damn good superhero. I don’t know if we’ll ever see a sequel where “Sleight” has to fight crime again, but I loved the implications in the final scenes of “Sleight.” Dark, violent, and unflinching in its depiction of spiraling in to a world of crime, “Sleight” is a superhero movie dressed as a coming of age drama and I loved it right until the very end. The performances are sincere, the writing is subtle, and the finale is touching. I hope we see more from Justin Dillard and Jacob Latimore very soon.
Watch With: F/X (1986)
8. Atomic Blonde
Directed by David Leitch
Release Date: July 28thth
Despite the somewhat convoluted premise, I fell for “Atomic Blonde” anyway, as a vicious, stone cold action film filled with an amazing cast, and top notch choreography. Many movies of the action genre try to stage raw one on one fights, but fail big time. “Atomic Blonde” brings it’s a game with some knock down drag outs that left me gasping and clutching my seat. I was also seriously engaged in the mystery involving the binder, as well as the potential traitor in heroine Lorraine’s organization. Charlize Theron also brings her A game in a raw and demanding performance that turns her in to a bonafide action star who can knock heads with folks like Jason Bourne and John Wick anyday.
Watch With: Haywire (2011)
7. The Autopsy of Jane Doe
Directed by André Ovredal
Release Date: December 21st 2016 Streaming June 27 th 2017
I cheated with this entry since while “The Autopsy of Jane Doe” technically came out in 2016, it didn’t arrive until well in to December of 2016 unless you saw it at a festival. So this is an in between pick and one I think deserves a spot on my top ten list, period. Though it’s a film confined to one setting, “The Autopsy of Jane Doe” also presents one of the most unlikely nightmarish settings you could ever imagine. When we meet our main characters they’re a pair of men comfortably housed in their morgue, tending to their jobs, but as it becomes apparent the Jane Doe corpse they bring in one day is harboring all kinds of evil, they fight to make it back up to civilization. André Ovredal’s film is effectively ghoulish, fucking creepy and left me sleeping with one eye open for a few nights.
Watch With: The Conjuring (2013)
6. My Life as a Zucchini
Directed by Claude Barras
Release Date: February 24th
This could also fall in to my Overlooked in 2017 category, as it’s a film that was nominated in last year’s Oscars but was released in 2017 in very limited runs. “My Life as a Zucchini” is counted by me, since it was technically a 2017 release in theaters. It’s touching, gut wrenching and amazing tale of innocence lost, a brutal world and how families can be formed anywhere and everywhere. With wonderful stop motion animation and great voice work, this is a simple but remarkable family film about a young boy named Zucchini who finds his first home at an orphanage, and comes of age within its walls. I loved his movie.
Watch With: Pinocchio (1940)
Directed by M. Night Shyamalan
Release Date: May 6th
Having been an M. Night apologist and fan for years, it’s great to finally see the director return to critical favor with two fairly simple but brilliant thrillers. After the wonderful “The Visit,” his horror film “Split” is a fantastic look in to a psychological monster who wreaks havoc on three girls when he kidnaps in a parking lot one afternoon. James MacAvoy and Anya Taylor Joy are stellar in their performances while Shyamalan manages to build a very haunting and terrifying film that’s not just a fight for survival, but one girl’s re-visiting of her childhood trauma involving sexual abuse in the face of a true predator. With a great book end of a final scene, I look forward to more from Shyamalan.
Watch With: Unbreakable (2000)
4. Get Out
Directed by Jordan Peele
Release Date: February 24th
I’ve always enjoyed Jordan Peele’s brand of off beat and bold humor, and he brings much of that dark sensibility in to a wonderful horror drama that subverts every single horror convention in the book. “Get Out” has never been so socially relevant before and will be lumped in with greats like “The Stepford Wives” and “Rosemary’s Baby” as the tale of an individual lured in to a web of imminent danger that they can’t calculate until it’s much too late. “Get Out” feels much like a nightmarish Ira Levin novel, touching upon racial equality, left wing extremism, and the way the situation flips on its head the moment the protagonist turns from a virginal final girl to a very capable African American man. The performances are brilliant and Jordan Peele’s direction is mesmerizing as “Get Out” promises to become a classic.
Watch With: The Stepford Wives (1975)
I’ve known people like Moonee. I’ve grown up around people like Moonee, and as someone who has found his own corners of the world to hide in, “The Florida Project” sucked me in from minute one. It then tore me to shreds in the final ten minutes, leaving me bawling like a baby. What’s so crushing about “The Florida Project” is that innocence has to end, and inevitably reality comes crashing down around you. “The Florida Project” paints its main protagonists in an unflattering and despicable light at first, but as the narrative progresses, it asks us to empathize and at least see what they’re enduring in their lives. “The Florida Project” is one of the most gut wrenching and compelling dramas I’ve seen in years, and after “Tangerine,” I intend to follow Sean Baker and see where in America he takes us next.
Watch With: Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012)
2. Baby Driver
Directed by Edgar Wright
Release Date: October 10th
Edgar Wright’s crime thriller isn’t just an action movie, but a symphony of bullets, and perhaps one of the first and only action musicals. Packed with amazing editing and brilliant choreography, director Wright shows once again how music tends to fuel life, and can work as a form of physical therapy more than most things. Wright has proven skilled in directing anyone and compiles a wonderful American cast of folks like Jamie Foxx, Kevin Spacey, Jon Bernthal and even allows a star turning role to Anson Elgort, whose look will become a cosplay favorite for the next twenty years, guaranteed. I’ve always been a fan of pulp action cinema, and “Baby Driver” has that right touch of action, gangster drama, and tragic romance that allows for the perfect course of crime cinema.
Watch With: True Romance (1993)
1. IT (It: Chapter One)
Directed by: Andrés Muschietti
Written by: Chase Palmer & Cary Fukunaga, and Gary Dauberman
Starring: Jaeden Lieberher, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Sophia Lillis, Finn Wolfhard, Chosen Jacobs, Jack Dylan Grazer, Wyatt Oleff, Bill Skarsgård
Warner Bros. Pictures
Release Date: September 8th
I really loved what Andrés Muschietti brought to the table with “Mama,” back in 2013 as it was one of my top ten of the year. “It” is on the same footing with “Mama” being a rich, and often brilliant horror film about childhood, innocence, and how innocence is fleeting in a dark world ruled by selfish and violent adults. I will always have a place in my heart for Tim Curry and his depiction of Pennywise the Clown (I remember watching the original mini-series back in 1990), but Bill Skarsgård is, and will always be Pennywise the Clown to me.
As Pennywise, he’s a slobbering, vicious predator with a cunning that makes him the object of every kids nightmares. While “It” is a wonderful horror film, it’s also a brutally compelling and tragic tale about family neglect, child abuse, hatred, and the darkness that seemingly Rockwellian small towns harbor. I must have seen “It” at least four times since its release and I still can’t seem to stop thinking about it, from its terrifying scenes, to rich characterization, right down to the stunning performances from its young cast. I had such low expectations going in to “It” and it may be one of the best horror films I’ve seen in a while.
Watch With: Stephen King’s It (1990)
Other Great Movies: Lady Bird, John Wick 2, The Void, The Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, 24×36: A Movie About Movie Posters, Batman & Bill, Wonder Woman, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Brawl in Cell Block 99, The Shape of Water, Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond, 78/52, It Comes At Night, A Ghost Story, Star Wars: The Last Jedi