TheDeadFellow’s Ten Favorite Films of 2017

Unconventional romances, dark thrillers and grand epics are the names of these games (or movies, in this case).

Hello there one and all and welcome to my belated 2017 list. I had been meaning to put it up for quite some time but due to some delays, I’ve decided to take some aspects of its presentation into my hands and slapped something together on a whim. Now, for all we know, the header might be updated to something more polished in the future but in the meantime, I’ll make due with what I have. Before I begin, however, I wish to lay down two ground rules:

  • Some films I loved from this year – such as Logan, A Cure For Wellness, Good Time and more – could not make into the final list for one reason or another. If you wish to see all of the films I saw in 2017, just click here for my full log.
  • No, Blade Runner 2049 is not on here and I do not wish to deal with the endless horde screaming at its omission. This is my list, not yours.

And now on to the show!

10. Valerian and the City of A Thousand Planets.

“Laureline, will you please put your hand back on the joystick?”

The most creative and imaginative Sci-Fi spectacle of the year and no one went to see it due to divisive reviews, an obscure source material, oddball leads and stiff competition (this opened up against films like Dunkirk and the unsuspecting sleeper hit Girls Trip). A shame too, because Luc Besson’s adaptation of the Pierre Christin and Jean-Claude Mézières comic series is a wonder to behold and one of the most energetic films I’ll see all year. While its script won’t win any awards and perhaps the combination of Dane DeHaan + Cara Delevingne as a pair of space operatives are not suited to this material, the sheer visual imagination and quirky vibe of Besson’s Fifth Element is here in full force to pick up the slack and then some. This film has more ideas in a single frame than most movies do as a whole, while the film’s kinetic pace keeps things from ever getting stale. I adore this film for its sheer wackiness, warts and all, and I hope to GOD this gets its day in the sun as a future cult classic.

9. IT.

“Time to float!”

What’s the deal with Clowns anyway? After going through several radical screenplays and a major director departure, this adaptation of the seminal Stephen King classic finally made it into theaters in 2017. And it was good! Hell, great even. One of the better adaptations of his works out there, bar none. In splitting King’s gargantuan novel into two films and making the first one all about the kids vs the clown, it gives the story a great focus it would have never had if the whole book was brought on screen while also channeling the best of New Line horror and Spielbergian childhood wonder in the process. The film might be short on scares, but Andrés Muschietti’s take on IT certainly has no shortage on entertainment, humor and heart.

8. All The Money In The World.

“If you can count your money, you’re not a billionaire.”

Between the controversial reshoots and messy pay disputes by one of its stars, Ridley Scott’s All The Money In The World looks to be buried and remembered for the negative press than its merits as an actual film. Which is a massive shame, as this is easily Scott’s best film to come out in this decade so far. It’s cold, cynical and borderline operatic stuff, with Christopher Plummer being his magnificent self as J. Paul Getty, his stare and presence at once personable but malevolent and cheap. But other players such as Michelle Williams and Romain Duris (especially the latter) provide fantastic work on their own as the mother of the kidnapped kid and the leader of the kidnappers respectfully. Coupled with tight editing, gorgeous cinematography, a well written if melodramatic script and a bang up score, this is Scott doing strong work here. Don’t be afraid to seek it out.

7. Split.

“REJOICE! THE BROKEN ARE THE MORE EVOLVED!”

It’s good to say M Night Shyamalan is finally back after being a laughing stock for a good decade. Featuring a fearlessly committed performance by James McAvoy and confident direction, this is Shyamalan roaring back into top form. He hasn’t been this good since Signs and it’s just great seeing him pull off something this unnerving and interesting with McAvoy’s delightfully demented yet sympathetic monster. It’s both of these performers in bonkers mode and it makes for genuinely scary stuff. Then there’s that signature twist ending that Shymalan pulls out of his bag of tricks, one that not only changes the film on its head in just a minute but also sets itself for a sequel that makes any MCU teaser look downright meager by comparison.

6. War For The Planet of The Apes.

“I have a message for your Colonel: Leave us the woods and the killing can stop.”

I’m still trying to wrap my head around this film’s existence: A 150 million dollar big budget, slow paced epic that says humanity deserves to die and throws around constant references to brutal war films and Holocaust pictures – that mostly involves CG apes that communicate in sign language. Like, how?! How did this get made? Above all, how did it wind up this good? Director Matt Reeves finishes Caesar’s saga with a flawed but satisfying finale. Though not without some noticeable bumps in the road, the film works excellently as an amazing technical and emotional accomplishment. Intelligent, genuinely epic, blockbuster filmmaking like this doesn’t come around this often, especially in the franchise realm. Treasure it.

5. Phantom Thread.

“It’s comforting to think the dead are watching over the living. I don’t find that spooky at all.“

Daniel Day Lewis ends his career with a subtle bang in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Phantom Thread, one of the oddest romance stories to come out this year. It’s an exquisitely designed and beautifully subtle affair in every regard: The writing is layered, the performances are multifaceted, Johnny Greenwood’s score is honey to the ears in hearing it bounce between different tones, the costuming and set design is rich as hell – I could go on and on with the feast of a film. However, that in of itself would be spoiling the twisty, toxic fun to be had. Just go in blind as hell and be amazed. You won’t regret it.

4. Wind River.

“Luck don’t live out here.“

Unpopular opinion time but out all writer/director Taylor Sheridan’s works in Hollywood as of late, this chilly thriller bests Sicario and Hell or High Water by about several notches. Haunting is the operative word on this one – in story, visuals and performances. Murder mysteries can make for tragic works and this one, set on an Indian reservation with a local hunter played by Jeremy Renner leading the investigation, is one that feels more real than they probably should. It’s understated but effective work, cold and desolate, in how it’s story plays out and stiff drink might be required afterwards. The final coda at the end in particular feels like a swift kick to the nuts, especially when you take into account of the recent swarm of sexual harassment claims going on in the world.

3. Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi.

“Let the past die. Kill it if you have to.“

Yes I liked it. Shut up. In a way, Rian Johnson unintentionally granted a perverse wish of mine I had around the time The Force Awakens got the backlash: Make a film that goes out of its way to make people regret bitching about the previous film by getting weird and changing shit. Well, it happened and you know what? It works. Maybe not for everyone (as evidenced by the super divisive responses), but it certainly did for me. A hulking, complicated and grand spectacle that willingly subverts and breaks expectations of what we have for Star Wars but puts it back together for a new generation. JJ Abrams has his work cut out for him after what Johnson has done here. Plus Porgs and Reylo nearly being canon! What’s not to like?

2. The Lost City of Z.

“Mr. Fawcett, that jungle is hell, but one kind of likes it.“

Imagine a Great Hollywood epic from the 70’s that was shot and completed but locked and preserved for ages in the vaults from the system until one day someone let the film out of its cage. That’s the experience of watching James Gray’s masterful adventure. Patient, intelligent and featuring an awards worthy turn by Charlie Hunnam, The Lost City of Z is a long journey but stick with it and you will be richly rewarded by the almost surreal adventures of Percy Fawcett and his obsession with finding an unknown civilization in Amazonia that span a lifetime. Everything element of production, design and writing in this film is impeccable despite its limited resources while the rest of the cast gives career best work here (of which includes such faces like Robert Pattinson, Sienna Miller, Tom Holland and Ian McDiarmid, among others). And to say nothing of the final shot, which deserves to be mounted in every art museum around the world.

1. Your Name.

“I hate this town! I hate this life! Please make me a handsome Tokyo boy in my next life!”

Not many films left me in awe quite like Your Name did. Going in, I was pretty much in the dark save for the base synopsis – two teens find themselves continually swapping bodies for reasons beyond their understanding – and the universal praise it was getting but coming out of it, I was utterly blindsided by the massive achievement that director Makoto Shinkai pulled off. Gorgeous to gawk at, inventively plotted and featuring one of the most exhilarating third acts I’ve seen in a while, Your Name commands the screen in ambition and tone up until till its heartbreakingly beautiful final frame. Don’t let the fact this is an anime alienate you; This film is a testament to the power of cinema in any form and one of the few films I’ve seen this year that legitimately deserves to be called “art”. Believe the hype on this one, ladies and gents.

So what were your picks? Let us know in the comments below!

  • zak1

    I will say that I saw Ghost in the Shell in an IMAX theatre in 3D and the experience just swallowed me up.

    Plus I wish the film had ended with Kuze as the adversary – a beautifully evocative Frankenstein monster figure, holding a mirror to the protagonist, which would have been in keeping with the open ended poetic sense of the film – the shoot-em-up ending was too cartoon-ish and felt tacked on to reassure the sponsors

    I agree completely that movie casting in general should be more ethnically diversified, but this film did a very good job with that in my view, and the use of Johansson even made a political point in its own right, totally in keeping with this material, about the cultural biases of so-called “multinational” corporations like the one depicted here

    (I actually think the ethnic designation “Asian” itself is so reductive as to be racist – I prefer “East Asian” in a case like this, which is totally different from, say, “South Asian”, etc)

    Overall, I thought the film had many of the virtues of Blade Runner 2049 – both allow themselves to simply follow the genre formula, and allow the larger meanings to come through more indirectly, instead of trying to tidy things up and explain away the ambiguities.

    I liked the film a lot, and I think even regarding those who didn’t, Metacritic’s “Mixed” response is a fairer summary of the ambivalent public reception than Rotten Tomatoes’ shrill “Fresh” / “Rotten” system, which seems to sensationalize and drown out nuance

  • TheDeadFellow

    Was thinking the same thing. Just as weird as mine.

  • Sailor Monsoon

    That is a really interesting top ten

  • TheDeadFellow

    Was NOT a fan of Ghost In The Shell and did not see A Quiet Passion but I’ve seen everything else on here and liked them all of varying degrees (Z and Valerian especially).

  • zak1

    A Quiet Passion – best film by considerable distance – a species of ferociously human cinema that barely exists any longer – Terence Davies is heir to Carl Dreyer

    Colossal – hilarious, startling, and then unexpectedly brilliant meditation on the dynamics of alcoholism, as seen in the behavior of kaiju

    Lost City of Z – James Grey is a strong candidate for best American director working today – here he continues to emulate his idol Coppola with his own take on Conrad type material, also evoking Kipling via John Huston

    Atomic Blonde – I think people didn’t understand what this film was really reaching for – there is an undercurrent of profound shame buried under nihilism and the dazzling glitz of fin de siècle Berlin

    Blade Runner 2049 – who would have expected that this reboot would dare to be as aloof and impenetrable as its predecessor, a trancelike experience – this is a filmmaker worthy of Dune

    Ghost in the Shell – this is another film in the vein of Blade Runner or the original Alien – daring to be impenetrable and poetic, not spoon-feeding the viewers, but allowing the medium of cinema to do the talking – the echo chamber controversy showed how out of their depth these critics were in responding to the role of race in today’s geopolitics and geoculture

    Night of the Living Dead (revival) – still one of the greatest films ever made

    Mother! (not counting the last scene) – I’m pretending this film exists without the ending – even without the Act 3 – up till then it is an astonishing subjective portrait of paranoia, in the vein of Black Swan

    Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets – wonderfully light and entertaining – maybe the first film I’ve seen that really plays with the cinematic possibilities of multiple dimensions

    Haven’t seen …
    Shape of Water
    Ladybird
    Phantom Thread
    She’s Gotta Have It (TV)

    Was still rooting for Wonder Woman to get a Best Picture nom because more female led action movies will help women break into the top tiers of Hollywood – plus I’d like to see more of these movies anyway

  • TheDeadFellow

    That you do.

  • Tanis11

    I guess I need to see the Lost City of Z.

  • TheDeadFellow

    Thank you for the kind words. If you don’t mind me asking, what was your top ten?

  • zak1

    Very interesting and thoughtful list.

    VALERIAN – I agree wholeheartedly – I liked this film a lot – I think it had a light touch that may have put some people off who like a more heavy-handed approach? The online reviewers’ echo chamber frustrates me – I actually prefer MetaCritic because its Mixed Reaction category leaves more room for ambivalence and seems fairer to most of these films – but I wasn’t ambivalent about Valerian – I liked it

    IT – I enjoyed this a whole lot – made me think how close King’s sensibility is to Spielberg

    SPLIT – virtuoso showcase for McAvoy, of course, but I had a lot of problems with this film because these prisoners were not behaving believably like people would in such a situation

    WAR FOR PLANET OF APES – I enjoyed the movie, but this series has not captured my imagination as it has with so many – to me it feels like they’re rushing this whole end of the world transition – didn’t the original take place several thousand years into the future?

    PHANTOM THREAD – I’m jealous you’ve seen it and I haven’t yet

    LAST JEDI – well executed film but I thought much of the script was crap. The evolving relationship between Kylo and Rey was really fascinating, and I liked the new Tran character. I didn’t mind Luke being unstable. But Kylo is still a student and Rey has barely even started and they just decide to up and take over the whole galaxy? What was the point of Empire Strikes Back and even having a Yoda character if education is meaningless (in Empire, education is so crucial that Yoda says he can’t even teach Luke because Luke is already too old, and Luke pays a heavy price for his impatience – in this movie Yoda cackles like Heath Ledger and destroys the Jedi library because as he puts it you can’t teach students anything they don’t know already) plus – the First Order is so devoted to total control and security that when someone kills their Emperor none of his guards even sounds an alarm? So when the door finally opens nobody else knows what has happened? Don’t they have cameras? So it just boils down to one person’s word vs another’s? Same with the rebellion – a mutiny erupts because the commander has not communicated her plan? Why not? This is not innovation – it’s insulting carelessness. But I have to admit that from one moment to the next, this film was mesmerising to watch

    LOST CITY OF Z – wonderful film – James Gray is an underappreciated director – one of our best, but I’m still waiting for that masterpiece from him – his films seem to fall strangely short, great as they are – except for The Yards – that one was magnificent

    The other films I haven’t seen

    My own favorite of the year was A Quiet Passion from Terence Davies

  • King Alvarez

    Thanks for the info! I’ll most likely wait until home release for all 3.

  • TheDeadFellow

    Your Name is currently available to buy on Blu-Ray (with digital copies on Amazon coming in pretty soon) while Phantom Thread is currently playing in theaters. ATMITW was also in theaters but it left pretty quickly due to meh box office, which is a shame.

  • King Alvarez

    I’ve seen everything except Your Name, Phantom Thread and All The Money In The World.

  • I Saw It, Split, and Last Jedi from this list

  • I still think that the almost comically bland and “typical-Hollywood” leads are what killed this movie.
    If at least they would have been black or something, ANYTHING!

  • What, no Blade Runner 2049? Unsubscribed!
    But seriously, nice list and explanations, seeing Wind River favorably compared to the likes of Sicario and Hell or High Water (which I both loved) definitely makes me want to check it out.
    I should also probably get around to seeing this little indie The Last Jedi flick to see what all the fuss is about.

  • TheDeadFellow

    Thank you! Out of what’s listed here, I’d say Lost City of Z, Wind River, Phantom Thread and All The Money In The World are probably your bags.

  • William Dhalgren

    Goddamn, Dead, you’ve done a good job convincing me to see all of these movies. Forget that I complete disagree with you on TLJ – you make all of these sound very compelling in different ways. And a good bit of writing here, too!

  • Larry Version 3

    Hmmm I doubt Phantom Thread will come anywhere near me in cinemas lol. I’m so out of the way that we arent even getting All the Money in the World. And I don’t feel like subscribing to Amazon so I might see how expensive the DVD is.

    It is a truly great film. I’d recommend it to my family if it didnt have all the cringey anime tropes in it XD

  • TheDeadFellow

    Phantom Thread is now playing in theaters while Lost City of Z is currently on Amazon Prime if you wanna give it a spin.

    I’ve watched Your Name three times already and it gets more and more powerful with each viewing. A truly miraculous film it is.

  • Larry Version 3

    Well I guess I’ll give Valerian a shot one day when I finally find it somewhere for $4.99. The only others I havent seen are All the Money in the World, Phantom Thread and the Lost City of Z which I intend to check out at some point anyway.
    Your Name was an amazing film though and one I’m planning on watching again soon. I did personally prefer ‘A Silent Voice’ though.

  • Vincent Kane

    Yea it kept messing up haha. IDK what happened. I tried deleting.

  • TheDeadFellow

    You replied to me three times, amigo.

  • Vincent Kane
  • Vincent Kane

    Here’s mine so you can point and laugh.

    https://letterboxd.com/texassnacks/list/2017-movies-ranked/

  • Vincent Kane

    Well you lost all credibility with Last Jedi in your top ten but whatevs.

    https://m.popkey.co/a48e21/oAVv8_s-200×150.gif?c=popkey-web&p=popkey&i=dogs-animals&l=search&f=.gif

  • TheDeadFellow

    Really dug it but overall didn’t make it. You can click on my Letterboxd link to see where it ranked for me.

  • Vincent Kane

    Um Lego Batman?

  • Sailor Monsoon

    Nothing you write could be worse than my first review.
    It was so bad, nobody knew what the film was about by the end of it let alone the genre.

  • Kemosabe 🦇

    I’m thinking about making a list but I don’t even know if I’ve seen ten 2017 movies. Also, my writing’s shit. Blade Runner 2049 is at the top. So there, that’s all that really matters.

  • Kemosabe 🦇

    Nice list. You sold me on Your Name and Winder River. I think I’ll check those out.

  • Man and I thought I was sad I only reached 198 movies watched in 2017.

  • William Dhalgren

    Looks like I saw around 52 movies last year. 7 of them were released in 2017.

  • Sailor Monsoon

    What are you doing with your eyeballs??

  • Sailor Monsoon

    My 2016 list had a film from 1973 on it

  • William Dhalgren

    I don’t think I saw 10 new films this year.

  • TheDeadFellow

    You can always catch up. Never too late.

  • William Dhalgren

    And turds. Don’t forget the turds.

  • William Dhalgren

    You wanna know how weak I am? I’ve only seen one movie on this list? You guys make me feel inferior!

  • Just bugging ya

  • TheDeadFellow

    Correction: Three films here are from 2016 but I still count them as 2017 releases. Besides, Sailor’s list had stuff like Raw and Split in the mix like mine.

  • So really this list is half 2016 almost :O

  • DryButSoupy

    I usually assume that stuff that’s out on streaming services are like a year old. I keep forgetting that Netflix et all release movies straight to their shit, too.

  • TheDeadFellow

    A small chunk of these I didn’t even see in the theater. I always try to catch up when certain movies I missed in the theater.

  • DryButSoupy

    I’d like to do a list like this but I only saw, like 5 movies in an actual theater this year.

    Also, I’ve heard Wind River is really good. Puttin’ it down in the “check it out” column.

  • TheDeadFellow

    Key-rect.

  • As does Lost City of Z.

  • TheDeadFellow
  • Cap_N_Jack

    Yeah, I think DeadFellow might be an academy voter…

  • DryButSoupy

    Um. Blade Runner 2049 isn’t on here.

  • TheDeadFellow

    Split technically was a 2016 release (due to early premieres at AFI Fest) but didn’t make it into cinemas properly until 2017. Your Name also falls into this situation as well.

    And thank you!

  • Cap_N_Jack

    I like that I am entirely unfamiliar with your top film. I think Split was a 2016 one by the way, but it hardly matters. I think I mainly like that you made a list that is legitimately your favorite films, regardless of what people are heralding as the “best” films of the year. Nice work.

  • My definition of action is very loose lol. But I’ll probably do my top ten of 2017.

  • TheDeadFellow

    Well, get to reading it properly then!

  • Cap_N_Jack

    I do, but I want to read it more carefully before I do. I feel like just reading the names of the films and responding would do your article a disservice.

  • Sailor Monsoon

    I would take a guess but i can’t even name ten action films that came out last year

  • TheDeadFellow

    This should be interesting. I’m always up for comparing notes.

  • It’s nowhere close to top 10. And just glancing at mine it’s pretty different from both of yours.

  • TheDeadFellow

    Have anything more substantial to add?

  • Sailor Monsoon

    Watch enough to keep justice league off your list

  • Fair enough. I wouldn’t mind watching the 2017 movies I own but haven’t watched yet tho. So perhaps start of February look for it.

  • Cap_N_Jack

    *mutinies

  • Sailor Monsoon

    It’s definitely going to gain a cult.
    Like John Carter or Lone Ranger

  • Sailor Monsoon

    Sailor and Deadfellow had da ballz to throw their taste on the line.
    Put your taste balls on the line.

  • TheDeadFellow

    Can’t help myself; It was easily one of my favorite theater going experiences of last year and just a full on blast from start to finish. And frankly, I ain’t alone; Several critics on Metacritic’s Top Ten collections have the film on their lists as well, so I feel vindicated dammit!

  • I’ll think about it.

  • Sailor Monsoon

    I love that you love Valerian.

  • Sailor Monsoon

    I would absolutely love to see your top ten.

  • Haha do y’all want me Top 10? I haven’t seen a lot of 2017 drama films. I could to a top 10 action tho probably lol.

  • Sailor Monsoon

    Until you post yours and i throw pies at you.
    Pies with rocks in em.

  • TheDeadFellow

    Thank you. I defy typical ones whenever I do them.

  • TheDeadFellow

    Not at all. It’s all together VERY seamless with how Plummer is integrated in the film, though if you squint your eyes in one scene, Spacey is there but only briefly (it’s during a flashback sequence that Scott and co couldn’t reshoot due to logistical reasons). But not enough to take you out of it.

  • This is the most different top 10 of 2017 list I’ve seen.

  • Good write-up, DeadFellow. I want to check out several of these. Also, you may have mentioned this elsewhere, but were the edits evident in All the Money in The World?

  • Sailor Monsoon

    I liked Wind River but i feel like I’ll forget it exists in about a month