The Best of 2017–The Year’s Best Movies

When we created last year’s preview of 2017 movies we were pretty sure we were going to have some great movies this year, but we were surprised by what ended up being the best.  All year we tried to keep up with what Hollywood had to offer and honed in on the genre content we thought was worth examining. We went back and looked at it all and pulled together our picks for our annual Best Movies of 2017.

As always, we’re after the best genre content of 2017–with our top categories from the Best in Movies.  There are thousands of other places that cover plain vanilla dramas and the rest, but here we’re looking for movies we want to watch.  What do all of this year’s selections have in common?  In addition to those elements that define each genre, each has a good story.  Special effects without a good story is not good entertainment, and we saw plenty of films this year that missed that crucial element.

Come back later this week for our TV and print media picks, and our annual Hall of Fame inductees.  Wait no further, here are our picks for 2017:

Best Sci-Fi Fix, Best Sci-fi Movie, Best Costume DesignValerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.  The Valerian and Laureline comic books turned 50 and brought a big-screen adaptation to theaters.  Director Luc Besson handled the material as a labor of love, and that could be marveled at in every scene, and each nook and cranny of the gigantic visual spectacle he created.  More new wonders, more futuristic ideas that had never been seen on film before, bold otherworldly costumes, and incredible special effects made this film a masterpiece science fiction fans will stumble upon in the future and wonder how it was so overlooked by audiences this summer.  Epic space battles, aliens, and loads of sci-fi technology, while all the other science fiction of the year kept to their familiar territories.  A gripping story about a team just doing their job, but that job is saving an entire race of a doomed planet.  Besson was going for something like Avatar, but he far surpassed it.  Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets was everything a sci-fi fan could want.

Best Fantasy Fix, Best Fantasy Movie, Best Comedy MovieThor: Ragnarok.  As much as Thor: Ragnarok was a natural progression for Chris Hemsworth’s Thor and Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk, it was amazing how much the film busted genres, becoming more of a Flash Gordon space fantasy like the Guardians of the Galaxy movies than the rest of the Avengers series.   Just like watching classic Flash Gordon and Conan movies, we saw superheroes on a legendary hero’s journey rise and encounter obstacles and make sacrifices, across a landscape of fabulous worlds and colorful characters, and scenes that looked like they were ripped out of your favorite Jack Kirby comic pages.  Another film about family, it incorporated that always fun plot device of having good guy and bad guy join forces, as Tom Hiddleston’s Loki redeemed himself with his brother and their people, if only temporarily.  We met one of the fiercest warriors in Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie and they all faced off against a trio of well-developed villains.  A great superhero story, too, this was the ultimate fantasy fix.

Best Superhero Fix, Best Superhero Movie, Best Easter EggsThe LEGO Batman Movie.  Even as a spoof of superhero movies and the DC Universe, The LEGO Batman Movie created a genuine story full of heart that any fan of comic books could love.  Will Arnett became our second favorite Batman actor this year behind Michael Keaton, and his Batman reminded us why we can’t wait for the DC Universe to get fun and exciting again.  Hilarious, laugh-out-loud funny with a smart script, full of derring-do and super-powered heroics, and better than this year’s and the last decade of live-action DC at the movies, the animated The LEGO Batman Movie proved more good DC movies are out there just waiting to be made.  Honorable mention: Spider-man: Homecoming.

Best Retro Fix Classic Genre Films Return to Theaters.  With all the new releases in 2017 we were lucky enough to witness the 90th anniversary of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, while Disney’s The Jungle Book, The Dirty Dozen, and the original Casino Royale turned 50.  Along with Star Wars, Close Encounters of the Third Kind turned 40.  E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Blade Runner, Tron, and The Dark Crystal turned 35.  Predator, The Princess Bride, and Robocop turned 30.  Many of these made it back into theaters this year, giving us the best Retro Fix we could hope for all year long.  But E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (we even interviewed the best Star Trek director of them all here this year), Close Encounters of the Third Kind, The Princess Bride, and Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, on the big screen over only a few weeks?  We can only hope for more in 2018!

Check out the rest of the year’s Best Film and the rest of our picks for the year’s best movies, after the cut…

Best Film, Best Cinematography, Best Director, Best Drama – Logan Noir.  Hands down the best, fantastic film of any genre this year was Logan Noir, the director’s own carefully filmed black and white version of the late winter release Logan, which had only a limited theatrical release.  Yes, the movie is an entirely different experience in black and white.  Usually we’d ask whether audiences really want their escapism so full of darkness and grief.  Yet Logan Noir felt like watching High Noon for the first time.  We’re convinced writer/director James Mangold conjured John Ford for this one.  Director of photography John Mathieson’s understanding and use of lighting is up there with Young Frankenstein, Paper Moon, and Schindler’s List, and would stand up with original era black and white films like Elmore Leonard’s 1957 3:10 to Yuma and the 1948 dark Western Yellow Sky.  Sweeping in epic themes, getting older and ushering in youthful leaders, a dystopian future in a bleak and believable setting–what happens when everything goes wrong but there’s still an ounce of hope to cling to.  Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart gave their career best performances, and closed the book on these characters they had built for so long in the most reverential manner.  All those battles the Avengers and X-Men and Justice League have had over the role of superheroes on Earth was never addressed better.

Best Borg –  Nebula in Guardians of the Galaxy 2.  Karen Gillan’s bad-girl anti-hero Nebula finally got the chance to have a solid character arc this year.  She used her borg technology to save both Yondu and went on to save sister Gamora from an explosive death at the hands of Ego.  Nebula reflects the kind of story we like to see with a great borg character, and we can’t wait to see even more of her in a future movie.

Best Borg MovieBlade Runner 2049.  In the 1950s Philip K. Dick reinvented the “cyborg” that went back to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. His novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? introduced the cybernetic Replicants, adapted to film in 1982 in Blade Runner, and so it’s no surprise the core of the mad novelist’s creation would come through in this year’s long-awaited sequel, Blade Runner 2049.  Do cyborgs dream of holographic girlfriends?  Ryan Gosling’s lead character K asked all the right questions, challenging what it means to be alive for himself and his girlfriend Joi, who was no more than a hologram.  Sylvia Hoeks’ Luv gave us a classic borg, decisive and badass.  And the return of beloved borg noir heroine Rachael, even if briefly, was just icing on the cake.

Best Action Movie, Best Retro MovieAtomic Blonde.  Pitch-perfect tone, the ultimate throwback 1980s Cold War caper.  Wall-to-wall action and incredible stunt scenes?  Check.  The year’s best action hero?  Check.  A movie as good as the best of James Bond?  That, too.  Charlize Theron was why the movie was so great, but co-stars Sofia Boutella and James McAvoy rounded out a solid cast.  Atomic Blonde is why we go to action movies.  Honorable mention for Best Action Movie: The Foreigner

Best Superhero/Team-up SceneYondu Saves the Day in Guardians of the Galaxy 2.  No scene was more emotional and heroic than Michael Rooker’s Yondu as he redeemed himself in the eyes of his adopted son Starlord in Guardians of the Galaxy 2.  Who didn’t shed a tear as he saved Starlord’s life after his action-packed rescue of all of the Guardians in the last half of the film?  He’s one surprising superhero who made us all wish we were as cool as Mary Poppins, too.

Best Cameo – Sylvester Stallone in Guardians of the Galaxy 2.  Why haven’t the studios been dropping the big 1980s action stars into movies all along?  Like Bruce Willis as Joe Colton in G.I. Joe: Retribution, having Stallone pop up in Guardians of the Galaxy 2 leading the Ravagers is the kind of scene we dreamed of since we were little kids.

Best Animated Movie, Best Re-Imagining on Film, Best Movie SoundtrackFerdinand.  As fans of the original 32-page storybook, we were worried how this simple, sweet tale could be expanded without ruining the story, and WOW, the creators of Ferdinand did not fail us.  A beautiful piece of filmmaking on par with the classic Disney animated films of 50 years ago, Ferdinand and his pals deftly addressed real-life issues and taught audiences and especially little kids how actions have consequences and the importance of taking care of everyone around you.  The soundtrack was the year’s best, and the comedy and artwork second to none this year.

Best Horror Movie – Get Out.  The ultimate genre-busting movie of the year was horror but so much more.  Keeping the audience on the edge of their seats for so many reasons, Jordan Peele’s first outing as a director should clear his way for many more films.  Clever, sharp, smart, gritty, dark, and funny when we needed it, we feel sorry for anyone who needs to take their boyfriend or girlfriend home to meet the parents after watching this movie.  Get Out brought the same level of surprises as Midnight Special last year.

Best Mash-up – Bright.  The Netflix big-budget release Bright was not without its flaws, but its attempt to mix a police procedural with a J.R.R. Tolkien-inspired universe was successful at many levels.  Joel Edgerton’s Orc police officer had the perfect blend of make-up and believable acting to make us feel for this lone wolf trying to succeed at the job he always dreamed about.  The movie star that is Will Smith didn’t for a second make us think this giant new world was anything but real and present.  The happy mash-up provided a fun fantasy mystery and a thoughtful reflection of society for anyone willing to give it a try.

Best Action SequenceBig Market in Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.  We are always going to be fans of a good car chase, like Charlize Theron’s Lorraine Broughton making the escape in Atomic Blonde, and space battles including the two-hour chase sequence in Star Wars: The Last Jedi, and then there were the Amazons defeating the Germans at the beginning of Wonder Woman.  But director Luc Besson’s Big Market sequence tops them all.  A classic agora so broad and dense at the same time, layers upon layers of places to go and see, and Besson only provided us with a glimpse.  It all began with a military operation, some tricks by Laureline, then a nearly-botched mission by Valerian, all to end up against a giant space thug, securing the object, and then barely making off the planet’s surface alive (not to mention losing their entire military unit in the process).  But what incredible action!

Best Special Effects/CGI – So who did it better?  Valerian appears in multiple worlds in a single location, an army of aliens try to serve up Laureline for dinner, and an entire new society is revealed before our eyes in Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets?  Javier Bardem and his crew appear as real-world, tangible ghosts from the deep, and Johnny Depp is re-created as the 20-something youthful pirate in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales Sean Young’s Rachel the Replicant returns in Blade Runner 2049 Kurt Russell looks young again in the introductory scenes of Guardians of the Galaxy 2?   By sheer volume of amazing visuals we’re giving this year’s nod to Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.  But what a great year for special effects!

Best Movie Actress – Charlize Theron (Atomic Blonde).  We couldn’t say enough about Atomic Blonde’s double/triple agent Lorraine Broughton this year.  But it required the talent, beauty, confidence, and charisma of Academy Award winning actress Charlize Theron to pull it off.  She made us believe she regularly submerged her entire body in ice as training to be tough and survive. She made us believe she could drive anyone away from any compromising situation.  And she made us think she could take down anyone who ever gets in her way. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, her Bond-worthy heroine was the best–nobody does it better than Theron.  Honorable mention:  Michelle Pfeiffer (Murder on the Orient Express), Daisy Ridley (Murder on the Orient Express).

Best Movie Supporting Actress – Dafne Keen (Logan, Logan Noir).  An eleven-year-old actor beating out hundreds of more experienced actors?  If she’s the Spanish/British actor Dafne Keen in this year’s incredible film Logan/Logan Noir, then of course.  She played her justifiably angry mutant with Wolverine claws both subtly when the story called for it, and then fiercely, maniacally crazed when called for.  She held her own with genre greats Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart, creating the perfectly lovable modern family for their dinner scene with a rural family.  Her range at such a young age will hopefully spur her into a successful future.  And what a great start!  Honorable mention:  Robin Wright (Wonder Woman), Sofia Boutella (Atomic Blonde), Kelly Marie Tran (Star Wars: The Last Jedi).

Best ActorHugh Jackman (Logan, Logan Noir). Never before has an actor tackled such an opportunity so successfully.  Jackman played Logan in eight films over 17 years, each time providing a different slant on the beloved comic book character.  But for his last appearance writer/director James Mangold gave Jackman the opportunity of a lifetime, a role that could only have been played by Jackman, or Gary Cooper and a select few classic greats of days gone by.  It should be the kind of performance Oscar takes note of.  We sure did.  Honorable mention:  Mark Hamill (Star Wars: The Last Jedi), Tom Holland (Spider-man: Homecoming), Jackie Chan (The Foreigner).

Best Movie Supporting Actor – Patrick Stewart (Logan, Logan Noir)  Alec Guinness as Obi-Wan Kenobi, Ian McKellen as Gandalf, Richard Harris as Dumbledore–In the realm of fantasy movies, the very best performances consistently get overlooked for honors like the Academy Awards.  But looking at what Sir Patrick Stewart was able to do with Professor Charles Xavier in seven appearances over the past 17 years is incredible–what else are acting awards for if not performances like this?  Hugh Jackman’s leading role in Logan/Logan Noir aside, nothing else compares to the realism infused into Stewart’s twist on a dwindling, failing, and dying superhero.  An incredibly competitive category this year, many great performances came through — Honorable mention: Javier Bardem (Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales), Kurt Russell (Guardians in the Galaxy 2), Pierce Brosnan (The Foreigner), Harrison Ford (Blade Runner 2049).

Best Movie VillainLuv (Blade Runner 2049).  If Blade Runner 2049 is remembered for anything, it should be Sylvia Hoeks’ badass Replicant, the villainous henchman Luv.  First unassuming, polished, and pristine in her mannerisms, she later reveals she can be the next best thing since Sarah Connor and the Terminators.  Luv is a fierce, brutal borg whose villainy became the high point of the film.  Honorable mention: The villainy trifecta of Hela (Cate Blanchett), the Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum), and Surtur (Clancy Brown) (Thor: Ragnarok).

Best Home ReleaseLogan Blu-ray or 4K Combo.  The Logan Blu-ray/DVD/Digital HD and 4K Combo packs were the only way for most audiences to get their hands on Logan Noir, which was included with the standard variety of special features in the home release.  That’s right–the best film of the year could only be found in digital streaming formats and the home release in accompanying special features.  Even the black and white version of Mad Max: Fury Road, got its own separate home edition release.  This is the film from this year you’ll want to take home and watch over and over.

Best 3D Home ReleaseRogue One: A Star Wars Story.  The best, clearest picture and sound of any prior Star Wars release.  The 3D transfer is as good as any 3D Blu-ray release to-date, and the special effects, clothing details like stitches and seams are clear and vivid, as is the weathering (or lack thereof, when logical) on props.  Director Gareth Edwards offers up the best film in the saga since The Empire Strikes Back, and Michael Giacchino’s rousing score loses nothing in the conversion to home format.  Last year’s best movie of the year, best sci-fi fix, best action movie, best cinematography, best Easter eggs, best cameos, best action sequence, best visual effects, with the best direction of the year by Gareth Edwards, seemed even better in this home edition.

Come back this week as we reveal more of the Best of 2017!

C.J. Bunce

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