The time has arrived to narrow down a solid slate of 2017 films into a thinly layered group of what I consider to be the most entertaining films of the year. I try to stay away from the term “Best” for this list simply because it just feels like elitist nonsense. What I like isn’t necessarily what you like, so how are my choices any “better” than yours? I prefer to instead focus on what I consider to be the most entertaining movies of the past year. Some entertain me for artistic reasons, occasionally it’s derring-do, and every once in awhile, it’s old-fashioned giddy song-and-dance!
Every year when I compile this final list, some yahoo always feels the need to point out how “You rated X movie higher than that OTHER movie in your written review, so HOW can it be a better movie?!’, so let me address that right now: You are absolutely correct. But it’s my list, so watch me do whatever I want with it. I might even toss Optimus Prime in here for Best Actor, you just never know! The plain truth is that some movies play better with repeat viewings – Wonder Woman is a prime example of this – while others roll the opposite way. Such is the way with life. So take a breath, slap together your own Top 10, and then I’d love to compare.
It is a challenge every year to select these, and this year proved a struggle as there were just so many films I had a great time with in 2017. I could easily craft a Top 20 list, but who has the patience for that?!
As always, I want to also take a minute to thank every reader, listener, and fan of The Hollywood Outsider. 2017 was an insane ride full of highs (winning the Best TV / Film prize at The Podcast Awards) and lows (watching Aronofsky shame his “mother!”). I personally cannot wait to see all of the greatness 2018 will bring.
Let’s get into it, here are the 10 Most Entertaining Films of 2017!
Honorable Mentions: Get Out, Gerald’s Game, Free Fire, Justice League, Murder on the Orient Express, John Wick: Chapter Two, Film Stars Don’t Die In Liverpool, The Disaster Artist, Colossal, Lady Bird
Raunchy summer comedies often flail about as they await their inevitable fate of being found on USA at 3am after a weekend bender. But every year, one typically rises above and sets itself apart from the flock. This year, that movie is Girls Trip.
Regina Hall, Jada Pinkett Smith, Queen Latifah, and Tiffany Haddish take us on a hilariously smut-filled journey through a weekend of debauchery and discovery, as four women try to forget responsibility and come together.
All of these strong, powerful, and beautiful women together form the “Flossy Posse”. With burdens of infidelity, financial hardships, and career struggles, they must find a way to overcome. Throughout the film, they give us hope that even when it feels as though we don’t have it all, we each maintain the inner power to make it. We are enough and – as long as we remain true to our friends and a belief in ourselves – we have the strength we need take on any troubles life might throw our way.
Girls Trip is a well-crafted story told with relatable characters, absolutely hysterical set-pieces, and an important and powerful final message delivered with subtle grace.
And thanks to Tiffany Haddish, I finally understand why so many people love grapefruit.
9. Wind River
For a few years, it really seemed as though Jeremy Renner was sleepwalking through roles. After his meteoric rise with The Hurt Locker and The Town, Renner appeared to stop “acting” and preferred to coast on past recognitions, chasing paychecks with aimless abandon. How else can you explain Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters?
Then Wind River happened, reminding us all that not only can Hawkeye and Scarlet Witch both toss Robert Downey Jr. to the wind and hold the screen on their own, but also that Renner can be one slow-burn badass when he’s given ample opportunity to do so.
Writer-director Taylor Sheridan builds on last year’s Hell or High Water by effectively showcasing Native American culture through the eyes of Renner’s Cory Lambert. As a game tracker assisting the FBI with hunting the murderer of a young woman, Renner wears pain and purpose as a badge of honor. And by the film’s conclusion, you might even muster some semblance of sympathy for any awful sucker who happens to stumble through his wake.
In a pseudo-biographical tale of his real-life marriage to co-writer Emily Gordon, Kumail Nanjiani stars as a stand-up with a plan to achieve success as a comedian. He is also torn between dual realities; his pursuit of the American dream, and his family’s demand that he live a more culturally submissive lifestyle. Then into his club one night walks Emily (Zoe Kazan), a vivacious Caucasian woman full of wit and insight.
Their relationship takes a turn, circumstances arise, and Emily finds herself trapped in a medically-induced coma. Suddenly, Kumail is saddled up with Emily’s parents as he learns the truth of his feelings for Emily, as well as his own mistakes in their courtship.
The Big Sick works simply because it doesn’t care about conventions. From the familial relationships to harshness in Kumail and Emily’s divide, this is a film that refuses to shy away from brutal truths, even as it serves it bubble-wrapped in optimism.
Sometimes a movie can make you believe in love again, and The Big Sick is one of those. If you have missed this often-overlooked gem, correct that oversight as soon as possible. No pressure. I’ll wait…
If Damien Chazelle were ever handed the reins to a Fast and Furious flick, Baby Driver is what you would get. Choreographing each moment of braking, drifting, and even mundane tasks like walking, director Edgar Wright finally emerges from cultist obscurity to helm an indie film with Hollywood sheen.
Baby (Ansel Elgort) is a getaway driver trying to escape that “one last score” as it implodes around his entire world. Much like a ’50s musical, Baby is driven both figuratively and quite literally by the tempo. It’s a classic mishmash of Hollywood action and Broadway showmanship, as even a quick coffee run turns into something straight out of The Sound of Music, and everything about this film just hums.
I walked into the theater unconvinced of Wright’s oft-discussed “brilliance”, I walked out with an extra beat in my step and hum in my drum. I love my Baby.
If you put Kurt Russell in The Emoji Movie, I’m convinced he could elevate it to an animated masterpiece of smiley faced deliciousness. The man is a treasure that rivals only the Ark of the Covenant in its unmistakable glory. Just like peanut butter, Russell makes everything just a little bit better. Put him in James Gunn’s sequel to his bonkers Guardians of the Galaxy franchise and guess what happens? It becomes easily the best of the Marvel films for 2017.
I mean, sure. Guardians 2 also does wonders with advancing the story surrounding Peter and his lineage, brought characters closer together, made Drax hilarious, buried past grudges, gave Michael Rooker an arc the underrated actor deserves, and even treats us to a collection of golden dipped adversary perfection that would spring James Bond upright to attention.
All of that is great, but what makes it AWESOME is Kurt Bleeping Russell. Yes, Bleeping is officially his middle name. In a year when sequel after sequel missed their mark or squandered its potential, Guardians 2 built off what came before and left us chomping at the bit for what comes next.
And for that, I thank Kurt Russell. The peanut butter of entertainment.
I really don’t like musicals. Maybe it’s the randomness of bursting into song on the toilet or just my own personal bland choices in life, but it rarely makes any damn sense to me. I’ve had some bad days, some great days, I’ve never had a “You know what’s missing? An orchestra-backed rendition of the highlights of my life to this very moment, complimented with dancing cheetahs” kind of day. Maybe I’m eating at the wrong Chili’s.
So when I learned that The Greatest Showman was a full-tilt musical, I groaned. Audibly.
THEN, I saw it. Twice.
Suddenly, I want to learn to sing, dance, or even just smell like Zac Efron. I want to float through the air on a trapeze with Zendaya. Most of all, I want to spend countless hours admiring the mind-blowing talent contained within the frame of one Hugh Jackman.
For a guy better known for his growling than his baritone, Jackman redefines the mystique of P.T. Barnum with relative ease. His footwork (as fluid as Astaire’s), charm, and vocal capabilities once again reminded me we are dealing with the most multitalented actor working today. And this movie vibrates at his behest, it fires on his energy, quite simply: he IS The Greatest Showman.
If you need your uplifting musicals to hold true to history, just stay home. This won’t work for you. But if you are open to a little revisionist joy that turns that frown upside down and leaves you with warmth in your heart and pep in your step, prepare for one HELL of a show!
Hey, Hugh Jackman. Would you mind not being so awesome at aca-everything? I’m getting a little tired of doing crunches every day just to feel like I’m competing. Ok, I only do 5 every other Wednesday, but I TRY!
Just a few sentences ago, I told you what a master showman this Jackbag-of-skillz is, and now I’m reiterating why I’m so envious of his every life choice. For several years, Jackman has defined the character of Wolverine, as well as the universe of The X-Men itself. With Logan, Jackman receives the cinematic send-off he so richly deserves. Much ado was made about Logan’s R rating and how it afforded director James Mangold the ability to hit the gas in terms of violence, yet nothing prepared me for the humanity and subtlety of the performances within.
This is the end of the road for Jackman’s Wolverine, and it’s a harsh ride. Daphne Keen’s Laura spends much of the film an untamed child, giving Logan the opportunity to peer into his own contempt for this world, while eventually understanding the whole of its potential. A surrogate father by the conclusion, Logan’s journey into selfless redemption provided the strongest character arc from ANY of the films in the modern X-Men universe.
The riffing and sheer emotional gut punch Jackman and Patrick Stewart left me with was also a definite surprise. For too long, I’ve personally taken these talented thespians for granted as I sat casually on the side, chugging down popcorn and nodding my head with approval at their adventures. Logan broke that down with a straight upper cut to my anticipations, while Hugh Jackman held my beating heart firmly in his hands throughout the proceedings.
For this exquisite performance alone, I must tip my hat and sincerely say thank you, Hugh. Thank you.
If you’re a Stephen King fan, you know you’re rolling the dice when an adaptation of his comes around. For whatever inane reason, filmmakers frequently misunderstand thematically how the mind of King works. I’d love to Monday Morning Criticback some of the bigger misses in film Kingdom, but often times I can’t understand the man myself. And I’m a fan!
When IT was announced, I immediately said “NO”. I believe I also muttered some combination of “sons of bitches” and “creamed corn”, but mostly just “NO”. Stephen King’s IT is – to me – a masterpiece. A novel relying not on cheap thrills, but instead a carefully layered insight of the psychological damage childhood fear can do to maturing aspirations. Fear itself as a concept or narrative device has never before, nor since, accomplished what King does in his deftly written work.
But as the trailer dropped, and word-of-mouth built, I became less skeptical and increasingly elated that maybe – JUST maybe – director Andy Muschietti finally cracked the code to the magical King lockbox.
Skeptical as I was of Bill Skarsgård donning Tim Curry’s clown shoes, he won me over immediately as Pennywise seduces little Georgie into the sewer from Hell. From there on, we spend the remainder of the film with an absolutely pitch-perfect assortment of kids – seemingly plucked straight outta the Goonies casting vault – as they each valiantly confront their fears in hopes to save their beloved Derry, Maine. Also, did anyone else notice Finn Wolfhard is at the center of the best kid teams both in film AND television? Give this kid his own franchise already.
IT proved once again that Stephen King is a wondrous stomping ground for quality entertainment. You just need a filmmaker whose mind relates to crazy.
Never have I been happier to watch the internet choke on their words. There was a virtual movement happening when Gal Gadot was originally cast as Princess Diana of Themyscira. “Fans” came out of the woodwork crying horrible, detestable slurs about this young actress prepping to don the bracelets. And for all of those who chastised Gadot’s casting, who body-shamed her for being “too thin”, who somehow had a problem with her Israeli accent (exactly what accent do Amazonians have again?), I hope you enjoy the sour, bitter taste of the words she just force fed you.
I shouldn’t be so flippant, but screw ‘em. Trolls have long been given far too much wiggle room in this regard, and it’s time for them to get back under those bridges. We’ll let you catch some sunlight when they eventually recast Batman.
Director Patty Jenkins has created something magical here, a film that launches valor from our souls and dares us to believe that good still exists in our world, and gods are right there with us to lend a hand. And Gal Gadot isn’t just good, she’s perfect. She embodies the heart of a hero, the defiance of warrior, the will of a champion, and carries the weight of the world in her eyes. Not for one single frame of this film was there a debate in my mind: Gadot simply IS Wonder Woman.
And in this age of nihilistic intention and dire ideologies, she is the hero we all deserve.
If 2017 was anything, it was the year women were officially done putting up with misogynistic bullshit. Harvey Weinstein and the like have run their grubby little paws over their last victim, because women rose up from all walks of life to scream they were mad as hell and they weren’t going to take it anymore! And NO film delivered more both in timely material and genre finesse than M.F.A.
Francesca Eastwood stars as Noelle, a shy college student struggling to elevate her work in the pursuit of a Fine Arts degree. Attending a campus party, Noelle is raped by a suitor and her life is irrevocably altered. Her perplexing confrontation ultimately results in her assailant’s accidental death. Noelle is horrified, yet there is something of a tangible relief in knowing that justice has effectively been served. Suddenly finding inspiration and solace, Noelle follows a new path as a vigilante who punishes those who have so casually destroyed lives like hers.
M.F.A. eschews the paths of staples like Death Wish or I Spit on Your Grave as director Natalia Leite and writer Leah McKendrick have a deeper palette in mind. Broken, Noelle is determined to repair her soul. Seeking lethal justice functions as a catharsis for moving past her own pain and invigorating the artist within. Rather than rigging a dorm Home Alone-style in true genre fashion, M.F.A. utilizes this opportunity to orchestrate a legitimate conversation on the stigma of rape itself.
I walked out of M.F.A. with various takeaways on grossly hard-to-broach topics. Does “hashtagging the shit out of it” truly raise awareness? Is it fair to subject a victim to demonization in order to prove the horror they suffered is legitimate? If the attacker was murdered in retaliation, is that in any way justifiable? Will rape victims ever receive any semblance of a normal life after suffering through this demeaning torture?
I often compare M.F.A. to Get Out, as they both use genre conventions to open the door to societal issues. Each, in their own way, manipulate the audience’s expectations to demonstrate harsh truths under the guise of mass homicide. M.F.A. has seemingly missed its much-deserved fanfare, which saddens me as I personally consider it a far better film.
The fact that Francesca Eastwood isn’t even on the radar for Oscar nominations is, to me, a crime against cinematic humanity. As a father to a daughter and a man with only marginal understandings of the female psyche, Eastwood’s journey as Noelle took me to a place I’ve often dreaded to go. She sat me down, comfortably in the safety of my seat, and demonstrated the inner turmoil that stems from tragedies like these. The shame, the terror, the fear. And also, the strength that can ultimately emerge.
I walked out of Eastwood’s brilliant performance changed in both perceptions and beliefs. And if a “simple genre film” can accomplish that? Well, that’s the best damn movie of the year.