Best of 2017 featured

The Year in Film: Our Favorite Movies, Biggest Surprises and Hidden Gems of 2017

December 31, 2017Ben MK

This past year brought no shortage of newsworthy events — so why are we wasting time talking about movies? Quite simply, it's because movies are more than just entertainment. Sure, they can be great escapism, but at their core, the best movies have the power to move us, to unite us, and to get us talking about the issues that really matter.

Before we get into the 38 unique films that mattered to us in 2017, however, here's what the rest of The Reel Roundup team had to say about the movies that moved them and got them talking:

Britany Murphy:
The way I approached my top 10 list was to incorporate any of the movies that I've watched that made me feel something other than just being entertained. I like movies that make me think, that open up our eyes to a bigger conversation (whatever it may be) and made me walk away from the theater with the feeling that an important message could be found and a lesson could be learned. Ultimately, these films weren't just movies.

Ferdosa Abdi:
My top 10 movies of 2017 are films that left me in awe — films that either have brilliant directing, stories, acting or all three. These are films that stayed with me for days and remind me that cinema is a powerful form of art. The most important thing that threads these films together is honesty and passion. Those behind and in front of the screen are not phoning it in, they are passionately pursuing a story they believe in and want to tell.

Justin Waldman:
2017 has been a rather interesting year for a variety of reasons, however the film year of 2017 has been rather fantastic, thankfully. There were so many movies this year that changed the way we watch films and see award-winners, as this is one of the first years that the five big categories don't have clear winners yet. There are no clear front-runners even; it's all up in the air and it is exciting. Here are my top 10 movies of 2017; they may not be the "best" movies but they're my favorites.

Rattan Mutti:
2017 has been a pretty good year for film. With this year being a very good year for blockbusters, indie films and Oscar bait films. So, needless to say, I had a rough time selecting 10 films. I wanted these films to be the best films no matter where they came from. This list has a blend of the types of films I listed above that represents to me the best of the year.

Sherry Li:
I think this year had some really amazing films come out. I probably missed some of them, considering I went on exchange this year (with a chunk of that in China, where only 34 foreign films are allowed per year). However, I think that I was lucky enough to catch some great films at TIFF and once I got back to Canada. Some of these films are tied to where I saw them, which adds to the whole experience of why I enjoyed them so much, but they're great films that would have stood out on their own as well.

Siobhán Finn:
Since everyone else was keen to tell readers what mainstream movies they missed this year, I took it upon myself to find lesser known foreign gems that deserve to be appreciated. There are many popular films missing from this list, so consider this a beginner's primer. And remember: Subtitles should not be feared.

— 1 —

Editor's Choice: The Shape of Water
A variation on the King Kong or Beauty and the Beast narrative, Guillermo del Toro's The Shape of Water isn't a tale of terror. What it is, though, is the story of what happens when two outsiders fall in love. Only here, those two outsiders happen to be a mute janitor named Elisa (Sally Hawkins), who works at a top-secret U.S. government research facility, and the facility's newest, most valuable asset (Doug Jones), an amphibious fish-man whom military officials are hoping will give them an edge in the space race with the Soviets.

Britany's Pick: Get Out
Jordan Peele's big screen directorial debut was my biggest surprise of the year. I went into the theater unsure of what to expect and left it thinking about how powerful the metaphors were, and I enjoyed that I found myself thinking about it weeks later.

Ferdosa's Pick: Lady Bird
Lady Bird is a perfect film. Balancing so many themes and story threads that lead to a young woman's self-discovery at the center. This semi-autobiographical tale from Greta Gerwig is the perfect example of telling an honest story from the heart.

Justin's Pick: The Big Sick
This movie caught me completely off-guard. I knew it was a romantic comedy with a lot of heart, but I was not expecting to enjoy it as much as I honestly did.

Rattan's Pick: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
I was completely blown away by this film. Martin McDonagh does a wonderful job in finding funny moments in a very dark premise and does so in a manner that doesn't seem cheap or disingenuous. Frances McDormand did wonders with her character, making her empathetic yet adding humor to cut the tension. But Sam Rockwell steals this film from everyone; he is the funniest character yet and he has the biggest arc out of all the characters.

Sherry's Pick: Bodied
This was the first film I saw once I got back to Canada and I was lucky enough to be at the premiere at TIFF. I was blown away by this film — it's incredibly smart, funny, and left me with a whole new appreciation for battle rap.

Siobhán's Pick: Foxtrot
For the second year in a row, my favorite foreign film is courtesy of Israel.

— 2 —

Editor's Choice: Baby Driver
A gripping heist flick, an edge-of-your-seat car chase thriller and a starry-eyed romance all rolled into one, writer/director Edgar Wright's latest takes viewers on a high-speed cinematic joy ride that drifts around corners instead of hugging the road, refusing to adhere to the norms of any of the many genres it so gleefully borrows from. Whether you're an adrenaline junkie, a sucker for sugary romances or a lover of musicals, odds are that you'll find something to like here.

Britany's Pick: Wonder Woman
What can I say about Wonder Woman? It's been over 75 years since the famed superheroine's inception and yet we only got to see her origin film this year. But clearly, good things are worth waiting for. Director Patty Jenkins captured Diana Prince's character perfectly and showed her at her best and worst, specifically when it came to her struggles with mankind, and it was beautiful.

Ferdosa's Pick: Mudbound
Dee Rees' Midwestern epic is a film that will leave you aching all over after it's done. The voices of the characters, the pain, the hopes and dreams will echo in your head for days. There are very few films that leave such a mark on one's heart.

Justin's Pick: Get Out
This documentary comedy is one of the most delightfully unexpected gems of the year. Take that, Golden Globes!

Rattan's Pick: Logan
Hugh Jackman and James Mangold bring out the best of Wolverine in this gritty Western that sees Logan at the end of the line. Jackman is at his most venerable and showcases Logan finally letting himself love and enjoy life, even if only a little bit. This film takes the reigns of Wolverine and allows the R rating to not only add violence, but to aid the story.

Sherry's Pick: Get Out
As a fan of horror movies, I thought this was so well done and so clever. There are so many things about this movie that makes it worth a rewatch. It came out later in England, so all my friends had seen it before me, but it definitely lived up to expectations!

Siobhán's Pick: A Man Called Ove
This film was nominated for Best Foreign Film during the 2017 Oscars. Bring tissues.

— 3 —

Editor's Choice: The Square
People often say, "art imitates life." But in writer/director Ruben Östlund's The Square, the phrase takes on a whole new meaning and reaches new heights of absurdity. Part scathing satire, part biting social commentary and part pitch-black comedy, this followup to Östlund's critically acclaimed Force Majeure hilariously skewers the pretentiousness of the postmodern art world while leveling a devastating critique of society's attitudes towards some of its most vulnerable members. It will leave viewers not only amused, but also on the edge of their seats.

Britany's Pick: Logan
James Mangold's Logan was the long-awaited, R-rated version of the Wolverine that is a favorite to many. It served as the final farewell to Hugh Jackman's rendition of the beloved Canadian hero, and saying he went out with a bang is a definite understatement. This was one of Jackman's best performances and the same can be said for Sir Patrick Stewart reprising his role as Professor X, and it was a star-making performance from newcomer Dafne Keen as X-23.

Ferdosa's Pick: Professor Marston and the Wonder Women
Angela Robinson takes on the challenge of introducing us to the Marstons, whose lives and relationships inspired the creation of Wonder Woman. The film is a love letter to those who dare to love when faced with persecution.

Justin's Pick: Lady Bird
Where the hell was this movie 6 years ago when I was entering university? It really would've come in handy. It's easily one of the year's best, and if you haven't seen it what are you waiting for?

Rattan's Pick: Blade Runner 2049
This is a film that is worthy of its predecessor, Denis Villeneuve does a great job bringing a new aspect to Blade Runner. This film enriches the world of Blade Runner and further reiterates the question of what it truly means to be human. Harrison Ford is at his best in this film, and Roger Deakins once again showcases why he deserves an Oscar.

Sherry's Pick: Baby Driver
This is a solid and fun movie that is just a treat to watch. It's so well edited and directed, you can't go wrong with an Edgar Wright movie. I actually couldn't watch it in China, so I had to wait until Amazon got it and it was so worth the wait! I loved every minute of it.

Siobhán's Pick: Loveless
In typical Russian style, this is not a heartwarming tale, but it will make you feel good about your own parenting choices.

— 4 —

Editor's Choice: Blade Runner 2049
For a film to follow in the footsteps of a seminal classic like Blade Runner without being overshadowed is one thing, but for it to do so while establishing itself on its own merits is something else entirely. A contemplative look not just at the nature of the soul and what it means to be human, but also at the way we live our lives today, director Denis Villeneuve's Blade Runner 2049 doesn't just meet expectations, it shatters them, expertly building on the 35-year legacy of Ridley Scott's sci-fi masterwork while also delivering a worthy, genre-defining tale unto its own.

Britany's Pick: I, Tonya
This was the second film I saw at TIFF and it stuck with me throughout the duration of the festival and beyond. With powerful performances throughout by the entire cast, but especially from Margot Robbie as Tonya Harding and Allison Janney as her mother, Lavona, the film managed to show another side of Harding, one that allowed audiences to learn more about her life and also provide much needed empathy.

Ferdosa's Pick: The Shape of Water
Guillermo del Toro's latest fantasy embodies everything del Toro is. It's an homage to the great classic monster flick, including Creature from the Black Lagoon. It is also a perfect culmination of everything del Toro has worked on before. It is a true masterpiece.

Justin's Pick: Call Me by Your Name
Does this even need an explanation? Honestly, once you've seen it, you'll understand why it is one of the best of the year and is getting all the praise it deserves.

Rattan's Pick: The Disaster Artist
This film could have easily made fun of Tommy Wiseau and the absurdity of The Room, yet James Franco finds the humanity in Wiseau and makes him out to be a dreamer. It's a very funny movie, with Franco putting on a spot-on portrayal of Wiseau. This film is a laugh riot and one of the funniest films of the year.

Sherry's Pick: It
It is super scary, super intense and super fun — just a great horror movie. Plus, despite being a movie with young actors, it didn't hold back on any of the gore.

Siobhán's Pick: BPM (Beats Per Minute)
This film took home the Grand Prix award at this year's Cannes and will stay with viewers long after the screen has gone dark.

— 5 —

Editor's Choice: Star Wars: The Last Jedi
While The Force Awakens was criticized for hewing too closely to the formula of the original films, the same can't be said for director Rian Johnson's installment. Suffice to say, fans won't be left wanting for space battles and lightsaber combat, but what's most impressive is just how much humanity there is here. From Rey to Rose, Finn to Poe, Leia and even Kylo Ren, each of these characters embarks on an emotional journey over the course of The Last Jedi. And when it's all said and done, it's the impact of those journeys that viewers will feel the most.

Britany's Pick: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Much like the other films on the list, Three Billboards had some of the best performances of the year. It tackled important subject matter and was brilliantly written and directed by Martin McDonagh.

Ferdosa's Pick: Girls Trip
Four beautiful, smart, capable and successful black women show the true meaning of sisterhood and friendship. This raunchy comedy is the perfect embodiment of Black Girl Magic, and its success proves that black women don't need to be pigeonholed into stereotypical Hollywood roles to be successful or important.

Justin's Pick: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
I truly enjoy my dark comedies, and this is certainly one of the better ones I have had the delight to see; there is nothing that better describes this movie. McDormand, Harrelson and Rockwell are all geniuses in this film.

Rattan's Pick: The Shape of Water
Guillermo del Toro does a terrific job in bringing to life this beautiful monster movie mashed with a French romance film. Sally Hawkins pulls off a tremendous performance without saying a word and Doug Jones makes this monster feel more human than human. The film's use of the color green is unique and different from anything seen before.

Sherry's Pick: Lady Bird
I got to watch it at TIFF — I had no idea about the buzz around it, it just happened to be a film that fit into my schedule. I found Lady Bird incredibly relatable on a personal level. It really captured the feeling of adolescence for me. It made me cry, it made me laugh. I'm really glad I ended up watching it!

Siobhán's Pick: Okja
You can't go wrong with director Bong Joon-ho.

— 6 —

Editor's Choice: The Disaster Artist
There are bad movies, and then there are movies that are so bad they're good. And if it wasn't for Tommy Wiseau, The Room would certainly be classified as the former. As it stands, however, The Room has endured as a cult classic. Directed by and starring James Franco as Wiseau, alongside his brother, Dave, as Wiseau's best friend, Greg Sestero, The Disaster Artist's look at The Room's behind-the-scenes bromance is unsurprisingly hilarious. What will catch audiences off-guard, perhaps, is just how inspiring this unorthodox underdog story ends up being.

Britany's Pick: The Big Sick
Definitely not your typical rom-com, The Big Sick touches on subject matter that is rarely ever seen in a film like this. Based on the true story of comedian/actor Kumail Nanjiani's life, The Big Sick is laugh-out-loud funny and has so much heart, easily making it one of my favorite films of the year.

Ferdosa's Pick: I, Tonya
I, Tonya is not your typical sports biopic. It is a fascinating look at the sad and absurd predicament Tonya Harding finds herself in. Stuck in a cycle of abuse from her family, and trapped by her socioeconomic status, she finds a sliver of hope in being one of the best figure skaters in the world. However, life is often a cruel prankster.

Justin's Pick: The Shape of Water
Guillermo del Toro romance monster movie. As beautiful as Pan's Labyrinth and as touching and heartwarming as the best of romances — what more can one ask for?

Rattan's Pick: Dunkirk
Christopher Nolan did a fantastic job by telling it through three points of view, and yet it's still riveting and exciting. The story is woven very well and Nolan is able to pull good performances from newcomers. The use of the score with the watch-ticking is something that is able to pull you in and it keeps your attention.

Sherry's Pick: Wonder Woman
This was the first movie I saw in China and helped me out when I was feeling homesick. While not perfect, it's an amazing film that empowers women and I enjoyed every last minute of it. I loved not just the film, but what it represented as well — it was so refreshing to see Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman on-screen.

Siobhán's Pick: Bad Genius
A personal highlight from this year's Reel Asian Film Festival.

— 7 —

Editor's Choice: Wonder Woman
No one ever said being a female superhero at the forefront of a high-profile summer blockbuster was easy. Director Patty Jenkins' Wonder Woman does justice to the character, her legacy as a feminist icon, and her over three-quarters-of-a-century of comic book lore; and as Wonder Woman, Gal Gadot kicks butt and sets herself up as a role model to be emulated by young women everywhere.

Britany's Pick: Molly's Game
Aaron Sorkin's directorial debut is a promising start for the writer behind other critically acclaimed films like The Social Network and Steve Jobs. Based on the true-life story of former Olympic skier Molly Bloom and her high-stakes underground poker game, Jessica Chastain puts forth an award-worthy performance that stayed with me long after I saw it at TIFF.

Ferdosa's Pick: Get Out
Get Out is the best kind of horror. It is a horror film rooted in reality and does not shy away from the true anxieties and fears held by many black Americans.

Justin's Pick: Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Star Wars. Luke returns. Porgs.

Rattan's Pick: Get Out
Jordan Peele's feature film debut is an absolute hit, and he does a tremendous job by telling a haunting yet true tale that resonates on multiple levels. Daniel Kaluuya does a great job in walking the line by being the moral compass of the film. This is a horror film that is much more than your typical horror film.

Sherry's Pick: Tragedy Girls
I saw this with my best friend and we both had so much fun. Ultimately, this is a movie about friendship and we loved seeing how this movie redefined women in horror movies. It's great seeing smart and strong female characters on-screen, even if they're deranged serial killers!

Siobhán's Pick: Last Men in Aleppo
Two documentaries on this subject played at Hot Docs this year, and although less "buzzy," this one was far more moving.

— 8 —

Editor's Choice: Get Out
Jordan Peele’s directorial debut isn't the type of movie to dance around the elephant in the room. And while other films might relegate the topic of race to the background, Get Out places it squarely at the forefront, zeroing in on it as its driving theme. The result isn't just a pointed social commentary that sadly proves more relevant in today's America than it would have several years ago; it's also a prime example of the heights that can be achieved in the horror genre when filmmakers not only strive to instill fear, but are equally fearless themselves.

Britany's Pick: The Shape of Water
This film was a love story unlike any other and easily depicted the idea that love comes in many forms. With exceptional performances from Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Octavia Spencer and Richard Jenkins, Guillermo del Toro reminded us just how he's a master of directing and storytelling with The Shape of Water.

Ferdosa's Pick: The Big Sick
The Big Sick is a sweet and honest romantic comedy. Kumail Nanjiani is a great leading man. He surprises us with his depth and comedic range.

Justin's Pick: The Disaster Artist
Oh hai top 10 list! The movie based on the Citizen Kane of bad movies gets a spot on this list simply for how brilliant it is made. It honors the auteur Tommy Wiseau instead of making fun of him. It's not a parody, it's a love letter.

Rattan's Pick: The Big Sick
The wonderful telling of how Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon met, and they are able to poke fun at the situation in a fun and interesting way. A funny and real tale about acceptance and just being true to yourself. Something that's different with this film is that it doesn't cheapen the cultural differences and puts in it reality.

Sherry's Pick: The Disaster Artist
This was the one movie I really wanted to see at TIFF and couldn't get tickets for! I had really hoped to see it and so once I did, it definitely met my expectations. I loved how the movie had heart and really showed the passion that went into making The Room instead of just trashing it, while still being hilarious.

Siobhán's Pick: Happy End
Two words: Michael Haneke.

— 9 —

Editor's Choice: Detroit
Director Kathryn Bigelow's latest is a powerful reminder of just how far we haven't come in the last half-century. The sins of the past have not been atoned for, nor have they been forgiven, and time and time again we're assaulted with fresh atrocities that rub salt in old wounds. The specter of the past looms large in Detroit, but unlike Bigelow's previous films, the shock isn't rooted in recent tragedies. Instead, the tragedy is that we as a society choose not to learn from our most egregious mistakes, but doom ourselves to repeat them.

Britany's Pick: Girls Trip
One of the funniest films of the year, Malcolm D. Lee's Girls Trip brought together a fabulous female group of friends together in an outing unlike any other. With Queen Latifah, Regina Hall, Jada Pinkett Smith and a breakout performance by Tiffany Haddish, Girls Trip easily gets a spot in my top 10 for not only bringing the laughs, but for showing the true meaning of friendship through all of life's ups and downs.

Ferdosa's Pick: Wonder Woman
This film can be best summed up by one word: Finally!

Justin's Pick: Logan
An X-Men universe movie that ties up loose ends, leaves things up to interpretation, and does an excellent job at bringing fans what they've always wanted — a fantastic, X2-caliber, quality film.

Rattan's Pick: Lady Bird
A wonderful tale of Lady Bird's (Saorise Ronan) transformation into adulthood as she goes through the motions. Greta Gerwig has her own take on the coming-of-age genre and does so in an interesting way, showing the character go from Lady Bird to Christine.

Sherry's Pick: Thor: Ragnarok / Spider-Man: Homecoming
I grouped these two movies together because I thought they were both pretty solid and deserved a mention. I also went out of my way to rewatch both of them because I had so much fun the first time around. I also got to watch Spider-Man in Hong Kong (and again in Taiwan) a day before all my friends did, because of the time difference!

Siobhán's Pick: A Fantastic Woman
This film will undoubtedly be nominated in a few weeks.

— 10 —

Editor's Choice: Logan
For better or worse, the X-Men series has become increasingly cartoonish, with X-Men: Apocalypse fully embracing the colorful costumes of its comic book origins. In contrast, Logan feels like an entirely different beast, bringing Hugh Jackman's signature mutant character's arc to a violent, but also poetic and emotionally hard-hitting conclusion, and proving itself to be a serious contender for the best X-Men movie yet.

Britany's Pick: Lady Bird
This was one of my must-sees at TIFF this year, but unfortunately, I wasn't able to nab any tickets. However, I was lucky enough to attend a press screening. Greta Gerwig's coming-of-age story about a young girl who wants to be called Lady Bird is easily relatable, tells a great story that interweaves many of the different relationships we have in our lives, and Saoirse Ronan shines in the titular role.

Ferdosa's Pick: Star Wars: The Last Jedi
This is one of the best Star Wars films because it delves deeper into the struggles and sacrifices our heroes face for the greater good. It is also one of the best depictions of war; often our heroes are stuck running in circles, always ending up at the same place they started. War is struggle; it shouldn't be easy for heroes. The Last Jedi leaves us breathless and at the edge of our seats.

Justin's Pick: Manhunt
It played at TIFF, and I'm not entirely sure if it has actually been released outside of TIFF. However, it's the most John Woo movie John Woo has made since John Woo began making films. He's in on the joke about himself, and it's glorious.

Rattan's Pick: Wind River
This a movie you will not shake off easily, as Taylor Sheridan tells the brutal tale of a girl found dead in the cold winter of Wyoming. Jeremy Renner is at his best, as he shows both the empathy and bravery in his character. The film showcases just how beautiful and tragic stories revolving Native Americans can be.

Sherry's Pick: Nathan for You: Finding Frances
While Nathan for You is technically a TV show, Finding Frances is its feature-length documentary finale. My friend introduced me to it while we were in France, and while the whole show is fantastic, this episode takes it to a whole other level — it's so uncomfortable, unnerving and hilarious, something that only Nathan Fielder can do so well.

Siobhán's Pick: Redoubtable
A hilarious send-up of a director many love but even more find unbearable.

Honorable Mentions
Mayhem (Ben MK)
The Greatest Showman (Ben MK)
Coco (Britany Murphy)
Ingrid Goes West (Britany Murphy)
Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie (Justin Waldman)
War for the Planet of the Apes (Justin Waldman)
Thor: Ragnarok (Rattan Mutti)
The Big Sick (Sherry Li)
Manhunt (Siobhán Finn)

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