Runner-Ups
Top 10
2017 was a surprisingly good year for movies. And despite it being the worst box office year since 1992 (in pure ticket sales), I still have hope that we're still going to see great movies, both big and small. With that in mind, I had a really hard time narrowing down my best of list. There were a lot of movies I've enjoyed immensely and could watch over and over again. But I had to cut somewhere and here are the 15 films that just barely got edged out (in order of major release date) and below that is my top 10.

John Wick 2
This sequel not only enhances and expands upon the world the first movie introduced us to, but it progresses the character of John Wick into new territory. No longer a tale of revenge, John Wick has sunk deeper and deeper back into the world he left behind. There's new characters introduced including Common as a counter-assassin and a nice Matrix reunion with Laurence Fishburne popping in as a leader of underground, homeless assassins. Nothing in this world is free and Wick has to give up a lot, including his freedom in order to survive the mess he's found himself in.

Plus the movie looks so damn good. The mirror room fight scene is a perfect execution of suspense and action and choreography that you could watch it 15 times and still not capture everything that's going on. Keanu has fully revived himself as an action star with the franchise and the movie just escalates the stakes even further for the next installment.

Logan
What a fitting end to Hugh Jackman's immensely popular Wolverine character. Instead of retreading ground from previous films, Logan takes a highly dramatic and simple approach. It's a long ways into the future and Logan is eeking out a miserable existence as one of the last of mutant kind. Taking care of a dementia-ridden Professor X and hiding in the desert is the bottom of the barrel for Logan, but an encounter with what only could be his clone forces him to reconsider what he's been doing with his life.

The film is bleak, but there's a thread of hope running through this movie and as much as Logan as played the hero in a lot of the movies, this story asks a lot of hard questions - like was he really ever the hero and is his identity more Wolverine or Logan? The film is light on action, but when it does come, it's a brutal and savage portrayal of the character that only an R-rated film can muster. It makes Wolverine not a hero, but a murderous rage monster. Throughout the film, Logan is reaching for redemption and I think he may have found it taking care of a group of mutant kids and helping them fight off the bad guys who only want to destroy all mutantkind.

Your Name.
A hauntingly beautiful movie that isn't your typical anime fare. Your Name really moved me - on the surface it's a body-switch coming-of-age drama, but there's a sorrowful and melancholy tone coursing through the movie. The movie is about connections and what it means to share a bond with someone. There's a lot of eastern mysticism that the movie treats with upmost respect and the power of these spiritual threads collide with the modern world.

The film is also allegorical to the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster in 2011. What happens to a country and a culture when something disastrous happens like that? People move on and forget it seems. The movie digs deep into this notion about forgetting and remembering and it plays a pivotal role in the story. And despite it's mournful scope, the movie is hopeful in that these incidents can only strengthen our bonds and ultimately bring people together if they're willing to build those connections and seek them out.

The film is achingly beautiful and every time I watch it, I get misty-eyed by the beauty and wonder the film presents.

Kong: Skull Island
Holy cow. The film is worth watching simply for the sheer scale and epicness. But the film is so much more. There's a homage to old monster films and it's a not-so-subtle nod-and-wink to war films, particularly Apocalypse Now and Full Metal Jacket. It's a typical adventure film à la Jurassic Park with a rag-tag team of scientists and military folk. It's a bit of a horror film like Aliens as well. It's gorgeous and such a great King Kong movie that Peter Jackson wished he would've made.

I can't say enough about how much I really loved this movie. The movie isn't exactly earning much accolades in the character department - there's a lot of stereotypes in this film, but it doesn't matter because all the actors are pretty committed here (well, except for Hiddleston, he seems like he's just here to collect a paycheck for the handsome leading man). But that doesn't matter - Kong is the real show-stopper here and he's never been better than in this movie. You get a good sense of how this creature lives on this island and in the end the movie earns its ending and has you rooting for Kong the whole way.

Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2
This was another fun movie. There's just so much to love - James Gunn goes bigger and bolder in his sequel and although we've probably reached peak Chris Pratt at this moment, he's still perfect as Star-Lord. Each character here gets a moment or two of their own, but the biggest surprise is the emotional arc of Yondu and his redemption story. It was a nice juxtaposition against Kurt Russell's Ego, Star-Lord's own father. Even the sibling rivalry of Gomora and Nebula was a refreshing side story.

The action was fast and beautiful and of course the music was spot-on. Fleetwood Mac's The Chain is now the theme song for this group of misfits. There was so many fun little moments in this movie that it's worth seeing to catch all the fun moments in between all the action. Cameos by Sylvester Stallone, Ving Rhames and Michelle Yeoh were wonderfully woven into the background. While it doesn't explore new sci-fi territory, this was another solid sci-fi superhero story.

Wonder Woman
This was a fantastic year for superhero movies without the word Justice in the title. Wonder Woman was everything anyone could've wanted from the debut of the first big-time solo female superhero movie. Patty Jenkins and company knocked this one out of the park with an original tale meshed with a war story while also maintaining a light-heartedness that's been missing in all of the DC movies. This movie was so relentlessly positive along with feeling not only important but critical to our times right now.

Gal Gadot embodied Diana so thoroughly that it rises to the level of RDJ as Tony Stark and Chris Evans and Captain America. There's a great analysis of the whole movie and just how jaw-dropping perfect this movie is over at Movies with Mikey that you just have to watch it to understand the greater context into which this film was unleashed onto the public. Wonder Woman deserved at least more awards love than it got this year and I have a feeling this movie will be considered one of the greatest superhero movies once the dust settles during this golden age of comic book movies.

Baby Driver
Edgar Wright finally gets his breakout hit. After a failure to launch his own version of Ant-Man, Wright found himself doing what he does best - creating his own movies. Wright is one of the few directors that uses every frame in his movie to tell the story. Whether that's utilizing the camera for jokes or just to enhance the action or to emphasize certain themes, Wright is constantly assaulting your eyeballs.

But here Wright adds the rhythm of music and sound to really add depth to his visuals. This is such a magnetic and manic film - the energy is in every step of Baby's dancing and every nudge of the steering wheel. It's a poetic ballet of action and drama that does get a little derailed near the end. Which may be intentional, I just thought the ending got a little too crazy and dark. But everything else works flawlessly here. Ansel Elgort and Lily James star-crossed lovers is perfectly executed. There's so much to adore here and every one brings their A-game for the ride. And as much as I'll still cringe at watching Spacey now, this movie is so re-watchable.

War for the Planet of the Apes
Time will only tell, but this modern Planet of the Apes trilogy will probably go down as one of the best trilogies in cinema. Each subsequent movie has gotten more intricate and nuanced and timely without ever being too blockbuster-y or melodramatic. Andy Serkis should've been nominated for something for his astounding work here. Caesar's tale of leading the apes to the promised land is tole in this third film and it's truly a heart-wrenching tale.

I don't know how Matt Reeves did it, but he managed to make the apes sympathetic without sinking into the campiness of the original series. In fact, this movie treats these characters with such deftness that you won't realize that most of the movie is told through subtitles. There's not a whole lot of action - this movie is more of a war story in the essence of The Bridge on the River Kwai and Rescue Dawn. And the movie is better for it - Caesar's clash with Woody Harrelson's war general is one of the greater rivalries I've seen onscreen in a long time. Harrelson isn't exactly sympathetic, but his decisions make sense and Caesar's refusal to bow down is all the more riveting because of these two performances. While it didn't get as much love at the box office, I think this movie will only get better with age - it's the rare instant classic.

Spider-Man: Homecoming
Did I mention this was a great year for superhero movies? Well, who knew that the third reboot of the Spider-Man franchise might in the end become the best of them all? Tom Holland nails both the Peter Parker and Spider-Man roles perfectly here. The movie smartly avoids an origin story and instead delves into the insecurities of Parker's teenage years. There's enough of old-school Spider-Man here, but there's a lot of fun new stuff. Aunt May is younger and way cooler! Tony Stark's tech leads to some fun enhancements for Parker and his sidekick, who's also a great friend addition. Forget about Mary Jane and any of the Osbornes, there's a smart girl crush and a good villain - the Vulture, played by the impeccable Michael Keaton.

The movie does a wonderful job of mixing together Parker's normal teenage life with his alter-ego's more epic adventures. And it all culminates in a fantastic climax in which everything the movie has been building up to pays off. It's a funny movie and a great coming-of-age story both for the geeky Parker and the youthful naive Spider-Man.

Thor: Ragnarok
I swear this is the last superhero movie on my list (it's practically all of them)! But man, did Marvel have a good year and it ends with one of its most bizarre and highly comedic films ever. I will admit I think the first Thor movie was solid - it was a fun, breezy family drama film disguised as a superhero origin story. The second film had its moments, but it felt like it was holding back both in the action and comedy departments. But here comes Ragnarok with a truly radical story of Thor getting banished from Asgard by his long lost sister, Hela, the goddess of death. This banishment leads him to the battle royale arena run by Jeff Goldblum. Goldblum kinda does his own thing here and it's so out-there that I loved it. Plus you got the Hulk showing up and stealing every scene he's in. Oh! And Tessa Thompson delivers a compelling argument that she should be leading her own movie as Valkyrie, an Asgardian who's disgraced to call herself one. OH! And Karl Urban plays Skurge, a soldier that reluctantly joins Hela to bring to heel any usurpers in Asgard.

There's so much to talk about that I barely got to Loki, who's just as fantastic as everyone else here. This is probably the funniest Marvel has been and it's all because of Taika Waititi - the indie director who brought his own quirky sensibilities to the script and direction. Chris Hemsworth has always been perfect casting as Thor and here he shines in a new comedic light. And as much as this film nails it in the action and comedic departments, there's a fitting dramatic end to the family saga that started with the first Thor movie. It comes full circle and it's a beautiful fitting end to Thor's trilogy.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
This movie is not without its flaws. It's at once captivating and revolting due to the nature of the story. It's a film that will get you angry and possibly get you angry even more once you start to think about what the film is saying and what it's staying silent about.

If not for the fantastic performances, I don't know how much love this movie would get. But McDormand and Rockwell deliver such brazen and ballsy execution that you have to admire what's going on. It's a funny movie in a lot of ways - deeply disturbing comedy, but the film never undercuts the seriousness of McDormand's character. However, there's a lot of thematic problems with Rockwell's racist cop character that I felt the story never really tackled all of his issues, but rather let the ending kind of....end for him. It's a bit of a letdown but I nevertheless was still captivated by the whole proceeding.

I, Tonya
A dizzying look at the life of Harding, her rise to stardom and subsequent fall from grace. It's a quintessential American story, made all the more brilliant by Gillespie's frenetic directing and Margot Robbie's performance. Here was someone who wasn't a model figure skater, one who defied the judges and was rewarded by the public's adoration. But her upbringing and turmoil with her mother and her husband would turn out to be her downfall.

It's at times a very funny movie, but it quickly and deftly changes tones on a dime where we're enjoying the stupidity of some of these characters, but then cut to a lot of disturbing domestic violence that Harding had to endure. Harding was unfairly portrayed as the villain by the media after the incident, but this film does a fine job of finding the redemption of Harding while maintaining a lot of nuance with her story. I don't see Nancy Kerrigan hanging out with Hollywood elite, so I guess Harding gets the last laugh.

The Post
This was Spielberg shedding his dour and boring phase and finally getting back to good filmmaking. His last good drama was Munich (yes, Lincoln and Bridge of Spies were terribly boring and pretentious, fight me) and while no one would ever accuse this film of not being pretentious, The Post is crackling with importance and levity that previous Spielberg films have lacked. This is journalism porn at its finest and much like the Best Picture winner of 2015, Spotlight, The Post examines what it's like for people to stand up and speak the truth, even if it means you'll drown in the wave of opposition.

Every performance here is spot-on and while I didn't entirely like Streep's portrayal of a doe-eyed Kay Graham (in real life I've read she was much more confident and experienced at the time), it works and when it comes time for Graham to make the call, you can see that the film has been building up to this moment and it delivers the goods. It's truly an important film and a timely film, but I think this will stand up as one of the greats as time goes on.

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle
This was a fun adventure. The Rock is on a roll and I'll even admit I'll pretty much watch anything he's attached to now. I will also admit I have never seen the original Jumanji. I think I was at that phase in my childhood where I thought I was too old for these "kids" movies. So that's my excuse and I haven't ever given in to the pull of watching Robin Williams and kids getting trampled by rhinos or monkeys or whatevs.

But that didn't lessen my enjoyment of this movie. It is its own thing and doesn't really cash in on the nostalgia of the first movie (except for a brief scene here or two). And Kevin Hart thankfully is not annoying here. In fact, he's pretty funny because his character is the opposite of who his teenage counterpart is. In fact, this is true for all four main characters and to see the adult actors try and portray these kids is truly the best part of the movie. The story doesn't really matter, but it's serviceable and does a good job at poking fun of video game stories and tropes and it's a fun ride the whole way.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi
I absolutely loved this movie. It's subversive and burns a lot of bridges and it may lose some Star Wars fans, but in order for this series to evolve and chart new territory, you have to break hearts. People are so attached to what Star Wars should be and what they want it to be, that whatever ends up on the screen is always going to be a disappointment for them. But I loved the story-telling. This is certainly the most beautiful a Star Wars movie has ever been. It's quiet in a lot of ways and doesn't have a lot of action, but when the action happens, it's epic and appropriately sublime. 

There's just so much to unpack in this movie and it's worth several viewings. It's a fun movie, but it's also has a lot of depth. The Star Wars universe feels so much more vibrant and lived in and complicated than it ever has because of this movie and I just hope J.J. Abrams doesn't try and redact a lot of what Rian Johnson did for this movie.